Noonan dismisses Martin’s claims of FG dishonesty

MICHAEL NOONAN dismissed claims by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that Fine Gael was being dishonest in claims about renegotiating the terms of the IMF bailout deal.

The FG finance spokesman said: “Labour are also signalling re-negotiation. Micheál Martin is seeking attention in a situation where his party is the fourth party.

“He is trying to pick a row so we will refuse to fight. We’re not going to give him the attention he is being starved of,” Mr Noonan said.

He believes the interest rate can be renegotiated downwards at EU council of ministers level.

Mr Noonan said a meeting by the heads of state planned for the end of March was set to tackle the entire monetary crisis within Europe.

He said: “The Government has lost its mandate so they are not negotiating for Ireland and there’s a risk decisions will be taken that will decide Ireland’s future for a long time. There probably won’t be a government in place in the lead-in to negotiations.”

Mr Noonan said while his hope was Enda Kenny will be present as Taoiseach to take part in those negotiations, his concern was that in the lead-in to that meeting, the preparatory work will not have been done by the Government.

He said: “The Irish Government, since Micheál Martin resigned, had the Taoiseach as Foreign Minister with Peter Power and Dick Roche as junior ministers. They are not attending the European meetings in Brussels, they are electioneering. We are left in a situation where in the lead-in to very important decisions, we are not represented at a political level in Brussels as a country.”

Mr Noonan, questioned about an abrupt halt to a Fine Gael press conference in Dublin midweek, acknowledged there was “a bit of dust up” after journalists wanted to ask more questions and the party leader was behind time on his schedule to visit a number of constituencies.

“It was a bit unseemly but I think there were faults on both sides. The Fine Gael conference started late and, at the same time, the schedule had to be caught up on later on Enda’s tour. But there’s no issues of principle and we have a good relationship with the corps of journalists who are following the campaign,” he said.

On the confusion which has arisen on taxation figures given at the press conference, he said: “I think what happened when this kind of dust up and shouting match occurred it was impossible to explain our position.

“Our position is we will not increase taxes by more than €2.5 billion over the next three budgets which means that out of the adjustment of €9bn we will have savings of €6.5bn at least. That is not quite three to one, but it is a long from two to one. But in the kind of ruaille buaille yesterday [at the press conference] when I attempted to answer it, I was misunderstood in the first instance and then the press conference closed down.

“I don’t think it was anybody’s fault — it was just circumstances.”

Asked if he would like to be the next Minister for Finance, he said: “I have been doing the job (finance spokesman) over a number of years, opposing Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds, Ray McSharry and Charlie McCreevy.

“So I am not new to the task. I would really like to be in the cabinet. It’s an honour to be in the cabinet in any position. Whatever position I am in I would be very pleased if I was included in the cabinet.”

He said what positions people will hold will be a matter for the Taoiseach designate and the leader of the Labour party. “So my future will be in the hands of Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore,” he insisted.

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