Noonan and Howlin in Talks to Land a Stimulus of [Euro]2bn from EU Bank

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Byline: Niamh Lyons and David Haworth

A MASSIVE investment boost for the Irish economy could be on its way after talks between the Government and the European Investment Bank took place yesterday.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin took time out from talks with their EU colleagues in Brussels to meet with the EIB.

Mr Howlin said that things were 'coming together', giving hope that some [euro]2billion funds might be secured.

The talks come amid appeals for a growth package to be unveiled before the May 31 referendum on the Fiscal Treaty as part of an larger, EU-wide stimulus programme, which is being urged by new French president Francois Hollande.

The EIB provides long-term financing on favourable terms for EU countries and yesterday Mr Howlin said he was pleased with the progress that had been made.

He said: 'Things are coming together.

We're looking for additional funds for existing and future projects.' He specified schools, housing and energy as areas which might benefit.

The ministers had enquired which EIB funds and how much might be available for 'shovel-ready' projects already planned by the Government.

But Mr Howlin refused to be drawn on details, saying that these would be announced at a later date.

The ministers spoke to journalists in Brussels shortly after the Taoiseach had admitted in the Dail that there was a 'blockage' in funding for Public-Private Partnership projects.

Mr Howlin said Ireland was seeking flexibility in access to EIB cash so that it could be made available in the near future to the Government's capital spending programmes. He stressed, however, that such loans would be off the balance sheet of existing debts which Ireland still has with the EIB, the IMF and the European Central Bank. …