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Fionnan Sheahan: Blunt Noonan refuses to sugarcoat economic ills

VOTING in the 2011 General Election, with the deficit overhanging the country, is like going to the dentist in extreme pain with a rotten tooth.

Brian Lenihan has already stuck the big syringe into your gum, chipped away at the nerve and told you "the worst is over."

But the pain remains as bad as ever.

Micheal Martin is offering a new diet and healthier lifestyle -- ignoring the fact you followed his regime and that got you into trouble in the first place.

John Gormley tells you if you had followed his advice all along, you wouldn't be in this predicament.

Gerry Adams says you can keep eating Mars bars and everything will be fine because the pain will just go away.

Eamon Gilmore says it's about getting the rest of your teeth working.

And then there's Michael Noonan. He's pretty blunt.

He's holding a pliers and a drill and telling you it's going to be extremely painful but until you pull the tooth, your overall health simply won't improve.

Which dentist do you trust?

"It's going to be dreadful," Mr Noonan warned yesterday, referring to the measures needed to repair the public finances.

The outcome of the general election is coming down to a choice between a Fine Gael single-party government or a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

The rise in Fine Gael's support over the course of the campaign has thrown out the notion the result was pre-determined.

Fine Gael's dual approach to voters on economic issues appears to be paying dividends.

Mr Noonan yesterday explained there are two categories of voters out there.

There's the voter who acknowledges the deficit is the biggest problem facing the country and has to be reduced to create jobs and get the economy growing again.

And then the other voters who are concerned about their back pocket and the provision of services.

Each side is concerned about the public finances in their own way and wants them addressed.

In a stream of consciousness yesterday, Mr Noonan eviscerated the Labour Party argument against Fine Gael.

He used the views of independent analysts to dismiss Labour's claim of a black hole in the economy.

Then he turned on Labour itself and their negative advertising against Fine Gael.

Labour's decision to give out about his party's €1 VAT increase on wine was treated with particular scorn.

"To be taking ads in the national papers, deploring the fact that the big bad wolves in Fine Gael are going to put an extra euro on a bottle of wine and destroy your standard of living seems to me to be derisory.

"I can't understand how the Labour Party have got themselves into a position where they are criticising Fine Gael for putting a euro on a bottle of wine," he said.

He pithily noted it wasn't "jumping out the doors of Garryowen" and suggested it was, perhaps, a "Castleknock issue".

"You'd have to ask Leo."

Mr Varadkar was at the back of the room yesterday.

The apprentice has learned well from the master.

Irish Independent