(Don't shoot this messenger again, please ! I am describing, not defending, the "bail-out deal")
This post is written in response to the continued suggestions from members of the Irish media, political class and economists (e.g. Namawinelake, Professor Brian Lucey, Stephen Donnelly T.D.) that the redemption at par of the senior bonds - neither secured nor guaranteed, be it noted - issued by Anglo-Irish Bank was not required by the terms of the so-called "IMF bail-out".
Before showing (as I hope)that this view is grievously mistaken, I must observe that I find the prevalence of this view, and the vehemence with which it is held, rather surprising. It seemed to me - even before I read the documents - that nothing could explain the Government's persistence with the payment, other than external compulsion. It also was my impression that submission to the bail-out terms was widely accepted, and indeed lamented, in the same quarters, as removing our freedom of decision in such matters.
Ireland's agreement with the Troika - commonly mis-described as "our IMF bail-out" - gives the latter, of which the ECB is one member, a veto over any plans to "burn bondholders".
See paragraph 10 et seq. of the first attachment to this letter (it's on page 5 of the PDF) sent by Lenihan & Honohan on December 3,2010. It is a crucial part of the "bail-out deal" architecture. By it, Ireland has committed to agreeing its plans in the relevant respects, including "burden-sharing" with bank creditors, with the Troika.
The word "veto" is not used. It does not have to be. Failure to approve has the same effect.
Now, there are those who are suggesting that our government has not tried, and that if they only tried hard enough, the ECB would "cave-in" and agree to "burden-sharing" a.k.a "burning the bond-holders".
I have no personal knowledge of whether such suggestions have any basis in reality, but I have noticed that Messrs Kenny, Gilmore and Noonan have claimed to have discussed the question with M. Trichet. I have also noticed a lot of abuse directed at Trichet because of his alleged obdurate refusal to countenance any suggestions that the ECB should relax its opposition to bond "haircuts".
I also note that, contrary to views expressed in many quarters, the IMF is none too keen, either. See p.23 of this PDF at paragraph 34, third bullet point (and especially the last sentence).
It does not look to me as if the necessary approval is available from the Troika just now, whatever the future may bring. What leverage do we have to persuade them to a change of mind ? As long as our borrowing requirement is circa €15 billion, not a lot, in my view.
But what do I know ?