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Saturday 23 September 2017

Government fears Troika will gun for Croke Park

Bailout review will focus on Health

John Drennan

John Drennan

Concern is rising in the Government that the IMF/ECB/EU Troika will warn that "Croke Park is not working" when they conclude their eighth review of the bailout agreement, scheduled to begin next week.

These Government fears have not been eased by the intent of the Troika to focus on overspending in the Department of Health.

Such is the level of unhappiness within the Troika over the chaotic state of the Department's finances that speculation was rife at the heart of Government that Minister for Health James Reilly would be personally cross-examined by the Troika.

Such a development would represent the first time a front-line minister from the three big spending ministries of Social Protection, Education and Health would directly meet the Troika.

To date, contacts between ministers and the Troika have been confined to the Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan.

Though a spokesperson from the Department of Health said they were "not aware" of any such meeting, the Sunday Independent was told by senior figures close to Government that the Troika has become unhappy over the "peculiar" Irish situation where they only meet Ministers Howlin or Noonan, while other ministers are "corralled" away from the grouping.

In other bailout countries, the Troika meets ministers from all departments, but, in what was described by one source as "another example of the micro-management where Gilmore, Kenny, Noonan, Howlin and their Economic Management Council have to control everything" there has been "deliberate civil service and political resistance over letting Reilly, Quinn and Burton near the troika".

However senior political sources told the Sunday Independent that the Troika has become increasingly impatient with the scenario where instead "of meeting ministers, they are being fobbed off by Father Sean [Healy] Richard Boyd Barrett, Sinn Fein and various others."

One senior source claimed the Troika has been "spooked by Reilly. They're starting to believe they are being given the run-around.

"Reilly is the sacrificial lamb, the boldest boy in class but they're equally concerned at the hollowness in the centre of Government, a perceived lack of leadership."

The Sunday Independent has also learnt that within the Government "from the Taoiseach down there is more nervousness about this Troika visit than any other one".

One senior figure close to the heart of Government noted "the thing that's haunting them is that after they see the scenario in Health they will say that Croke Park isn't working.

"The projections are not good. You have to make a bigger adjustment. Social Welfare will have to be cut, tax will have to rise. It's a concern, a real concern".

Another source warned it was clear "the Troika are not as comfortable as they were that we can stay on track".

Meanwhile the prospect of Dr Reilly being sent out to mollify the Troika was greeted with some horror by the minister's colleagues who share the Troika's "lack of comfort about whether things can stay on track" and over Dr Reilly's performance.

Indicating the shaky political position of Enda's "pick", one minister claimed the powerful Finance Minister Michael Noonan "has become increasingly critical of Reilly, he's been asking backbenchers for their views, and that only means one thing".

And another senior Fine Gael figure warned "there is now a real disconnection between the Cabinet versus back-benchers and even junior ministers -- they're all in bad form. Even Noonan is like a bear with a sore head. The mood is dark. Skirmishes are breaking out all over the place".

Sunday Independent

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