Terry Prone: All over now? No, there's Budget and Election to come

Terry Prone

The weekend has changed. Have you noticed?

Until recently, it was the time for taking the children to visit the granny, for catching up on the dry-cleaning and for listening to radio programmes where they replayed the most interesting things that had happened during the week -- because nothing really new happened on Saturdays and Sundays.

Thanks to the arrival of Mr Chopra and his gang, that's all changed.

Now, instead of getting an early night on Sunday to ready us for the week ahead, we stay up waiting for the Late News to find out if Ireland is free, half-free or in chains.

Sunday night has become the evening of choice for telling us the worst. Not that the Government called the Bailout the Worst. That was left to Fine Gael's Michael Noonan, who said the Government had sold out the country on lousy terms (Don't sugar-coat it. Tell us what you REALLY think).

The real problem is that everybody, including the big brains doing their best in Government Buildings, seems to have forgotten the origin of the term bailout.

It's maritime. If your boat gets a hole in it and the sea starts to rise around your ankles, it's "all hands to the pump". That's if the boat is big enough to have a pump. If it's smaller, you grab buckets, cups, jugs -- anything -- and start scooping up the water and firing it back where it belongs.

But here's the important thing about a bailout.


The minute you have the water level down a bit you check that leak. You stick something in it. Whatever is handy goes in to block up the leak. Only then can you begin to have hope that you're not going to drown.

What most of us now fear is that the bailout may not plug the hole.Because every time the Government told us, up to this point, that they'd come up with a solution, within months or weeks they were back saying circumstances had changed but this latest adjustment would be the final one, for sure. And then it WASN'T the final one.

A most effective way to torture someone is to repeatedly cause them fear and pain while promising that this round of misery will be the last.

If that's done often enough, the heart goes out of them. And that's what has been done, repeatedly, to the taxpayers of Ireland.

Now we learn that the National Pension Reserve Fund is to be used like "Hello money" for the bailout. Pop it on the table first and then the IMF will give us loadsa money.

The Reserve Fund is no longer in reserve. We thought we had it for a rainy day. We handed it over on a snowy weekend to get money at a rate of interest that's steep in the way Mount Everest is steep.

But that, I hear you say, is the end. No more bad stuff is going to come down the line. Sorry. Two more challenges are going to come down the line. The first is the Budget. Remember when nice Brian Lenihan said it was going to be a "severe" Budget? "Severe" as in "tighten your belt a notch 0".


Now it looks as if it will be severe enough to have even more people waking up in the middle of the night wondering how to get through the following week. It will definitely be severe enough to add hugely to the numbers of people losing their homes but keeping their negative equity, dragging it like a ball-and-chain forever clamped to their ankle.

The second challenge is a General Election in February/March, with the Opposition trying to untie the knots of the Bailout tied by the current Government.

But we'll manage.

Once we know the true bottom line, we'll survive and succeed. We're fast learners, we Irish.