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Minister respects me, says ex-banker despite jibes

FINE Gael's banking expert Peter Matthews last night insisted Finance Minister Michael Noonan "respects" him -- despite apparently belittling his advice at a finance committee meeting.

The comments came hours after Mr Noonan said people would think he was "deranged" if he followed Mr Matthews' strategy of pushing for €75bn owed by Ireland and the banks to be written off.

The Finance Minister, a party colleague of Mr Matthews, also described the former banker's proposed solutions as "kindergarten" stuff.

"Michael Noonan does respect me," Mr Matthews insisted last night.

"It was a robust conversation -- we're all trying to contribute on what we genuinely and honestly feel should be Ireland's strategy ...

"I know he had no intention to be dismissive of me."


Earlier in the session, Mr Noonan had been complimentary towards Mr Matthews, saying that he "always learned something new" from his contributions.

Mr Matthews last night said he had a lot of regard for the minister who's "a man that's older than me" and "has life experience that's very comprehensive".

At the committee, Mr Noonan said it "looks likely" that the Government will have to "revise" its growth forecasts for 2012 as the deterioration of the global economy threatens Irish exports.

A 1pc fall in Ireland's growth for next year would add €800m to December's budget cuts, Mr Noonan said, though he stressed that he "didn't envisage" a drop of that size.

The slower growth will be cushioned by savings Ireland is making after the European authorities agreed to cut the interest rate the State is paying on some of the bailout loans.

Mr Noonan yesterday said the Government now believed the savings would amount to "between €500m and €600m" for 2012, up about €100m on the savings initially expected.

When all the loans have been drawn down, the savings will rise to €900m a year, he added, while total savings across the term of the loans will be between €6bn and €7bn.

Irish Independent