Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was last week trying to send out three messages in one as he addressed Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty in the Dáil.
Having clashed yet again on the impact of inflation, Varadkar suggested that the cost-of-living crisis could last for years.
Firstly, under renewed pressure to intervene with an immediate budget, Varadkar wanted to convey that people should not expect too much from the budget when it does come, because the crisis could be prolonged.
Secondly, he also wanted to say the Government had already intervened with measures introduced some months back.
And thirdly, he was trying to convey that things could get a lot worse.
The messaging is somewhat mixed. What does the cost-of-living crisis lasting years actually mean? If inflation continued for years at somewhere between 7pc and 10pc, surely there would be a massive recession or enormous wage hikes?
But the Government’s own estimates are for economic activity to continue expanding.
If Varadkar means that for several years we will have higher inflation than we have had in the past 10 years or so, then surely much of this will be met with pay rises.
By trying to downplay expectations for the budget by saying it is a much deeper and longer-term global problem, it makes it harder to stand by upbeat economic projections and spending targets – including those due to be published in next week’s economic statement.
Reports that the Government is looking at holding the budget in September rather than October sound very credible. It would show that it acknowledges the urgency of this crisis, without pushing the button right away – as Sinn Féin has suggested.
Reading between the lines, much of the Government’s planning on this will depend on Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. The Government knows that if there are gas shortages in Europe this winter, all economic growth bets are off.
If that is somehow avoided, inflation will continue but will ease – and households will have to deal with the ongoing turn in the economic cycle, rather than the crisis of rationing electricity.
Offshore wind project Codling Wind Park has submitted its application for a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) to government.
This is the next step in the development of a large wind farm 13km off the east coast of Ireland, between Greystones and Wicklow town. The project is backed by French energy giant EDF and Fred Olsen Seawind.
Olsen has been involved in the project for some time with a 50pc shareholding, but EDF bought in early in 2020 when it acquired the interest held by developer Johnny Ronan, his brother Conor, and former Treasury Holdings co-founder Richard Barrett.
Their 50pc interest was split more or less evenly three ways. Accounts filed for Conor Ronan Offshore Wind Ltd show it made a profit of €11.1m on the sale of the stake in 2020 and paid out a dividend of €5.8m.
Given that the stake was valued at zero by the company in 2018, it suggests that Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett would also have received €11.1m each for their shareholdings in the wind farm project.
There had been speculation that their 50pc interest could go for €100m, but these figures point to a sale price of around €33m.
The MAC is a new regulatory requirement for marine-based projects, which came into effect following the enactment of the Maritime Area Planning Act in December 2021.
If Codling’s application is successful, it will allow the project to compete in the first Offshore Renewable Electricity Scheme (ORESS) auction, which is due to open later this year.
The Codling project is likely to be the first of many new offshore wind developments due to come on stream in the next five years.
An application has also been submitted for a large floating wind farm 50km off the coast of west Donegal.
Given its location off Wicklow, the Codling project could become an early test case for how these projects will play out in terms of planning and the response from local residents.
It is hard to know how to describe last week’s agreement between the European Commission and Insurance Ireland. The deal brings to an end a European Commission probe into competition issues in the motor insurance industry in Ireland.
Having gone in with dawn raids and several years of investigation, the outcome is a commitment by Insurance Ireland to open up its claims database to non-member insurers in a fair and transparent way.
In football terms, this looks like a draw without the penalty shoot-out to follow. Insurance Ireland has not been found to have broken any competition laws, yet it is giving a commitment to open up the database to new entrants to the market.
The EC gets to announce this result, but at the same time, it has not shown rule breaches by Insurance Ireland.
As someone who has paid motor insurance for 30 years without a single claim, I have to wonder how much I could have saved if this database had been opened up in a way that might have allowed greater competition.
The deal is definitely a positive step, but it also means the database is retained by the insurance body – and it is not a totally independent entity.
This shouldn’t matter as long as Insurance Ireland delivers on its commitment to make it readily available to other insurers.
An end to insurance price-walking is another step in the right direction and that took effect just a few days ago. It should prevent insurers from penalising loyal customers with higher premiums while offering discounts to new ones.
Insurance reforms are moving in the right direction – but we’ll only believe it when we see lower premiums.
Sometimes reality can be stranger than fiction. The movement of nearly €200m worth of gold bullion from Russia to Switzerland via the UK looks like something from the plot of James Bond’s Goldfinger.
Swiss purchases of Russian gold came to a halt in March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
But gold experts were surprised to learn that nearly three tonnes of Russian gold reached Switzerland in May, via the UK. The delivery was worth over €190m and was first flagged by the Bloomberg news agency.
Swiss customs authorities confirmed last week that they were examining the imports concerned.
All bullion produced by Russian refineries since March 7, 2022, may no longer be traded in Switzerland. However, bullion produced by Russian refineries before March 7, 2022, may in principle continue to be traded.
I wonder did it travel in a Rolls Royce Phantom?