'Not much meeting of minds' on Irish case for debt relief


THE CASE for relief on Ireland’s bank debt was made to members of the German Bundestag at a private meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform in Leinster House yesterday.

Sources at the meeting said there was “not much meeting of minds” between committee members and the visiting delegation from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a partner in the coalition government of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

In what was described as “a lively exchange of views”, the point was made strongly to the German visitors that, having gone through a period of austerity, Irish people were now expecting to see some EU measures to promote growth.

The centre-right FDP delegation responded that growth had to be achieved through greater competitiveness.

Sources at the meeting said committee members responded that the Irish economy had become “extremely competitive”.

The point was made to the German visitors that there was a “vital necessity” for some relief on Ireland’s bank debt if this State was to make progress.

The delegation’s response was described as “very polite” but sources said there was little or no agreement on the issue.The German delegation was led by former economics and technology minister Rainer Brüderle.

A Government spokesman said later that there had been “no specific discussion” by the Cabinet at its weekly meeting yesterday of a bank debt write-down but there would be further Cabinet meetings before the next EU summit at the end of this month.

In a statement earlier, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: “Now that there is open discussion in Europe about the problem with Spanish banks being too large for Spain to deal with on its own, there must be a recognition that Ireland’s problem cannot be shouldered merely by Irish citizens.”