Cantillon: Moody’s wary of prospect of Sinn Féin in government

What nobody in Government wants to talk about is that the expectation was Ireland would get its A rating last week and it didn’t

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams: Moody’s are not ruling out the prospect of Sinn Féin in government

The decision of Moody's to upgrade its outlook for the Republic from stable to positive last week will no doubt bolster the sense of self-satisfaction that is increasingly taken hold in Merrion St. It all feeds into the "best little country in the world to do bailouts" narrative and the spin being put on last week's announcement is that Ireland will shortly regain its coveted A rating from Moody's.

Ireland already has an A rating from Standard and Poor's and Fitch Ratings, but needs a similar rating from Moody's as well before the more conservative investors will buy Irish gilts.

What nobody in Government Buildings wants to talk about however is that the expectation was that Ireland would get its A rating last week and it didn’t.

However, Kathrin Muehlbronner, who leads the ratings company's Irish team was kind enough to share her reasons with Bloomberg; the size of the national debt and a looming general election. The point about the debt is kind of obvious. If the economy stops growing or shrinks, our debt will quickly become problematic.

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“The Irish economy is in a very sweet spot right now. If you have a very open, volatile economy, you should have bigger buffers if you want to shield yourself. Higher buffers equals lower debt,” she explains.

Her observations on the election are more interesting. “There’s the uncertainty surrounding the election and what sort of fiscal policy the next government will pursue,” she told the wire service.

This can only be interpreted as one thing: Moody’s are not ruling out the prospect of Sinn Féin in government. Any of the other possible combinations of parties could be expected to pursue pretty similar polices to those of the current coalition. This is only prudent given Sinn Féin’s standing in the opinion polls and the expectation now is that the A rating will not come this side of the election, due by the first quarter of next year.