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Ireland's Europe Minister defends bailout decisions

Ireland's Europe Minister defends bailout decisions
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With pressure mounting on the Irish government at home and abroad to accept a bailout to shore up its shattered banking sector, euronews spoke to Ireland’s Minister for Europe, Dick Roche.

Nial O’Reilly, euronews: “Mr Roche, a team of experts from the EU and the IMF will travel to Dublin soon to assess Ireland’s financial needs, that would appear to indicate some kind of bailout is inevitable.”

Dick Roche: “I think it’s better to put it in its context. Last night (Tuesday) the European finance and economy ministers endorsed the decisions which the Irish government has taken. The problem, of course, has been that the market reaction throughout the last two weeks, actually three weeks now, has been steadily getting worse, and particularly there are concerns on the banking side, and so while our national position is very solid – we actually have cash on hand that will take us through until the middle of 2011…”

euronews: “But you can’t blame the markets for acting the way they will act. They assess the situation based on the information at hand, and it does look quite calamitous at this moment.”

Roche: “It actually doesn’t look quite calamitous at this moment. The point I was going to make is that Ireland currently is out of the (bond) market, we don’t need to go into the market (to borrow money) for sovereign debt. Our National Treasury Management Agency has a very significant cash buffer on hand at the moment, and we also have a very significant buffer within our national pension fund, but where the markets are nervous – and I can understand the concerns – is on the banking side and what the group that will come over from the ECB and from the Commission will do will be to focus on how that particular issue can be addressed, and how some rationality and some stability can be brought into the market there.”

euronews: “There is a risk that this will spread, that this crisis will spread to countries that are struggling, like Portugal and Spain, aren’t you almost duty bound to take a decision very quickly on whether you will take a bailout or not, because we’ve had your European partners saying they want a decision in days rather than weeks?”

Roche: “Well, I wouldn’t characterise the manner in which our European partners have reacted in those terms at all. We had Commissioner Olli Rehn over here less than 10 days ago. He indicated he was very happy with the budgetary decisions the Irish government was making. He was in discussions about where we are going in terms of the next budget, which I’ve said will be in early December and he is also particularly interested in what’s going to be in our four year plan. And I should say that when the Ecofin ministers met yesterday, they actually endorsed all of the steps we’ve already taken on the banks. We’ve established a National Management Agency…”

euronews: “Those measures have been commended by your European partners, we know that, but what they want is a decision taken quickly to stop this crisis spreading. Can you commit to giving a decision as soon as it is possible, within days rather than weeks?”

Roche: “We’re actually very determined to work with our partners in Europe. It’s not a question that we’re resisting any particular proposition. The reality is we haven’t seen the proposition yet, and that has to be worked on. We have actually made the point, and we have been making it continuously in media interviews over the last while, (that) this issue has to be resolved within Europe, by our partners coming together. Because basically we have to reach a solution that is not just right for Ireland but is right for the euro zone.”