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Michael Noonan has struck a deal that will save Ireland €1.5 billion

The Finance Minister has been in Milan urging EU colleagues to support his push for early repayment of IMF loans.

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan
Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 2.10pm

EUROZONE FINANCE MINISTERS have reached a “political agreement” that will allow Ireland to repay a portion of its bailout loans early potentially saving the State €1.5 billion over the next five years.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said this afternoon that there had been “unanimous” agreement among eurozone finance ministers and added that he does not expect the matter to cause difficulty with EU finance ministers when they meet tomorrow.

Kenny hailed the deal, struck by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in Milan today,  as “very good news” and described it as a “significant achievement” during a press conference to close the Fine Gael think-in at Fota Island today.

He said that he now expects the deal to be concluded before Christmas.

Prior to the meeting, Noonan admitted yesterday that “difficulties” in Europe could hamper Irish efforts but said he remained “very hopeful” of success.

Reports out this morning had suggested that the deal looked set to be approved.

Reuters reported that Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, speaking to reporters in Paris last night, had said an informal agreement could be reached in Milan and that the Government had received German support for the refinancing.

Lobbying

Noonan had been meeting with leaders in several EU institutions this week in an attempt alleviate Ireland’s debt burden by paying off a share of the €22 billion the International Monetary Fund lent the State as part of the bailout four years ago.

The IMF charges around 5 per cent interest on the money it has lent to Ireland in comparison to the 2 per cent paid on normal lending markets.

Noonan met with Klaus Regling, the Managing Director of the ESM; Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the President of the Eurogroup; and Mario Draghi the President of the ECB on Tuesday.

Speaking at Fota Island, where the Fine Gael think-in has been taking place, Noonan said yesterday that whilst he had the trio’s support there would be difficulties among some of his fellow finance ministers on the continent.

“There are a lot of difficulties across Europe,” he said. “There are elections in some countries so some ministers don’t have a mandate to actually agree to anything at the moment.

“But we’re very hopeful of success. But it may be sometime out before we get the actual sign off on it.”

He said that the €1.5 billion that could be saved over five years is “in Irish terms” an “awful lot of money”.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

Read: Noonan holds “positive” talks with EU on paying back our debts

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Hugh O'Connell

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