Ireland is on the verge of an unprecedented bailout worth up to 70 billion euro (£60bn).
The war-chest will come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe as the Government conceded the bank crisis is too big for the country.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan insisted Ireland had not been bounced into the plea for help and billed the mammoth rescue as stand-by firepower for the banks. He refused to put a figure on the total bailout but accepted it was tens of billions and not a “three figure” sum.
He attempted to quell fears that the IMF and Europe will hold the levers of power with the potential to hike the controversially low 12.5% corporation tax rate, saying the issue was “off the agenda now”.
Mr Lenihan described the IMF-European money as contingency capital which, along with “structural reform” of the banks, will put them on the road to permanent recovery.
Financial experts have warned that the banks need about 70 billion euro in total to create the kind of confidence needed in international money markets. Ireland’s State running costs are 19 billion euro (£16.2bn) in the red.
“Whatever figure is arrived at it will not necessarily be drawn down,” the minister said. “It’s a figure to demonstrate the kind of support that’s available to back up the Irish banking system as part of the Euro system. The point I’m making is that not all the money will go in at all. It’s a stand-by fund.”
The Cabinet held an emergency meeting at Government Buildings in central Dublin to sign-off on the application. Formal talks on the shape of the loans and how they will be held and paid out will take place over the coming days. Negotiations could last several weeks.
Britain said it stood ready to assist Ireland. UK officials would remain closely involved in discussions about the nature of any financial assistance.
A Treasury spokesman said: “The Irish finance minister has indicated that his Government are likely to make a formal request for assistance. As the Chancellor said last week, it is in Britain’s national interest that the Irish economy is successful and its banking system is stable, so Britain stands ready to support Ireland in the steps that it needs to take to bring about that stability.”