Fionnan Sheahan: It will take a decade to escape from the yoke of FF
Published 29/11/2010 | 05:00
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen said last night that Ireland is "not an irresponsible country".
"We are a country that recognises its international obligations as a member of the euro area," he said, after signing off on an €85bn rescue package.
What about this Government's domestic obligations?
Unfortunately, this is a country that has been governed by an irresponsible government over the past decade.
Fianna Fail's reckless approach to managing the public finances and supervising the banking system will take at least a decade to recover from. The loans being drawn down from the IMF and the EU will take a full 10 years to repay.
During that time, the country -- regardless of who is in office -- will be subjected to a crippling repayment regime and have strict targets dictated by outside institutions, which must be met.
The party of power's insatiable appetite for staying in office for every last day it can grab on to has come back with a vengeance to bite it.
Fianna Fail had the prime opportunity to go to the people seven weeks ago when it was confirmed the Government would have to produce a four-year plan outlining the cuts and taxes required to bring the deficit under control.
Instead, Mr Cowen chose to keep his irreparably damaged Coalition in office -- a government that will now go down in history as needing to call for outside financial assistance to manage the country's affairs.
In mid-September, Brian Lenihan caused consternation when he unexpectedly threatened to cut more than €3bn in December's Budget amid EU pressure and ongoing efforts to reduce high borrowing costs.
Hours later Mr Cowen's infamous singalong performance at the Fianna Fail drink-in overshadowed these warning signs.
The lack of credibility in the Coalition's projections was horribly exposed the following month. 'Black Thursday' revealed the full bill -- so far -- from the black hole in the banking system, topping €50bn.
Within weeks, the Government was raising its adjustment of taxes and cuts for next year to €6bn -- double the original estimate -- as part of a €15bn package required over the next four years.
Last night, the 2014 deadline for reducing the deficit was officially extended to 2015 because the EU doesn't believe we can do it in the four years.
Returning to mid-September for a moment, on the day of Mr Cowen's think-in, it will be recalled that the Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny predicted that the mess Fianna Fail had made of the economy would take 10 years to clear up.
Senior Fianna Fail ministers scoffed at his suggestion. Then they went to the bar.
Mr Kenny, for all his detractors, was dead right.
Mr Cowen intends to go to the people in the New Year. Some in his party believe they can pull the wool over the voters' eyes by replacing him as leader and trying to hide their embarrassment under the cover of a new image.
Whether he is the leader or not, Fianna Fail will also be paying for at least a decade for the disillusioning outcome to its time running the country.