Noonan claims he was misquoted on Greek debt stance

Taoiseach rejects claims Mr Noonan ‘stabbed the Greek people in the chest’

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (right) talks to Luis de Guindos, Spain’s economy minister at an emergency meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Bloomberg

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (right) talks to Luis de Guindos, Spain’s economy minister at an emergency meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has suggested his comments on Greece at a meeting of euro zone ministers on Monday were misrepresented.

He told the Dáil on Tuesday he believed it was important that an agreement with Greece was negotiated by Thursday at the latest.

“That is my position,” he added. “Anything else is based on leaks, suppositions and spin.”

The Minister said emergency liquidity was entirely a matter for the European Central Bank (ECB). He added he had sought clarification on Monday from ECB president Mario Draghi as to how long he thought it was feasible to pay emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) to Greece.

“You will recall from newspaper reports that he is already on the record as saying it has to be reconfigured now on a daily basis,” he added.

Mr Noonan said the new round of negotiations had a short timeframe to be concluded satisfactorily or there was a risk that ELA would be cut off.

The ECB was bound by legal arrangements, he added.

Mr Noonan said he had great sympathy for the Greek people, which was a view he had expressed several occasions in the House.

He said he had also been quite helpful to the Greek authorities, adding he did not have the strong personal relationship which the Socialist Party and Sinn Fein had with the Greek government.

“I do not share the commitment to their economic policies that Sinn Fein and the socialist group seem to share,” he added.

The Minister was replying in the Dáil to Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger who asked if it was true he had insisted emergency funding for Greece would be reduced until it retracted its demands to have any sustainable debt reduction.

Ms Coppinger said the most important thing for the Minister and the Government was to ensure Greece did not get any deal which Ireland could not secure. She said she did not think it was very helpful to ask for the noose to be tightened around the necks of the Greek people and government.

A number of media reports claimed Mr Noonan sided with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble during negotiations on emergency European Central Bank funding for Greece.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected claims that Mr Noonan “stabbed the Greek people in the chest and the Irish people in the back”, in his comments on the Greek debt crisis.

Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy condemned the reported comments by Mr Noonan against emergency liquidity for Greece,without capital controls.

Mr Murphy said Ireland should support a debt write-down for Greece because it would be good for Ireland and there should be a debt write-down of all unsustainable debt.

He said however that Mr Noonan “is against a write-down for the Greeks because it wouldn’t be in the interest of his party”, but it would in the interests of 99 per cent of Irish people who “share the same interests as Greece”.

He accused the Minister and the Irish Government of joining the German chorus of austerity to “tighten the noose” around Greece and to humiliate that country and bring it to its knees.

The Taoiseach told the Socialist Party TD that “you want to continue with speculation, that’s your prerogative”.

Mr Kenny however rejected Mr Murphy’s “speculative comments” on the leaks from the eurogroup Ministers’ meeting. The Taoiseach said the Minister for Finance “has been consistently very clear on his support” for agreement and that nobody wanted Greece to leave the eurozone.

Mr Kenny said the outcome from the discussions “has to be one that is fair, one that makes economic sense and one that is sustainable from a financial point of view”. Mr Murphy then quoted from the Financial Times that “Germany’s Wolfgang Schauble and Michael Noonan his Irish counterpart pushed for curbs on emergency liquidity for Greek banks unless capital controls were imposed, one of the officials said”.

The Socialist Party said “translated that mean ‘tighten the noose, make them scream, bring them to their knees, humiliate them’. That’s what it means.”

He asked the Taoiseach if it was the Government position in “attempting to put pressure on the ECB a supposedly independent institution, to squeeze the Greeks further in order to pressurise them to do a deal which is not the deal that they want to do”.

Mr Murphy reminded the Taoiseach of his comments of “seismic change” and claims in 2012 that Ireland was going to get a debt write-down.

He said however that that “has since been quietly shelved and instead the Irish Government has joined the chorus with Germany that there will be no debt write-offs”.

But Mr Kenny told the Socialist Party TD: “I reject your assertions of any comments made by our Minister for Finance at the eurogroup meeting. So don’t believe everything you read in the Financial Times is the message there.”

He pointed out that the ECB was completely independent of governments. “They have given €87 billion in emergency liquidity to Greece.”

The ECB said the emergency liquidity had been continued “so that negotiations can continue and a deal can be done”, Mr Kenny said.

“And that’s why as the programme ends this weekend. It’s very important that the principles of the institutions now discussed in a rational way with the representatives of the government of Greece for the conclusion that’s necessary.”

He said the Greek prime minister was very clear that “he wants his country to be able to pay its way, to contribute and in no circumstances to leave the eurozone”.

He said everybody “hopes that this matter can be dealt with by the weekend”.