Full marks for Enda and his brass neck

After spending a year and a half defending scheme which was scrapped this week, descriptions of what Kenny’s Government was going to do now don’t inspire confidence

Peter Mathews:  he is not  a member of  the  banking inquiry but  he believes himself to be something of an authority on financial matters.   Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Peter Mathews: he is not a member of the banking inquiry but he believes himself to be something of an authority on financial matters. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


We are not going to adjust our adjustments just yet because it’s just too early to be doing any adjusting. We have to do a proper reading of the national accounts first.

Then, when Jupiter is transiting through the House of Capricorn and the Fiscal Compact rises through the House of Europe, Michael Noonan shall consult the Calendar of Convergence to obtain a structural balance in the medium term by 2018.

It’s quite simple, really. “Under the treaty, the European Commission sets out what they call the Calendar of Convergence – and not the Irish authorities as suggested by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, ” explained Enda, reading from a script. “The Government’s fiscal adjustment plans are in line with the requirements of the new fiscal framework.”

Although we’ll be doing the bare minimum within it, apparently. And that’s it in a nutshell from Enda. We have four more months of this to endure, as Independent TD Catherine Murphy helpfully reminded us in the Dáil yesterday. “We are now into budget season,” said the deputy for Kildare North. Which is even longer than the panto season. God help us.

The Taoiseach looked tired when he took Leaders Questions. Perhaps it was because he was on the back foot again, still apologising over the discretionary medical cards debacle.

Following his better-late-than-never act of contrition over upsetting so many people by removing their cards, the Opposition followed up with more questions.

A sullen Enda repeated that the HSE is working “flat out” to make sure 15,000 people got back their cards. However, both Micheál Martin and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pointed out that these individuals were still out of pocket as a result, while many more deserving cases fall outside the new parameters being considered by the Government. What’s he going to do about that? This served to sour Enda’s mood, particularly as Micheál kept accusing his Government of “incoherence and inconsistency”.

Unfortunately for the Taoiseach, after spending so much time (a year and a half) stoutly defending the scheme which was finally scrapped this week, descriptions of what his Government was going to do now to make things better don’t inspire confidence. This crowd can happily argue black is white, so they need to start winning back some credibility.

Enda tried to fight his corner, protesting that they had been trying to make the situation fairer. By centralising the system, they could see how some people were getting cards while others, in similar circumstances but different locations, were not.

“So you decided to take them all away,” interjected Mattie McGrath, niggling away as usual. Enda, irritated by the running commentary from Mattie, snapped: “Stick with your Scrap Metal Bill, you!”

While this was going on, Peter Mathews, who is not a member of the banking inquiry, was sitting across the aisle from Joe Higgins. Joe is the committee’s newest member, having jumped at the opportunity to join in a strange show of solidarity with fellow technical group member Stephen Donnolly, who quit on a matter of principle.

Capitalist Peter was making cow eyes at Socialist Higgins, who will surely be in need of advice from the banker Mathews. Peter won’t mind us telling you that he believes himself to be something of an authority on financial matters.

Meanwhile, Catherine Murphy followed up her question on the budget season with one on the state of the local election coffers. Catherine noted that Fine Gael had made a number of promises before the recent elections and she wondered how, and when, it was going to make good on them.

There was big talk of a 15 per cent reduction in the property tax , for example, when the Government is slashing funds for local authorities. “Fantasy economics” was her assessment.

Not at all, said Enda. Newly elected councils had yet to set their budgets, so it remained to be seen if those reductions could be made.

Catherine was deeply unimpressed. “Taoiseach, on the one hand you tell me that it’s too early to know what the figures are for the budget, but that didn’t stop you making a promise, a promise that people took at face value.

“If you walked down the street here and you looked at a shop and saw there’s going to be a 15 per cent reduction, and you went in and there was one small rail of something with a 15 per cent reduction, you’d be a pretty disappointed customer and you probably wouldn’t return to that shop.

“This is the kind of thing that gives politics a bad name.”

Not at all, said the Taoiseach. Fine Gael said it would not increase commercial rates and would reduce property tax, but only if budgets allowed. However he thanked Catherine for referring to those members of the Opposition who gave politics a bad name by refusing to accept water charges, commercial rates or property charges while expecting full services.

“I agree fully with the deputy that this kind of politics gives everybody a bad name . . . I thank the deputy for her comment about people on the other side of the House giving politics a bad name. I agree with that.”

After his antics last week on the setting up of the banking inquiry, that’s a big 10 out of 10 for Enda for brass neck.

No wonder he was smiling.