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Angry Dáil exchanges over alleged pension levy 'cover-up'

Micheál Martin accuses Enda Kenny of ‘covering up’ government policy on the pension levy – a claim labelled “balderdash”.

ANGRY WORDS HAVE been exchanged in the Dáil this afternoon between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, after the latter accused the Taoiseach of ignoring ministerial advice when it introduced the levy on private pensions.

During Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Martin queried why Kenny had apparently ignored a letter written by Social Protection minister Joan Burton, who had cast doubts over whether the government could proceed with its proposal to levy private pensions.

Martin said he had lodged Freedom of Information requests seeking to access the documentation received by the government on its plan for the levy, but had been stonewalled – and accused the government of trying to keep its information secret.

“Your allegation of keeping information secret is without foundation,” Kenny responded, quipping that the government had inherited its economic circumstances from the previous cabinet.

“Technical advice” had been received from the Pensions Board in planning the temporary four-year levy, which is aimed at raising around €1.8bn to fund the measures proposed by the jobs initiative.

Finance minister Michael Noonan has previously conceded that he did not consult the Pensions Board on the precise plans being proposed.

“We make no apology for having made a government decision,” Kenny blasted, saying it was “absolute and utter balderdash” to suggest the government was trying to withhold the advice it received before announcing the levy.

Later in Leaders’ Questions, Shane Ross asked if the recent “extraordinary courting” of France – and of its finance minister Christine Lagarde – had paid off in any tangible way for Ireland.

“French courtship has been a matter of considerable comment over the centuries,” Kenny joked in reply, saying France and Ireland “got on very well in areas besides the rugby field”.

“Minister Lagarde has a complete understanding of the challenge that faces Ireland,” he added, commending the progress made yesterday in removing the ‘preferred creditor’ clause from the EU’s new permanent bailout mechanism.

The interest rate of Ireland’s bailout was not discussed, Kenny further elaborated, because discussions on the second Greek bailout were far more urgent.

Here’s how a new deal on EU bailouts could help Ireland escape a second one >

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Gavan Reilly

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