Irish aspiring PM to meet Germany's Merkel on bailout
Ireland's main opposition leader who is tipped to become the next prime minister plans to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday to signal his intention to seek changes to an EU/IMF bailout if he is elected.
Enda Kenny, whose centre-right Fine Gael party is surging in opinion polls ahead of a February 25 general election, said in a statement Sunday he would travel to Berlin to "gain some insight" into Merkel's perspective on the Irish situation.
Kenny said he would signal Fine Gael's intent - if elected to government - "to seek changes to the content and cost of the EU/IMF bailout deal for Ireland."
Prime Minister Brian Cowen called elections on February 1 and his Fianna Fail party is expected to be the first government to be ousted as a result of the eurozone debt crisis.
Kenny said his meeting with Merkel would be ahead of "key decisions about the shape of Europe's financial support system will be taken in the coming weeks".
He will emphasise that while the debt-ridden country is open to introducing new fiscal rules it is "not prepared to countenance any changes to Ireland's corporate tax rate as this would be devastating for Ireland's economic prospects.
"After the destruction left behind by years of Fianna Fail government it will take time, energy and commitment to get Ireland working again," Kenny said.
Ireland's 12.5 percent corporation has been a key economic driver that has attracted foreign companies which employ about 139,000 people and account for over 75 percent of exports.
Opposition parties are holding out the hope that they can re-negotiate the terms of the 85 billion euro ($115 billion) bailout package if they gain power.
On January 28, five days before the election was called, Kenny and his finance spokesman Michael Noonan travelled to Brussels to also signal to EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso that Fine Gael planned to renegotiate the deal, particularly the interest rate being charged.
As Ireland's election campaign heats up a battle to ease the terms of a massive EU-IMF bailout have become a key issue, even as Brussels insists it is non-negotiable.
A poll last month found 82 percent want the bailout renegotiated.
Last November, Ireland became the second eurozone country after Greece to accept emergency help.
© 2011 AFP