Enda feels the foot of history on high-wire act
Michael Noonan licked his finger, held it to the prevailing economic wind and decided conditions were right for a tightrope walk
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, in anticipation of what was about to follow, complained bitterly about the lack of notice. “Not even a phone call,” he grumbled.
Look Angela, no hands!
And no safety net either.
In an unexpected burst of showmanship, Enda Kenny was The Great Blondin of Government yesterday, embarking out of the blue on a long tightrope walk over a yawning financial abyss.
And with the country’s future lashed to his shoulders.
The Coalition’s plan to step off the bailout platform has been well publicised. They’ve been planning this spectacular since going into power 2½ years ago.
Risky, but with a significant morale-boosting reward – the restoration of Ireland’s economic sovereignty.
December 15th is the official B-Day.
But what hadn’t been known was how this manoeuvre would be attempted.
Enda sprung the answer on a surprised Dáil yesterday.
No safety harness
He announced we will be stepping into the great beyond without the support of an expensive safety harness – known in the high-wire business as a “precautionary credit line” (PCL).
Immediately, politicians, economists and commentators started arguing among themselves as to whether this was a wise or foolhardy move.
Should The Great Blondin topple, that PCL can catch him. It also triggers a cushion of capital called “a backstop”.
Only thing is, the EU suppliers of this survival system will extract a high price for their intervention, then leave Enda and Ireland dangling on the line for however long it takes a suffering nation to pay them back.
Yesterday, at a hastily convened Cabinet meeting in the morning, the Government decided to take a chance and walk unaided.
Michael Noonan set off for Brussels to announce the news. He, apparently, had recommended this daring course of action. The Minister for Finance licked his finger, held it to the prevailing economic wind and decided conditions were right to take a run at the thing.
But all this came as a bombshell to everyone else in Leinster House. The first indication something was afoot came after 10am, during Questions to the Minister for Agriculture – never the most closely monitored session at the best of times.
At the end of a discussion on the sugar industry, Simon Coveney excused himself. “A Cabinet meeting has been called this morning, which I have to attend for approximately 15 or 20 minutes,” he explained before belting away to Government Buildings.
Matters moved quickly after that. Within the hour, Chief Whip Paul Kehoe was in the chamber to announce business would be interrupted to allow the Taoiseach and Tánaiste make statements.
The Fianna Fáil leader, in anticipation of what was about to follow, complained bitterly about the lack of notice. “There cannot be a more fundamental or important issue than this, but the Opposition has not been apprised or consulted, good, bad or indifferent,” he fumed.