Ireland's Labour Party has accused the government of privatising debate on the economy after it emerged that senior ministers are to appear at a round table discussion next month for which each normal attendee is being charged the amazing sum of € 1950.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore (photo) said that the Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan (all Fianna Fáil) and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan (Green Party) are all due to appear at this seminar, organised by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The Labour Party has strong reservations about so many government ministers taking part in a commercial enterprise, dressed up as a public forum, especially at a time when the government is refusing a Dáil debate on the economy.
With slight irony Eamon Gilmore asked whether Brian Cowen was now intent on privatising discussions on the national finances as well.
Personally I don't see really a big change in direction here. Irish ministers have always found time to mix and mingle with the rich and powerful, in particular when they get paid for it. This has become even more common since Bertie Ahern became Taoiseach. And Brian Cowen just carries on where Bertie left things in May...
I am however surprised that the Economist Intelligence Unit is interested in the Tánaiste. Even though she is also Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, intelligence is certainly not one of Mary Coughlan's strong sides.
The Emerald Islander