Relief, if not debt relief, on last night of the proms
With all the twists and turns of a spy novel, the Anglo riddle was solved
It sounded more like the plot of a gripping spy thriller than the difficult story of a debt restructuring deal.
Working across borders and in total secrecy within “The Ring of Confidentiality”, Ireland’s elite Government team started slowly with Operation Dawn, then powered up to Project Red.
After long nights of planning, months of negotiation and a potentially fatal information leak in the closing stages, they finally landed The Anglo Irish Agreement, Mark II.
Garret FitzGerald delivered the first in 1985.
In a different twist to history, Enda Kenny produced the second one yesterday.
“Today’s outcome is an historic step on the road to economic recovery,” said the Taoiseach, commending the agreement to a packed Dáil.
“It has been a long and difficult slog to get to this point, but it has been worth it,” declared the Tánaiste.
In a game where winning can only be measured in degrees of separation from chronic financial pain, this was quite a result.
“This is no silver bullet to end all our economic problems,” cautioned Enda.
But under the circumstances, and to the great credit of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers Noonan and Howlin, they stuck to their task and came up with as good as it gets.
The blank faces and winded silence from across the floor said as much. (Even if a wan Peter Mathews, long-time critic of his Government’s debt reduction strategy, appeared more disconsolate than the Opposition.)
But as giddy relief spread through the benches around him, Enda Kenny looked absolutely shattered. It’s been a roller coaster week for him – from villain to hero in three days.
But now maybe we can understand why, in his distraction, he took his eye off the ball when framing his response to the Magdalene laundries report.
The Taoiseach’s requests for some short breathing space in which to deal with the issue make a little more sense now. His subdued reaction to the news on the promissory notes – when his party colleagues could scarcely contain their joy – was not all down to fatigue.
Even a congratulatory phone call on Wednesday night from Angela Merkel failed to improve his mood.
In the midst of the feverish action during that frantic late Dáil sitting, the German chancellor called the Taoiseach to convey her good wishes and support.
But then, the deal wasn’t done at that stage – although it’s clear now, now that people are free to talk, that the Cabinet was confident of success.
Agreement from the ECB didn’t arrive officially until midday.
At a press briefing after the announcement, officials from the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure, who have been working flat-out on the project for the last 18 months, had relief written all over their faces.