Thomas Molloy: It's time for Government to finally start governing
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan faces an almost forgotten problem – what to do with a windfall.
He could be forgiven for feeling pleased with himself, even if most of the credit belongs to the European Union which earlier this year allowed us to repay our debts over a longer period.
Mr Noonan is far too canny to forget he is opening a Pandora's box.
When this Government came to power, everybody understood the background and most accepted that the Government had no wiggle room. In a sense, the Government has until now been spared the hassle of having to govern.
Yesterday's comments were a sign that the Government will finally have to start. That will involve difficult choices. Neither Fine Gael nor Labour can deploy the troika-made-me-do-it gambit any more.
Not everybody agrees, of course. The International Monetary Fund made it clear (again) yesterday that it wants Mr Noonan to stick to the plan and take a further €3.1bn out of the economy in October.
With no troika from the end of this year and no credible pressure from elsewhere, it will be hard for Mr Noonan to keep a lid on pent-up demands from the Department of Health for new life-saving drugs or the Department of Social Protection for help for dying children or the Department of Justice for more gardai on the streets.
Nigella Lawson's father Nigel, who did Michael Noonan's job in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, once said: "To govern is to choose. To appear to be unable to choose is to appear to be unable to govern."
The Coalition is about to be reminded of this truism again.