Geoghegan-Quinn criticises 'anti-European' bailout coverage


FIONA WALSH:EU COMMISSIONER Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has spoken out against “anti-European sentiment” in the debate on the bailout, arguing that Ireland’s membership of the euro “saved the country” as the crisis took hold.

Saying the State would be in a “much, much worse” position now were it not for EU membership, she said institutions such as the European Commission continued to be a friend to Ireland.

“It annoys me if you look at the kind of coverage that there has been over the Easter. There seems to be a lot of tabloid-like coverage – anti-European sentiment coverage – which is directing everything at Brussels and when people think of Brussels in Ireland they think of the commission,” she said.

Speaking in advance of her address to the Dáil next Monday to mark Europe Day, she did not identify the commentaries she was referring to.

“I think the coverage has to be fair-minded, and I think it has to be true coverage, in other words, what is happening and what is being done for Ireland, regardless of which of the institutions you’re talking about.”

The commissioner said she did not know if the rescue pact was sustainable for Ireland and said “we won’t know whether it’s a good deal or not obviously for some time”. She added that it was too early for the public to see whether the deal was good because they were paying the price.

While the Irish people saw that membership of the “European family” meant they were not alone in the crisis, she acknowledged ill-feeling over the rescue.

“I was born in the west of Ireland and for years we blamed Dublin for everything . . . In a way I see what’s happening now as kind of similar to that. Blame Brussels, and Brussels is an all-inclusive catchphrase for everything.”

She said the commission was among the first to back a cut in the interest rate on bailout loans but that was in the gift of other member states.

She said her commission colleagues were “shocked” to be told of the price paid by ordinary people as budgets were cut. They were also “shocked” at the events which led the crisis.

“There is still a lot of pain that the population is going to have to be put through; and that’s very, very sad.”

She declined to comment on former finance minister Brian Lenihan’s criticism of the European Central Bank.