Debt deal 'no threat' to coalition
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore speaking to the media at last week's summit in Santiago, Chile. Photograph: Claudio Reyes/Reuters
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has insisted securing a deal on the promissory note poses no threat to the future of the coalition and says he wouldn’t link the two issues.
Speaking in Limerick today Mr Noonan said payment is not due until March 31st which is almost two months away adding “I don’t understand why people are getting so excited at present”.
“I don’t put the two issues together at all I don’t see any threat to the coalition government,” he said.
“It’s two months away so I can’t see why people are trying to make it peak in the first week in February. The promissory note instalment isn’t due until the very last day of March so there are two months left in the negotiations and I’m involved in the negotiations and they are proceeding as one might expect.”
Mr Noonan made his comments at the official opening of UPC’s national customer service headquarters at Roxboro in Limerick where the company has just completed a €600,000 new expansion of its facility where 400 people are employed.
Also at the official opening was Labour Minister Jan O’Sullivan who described securing a deal on the promissory note as “an extremely serious matter” for both parties in Government and said they are all “on duty” in trying to secure it.
“It’s extremely serious and that has been made quite clear for both parties. We want to ensure the promissory note, which is a large amount of money required per annum, that we do get something that is more appropriate to our need.”
“What we have to do is to fight for our country ensure that we get the best possible deal and we are all if you like on duty in that regard and we all know how tight the time frame is."
According to Mr Noonan negotiations in Europe are proceeding “satisfactorily” and he insisted he is exactly at the stage where he expected to be looking forward from Christmas.
“We are very appreciative of the fact the ECB have engaged with us on the issues and they are fully aware that the sustainability of the Irish debt position but at the same time we recognise their legal mandate and we recognise their independence and we feel we will get in due course an appropriate deal on the promissory note and people shouldn’t be trying to bring things forward. Negotiations are always a process and we have about two months.”
“I suppose the most difficult thing the government had to do in the last few months was to get a budget through and that went through satisfactorily and we are on now to other issues. The economy is growing again it will grow reasonably strongly this year….So I would expect that this will be the year the economy turns and I don’t see a threat to the government and I don’t see where the speculation is coming from.”
Senior Government figures have put the viability of the Coalition on the line, as well as key strands of its economic policy, in talks on the Anglo debts. Such concerns are being taken seriously in Brussels, where officials acknowledge warnings from Dublin about a potential threat to the Government.
Expanding the argument to ease the burden of Anglo's debt, Government figures have let it be known in talks that failure to reach a deal could put the Coalition at risk.
Government figures are also making the case that it would be very difficult to agree more cuts in the next budget if no deal is struck.
Separately, Minister of State for Health Alex White said it would be a lot more difficult to achieve a new Croke Park deal on public service pay without a promissory note deal.
Mr Gilmore's spokeswoman would not deny or confirm a Sunday newspaper report which said he had told several European figures in Chile last week that the Coalition could fall if there is no deal, saying the discussions were private.
The Tánaiste met the European Parliament's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiating team in Brussels this morning. Asked beforehand by reporters whether he had told the German chancellor that the Coalition was in danger of collapsing if a deal could not be reached on the promissory note issue, Mr Gilmore said: "Well the future of the Irish Government is a matter for the Irish Government and the Irish people. This is a critical period of time for the negotiation on the promissory notes and what the Government is seeking to do is to secure the best deal for Ireland and for the Irish taxpayer."
However, a ranking official in Brussels acknowledged high-level signals from Dublin that any failure to reach agreement with the ECB could jeopardise the continuation of the Coalition."I am aware that this issue has been raised by the Irish because there is such a strongly held view that something must be done," the official said.