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October D-day for action on our debt

EU LEADERS have set an October date for taking the crucial decision on striking a new deal on Ireland's crippling €64bn bank debt.

The government is hoping to lift billions of euro off the shoulders of the Irish taxpayer with intense "technical work" set to be carried out over the coming weeks.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan today secured a guarantee from his EU counterparts that a decision will be taken on our bank debt in October.

The announcement was made in the early hours of this morning following an "intensive" nine-hour meeting in Brussels that was dominated by the issue of Spanish bank debt.



Agenda

However the agreement on a date to discuss reducing the burden of Irish bank debt is significant as our country's woes were originally off the agenda.

Speaking this morning, Minister Noonan said the deal would be "ambitious" but he refused to reveal how much debt the government was seeking to remove.

"We don't particularly want to get into talking numbers yet because it has not advanced that far, but we'll be ambitious in our ask," he said.

"We're looking at a number of alternative options now but we're not jettisoning anything or any work that has been done already," he added.

It's understood that one of the options on the table is that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), or permanent bailout fund, will take control of a significant portion of our banking debt.

However the Minister warned that Ireland's prospects for a better agreement will not happen until after a new deal is struck for Spain.

"Matters can't be resolved until that's done," Mr Noonan said. "As soon as possible would be our preferred timeline but we're not the only people who have a very strong interest in this."

hnews@herald.ie