Twenty-twenty vision of Gobbledegook


The Government unveiled a six-year Strategy for Gobbledegook yesterday.

Their 20/20 vision.

It wouldn’t pass muster in Specsavers.

Clear as mud.

People at the launch dutifully felt their way around the flimsy document, but couldn’t discern a thing in it. The strategy was all spin and no substance.

Nevertheless, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste considered it so marvellous they held a press conference in Government Buildings and brought the Howlin-Noonans along to share the moment.

“We are moving in the right direction,” declared Enda.

“It’s only a stepping stone on the path,” added Eamon.

But ultimately people “will see some payback”.

That’s a bit down the road though.

How long down the road? They couldn’t say.

How will payback be achieved? They couldn’t say.

What specific measures will the Government be putting in place to make everything better? They couldn’t say.

With all this talk of pathways and roads, anything concrete to show us?

Not really.

For now, it seems all we need to know is that the Government has put together an ambitious programme of aspirations which will help us to achieve a lot of


“We are serious in our ambition to achieve it,” writes Enda in his introduction to the Medium Term Economic Strategy: 2014 - 2020.

They are also serious in their ambition to achieve a second term in government with this plan.

“It is a road map for the Irish economy,” claimed the Taoiseach.

Yet another one.

Sadly, the nation’s glove compartment is stuffed with them.

The striking lack of any detail in this latest offering would suggest that if the Taoiseach and Tánaiste intend using it as a road map, they’ll need a couple of guide dogs to help them along the way.

Brace yourself.

Because here’s the plan in a nutshell, as helpfully summarised in the document’s concluding chapter on policy actions: “This strategy provides an overarching, high-level, integrated whole-of-Government framework to drive and facilitate the development of appropriate sectoral and horizontal policies which will be refined over the next few months to take account of this strategy.”

That’s genius.

With graphs.

Thanks to their much-hyped launch, Enda and Eamon and the Howlin-Noonans – the four men who make up the country’s powerful Economic Management Council – managed to say nothing, but with style.

The strategy, of course, is very proactive.

“Government will monitor performance of relevant plans and initiatives on an ongoing basis including through its cross-cutting mechanisms such as cabinet committees.”

This is the sort of waffle to put you right off your pigeon.

The platform party was late, which gave the media even more time to discover there is nothing new in the new strategy.

We could hear the Big Four of the EMC laughing behind the backdrop before they beetled in for the press conference; the Taoiseach and Tánaiste giggling at each other, the Howlin-Noonans sloping in behind them.

Enda began with the obligatory expressions of gratitude to the people for making “a lot of sacrifices” for the good of the economy.

The new plan “honours those sacrifices”, said Enda.

“It’s about staying the course.” That’s true.

Election slogans

The Tánaiste began by thanking the Taoiseach and thanking everyone in the room for turning up.

The purpose of the document “is to provide a framework for the next step forward”, said Eamon, underlining the feeling that they all seemed determined to speak in election slogans.

Then he took the famous pathway off in an exotic direction, suggesting we should consider doing a lot more business in China.

“What we have to do now is drive on from here,” he resolved.

Somebody better tell him the petrol bill will be bigger than the bailout.

In an understandably dull question-and-answer session, the Taoiseach explained away the vague nature of some of the figures in the programme with: “It’s difficult to tie them down accurately”.

But he can confidently say there are definite signs of movement in the domestic economy. “I had the privilege of turning the sod on Grangegorman the other day.”

Did he dig with the same shovel used by Biffo and Bertie?

The Minister for Finance whispered his way through the proceedings. This made it very difficult to hear him, which – in light of the lack of hard information – could have been Michael Noonan’s intention.

The Minister for Public Expenditure spoke of “a people’s dividend” but didn’t elaborate. Brendan Howlin also introduced us to the “expenditure horizon”.

Enda, in the interests of accuracy, pointed out that this plan is actually a framework.

The Taoiseach drew an imaginary square in the air with his hands. “This is the overall structural framework,” he said.

Christmas gift

It was then announced that both he and the Tánaiste had to leave. They ran off the platform. Enda gave Brendan a thump on the back as he passed.

We could hear them laughing behind the scenes.

The press conference fizzled out soon after that.

“Okay fellas, thanks very much,” said Noonan and he sauntered off.

“Happy Christmas! Relax!” said Brendan to the journalists, who were still wondering why they had been dragged from their warm offices to listen to a load of aspirational waffle masquerading as the Government’s 20/20 vision.

This bailout exit has been the Coalition’s Christmas gift to itself.

Yesterday’s launch was much ado about very little. But at least we learned that when it comes to milking an exit, this Government could give lessons to a dying swan.