Michael Noonan: Money made from AIB sale must be used to pay off national debt

Michael Noonan: Money made from AIB sale must be used to pay off national debt

The Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said Ireland is handcuffed into paying off the national debt with the revenue from the sale of AIB by a referendum five years ago.

He also said selling off our shares in AIB will make it easier to encourage more banking competition.

The Finance Minister said selling off the national shareholding will be a signal to outsiders that the Government will not interfere with the market.

Mr Noonan spoke in the Seanad this evening, making his first comments on the announcement to sell some of the bank's shares next month.

The Government is intending to float around 25% of its stake in AIB. The State currently owns 99.9% of the bank's shares.

It is expected that the upcoming sale will raise around €3bn for the State.

The opposition wanted it delayed until the money could be used elsewhere, but the Minister said that it has never been an option.

"The fact is that the fiscal rules are enshrined in Irish law which followed on the referendum where this question was put to the Irish people."

Meanwhile, opposition politicians have continued to criticise the planned sale.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys argued: "By insisting on selling it to pay down debt that is already falling, Minister Noonan is throwing away an opportunity to make a meaningful difference to the lives of Irish people."

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett described the process as a "betrayal of the taxpayer" and an "affront to democracy".

In a statement, he said: “The €20bn that the public pumped into AIB, due to their massive private debts, was driven by a campaign of fear by the establishment, both Irish and EU.

"Now that the bank has finally become profitable the government is going to sell off their share to private interests at a massive loss to the taxpayer [...] It proves this government’s policy is socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams earlier told the Taoiseach: “Many people were angry at your mantra that we must 'Keep the Recovery Going'. 'What recovery?', people asked. It is only now that I see what you meant and how you have kept to that commitment.

“The recovery you spoke about wasn’t for working people, the elderly, hospital patients, the homeless, those in mortgage arrears, or our emigrants. No, your recovery was for the bankers.”

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