I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 22 and 59 together.
At the euro area summit on 29 June, Heads of State or Government affirmed that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereign. After the Commission has presented proposals for a single supervisory mechanism, the European Council will consider their proposals as a matter of urgency.
In addition, the Heads also tasked the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers to examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of our well-performing programme.
Taken together these statements open up the very real possibility of significantly improving the sustainability of Irish public debt. This is a very important development, and one which we should all welcome. The possibility of improving the sustainability of public debt has been reflected in lower borrowing costs for Ireland in the secondary market for sovereign bonds. Furthermore, I believe the re-entry into the private debt market by the NTMA in the form of short term t-bills is another positive step in regaining our financial independence.
In addition, the possibility of breaking the link between the banking sector and sovereigns across the euro area has been increased by this measure. This will help restore confidence in the single currency, which is in all of our interests.
As I have said before, however, there remains a very large gap between what the government is spending and what it receives by way of income. Closing this gap will require further consolidation, as has been previously outlined. Our Programme is working and we are starting to see the results, departing from it now would be unwise and not in our interest. The Government remains committed to reducing the deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, in line with the ECOFIN Council decision in late 2010.