Simon Coveney’s comments on Greece prompt FG disquiet

Analysis: Grumblings after minister says Ireland would seek similar Greek concessions

Comments by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney do not reflect Dublin’s position, according to Michael Noonan. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Comments by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney do not reflect Dublin’s position, according to Michael Noonan. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will come face to face with his blogging ‘rockstar’ Greek counterpart, libertarian Marxist Yanis Varoufakis, at today’s emergency meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.

All 19 finance ministers are expected for the gathering scheduled for 4.30pm Irish time and expected to run late into the night.

This is a big deal. Mr Noonan cancelled an important trip to the Gulf States with the National Treasury Management Agency and potential investors in Irish sovereign debt in order to attend.

Meanwhile, EU leaders including Taoiseach Enda Kenny will meet in Brussels tomorrow, when the Greek stand-off is also expected to dominate.

Back at home, however, there are grumblings within Fine Gael about Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney’s recent pronouncements on the subject.

Arthur Beesley and Suzanne Lynch this morning report Mr Noonan saying Mr Coveney did not reflect Dublin’s position when saying Ireland would seek similar measures to any Greek concessions.

Party insiders say Mr Noonan worked hard to brief colleagues on Ireland’s position. It’s a delicate one. While solidarity with bailed-out brethren is the watchword, if Syriza secures a decent deal the Coalition will inevitably face flak for not a taking tougher line.

Mr Coveney, in the US until tomorrow on an agribusiness mission promoting Irish beef, bluntly suggested during the week that Ireland should get similar treatment to Greece in terms of debt concessions.

This provoked a strong reaction in Brussels, where the powers that be are clearly not inclined to apply any deal done with Athens to Dublin (should any deal be struck). The wily Mr Noonan will have read the political runes already.

Anyway, the Fine Gael insiders argue, Ireland is not in the same space as Greece when it comes to debt. They feel Coveney’s comments may have set Ireland up for what domestic political opponents could portray as a failure.

Coming after his shock announcement in an interview with the Irish Examiner that he was comfortable with the idea of coalition with Fianna Fail, the view is that the Corkman is feeling under pressure. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, the closest Ireland gets to a rockstar politician, is his rival in the future Fine Gael leadership stakes.

‘Stay on the reservation and stick to the beef Simon’, appears to be the message from Fine Gaelers unhappy with Mr Coveney’s apparent inability to stay on message.

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