WHATEVER the final economic deal is called, this relentless uncertainty has to be brought to a halt as soon as possible, by installing a sound financial foundation for our economy.
We have lingered and laboured too long in the shadow of the unknown. We have been told with apparent certainty that corners have been turned, that final figures on the banking black hole have been arrived at, only to watch as the sands of spin and double-speak shift from under our feet again.
A battered, bewildered and bemused population has become anaesthetised by the constant drip-drip of promise, pledge, claim and counter-claim, certain of only one thing: ultimately they and their children and possibly their children's children will feel the financial knife as the bills of the future pile up at our Government's door.
It is well beyond time to end the incessant roundabout. It is clear that, whatever the reasons, a substantial amount of money, in whatever guise, is needed to anchor this country and this economy. Otherwise the damaging downward spiral will continue with potentially devastating consequences. Let us not delude ourselves. We are at such a critical juncture that the very fabric of our economy and society is being stretched and strained to near-breaking point. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The Government may not like the prospect of others -- the EU, ECB and IMF -- peering over our shoulders to make sure we get things right. That may explain why Taoiseach Brian Cowen wants to propose an alternative way of going about creating liquidity in our banks. He wants the EU to act as a guarantor for Ireland but allow us to go to the markets for the money ourselves.
Either way there are going to be conditions attached. In the business world of gigantic sums of money, that should not as a surprise. However, they could come with massive implications for workers, the banks and our sacrosanct corporation tax upon which so much of our one-time wealth was founded and built.
The price of any bailout, rescue or self-help deal will be high. There is no avoiding that now. But it must be done before it gets worse.
Dwelling on how it has all come to this is a waste of time now. But dwelling any longer on taking the politically and economically tough decisions that have to be taken will be unforgivable.
So let us have clear language and clear leadership on this. There is no time for anything else.