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'Greece has a major humanitarian crisis.... Ireland is in a very different situation'

Meanwhile, Michael Noonan says an extension of Greece’s bailout would be the subject of a Dáil vote.

Updated 4.55pm

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar arrives Leo Varadkar speaking today Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A “MAJOR HUMANITARIAN crisis” in Greece means it is in a “very different situation” to Ireland, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Health Minister said that in contrast to the current situation in Greece, Ireland is out of its bailout programme and the economy is growing.

He was speaking ahead of a crucial two-day meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels as Greece runs dangerously close to the end of its bailout programme in just under fortnight.

Speaking to reporters outside Leinster House today Varadkar insisted that the government’s strategy is a different one to Greece’s – and it’s working.

“They’re still in a programme, we’re out of a programme. Our economy is growing, there’s more people at work. In contrast they’ve a major humanitarian crisis in their country with 25 per cent unemployment, 25 per cent of people at risk of hunger. So, it’s very different situation.”

His comments come in the wake of the former IMF chief of mission to Ireland saying earlier that the government had “absolutely” missed out on an opportunity to strike a debt writedown deal with its Troika lenders in 2010.

Ashoka Mody has previously said that the austerity-only policy chosen for Ireland was “a mistake” and has consistently spoken out against such policies since leaving the organisation.

ashoka-mody Ashoka Mody Source: Screengrab via RTÉ

Mody told Newstalk today: “Ireland fell in with that culture, Ireland had its opportunity to, not just for itself but for Europe, in a way, Ireland in accepting the premise that Brussels and Berlin determine economic policy in every country.

He said that there was a “burden of debt that would legitimately be declared as an odious debt”.

Speaking to reporters on his way into the meeting of eurozone finance ministers earlier, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said that Mody’s comments were “in line with a series of statements” he had made since leaving the International Monetary Fund.

“I suppose when he was there and when he was in a position to do something, he didn’t do much for us, so advice now that he is no longer in a position of influence, would be taken lightly.”

In relation to the meeting on the Greek situation, Noonan said that he would “feel obliged” to put any extension of the bailout programme for Greece to the Dáil for a vote. He said a new programme would formally require Dáil approval.

He also said: “I would like if the Greek finance minister were to put specific requests to the meeting today.

“Obviously many of the European countries are amenable to making progress today. We certainly would to accede to a Greek request for an extension to the programme.”

He said nothing happened over the weekend “that could be described as a breakthrough” and urged his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis to put “specifics” to the meeting today.

Read more: Greece is two weeks away from running out of money – and returns to talks today

Read: Greece is changing its tune on talking to the Troika

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Hugh O'Connell

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