Taking advantage of its half-year EU Presidency that is just getting under way, Dublin is intent on signing an agreement with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the other European capitals as soon as possible to ease the terms for repayment of billions of euro in bank debt. The government only recently spoke of a late June target but is now pushing its goal forward to late March, when it has to repay 3.5 billion.

Ireland has been under an international financial bailout since November 2010. The EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lent it 61 billion to pay the bank crisis bill in the wake of the bursting of the real estate bubble that brought the country close to bankruptcy.

Today the Irish government is pleased to have put the country back on track to growth and is trying to ease the burden of this bank debt that places a strain on its own debt, which stands at 108% of gross domestic product (GDP). It admits that the country has to pay the price of its past mistakes but points out that by rescuing all its banks during the emergency, as the ECB demanded at the time, its taxpayers also paid to prevent a comprehensive banking collapse in Europe. Unlike Iceland, which passed on the cost of its bank rescue to foreign creditors, Ireland assumed full responsibility for rescuing its ailing banks, buying 15% of the capital of the largest, Anglo Irish Bank, and almost all the capital of Allied Irish...

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