Monday 15 July 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Donohoe must figure out Boris before figuring out spending sums'


Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

You could travel the world and struggle to find two people more contrasting than Boris Johnson and Paschal Donohoe.

The future UK prime minister has cultivated his image as a bombastic straight-talker who has a total disregard for criticism.

The other likes to be seen as a friendly but somewhat low-key minister who is open to others' opinions.

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Our Finance Minister is carefully monitoring developments in London as he prepares the Summer Economic Statement for tomorrow's Cabinet.

The British newspapers over the weekend made for some great reading. Headlines on the battle between Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt included: "It's the blond leading the bland. And don't mention the red wine on the sofa."

But there was a profile of the likely next prime minister in the 'Observer' which probably best summed up the situation. It read: "The problem with Johnson? You never know what can happen next."

It explored the idea that Johnson's 'Back Boris' team had worked so hard during the first week of the campaign, only for him to go home and wreck it on Friday night.

But the former mayor of London's unpredictability stretches well beyond the threshold of his girlfriend's apartment.

It is often forgotten he was relatively late to get on the Brexit bus - but there is a broad perception he will say whatever is politically advantageous at that moment in time.

This will make life very difficult for the Irish Government, which has spent three years trying to establish certainty in a world gone mad.

A few weeks ago, Johnson seemed certain to take the UK crashing out of the EU at any cost. Now he describes the October 31 deadline as "eminently feasible".

"Eminently feasible means it's not only that we are going to do it but that it's possible to do it because it's eminently feasible. Of course we can do it," Johnson said.

Despite his definition, the language was clearly designed to insert some ambiguity into his position. He was leaving himself some wriggle room in case the UK parliament blocks a no-deal scenario.

Back here, Donohoe is taking no chances. He plans to essentially run a two-track budget strategy while he, along with the rest of us, tries to figure out what's going to happen. The likelihood is that the next steps won't be decided until the hours before the Halloween deadline.

Senior Government sources say that means we're having a Brexit budget. This may not be the worst move politically as most people support Fine Gael's approach to Brexit.

However, what if Donohoe gives us a penny-pitching budget and Brexit is postponed again? He claims we'll just have to live with it. That is unlikely to sit well with voters who want solutions to the health and housing crises.

He has three months to figure Boris Johnson out. That is no mean feat.

Irish Independent

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