|Brian Cowen, Ireland’s prime minister, confirmed the decision at a news conference in Dublin [EPA]|
Eurozone finance ministers have backed a request from Ireland for an international bailout from the European Union and the IMF.
In a statement, the ministers said the EU and the European Central Bank had agreed the assistance “to safeguard financial stability in the EU and euro area”.
The statement underlined that other non-euro EU nations, over and above Britain and Sweden, which have already offered bilateral assistance, could yet join the effort.
Brian Cowen, Ireland’s prime minister, confirmed the decision at a news conference in Dublin, the Irish capital, on Sunday.
The confirmation came after a series of conference calls gathering European partners and G7 counterparts from the US, Japan and Canada, amid pressure to plug a giant hole that has already seen the Irish government pump $70bn into its failed banks.
“A lot of people are blaming the euro for this but much of the problem has to do with domestic policies. The banks grew far too big for the size of the economy … they have now collapsed and left the country in economic ruin”
John Walsh, editor, Business and Finance magazine
Speaking in Brussels, Ollie Rehn, the EU economic commissioner, said the loans would be provided to Ireland over a three-year period.
Ivan Miklos, the Slovak finance minister, said the bailout, which would be the second rescue package for a eurozone country this year, would total less than $140bn.
Miklos said Dublin had asked for help under the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a temporary budget safety net.
“Ireland has asked for help from the EFSF and Slovakia has joined other eurozone partners and approved this,” he told the Reuters news agency.
The Reuters news agency quoted senior EU sources as saying the loans would total $110bn to $125bn.
Speaking to Al Jazeera John Walsh, the editor of Business and Finance magazine, said Ireland will have to pay “a very, very high political price” for the crisis.
“A lot of people are blaming the euro for this but much of the problem has to do with domestic policies. We joined the euro and we probably did have artificially-low interest rates during a period of unprecedented economic expansion,” he said.
“On the other hand there were fiscal levers we could have pulled to dampen that enthusiasm, to dampen some of that growth.”
But the government did the complete opposite, said Walsh, which resulted in the economy going into overdrive and was always going to become overheated.
“A big component of that was the banking system, where the banks grew far too big for the size of the economy. Now they have collapsed and left the country in economic ruin.”
Earlier, Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister, had said he would recommend to the cabinet that the government should apply for the financial bailout programme from the EU and the IMF.
The Irish cabinet met on Sunday to finalise a four-year deficit crisis plan which had been seen as key to winning the international bailout and easing fears about the future of the euro.
Lenihan said market conditions had been very difficult since late August.
He added that since a visit to Dublin a fortnight ago by Rehn, “market conditions had impacted on the banking sector in particular”.
“There was considerable concern both on our part and on the part of the Europeans about this issue,” the minister said.
Lenihan said the government had decided last Tuesday, before a meeting of eurozone ministers’ in Brussels, “to open this process of intensive discussion about the issues”.
“It was important from a political point of view, from a national point of view that we safeguard the issues of the state and the taxpayer at all stages in this process,” he said.
Concerns are growing that the huge deficit racked up by the one-time “Celtic Tiger” as it tried to save its banks could have a knock-on effect on other weak economies like Portugal, echoing the Greek crisis earlier this year.