Eurostat ruling on Strategic Banking Corporation raises serious questions – Doherty
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the Eurostat ruling that the Strategic Banking Corporation Ireland must remain on balance sheet raises serious questions, not least about Irish Water. He said the decision means the competency of Minister Noonan on such issues is now in question pointing out this is not the first time the Minister has been rebuffed by the accountants.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I am not surprised at the Eurostat decision. Last year, I raised with the Minister his attempt to put €240m of investment in Irish Water off books, a move which the CSO blocked. That decision taken with today’s news brings into serious question the competency of the Minister and in his faith that Eurostat will find in his favour regarding Irish Water.
“The Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan raised concerns about the Strategic Banking Corporation as I did during the rushed Dáil debate pointing out that this is not a bank because it lacked a banking licence.
“When the Bill creating the Strategic Banking Corporation was brought before the Oireachtas, Sinn Féin pointed out that it was being rushed through without adequate time for scrutiny. It took only one week from the day it was moved at Second Stage until it was passed by the Seanad.
“I pointed out the inadequacy of the time allowed, but as usual the government steamrolled the Bill through. Opposition amendments had to be tabled within hours of the Bill being published and before we heard the Minister speak on the Bill. Now we find out that there are difficulties that more debate could have teased out.
“In this case, Eurostat have overruled the CSO which bodes badly for the government in the case of Irish Water. We know already that the EU Commission has raised concerns about the Market Corporation Test for Irish Water.
“Twice now, Minister Noonan has tussled with Eurostat, and twice he has been defeated. A decision against the Minister regarding Irish Water would amount to a third strike. The rushed climb down on water charges last November now seems like an ill thought out exercise in panic. Indeed this is backed up by Freedom of Information documents I have received showing that in the days after the announcement the Department of Social Protection had no idea how the water conservation grant would be administered.
“Eurostat is clearly not an organisation to be swayed by spin and the massaging of figures. That is bad news for Minister Noonan and a government built on spin and massaged figures. The secrecy and complete lack of transparency regarding the finances of Irish Water could not inspire confidence in any organisation.”