Friday 28 October 2016

Get us deal, Enda – and you'll get second term

Published 03/03/2014 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is as earnest and committed an individual as whoever has put their back into shovelling us out of the debt doo-doo with which we have been swamped.

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I like Enda, how could you not like him: he is a stand-up guy, he bit off more than a herd of hungry elephants could chew when he first got his teeth into the task of being Taoiseach at a time when the country was banjaxed by a combination of the FFers, and the 'kill the patient if necessary to pay for the cure' tactics adopted by the troika.

Well, they said it couldn't be done. They said we'd be swallowed up in a tsunami of toxic debt and the vultures and vampires of Wall Street and Frankfurt would feast on our collective carcass.

Enda, Michael Noonan, Leo and Richard and the rest of the Fine Gael frontbench, to their credit, have held this diabolical assault at bay for the moment.

Of course, the sacrifices of the ordinary man or woman who has borne the real whiplash of austerity, who is now almost senseless after seven years of cuts and flailing, do not feature in the script. The toll taken on Joe Public does not show on the record.

As I said, I like Enda – yesterday I heard him tell Aine Lawlor he would be flattered but nonetheless adamant that he would decline the job of EU president.

Sound man. He said he would not turn his back on the Irish people. Steady on, Enda, I cautioned. You see, he is going all-out for a second term to finish the gig.

Well my point to Enda is this: the people who voted for you have given everything they have. What they now require of you is to go to Europe, not as EU president accepting a token trophy for saving Europe's banks, but as the leader of a people who will not be cowed.

Brussels promised retrospective action on the bank debt. Enda, you must now go and make good on that deal.

When you return triumphantly with such a prize, I guarantee you will get your second term.

You will become that rare thing in Irish politics: a man who has delivered.




* At the weekend, the general viewing public were treated to a vision of the economic future of Ireland by none other than Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance. There was good and welcome news with NAMA managing to sell a large section of state assets at what some property experts believe is the bottom of our property crash, but we need to get moolah in so some credit is probably due to that somewhat secretive organisation.

One very worrying aspect of Mr Noonan's speech, however, was that he expressed a personal desire to see a third bank in the Irish economy to promote competition. The promotion of competition is an unarguable point and Mr Noonan deserves credit for this hypothesis. One glaring misnomer, however, is that the last time I was in one of my local towns I happened to see the following names over buildings that had holes in their walls for ATMs – Allied Irish Banks, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and PTSB.

Although a degree in finance or economics from Trinity, or any other third degree institution, escaped my errant youth, I did happen to go to an excellent local and rural national school. There I learnt a little bit of counting and the relationship between numbers, or mathematics as it is called, was bestowed upon my then childish intellect.

Now, maybe my teacher was wrong but it seems to me that there are currently four main banks in Ireland. And again I may be wrong but I was taught that two is not four. Then again I learnt the repetitive nature of history as well, so can one surmise that we will be treated to another late-night session of Dail Eireann to "save" two of the four banks and will the mortgage books then be offered en masse to vulture funds?




* Regarding buildings constructed with defects during the boom, there is not as yet any mechanism to prevent further Priory Hall debacles.

The practice in Ireland of granting Fire Safety Certificates in response to plans, supporting paperwork and a fee being supplied to a building control authority means that the certificate is granted before any construction has even begun, and quite without any verification during the build that the plans are implemented partially or fully.

Surely logic and safety demand that the Fire Safety Certification should only be issued following careful checks of the completed construction?

To allow such a dangerous loophole to unscrupulous developers and builders is to lead some into temptation to the endangerment of others.

Surely our legislators can block this loophole?




* No man had more influence in shaping our civilisation than Socrates. He was a stonemason who lived nearly five centuries before Christ. He fought as a foot soldier in two wars.

In the 5th Century BC, he believed in the One God, and he died for that belief. Because of his technique of questioning all the things that the Athenian society of the time took for granted, he was likened to a gadfly stinging a horse.

It got to the point where the ruling party could stand him no longer, and hauled him into court on trumped-up charges of blasphemy, denying and insulting the gods. Socrates was condemned to death by poisoning. He chose to take the cup of hemlock from his jailer and drank it.

Socrates obviously had faith. Was his faith essentially the same as mine? If not, why not? There is only one heaven. As knowledge advances, understanding deepens, and one's faith grows accordingly. Moral teaching has to have the capacity to deal with the moral problems of today, without being hidebound by former precedent. Remember the Lord's parable, warning against putting new wine in old wineskins.




* Recent events have demonstrated to the world potential dangers and ramifications of weakness in domestic politics and international relations. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes nice guys really do finish last and, when you are dealing with issues of security and stability, they usually do more harm than good.

Weakness can damage immensely a state's ability to do anything on the international stage, too. One need only look at the situation with regard to Britain and Syria. The vote in the Westminster Parliament against military intervention left Britain with no real leverage to deal with a man like Assad.

The current crisis in Ukraine will be the ultimate test for the West. If it chooses the non-violent route or indeed reneges on its defence commitments to Ukraine as outlined in a 1994 treaty, not only would it be a massive coup for the Russians, but it could also fundamentally undermine Western nations militarily, since if they won't fight then why spend money on the military, and also diplomatically, as reneging would destroy the credibility needed to forge any agreements of any nature. We would be left with toothless lions and clawless eagles to defend us.

The sad fact is that, sometimes, we needed to forgo speaking softly and instead wield the big stick. Playing hardball is, from time to time, the only way to do things.



Irish Independent

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