Monday 26 September 2016

Getting best deal is in all of our interests

Published 08/07/2015 | 02:30

'On the subject of write-downs, Mr Noonan gave a firm 'Oxi''
'On the subject of write-downs, Mr Noonan gave a firm 'Oxi''

At the height of the Cold War during the Berlin crisis in 1961 President John F Kennedy noted with despair: "We cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable."

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His words neatly sum up how many view the current omnishambles concerning Greece and the EU. Remarkably, the talk gets cheaper as the stakes get higher.

The Greeks have been backed into a corner in Brussels - back in Athens the feeling is there is nothing to lose. When you are desperate, all risks become equal. Thus they will press for a write-down. This is what Enda Kenny pledged to do in the run up to the last election.

But now things are different, apparently. Instead of looking to coat-tail any concessions Greece may get, Finance Minister Michael Noonan spoke of "several options on re-profiling and restructuring debt" that could be explored. He even mentioned re-engineering and reductions, but on the subject of write-downs, Mr Noonan gave a firm "Oxi".

Quizzed as to whether the Government might seek changes to Ireland's debt arrangements on the foot of any offers made to Greece, Mr Noonan again said 'No'. In diplomacy and in high-stakes poker it is not generally a good idea to give others a look at the cards you hold. It is even less advisable to volunteer how you intend to play them.

It is generally accepted that the Greeks will soon bring a deal to the table and that, one way or another, a conclusion will be reached.

But one question will hang in the air and that is why, precisely, did our Government elect not to press its case for concessions given the extraordinary sacrifices of the Irish people?

It is neighbourly to be agreeable, but it is naive to lose touch with the interest of those who elect you.

Many think that Europe is being driven by the interests of the larger countries, and that the treatment of the obstinate Greeks is symptomatic of a new stridency. Unquestioning obedience can very easily be seen as servility.

Transparency key in any Quinn/IBRC deal

The public has, at last, been updated on efforts by the former Anglo Irish Bank to recover assets, once valued at €500m, that formed part of the Quinn family's International Property Group (IPG).

The Special Liquidators of the IBRC (formerly Anglo) deserve credit for making public details of its efforts to secure control over the IPG.

This transparency is critical in light of the banking collapse and in circumstances where two members of the Quinn family - Sean Quinn Snr and Sean Quinn Jnr - were jailed for breaking court orders restraining any dissipation of or interference with assets in the IPG.

The Quinn family and the IBRC are now in mediation talks aimed at resolving the biggest commercial case in modern Irish history. The Quinn family claims €2.34bn in loans by Anglo to various Quinn companies were made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the share price.

A separate case by IBRC alleging that the family conspired to strip assets from the IPG is at a standstill pending the mediation. The recovered IPG assets may prove critical in any settlement, the terms of which must be published in full by the State in the public interest.

Irish Independent

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