Coalition held its nerve when others despaired
ANALYSIS:The deal on the promissory notes announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to a packed Dáil chamber yesterday afternoon represents a hugely important political achievement which should steady some rattled nerves on the Government backbenches.
The warm applause for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore from their backbenchers showed just how relieved their TDs were to have something to cheer about at last.
Getting a good deal with the European Central Bank on the bank debt was vital for the credibility of the Coalition.
Over the past few months the Taoiseach and his senior Ministers had staked their reputations on getting such a deal, so they needed to deliver.
The confusion that developed over the past two days, as the deal was dragged over the line, was an unfortunate distraction but it didn’t matter in the end when the real and substantial nature of the concessions was revealed.
Relief that the deal had been done was palpable among exhausted Government TDs who had been up until the early
hours of the morning to get through the House the emergency legislation necessary to underpin the financial arrangements.
Those critics who have been arguing for debt default all along were naturally unimpressed by the deal but there is no disguising the fact that it will significantly reduce the burden of debt in the short term by €1 billion a year.
That will help the country back on the road to full economic recovery, which in turn should make the repayment of the long-term principal look paltry when it comes to be paid back between 2038 and 2053.
The qualified welcome given to the deal by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who naturally wanted more details before giving a detailed response, was a measure of just how significant the actual terms were.
In a succinct outline of the deal, the Taoiseach explained that the original promissory note arrangements involved the payment of €3.1 billion this March and every March until 2023, followed by declining payments until 2031, to cover the massive losses of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
When interest costs were included the total cost would have come to almost €48 billion, but under the terms of the deal these annual payments are gone. Instead the promissory notes are being exchanged for long-term Government bonds with maturities of up to 40 years.
“In effect, we have replaced a short-term, high interest rate overdraft that had to be paid down quickly through more expensive borrowings, with long-term, cheap, interest-only loans.”
The Taoiseach said one result of the deal will be a reduction in the State’s general government deficit of approximately €1 billion a year in the coming years, bringing us €1 billion closer to attaining the 3 per cent deficit target by 2015.