'Secret' letter documents how European Central Bank ultimatum tipped Ireland into 2010 bailout

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Newly published letters between European Central Bank and Irish government leaders document how Dublin's cash-starved banks were threatened with collapse unless Ireland sought an international bailout.

The 2010 letters published Thursday by ECB officials in Frankfurt paint a stark picture of negotiations between former ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and former Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the days before Ireland's reluctant acceptance of a 67.5 billion-euro ($92 billion) package of rescue loans from European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund.

Trichet's key letter dated Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, and labeled "secret," warns Lenihan that the ECB would not sustain tens of billions' worth of emergency loans to Irish banks unless Ireland sought an international rescue before markets reopened Monday. Lenihan wrote back that Sunday to confirm acceptance.