If you’ve ever been in the audience of the Nolan TV show, you’ll know they have a comedian on before him to warm the audience up. Eamon Gilmore was the comedian last night. He was on the evening news warming the people of the twenty-six counties up with talk of “a major milestone on the road to recovery” and (I like this one) “daring to dream again”. If that didn’t warm you up, or leave you maybe hot and testy, nothing would.
And then it was the Taoiseach’s turn to deliver not so much a fireside chat á la FDR, more a keep-calm-for-God’s-sake plea. Not that he put it like that. He used nice big abstract words: “retrieving our economic sovereignty” ; how his government had faced “difficult decisions at home and tough negotiations abroad”. But mainly he wanted to thank the Irish people “It is now clear that your sacrifices are making a difference”. I liked that bit. Making a sacrifice has a good strong connotation of willingness – you offered yourself to be used as a burnt sacrifice. So thank you, thank you very much.
But Enda explained that now wasn’t the time to put this real progress at risk …What progress, Virginia? Keep up, would you – the progress represented by the exit of the south of Ireland from the IMF-EU bail-out. Hooray! Does that mean Ireland’s in the black now? No, no, no. It means the south can now go to the bond markets and borrow again – terrific, eh?…Yes, Ireland is still in debt. Yes, the big boys from the EU will be paying regular visits for years to come, checking that Ireland is doing what it’s told. And they’ll keep on visiting until at least 75% of the loan they made is paid back. What loan is that, you ask? Why the €67.5 billion that Ireland was lent. They haven’t even begun to pay that back. The repayments will start in 2015 and it’s expected they’ll have the lot paid off by, oh, say 2042. So if you were to have a child tomorrow, s/he will be 28 years old before Ireland’s in the black.
But the theme of Enda’s burning-house talk was, we’ve been through hard times, boys and girls, and the hard times aren’t quite over yet, but we’re really starting to motor. No mention of the €67.5 billion outstanding, you notice. And while everyone in the south was thanked “for the part you have played in Ireland’s recovery to date”, no mention was made of the Taoiseach’s reduced salary. That was probably because Enda is by nature modest. The truth is, the man is now down to a measly €200,000 a year. No wonder he looked like he’d been up all night worrying and could burst into tears at any moment.
Don’t cry for Ireland, Enda Kenny. The truth is, we never loved you.