ECB 'bounced' Ireland into deal

 

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has said officials from the European Central Bank tried to force Ireland into seeking a bailout before it had even been discussed at Cabinet.

Mr Ahern said “quite incredible pressure” was being applied to the country ahead of the IMF/EU meetings last week and the same thing is happening to Portugal now.

“There were people from outside this country who were trying to bounce us in, as a sovereign state, into making an application - throwing in the towel - before we had even considered it as a Government,” he told RTÉ Radio.

“If you notice they are doing the same with Portugal now because the fear [is] that Portugal will now cause contagion.”

Asked about who was pressuring Ireland, he said they were "quite obviously" people from within the ECB.

“I’ve been going to EU meetings for 13 and a half years as a Minister, and you hear a lot of discussion about solidarity," he said. "I accept that the European partners were giving us solidarity, but I strongly believe that Ireland should look for this type of solidarity from people and we shouldn’t be cast to the wolves.”

He said “time and time again there is considerable pressure on us as a country to give up on the 12.5 per cent corporation tax”.

When asked if he felt the country had been bullied into taking the decision, he said he believed there was an “effort to bounce us into making a decision” before Cabinet had even discussed the issue.

In the lead-up to the talks on the €85 billion deal for Ireland between the EU/IMF and the State, the Minister had declared it a “fiction” an application had been made by Government for assistance.

He said if officials were talking about bailouts ahead of a meeting of European finance ministers “they had no authority to talk about bailouts because the Government hadn’t discussed it and the Government hadn’t authorised it".

He said the Cabinet only formally gave Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan authorisation to go to Brussels to discuss the issue of an application on the morning of the meeting.

Mr Ahern said accusations he had lied to the electorate on the issue were difficult. “It was a difficult thing to be accused of being deceitful. My conscience is clear. I gave the factual position - there had been no discussions and I was not aware of any discussions,” Mr Ahern said.

He said that, had he known there were discussions, he would have said something. And he accused officials from within the ECB of leaking information to the media.

Mr Ahern also described the €85 billion bailout package as a good deal. "We are only doing what we should be doing anyway," he said.

Later today Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said Mr Ahern’s comments revealed the Cabinet was in disarray.

“The Constitution specifically refers to treaties that involve a charge on the public,” Mr Ó Caoláin said.

“If the Fianna Fail/Green Government persists in refusing to put the IMF/EU international loan agreement before a vote of the Dáil they will be acting unconstitutionally. The Constitution is very clear.”

The party called on all parties and Independents in the Dáil to oppose the deal.