Irish Finance Minister says rejection of EU treaty would put IMF funds out of reach

DUBLIN Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:02pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's finance minister warned on Sunday that a rejection of Europe's new fiscal treaty in an Irish referendum next month would not only block access to Europe's new permanent bailout fund, but would also put fresh IMF funds out of reach.

According to the wording of the treaty, a "No" vote would cut Ireland off from additional funding from the European Stability Mechanism should it - as is likely - need additional non-market funding when its 85 billion euro EU/IMF bailout ends next year.

Opponents of the fiscal treaty, which would enforce stricter budget discipline, have said Ireland could seek additional funding from elsewhere, including the IMF. A spokesman for the Washington-based lender was quoted in the Sunday Times newspaper as saying there was nothing to stop any IMF country from applying for a loan.

However, Michael Noonan said those remarks risked being misinterpreted and that the IMF had made it "crystal clear" in negotiations with Ireland and fellow bailed-out countries Greece and Portugal that it would not provide unilateral assistance to euro zone countries.

"They have only been prepared to contribute to a bailout if Europe takes the lead (and) the amount of the IMF contribution depends on the amount of the European contribution," Noonan said in a statement.

He warned last week that a rejection of the treaty would be a "jump into the unknown" that the country could ill afford, and the potential blocking of official funding was the chief argument being put forward by supporters of the treaty.

About 47 percent of voters said they would support the German-led plan for stricter budget discipline in the May 31 referendum, a poll found on Saturday, with 35 percent opposed and 18 percent undecided.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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