Tuesday 25 October 2016

Noonan's high-risk crowd pleaser

Published 07/05/2015 | 02:30

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan is not old in the business of politics without good reason. Over 40-plus years in the cauldron that is Limerick politics, his rivals had reason to grudgingly acknowledge his sense of timing.

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So how does his old-style "on yer bike and get a job" message in Kilkenny last night measure up? Well, on the plus side, the Finance Minister was speaking to a "home audience," to the good burghers at the Chamber of Commerce, at least some of whom would be receptive to such a message.

We must also remember that this is an old-style Fine Gael message, delivered in part to local activists who Mr Noonan and his colleagues are trying to encourage to pound the by-election beat for their candidate, Cllr David Fitzgerald.

He also has a promising economic cycle in his favour. The slow fall in unemployment continues and so-called "full employment," something below 7pc, is in sight by 2018.

So, all in all, a good time, to have a right go at the workshy, those suffering a work allergy?

Well, before you march on that drinking den adjacent to your local dole office, ponder a few points. Ireland is still emerging from the worst recession in the State's history, in Mr Noonan's own words "a lost decade."

The specific timing is also interesting, on the day the Government advanced plans to deduct water charges from wages and welfare.

At time of speaking, one in 10 workers is still on the dole. Many workers are still fretful about job security and few had a pay rise in eight years. By his government's own admission, recovery has been thus far unevenly distributed and large swathes of the country remain in recession.

Ireland's employment story is now happily a very good one. But let's not rush to castigate those still out of work. How will Mr Noonan's tough message play to a wider audience in a general election year?

Irish Independent

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