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18 November 2010 - The day Ajai Chopra and the IMF came to town - but it wasn't their first in-depth discussion with the Government... Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Discussions for potential bailout happened months before announcement

IMF’s Ajai Chopra tells Prime Time special programme tonight that discussions started in summer 2010.

THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT publicly denied that an EU/IMF bailout was on the cards almost up to the point that the deal was signed and announced on 21 November last year.

However, in an exclusive interview to be aired tonight on an RTÉ Prime Time special, the IMF chief negotiator’s Ajai Chopra says that the IMF was having discussions with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and members of the Government from as far back as the summer of 2010.

On 11 October 2010, Lenihan told Bloomberg Television that Ireland would “absolutely” not need a bailout. On 17 November, a day before the IMF was due to arrive in Dublin, then Taoiseach Brian Cowen went on RTÉ’s Six-One News to deny that their arrival meant that they were in town for bailout negotiations.

In the interview with Prime Time reporter Robert Shortt to be shown tonight, Ajai Chopra said that discussions began long before we may have even suspected. He said:

We had a number of discussions over the course of the summer and the autumn of 2010. The point about all our contacts over that period in the summer and the autumn was for the Irish to explain to us what steps they were taking. But there was another dimension to this as well. This was a new environment for Ireland and, you know, this was a tough decision whether to ask for support or not.

Also on tonight’s programme Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank, says that discussions that took place in Brussels on the weekend of 14/15 November were indeed “pre-negotiations” for a bailout deal. He said:

The discussions were at a level of detail which would normally only occur after a formal request was made. But in deference to the Minister’s reluctance to make a formal request, the IMF agreed to conduct those detailed discussions that weekend.

These were pre-negotiation discussions.

Prime Time special: The Bailout airs at 9.35pm tonight on RTÉ1

The bailout in quotes: from denial to deal>

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