by Frank Schnittger
Fri Jan 28th, 2011 at 03:44:45 PM EST
EPP chums Barroso, Kenny and Noonen (Fine Gael)
The battle lines are beginning to be drawn in the Irish general election campaign with the draconian austerity budget passed by the Dail yesterday and Cowen stating he will call the election on Tuesday (probably for 25th. February). Labour and Fine Gael "facilitated" the fast track approval of the Budget even whilst voting against it. Neither have they said they will reverse it's provisions if elected. Any changes will have to await next year's Budget. Why pass up the chance of blaming Fianna Fail for the odious effects of this budget which nevertheless reduces the amount of future "adjustment" required by the ECB/IMF plan?
New Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin has challenged the putative Taoiseach in waiting (Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny) to a three way television debate (generously including Labour Leader, Eamon Gilmore) whilst Kenny has retorted that it is not for Michael Martin to dictate the terms of the debate (he is currently not even a Government Minister) and suggesting that the debate should be a five way debate including, also, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams, and Green party Leader, John Gormley.
Neither Party leader is motivated by generosity towards the other parties. Michael Martin is seeking to play to his strength as a communicator and Enda Kenny's weakness as a debater. A five way debate will quickly reduce to pre-rehearsed sound bites and orchestrated shouting matches where no one will emerge a winner.
No doubt to Michael Martin's chagrin, his predecessor bar one, former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been taking his limelight with plaintive disavowals of any responsibility for the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and patronising put-downs of hecklers as just looking for TV exposure. Fianna Fail must wish he would simply go away and stop reminding people of the hubris which led to their hardship. So much for the optics which cannot get much lower anyway and which are leaving many in the electorate open mouthed with anger and disgust.
Of more interest to readers here, there is also the beginnings of serious debate as to the merits of the ECB/IMF "rescue" plan for Ireland with Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance calling for it's complete rejection and Labour and Fine Gael calling for its renegotiation. Fine Gael spokesman, Leo Varadker, all but used the default word on the PrimeTime TV programme yesterday when saying its terms were simply unsustainable and that Ireland would not be able to repay the loans on those terms. Enda Kenny and Fine Gael Finance Spokesman and former Leader, Michael Noonan, are in Brussels today to meet Barroso to discuss a reduction in the interest rates being charged.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Commission is hardly like to embarrass a sitting Government by negotiating with the opposition, the optics are that Fine Gael is taking a renegotiation of the plan seriously, and seeking a mandate from the electorate to do so. They can then come back to the Commission next month and claim they have a democratic mandate for a renegotiation and that the Commission had better take the views of the Irish people on board...
The EU institutions, collectively, must be getting a bit tired of the Irish electorate having a veto on future developments within the EU, be it via our mandatory system of referenda on any EU Treaty changes, or now the need for some democratic legitimacy for the IMF/ECB plan - two institutions not noted for their sensitivity to the views of nations requiring their assistance.
Given that the austerity budget only represents the first 6 Billion tranche of the 18 Billion p.a. "readjustment" in public finances envisaged by the plan over the next four years, there is still considerable scope for the whole plan to go pear shaped if the Irish economy were to collapse into a spiral of deflation and diminishing returns.