DUBLIN (Reuters) - A mix-up in Ireland’s parliament on Thursday that allowed passage of a motion calling on the government to delay the flotation of state-owned Allied Irish Banks (ALBK.I) will not affect the proposed sale, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said.
Ireland’s government has appointed several banks to act as bookrunners and global coordinators for the potential sale of a 25 percent stake in AIB, and Noonan has said the nearest window to sell the shares runs from mid-May to early July.
The small opposition Labour Party called last week for the sale to be delayed until the government is able to convince the European Union to change its fiscal rules and allow the proceeds to be used on capital investment.
Noonan opposed the non-binding motion, saying any funds recouped would be used to pay down the state’s debt. But the motion was deemed to have passed after opposition lawmakers said the government forgot to call a vote to oppose it.
“What happened today at the vote was a misunderstanding and is in dispute now and there are discussions ongoing with the Ceann Comhairle’s (speaker of the lower house) office,” Noonan told parliament.
“I would remind the house that the house has already voted for the programme for partnership government which allows for the sale of not more than 25 percent of any bank before the end of 2018.”
Noonan’s minority government appeared to have had sufficient support to block the motion after it won the backing of the main opposition party, Fianna Fail, ahead of the issue returning to the lower house on Thursday.
Pearse Doherty, finance spokesman for the opposition Sinn Fein party, said the government forgot to call a vote as it was distracted by the succession race triggered by Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s decision on Wednesday to step down as leader of the governing Fine Gael party.
Noonan, who said last week that market conditions were encouraging for a sale, added that he not yet made any decision about when or whether to proceed with the initial public offering.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Mark Heinrich