Sunday 21 January 2018

Noonan and Howlin hail Troika exit as "historic day"

Government has yet to decide on whether to request precautionary credit line for after December 15

Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan

Sarah McCabe and Fionnan Sheahan

Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin say the final review of the bailout is a "historic day".

The Finance Minister and Public Spending Minister were marking the successful conclusion of the latest exam by the Troika.

Mr Noonan also said the Government will decide in the next month whether to take out an overdraft facility on exiting the bailout.

The minister said the bailout was tough and difficult for the Irish people.

"It is an historic day and a red letter day," he said.

Mr Howlin also said the end of the bailout was historic. "I think it is an historic day that many predicted we wouldn't reach."

Mr Noonan said he had no personal opinion yet about taking out the precautionary credit line.

"It's still an open question. It is a free choice. We are not being pressured," he said.

"There are a lot of advantages of both sides of the discussion and we are fortunate that we do have choices and we are well positioned - either to have a clean exit or to look for a precautionary line of credit," he said.

"We're positioned to decide as a Government which course of action is in the best interest of Ireland and it's a free choice. We're not being pressured by anybody."

The three-year bailout programme involved €85bn bailout - loans of €67.5bn from European states, including bilateral borrowing from the UK, and €17.5bn from the pension reserve fund.

The final review ended today with a glowing commendation from the IMF'S mission chief for Ireland Craig Beaumont.

"My message is that Ireland's programme will become an example that we will learn from in the future," he said.

The IMF, however, said it remained disappointed at the low economic growth levels in Ireland but suggested the stagnation across Europe was part of the problem.

The IMF-European Troika has demanded that the HSE make further improvements to how it manages its finances and further cuts could be made without affecting services.

It also identified the legal profession as an area that needs improved competition.

Mr Noonan said the Troika's departure leaves Ireland in a "very strong" position to re-enter the money markets.

"The responsibility for continuing to restore the economic fortunes of Ireland has been completely passed back to the Irish Government," Mr Noonan said.

"But that doesn't mean no further action has to be taken."

Mr Noonan said finance was available to Ireland with a €500bn pot of money available to Eurozone countries in financial crisis and the €25bn Ireland holds in cash reserves.

He said the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which was established after the Irish people voted in favour of a European fiscal treaty last year, would be available to Ireland whether it takes a credit line or not.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also hailed today as a milestone.

"This country has measured up in all respects to all of the conditions that were laid down," Mr Kenny said.

"Credit for that goes to the people.

"As we move towards the exit date on December 15, we want to exit with a decision that will leave us where we can pull the shutters up behind us and not go back to the culture that caused this problem.

"And send a message to our own people at home of clarity and certainty - we're moving to a new place and that place is back as a rightful member of the eurozone. And the message to markets and to investors is that Ireland will continue to be and to work towards an increasingly attractive location for investment and a country that is dealing with its financial problems and getting its people back to work.

"There are a number of challenges involved in this, obviously, and as we make our decision in the next period, we will do that on the basis of the best analysis of the advice and information given to us."

Irish Independent

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