New Irish premier seeks easier bailout terms

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland’s newly elected prime minister, Enda Kenny, devoted his first full day on the job Thursday to lobbying European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for a better bailout deal.

Kenny was elected Wednesday atop a coalition government committed to reducing the cost of November’s European Union-International Monetary Fund rescue deal for Ireland. Ireland’s previous government negotiated an emergency loan after being overwhelmed by its own bank-bailout program.

Kenny prepared to meet Barroso in advance of Friday’s summit of the 27-nation union. It is focusing on the continuing eurozone debt crisis that has already forced Ireland and Greece to take EU-IMF loans and looks increasingly likely to claim Portugal next.

Before flying to Brussels, Kenny summoned his Cabinet hours after their appointment to show a commitment to austerity.

The coalition of Kenny’s conservative Fine Gael and left-wing Labour — the twin victors of Ireland’s Feb. 25 election — is committed to slashing Ireland’s deficits back to the eurozone limit of 3 percent of GDP by 2015. They have pledged to impose 3 billion ($4.18 billion) in 2012 cuts and tax hikes on top of the 6 billion already enacted this year by the ousted government of Bran Cowen.

In his first act as government leader, Kenny cut the pay of the entire 15-member Cabinet, including his own, by 6.6 percent.

His salary fell to 200,000 ($276,500). Labour leader Eamon Gilmore — the deputy prime minister as well as Ireland’s new minister of foreign affairs and trade — will get 184,405 ($255,000), other Cabinet ministers 169,275 ($234,000).

The Cabinet also shunned the black Mercedes limousines favored by the Cowen government. Instead they traveled together in one minibus to the official residence of President Mary McAleese, Ireland’s ceremonial head of state, to receive their seals of office.

Kenny said he gave his Cabinet two weeks to suggest ways of minimizing use of the Mercedes fleet, a luxury that has attracted particular voter anger.

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