Kenny says Ireland expects further debt concessions

Government may seek to sell stake in AIB before general election

Taoiseach Enda Kenny vowed to underpin his positive message to delegates with the expectation that Ireland expects further concessions from its European partners on its legacy debt burden

Taoiseach Enda Kenny vowed to underpin his positive message to delegates with the expectation that Ireland expects further concessions from its European partners on its legacy debt burden

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 01:02

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has noted a positive interest at the World Economic Forum in Ireland’s recovery from the “enormous shock” of its economic collapse.

However Mr Kenny, joined in Davos by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, vowed to underpin his positive message to delegates with the expectation that Ireland expects further concessions from its European partners on its legacy debt burden.

“We’ve come through a torrid time in our country; we went over the edge after an explosion in the property market and catastrophic banks,” he said yesterday at a panel discussion. “When we came here three years ago there was a spirit of disillusion and despair... this year it is a very different situation.”

The Taoiseach said Davos delegates he met yesterday showed great interest in its clean bailout exit and Moody’s recent investment upgrade. However he said there was “no room for any complacency in the journey we have yet to travel”.

Mr Noonan used his Davos meetings to underline Ireland’s attractiveness as an investment location, but said he would raise the debt issue where appropriate, as he did at a lunch last week in Dublin with EU ambassadors.

“They all report back, and the message was given loud and clear that we think there is unfinished business among the commitments made,” said Mr Noonan.

General election
He also said the Government may seek to sell a stake in Allied Irish Banks before the general election in 2016.

The State owns 99.8 per cent of the lender after injecting €21 billion from 2009 to 2011 at the height of the financial crisis.

A sale of shares would help set a value for the bank, said Mr Noonan. “There’s a political timetable as well,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg television in Davos.

“The Government will have an election at the latest at the end of March, early April 2016, so we might test the market sometime ahead of that.”

During the day Mr Kenny had meetings with leading executives, including Citi Group European CEO James Cowles and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Tax affairs
Mr Kenny said Ms Sandberg discussed Ireland’s engagement with international talks on tax affairs at the OECD.

In these talks international observers have criticised as unsustainable the Irish legal tax structure of the international tax affairs of Facebook and other multinationals based in Dublin.

“I confirmed to Sheryl Sandberg that Irish corporate tax rate will not be moving up or moving down. Investors like certainty in this regard,” he told journalists.

Mr Kenny said on the panel the so-called “double Irish” tax structure was “an issue that has as much to do with American legislation as Irish legislation”.

As well as meetings with business leaders, Mr Kenny had talks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum with his Dutch and Finnish counterparts Mark Rutte and Jyrki Katainen.