Wednesday 28 September 2016

Some welcome clarity amid all the clamour

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Michael Noonan: 'Let the chips fall where they will'
Michael Noonan: 'Let the chips fall where they will'

In retrospect, it is oddly fitting that it was the Dublin man Arthur Wellesley who first said the words: "Publish and be damned!" He was, of course, better known as the Duke of Wellington.

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If events of the last few days in the Four Courts have shown us anything, it is that it is possible not to publish, yet be equally damned.

The clamour to criticise those who exercised caution, for fear of either defamation or breach of an injunction, reached breaking point as Justice Donald Binchy declared that the injunction granted to Denis O'Brien was never intended to restrict the reporting of Dáil proceedings.

Yesterday we also saw that the Government has agreed to appoint a Commission of Investigation into certain activities and transactions at IBRC - formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan made the call in the interests of "mounting public disquiet".

While the air may indeed be thick with claims and counter-claims, Mr Noonan also noted that there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

In making his announcement, he said: "Let the chips fall where they will." Chips, as we know, are laid down by gamblers when they step up to the roulette table; and in all these matters the stakes could not be higher.

Yet matters of public importance cannot be decided by the role of a dice. It should also be noted that truth is not best measured by levels of public disquiet.

Probity and honesty in public life and business are essential. Matters such as the public interest, Dáil privilege and personal privacy also go to the heart of any democracy worthy of the name. When their meaning is unclear, there is no meaning. Therefore, they must always be clearly defined, without ambiguity.

Where any wrongdoing has been revealed, we must also demand justice. But unease is not evidence and until all matters have been examined, we must all suspend judgment. There is quite clearly a balance to be struck between maintaining parliamentary privilege and ensuring that it is not abused. And judgment must always be reserved until the facts are fully established.

Economic alarm bells simply must be heeded

'No real plan" and "too optimistic" sounds like a worried parent fretting over a wayward teenager setting off with great foreboding to sit their maths exam. Alas, it's a lot more serious than that.

Those were the words used by the national economic watchdog in its analysis of Finance Minister Michael Noonan's much-vaunted Spring Statement.

Apparently, he's failed to factor in our ageing population or tax cuts. Were any of the students sitting the Junior Cert as jaunty with their calculations, they'd be heading for repeats.

The assessment by the Fiscal Advisory Council could hardly be more withering.

"As we look further ahead, there isn't really a plan at all," warns council chairman John McHale.

Simply put, the council bluntly questions the credibility of the Government's outlook.

This country has paid a terrible price for failing to plan and any alarm bells suggesting that we could be back on the same road must be heeded.

Irish Independent

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