Trick or treaty as bogeyman Noonan's scary talk sends shivers up the Shinners


It was like Halloween as gloomy weather echoed talk of Fine Gael trying to spook the electorate

TRICK OR treaty! It’s that time again, when haunted-looking politicians wander abroad and try to scare the living daylights out of innocent Socialists and Shinners.

Their big bogeyman is Michael Noonan. He’s trying to put the “frighteners” on people, said the Socialist Party at the launch of their campaign against the fiscal treaty.

MEP Paul Murphy formed this opinion after the Minister for Finance said that he would have to dramatically alter his plans for the December budget if the treaty was rejected. And he didn’t mean for the better.

Bogeyman Noonan is also putting the wind up Sinn Féin. He’s “waving a big stick” and making “very threatening soundings,” declared Mary Lou McDonald, shivering at the very thought when she took to the plinth to alert people to the menace of the marauding Minister.

It was like Halloween around Kildare Street; the dank and gloomy wintry weather providing a fitting atmosphere for all the talk of Fine Gael trying to spook the populace into voting in favour of the treaty.

Enda Kenny is very much geared up for a full four weeks of trick or treatying around the hall doors of Ireland.

“Fine Gael will campaign in every city, town and parish in the country in asking people to vote Yes,” he threatened at the launch of his party’s campaign in the Shelbourne Hotel.

The anti-treaty side will be hoping that the Taoiseach’s trick or treaty teams will be met on the doorsteps with a barrage of crab apples and monkey nuts or, failing that, an onslaught of opposition to the household tax and water charges.

“We are making no excuse for unashamedly linking water and household charges to the treaty,” said Deputy Clare Daly, who deserves praise for her candour.

There is a lot of dressing up going on in all the referendum camps. What the nation will vote on come May 31st is the Treaty on Stability, Co-operation and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.

But opponents of a Yes vote are going door to door with their “Austerity Treaty” while its proponents are parading around with their “Stability Treaty”. Journalists are stuck with the somewhat drab fiscal treaty. However, certain representatives of the print medium and some from the broadcast sphere have a cast of billionaires to add a bit of colour.

At least that’s what Joe Higgins indicated at the launch, as he endeared himself to the bulk of his audience from “the billionaire owned press”. He said they won’t give his side a fair shake.

The Socialist leader and Daily Mail columnist, presumably, has to hold his nose and think of the pay-cheque every time he submits an opus to Lord Dacre’s Daily Mail.

Dacre recently told Britain’s Levenson Inquiry that some of the views expressed in the Irish edition of his organ “make my hair go white”. Joe must have been most gratified.

According to MEP Murphy, when not dressing up as a howling Michael Noonan and scaring the children, the Government pulls on a Simon Coveney mask and pretends to be “nicey nicey”. “Scare tactics,” fulminated Mary Lou.

Given the keening emanating from the left, the launch of Fine Gael’s campaign was a disappointment. At the very least, we expected Noonan to lurch into the ballroom of the Shelbourne Hotel as The Monster Mash blasted from the PA.

But the No campaign’s very own Uncle Fester stayed in the shadows. Instead, nice Simon and Lucinda and even nicer Enda fronted the party’s opening press conference.

A relieved-looking Phil Hogan took up a position in the body of the hall, happy in the knowledge that Noonan was in the role of bully boy.

In tune with the number of syllables in his “tre-a-ty”, the Taooiseach pushed his three key reasons why he believes there should be a Yes vote: investment, stability and recovery.

In case people aren’t convinced of his determination to push the treaty through, Enda added that he was arranging a meeting with Eamon Gilmore and Micheál Martin today to discuss strategy. Meanwhile, both sides clasped the popular Dutch models to their bosoms yesterday.

Whether it was the collapse of the Dutch government or the views of French presidential frontrunner François Hollande, the two camps used them to their prop up their arguments.

But throughout this opening day of the campaign, one topic dominated: Noonan’s comment about the effect of a rejection on his next budget.

Both the Taoiseach and Simon Coveney did their best to explain his remarks, while the Minister sat in the hall with a big green Vote Yes sticker on his lapel. They spoke about a No vote damaging “confidence” which would affect growth projections. The journalists remained unconvinced.

“I’ll leave that detail to the Minister,” said Simon, eventually.

Back at the Socialist Party launch (held in a city centre wine bar, immediately dubbed a whine bar by the wags) Paul Murphy argued the “alternative to austerity is to vote No and to struggle for a change in policy”. And in the meantime? Deputy Higgins said the treaty had nothing to do with bringing in a tougher budget this year.

And the treaty has something to do with household and water charges? “It will be a massive blow to the Government’s plans to introduce further austerity.” God help us, we’ve another four weeks of this to go.

“Fine Gael will not involve itself in scare tactics,” vowed Enda.

“I think they’re dealing in sheer dishonesty,” sniffed Mary Lou, conveniently forgetting Sinn Féin’s misleading leaflets.

Trick or treaty? You decide.