News Fionnan Sheahan

Thursday 21 August 2014

Noonan's hunger for the fray is as sharp as ever

Published 17/10/2013 | 05:00

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THE adrenaline is clearly flowing for Michael Noonan. Fresh from a starring role at the Fine Gael national conference in his backyard last weekend and the delivery of a well-received Budget, the veteran Finance Minister is even planning to run in the next general election.

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In an interview with the 'Limerick Leader', Mr Noonan says he intends to stand for re-election, despite hitting 70 this year, and he indicated that he wants to remain as Finance Minister.

"My plan is to stand again and we will see what the fortunes of politics are then," he said.

With the general election expected in 2016, the minister will be nearing 73 when polling day comes.

But there's life in the old dog yet.

The former Fine Gael leader did leave himself a get-out clause though, with the possibility that he might have a rethink closer to the event.

"It's a bit early to make an announcement because we are only at the half-way stage of this Government but my intention is to carry on as long as the Taoiseach wants me to carry on as Minister for Finance and shortly before the next general election I will make a public announcement as to whether I am standing again or not. But at the moment it is my intention to stand again," he told the 'Leader'.

By flagging his future electoral ambition, Mr Noonan is sending out a signal to Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he feels his cabinet career is far from over.

After he guides the country out of the bailout, he has no intention of stepping aside in the reshuffle next year.

Announcing your retirement in politics is effectively like signing your own death warrant. Colleagues start treating you differently and you are quickly regarded as yesterday's man.

Mr Noonan is in no mood to put himself out to pasture.

Given his status as the steady hand on the tiller, Mr Kenny is unlikely to drop him anyway.

Mr Noonan is enjoying a second wind in his lengthy political career, which appeared to be dead in the water 11 years ago after the Fine Gael meltdown in the 2002 general election.

But he is now at the height of his powers.

Not suited to the 'hail fellow, well met' style of a party leader, which is more akin to Mr Kenny, he does fit the bill as Finance Minister at a time when the public needs reassurance.

Question marks have been raised about his energy levels and whether his strategy was working at an EU level, but he is ploughing on. He can point to the promissory note deal, the extension of repayments and the steady progression towards the exit from the bailout.

Not so long ago, there was ample speculation about the country needing a second bailout. Now the economy is returning to growth.

The Budget was a clever package as it offered something to some, while taking away from others.

Mr Noonan even finds time for a bit of local jousting with Willie O'Dea.

He'd surely miss that if he retired.

Irish Independent

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