Saturday 18 November 2017

We didn't stab the Greeks in back on debt - Coveney

Greek Syriza activists attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Communities Against Water Charges at St Monica’s GAA club, Edenmore. Pictured are (l-r) Moira Murphy, Community against water charges; Maria Karagianni and Nyoman Tzouvla Syriza activists; and Ronan Burtenshaw from Greek solidarity. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Greek Syriza activists attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Communities Against Water Charges at St Monica’s GAA club, Edenmore. Pictured are (l-r) Moira Murphy, Community against water charges; Maria Karagianni and Nyoman Tzouvla Syriza activists; and Ronan Burtenshaw from Greek solidarity. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Agriculture and Defence Minister Simon Coveney has strongly rejected claims that the Government has been nobbled by the Troika over support for Greek debt relief calls.

He also rejected claims that Ireland has "stabbed Greece in the back" this weekend by rejecting its calls for a debt write-down.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Coveney said any suggestion that Ireland has been leant on by European authorities was false.

"Absolutely not, not as far as I am concerned, let's not create red herrings here," he said.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said Finance Minister Michael Noonan initially supported the idea of a debt conference but has been "sticking it to Greece" in recent days.

Mr McGrath questioned whether the finance minister had been nobbled by the Troika.

"The Government should have supported the idea of a debt conference. To go in there and see can we renegotiate the issue a little bit further. We shouldn't have stabbed the Greek government in the back in the last 24 hours," he said.

"A few weeks ago, Minister Noonan hinted he was supportive of a debt conference, and now in the last week he has changed his mind completely. Did someone from the ECB get to the minister, or from Europe, over the past four or five days? There has been a definite change," he said.

Mr McGrath cited how Mr Noonan's predecessor, the late Brian Lenihan, had come under significant pressure from the ECB.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath said: "There is no doubt the Government has come under pressure not to press the issue of a debt conference.

"I find the stance of the Government very odd and short-sighted... It is a missed opportunity for Ireland to potentially make gains."

But Mr Coveney dismissed such suggestions.

"Any deal negotiated with Greece needs to be applied to Ireland if appropriate," he said. But he accepted Ireland has never sought debt forgiveness, echoing calls from Mr Noonan that Ireland's debt is sustainable.

"We will show solidarity with Greece as all European countries should. Ireland changed the rules, when we renegotiated the deals we had with the IMF and the ECB. As a result, Ireland will be paying €50bn less than what we would have under the plan of the last Government," he said.

"There are ways to reduce the debt burden on Greece and Ireland will be constructive in that debate, but there are certain parameters that conversation has to happen within," he said.

The row comes amid reports the Government is to adopt a "hardline" approach to any suggestion of debt forgiveness for Greece.

The Government's Economic Management Council last week agreed Ireland should not support any push for outright debt forgiveness.

Greece exit of euro is inevitable, warns Greenspan, page 22

Irish Independent

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