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State of the Nation

Fianna Fáil: Brian Cowen did the right thing, we could have ended up like Greece

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

Updated: 1.35pm

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Everyone’s talking about…

Greece is still top of the news agenda, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras due to present new bailout deal proposals at an emergency EU summit in Brussels.

Greece Bailout New Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (right) and outgoing Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis hug each other during a hand over ceremony in Athens yesterday. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

A Greek exit is still a very real possibility, but a new agreement could yet be hammered out.

If this does happen, many people are questioning the potential implications for Ireland, Portugal and Spain – which all received bailouts.

German MP Ralph Brinkhaus told Morning Ireland a significant debt writedown could send out the message that “you do not have to pay back your debt” if you “resist”.

Nobody at the end of the day wants to lose Greece out of the eurozone … but we will not pay any price for it.

Brinkhaus said that in order to create growth in Greece, reforms have to be introduced as well as investments in infrastructure and industry.

He described the situation in as “a tragedy for the Greek people”, but said it is difficult to convince countries such as Bulgaria and Romania they should support Greece as it has a higher wealth level.

On the same programme, Agriculture and Defence Minister Simon Coveney denied a new Greek deal would lead to Ireland seeking better repayment terms. He said the terms we have now are better than the original agreement and a debt write-down for Greece is unlikely.

Of course they want debt relief, we wanted debt relief… but it’s not on the table.

Coveney said Ireland wants Greece to stay in the eurozone, but added that the country needs to come up with “credible” plan in order for this to happen.

Banks in Greece are set to remain closed until Thursday. The emergency summit will take place in Brussels at 5pm Irish time, after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

9014 Cabinet Meeting Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

On the way into cabinet this morning, Enda Kenny said: “Time is of the essence now.” The Taoiseach stated that the Greeks are “doing the right thing here in bringing new proposals to the eurozone … so we’ll see what emerges”. He added that any deal must “make economic sense”.

Speaking this afternoon, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath told reporters: “When it comes to Greece the last thing we need is for another extend and pretend deal. We have consistently said over the last number of years that the deals which we entered into with Greece were hopelessly unrealistic.”

We’re in favour of [debt relief] being on the table, and in our view it should certainly be on the table … The Greek economy really is collapsing before our very eyes.

Meanwhile, his colleague Niall Collins said the latest developments prove Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fáil government acted in the best interests of the country – as the former Taoiseach indicated at the banking inquiry last week.

People are getting a better understanding and a realisation of what the potential downside and the potential consequences here in this country were when Brian Cowen had to take the decisions that he and his government had to take at that point in time.

“We were told at the time that the banks could collapse, that the ATMs would close down and a lot people rubbished it at the time. They thought there was a simple solution,” Collins stated.

The agenda

  • The cabinet will meet this morning at government buildings.
  • Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will answer questions in the Dáil at 2pm.
  • The first Leaders’ Questions will take place at 3.15pm.
  • The banking inquiry will meet in private session at 3.30pm.
  • Ireland’s electoral commission will be discussed by the environment committee at 4pm.
  • TDs will debate topical issues and bills on civil debt and urban regeneration from 4.06pm.
  • Private Members’ Business will focus on a Fianna Fáil-proposed motion on variable rate mortgages at 8.30pm.
  • Junior health minister Kathleen Lynch will address an international conference on disabilities in Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will attend a meeting with French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll in Paris.

Inside Leinster House

Labour TD Pat Rabbitte confirmed he won’t be seeking re-election in Dublin South West. Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton led the tributes to the former minister.

What the others are saying

  • A third Greek bailout could cost Ireland about €1 billion, according to the Irish Times.
  • The Irish Independent reports that Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has defended his meeting with a bidder for Nama’s loan book there.

In case you missed it

On the Twitter machine

Simon Coveney met the LÉ Eithne crew.

Originally published: 9am

Read: Is Ireland ready for Greece to leave the eurozone?

Read: Was Brian Cowen a good finance minister?

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