Troika holds Opposition meetings

 

The EU-IMF troika overseeing Ireland’s bailout programme has confirmed to the Opposition that the programme is still on track and has emphasised the difference between Ireland and other bailout countries.

Officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund held a succession of meetings yesterday with Opposition parties and with groups representing business, employee and social interests in the country.

The United Left Alliance will be part of a delegation from the Dáil’s technical group which is to meet the troika today.

Yesterday, the officials told a delegation from Fianna Fáil, led by its public expenditure spokesman Seán Fleming, that the implementation of the programme for the last quarter of 2011 was on track.

A spokesman for Fianna Fáil said the troika had also emphasised that the obligation on Ireland was to meet its targets and that none of the three outside agencies overseeing the bailout programme was involved in micromanagement of the economy. The one exception was ensuring that none of the measures adopted was anticompetition.

Sinn Féin said the troika had raised no objection in principle to the use of the National Pension Reserve Fund for job creation.

A Sinn Féin delegation led by party leader Gerry Adams met officials from the three international bodies yesterday.

Speaking afterwards, party finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the delegation had been “left with the impression” the Government was not actively pursuing an agenda of tapping the pension reserve fund for job stimulus purposes.

The party also reiterated its strong opposition to the austerity measures, challenged ECB officials on the payment of unguaranteed bonds, and also argued that the promissory note to repay bank debts was placing a massive financial burden on the State.

Richard Boyd Barrett, finance spokesman for the United Left Alliance, criticised the troika for its “aggressive push” to sell State assets to private interests.

“Whereas the Government had previously said that no more than €2 billion worth of State assets had been earmarked for sale, they are now admitting that the troika are pressing for a €5 billion mega sale of our State assets, to include the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, Coillte and the Dublin Port Authority,” he said.

“Job cuts will follow the privatisation of State companies, because their new owners will want to bleed them dry for maximum profit,” he added.

A number of groups representing business, employee and social interests met officials from the troika yesterday, including employers’ group Ibec, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Construction Industry Federation and Social Justice Ireland.

Ibec director general Danny McCoy praised the Croke Park agreement for the stability it has given but also suggested it now needed to be reviewed.

He said the pace of reform was too slow and with a slowing economy, Croke Park would have to be a part of discussions on budgetary adjustments.

Ictu general secretary David Begg criticised the emphasis on austerity policies, saying they had failed.“Domestic demand has collapsed, falling by 25 per cent in four years.

“That translates directly into thousands of job losses in local communities,” he said.

CIF director Tom Parlon said he would raise the issue of high wages in Irish construction which had contributed to an increase in the black economy.

Social Justice Ireland questioned the credibility of the troika on the economy and on dealing with the vulnerable.

Its director Fr Seán Healy said that without changes to the bailout terms, Ireland’s situation would not improve.