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Irish report Irish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-24 11:17:38
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Ireland cuts bank bill, economy grows in Q1

Ireland's economy rebounded sharply in the first quarter and the government cut its bill for bailing out the financial sector by nearly 2 billion Euros on Thursday after a successful debt swap by Bank of Ireland. The Irish government's policy of making junior bondholders share part of the burden for bailing out its banks, at the root of the country's financial crisis, has so far cut 4 billion Euros off a 24 billion euro bill for propping up the sector, freeing up EU-IMF bailout funds originally earmarked for it.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan told an audience of bankers he expected to generate over 6 billion Euros from imposing losses on junior bondholders across the financial sector and the sale of bank assets, including the life insurance business of Irish Life & Permanent. The government is hoping such measures, along with better than expected gross domestic product (GDP) data will decouple Ireland from Greece in the minds of investors. "We are thinking of printing t-shirts in the Department of Finance, they won't be given out free, they will be for sale of course, saying 'Ireland is not Greece' ... across the front and back of them," Noonan said.

But investors remain sceptical that Ireland can avoid following Greece into a second EU-IMF bailout that would mean Ireland would roll into the euro zone's permanent aid vehicle, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in 2013. Any chance Ireland has of returning to private debt markets instead and shouldering its heavy debt burden alone relies at the very least on it achieving solid and balanced economic growth over the medium term. Noonan said data for the first three months of the year that showed GDP jumped 1.3 percent from the fourth quarter, far exceeding expectations for 0.8 percent, was very encouraging.


Kenny raises bailout with Sarkozy

Enda Kenny raised the Government’s campaign for a reduction in the cost of the Irish EU/IMF bailout with French president Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit last night. Although there was no settlement of the dispute over Ireland’s corporate tax rate during the private conversation, Mr Kenny’s spokesman said: “Both leaders agreed to continue a process of talks” which was already under way.

The spokesman said the Taoiseach also raised Ireland’s bailout at the wider meeting and told his counterparts that the standoff was “making it very difficult for us” in the effort Ireland was making. EU leaders issued a communiqué welcoming Ireland’s progress in the execution of its reform programme.

They also promised more money to help Greece stave off looming bankruptcy, provided its parliament enacts an austerity plan finalised in fraught last-minute talks with international lenders. After hours of talks on Greece, the leaders urged “all parties” in Greece to support a plan agreed with the EU-IMF “troika”. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou promised to push through radical economic reform after his new finance minister clinched agreement with EU and IMF inspectors on extra tax rises and spending cuts to plug a €3.8 billion funding gap.


Links to Ireland helped mobster stay free

James 'Whitey' Bulger was immensely proud of his Irish heritage. In fact, it was his Irish-American connections that are believed to have helped America's Most Wanted successfully stay on the run from the FBI for 16 years. Both Bulger’s parents immigrated to Boston from Ireland and, in his late teens, he gravitated towards the Irish-American mafia. As he became one of the most feared men in Boston, Bulger struck up close links with republican groups in the US. In the 1970s and '80s, he is understood to have visited Dublin and Belfast a number of times. When he finally went on the run in 1995, it was these contacts that enabled Bulger to access safe houses, new identities and, most crucially of all, new passports.

At one time, US police feared Bulger (81) had a new identity provided specially for him by the IRA. Even when he was on the run and regularly featured on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Bulger kept his Irish connections alive. Police are convinced he was in Ireland for some time in 2002 -- and may have spent several weeks touring the country. It is also suspected he spent time in Ireland immediately after he fled the US in the late 1990s. So strong are those links that US police now want to determine if the mobster hid 13 prized paintings -- stolen in Boston in 1990 -- in Ireland pending their sale on the black market. The paintings include a Rembrandt, a Vermeer, five Degas drawings and a Manet portrait.

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