Saturday 21 January 2017

With his great power comes responsibility

The finance minister's health is not a purely private matter if his handling of economic challenges might be affected as a result, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

Finance: Questions asked of Michael Noonan. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance: Questions asked of Michael Noonan. Photo: Tom Burke

It's the economy, stupid. Bill Clinton's campaign manager in the 1992 US presidential election had that mantra pinned to his desk so that he never forgot what matters most in an election. It still holds true today.

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It's always about the economy. Look at the stories which are dominating Irish politics right now - the fallout from Brexit; alleged irregularities in the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland assets; the stand-off with the European Commission over Apple. Even the tension between Independent Alliance TD John Halligan and Fine Gael ministers comes down to a simple question of cash. In the good times, they'd have tossed some money Waterford's way to keep the locals happy. Now largesse is harder to come by.

It's this ability to tighten and loosen purse strings which makes the Minister for Finance the most important person in Cabinet, and which puts the character and well-being of any individual who holds that position in the spotlight. That Michael Noonan's health has now become a matter of gossip in Leinster House may be unfortunate, but it's hardly unmerited.

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