Government complains over leak

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has written to EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn to express the Government’s concern over the leaking of a document on the Irish economy to the Bundestag.

Mr Noonan's letter expressed the Government's disappointment about the leaking of the documentation and asked what steps the commission would take to ensure confidentiality in the future.

It is the second time sensitive information about the Irish economy has been released to the Bundestag ahead of discussion in Ireland. It follows the disclosure in Germany last November of budget details, including changes to VAT, in advance of their formal announcement by the Government.

Speaking in Brussels this afternoon before the start of a two-day summit, Mr Kenny said that while the leak was “unhelpful”, the impact was sometimes “overplayed”.

Earlier, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil the Government had raised the leak of the report with the German finance ministry and the European Commission. “I am unhappy at the way in which the document was handled and the way in which it was leaked,” Mr Gilmore said, adding that he intends to pursue the issue himself. “I will discuss it with our ambassador in Berlin to ensure the way in which this document was handled is not repeated."

In a statement this morning, the European Commission said it is "deeply concerned about the apparent leaking" of the report.

"Commission staff strive to ensure that reports are prepared with the utmost accuracy and that confidentiality is preserved in advance of publication," the commission's representation in Dublin said. "The commission would like to underline once again the good track record of programme implementation established in Ireland so far."

The document from the European Commission said among other measures, the EU-IMF troika had demanded a revised asset sale programme after dismissing the Government’s original plan as “not sufficiently ambitious”. It also said Ireland would require a mini-budget in 2012. However, Mr Gilmore today insisted such a budget "will not be necessary”.

According to the Economic Adjustment Programme or Ireland - Winter 2011 Review, the Government has committed to buy Irish Life by the middle of this year. The commission said the Government decided to acquire the insurer after a planned sale to an external investor failed in November. “The Government has confirmed that … it will provide, if needed, any remaining balance of the required capital of about €1.3 billion," according to the report.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who raised the issue in the Dáil this morning, said the last time the Bundestag discussed the Irish economy, the Tánaiste told the Dáil he would pursue the matter vigorously. “If there was ever an example of your ineffectiveness and your failure it surely resides in the fact that we now have episode two of exactly the same scenario," she said.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the point about the “embarrassing leaks” was that economic policy and the “policy of austerity was dictated and decided and revealed elsewhere”.

Mr Ross said the Taoiseach was in a unique position in Brussels to turn the referendum on the revised fiscal compact treaty into a “positive”. He said Taoiseach Enda Kenny should tell other EU leaders the Irish people would respond better to the referendum if there were no more leaks to the Bundestag “and if the Anglo promissory notes come into the equation”.

The Dublin South TD called on the Tánaiste to embark on a “diplomatic offensive” to tell the EU that Irish people would look much more benignly on the referendum if it was prepared to “look more benignly on our debt and were prepared to give us a credit write-off”.

Mr Gilmore insisted the Government was “not going to trade the constitutional rights of the Irish people with anybody or for anything”.

However, Mr Ross noted Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton had told the Financial Times the EU should cut the cost of Ireland’s bailout to help it pass the referendum.

Mr Gilmore pointed out that the leaked report also included positive comments about Ireland’s recovery programme. “It does say a number of things that were very positive about this country,” he said. “It said the Irish economy was to return to growth in 2011 and that our deficit was well below targets.”