Andrew Lynch: Just what the hell was he thinking of?

Andrew Lynch

If you thought that the country could not get any more depressed, think again. Michael Noonan could be Minister for Finance.

The Fine Gael spokesman's response to the bailout controversy has been deeply irresponsible -- and showed yet again why most people want Brian Lenihan to stay in the job for the time being.

At a moment of national crisis, Noonan is busy playing politics as usual. Instead of offering any constructive criticism, the Limerick hatchet-man clearly has nothing positive to offer.

He has even raised the nightmare scenario of a run on the banks, a reckless piece of scaremongering that will do nothing to calm the situation.

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Noonan's performance is a timely reminder of why he bombed so badly as FG leader during the 2002 election.

His gloomy demeanour and fondness for cheap shots meant that the public never warmed to him as a potential Taoiseach.

He was also permanently damaged by his poor performance as Minister for Health, when he refused to resign over the Hepatitis C scandal.

Noonan led FG to the worst election defeat in the party's history. After that debacle he immediately resigned and seemed destined to spend the rest of his career on the backbenches.

He was dramatically rehabilitated last June when Enda Kenny defeated Richard Bruton's leadership challenge and urgently needed someone with experience to become spokesman for finance.

Since then, Noonan's downbeat media interviews have suggested that Kenny would have been better off promoting younger talent instead.

The former leader has gone back to all his bad habits, trading in sly digs and alarmist predictions that damage himself even more than his opponents.

If he was the Minister for Finance attending today's crunch talks in Brussels, the chances are that his EU colleagues would insist on an immediate bailout -- if only that they could get rid of him as quickly as possible.

Back in 2002, the Irish people made it pretty clear what they thought about Michael Noonan. His performance this week will have done little to change anybody's mind.