THE Government has given the strongest signal yet that it is not relying on EU help for the €40bn legacy bank debts, as Tanaiste Joan Burton and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin talk up alternatives.
The Tanaiste has also launched a blistering attack on Sinn Fein with references to Mary Lou McDonald flying business class to and from Australia and also Gerry Adams receiving private health treatment in the USA. Ms Burton said giving Sinn Fein control of the economy would mean having to invite the EU-ECB-IMF troika back to stave off bankruptcy.
Speaking at the Labour Party "think-in", the two ministers welcomed the weekend IMF debt deal secured by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, which could save taxpayers €300m per year. But they were less enthusiastic when asked about pursuing an EU leaders' summit declaration of support given to Ireland in June 2012.
"There is more than one way to skin the cat, as they say. The sixth anniversary of the bank guarantee is coming up soon. Our strategy in year one will be different in year six," Ms Burton told reporters in Wexford.
Asked about the 2012 EU leaders' pledge in principle, Mr Howlin said the situation had changed over the last two years. He said last week that Ireland was able to borrow money on international markets at 1.6pc interest and the Government would look at all options and at what gave taxpayers the best deal. "We're going to be nimble and agile and get the best value we can," Mr Howlin told reporters.
Practical efforts to get EU help had been delayed until the so-called European Stability Mechanism opens for business next November. There has been continuing debate about whether it could help Ireland retrospectively and the Government has already signalled there would be no rush to apply within the coming weeks.
However, Ms Burton was also careful not to rule out some EU role in tackling legacy bank debt but insisted a broad outlook should be taken.
"At all times what we need to do is look at what eases our bank debt," Ms Burton added.
The two-day think-in is also placing great emphasis on tackling the housing crisis in the greater Dublin area and tackling homelessness. Ms Burton said she did not favour suggestions that prefabs could be erected on waste ground in Dublin as an emergency response to homelessness, saying she favoured refurbishing council houses and flats which had been deserted and boarded up.
The Labour TDs and senators also heard from NAMA chairman Frank Daly (inset), who outlined its efforts to provide more homes. He told reporters that to date 600 homes had been provided in the Dublin area and by the end of next year this would have grown to 2,500.
"We are told that between 7,000 and 9,000 extra homes are needed each year in Dublin. By that reckoning, NAMA's contribution will be considerable but we can't do everything," Mr Daly said.
The NAMA chairman said he did not believe ongoing negotiations on the builders' obligation to provide a proportion of social housing would damage their economic viability. He said it was likely this would be fixed at 10pc - enough to help social integration but not impede good business.
The Labour TDs and senators continue their meeting today ahead of the Dail reopening tomorrow. Mr Howlin will give a presentation on the Budget and there will be discussions about Northern Ireland, rural development, job creation and justice issues.
Joan Burton was in the courtyard of White's Hotel doing a doorstep interview with a posse of reporters before the starter's flag was raised on Labour's two-day pow-wow. She was standing underneath a large sign for the hotel's Tranquillity Spa, which may have been subliminal wishful thinking on the part of the party leader.