Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Troika 'optimistic' about future

Kevin Humphreys said it was hoped that the Troika would leave on a 'one-way ticket'

The Troika has told Government backbenchers it is optimistic about Ireland's post-bailout future.

A group of Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers said the debt masters - made up of the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission - have no hard and fast stance on whether the country needs a financial backstop after it exits its strict bailout programme.

Fine Gael's Dara Murphy arranged a meeting with the finance chiefs during their 12th and final review of Ireland, and said they had a "very good, frank conversation".

"Our impression of them was that they are optimistic for the future of the country," Mr Murphy said.

"I think particularly seeing this morning job numbers falling below 400,000 and the fact that we have for all 12 periods to date achieved our targets, means they are satisfied their job is done in Ireland."

Mr Murphy said the Troika was "very clear" it would be the Government's decision as to whether it would require a credit line or financial backstop after it exits its programme on December 15.

"They didn't seem to me that they had any defined position or collective position arguably that they could see," he said.

"There were pros and cons as to whether we were taking one or not, but that would be a matter for the Irish Government to decide."

Meanwhile, Labour TD Kevin Humphreys said he was looking forward to seeing the back of the bailout chiefs.

"We are all very anxious that when the Troika leaves and buys the airline ticket that it's a one-way ticket," Mr Humphreys said.

"That we don't see them back. That this Government doesn't intend to put the Government in the same position as the previous administration.

"When we're out of the bailout, we are out of it for good. When the Troika goes, they are gone for good and we will get our independence and our sovereignty back."

Mr Humphreys and Mr Murphy were joined by Fine Gael backbenchers Mr Murphy, Sean Conlan and Anthony Lawlor, and Labour's Arthur Spring in the meeting - the first ever to take place between backbenchers and the Troika.

In the past, the debt masters have met only with Government ministers, department officials and members of the opposition.

Mr Murphy said it was time all of Government was represented.

"Our intention is absolutely that they are gone," he added.

"Ireland has to learn the lesson from the building boom, the banking crisis in the past. A lot of us are new and young politicians.

"We as a country have to learn the lesson and ensure that we will not put ourselves in the position of requiring foreign powers to come in and bail us out.

"That's our ambition and I think the Troika would be very happy if they do not come back as well."

Despite almost having completed its bailout programme, Ireland will still have to undergo box-ticking reviews by the Troika under EU budget laws and policy conditions.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has warned that Ireland will be subjected to further monitoring and surveillance if the Government decides to take a credit line from Europe.

Party finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, who was among a Sinn Fein delegation to meet Troika officials, said Ireland would be exiting one programme to enter into another.

"The Government can either go with this credit line or not," Mr Doherty said.

"But if they do go with the credit line, there will be conditions agreed from the very word go.

"That they will be monitoring on a programme that will be agreed with the Troika and with the Irish Government, which is a mini programme at this point in time."

He said this was likely to involve more missions back to Ireland.

Mr Doherty also claimed that the European Commission suggested potential for bank recapitalisation would be low, but that the IMF said the Irish Government should still continue to pursue it.

He added that the finance chiefs were keen to look closely at the figures outlined in the recent budget for the Department of Health, which will see the withdrawal of tens of thousands of medical cards.

"They have serious questions for the Department of Health as to where these figures came from and this is one of the objectives they have for during this mission - to actually look at all the detail behind those figures," Mr Doherty added.

"We explained that in some areas there were no details, these were figures that were given to James Reilly and the Department of Health and they have to make the detail up.

"But the Troika want to get to the bottom of this and they said it is on their radar and we were not the first to bring it to their attention."

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