All together: Flash, Bang, Wallop, Taoiseach, What a Picture!

Even inscrutable Michael Noonan, and the way he might slump in his seat, is looking confident

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joking with Herb Hribar, Chief Executive eircom Group; Joe Schmidt Irish head coach; and Simon Boucher, CEO IMI, at the IMI National Management Conference “Game Changers for Growth”, at Sandyford , Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joking with Herb Hribar, Chief Executive eircom Group; Joe Schmidt Irish head coach; and Simon Boucher, CEO IMI, at the IMI National Management Conference “Game Changers for Growth”, at Sandyford , Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 01:39

This is the strangest budget run-in for a long time.

Less than a week to go until Michael Noonan delivers his statement to the Dáil and the usual clamour and hype that go along with the build-up to the annual budget statement has been oddly absent.

The entertaining sport of ministerial kite-flying has proved a major disappointment. It seems the Cabinet’s powerful Economic Management Council has added air- traffic control to its list of specialities.

Meanwhile, the interest groups are only getting around to launching their pre- budget submissions, while the Opposition hasn’t been half as vocal as usual.

They’ve had other fish to fry in recent weeks. The major distraction of the Seanad referendum has given the government an easy passage to Budget 2014.

But it isn’t just the lack of a rising sense of panic that is unusual, it is also the demeanour of senior ministers, including the aforementioned members of the EMC.

All very bright and upbeat. Even inscrutable Michael Noonan, and the way he might slump in his seat, is looking confident.

It’s very worrying. What’s going on? Expectation management before the budget is supposed to involve dark hints of awful carnage to come. Then, when a cowering nation is expecting the worst, the Government inflicts a string of minor atrocities and claps itself on the back for showing such mercy.

For a man who suffered an electoral wallop on Saturday, the Taoiseach has been in great form all week. He had a great day yesterday. There was the slight inconvenience of Leaders Questions in the morning, and an EMC meeting in the afternoon, but he finished well with three lovely photos for his album.

That’s a result in Enda’s book.


Game Changers for Growth
The first one, we’ll get back to. The second involved a visit to Sandyford, Co Dublin, to the movers and shakers at the annual conference of the Irish Management Institute. They have a great welcome for themselves out there.

The title of this year’s beano is “Game Changers for Growth”.

Morto for them.

The Taoiseach made a speech. No big deal. Then it was down to business. He had his picture taken with Joe Schmidt, coach of the Irish rugby team. They posed and then had a little kick-about. Enda got a bang in the face with the ball.

Back at Government Buildings, he met a very special guest. Bill Clinton paid a courtesy call. There’s flash.

Enda loves American presidents. He was delighted with himself. Of course, they have a lot in common, these leaders of men. Clinton, the country boy from Little Rock, Arkansas. Kenny, the country boy from Islandeady, Mayo.

And they both still have a full head of hair.

The weather held up lovely for the photos.

But what about the first photo op? That happened early yesterday morning, before Dáil business.

We wouldn’t have known anything about it if it hadn’t been for the Seanad. Just two days back on the land of the living and the Senators are already proving their worth.

Senators Catherine Noone from Dublin South East and Paul Coghlan from Kerry alerted us.


Assorted musings
It was a routine order of business in the Upper House – speeches on worthy matters and assorted musings on things that caught their interest in the newspapers and on the television.

“I attended a breakfast this morning at which the former attorney general, Peter Sutherland, spoke,” announced Catherine.

“He had some very interesting things to say about the Government’s progress on the economy, which is somewhat underplayed.”

It sounded like a real power breakfast, the sort of one Game Changers for Growth might attend. Paul Coghlan was there too and came away mightily impressed.

“I heard that very eloquent address from Peter Sutherland. He painted a picture of Britain’s difficulties and the situation vis-à-vis Europe which, from our point of view, is extremely frightening.He went into it in detail, which we cannot do now.”

“What did he say?” asked Fianna Fáil’s Mary White.

“I can’t go into that now,” said Coghlan. “I’ll talk to Senator White afterwards. He said many things.”

But White was in no mood to be fobbed off.

“In a nutshell, what did he say? We can’t support you if we don’t know what he said.”

“I don’t need Senator White’s support,” sniffed Paul.

“How dare Senator Coghlan be so rude,” bristled Mary. “That was a disparaging remark.”

But Paul Coghlan was not giving any further detail. He asked that Sutherland be invited to address the Seanad “on the frightening situation for Ireland vis-à-vis Britain”.


Great ambassador
And who better to talk about his situation than Sutherland, who has been so successful in business.

“He is still operating out of London. He is extremely knowledgeable, he is a tremendous Irish man and a great ambassador for Ireland.”

But where was he?

We tracked down a photo. He attended a breakfast hosted by the Fine Gael branch for Dublin Bay South.

And Enda was there too.

You can’t get more flash in Fine Gael that Suds himself.

All together now: Oooh, Flash, Bang, Wallop, Taoiseach, what a picture, what a photograph . . .