Meet the powerbrokers holding fate of our nation in their hands
AS European finance ministers gather in Brussels today, politicians from a range of countries will have their say on Ireland's economy and fragile banking system.
While 16 ministers will attend the gathering, their influence over the precise details of any rescue plan for Ireland is likely to be limited. Instead a narrow group of European powerbrokers will be responsible for deciding Ireland's fate.
This same group is believed to have been privy to talks over the last four days concerning Ireland's economic situation.
Arguably the most powerful woman in the EU, Ms Day, a UCD graduate who ironically spent time working in Irish banking, is secretary general of the European Commission. Despite her Irish background, she has not been slow in giving unvarnished advice to her home country, saying for example that if Ireland doesn't raise corporation tax the extra funds will simply have to come from somewhere else.
Ambassador Rory Montgomery represents Ireland in the EU and is centrally involved in plotting Ireland's position at crucial European council meetings. He also deals with matters arising at the Economic and Finance Council, which meets today. If the Irish Government agrees to a bailout, Mr Montgomery would be involved in the negotiations. He is trusted by ministers and was part of the team that negotiated the Good Friday Agreement.
While Jean-Claude Trichet is the most senior ECB figure, Axel Weber of Germany is believed to be almost as influential. Head of the Bundesbank and vice-president of the ECB, Mr Weber has been leading the drive to get the ECB to reduce its exposure to debt-laden European banks. Mr Weber and his supporters are believed to be extremely keen for Ireland to get its 'house in order', although precisely what the ECB wants the Irish authorities to do is not clear. Mr Weber has clashed on several occasions with Mr Trichet over the bank's expansionary policies.
Frans Van Daele:
A key adviser to EU president Herman Van Rompuy, this Dutch-born career diplomat is regarded as a key backroom presence at the highest levels of the EU. A keen supporter of reforming the EU, Mr Van Daele and Mr Rompuy are key protectors of the euro and are likely to push solutions that aid the currency. Described as having great analytical and negotiating skills, any top-level negotiations between Ireland the Commission are likely to involve him.
Mr Corrigan, as head of the NTMA, has been trying to fill the shoes of his predecessor, Dr Michael Somers, during the worst economic crisis ever faced by Ireland. He has been involved in conference calls with European authorities in recent days and also regularly talks to bond investors from around the world. The NTMA and Mr Corrigan are also responsible for the banks and he will have to liaise with the ECB/EU on any assistance for the Irish financial system.
Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez:
Another ECB vice-president and governor of the Bank of Spain, his comments yesterday about Ireland not taking the "final decision" on a rescue heaped pressure on the Government. Mr Ordonez, as a Spaniard, is worried about Spanish bonds getting dumped in the market because of the Irish crisis. He said the position of the Irish Government was hurting the markets and is likely to hold that position for the rest of the week as the Irish Government tries to avoid a bailout.
This former IMF executive carried out one of the two inquiries into Ireland's banking crisis earlier this year and is highly familiar with how our banking system and economy work. Now heading up the European Financial Stability Facility, Mr Regling is likely to become the key figure in any bank rescue. While EU finance ministers decide how much money Ireland gets and what conditions are attached, Mr Regling will be policing any package.