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Noonan talks up Irish 'sacrifice' on Berlin trip


FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan travelled to Berlin yesterday for the first time since his appointment last February and praised the Irish people's "determination and sacrifice".

Mr Noonan addressed business people at the headquarters of Commerzbank in the German capital before talks with counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble on the fiscal compact which is due to be agreed at a summit on January 30.

Ireland's turnaround "is quite simply a story of determination and sacrifice by the Irish people, together with prudent management by their representatives in the Government I am honoured to serve," Mr Noonan told his audience. His script made no mention of the German contribution to the various funds that have saved Ireland from bankruptcy.

Mr Noonan's speech came on the same day that Germany officially cut its growth forecasts for 2012 to just 0.7pc -- or half the rate forecast by Mr Noonan for Ireland's economy.

Mr Noonan drew many parallels between Germany and Ireland, noting that both countries were important exporters and neither country had seen their bonds downgraded last week. Germany's bonds are rated AAA while Ireland is rated BBB+.

"The story of Ireland as 2011 came to an end was one of a country growing again, with stability provided by a Government with a large majority and with economic stability and certainty in place," he told business leaders.

Mr Noonan reiterated the Government's hope that Ireland will become a poster boy for Europe and return to financial health.

"Europe, with Germany as a leading nation within it, needs a winner in terms of crisis resolution; given the right climate, we can and should be that winner."

While Mr Noonan appeared confident that Ireland will return to growth, his hosts were not so sure.

Commerzbank economist Peter Dixon said earlier this month that he feared the Irish economy could shrink this year if our trade partners slipped back into recession.

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