Thursday 23 November 2017

Ebullient Enda must avoid hyping 'valedictory EU victory'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny turns the camera on Irish Independent photographer Tom Burke
at the formal opening of Shire’s new corporate HQ in Miesian Plaza, Baggot Street, Dublin.
Photo: Naoise Culhane
Taoiseach Enda Kenny turns the camera on Irish Independent photographer Tom Burke at the formal opening of Shire’s new corporate HQ in Miesian Plaza, Baggot Street, Dublin. Photo: Naoise Culhane
John Downing

John Downing

In fairness to Enda Kenny, his last deviation into EU victory rhetoric came at 4am after marathon talks in Brussels.

It was June 29, 2012, and the Taoiseach claimed a "seismic shift" in EU policy on giving Ireland back-dated help with some €40bn in legacy bank debt, lumped on to already distressed Irish taxpayers. He had the official conclusions of that EU leaders' summit to back his hopeful claim.

"The euro group will examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with a view to further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme," the summit's final document read.

The reality is that Spain and Italy had just been given a pledge that their taxpayers would not have to support their crocked banks, which would be partly supported by a new EU stability mechanism. But in essence Ireland had got an EU promise to see what could be done - not a cast-iron guarantee of help. And the help never materialised.

Almost two years later, Finance Minister Michael Noonan told a Dáil committee Ireland was recovering so well, we would be asking for help from countries paying more to borrow internationally. The opposition parties did not miss an opportunity to rub salt into the Government's wounds. Good government gains on lower interest and extended terms for the bank debt were a poor substitute in the public view.

This time, as Mr Kenny heads to Saturday's Brexit ground-rule-fixing EU summit, the stakes are way higher. Yet the mood music from Government Buildings is ever so ebullient - signalling Mr Kenny may be on the cusp of gaining exceptional EU measures to cushion Ireland from the Brexit fallout.

And yes, the signs are good, according to people close to the action in Dublin and Brussels. There is a belief that the broad terms concerning Ireland and Brexit, which were outlined by EU Council President, Donald Tusk on March 31, will be endorsed by the leaders of the other 26 member states at this summit tomorrow.

These terms include special recognition for the importance of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. There is also optimism that the EU may continue its generous grant aid to help underpin the North's fragile peace for some years to come.

The text will allude to "flexible and imaginative solutions" required to overcome Ireland's trade and Border issues. But - here's the rub - it will also stress that any political devices invoked must be squared with existing EU laws. A long road of negotiation lies ahead.

This time Mr Kenny appears to be on a valedictory lap. His successor may be left facing the consequences.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section