“I Said, ‘Alexis, Let Me Give You A Piece Of Advice Here'”

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking with Sean O’Rourke this morning

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on Today With Sean O’Rourke this morning.

At one point in the interview, they discussed Greece and Mr Kenny told how he gave advice to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and how he told the Eurozone leaders to ‘hold on a second here now’.

He also addressed those claims that Ireland didn’t increase income tax, VAT and PRSI.

Sean O’Rourke: “Right now, you and colleagues, around Europe, the European Union and the Eurozone are grappling with the Greece situation. I don’t know if you’ve time to read the letters page in the Irish Times but there was one yesterday, from a man in Limerick, a man called Michael Mahony and he talked about, and you’re somebody who admires Michael Collins and he said, you know, ‘The parallels are striking… The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed under threat of “immediate and terrible war”, just as Tsipras has been threatened with economic annihilation of Greece if he did not accept the terms of the bailout agreement’. You effectively, along with colleagues in Europe, you threw the Greek Prime Minister under the proverbial bus didn’t you last week.”

Enda Kenny: “Certainly not. The position, in so far as Ireland was concerned, was that we were being used as a reference point by other countries as to an expression of common sense: what did you want here? Greece is about 2% of the European economy. Clearly, the Prime Minister himself had said on many occasions at the European Council meetings that I attended at, that Greece did not want a default, that Greece didn’t want to leave the Eurozone, that Greece would pay its way, that what Greece wanted was an infrastructure investment programme, that he was prepared to deal with corruption, that he was prepared to put in place a functioning taxation collection system and that he was prepared to go down to the OECD and take best advice from them and from every other country.

But I would say this Sean, you see, to be straight about this now, I have attended I suppose maybe 25 or 30 European Council meetings and we’ve had Prime Ministers from Greece before, who came before the European Council and said, ‘I tell ya we’ve got a problem, we’re nearly out of it, almost around the corner, another €5billion and we’ll be there and help us out. Prime Minister Samaras had a primary surplus brought in, he was approaching a 1% growth pattern and Greece was actually able to get back into the markets. All this…”

O’Rourke: “Yes but the people voted him out in the election last year and then it came to this new Syrizia government and they said, and Varoufakis was talking to the New Statesman a couple of days ago  said that their “most energetic enemies” in trying to get a better deal for Greece, one that people could live with, were countries like Ireland, Spain and Portugal. And it’s not just him saying things like that. And there’s a quote in from an Irish businessman, Patrick Coveney of Greencore. He said, ‘If you have kept a country together and inflicted shared and collective pain from some medium or long-term benefit, and someone else comes up with the political equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme, it undermines the entire narrative.‘ Said Coveney, now whose brother happens to serve in your Cabinet – it just did not suit your political purposes to see the Greeks get some relief that they badly needed.”

Kenny: No I disagree. You see in the run-up to the election in Greece, which was triggered after the presidential election, the rise of populism brought about all of this instability, there was a pattern of growth and a pattern of movement in  the right direction but Syrizia came along and said, ‘Ok, you don’t need to pay for this, we want to reemploy all the people who’ve lost their jobs and everything. And that’s, that’s their right as a political party. The people made a democratic choice. And now that’s put it back further than ever before and yet the Prime Minister himself said, ‘look, I recognise the scale of the challenge that  we face here now’. I have never met the former [Greek] finance minister Yanis Varouvakis, Michael Noonan met him a few time and he said, ‘well, a lot of his comments are, you know, general rather than being specific – where you need to be if you’re in that business of being a minister for finance.’ But I would say this. From our point of view, before last week’s meeting, the all-night meeting, I actually spoke to Prime Minister Tsipras myself, before the meeting started and I said to him, ‘Alexis, let me give you a piece of advice here, if I may, there are people around the table who don’t trust you. You have got to show them that you’re serious about what you say here because you won’t build trust the way it’s being happening. You’ve got to have a step-by-step demonstration and proof of your conviction and you’ve got to go back to your parliament.‘ And I just say on your show here while the pressure was on to introduce X amount of legislation by a particular date, I did say to the Eurozone leaders, ‘Hold on a second here now, you can’t drive that extent of legislation through just like that and gave, for example, the  marriage equality referendum here which the people voted in but which the Government haven’t been able to put through the House yet because of an objection to the Supreme Court which must hear it. So I said like, in any case, there might well be objections, I’m not sure what the situation in Greek is about court objections or injunctions to prevent legislation but he himself, he himself, Alexis Tsipras was very clear and this went on all night between the involvement of the IMF and the monies that were being talked about. He said, ‘I’ll have these four pieces of legislation done by Wednesday’.”

O’Rourke: “Ok, and when you were talking to Alexis Tsipras, did you say to him, as you said publicly afterwards, in Ireland’s case, we did not income tax, we did not increase VAT we did not increase PRSI  and you were flatly contradicted – there was a torrent of contradiction from all sorts of economists because…”

Kenny: “I explained all that.”

O’Rourke: “…because we did it to the tune of €7billion.”

Kenny: “We didn’t increase income tax and what I was talking about was what the Greeks were talking about, they said their hospitality sector was absolutely critical to them and that the island, of which there are thousands have a very different system then operates on the mainland and and they were very concerned about that and I made the point that VAT in this country for the hospitality sector – you could you know  have tinkered about with it, reduce it by a half per cent. You could have put it down by from 13.5 down to 9, stabilises and created 35,000 jobs. I just made the point that our minister here, Minister Noonan and Minister Howlin, actually built a relationship with the Troika and said, ‘we don’t like that’. We’ll give you an alternative but the alternatives were focused on not creating obstacles to work and not taxing employment. Now, when you say, when you quote there that, Ireland didn’t want Greece to get any benefit here, it wasn’t just Ireland that was really upset about the extent of what might be called a write down because Spain, France and other countries have been exposed to Greek banks in a huge way but we always said that debt reprofiling and rescheduling – such as happened in our case with the promissory note and interest rate reductions – were always things that we support and do support and did support in the case of Greece.”

