McGrath: Time for technical talks on cutting bank debt is past

The time for technical talks on reducing bank debt is over, according to Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath who called on the Government to push the issue “at the highest level”.

He said the EU treaty referendum should be used as a chance to secure agreement from our European partners on reducing the debt burden associated with Anglo Irish Bank.

“On balance this treaty is, in itself, worthy of support,” he told delegates at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.

“However, the Government should be using the opportunity afforded by the forthcoming referendum to intensify the efforts to secure a reduction in the bank debt.”

Party leader Micheál Martin said there should be “no conditionality attached to supporting the treaty”.

“People need to be very clear, focused and specific in terms of the question that’s put before the people which has to be the fiscal treaty question.”

Despite significant support from Fianna Fáil delegates for the position of Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív, who is opposing the treaty, Mr McGrath said “Fianna Fáil and Ireland is better to be on board”.

An intervention by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which called for a restructuring of the promissory notes, was “highly significant and most welcome,” he said.

A Red C poll in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post showed, of those who had decided how to vote, 60% said they would vote Yes and 40% would vote No for the treaty.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan says technical talks are ongoing on easing the burden of the promissory note system funding the Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide bailout, set to cost the state €47.4bn over 20 years including a payment of €3.1bn at the end of this month. But the Government says the issue will be kept separate from the referendum.

Mr McGrath said Ireland should have the burden of bank debt eased “and the Government should be pressing this at the highest level”.

The Cork South Central TD said: “The Government has to engage in robust political negotiations and bring this matter to conclusion in the next couple of weeks before a cheque of €3.1bn has to be written in respect of the promissory notes.”

In an address during a discussion on economics, he said the people gave Fianna Fáil an “emphatic verdict” in last year’s election and “we have to unreservedly accept that verdict and the reasons behind it”.

The main task for the party will be to regain people’s trust, he said.

“By showing that we are open to change and willing to embrace new ideas while remaining true to our republican ideals, Fianna Fáil will have a bright future in Irish politics.”


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