Taoiseach insists he won't ask for more time to reduce deficit
THE Government will not look for more time to get the deficit down even if other bailout countries such as Portugal are given more breathing space, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is insisting.
The Portuguese government is understood to be seeking an extension from the troika of as much as two years to bring its deficit down, but Mr Kenny said Ireland would not change its plans of cuts and taxes.
The recent deal in which Ireland and Portugal secured a seven-year extension on the maturities of their bailout loans saw the two countries work together to improve their bailout programmes.
But Mr Kenny ruled out a similar approach on extending the deficit reduction deadline, if Portugal was given more leeway.
He said Ireland was committed to bringing its deficit down to 3pc of GDP by 2015, and had already been granted a one-year extension.
Mr Kenny was speaking after a meeting in Lisbon yesterday with his Portuguese counterpart Pedro Passos Coelho.
"Well, in our case, we've already had a one-year extension," the Taoiseach said. "Our fiscal plan sets out our intention to get our deficit below 3pc by 2015. We're going to stick with that plan, we would expect and hope to exit the programme towards the end of this year."
Earlier yesterday in Granada, Spain, Mr Kenny held a meeting with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, where the Taoiseach updated him on Ireland's EU presidency.
Mr Kenny, who also addressed a conference in Granada before travelling to Lisbon, also said he stressed the importance of reaching European banking union – a key step in using European funds to directly capitalise banks – to Mr Schauble.
"I have explained to Mr Schauble the importance of banking union for Europe, given the difficulties this has caused and is causing in countries in the eurozone," Mr Kenny said. "He's well aware of that and obviously I don't speak for the Bundestag but Mr Schauble is very much of the view that we have to move forward here and we do hope that between here and June we can make further significant progress."
The Taoiseach again said the EU faced a credibility issue in ensuring the link between banking and sovereign debt was broken, as pledged by European leaders last June.
"At the discussions earlier before I met him (Mr Schauble), I had made the point very strongly that this is a credibility issue, that when you arrive 12 months on from having made a decision, it is important that you are able to focus on what it is you have actually achieved in the meantime."
Mr Passos Coelho backed up the Taoiseach. He said: "All the decisions that were taken at the European Council have to become effective, terms that were agreed."
Last night, the leader of the country's trade union movement called for the troika to admit austerity had failed and give Ireland a new deal.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, called on EU-IMF bailout team officials to "do the honourable thing" and concede that austerity as a remedy for Ireland's problems was "wrong, socially destructive and damaging to prospects for economic recovery".
"It's time for a new departure – time for a new deal for Ireland," he said.