We have not turned the corner

Off the fence
We have not turned the corner

Off the fence
Michael Noonan

Apparently the economy has stabilised. Another corner has been turned and things are looking up. Well, that’s according to Minister Lenihan. Sounds familiar? Well, by my reckoning that’s about the fifth time now, that a corner has been turned, stabilisation is happening and we’re through the worst.
You and I know, unfortunately, we’re not. That’s the simple, miserable fact of the matter. Unemployment is up to 13.8 per cent and still rising. That translates to 455,000 people on the Live Register, 13,798 of those are from Mayo. Try imagining Croke Park on All Ireland Final day full to the brim with Mayo, Cork, Down, Tipperary or Kilkenny supporters. Now think of six Croke Parks like that and you have an idea how many people are looking for work now.
In the face of all this, more ‘corner turned’, ‘worst is over’ empty rhetoric from the two Brians is simply an insult to the people bearing the brunt of this deepest recession on record.
The corner hasn’t turned and we’re not through the worst.  And we’re not through the worst because the Government’s plans are not working. But it’s the two Brian’s approach to Anglo Irish Bank that is truly crippling us.
It’s not by chance that the Financial Times in London wrote on Thursday that Irish banks remain on ‘life support’ and that Anglo was “still the rotting corpse in the disaster zone of Irish banking”.  The day before the New York Times asked in a headline; “Can one bank bring down a country?”, when considering the impact of the Anglo bailout.
One example of the choices made by Fianna Fáil illustrates this point clearly.  Over the next four years the Government will cut €18 billion from our capital budget while at the same time pumping more than €22 billion to date in to Anglo. Instead of pouring money in to useful, job creating capital programmes like new infrastructure, new schools or new health care facilities our money is going in to the black pit of Anglo. What a sickening waste.
Minister Lenihan must now give a definitive figure for the cost of saving Anglo Irish. Taxpayers have a right to know and the information is essential to lower interest rates in the bond markets.  He may not be able to give a figure to the nearest euro but at this point I’d accept his estimate to the nearest billion euro.
Minister Lenihan must also abandon his misguided policy of bailing out Anglo Irish no matter what the cost and adopt the Fine Gael policy outlined twenty months ago.  We called for Anglo Irish Bank to be wound down, in an orderly manner over five to seven years, thus forcing professional investors to share the burden of Anglo’s losses.
Billions of euros have already been wasted on the bank. Our economy can’t afford Anglo. Our people can’t afford Fianna Fáil. Both need to go.

Michael Noonan, TD, is the Fine Gael spokesman on Finance.