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Taoiseach coy on content of telephone chat with Angela Merkel

“Surely you don’t expect me to tell what questions I had for the Chancellor, or what questions the Chancellor had for me.”

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite eavesdrops on a conversation between Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel at last week's European Council.
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite eavesdrops on a conversation between Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel at last week's European Council.
Image: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY is remaining coy about the exact matters discussed in his telephone conversation with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, prior to the two leaders issuing an unexpected joint statement.

Kenny kept his cards close to his chest when pressed on the nature of the conversation by the technical group’s Shane Ross in the Dáil today.

“Surely you don’t expect me to tell what questions I had for the Chancellor, or what questions the Chancellor had for me,” Kenny remarked.

The Taoiseach added to Ross, who was speaking from the back row of the opposition benches: “That’s why you’re up there.”

While not revealing the matters discussed, Kenny said the conversation had been “amicable, comprehensive, and resulted in a very clear position as far as this country is concerned, in the view of Germany”.

He added that the joint communiqué issued by the two leaders in the aftermath of the statement “speaks for itself and it’s very clear”, but told Ross: “You’ll have to go wondering what the conversation was.”

Ross said Kenny’s efforts in dealing with Merkel and the French president Francois Hollande were indeed “energetic”, but said there was a danger of Ireland becoming a victim of domestic German politics, with federal elections due next September at the latest.

“You could tell us whether you asked her whether there was any question of legacy debt being written off, and what she told you in answer to that particular question.

“This is the nub of the problem: this is a very serious life or death matter for the nation,” he said.

Ross quoted remarks attributed to education minister Ruairí Quinn, who had said that Ireland would not “be sustainable as an independent state” unless it was given some relief on the debts it had already accrued.

“You go ahead […] with your diplomatic efforts to get relief on the debt,” Ross said.

But parallel to that, you make another telephone call to Angela Merkel, and you tell her that behind this velvet glove there is an iron fist.

And because Ireland’s debt is not sustainable, as admitted by one of your own ministers, you’ve only got two options: one is forgiveness by your lenders, and one is unilateral decisions by the borrowers.

Kenny had earlier told Gerry Adams that the government had never put a deadline of October for a deal on Ireland’s banking debt to be reached – saying the October date had actually been suggested by European economics commissioner Olli Rehn.

Read: Junior Minister: Bank debt deal negotiations best done in private

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