Sunday 17 December 2017

Business as usual for Noonan

IF Michael Noonan felt like basking in the glow of another deal on Ireland's debts, he wasn't showing it yesterday.

On a day when EU finance ministers were set to approve in principle an extension of part of our bailout loan maturity dates, Mr Noonan was very much in business mode.

Arriving at the ministers' meeting in Brussels, he met reporters looking for more detail on the maturity extension. Instead, he first insisted on getting across what was on the agenda for the day in terms of new capital requirements for banks and caps on bank bonuses among other EU regulations.

Only after that did he discuss the maturities, but, in contrast to the triumphalism that followed the promissory-note deal last month, he was very low key as to what the deal means.

There are probably two reasons for this change in attitude, both related.

The Government was quite happy to let the belief that the deal would mean easier budgets in future to take root, and this caused ructions within the EU.

There was fury in Brussels and Berlin. Germany, where Angela Merkel faces elections in September, was privately outraged at such claims, while the EU's reserved economic chief Ollie Rehn was moved to come out publicly and say Ireland needed to "keep to the fiscal adjustment".

It's little wonder then that this time around the Government is dialling things back a little.

The other reason is tied to Ireland's presidency of the EU. As the chair of these meetings until July, Mr Noonan can't be seen to be relentlessly pushing his national agenda at the expense of EU business.

At a certain level he needs to be the impartial chairman. Little wonder he was in subdued form yesterday.

Irish Independent

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