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Debt deal a good day for Ireland - Gilmore

Posted on February 07, 2013 at 04:55 PM

"This is a good day for our State, economy and people.  This is more than just a financial watershed; it is an opportunity for our country and economy to take a decisive step forward into the future our people deserve.  I pay warm tribute to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, for the enormous work he has done to bring us to this point.

Together with a small team of officials, he has given himself fully to the task and this result is a tremendous tribute to his skill and determination.  Those involved in "Project Red", as it became known, are aware of what it took to get this done.  I thank them on behalf of the Government and people of Ireland.  I also thank the officials in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Public Expenditure and Reform who worked directly with the troika on this and other issues.  I mention, in particular, the officials in my Department, our ambassadors and diplomats in the eurozone missions and beyond, who have put this issue at the forefront of their agenda for months.  That we have reached this point is the result of the hard slog by them, every Minister of the Government and, in particular, the Taoiseach who seized every possible opportunity to make Ireland's case.  This is a good day for Irish diplomacy.

I have been involved in negotiations in one form or another for all of my adult life but I have never forgotten the lesson I learned in my first days as a young trade union official, namely, that one should never organise an ice cream strike in the middle of winter.  In other words, when one is in negotiation, one should not play one's hand until it is strong.  When this Government came into office our hand was not strong.  While many inside and outside this House demanded that we act when our hand was weak, the Government took a different approach.  We knew and understood that we first had to repair Ireland's reputation abroad.  We worked hard to do this, explaining what had happened to our country and what the Government would do to put it right.  We made clear that while we were willing to deal with our own problems, we were carrying an unacceptable share of other people's mistakes.  Over time and with patience and hard work, this message has got through and it is on that basis that we are able to make this announcement today.

 It has been a long and difficult slog to get to this point but it has been worth it.  This package of measures will make a marked difference to Ireland's debt sustainability, our prospects of regaining our economic sovereignty and the process of economic recovery.  We will reduce our borrowing requirement by €20 billion over the next ten years.  We will reduce our deficit by an annual figure of €1 billion from 2014 onwards.  We are tearing up the promissory note and we have wiped Anglo Irish Bank off the map.  We are converting the promissory note into long-term bonds which have an average maturity of approximately 34 years.  We are bringing far greater certainty to the financial landscape and righting a wrong that was done to the Irish people more than four years ago.

This deal is a tribute, in the first place, to the endurance and patience of Irish people who have understood that difficult decisions and sacrifices had to be made to secure economic recovery.  This agreement lifts a considerable burden from their shoulders.

However, this deal is also a testimony to the Deputies in this House who have had the courage to support the Government in the difficult work we have had to do.  It is the accomplishment of those who have kept faith and put their country first, understood the bigger picture and put the long-term well-being of the Irish people ahead of short-term political advantage.  I thank them today for what they have done.

Today's announcement is not an end in itself but another major step on our way back.  As the Taoiseach stated, we have further work to do on the separation of bank and sovereign debt and we will do that work from today onwards.  This is an important step forward, which shows we are succeeding, making progress and will succeed."

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