Monday 18 December 2017

Anton Savage: Patrick Honohan has just handed Noonan an open goal ... let's hope he won't miss

Patrick Honohan
Patrick Honohan
Michael Noonan
Grahame Morris

Political 'cover' is an interesting phenomenon. Franklin D Roosevelt is reported to have summed it up best following a meeting with a delegation of businessmen a century ago: "OK, you've convinced me, now go and bring pressure on me."

It is a brave minister who acts without the cover of external pressure, and the careers of 'brave' ministers are usually characterised by their brevity.

Perfect cover is rare - the pressure that allows for one policy decision to be made, usually jeopardises another.

It almost never comes as well formed as that provided by the departing Governor of the Central Bank.

Patrick Honohan (right) is seen as an economic saint - one of Ireland's most respected financial academics, he wrote a defining analyses of the events around the bank guarantee, took over as governor of the Central Bank at its lowest ebb and presided over some of the most exciting and troubled times in Irish finance.

Then he said 'good luck lads, the heavy lifting is done, I'm out of here'. Smelling of roses, he leapt onto his horse and rode towards the sunset.

Just as we were getting misty-eyed waving him off, he paused, looked over his shoulder and shouted 'Hey, Ministers, you know the money you owe the remaining Anglo bondholders? If I was ye I'd tell them to stick it. That would be the righteous thing to do'.

Political cover is rarely provided so perfectly.

Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan

Michael Noonan is heading into an election with 9pc unemployment and an economy growing like a weed. Which is nice. But it has not alleviated the pressure on a huge number of people. The trickle-down is still a dribble.

Yet suddenly he has a way to prove that the Government cares about the little guy, and will fight for him against the big mean bondholders. He pretty much cannot lose.

The ECB is currently trying to explain to Greece how capitalism works, which means they are far too busy to care what we do with a few bondholders.

Plus, we are now the poster boys for beatings continuing until morale improves - they'll never get the Mediterranean types to behave if they can't show how a pummelling made us a much better nation.

The markets won't care, because they're capitalists who are still a bit surprised we paid anyone (there's a sense that somehow markets will hold a grudge. Bull. Maybe if we catastrophically defaulted on our Troika programme they might notice, but lobbing a few creditors under the bus won't bother them in the slightest.)

The Opposition can't accuse the Minister of risky behaviour because he's trying to recoup millions, but mostly as he has the imprimatur of Saint Honohan. In fact, the only risk is the Government might lose a court case on this, but even then it's likely to be after the election.

Either way, the Minister will be able to go down swinging like Rocky - all passion and dignity and courage in the face of international bullies. As political cover goes, this is as close to perfect as it gets.


Let Westboro Church zealots speak, so people know they're cuckoo-bananas

A SPOKESPERSON for the Westboro Baptist Church was on my radio show during the week, and generated a huge negative response.

That the response was negative was predictable, but the nature of the negativity was interesting.

The spokesman, Steve Drain, is a former TV producer who converted to the Westboro brand of fire and brimstone biblical literalism after going to make a documentary on them (not only did he convert, but he brought most of his family).

He is now aligned with all the teachings of the church - gay people are going to hell, as is everyone else positively disposed towards gay people. He takes part in the activities that have made the church hated globally - picketing funerals (most recently the funeral of Joe Biden's son Beau) while holding placards emblazoned with slogans like 'God Hates Fags'.

Westboro Church.jpg
Counter protestors try to block the signs of members of the Westboro Baptist Church as the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama travels through Wilmington, Del. to the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Saturday, June 6, 2015

Counter protestors try to block the signs of members of the Westboro Baptist Church as the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama travels through Wilmington, Del. to the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Saturday, June 6, 2015

His justification for picketing Biden's funeral was that Senator Joe Biden had voted in support of gay marriage.

No surprise then that the response to his interview was negative. The surprise was how much of the response wanted not to disagree with him but to censor and silence him, as if his words were somehow dangerous. They were objectively offensive. But dangerous? Hardly.

In fact, you could argue that cartoonish bigotry of the Westboro group is exactly what liberals should want to put on air. This is not silver tongued prejudice, shrouded in twisted logic and insidious persuasion, rather it's the kind of frothing at the mouth designed to lose friends.

Maybe people mix up the power of speech and the power of ideas - it doesn't matter that people hear you speak, if the ideas you convey are heard as being cuckoo-bananas.


Why forgive this joker so quickly?

Grahame Morris, an Australian conservative commentator and former Liberal Party advisor has apologised for saying: "Now I love the Irish...but these are people who can't grow potatoes" ... "they've got a mutant lawn weed as their national symbol".

Grahame Morris

Grahame Morris

On reflection he subsequently said that his assertion was in bad taste, and he deserved the kicking he got in response. As laudable as it was that he said sorry, it falls some way short of recognising just how offensive his remarks are. His potato joke was clearly a Famine reference - when more than one million Irish people starved to death or emigrated. If he made a similar joke about the famine in Ethiopia or the Holocaust he would not be forgiven so easily.


Pedestrianisation  is no mean feat

Cars, buses and taxis are facing a ban from parts of Dublin city centre under new plans revealed by the City Council and the National Transport Authority. It's a tribute to the changes made in recent years that the suggestion wasn't met with howls of laughter.

Fifteen years ago it would have been laughable to suggest the removal of private cars and taxis from areas like College Green but in that decade and a half a quiet revolution occurred. The Luas appeared, Dublin Bikes sprung up, and advances in technology (like the Dublin Bus app) have made it possible to tie all of the pre-existing public transport together, so journeys across the city no longer take three days and the support of a yak and a sherpa. So bring on the pedestrian plazas in College Green and Suffolk Street.

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