Shane Ross

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Archive for March, 2011

Contagion Rides to the Rescue

LESS than three years ago, I was sitting in an RTE studio opposite Micheal Martin, then Minister for Foreign Affairs. A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was only days away.

Micheal was dismissive of my fears about the dangers to Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate. Like many others, I was afraid that the passage of the Lisbon Treaty would be followed by a Franco-German assault on our economy’s lifeblood, our low tax rate.

Anyone who had bothered to read Le Monde or study other French media outlets at the time would have seen clear evidence that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was holding his fire until the Treaty was passed in Ireland. The signs were ominous that once he took over the European presidency — an imminent event — he would launch an assault on our corporate tax regime.

Play the Bankruptcy Card

Sometimes it pays to be bankrupt. Ireland is no longer the darling of Europe’s leaders. Indeed our new masters want to test the mettle of our Taoiseach and his Cabinet.

Portly European Commissioner Jose Emmanuel Barroso took time off to greet Enda Kenny. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave him a grilling. ECB boss Jean- Claude Trichet made space in his diary for a meeting with Finance Minister Michael Noonan. European Commissioner Olli Rehn made himself available and promptly gave Michael a dressing down. The IMF’s AJ Chopra and his co-lenders from Europe suddenly jetted in to talks with Noonan and his Labour colleague Brendan Howlin.

Quite a flurry, with plenty of unwanted attention for dazzled ministers in their first week.


Two Teachers Take Finance

I OFTEN meet Joan Burton when wandering around Leinster House. She is definitely not one of the lads. She has little small talk. She likes the macro stuff — indeed, she is a bit too numerate for many of her colleagues.

When you meet Joan she does not want to gossip or speculate idly on the latest political excitement. She is serious, sometimes a little too intense for my taste.

Joan is a number-cruncher. A professional accountant, so when she engages you in conversation, she wants to talk hard figures. She assumes wrongly that I, too , as a financial journalist, have more interest in balance sheets than in banter.

She is wrong. For me, banter is better.


Beards Out, Bundestag In

THE baton of power has passed. The changing of the guard has happened seamlessly.

No, not from Brian Cowen to Enda Kenny, although there will be a theatrical show of democracy when Enda swaps seats in the Dail chamber on Wednesday.

Real power has already passed from the beards to the Bundestag.

Two events last week exposed the awkward reality of Irish economic power.

The Deal has been Stitched Up. The Boys will have Jobs & Old Politics will be Restored.

WAGS in Leinster House were at their cynical worst on Friday. “The deal has been stitched up for days,” volunteered one senator.