Sunday 8 December 2019

Editorial: Time to get back to running the country

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin

A week on from the appointment of Joan Burton as leader of the Labour Party and Tanaiste, talks on the new coalition deal with Taoiseach Enda Kenny appear to be completed. Mr Kenny and Ms Burton have agreed on the policy priorities for the remainder of the lifetime of the Government. Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin are also understood to have signed off on the agreement.

Alongside the reshuffle, the government parties will publish a set of areas in the Programme for Government which will get a particular focus over the next 21 months.

The package is understood to contain commitments on increasing the disposable income of low and middle-income workers, a review of distressed mortgage targets, exploring ways to reduce sovereign debt, a social housing building programme and the rollout of free GP cards.

The necessity for hard-pressed families to see some evidence of the economic recovery means delivery on the promises on incomes and taxation will determine the coalition parties' prospects at the next general election.

The reshuffle is expected to be announced in the Dail today barring any last-minute snags. Ms Burton had intended to hit the ground running with a swift negotiation and a rapid announcement of the new cabinet line-up. But she found Mr Kenny was no pushover. Failure to announce the reshuffle today will exacerbate the impression of a dithering and indecisive Government. At a time when it should be giving an injection of energy, the Coalition can ill afford this process to creep into a second week. Although ministers will be reading their way into their briefs, the Dail is due to rise for the summer break next week.

As a result, the optics will not be good if ministers are being appointed within 24 or 48 hours of the departure of Leinster House on holidays. The Government has effectively been in a state of paralysis for the past two months with the run-up to the local and European elections followed by the long process of electing a new Labour leader. The time for talking is over.

McKillen row shines new light on fall of Celtic Tiger

THERE is little love lost between Derek Quinlan and Paddy McKillen, two Irish men who helped make history when a partnership they controlled snapped up four landmark hotels in London. The acquisition of the Savoy Hotel Group, which included Claridge's – beloved of the British establishment – represented the high water mark of Irish achievement during the Celtic Tiger years.

The 'reverse colonisation' was an audacious move in good times and, in hindsight, an inherently hubristic one.

The unfolding drama for control of Coroin, the company that controls the hotel, has been played out in courts in Ireland and England, the recession pitting two fellow countrymen against each other.

But their respective interviews with 'Vanity Fair', the premier US magazine, have shone a new light on a very dark time for both men and their business interests.

It also shines light on key events in the wake of the global financial crisis, which led, in Ireland, to the bank guarantee and the setting up of the National Assets Management Agency.

It is a dispute that has captured the public interest, and whose extensive reporting has been manifestly in the public interest.

The battle between Quinlan and McKillen is far from over and it remains to be seen who will be left standing when it ends.

Nonetheless, for all its intrigue, it is sad to see two former titans brought to the brink by a very Irish drama.

Irish Independent

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