2 MORE YEARS OF GLOOM.
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night said Ireland's economic gloom will continue for the next two years - at least.
Addressing the Ogra Fianna Fail meeting in Bundoran, Co Donegal, Mr Cowen admitted the past 18 months have been very difficult, but the future is just as depressing.
He condemned Fine Gael and Labour for not supporting his party's plan for dealing with the economic crisis.
He said the opposition politicians had no "coherent proposals" on how to slash spending by EUR4 billion.
Mr Cowen said: "It's becoming clear that Deputy Kenny and Deputy Gilmore are strong on rhetoric but short on specifics. It's time for them to park the soundbites and be honest with the people as to what exactly is their budgetary policy."
He warned: "The next two years will not be any easier [than the past 18 months]."
The Taoiseach said there was now a window of opportunity to stabilise the economy, with prices falling at the fastest rate in 75 years - down 6.6 per cent in the last year.
Organisers of the event placed a ring of steel around the venue to prevent protesters attacking Mr Cowen.
But the opposition parties blasted the Taoiseach's comments.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said Fianna Fail and The Greens were trying to set public and private sector workers against each other.
Mr Gilmore said: "The Fianna Fail approach is simple - it's called beggar my neighbour.
"They have chosen to sow division and to engender conflict. To set private sector against public sector, employed against unemployed.
"To identify particular groups in society, to demonise them, and to target them."
Ministers Noel Dempsey and Mary Coughlan with Rita Shah, 2009 Women Mean Business Entrepreneur of the Year at the Ogra Fianna Fail conference in The Great Northern Hotel An Taoiseach Brian Cowen speaking at the Ogra Fianna Fail, National Youth Conference in Bundoran