Coalition 'would have fallen' without prom note deal
Eamon Gilmore says weeks around payment deadline were the lowest of the year for him
In an interview with ‘The Irish Times’, Eamon Gilmore says the weeks in which there was uncertainty about the payment were the lowest of the year for him and for his Labour ministerial colleagues. Photograph: Getty
In his first public disclosure of how perilous the situation was, the leader of the Labour Party says the two-year Coalition would not have survived if forced to pay some €6 billion to the European Central Bank by the end of March deadline.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Gilmore says the weeks in which there was uncertainty about the payment were the lowest of the year for him and for his Labour ministerial colleagues. The Government was faced with repayments for two years, comprising €3 billion for each year.
“There was a period in the early part of this year when I was concerned that we would not get the promissory note issue resolved. The Government would have fallen if we had not done so.
“We could not pay €6 billion of taxpayers’ money to a dead bank and that would have brought the Government down.”
While it was perceived that this was a more critical issue for the Labour Party, Mr Gilmore says he believed Fine Gael was “in the same situation” if efforts to resolve the matter had failed.
At an EU-Latin American summit in late January 2013, Mr Gilmore had told other EU leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, that the Government was facing a calamitous situation if forced to make the payments. Several Labour Ministers, including Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, were also insisting in public the Government would not pay the promissory note repayments that were due.
However, this is the first time the Tánaiste has outlined in public how serious this problem had become and the serious doubts it raised about the Coalition’s survival.
A deal on the €30 billion promissory note, that also saw the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation being liquidated, was agreed with the ECB on February 8th.
In the interview Mr Gilmore has identified the bailout exit as the high point of the year. On the economic front, he also notes the Haddington Road agreement and recovering jobs market.
Asked about his plans, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs for opening embassies and reconfiguring others, Mr Gilmore said Ireland’s diplomatic team was small and needed to be adaptable.
He says he has been examining the matter, looking at the country’s export trade strategy, and intends to bring proposals to Government in the new year “which will involve some changes in the network of missions”.
It has been suggested that there may be a new embassy in Kenya and an increased presence in the Far East, which is becoming more important in terms of trade.
On speculation that the Coalition may reverse its decision to close the embassy in the Vatican, by perhaps sharing a building with the Irish Embassy in Italy, he has hinted that the decision may be revisited. “I have always said we will keep it under review . . . I am in the business of finding pragmatic solutions. I do not want to go beyond that.”
Mr Gilmore says he has had a reputation for hard work throughout his political career but has never worked so hard in his life as in Government.
“There is rarely a week in which I work less than 100 hours. It’s highly intensive. You are moving at pace from the Economic Management Council one minute where you are dealing with complex financial figures, to a constituency issue, to a meeting of the parliamentary party.
“It’s really hard work and [involves] a lot of pressure, but it is an enormous privilege to be able to do it. There is enormous satisfaction to be able to do this at a time of enormous crisis for the country,” he says.