Coveney rules out raid on €92bn in savings
AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney has ruled out a Cypriot-style raid on the €92bn held in bank savings here.
Mr Coveney told the Dail that he wanted to give a firm assurance that there would be no Cypriot-style levy on bank deposits.
"I am as clear as crystal from the Government's point of view that we will not be targeting bank deposits for any purposes," he said.
He also confirmed that there was no evidence to suggest that the Cypriot bailout crisis was having any impact on bank deposits here.
Savers here remain unperturbed by the crisis. They have opted to leave their savings in 13 different banks and building societies untouched, with official monitoring showing no change in Irish deposit levels since the Cypriot bailout crisis.
Mr Coveney was standing in for the first time at Leader's Questions in the Dail because Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other senior ministers are abroad on St Patrick's Day visits.
He had got a briefing beforehand on the phone from Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who was returning from attending the inauguration Mass of Pope Francis in Rome.
Mr Coveney insisted that it was the Cypriot government itself which had come up with the plan for a one-off levy on deposits of under €100,000 – and not EU finance ministers.
"We have here a country which made a decision that was not forced on them," he said.
The Cypriot parliament has rejected the bailout plan. Negotiations are currently ongoing about other ways for the Cypriot government to raise almost €6bn so that it can qualify for a €10bn EU bailout.
Fianna Fail finance spokes- man Michael McGrath said the plan to dip into personal savings of Cypriots had sent out the message that bank deposits were no longer sacrosanct.
"A rubicon has been crossed and a dangerous precedent has been set," he said.
But Independent TD John Halligan adopted a different approach, calling on Mr Coveney to either introduce legislation or call a referendum to cut the €100,000-plus pensions enjoyed by 167 retired bankers.
"They are walking all over you. It's time we stood up to them," he said.
Mr Coveney said the Government's legal advice was that it could not interfere with the contractual arrangements of retired bankers. He said it had written to the state-supported banks to get them to reduce their salary costs by 6-10pc.