Listen back to the full interview here

Previously: The Man With One Point

Hello Greece

40 thoughts on ““I Said, ‘Alexis, Let Me Give You A Piece Of Advice Here'”

  1. ahjayzis

    Oh Enda and his imaginary conversations with voters / elected heads of government.

    He’s such a Mitty kind of guy, I bet he sat there, eyes down, arms folded like a good boy for Merkel, then concocted this bullsh1t soon as he got out the door and convinced himself it’s what happened.

    1. Odis

      Alex phoned me up the other day to ask me about the few extra coppers in his wage packet. He said this doesn’t seem right.

  2. fluffybiscuits

    “Alexis, let me give you a piece of advice here, if I may, there are people around the table who don’t trust you. You have got to show them that you’re serious about what you say here because you won’t build trust the way it’s being happening. You’ve got to have a step-by-step demonstration and proof of your conviction and you’ve got to go back to your parliament.”

    Ironic considering that Enda is not wanted nor trusted by the majority of the populace. What does Enda know that Tsprias didnt know?

      1. ahjayzis

        Technically he got no where near a 50% vote share – so you could argue he’s not wanted by the majority ;o)

        A third maybe.

      2. ollie

        miko, kenny wasn’t elected by the citizens of ireland to be taoiseach. no-one in their right mind would elect such an idiot.

        1. Odis

          He was, perhaps your memory is short, he was elected to bring about a democratic revolution, after years of FF shenanigans.

    1. Miko

      Odd how so people are so pro democracy elsewhere but reject the Irish People’s right to choose a Government…

  3. Anne

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/gene-kerrigan/sorry-but-we-need-to-talk-about-enda-31352292.html

    “There was a time, not so long ago, when malcontents occasionally raised questions about the behaviour of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. We pointed to things the Taoiseach said that we suspected were not true….

    There are people who casually accuse the Taoiseach of lying, but clearly this is not the case. The Taoiseach once claimed to have received phone calls from workers surprised to find more money than they expected in their pay packets, due to his tax cuts…

    He eventually admitted it didn’t happen.
    When he told a story about “two-pint man”, and how he demolished the drinker’s arguments on the water tax, he repeated the story a few weeks later, as though he’d met another two-pint man and had the same argument, and some of us concluded that it never happened at all.”

  4. Anne

    This probably didn’t happen either. Crusty the clown wouldn’t take advice from that gombeen.

  5. Anne

    This probably didn’t happen either. Crusty the clown wouldn’t take advice from that gomb**n.

  6. Lordblessusandsaveus

    An absolute puppet if ever there was one. He never says anything of substance or originality. He never says anything to instill confidence, trust or respect.

  7. Humans Eh!

    It’s far more likely that Enda make some crack about feta cheese and smashing plates while throwing fake pugilistic ‘boxing’ type shapes. That’s about as statesmanlike as he gets.

      1. Humans Eh!

        :-)
        Oh yes, its all part of the Kenny Hokey-Cokey.
        Next week we’ll hear how the Greek PM was carrying two pints when Enda bestowed his wisdom.

  8. LookingOn

    Pages of pre-prepared answers at hand for Kenny. Page of pre-prepared questions for O’Rourke. Kenny won’t do an interview without them. He won’t debate with other party leaders before the electorate.
    More ‘Two Pints Man’ buffoonery.

  9. baby back ribs

    I thought I had a problem listing/watching to Kenny, but sideways with a bargepole I can’t get through more than 2 paragraphs

  10. ollie

    ‘Alexis, let me give you a piece of advice here, if I may, there are politicians in ireland who are happy to elect a gob**ite like me to lead the country. they’re going to pay me full pension for teaching for 4 years. now tell me boyo, can the greek pension scheme pay that sort of mulla?
    the way to fool the people is this: thumbs up, shadow boxing, get a combover. surround yourself with idiots, not clever folk like Yanis Varouvakis. award yourselves pay rise after pay rise and a pension fund that would dwarf the gdp of greece.
    and when the bullyboys from germany come calling you have to capitulate totally. just load your citizens with unsustainable debt because i tell ya boy you’ll be off to brussels when things get really rough.
    and if you want to keep toursit vat low just raid eprivate pensions, make sure that the public pension pot is left intact.
    i learned how to manage public life by watching episode after episode of fr ted. i model meself on that fella dougal because he’s my type of lad

  11. Mr. T.

    Donkey O’Rourke is putting on the pounds there. Must be all those Fine Gael lunches.

      1. Mick Flavin

        Thanks martco. Just watched the whole lot of that for the umpteenth time. The density of ideas is amazing.

  12. Soft like

    It’s time for enda to end his relationship with Fine Gael he is a total omni-shambles of a Taoiseach. He has continuously lied and bullshitted his way through the last 4 years like most of his cabinet have, also along side the lickspittle Eurocrat Phil hogan. Oh if only there was a way they would all just fade out of existence. Ireland and Europe would be a better place without them. Don’t get me started about where labour should fade to, the seven kingdoms of hell is too good for them turncoat wannabe fine gaelers. I would call them bacteria except Labour Party have no life so I guess they are that slime that builds up in pipes that turns into slugs. Slug slime scum.

  13. 15 cents

    off topic .. but i did the graphics on the walls in the photo. and now that ive said that on broadsheet .. i can sit back and take in all the negative comments and criticism :)

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