Friday 26 May 2017

Enda Kenny: 'The indications are that nobody will be elected as Taoiseach on Thursday'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Arthur Carron
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Arthur Carron
Finance minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Mark Condren

Sarah Collins in Brussels

The Taoiseach has predicted that he will continue in the post for the foreseeable future as the post-election deadlock wears on.

Speaking to reporters on his way into an EU summit, he said that nobody was likely to secure a nomination as Taoiseach when the Dáil meets on Thursday.

“Well the indications are that nobody will be elected as Taoiseach on Thursday,” he said. “But clearly the fact of the matter is that the Taoiseach is elected by the Dáil and obviously continues until that situation has changed.”

He said he couldn’t “put a date on” when coalition talks would be finished, but he said that nobody had the numbers to support a bid to lead the country and that he would take up the mantle until things were clear.

“For me the work of government goes on,” Mr Kenny said. “I am prepared obviously in my capacity as Taoiseach to work for the formation of a government that the country deserves and that the people need,” he added.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said that Ireland’s reputation may be damaged if coalition talks drag on.

 

On his way into a meeting in Brussels, Mr Noonan said that while there was “no reputational damage” to Ireland so far, prolonged coalition talks could take their toll on investor sentiment.

“Obviously if a government isn’t formed for a significant period then anxiety will begin to appear in the markets and will be expressed in bond prices,” Mr Noonan said ahead of a meeting with his eurozone counterparts, where he was due to brief them on the outcome of the election. 

Ireland intends to go ahead with a scheduled bond sale on Thursday, the same day as the Dáil reconvenes to vote on nominations for Taoiseach.

But as no government is likely to be formed this week, Mr Noonan said Ireland may miss an end-April deadline to submit an annual budget update to the EU.

“Whatever is in the spring statement will be the boundaries for the incoming government, and whoever is in the incoming government may want to participate in that, so I’ll signal to the commissioners today that we may or may not make the end of April target,” he said.

He wouldn’t be drawn on the future composition of government, but when asked if he would like to return as finance minister, he said, “Maybe.”

“I think the important thing now is to form a government in Ireland as quickly as possible. That’s what’s is in the national interest,” he said. “The personalities are secondary to the national objective of having a government that reinforces confidence in Ireland and makes sure that we can continue with the very successful progress we have made, especially over the last two years,” he said.

Mr Noonan also brushed off accusations that the incumbent government had caused confusion over the concept of fiscal space during the election campaign.

“I don’t think there was any confusion around fiscal space, it’s a complicated issue and anybody who looked at the figures knows that the figures that the Department of Finance had brought forward were the correct figures,” he said. “Those that said they weren’t correct didn’t produce a shred of evidence to the contrary and everybody accepts now that they were the correct figures,” he added.

He said the European Commission had “signed off” on the fact that there is 1.5 billion euros available to the incoming government, should they choose to use it.

He was referring to EU rules that allow a government some leeway in meeting their fiscal targets, amounting to 0.5pc of GDP.

Mr Noonan also said there would be extra money to invest in infrastructure next year when the government reviews the capital programme. 

“I’ve said on innumerable occasions if I had the resources I’d have invested more in infrastructure but I didn’t have the resources,” Mr Noonan said. “As things change we’ll invest more.”

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