LIMERICKâ€™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.
â€œBertie Ahernâ€™s legacy is a bankrupt Ireland,â€ said Mr Noonan, who has led the new Governmentâ€™s attempts to seek improved bailout terms from the EU and IMF. â€œThe 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.â€
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.
â€œI would think the calculation was that if he had acted when he knew how bad it was, he wouldnâ€™t have become Taoiseach. He would have lost his support base within the party. So I blame him for that. Because heâ€™s a very intelligent guy, Cowen is. He had to know.â€
He said he believes the way to govern the country in difficult times â€œis to be absolutely straight with people and to tell â€™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 â€“ as long as they know your agenda.â€
Mr Noonan also revealed he was asked at a recent meeting in Brussels why â€“ unlike the Greeks â€“ the Irish people were not rioting over the cutbacks forced by the countryâ€™s economic collapse. He said he replied: â€œIf 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.â€™ Everybody around the table got the message immediately. I said, â€˜Thatâ€™s moral hazard in Ireland â€“ and the same will happen to us if the programme doesnâ€™t succeed. Thatâ€™s why you have to help us.â€™ These are very direct conversations, you know?â€
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 â€œchronicâ€ and dismissing City Hallâ€™s claims for a boundary extension, rather than a joint local authority as recently announced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
â€œDo you think by pushing the boundary out to Mungret we were going to get some kind of an effect?â€ he asked. â€œThat 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 â€“ now thereâ€™s a dynamic and the next phase now, the interesting phase â€“ is implementation.â€
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 Alzheimerâ€™s.
See the weekend Limerick Leader for the full interview