Monday 19 March 2018

Noonan to bite back on Budget Day with a vengeance

Fine Gael Finance spokesman Michael Noonan
Fine Gael Finance spokesman Michael Noonan

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

He's back. Exactly 10 years ago today, Michael Noonan got to his feet as opposition finance spokesman to give the first response to Charlie McCreevy's latest giveaway budget.

It was the 11th time as Fine Gael finance spokesman that he let rip, stretching from 1987 to 2000 and bust to boom.

Tomorrow, with a lot of water under the bridge in the meantime, Mr Noonan will be back centre stage for a repeat once-off show just as soon as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan sits down.

In full flow, the Limerick East TD has produced some of the most memorable appraisals of budgets, combining his dry wit with sharp analytical skills.

At his best, his commentary captured the intrigue of the dying days of the Charlie Haughey era in 1990 and 1991, but he also immediately spotted the divisive tax individualisation flaw in Mr McCreevy's infamous Budget 2000.


Littering his speeches with literary references, Mr Noonan has drawn on colourful quotes from Brendan Behan to Mark Twain to Cervantes.

The former Fine Gael leader admitted yesterday that not all his material was off-the-cuff but he doesn't know yet what he's going to do on Tuesday afternoon.

"Bits I'd have prepared but a lot of it is in reaction to when they start slagging me," he said.

What comes across from his past contributions is a desire to see a properly planned budget.

After he used the phrase in Budget 1990 and Budget 2001, it might be time again to repeat that a "camel was a horse put together by a committee", which sums up his view that a budget should be cohesive.

Mr Noonan says the situation is comparable to Ray MacSharry's savage budgets of the late 1980s. "MacSharry came back with a wider view from his period in Europe. Once he saw what had to be done, he just did it, and there was great consistency in his budgets," he said.

However, Mr Noonan said it's too late for Mr Lenihan, whose fiscal correction he regards as well-considered but his banking strategy a fiasco.

"If his mistakes were little ones, they could be corrected. But his mistakes -- although well-intentioned -- have left monsters behind," he said.

The present political climate with an imminent general election, tensions between the coalition partners and doubts over the Fianna Fail leadership echoes the early 1990s.

Mr Noonan says there'll be plenty of material but he'll be more cautious. "My top priority at the moment is not to frighten people," he added.

Apart from the ministers and TDs, presumably.

Irish Independent

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