Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Europe - It's Not Us, It's You...

DAIL SKETCH: THE PATIENT is a basket case and refusing treatment.

“This country has not applied to enter a facility,” insisted the Taoiseach, defiant to the last.

He is not going to commit poor Mother Ireland into some sort of economic Shady Pines, to be prodded at by bespectacled eurocrats before being released into the real world with a healthy spending plan and an ankle tag.

We’re fine. There is nothing wrong with us. It’s our enemies in the international media and other sinister factions who have it in for us. At least that was Brian Cowen’s belief yesterday afternoon. But as he spoke in the Dáil, the men in the white coats circled ever closer in Brussels, syringes at the ready.

“Come, come, Ireland, take your fiscal medicine!” Still, the Taoiseach protested. “We are pre-funded up to mid-2011,” he argued, pleading for more time.

Wait until the Ecofin meeting is over, he asked. The Opposition listened to him in the Dáil, looking scared, unanimous in their opinion that the Taoiseach has now entered Cloud Cuckoo Land.

The country he leads has been in trouble for two years now. Europe has been monitoring its progress with growing alarm.

Matters came to a head at the weekend. Reputable international news outlets said the EU was holding intense discussions over the best course of treatment for Ireland. The Government was said to be participating in the talks.

“Fiction!” declared Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern when asked to confirm the story, which refused to go away.

On Monday, his colleague Noel Dempsey stood at his shoulder, nodding and mouthing “oh yes” as Dermot reiterated the denial.

The matter landed on the floor of the Dáil yesterday as the Minister for Finance was on his way to Brussels to see the money doctors. He too was going to insist that, for the time being, Mother Ireland is economically sound.

But while the Brians and their Cabinet cohorts continued to insist rumours of their committal are premature, the authoritative dispatches from the continent contradicted them.

Time so for the Taoiseach to nail the rumours in the national parliament. If for nothing else but to quell the rising feeling of fear and panic in the country.

“What has been going on in the past week?” demanded Enda Kenny, on behalf of the dogs in the street. He didn’t get an answer. Instead, the Taoiseach chose to address a question which hadn’t been asked: “This country has not applied to enter a facility”.

It was never said that we did. It was reported that discussions, relating specially to Ireland, had taken place. Instead, Brian Cowen chose to ignore this.

Then the Fine Gael leader struck at the Taoiseach’s Achilles heel – his tribal allegiance to Fianna Fáil. Enda evoked the spirit of Seán Lemass, the man quoted by Cowen on the day he became party leader, and said he had gone against the very principles of his hero.

“You Taoiseach, and your Government, politically, have betrayed our country. You have let down the founding fathers of your own party. You have let down those who fought to achieve Irish independence, and, by your actions, you have now endangered the economies of other European countries.”

Brian looked cut to the quick. When he rose to reply, he did so more in sorrow than in anger. The “tone and context” of what Deputy Kenny had to say was regrettable.

“Be not deceived, Taoiseach, the people will not be mocked,” said Enda. Then he demanded a general election, again.

“You say that every week,” shrugged Biffo, who went on to defend his record in dealing with the disaster, citing the report on the banking crisis to bolster his case.

“The Honohan report shows . . . ”

They were so depressed across the floor that they could hardly raise a snigger.

Eamon Gilmore delivered more of the same. “What is going on?” asked the Labour leader in the exasperated tones of a man who knows he isn’t going to be told but has to try anyway.

We know that “no application has been made” for a bailout – or to enter a facility, as the Taoiseach would put it, but what sort of contacts were made over the weekend?

“I’m not responsible for the rumour mill all over Europe, or anywhere else, for that matter,” shrugged the Taoiseach.

The best Gilmore could get was that discussions go on all the time in relation to the banking situation generally. “All I’m seeking from you, Taoiseach, is information” he wheedled.

Were we talking about assistance for the State, or assistance for the banks? No luck. “I’ve always defended the Irish people and I’ve always defended her interests as well,” replied Cowen, sulkily.

And just to calm the situation and restore some confidence he said his Government had done everything they were required to do “in best practice.” That didn’t exactly do the trick.

Still. Perhaps he would shed more light on the matter in the special statements to follow. He didn’t.

Sinn Féin’s Arthur Morgan didn’t mince his words. “You said nothing in your 10 minutes,” he told the Taoiseach, and what he did say was probably “concocted by a civil servant”. Arthur was at the end of his tether. “When will you ever learn?” he sighed, saying he was fed up listening to the Taoiseach “lying” to the country for the past two years.

He was reprimanded by the Ceann Comhairle for using inappropriate language. “I intended to use the word fib,” said Arthur. He shook his head. “I hope I don’t have to be here much longer,” he remarked. Arthur is not standing in the next election.

All we learned from the Taoiseach is that he will not be signing his basket case of an economy into any facility – secure, open or otherwise.

Unless, of course, some sort of square deal package can be put in place to help us cope in our difficult years . . .

Article by MIRIAM LORD - Irish Times

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