Tuesday 23 January 2018

The Spin Zone: Noonan goes on the attack to 'prove' he can't be wrong

Michael Noonan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Michael Noonan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It's a cliché but it holds true: When you're explaining, you're losing. Finance Minister Michael Noonan wasn't so much explaining yesterday as sending out a warning shot when he challenged the media and rival parties to "prove it" if they believe his numbers don't stack up.

He was bullish and almost seemed upset that people had cast aspersions on his ability to "keep the recovery going".

But Mr Noonan's 'fighting talk' came after days of confusion about how much money the next government will have at its disposal. Voters have been burnt by the 'wheel of fortune' approach to economic predictions over recent decades and even Mr Noonan, who many credit with steering the country through the recession, isn't immune from tougher scrutiny these days.

Political parties enter into an election much like a soccer team does the World Cup. You study the opposition's strengths and weakness but ultimately you can be your own worst enemy.

All it takes is one particularly bad day and you end up conceding a late own goal that puts you out.

Fine Gael has been lucky that their own goal has come very early in the campaign and no matter how much Mr Noonan says otherwise, questions over his figures have damaged their message.

His decision to come out fighting on the 'Fiscal Space' debate might not make him right, but it is likely to convince a few more people than the technical explainers that the party have tried over recent days.

For most people who dip in and out of the election coverage, it's often not about who's right and wrong but who you believe.

Fine Gael seemed so surprised that Sinn Féin of all people could get traction by pointing out anomalies in their Long Term Economic Plan that it took them more than a day to fully react.

For months Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expected to fight this election on his terms, but it's not that simple.

Still, after the initial hype that surrounded kick-off, Fine Gael has time to regroup and refocus.

There will be days when they dictate the news agenda and there will be days when they are on the back foot.

So while you can get away with a blip during the open salvos, everything now needs to start falling into place.

It might be time for a bit more 'fighting talk' and a little less sticking to the script.

Irish Independent

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