Belfast Telegraph

Kenny vows to renegotiate bailout

The man bidding to become Ireland's next prime minister has put down a marker in Brussels to renegotiate the country's multi-billion euro bailout.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, speaking after an hour of talks with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, said: "We have discussed the situation in Ireland and I made it clear that if we get elected into office we would be seeking to renegotiate our bailout package."

He went on: "It is perfectly clear that we must work with our Irish colleagues because this is a matter for all member states. We look forward to coming back (to Brussels) to talk again with the president if we get a mandate (at the election)."

Mr Kenny, who went into the talks with party finance spokesman Michael Noonan, said no details of possible bailout changes, particularly reducing the current interest rate level negotiated earlier this year for loan repayments, were discussed.

He said: "We did not come here to negotiate interest rates: Mr Noonan has already had meetings with the International Monetary Fund and with (EU) Commissioner for economic affairs Olli Rehn.

"I understand that it is only with a mandate from the people that we will be in a position to negotiate this matter. I also know that there are (economic) difficulties for other EU countries and we fully understand the requirement for European co-operation and support."

The Fine Gael leader continued: "We came here to send a clear signal about where we stand and I outlined the programme that Fine Gael wants to put to the people."

The two men refused to give any details about the scale of interest rate reduction they wanted to see to ease the repayment burden, but Mr Noonan explained: "If the interest rates doesn't change, the debt burden will nevertheless be manageable - but if the rate comes down, it increases the potential for growth and getting our people back to work."

He said a March summit of EU leaders will be looking at the interest rate schedule as part of a new permanent bailout mechanism to apply to any future ailing economies in Europe after the current temporary system expires in 2013.

What Ireland was seeking was for any lower interest rate applicable for post-2013 bailout to be applied retroactively to the current bailout deal for the Irish, but European Commission officials gave no clue as to whether that could be possible - pointing out that protocol means that any negotiations with a member state are carried out by the government in office.

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