23 April 2011
So Enda goes to London to meet with Dave. The British Prime Minister has been all in a tizzy about whether he should wear a morning coat or a lounge suit at the Royal Wedding. Dave, you see, has a complex about appearing posh. He got a grip and opted for the tail coat. Perhaps he remembered that one of England’s greatest Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill, was the grandson of a Duke, and that ultimately you should judge somebody on their actions not their background. For a politician, looking good can be important but in a Prime Minister substance is what matters.
To be fair to the Taoiseach he is doing his level best to talk the talk. He is trying to persuade international investors that Ireland is open for business. Not to be outdone, Eamon Gilmore has been love bombing the diplomatic corps. He summoned them to Iveagh House to explain “ our very clear intention to engage more actively with the European Union, to take a much more active role in the European Union itself, in its functionings and its workings”. Bravo, sounds very worthy, and what craic to see him working so closely with Lucinda Creighton, our Minister for European Affairs. If anything illustrates how ideological differences have been papered over in this government, seeing this pair singing off the same hymn sheet has to be it.
Then back to Enda. As we well know, the Taoiseach is like David Cameron, conscious of his appearance. He has had a fondness for different haircuts, but when it comes down to the wire, he won’t give the senior bondholders a haircut. That Taoiseach is a matter of substance.
This week we have had the publication of Colm McCarthy’s report on the Semi-States, provoking much discussion on whether we should be selling the family silver. In simple terms it is appropriate to examine whether the State should rightly be engaged in certain activities and in this respect Colm McCarthy’s report has a powerful logic to it.
However, I think we should remember why this exercise is being looked at so actively by government. Minister Howlin spelt it out starkly. If there is a windfall, the EU and the IMF want it used to retire debt and as an afterthought if a viable case is made for job creation they will listen. That’s big of them.
Let’s look at the national balance sheet. We sell assets to pay down debt, so that bondholders who took a risk get their money back. Enda, these people must take a haircut, otherwise you will be wearing a morning suit to our economic funeral.