IRELAND - IRELAND - Brian Cowen, the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) says his country will maintain its position as a 'centre of excellence' in the management of European pension funds by targeting cross-border pension activity.

Speaking at the IPE Awards ceremony in Dublin earlier this week, the Taoiseach also confirmed the government will ensure budget measures announced next month would not "adversely affect" older people relying on the state pension.

He told attendees that Ireland has been focusing its attention on "the significant potential for cross-border pension activity". This includes the establishment of an IFSC Pension Funds Working Group designed to "identify opportunities for our country to become a prime location for the centralised management of pension funds".

Cowen claimed Ireland has the skills, expertise and knowledge in areas such as actuarial, accounting, administration and fund management, to attract multinational companies that want to centralise pension activities.

"Our profile and reputation for cross-border financial services is one of our key strengths. We are determined to build on the successful development of the banking, insurance and funds industries in the IFSC and to use our strengths to create another centre of excellence in the management of European pension funds."

Speaking ahead of the budget report scheduled for 9 December 2009, Cowen also acknowledged a "large amount" of Irish people do not have enough disposable income to participate in savings or pension schemes and rely solely on the state pension.

"It is my intention in dealing with the budgetary crisis to ensure that those people will not be adversely affected by the decisions we have to make. Budgets are not simply about balancing books - as important as that is. They are also about acknowledging what we all see as important in society," said Cowen.

He added that he is proud of the provision for pensioners established during the good years, and stated "it is not my objective to undo all of that good work now".

However he noted that government is clear on what needs to be done to improve the economic situation in Ireland, and warned "corrective action taken now on the public finance is another necessary step on the road to recovery. We will do it because we must".

Cowen's comments followed a keynote speech by minister of finance, Brian Lenihan, at the IPE event earlier in the day in which he warned that the government intends to "bring home" to people the true cost of public sector pension liabilities. (See earlier IPE article: Ireland to 'bring home' the cost of pensions)

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