Aid plan for Irish exporters

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THE collapse in sterling has forced the Irish Government to consider an emergency package to help beleaguered exporters to Britain, including grants to the worst-hit companies and discounts on international phone calls, writes Alan Murdoch.

The Dublin Cabinet will tomorrow debate measures aimed at relieving the intense pressures that have built up in the last month as a result of the 13 per cent decline in the value of the pound against the punt.

The punt closed on Friday at pounds 1.075, and Bertie Ahern, finance minister, has accepted that a special aid package will be needed to help firms whose competitiveness against British rivals has been undermined.

The Cabinet is expected to consider direct grant aid to sectors where profit margins in the UK export market have been cut or eliminated. Short-term aid is expected to involve Ir pounds 30m ( pounds 32.25m) of direct subsidies. Clothing and food firms have been among those most severely hit by the sterling fall.

There may also be moves to cut Ireland's high international telephone charges to help firms to curb overheads.