Limerick’s big hitter Michael Noonan savages Bertie Ahern for ‘bankrupting Ireland’

Alan English

Reporter:

Alan English

LIMERICK’S most senior politician, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, has savaged the political legacies of former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, in a wide-ranging interview with the Limerick Leader published today.

LIMERICK’S most senior politician, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, has savaged the political legacies of former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, in a wide-ranging interview with the Limerick Leader published today.

“Bertie Ahern’s legacy is a bankrupt Ireland,” said Mr Noonan, who has led the new Government’s attempts to seek improved bailout terms from the EU and IMF. “The primary mover in the new business model, where we were all supposed to get rich by selling houses to each other, was Bertie Ahern. And his executive officer was Brian Cowen, who failed to correct in the Department of Finance.”

Mr Noonan has alleged that Brian Cowen was unwilling to take strong measures to deal with the looming financial crisis, while still Finance Minister, because of his ambition to succeed Mr Ahern as Taoiseach.

“I would think the calculation was that if he had acted when he knew how bad it was, he wouldn’t have become Taoiseach. He would have lost his support base within the party. So I blame him for that. Because he’s a very intelligent guy, Cowen is. He had to know.”

He said he believes the way to govern the country in difficult times “is to be absolutely straight with people and to tell ’em what the situation is, in a fairly unvarnished way. And to tell them what your proposed solutions are. People can continue to trust you – as long as they know your agenda.”

Mr Noonan also revealed he was asked at a recent meeting in Brussels why – unlike the Greeks – the Irish people were not rioting over the cutbacks forced by the country’s economic collapse. He said he replied: “If you want to know what the Irish do, look at the results of the last election. They took the party that was in government for 14 years in a row and they dropped them from 42 per cent to 15 per cent.’ Everybody around the table got the message immediately. I said, ‘That’s moral hazard in Ireland – and the same will happen to us if the programme doesn’t succeed. That’s why you have to help us.’ These are very direct conversations, you know?”

Mr Noonan was also strongly critical of the record of Limerick City Council, attacking its failure to deal with problems in Southill and Moyross until the situation had become “chronic” and dismissing City Hall’s claims for a boundary extension, rather than a joint local authority as recently announced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

“Do you think by pushing the boundary out to Mungret we were going to get some kind of an effect?” he asked. “That suddenly all my neighbours would start passing out the [Crescent] shopping centre and doing their shopping downtown? Nah! Their analysis was incorrect. There had to be change. [Denis] Brosnan got the correct analysis on it – now there’s a dynamic and the next phase now, the interesting phase – is implementation.”

He also spoke about his hectic schedule as Finance Minister and about his regular visits to see his wife Florence, who is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s.

See the weekend Limerick Leader for the full interview