Sunday 19 November 2017

Cabinet tensions spark calls for FF resignations

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE fallout from the Government's handling of the bailout saga has resulted in Cabinet tensions and calls for resignations in Fianna Fail.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is said to be unhappy that he was left to definitively deny any suggestion of a bailout -- when the European Central Bank was unquestionably putting pressure on the Government.

The Coalition is now believed to be anxious to publish the four-year budgetary plan early next week to avoid accusations it is being dictated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan denied the visiting delegations from the European Commission, ECB and IMF will now direct budgetary policy. "They advise but they don't direct," he said.

The Cabinet met again last night to discuss the progress on the plan and the subsequent budget in three weeks' time, with sources insisting it wasn't finished. "Some people thought it might be signed off in principle but it wasn't," a source said.

But within the Cabinet, it is understood a meeting earlier this week, before Mr Lenihan went to an EU finance ministers meeting was "stormy".

A number of ministers expressed strong opinions about the position being adopted on the bailout pressure coming from Europe. "There was a full and frank exchange of views and a certain amount of tension," a source said.

And there are also question marks over whether some ministers were left out of the loop about what was going on between government officials and the EU.

Twice at the start of the week, Mr Ahern categorically denied a bailout was in the offing, describing international media reports as "fiction". It's not clear if he was fully briefed on what was going on and some were surprised that such an experienced ministers would have been so definitive if he knew the position.

"He wasn't particularly happy on Monday. 'Fiction' became the buzzword and he was pretty aggrieved," a coalition source said.

Fianna Fail TD Ned O'Keeffe repeated his calls for Mr Lenihan to resign as he was not doing his job. "We're the laughing stock of Europe. We've a new Minister for Finance in Luxembourg in Professor Honohan," he said.

In rowdy scenes, Fine Gael justice spokesman Alan Shatter was yesterday forced to leave the Dail after questioning the fairness of the Ceann Comhairle, Seamus Kirk (FF).

Fine Gael's Michael Noonan said Mr Lenihan and his colleagues should be ashamed that the IMF was being called in.

"That a Fianna Fail-led government should be the one to surrender our sovereignty has its own irony. For years it posed as the super green patriots and the uncompromising republicans," he said.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen denied he was ashamed or there was any loss of sovereignty. "I don't believe there is reason for people to be in any way ashamed or humiliated at all, and I don't understand the premise of the question to be frank," he said.

But Green Party chairman Dan Boyle said the Government will be availing of some sort of funding "facility".

"There will be money coming from outside sources and it will be directed towards elements of the sovereign debt created by the banking crisis. That is the reality and I do not see any denial," he said

Irish Independent

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