We must fight for a stable EU
Could the breakdown of negotiations in Brussels last week turn Ireland's presidency of the EU next year into a lame duck?
All year, Minister Coveney has been priming himself for an anticipated showdown on CAP reform during the six-month presidency that starts in five weeks.
But that was on the basis that there would be a budget agreed first. Every politician, be they an MEP or farm leader, has insisted that it is impossible to get down to brass tacks on the rules and regulations in Commissioner Ciolos's CAP reforms without a budget already in place.
However, this is a familiar scenario. Politicians never take tough decisions until they absolutely have to. When they met on Thursday, they all knew that there was the possibility of deferring a decision until January or February when they could meet up for another pow-wow.
But for Ireland, the urgency on getting an agreement is much greater. Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted as much on his way into the discussions on Thursday morning, when he told reporters that Ireland's EU Presidency would not have "much authority" if there was no agreed budget for the following seven years.
Of course, he had backed away from this stance by the time the talks ended. "We will embrace [the] work with the Presidency in a very real way and hopefully prove that we can run, as all governments in Ireland in the past, a really effective presidency."
Doesn't sound too convincing does it?
At this stage, we are hanging our hopes on the abilities of our Government officials and diplomats to pull off a series of hugely challenging political agreements.
In fairness, they do have form in this regard, having pieced together an agreement on the European Constitution during our term in 2004, a feat which several heavyweight states had failed to pull off before the Irish took a hold of the situation.
The worst thing that could happen though, is that everybody throws their hands up in the air and gives up.
Yes, financial pressures are forcing EU leaders into previously unknown territory in relation to budgetary cuts. And Commissioner Ciolos's proposals won't suit everyone.
But the big picture of building a stable and equitable Europe is a prize worth fighting for. Ireland now has a key role to play. It's time to step up.