Monday 15 July 2019

Government must end standoff with banks

Where Mr Noonan wagged a disapproving finger, Mr Kenny sought to shake a fist
Where Mr Noonan wagged a disapproving finger, Mr Kenny sought to shake a fist


The outlook for this Government would undoubtedly be a lot more promising if it kept its promises. Yesterday was the deadline set by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan for the banks to deliver on his demand for action to relieve home owners paying some of the highest interest rates in Europe. This is despite the fact that money rates are at near-historic lows.

Deadlines are set to stimulate action and get results. But Mr Noonan's call has so far only produced an empty echo, as his words fall on deaf and defiant ears.

His display of "soft power", as described by one Government minister, has yielded nothing. Now Taoiseach Enda Kenny has assumed the role of 'bad cop'.

Where Mr Noonan wagged a disapproving finger, Mr Kenny sought to shake a fist.

He has suggested that action may be taken against the banks in the Budget if they continue to defy calls to reduce variable mortgage interest rates.

He also said that officials will now monitor what the banks were doing about the issue. "We have a Budget coming up in October,'' he added. "There are opportunities for the minister to deal with the banks…"

But this is one issue that has been monitored to the point of obsession. The threats of being sent to the naughty step have not worked to date. There are no good reasons for believing that more menacing words will bring the relief families all over the country so desperately await.

The Government, senior ministers, and most importantly the Taoiseach himself, can scarcely afford to be seen as impotent when it comes to facing down the banks on such a hair-trigger issue with voters.

This is not a harmless game of bluff where there are no losers.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin taunted Mr Kenny yesterday, saying: "The banks have told you where to go…"

Unless the Government shows some real intent and ends this stand-off, the electorate could be goaded into doing likewise.

A wake-up call for our super-sized children

It has been rightly said that every child needs a champion, and the disturbing news that seven-year-old children are having to wear adult-sized school uniforms suggests that there is a dire need for champions.

The warnings about an obesity crisis have been so frequent that we have evidently stopped heeding them. But surely the fact that children have become so overweight that they have to wear grown-up ranges ought to finally shatter all complacency.

It is hard to imagine a greater indictment of our sedentary lifestyles and rushed schedules.

The Xbox and Playstation have replaced the football and skipping rope, and sadly our children are showing all the signs.

The drive has replaced the cycle or walk to school. A 'First World problem' perhaps, but a serious one nonetheless.

It is not out of a lack of love, or even awareness, but more likely a lack of time.

Fast food, fast living and the failure to exercise are taking a terrible toll and the young are in the frontline of danger. Many of us may have strayed from the path and sacrificed good health for good times but we owe it to our children to do better for them.

Irish Independent

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