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Energy sell-off will not be repeat of Eircom Pat Rabbitte pledges

Energy and Communications minister Pat Rabbitte has said that any sell-off of state assets would not include the transmission and distribution networks of the ESB and Bord Gais.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Mr Rabbitte said that while no decision had been made on any proposed sell-off, the government was determined not to repeat what had happened at Eircom.

"You can't allow a situation where people can start trading in the networks because they can make profit, and profit, and profit again, and then starve the infracstructure of the necessary investment. That's what happened in the case of Eircom and that's what we can't allow happen in the energy companies."

Describing the ESB and Bord Gais as "the jewels in the crown", Mr Rabbitte said they represent 60-70% value of all state assets and are of fundamental strategic significance on the Irish economy.

"It is that national interest that the government has to protect if any decision is made in respect of [selling] the energy companies."

Mr Rabbitte said the government found itself in a difficult situation as it was being required by last year's bailout agreement to dispose of €2bn in state assets for the purpose of raising money rather than for strategic reasons.

"It is not the kind of decision we would be voluntarily taking."