Lise Hand: No backstop or backchat as troika heads for the door

21 November 2013 08:54

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Lise Hand: No backstop or backchat as troika heads for the door

It was always going to be a tricky one for the opposition. For there isn't a man or woman in possession of their full set of marbles who isn't turning cartwheels at the prospect of the troika saddling up and getting out of town next month.

Being a polite race, we won't actually bundle them out the door in an uncouth 'here's yer hat what's yer hurry' manner, but nor will we be cajoling them to stay for one final deoch an dorais, either.

There was a bit of outrage in the Dail when the Finance Minister conjured up the motion that stated that exiting the bailout without a backstop "is the right decision for Ireland and now is the right time to make that decision".

But it was more annoyance over the lack of notice given to the opposition to prepare for the session, rather than conniptions over the notion of the motion itself.

It was all so different than the Dail debate almost exactly three years ago in the immediate aftermath of the troika's symbolic takeover of Government Buildings, when the chamber was understandably rattling.

During that anguished sitting, Green Party leader and environment minister John Gormley had a bit of a head-melt and told the Labour leader Eamon Gilmore a thing or two about being in government under a troika programme.

"You'll have to endure the sleepless nights, you'll have to endure the no-win situation; you'll have to endure the non-stop criticism," he declared, clearly frazzled.

"And you'll be sitting here, and you will no doubt be looking up at the Sinn Fein deputies who'll be criticising you non-stop and you will be saying, 'I had no choice, I have to act in this way'."

However, there were no such Oprah-style confessions during the statements on the bailout exit, which began in the mid-morning and placidly plodded to a conclusion with a vote in the early evening.

At no time before the vote was taken was the chamber densely populated with deputies. At no time was there drama, overwrought rhetoric, fraught finger-pointing or apocalyptic predictions that the sky will fall in when we cycle away from the troika without our stabilisers on December 15.

The Buddha of Merrion Street, aka Michael Noonan, opened proceedings, remarking in his trademark Zen style that the decision to make a clean getaway from the bailout without a backstop had been "a finely balanced one".

Michael McGrath politely informed the Finance Minister that Fianna Fail would decline the offer to vote for the government motion. "I believe that the minister has got it wrong in not applying for a precautionary credit line," he explained. "We are facing very significant risks as a country and it would have been prudent to take out an insurance policy against those risks."

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty struggled manfully to simultaneously approve and disapprove of the situation. "We believe that we should not have applied for a precautionary credit line or a renewal of the bailout. We celebrate the fact that the programme is ending next month.

"However, we are not celebrating the fact that while the troika is leaving Ireland, the troika's mindset remains here in Government Buildings," he told a bemused Michael Noonan.

The torpor in the chamber was briefly broken when Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris suddenly began to deplore the carry-on between the Taoiseach and the German Chancellor. "For all their talk, for all their hugging and kissing that Enda and Angela engaged in . . ." he declared, as the pocketful of people in the chamber perked up.

Good grief, could this be a new revelation about the EU fiscal union? Alas, Martin was merely speaking of the banks ". . . this Government has achieved nothing from the EU to help relieve us from our banking debt," he continued.

Everyone resumed their siesta, broken only by the sound of the division bell calling the vote at 7.30pm.

The result was no drama either – the Government winning by a comfy 95 to 25 votes. Fine Gael and Labour were backed by some Independents and Sinn Fein, while Fianna Fail and some other Independents voted against.

A normal day in Leinster House – but maybe normal is becoming the new normal, at last.


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