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The Punt: Christine Lagarde talks tough on Greece

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Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

THERE was a palpable air of excitement around Government Buildings yesterday ahead of a press conference involving Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.

It goes to show how the world has changed in the last five years or so if the head of an organisation like the IMF has an almost celebrity status. As the gathering drew to a close yesterday, eager reporters lined up their iPhones to get a shot of her.

But Madame Lagarde is also a cool customer, and deals with questions from the media deftly.

She echoed the remarks of other players on the international stage by heaping praise on Ireland for its achievements in meeting its targets, and talked up the candour and trust between the troika and the Government.

But if she had words of praise for us, she seemed less sympathetic to the Greeks, as she appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a debt conference.

Debt, she said, can only be achieved through growth.

The Greeks will likely beg to differ.

Mueller onboard  at airline

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller has joined the board of Malaysia Airlines and attended his first board meeting at the struggling carrier.

Mr Mueller was appointed to the board of the Asian airline on January 1 as a non-executive, non-independent director, in advance of taking up the chief executive role there on March 1.

The weekend before last, he attended a board meeting in Malaysia and was introduced to senior executives at the airline.

He was also briefed by them on restructuring plans.

Aer Lingus announced just a couple of weeks ago that Mr Mueller was handing over executive responsibility for strategic matters to chairman Colm Barrington. The change came as British Airways' owner IAG continues its takeover pursuit of Aer Lingus.

Mr Mueller will leave the airline on February 28, and Mr Barrington will take over full executive control at the company at that time until a new chief executive starts with the business.

Mr Mueller, who joined Aer Lingus in 2009, has apparently been given "almost full autonomy" to select his own senior team at Malaysia Airlines and will be able to run it "with no political interference", according to local press reports.

He's also going to remain as chairman of An Post and a director of Tourism Ireland despite moving to the other side of the world.

He'll be paying his own airfares.

Irish Independent