Miriam Lord’s week: Low-key conga to celebrate the end of days

And they said they wanted a low-key exit


They haven’t gone away, you know. Our European overlords will still be maintaining a presence in Dublin. But that didn’t stop the Government marking Bailout Weekend with a bang yesterday. They said they wanted a low-key exit but fooled nobody. Ministers only stopped short of doing the conga around Merrion Square.

Good news announcements started rolling in from various departments. Every detail of the day was shoved up on twitter. A glossy brochure was produced, along with a fancy diagram charting the country’s progress from the assistance programme.

Pat Rabbitte and Michael Noonan were out on the national airwaves at the crack of dawn.

Pat spoke of “patient diplomacy behind closed doors in a number of the capitals in Europe” while raising tentative hopes for “an amelioration of the debt burden”.

The media blitz began in earnest with Richard Bruton’s breakfast meeting with the international press in Government Buildings. He was joined by representatives from investment agencies.

When they realised a journalist from South Korea was present, they nearly suffocated the poor woman with information about the Irish food industry making inroads in Asia.

There was cheese and ham on the menu. All day, in fact.

“As a farmer’s son, food is particularly dear to me,” said Richard.

The “benchmarking of the milestones” continued in another part of the building when Joan Burton held court next. She joined the chorus of colleagues praising the people for making sacrifices. Her department has done the divil and all for employment, she told the foreign journalists.

“For the benefit of the people from abroad, there’s a little known Irish phrase about ‘not losing the run of yourselves’,” she explained. “We’re determined not to lose the run of ourselves.”

Up in Co Louth, Enda was making a jobs announcement while posing for photographs in front of a flaming wall at the Glen Dimplex factory. His face and hands glowed red.

It seemed a clever way for the Taoiseach to illustrate how his Government has pulled the Irish economy out of the fire.

But he ended up looking like the devil, smirking through the fires of hell.

Back in Dublin, across the Liffey from the main action, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore made a big speech at the European Institute HQ to mark the lifting of the troika’s yoke.

The big draw of the morning was Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin’s press conference. Beaming for the cameras, the Finance and Public Expenditure kingpins exchanged hearty handshakes.

“The real heroes and heroines of this story are the Irish people,” said Noonan. “Fortitude and forbearance” chimed in Howlin.

But oh, marvelled the austerity twins in the throes of their bromance, they thought they would never reach this landmark.

Even if nothing much will change in the short term, they agreed. Except for perception, mused Noonan. We are in control of our destiny again. Not to be alarmist, or anything.

Howlin, meanwhile, directed some of the plentiful gratitude towards his Labour colleagues: “The most disciplined and thoughtful parliamentary party that I’ve worked with.”

Apart, one presumes, from the defectors.

Things are looking up domestically, he insisted. “Try to book a restaurant in Dublin tonight.”

In fairness, he probably deserves a night on the lash.

The international media kept asking why the people hadn’t rioted.

We held our democratic revolution through the ballot box, said Brendan.

That, and strong drink.

Afterwards, the pair joined Joan and Richard in the courtyard and walked along a line of reporters offering themselves up for interview. They had nothing new to say. It was the red carpet at the Oscars.

So Ursula Halligan tackled them on the burning question of the day: the New York Times story that people so hard-up in post-bailout Ireland they are eating pigeons.

Brendan, po-faced, replied that nobody should be forced to eat pigeon with our “robust social welfare system”.

Joan went off on a stream of consciousness about the New York Times writing about wild horses when the bailout started.

Michael Noonan didn’t know about shooting Dublin pigeons, however, he heard a story about American turkeys imported to Limerick after the war. But they “were wild and broke loose” and ended up in the Cratlow woods.

There was talk of people shooting them for the Christmas table, but he never saw any evidence.

Then Noonan went off to the German chamber of commerce for lunch, where they presented him with a medal. The least they could do. There should be one for the rest of us too.

In the afternoon, Minister of State for Europe Paschal Donohoe live tweeted the exit.

Keeping everything low key. No fuss.

Because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Oh, no.

Shoot the pigeons but bless those poor bondholders
And so, finally, to BED: Bailout Exit Day.

We have exclusive detail of the revised programme of events for tomorrow’s national day of observance, which will culminate in a televised state of the nation address by the Taoiseach.

It will take place at dusk in front of Government Buildings.

When all guests are in place, the ceremony will begin with a short ecumenical service next to the Christmas tree. A reading from the Book of Exodus will be followed by The Blessing of the Bondholders.

A guard of honour drawn from the senior ranks of the Central Remuneration Clinic will welcome members of the Public Accounts Committee as they take their seats.

After the arrival of Santy, the Taoiseach will step forward and throw three coins in the fountain to signify Ireland’s three years in the bailout programme and the part played in it by the troika.

The fountain will then be turned on and a colour party from the Defence Forces will fire a volley of shots over the playing spumes, shooting a few pigeons for the dinner later on.

Mr AJ Chopra, on behalf of the troika, will perform the Handing Over of the Sovereign to President Michael D Higgins, who will pass it to the Minister for Finance, who will then place it in the glass case which held Ireland’s family silver before the government sold it off.

It will then be pawned.

Ireland will be given back her purse.

It will then be pawned.

President Higgins will recite a haiku.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton, through the medium of interpretative dance, will show how the Coalition pulled the nation back from the edge of the cliff while seeking the path to recovery.

There will be speeches.

In a musical interlude, the Minister for Health will warble Dicey Reilly while juggling his deficit.

Popular duo The Howlin Noonans (backed by the Haddington Road Chorus) will perform a song made popular by tragic songstress Amy Winehouse: Back to Black.

When darkness falls, Army buglers will sound the Last Post while Mr Chopra removes his foot from the neck of the Irish people.

At the stirring sound of Reveille, a JCB will ceremoniously dump our crippling national debt in its place as the national flag is raised to full mast.

The Taoiseach will release a flock of pigeons to signify the heroic sacrifice that has been made by the citizens.

The colour party will shoot them down for distribution to the needy (New York Times please copy.)

Paddy O’Gorman will interview the citizens.

Finally, there will be a fly-past of jets carrying young emigrants to Canada and Australia.

The VIPs will then depart. Top-ups will be poured by the executives from the Central Remuneration Clinic at a reception afterwards.

Enda goes upstairs to his office to prepare for his speech.

Playing with fire: Enda’s big-night rivals
Enda Kenny has a tough television slot tomorrow night when he delivers his state of the nation address.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year extravaganza is showing over on the other side, while he’ll be clearing his throat to begin his address as the dust is still dying down after the final of the X-Factor.

Some viewers may prefer to stick with Mission Impossible on Channel 4. Others may be confused as to which is the most authentic version of Mission Impossible – the movie or the economic task facing the Taoiseach and his ministers.

Enda’s script will be scrutinised by his opposition counterparts. They will get their chance to reply on Monday night. RTÉ has allocated them speaking slots before and after the two main news bulletins.

The technical group has chosen Shane Ross to appear on their behalf.

Enda’s last state of the nation chat met with a lukewarm response, partly because it came across more as a party political broadcast for Fine Gael than a non-partisan exchange with the people.

Two years ago, the Taoiseach said to them: “Let me say this to you all: You are not responsible for the crisis.”

But the following month, he took himself off to Switzerland to the schmooze the fat-cats at the Davos World Economic Forum and declared the reason for Ireland’s financial crash was “that people simply went mad with borrowing”.

What will he say tomorrow night?

It’s a pity Love/Hate has finished its run.

Because we hear Enda has been practising his state of the nation sign-off in the mirror all week. His handlers are trying to dissuade him from doing it.

Go on. Just do it.

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