Monday 11 December 2017

Credit overdue for two men who brought Ireland back from brink

Debt of gratitude: Michael Noonan, left, and Enda Kenny, pictured at the Shelbourne Hotel for the formal announcement of the opening of the European Investment Bank Group’s first permanent presence in Ireland, in December 2016. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Debt of gratitude: Michael Noonan, left, and Enda Kenny, pictured at the Shelbourne Hotel for the formal announcement of the opening of the European Investment Bank Group’s first permanent presence in Ireland, in December 2016. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Ajai Chopra

I first met Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan on November 25, 2010, when they were still members of the Opposition. As an early election seemed inevitable, meeting representatives of Opposition parties was an essential step for the EU and IMF teams in Dublin. The purpose was to gauge whether the economic objectives and policies underlying the planned financial rescue loan for Ireland would be called into question after an election. Without satisfactory assurances of the political will to implement needed policies even if the government was to change, it would have been difficult to proceed with the rescue.

Adequate assurances were received and three days after the meeting with Fine Gael representatives, and separate meetings with representatives of the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, the Fianna Fáil government, the EU and the IMF announced on November 28 that agreement had been reached on a financial rescue loan for Ireland.

At that first meeting, Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan emphasised that Fine Gael was committed to the central elements of the rescue programme, but that it would have its own proposals on certain aspects if it was in government. Notably, they believed more should be done to promote growth and that the bank resolution strategy put an excessive burden on the Irish taxpayer. They also stressed that more would need to be done to generate European solidarity, especially as the sustainability of Ireland's public debt remained in doubt. The fundamental tenet expressed by Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan was that the programme needed to work and that it needed to be fair.

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