Irish Premier to Dissolve Parliament; Opposition Presses Bailout Renegotiation

Cowen to name election date as opposition seeks looser bailout terms

Brian Cowen, prime minister of Ireland, will dissolve Parliament on Tuesday and name the date for an election. It is expected that the two major opposition parties will thus be able to form a new government within just a few weeks.

Reuters reported that the likely date to be set for the election was Feb. 25. Cowen stepped down from leadership of the Fianna Fail party in January and said he would not try for re-election. Surveys indicate that his party will be trounced in the coming election as citizens seek to punish them for the drastic austerity measures undertaken to come out of the nation’s debt crisis.

Indications are that Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party will succeed Fianna Fail at the helm of the new government, and plans are already under way to renegotiate the terms of the bailout Ireland received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU). Enda Kenney of Fine Gael said on Newstalk radio on Tuesday that he was confident the package could and would be renegotiated.

“We will renegotiate it on the basis of accepting the [deficit] reduction to 3% [of GDP] by 2014/2015 and my focus is on the level of interest rate and the failed banking structure at its heart,” Kenney said. He did acknowledge that the process will be hampered by Ireland’s poor economy and the need for the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC), and the IMF to agree to any such changes. However, he pointed out that support is increasing for Greece to be granted additional time to pay back its own bailout package.

The two opposition parties have thus far failed to agree on just what the renegotiated terms should be, with disagreement over both the timing for Ireland to meet the 3% deficit reduction target and the length of time the nation should be granted to pay back the loans. Labour on Sunday asked the EU to consider giving Ireland until 2016, an extra year.

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