State of the Nation

Why did the Dáil vote against a European debt conference?

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everybody’s talking about…


c murphy vote Catherine Murphy / Twitter Catherine Murphy / Twitter / Twitter

Yesterday the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it will no longer allow Greek banks to use Government debt as collateral for loans, depriving them of a key source of much-needed cash.

The news came around the same time a Technical Group Motion calling for a European debt conference was defeated by 72 votes to 42 in the Dáil. Many Irish onlookers had hoped that if Greece was able to renegotiate the terms of its €240-billion EU-IMF bailout, Ireland might be able to do something similar.

The ECB’s move is seen as the institution taking a hardline stance on Syriza’s anti-austerity rhetoric. Greek stocks fell by 9% in early trading this morning.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy tabled the debt conference motion, which was debated in the Dáil on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Murphy said that Greece paid €8 billion to service debts of €315 billion in 2014, while Ireland paid €7.5 billion to service debts of €214 billion, noting: “It cost us almost as much to service €100 billion less.”

Who, in other words, gets the best deal from its international lenders: good Ireland or bad Greece?

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday night, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the Government “has made major inroads into making our debt more affordable and minimising its impact on the economy”.

International Monetary Fund Conferences Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Noonan rejected the suggestion there is a “lack of solidarity in the Union”, saying he wished Greece well as the country has “suffered much more than Ireland”. He said he had “not come across any proposal from the new Government on putting in place a debt conference”, noting that the country seems to agree with the stance that “a process of negotiation is always better than one of conflict”.

The motion was backed by several opposition TDs but was easily defeated in the end.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is set to meet with the presidents of the European Council and European Commission in Brussels today, but is not expected to raise the issue of further debt concessions for Ireland.

Whether or not Syriza will make any headway on renegotiating Greece’s debt – and if this will have any impact on Ireland – remains to be seen.

The agenda

  • Tánaiste Joan Burton will be answering questions related to the Department of Social Protection at 9.30am. She’ll also be taking part in Leaders’ Questions at 12pm.
  • Professor Bill Black and Mario Nava will appear before the Banking Inquiry at 9.30am and 11.45am respectively – and it could get very interesting.
  • Officials from the Department of the Environment will be attending a meeting with the Public Accounts Committee to discuss water charges at 10am.
  • The Good Friday Agreement Committee will discuss cross-border transport infrastructure at 10.15am.
  • The Seanad will be debating a Bill that seeks to regulate lobbying at 1.15pm.
  • Enda Kenny is travelling to Brussels today to meet the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker.

Inside Leinster House

Government TDs are becoming increasingly annoyed about the confusion surrounding water charges.

Fine Gael backbencher Andrew Doyle has said the information given to TDs and Senators needs to be clearer. On Monday, the Wicklow TD appeared on Tonight with Vincent Browne. He was quickly corrected by his fellow panellists when he said that people who missed that night’s deadline for Irish Water registration would not receive their €100 water conservation grant.

Doyle later told “I was definitely unhappy that I seemed to be given the wrong impression about the water conservation grant,” adding that the Department needs to be “clearer in the dissemination of information“.

What the others are saying

  • Fianna Fáil is to allow a free vote on Clare Daly’s Bill calling for terminations to be provided in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, according to the Irish Times.
  • Independent TD Michael Lowry has lodged a formal complaint about how the controversial ‘not bad looking‘ note he sent to Enda Kenny was made public, reports the Irish Examiner.
  • The same paper notes that Joan Burton has played down suggestions paid paternity leave could be introduced.
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has warned of the risks faced by Ireland should the UK leave the EU, according to the Irish Independent

In case you missed it

  • Enda Kenny explained why former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was given information about the investigation into Garda malpractice before other TDs.
  • Micheál Martin accused the Government of ‘putting a price on people’s lives‘ by failing to make the expensive drug Soliris available. Later in the day, the HSE extended access to the drug.
  • Ahead of Clare Daly’s Bill calling for terminations to be permitted in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities (which will be debated tomorrow), TDs and Senators will hear from six families who had to travel to the UK for abortions.
  • Michael Healy-Rae spoke to us about what he thinks his father’s legacy will be.
  • Sinn Féin is going to launch an alternative schedule of events to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
  • Joanne O’Riordan’s brother launched a Dáil bid in Cork North West.
  • The Taoiseach’s Department has spent more than half a million euro on photography since 2002.

On the Twitter machine

Jan O’Sullivan has launched the first-ever guide for primary school teachers on how to deal with homophobic and transphobic bullying.

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