Michael gets his best ideas from under the stairs
THE conference hall, which was full of Europhiles, Euro-geeks, Euro-economists and whatever euro having eurself, awaited Michael Noonan's answer with interest.
The Finance Minister had been asked how he would deal with the unexpected – if he had a contingency plan in the event there should be some sort of eurozone disaster.
"When I was a kid I used to go under the stairs, you know," he confided to a puzzled room, before adding with a guffaw: "I haven't worked out a better strategy since."
He brought the house down altogether. And the lucky Eurofolk have six whole months of Knockabout Noonan to look forward to when Ireland takes over the presidency of the EU on January 1.
Unfortunately, it now looks as if Ireland will be stuck doing the hard yards on hammering out agreement on the €1 trillion long-term EU budget. For despite an outbreak of more fevered haggling than one would find in an Arabian souk, the 27 EU leaders all trailed home without sharing a spit-and-a-handshake to seal the deal, effectively leaving Team Enda holding the budget baby
There had been an air of optimism emanating from the Finance Minister on the chances of a budget deal as he and several cabinet colleagues arrived at Dublin Castle for an IIEA conference to outline the priority policies of the Irish government during its six-month spell atop the EU throne.
Instead, we're stuck with the hairy end of the budget lollipop.
But the Irish presidency will be good news for some sectors, such as the hospitality industry, as it is estimated that over 15,000 officials, delegates and media will attend the various pow-wows over the six months.
Alas for the other 25 counties, this time around Dublin will receive the lion's share of the tourism loot as most of the action will be in the capital.
And there's a strenuous effort being made not to rack up eye-watering bills. Taxpayers stumped up €110m for the 2004 presidency.
This outing is estimated to cost €60m which "excludes security costs", according to junior minister Brian Hayes.
Aha – but what about all those gardai minding the visitors? Surely they'll cost a few bob? Uh-oh. Expect to hear quiet sobbing from under a staircase, sometime next July.