Kenny urged to follow Spain's lead to get debt relief

Wed, Mar 14, 2012, 00:00

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny dismissed suggestions he could follow the lead of the Spanish government in securing relief for Ireland’s debt burden.

Ireland, he said, was in a bailout programme, while Spain was not.

“The money to pay the salaries of gardaí, the teachers, the nurses and everyone else comes from Europe.”

Spain, he said, must reduce its debt levels to 3 per cent by the end of 2013, while Ireland, in a programme, had to do so by 2015.

“There is a big difference between the two situations. Spain is a big country with a huge economy, and is in a very different position from Ireland,” said Mr Kenny.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that on Monday night euro zone finance ministers had indicated Spain would be given flexibility in its budget deficit targets this year.

“This follows from the Spanish prime minister’s rejection of the austerity and deficit targets set by the EU.”

Mr Adams accused the Taoiseach and the Labour Party of having an entirely different approach.

The had “kowtowed to their masters in the EU and assured them that they will not seek any write-off of the totally unfair, unsustainable and unacceptable debt that has been foisted on our people by the Government, and by the previous government of which Deputy Micheál Martin was a member”.

Mr Adams said the second of the annual €3.1 billion promissory notes was due in a little over two weeks.

“Depending on which Minister is talking, people have a sense that the Government is, or is not, in negotiation at this time.”

He urged the Taoiseach to “follow the lead of the Spanish government, stand up for the interests of Irish citizens and refuse to pay this promissory note”.

Mr Adams said that Ireland’s great-great-grandchildren would have to pay the debt, as opposed to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Does the Spanish government’s unilateral decision and the finance ministers’ compromise not make a nonsense of this austerity treaty?

“Is it not clear from this one example that the deficit demands being made in the treaty are impractical?”

Accusing Mr Adams of deliberately twisting his words, the Taoiseach said there was a very big difference between Spain, as a country with a huge economy not being in a programme, and Ireland, which had a much smaller economy, being in a programme until end of the 2013.

Mr Kenny said he had already made it clear the Government was not going to raise any undue expectations on the €3.1 billion payment due in respect of promissory notes.

“A series of difficult, technical and complex negotiations are being held at the initiative of the troika in order to produce a flexibility paper so that this country’s particular economic circumstances could be eased by having the flexibility now available to ESM and EFSF that were not applicable when more than €60 million was borrowed in respect of the promissory note in the first instance.”

Those negotiations and discussions, said Mr Kenny, were ongoing.

He would guess, he added, that Mr Adams was probably the most disappointed person in the country when Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and himself informed the House that there would be a referendum on the fiscal compact treaty.

Mr Kenny said he knew Mr Adams “had his legal squires ready down at the steps of the court”.