Enda Kenny has poured cold water on calls for Ireland to follow Spain’s lead and refuse to pay its debts to Europe.
The Taoiseach said he did not wish to give the public false hope that the €3.1bn promissory note due to be paid on March 31 will be scrapped, arguing that both countries were in completely different positions.
“This country is in a bail-out programme, Spain is not,” said Mr Kenny.
“So the money to pay the salaries of the Guards, the teachers, the nurses and all of the other people in the country here comes from Europe.”
Eurozone finance ministers have been forced to give Spain more leeway in cutting its deficit after the country’s Government said it would not meet its 4.4% deficit target.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams urged Mr Kenny to stand up for his citizens and follow Spain’s lead, to which the Taoiseach replied: “I can’t.”
“Spain is not in a bailout situation,” Mr Kenny added.
“It’s got excessive deficit and it’s got challenges itself. It’s got to get its deficit down by the end of 2013. Ireland is in a programme and has to get our debt down by 3% by 2015.”
Mr Kenny insisted that negotiations are under way to restructure the terms of Ireland’s European debt to make it easier on the nation.
However he said they were difficult, complex and very technical.
“When you speak of the €3.1bn in respect of the promissory notes, I’ve made it perfectly clear we are not going to raise any undue expectations here,” Mr Kenny added.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed earlier this week that Ireland is in negotiations with the troika – the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank – to improve the terms of its €30bn promissory note for the former Anglo Irish Bank.
But he insisted the negotiations are at an early stage and the results are therefore unlikely to take effect any time soon.