Friday 23 March 2018

My bailout comments were hyped up - Varadkar reporters

Leo Varadkar's weekend comments on a possible second bailout for Ireland were "hyped up" by the Sunday Times, the Transport minister said this morning.

Speaking for the first time since infuriating several of his cabinet colleagues for claims he made in the interview, Mr Varadkar denied that he had been "confined to barracks" for his comments, in which he said it was "very unlikely" that Ireland would be able to borrow from the financial markets next year.

"I think it might take a bit longer. 2013 is possible but who knows", he was quoted as saying. This might mean an extension of Ireland's agreement with the EU and IMF or even a second bailout, he suggested.

Mr Varadkar was sharply criticised by several of his government colleagues, and he apologised to them at Tuesday's cabinet meeting. "People might have their views about the meaning of words," Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, "but let me clarify for you again: there will be no need for a second bailout for Ireland in 2012.”

Jobs minister Richard Bruton said Mr Varadkar's comments did not reflect government policy".

Another cabinet colleague was quoted as saying that "this is typical of Leo, talking about things that have nothing to do with his portfolio. He can't go around giving interviews as if he was having a chat in the Dail corridor."

Speaking to RTE in Dublin this morning, Mr Varadkar said the government position on a bailout was clear, and that Ireland would borrow from the markets in 'a small way' in 2012 and in 'a full way' in 2013.

However, speaking at a conference organised by the London Irish Business Society yesterday, Harvinder Sian, chief interest rate strategist for the euro area with Royal Bank Of Scotland, said Ireland might not be able to return to the markets until 2018.

"If Ireland sticks to its guns, if the debt to GDP ratio is coming down, the government may decide or the electorate may decide, more importantly, that they can get through it and it may take another five years from 2013 to get back to the debt markets.”

Meanwhile it emerged today that unions and the government will be in conflict "on a strong point of social policy", if jobs minister Richard Bruton goes ahead with plans to cut the salaries of more than 200,000 workers in low-paid sectors of the economy.

David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, met Mr Bruton last night and said agreement had been reached on a majority of issues in dispute between them. However he said some serious differences remained, particularly over the issue of premium payment for Sunday work.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Mr Begg said Minister Bruton's proposals would do nothing to generate employment "and might have the opposite effect".

Unions were "the only people standing up for them [low-paid workers] at the moment, he claimed, although he acknowledged that they didn't have the strength in the low-paid sectors to persuade workers to withdraw their labour, but recalled that there had been a successful outcome to a recent dispute in the Davenport Hotel in Dublin over cuts to minimum wage payments.

The Sunday Times has not commented officially on Minister Varadkar's comments, but its Irish news editor Richard Oakley tweeted this morning: "So quoting someone's direct comments precisely now amounts to 'hyping' up a story? How do you hype up a direct quote?"

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