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Ministers had to lie about bailout talks, admits Lenihan

Brian Lenihan says ministers couldn’t admit that Ireland was in exploratory talks with the IMF, for fear of jeopardising them.

FINANCE MINISTER BRIAN LENIHAN has admitted that cabinet ministers were aware of Ireland’s bailout talks with the IMF, even when they denied it on the public record.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme last night, Lenihan said to admit that Ireland was in talks with the IMF about an emergency funding package would have further jeopardised Ireland’s already-precarious standing on money markets, and that there was no choice but to deny any talks were taking place as a result.

The finance minister was responding to claims that the government had kn0wingly mislead the public in stating that no bailout talks were going ahead, despite exploratory meetings having taken place with the IMF.

“All of the ministers were well aware of the financial struggle for survival the country was facing,” Lenihan said, continuing:

All of the ministers were aware that it was essential to protect the position of Ireland in the markets, and that you couldn’t concede that you were going into the IMF, for fear or prejudicing that position further. That was the position the government was in.

Presenter Seán O’Rourke had pointed out that then-Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, had told the programme any talk of IMF talks was “fiction” – despite it later having emerged that an exploratory meeting had taken place simply that day.

Lenihan was also responding to assertions that the Green Party’s ministers, John Gormley and Eamon Ryan, had declined from making public comments on any bailout talks, simply because they were not being informed as to their nature and progress.

On the same show, former Green Party leader and ex-junior minister Trevor Sargent said the party had wanted to call time on its participation in government when Lenihan began the bailout discussions with the EU and IMF.

The party had decided to stay in power, however, because it decided that it was ultimately necessary for the Budget to be enacted in its entirety – which included the passage of the Finance Bill, which is now set to dominate the Oireachtas agenda for this week.

“I recognised that it wasn’t possible to let down the country in such a manner,” Sargent said. “It’s well known… that we had to have these measures implemented if were to maintain, and build, economic stability.”

Sargent was the leader of the Green Party running into the general election, and led the Green team that negotiated the programme for government with Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil after the election in May 2007.

Watch the exchanges on the RTÉ Player >

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Gavan Reilly

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