Irish Republic minister admits Dublin needs outside aid

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The Irish Republic's finance minister has said he feels "no sense of shame" over his country's economic record - but it now needs outside help.

Brian Lenihan told broadcaster RTE the Republic had fought hard over the past two years for financial survival.

A team of international officials are in Dublin to discuss the country's debt crisis which has rocked the financial markets in recent days.

Mr Lenihan said no figures had been discussed yet.

The Republic's government has repeatedly stressed it has not asked for financial assistance from either the European Union (EU) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who are represented at the Dublin talks.

It says the government has enough money to see it through well into next year.

Mr Lenihan said the problem lies with Ireland's heavily indebted banks.

The European Central Bank (ECB), on whose loans Ireland's banks have become heavily dependent, is also part of the negotiations.

"I certainly don't feel a sense of shame about fighting hard for this country for the last two years to ensure its financial survival," said Mr Lenihan.

"The big difficulty of course is that the banks grew to such a size that they became too unmanageable for the state itself; that's the big difficulty here. And that's why we have to consider external assistance to stabilise our banking system."

'International rescue'

The government has given huge support to the banking system, but has a gaping budget deficit of 32% of its gross domestic product and it can give no more.

Mr Lenihan said who would pay for any international rescue was unclear: "We have to decide as a government whether this package is in the best interest of the taxpayer, or whether it will burden the taxpayer further, that's a very important consideration for any government."

Earlier the Republic's Central Bank Governor, Patrick Honohan - also speaking to RTE - said he expected a loan in the region of "tens of billions" of euros.

The final decision will be up to the Irish government, which has said it has not agreed to a loan from Europe.

"It'll be a large loan because the purpose of the amount to be advanced or to be made available to be borrowed is to show that Ireland has sufficient firepower to deal with any concerns of the market. That's the purpose of it," he told RTE.

An EU handout could be seen as a big loss of face for the Republic - essentially meaning that its survival and solvency were reliant on Brussels.

Borrowing costs

But BBC business editor Robert Peston said that in terms of Irish resistance to a bail-out, this was "game over".

"The Irish government could not conceivably go against the advice of its [eurozone] partners and its central bank," he said.

Were it to do so, commercial customers of Irish banks would accelerate withdrawals which would be devastating, he said.

European stock markets closed higher on Thursday as investors' confidence grew that an Irish rescue package would emerge in the coming days.

Fears about the stability of Irish banks has led to a rise in the price the Irish government - which has pumped billions into its banks - pays to borrow money.

Other eurozone countries that are also perceived as weak are seeing their borrowing costs rise too.

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