Minister denies pressure on Ireland for emergency funds

AN IRISH minister yesterday dismissed international reports that Ireland was under increased pressure to apply to Europe for emergency funds.

Batt O'Keeffe flatly denied that behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place on securing a multi-billion-euro rescue package from the European Financial Stability Facility.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation said that unlike Greece, Ireland was fully funded until next July and boasted a pension reserve fund of 25 billion euro (21bn).

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"We certainly haven't looked to Europe," insisted Mr O'Keeffe.

The country's economic problems are expected to be the focus of Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday when Finance Minister Brian Lenihan attends a meeting of European Union finance ministers.

Speculation has mounted in several international media outlets that negotiations are ongoing between Ireland and EU officials on tapping into the financial stability fund set up in the wake of the Greek economic crisis.

Fears are also growing Ireland's bond market woes will spread across Europe, particularly to Portugal.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Mr Lenihan were both forced to deny the claims on Friday. They separately stressed there was no immediate need for a bailout, insisting Ireland was funded up to the middle of July next year.

On Saturday evening officials from both of their departments again denied reports.

"There are no talks on an application for emergency funding from the European Union," said a spokesman for the Government.

The IMF also confirmed it had not received any request from Dublin, with head Dominique Strauss-Kahn adding he thought Ireland could manage well.

Mr O'Keeffe revealed the Cabinet has not discussed a possible bailout in a worst case scenario.

And in a third Government denial in three days, the minister stressed there had been no pressure from Europe to make an approach for emergency funding of up to 80 billion euro (67bn).