Foreign journalists at sea with bank debt jargon and technical detail


The Irish public may have the words “promissory note” tripping off their tongue but the phrase had a group of foreign journalists visiting Ireland this week utterly baffled.

During meetings with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and various Ministers as part of a Government trip for the start of the EU presidency programme, the 60-strong contingent of Brussels-based correspondents were left in no doubt about what Ireland’s priority was – getting a deal on our banking debt.

But when it came down to the details of what that involved, the waters got muddied somewhat. “This issue has obviously so much dominated the political discourse they didn’t seem to realise that we weren’t part of it,” said one correspondent. “I just didn’t get what they wanted – was it relief on the interest, a desire for some compensation?”

The amount of money being spoken about seemed like “funny money” and also wasn’t explained. “There was talk about €3 billion in March but was it actually €30 billion or maybe even €34 billion?”

“It was very clear that the Irish Government wanted to give us all the message that Ireland took one for the team in 2008 by taking responsibility for saving the Irish banks so there wouldn’t be contagion,” said another correspondent.

“But where it got difficult to understand was the business of the promissory note. Those of us not from specialised financial reporting we didn’t understand it.”

Some said while they would write about Ireland’s debt burden it was unlikely they would be getting down to the detail of what it involved. “It’s just too Irish and too technical,” said one correspondent.

One journalist said the Government perhaps didn’t explain the detail for fear of giving away its position in the negotiations. Another felt the detail on the promissory note was “deliberately blurred”.

Whatever about detail, the correspondents came away with the main message. As one journalist put it: “There was a concerted push to establish in the minds of the international media that Ireland is a deserving case and could be treated a lot better.”