Life in a Protectorate

by Andrew Stuttaford

Via the Daily Telegraph:



The European Union has warned the Irish government that snap elections would be “very irresponsible” as post-bail-out turmoil continues to rock Ireland’s political establishment. Brian Cowen, the beleaguered Irish Prime Minister, tonight faces “war” within his Fianna Fail party as rebel MPs demand his resignation and plot a no confidence motion to try an avoid losing their seats in a meltdown electoral defeat in the New Year.

During emergency cabinet talks on Monday night, at least three ministers urged him “to consider his options” after the government’s Green coalition partner threatened to pull out unless they were promised an election after a parliament vote on a 2011 Irish budget in December.

”The rest of them were all over the place,” said a government source.

Mr Cowen was ready to resign, according to party sources quoted in the Irish Times, but surprised colleagues by deciding to tough it out, even if the decision meant the sacrifice of Fianna Fail which faces its lowest polls approval in 88 years. Vital to his staying on in power, were EU warnings that Ireland’s £77 billion bail-out would be jeopardised if the government fell Ireland, a situation that would spark a euro zone debt crisis and lead to the value [of] Irish bonds being wiped out by global markets.

”People are watching the situation closely”, said one EU diplomat, who dismissed Greens and Fianna Fail rebels as “rats leaving a sinking ship”.

”From our perspective, it is important that the government is able to represent Ireland in the talks,” said another EU source. “It would be very unpleasant if there was no one to talk to. That would be very irresponsible.”


That reference to disloyal maritime rodents by the “EU diplomat” rather begs the question of why the ship sank in the first place, but, so far as the wider point is concerned,  he who pays the piper calls the tune, I suppose. Some Irish, of course,  will be remembering the occasions when they were obliged to vote again on EU referendums having come to the ‘wrong’ result the first time round…