December's €3bn cuts may be the last as the public appetite sickens at the thought of more austerity budgets, the Green Party finance spokesman, Senator Dan Boyle, has said for the first time.
His comments come as the IMF predicted last week that, despite its plans for budget cuts and tax rises, spluttering growth would prevent the government meeting the EC's budget target to cut the annual deficit to 3% of GDP by the end of 2014.
Boyle acknowledged it was "probably a heresy" for a government party to question at this time whether the 3% target could be met.
"It is certainly doable if you want to be draconian every year. But is it politically feasible and is it socially possible? That is where I see the debate being had. Seeing that we have had three-and-a-half really difficult budgets, I do not see the public appetite continuing. It could be that we have neutral budgets for a period," he told the Sunday Tribune.
The Green Party finance spokesperson said the government would nonetheless have to push on with next December's €3bn in cuts. "The next budget is important," he said.
"I would be of the opinion that we can take stock," he said, and the government could then start to talk to the EC about neutral budgets. "It is not a government policy but I think it is just echoing what the IMF report is saying."
Boyle said that the remaining senior executives from the boom years at AIB and Bank of Ireland, including Colm Doherty and Richie Boucher, should "consider their positions" if the banking inquiry led by former Finnish official Peter Nyberg were to link them to reckless lending practices. He said that the banks had to various degrees been guilty of failing to co-operate with the Department of Finance.
Boyle also predicted that AIB was likely to end up in the majority control of the state in the coming months.
"My preference is that we would keep it under 70%, so in the case of a re-sale we will have that sort of benchmark.
"I have never seen it being fully nationalised but it can get quite close to the 70% [ownership]," he said.