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'No question of loss of sovereignty', says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Brian Cowen today rubbished accusations that the Government had surrendered Ireland`s sovereignty.

As the International Monetary Fund and European officials pour over the nation`s books, Mr Cowen said the economy remains strong and sustainable.

"There is no question of loss of sovereignty for Ireland," the Taoiseach said.

The Government has faced a barrage of criticism from the Opposition, on the airwaves and in newspaper editorials at home and abroad after it was confirmed the IMF and EU were beginning meetings with the Government in Dublin.

There has also been repeated accusations that ministers have tried to cover-up the extent of the negotiations between officials which first took place in Brussels late last week.

Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan brought some clarity early today when he said he expects the Government to agree a loan worth tens of billions through an IMF-EU rescue package.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has said another option being examined would be contingency capital - effectively a multibillion emergency credit line or overdraft for banks.

Mr Cowen said in currency terms the country shares its sovereignty with the Euro partners and is working with them to find an overall solution to wider problems.

"It will be the sovereign decision of the Irish Government on behalf of the Irish people that will decide what shape any package would be where we can decide that`s in our best interests," the Taoiseach said.

"At the moment we are in the process of working out what the best options are."


Following a declaration from Tanaiste Mary Coughlan that Ireland's corporation 12.5pc tax rate was non-negotiable, Mr Cowen said the Lisbon Treaty ensured taxation was a national issue for sovereign governments.

But it was in the interest of Ireland to work with its EU partners to make the banking sector viable and functioning, he added.

"We know this is an urgent issue, we know this is an important issue and any decisions to be taken by government will be on our own responsibility on the basis of a full analysis being taken," he said.

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Mr Cowen repeated that "no formal application" has been made for a bail-out or loans.

However, "technical discussions" with the EU were intensifying since the meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels earlier this week, he said.

"When all of those implications have been worked out - and they haven't all been worked out, and no specific proposal has been put to the Government - it is then that the Government will determine what is in the best interests of the country at this time," he said.

Accepting he has come under intense criticism at home, Mr Cowen insisted he was carrying out his responsibilities conscientiously in the public interest.

The position of the Government was "fair, valid and responsible", he said.

"We will determine our own future and we will work with others who offer technical and other assistance to us on the basis of membership of a currency area," Mr Cowen said.

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