Wednesday 29 January 2020

Gene Kerrigan: With one leap, Noonan turns into our very own Clooney

Enough of the leftie cynicism -- Enda and the Finance Minister were right all along, writes Gene Kerrigan

WHAT an achievement! And what timing! They said it couldn't be done. But Michael Noonan -- what a guy! The charmer weaved his magic and the European Central Bank -- well, things got a little steamy, apparently.

Let's just say, when Michael let them see the oul' twinkle in his eye, the ECB made a mewing noise, shook loose its hair, ripped off its blouse and threw itself at his feet.

Michael Noonan -- the George Clooney of Limerick.

As you can see, I've been drinking deeply of the potent brew concocted by my media pals over the past couple of days. It seems that our leaders won a tremendous victory that will save us billions by patiently cajoling our European friends to restructure the promissory-note arrangement. (That's the set-up through which we piss away tens of billions to the Dead Bank Formerly Known as Anglo.)

And the announcement last Thursday of this tremendous victory allowed Enda Kenny to sweep triumphantly into his Ard Fheis this weekend at Johnny Ronan's National Convention Centre. Behold the great leader who vanquished the evil Fianna Failures and restored stability to the nation.

Let me calm down for a moment, then we'll examine that magical deal. Breathing the intoxicating fumes of the media's hero worship can warp one's judgement. And in recent times Enda has been revered in tones that were once reserved for the Teflon Taoiseach.

Remember him? The guy to whom nothing would stick? The Bert? That guy currently scurrying down alleyways in Nigeria with a brown paper bag over his head?

Big, deep breath -- yes, I can feel perspective coming back.

Below, we exclusively publish a verbatim transcript of the negotiations that won this tremendous victory for the Limerick charmer. But let us first admit that Enda Kenny has won. Fine Gael has triumphed.

It's traditional on the Left to treat every disaster as a temporary setback that will make our eventual victory all the sweeter. The truth is that on a range of issues on which we sceptics took one side, Enda took the other and in every clash he won over the public.

We said the bank guarantee was a disaster, Enda voted it through, and now treats the bankers as guardians of the nation's soul.

We said our national debt was manageable, but that the banking debt would sink us. Enda and his pals said it was the other way around.

We said the ECB/EU/IMF takeover wasn't a bailout, it was a stitch-up. Enda was grateful to our European friends for rescuing us from the bungling of Fianna Fail.

We said the purpose of the takeover was to ensure that Anglo and other dead banks could continue paying their debts to German and French bankers -- with the debts piled on to us citizens at extortionate interest rates. Enda said we all went mad and bought 15 houses each -- or words to that effect.

We said the priority was to protect jobs, rather than the bankers. Enda said we must do as our European friends demand.

We said that austerity policies in a recession would damage the domestic economy and cause more job losses. As the shops and services pulled down the shutters, Enda said austerity would increase confidence in Ireland.

We said the billions in the National Pension Reserve Fund should be used strategically to protect the real economy. Enda gave them to the bankers.

On each such issue, Enda's party cheered him on. Labour patted him on the back. Fianna Fail just sat there, stunned. The media praised Enda's wisdom. And the citizens said -- well, not much.

But when pollsters asked, they said: "Ah, he's a nice man and sure, they have a gun to his head and we wouldn't want to see trouble on the streets, would we?" Or words to that effect.

And, so it goes with this promissory-note game.

The overall strategy of the Government is, as several ministers have put it, to "wave goodbye to the IMF". Fianna Fail was destroyed when it handed over sovereignty to external powers. Fine Gael and Labour have concluded that if they can take sovereignty back as soon as possible, they will dominate Irish politics for a generation.

Thus, they will accept as national debt any gambling debts run up by reckless Irish and German bankers. They will accept any deal, any treaty, the insertion of whatever Ms Merkel wants into the Irish Constitution. The consequences for Irish citizens are secondary to the primary aim of "waving goodbye to the IMF".

By remaining supine, harmless and submissive, they hope that they can cajole and charm the ECB/EU/IMF into giving us some kind of break on the debts that aren't even ours anyway.

Thus, for the past few weeks, we heard all about the complex negotiations with the ECB. Were we telling them we won't pay debts that are not ours? No. Were we demanding a write-down of that debt? No.

We wanted some sort of trophy to impress the Ard Fheis. To give the household-charge campaign a boost. And to head off any dissident voices on the May referendum on the Treaty for Permanent Austerity.

Here's how the Noonan victory was perceived in Dublin. The Irish Times: "Government wins EU backing to defer €3.06bn payment".

And: "Fine Gael has helped restore national stability and confidence."

RTE, quoting the folksy Michael Noonan, as though he was accurately assessing what had happened, said: "We mightn't have won the All-Ireland, but we've beaten Tipperary."

On the other hand, here's how the Financial Times's reporter in Frankfurt saw things. "The ECB gave the announcement a lukewarm greeting. . . stopping far short of endorsing the move."

And in exactly what terms did the ECB "back" the alleged deal? Here's what it said: "The ECB takes note of today's announcement."

As the Financial Times put it: "Although Dublin said it had secured the ECB's agreement, Thursday's move will be seen with scepticism in Frankfurt because of the increased longer-term costs to Ireland and fears that its Government was acting for reasons of short-term expediency."

Expediency? Our Enda?

Now for that exclusive and complete verbatim transcript of negotiations. They were conducted at the Is Feider Linn Spa and Health Resort in the Swiss Alps. There, Michael gave Mario Draghi a soothing massage, as the ECB head agreed to consider Mick's request.

Noonan: "Sir, I was wondering if . . ."

Draghi: "No."

So Michael borrowed the €3bn from Bank of Ireland in return for a Government bond -- except Bank of Ireland can't lend the money yet, so Nama is fronting the cash.

What, I hear you ask, is the bottom line?

Well, Michael says we've avoided borrowing €3bn from the EU. By borrowing €3bn from Bank of Ireland. Which will earn several tens of millions in interest. And, later, we'll have to pay the €3bn to the Dead Bank Formerly Known as Anglo anyway.

Eh, it just occurred to me. Last year, Bank of Ireland lost €190m. And €950m the year before. Where did the bankers get the €3bn to lend us?

You've heard of recapitalisation? We gave it to them.

Sunday Independent

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