The sale of 26-County State assets is to begin next year, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed.
He said a list of recommendations would be drawn up by the end of next month in respect of the disposal of Bord Gáis Energy (the state’s natural gas company) and some elements of the power-generation capacity within the ESB (Electricity Supply Board)
He also said parts of the state’s forestry board, Coillte, as well as the state’s share of Irish airline, Aer Lingus, are also set for the auction block.
Mr Kenny was answering questions in the Dáil at the same time as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin was announcing plans for the disposal of the State assets at a press conference in nearby Government Buildings.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins urged the Taoiseach to provide Dáil time for a debate on the matter.
He asked if Mr Kenny had any concept “of the depth of treachery to sell billions of euro worth of State assets to pay bad gambling debts.”
He was referring to the latest 3.1 billion euro payment to be made by the 26-County state next month to refund international bondholders who lost their investment in Ireland’s failed banks.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the announcement should have been made before the parliament. The coalition government, he added, was selling off successful and self-financing State companies.
“Instead of flogging off the State’s assets to earn a quick buck, it should make commercial State companies part of the solution in creating jobs and generating growth.”
Mr Kenny said that in achieving a projected figure of 3 billion euro from the sale of state assets, two billion would have to be used as a payment to the IMF/EU/ECB ‘troika’ for last year’s bailout loan, but the government would have 1 billion euro to invest in job-creation initiatives.
But Mr Adams accused the government of “hiding behind the Troika” in its decision to sell off the state assets, which was a decision taken entirely by the government.
“Claims that this will provide funding for job creation have to be set against the government’s decision to give away taxpayers money to unguaranteed bondholders and bad banks, including 3.1 billion euro to Anglo-Irish bank at the end of March,” he said.
“The government is selling off successful self-financing state companies such as Bord Gais’s energy business and some elements of the ESB’s power generation capacity, as well as the possible sale of some assets of Coillte and the state’s remaining shares in Aer Lingus.
“These successful state companies should be part of a job creation strategy that is part and parcel of the solution in creating jobs and delivering growth. They shouldn’t be sold off to private interests whose sole interest is profit.”
He said the pattern wherever privatisation had been pursued and profitable state companies sold off was one of “job losses, increased prices for consumers and big profits for private speculators.
“Labour should be ashamed of their endorsement of this right wing conservative economic philosophy.”