Business Irish

Monday 19 February 2018

Rehn insists negotiations on Ireland’s bank debt is progressing

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan in Brussels

EUROPEAN Commissioner Olli Rehn says negotiations on reducing Ireland's debt burden are "making progress".

But the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs admitted he was confused himself by the issue of legacy debt.

He said he cannot comment publicly on negotiations surrounding Ireland's debt in general.

"My understanding is the negotiations are making progress but it is too early to say anything about the exact content of the final outcome," he said.

Meanwhile Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin says the Taoiseach needs to get some clarity from EU leaders on the promise to give Ireland a bank debt deal.

Following a meeting in Brussels with several leaders in Fianna Fail's European group, Mr Martin said is a "different interpretation" of what is on offer.

He said there was a need for "absolute clarity" and the confusion was "damaging" to the EU.

"I do get a sense there is, was and still is a different interpretation of what was agreed at the June meeting," he said.

Mr Martin said he understood there would be some discussions tonight on the matter.

Earlier Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said that the agreement made by EU leaders to reduce our €64bn bank debt would be honoured.

He was speaking ahead of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's meeting with EU leaders in Brussels, where the deal made last June to break the link between national debt and bank debt will be discussed.

At Leader's Questions in the Dail, Mr Quinn dismissed concerns that the finance ministers from Germany, Finland and Holland had undermined that deal with their recent comments.

"The finance ministers were not at the June meeting and they won't be at the meeting today," he said.

Mr Quinn said the key decisions would be taken by EU leaders and that the outcome of today's European Council meeting would be that the June agreement on bank debt would be "fully upheld".

It came after Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley questioned whether the Government would be able to get a deal on our bank debt.

Mr Quinn was also questioned by Independent TD Thomas Pringle about the highly critical report into St Patrick's Institution for young offenders compiled by the Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly.

Mr Pringle said the revelations of children being struck with knives and bullied by staff was reminiscent of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Mr Quinn said it was an outrageous scandal that the Government was determined to deal with.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore says he sees no evidence the EU promise to give Ireland a bank debt deal has been reversed.

Speaking in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting ahead of an EU leaders summit, Mr Gilmore said the draft conclusions of the summit do not backtrack on the agreement reached on June 29.

He said the conclusions were based on the implementation of that agreement.

"I haven't seen anything that resiles from that," he said.

"It's clear the Irish debt situation was to be dealt with," he added.

A statement from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands said that legacy bank debt would not be included in any new agreement.

But Mr Gilmore said the agreement of June 29, where there would be a separation between bank debt and sovereign debt and a deal for Ireland.

"It is inevitable there is going to be noises in different capitals," he added.

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