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Appeasement still not a good policy

Few images will capture the utter loneliness of power better than Brian Lenihan's chilling description of how, having fought Ireland's economic crisis to 'the gates of hell', he stood alone, by the melting snow preparing to fly out to Brussels to sign away our economic sovereignty.

Comparisons have been made with Collins in London but Lenihan, on that fateful morning, was more like the brave Czech president Edvard Benes in 1938 who, surrounded by sly friends and avaricious enemies, was forced to transfer the Sudetenland to Germany in the hope that the can of a Second World War could be kicked further down the road. Can-kicking didn't work then and it won't work now.

Mr Lenihan was to learn in time of the perfidious nature of a more modern group of sly 'partners' who 'bounced' Ireland into our so-called 'bailout'. Last week, Fine Gael finally appeared to have absorbed a similar lesson. The party's pride in its status as the Europhiles of Irish politics meant the Taoiseach's critique of France and Germany's 'unfair' treatment of Ireland was telling. It is a bit late in the day for the Eurosceptic penny to drop but there can be no other response to the scenario where Ireland is being blackmailed for fun by the Franco-German axis of convenience for a prize that is not worth a penny candle.

Mr Kenny is right to suggest "there is a clear need for Europe to consider where it is headed at present". Our fear is that they may be incapable of doing this, for when small people are put in charge of great projects trouble is always at hand.

The EU may be the most positive development since the Enlightenment. It is, however, currently being driven by a German leader whose world view is as sophisticated as the hausfrau counting the pfennings in the bottom of her purse at the butcher's and a French Petain who has the intellectual depth of those Second World War black marketeers who specialised in the sale of ladies nylons.

Last week, Mr Noonan issued the bullish warning that he would not allow himself to be "waltzed around by any member state". The credibility of this claim was collapsed less than a day later by the less than subtle release of the cat of further tax increases out of the bag. Such a policy may be morally wrong and, more important still, economically stupid, but it represents a natural outworking of the amoral IMF/ECB deal.

Having let the Eurosceptic genie out of the bottle, a Plan B to replace the current policy of appeasement is needed. Mr Noonan may have talked about waltzing but it increasingly appears to be the case that France and Germany are more likely to drown us. Recent polls suggest that Ireland's traditionally conservative electorate are not yet -- when it comes to Europe -- in a separatist mode. But Ireland's, and for that matter Greece and Portugal's relationship with Europe increasingly resembles that of an abused spouse who stays out of fear and lack of opportunity.

The idiot French and German strategists may not be too concerned for now. But if the European centre continues to drive the living standards of our people into the ground to protect its selfish interests the periphery will not hold. It is not just Mr Noonan but Europe itself that needs to develop a more radical Plan B than merely kicking the can in the hope that something may turn up.

Sunday Independent