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Tuesday 28 February 2017

Ahern accuses ECB of bailout plan leaks

Dermot Ahern: heavy-hitter to quit
Dermot Ahern: heavy-hitter to quit

Europe tried to bounce Ireland into an international bailout before the Cabinet could discuss it, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said today.

Mr Ahern also accused officials from the European Central Bank (ECB) of leaking details to the media to pressurise the Government into applying for a rescue loan.

The Justice Minister's remarks follow suggestions from Children's Minister Barry Andrews that the country was forced to accept the package offered by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After announcing his imminent retirement from national politics, Mr Ahern described the days prior to the bailout negotiations as fraught.

"I do believe there was an effort to bounce us into a discussion before the Cabinet had even discussed it," he said.

"Those few days were extremely fraught, quite clearly."

Mr Ahern was left red-faced after branding reports the Government was on the brink of a rescue package as fiction just days before Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan revealed a bailout was on the cards.

The minister, who has revealed he will not stand in the upcoming general election, insisted he gave the factual position at the time and denied he was left out of the loop.

Although now backing the €85bn package, he claimed there had been no discussion at Cabinet of a bailout at that stage and accused the ECB of leaking information to the media.

"Clearly there were people from outside this country who were trying to bounce us, as a sovereign state, into making an application, throwing in the towel before we had even considered it as a government," Mr Ahern said.

"They were leaking in the papers that Sunday. [There was] quite incredible pressure on this country and, if you notice, they're doing the same with Portugal now."

Mr Ahern said Ireland was repeatedly under pressure over its controversial 12.5pc corporation tax rate and the differences in social welfare and public sector salaries between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Yesterday Mr Andrews said the Government did not want the massive bailout but was forced into it to pay teachers, gardai, nurses and childcare workers.

Mr Andrews added: "Our colleagues in Europe were prepared to put a package together for us and we had to accept that package."

A Dail debate will take place tonight and tomorrow on the rescue deal and the four-year savings plan.

Unconstitutional

Sinn Fein accused the Government of acting unconstitutionally in not putting the EU/IMF international loan agreement to a vote of the Dail.

The party's Dail leader, Caoimhghin O Caolain, said Mr Ahern's comments revealed the Cabinet was in disarray.

"The Constitution specifically refers to treaties that involve a charge on the public," Mr O Caolain said.

"If the Fianna Fail/Green Government persists in refusing to put the EU/IMF international loan agreement before a vote of the Dail they will be acting unconstitutionally. The Constitution is very clear."

The party called on all parties and Independents in the Dail to oppose the deal.

Press Association

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