Wednesday 28 September 2016

Nicola Anderson: Noonan back on financial tightrope after Christmas bout of pneumonia

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Michael Noonan. Photo: Mark Condren
Michael Noonan. Photo: Mark Condren

'Yeah, these are a pretty good set of figures," Michael Noonan concurred, almost grudgingly.

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The Finance Minister looked a far sight better than he had before Christmas when he was last out and about, launching "something or other" at Baggot Street.

Journalists said he had looked far from well then. He appeared to be grey-faced and breathless.

He had spent Christmas "hospitalised", he said yesterday, matter-of-factly - almost casually throwing in that he'd had pneumonia.

"I had an illness over the Christmas," he said with some slight reluctance, in response to a question.

"It was a chest infection that failed to respond to antibiotics which developed into pneumonia."

He underwent a number of procedures and spent Christmas Day recovering in hospital.

"But I'm back on the road again now," he added robustly - even defiantly.

And back, indeed, he is, though still looking a little wan, and with a rattling cough that he allowed to sound just once.

"Hello, hi, guys," he greeted journalists as he entered the room at the Department of Finance for the End 2015 Exchequer Statement, walking a little more slowly than usual.

His eyes still held the tired and faintly haunted gaze of the patient in recovery.

Once he started talking figures, however, the old steely and unquenchable spirit and fine intellect came to the fore.

It's an almost impossible task to even attempt to be a popular Minister for Finance - but over the last five years, Michael Noonan has perhaps gone one better and has managed to become one who commands respect.

Relief

It has not been an easy tightrope to walk. But somehow he has managed it.

As the "Double Act" sat side by side, their relief was palpable that they had made it through to the other side.

Brendan Howlin's face was wreathed with smiles.

But Mr Noonan was quick to point out the caveats that always lurk behind the recovery. The effects of the closure of the Shanghai stock exchange are as yet unknown.

We may not do a lot of business with China, "but we do a lot of business with people who do a lot of business with China," he warned.

Nevertheless, things are on the up and Europe is growing again.

Mr Noonan again batted off any suggestion that our 12.5pc corporate tax rate might be under review.

"We're criticised by our competitors but your competitors always criticise," he hit back sharply.

But he said there was really only one risk to our recovery - and that's the level of debt, both sovereign and personal.

The shrewd tightrope walker has always at the back of his mind the yawning chasm below.

Irish Independent

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