Kenny rules out State assets 'fire sale'

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out a "fire sale" of State assets as a special unit assesses options for raising €2 billion or more by privatising commercial semi-states.

Under fire over the creation of the NewERA shareholding body, Mr Kenny rejected claims it was another quango to promote  privatisations.

“This is not some cost quango that has been set up,” Mr Kenny said.

“There’s no intention here of the state rushing out to sell State assets. We have made it perfectly clear in the Programme for Government that the opportunity is to achieve the sale of assets to the value of €2 billion.

“Nobody in Government has ever said that we are going to have a fire sale of assets just like that. These are always to be at the appropriate time and when Government considers it necessary to do so.

“You are not going to wake up one morning and find that the Government has made a knee-jerk decision to sell-off.”

Mr Kenny said there would be negotiations with the EU-IMF troika on how much from each sale can be used for infrastructure and job creation, rather than paying debt.

Mr Kenny refused to be drawn on the salary to be paid to the director of NewEra Dr Eileen Fitzpatrick.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil today that he was happy Dr Fitzpatrick was eminently qualified to do the job.

He was responding to Independent TD Shane Ross, who said the post had not been advertised and there had been no competition for it. "An insider was appointed and there was no interview," he added.

Asking the Taoiseach to reveal her salary, Mr Ross said the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) who appointed her were not prepared to do so.

Dr Fitzpatrick jointed the NTMA in 2006 as a director.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also challenged Mr Kenny over NewERA and accused the Government of focusing on short-term financial gain rather than the interests of the State.

“Now is most certainly not the time to be selling strategic state assets,” he said. “Particularly in terms of the ESB, what we are getting here is a fundamental breach of the commitments and a cynical breach of promises but also, of more importance to the public interest, a fundamental shift and change on the sale of state assets without any debate, without any clarity.”

Additional reporting: PA