Noonan says Anglo deadline is March


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan left open the possibility of a deal to recast the debts of Anglo Irish Bank before next month’s budget but said his real deadline was to settle the matter by March.

Arriving in Brussels for meetings with his EU counterparts, the Minister said talks on Greece were not inhibiting the Government’s discussions on the Anglo Irish Bank promissory note scheme with the European Central Bank.

While Mr Noonan has argued in recent months that it would “suit” him to strike a deal with the ECB before budget day, he said the main priority was to avoid a promissory note repayment in March. “Well, it’s still a couple of weeks away and you know the way Europe works,” he said of the budget.

“But our deadline, our political deadline, is we don’t want to pay the €3.1 billion which is due on the 31st of March. We didn’t pay it last year and we don’t want to pay it this year so we would certainly need an agreement in advance of that.”

Asked if an agreement was possible before the budget, he said: “Well, I don’t want to close off anything by saying ‘No’, because I’m pushing to get agreement as quickly as I may get that agreement and I don’t want to close off any options.”

Mr Noonan was speaking to reporters before a meeting last night on Greece between euro zone ministers. They were due to discuss a new EU-IMF troika report that said Greece would need more than €30 billion in additional aid if it is to be granted more time to tackle its deficit.

“I think that figure has been in circulation for some time that if the programme was extended by two years it would leave a funding gap of €31-€32 billion. So again we’ll have to see later what proposals are being put forward by the troika in respect of the funding gap.”

On reported tensions between the IMF and euro zone powers over the resolution of the Greek problem, he acknowledged Europe and the IMF work to different criteria but said he had not heard of any difference of opinion.