Reynolds to escape grilling

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The Independent Online
AN IRA ceasefire could prove to be a stroke of luck for Albert Reynolds, the Irish prime minister, who today faces an opposition grilling over his role in allowing export credits on Irish meat sales to Iraq, jeopardising Ir pounds 100m of taxpayers' money, writes Alan Murdoch.

His Fianna Fail party whips decided a special debate on the affair would be held today. This has raised widespread suspicion that he knew in advance the likely date of the IRA announcement and timed the debate knowing that media attention would inevitably be focused elsewhere.

The debate comes in the wake of a new opinion poll which found that only 26 per cent of voters believe the Taoiseach was vindicated by the recently published report of a three-year judicial inquiry into the beef-to-Baghdad affair.

The same poll, for the Irish Times, found that 36 per cent of his party's supporters believed he had been cleared, and 34 per cent thought he had not.

The ceasefire has also served as a useful distraction from the embarrassment of the Dublin government's decision to award MPs, ministers and civil servants pay rises of up to 17 per cent. Cabinet members will receive an extra Ir pounds 11,000 a year.