Ms McDonald, whose party won the highest share of first preference votes in February’s general election, made her remarks in the Dail, Ireland’s legislature, today during a discussion about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. She said: “There can be no return to austerity in the wake of this emergency. “The fiscal rules within the EU are currently suspended but this is only a temporary state of affairs and the excessive deficit rules will re-apply again in the future.”
The European Commission and the European system at that time was no great friend to Ireland or our people
Mary Lou McDonald
“The Irish people are all too aware of how austerity looks and how it feels from the last crisis.
“The European Commission and the European system at that time was no great friend to Ireland or our people.
“There are huge concerns now amongst workers and families that we are looking at a deja vu, or re-run, of that scenario.”
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Ms McDonald – who has herself recovered from a bout of the illness – said she was concerned by comments made by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe suggesting financial support for hundreds of thousands workers could be tapered in the months ahead.
Her statement comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took part in a European Council meeting on the COVID-19 outbreak on Wednesday morning with other EU leaders.
Mr Varadkar said they had spoken about a potential mutualisation of debt, nicknamed coronabonds, but there was not unanimous support for such a plan.
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Speaking in the Dail shortly before Ms McDonald, he said: “The idea was to take a shared approach to managing debt arising solely from this crisis.
“Such an approach would have required a legal underpinning not currently provided for in the EU treaties.
“I accept that it would have take a long time to agree this, even more time if it were to be approved by all EU member states and even in ours where it would require a referendum.
“In the absence of unanimous support for that approach, we agreed that alternative solutions for a recovery fund should be developed.”
Mr Varadkar also said the European Commission is building a stockpile of medical equipment to be distributed to member states.
He added: “I welcome that the European Commission is building a strategic stockpile of equipment from which member states will be able to draw in future and indeed, the near present.”
“There is more to do and we need to examine how to make the EU more resilient and responsive as we chart our way through this crisis.”
He acknowledged the pandemic has place great strain on the bloc’s single market.
He said: “As predicted, countries that closed their borders and introduced export bans had to reverse them very quickly when they learned that the benefits were less than the costs.
“A fully functioning single market and free trade beyond our borders will be necessary as we recover from the huge recession induced by COVID-19.”
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the failure of EU leaders to agree a radical response to COVID-19 is of “grave concern”.
He told the Dail: “The failure of EU leaders participating in the EU council to agree a radical response to this emergency should be of grave concern to everyone.
“Measures that have been announced are welcome but they go nowhere near the scale and action that Europe needs if it is to recover quickly.”
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