Thursday 22 February 2018

Government has no intention of sticking to commitments

Some readers have been kind enough to take me to task for advocating a No vote. In fact, I will be reluctantly putting a cross next to the Yes on my ballot paper today.

While agreeing with the verdict of Commerzbank's economists who said last week that the fiscal compact is almost irrelevant, and despairing at the amount of government time that has been wasted on such a small issue, it does seem to me that this tedious campaign has been illuminating.

We now know that we have a Government that has no intention of sticking to the commitments made in recent years when it comes to austerity.

There is no determination to push through reform or cuts and every intention to keep borrowing merrily.

We also know that the Government is not above misleading the people.

While the Government's optimistic growth forecasts and prognostications about the small chance of another bailout always appeared foolish, it was easy to chalk this bravado down to a lack of experience and an appealing can-do optimism.

We know now that the Government is all too aware about the danger of another bailout; the entire Yes campaign seems to have been built around ensuring access to these funds rather than promoting the benefits of bringing spending under control.

Governments are allowed to be cynical but they are not allowed to mislead or simply stop communicating with the people.

That was Brian Cowen's mistake and it looks like it might be repeated in the years ahead by the current lot.

Michael Noonan's "jokes" about feta cheese were perhaps the campaign's nadir but there have been many other lows.

The reluctance of the entire high command; Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan or Phil Hogan to engage in debate has been startling.

No attempt has been made to argue that some sort of restrictions are necessary to prevent a replay of the last boom.

More importantly, no real attempt has been made to explain that the fiscal treaty is one small piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle that represents Europe's efforts to fix the crisis.

It probably would be worth voting No if one could be sure that excluding Ireland from the fiscal compact would exclude us from the ESM and force the Government to implement spending cuts but it is apparent that the Government is hell bent on borrowing at any cost so we might as well as do it as cheaply as possible.

But the real clincher is that a No vote would be misunderstood at a time when the international situation is more dangerous than at any moment since the 1930s.

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