Monday 23 October 2017

Negotiating in public is damaging country's credibility

THE Government's efforts to renegotiate the terms of the promissory notes and other bank-related loans have recently lurched from plain embarrassing to self-destructive. This has to stop before the country's credibility is completely wiped out.

There is no link between the fiscal compact and the promissory notes except the imaginary links conjured up by the Yes campaign. That was fine for domestic consumption but should not be repeated now the referendum is over. To suggest to German chancellor Angela Merkel, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny did during a telephone conversation on Friday, that there should be some sort of payoff for the Yes vote shows he has spent too much time campaigning on Mayo's doorsteps and not enough time thinking about the problem.

In our debased political system, it is still normal for voters to elect national politicians in return for local favours but this is not how it works elsewhere. By trying to link the fiscal compact with the promissory note issue, Mr Kenny has turned himself into a caricature of the floating voter who offers his vote in return for a medical card.

The Government is right to push for some sort of deal, although it would help if there were some specifics, but the pushing should be done behind closed doors rather than through the megaphone diplomacy favoured by Mr Kenny. The talks about talks by officials in Brussels have been allowed to falter while the cabinet did not even discuss the issue on Tuesday. Mr Kenny has also repeatedly failed to raise the topic at the numerous summits which have been held since he first first announced his intention to renegotiate the debt. Instead, he plans to write a letter.

If the repayment of €3.1bn a year is too trivial a matter for the many summits held over the past few months or the cabinet, it is certainly not worth raising in a bilateral with Chancellor Merkel. It is time for Mr Kenny to say clearly what he wants and then attempt to get it through diplomatic channels rather than constantly banging on about it in public. One of the lessons of the bust is that countries, companies and individuals which under-promise and over-deliver are the ones that flourish.

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