It wasn’t all doom and gloom at this year’s Kilkenomics festival – there were even a wedding and a 40th birthday celebration. And there was hope that Ireland could secure a better bailout deal if it toughens up and demands one before it’s too late.
The honeymoon period had just begun for celebrated panellist Max Keiser, who got married in Dublin the day before the festival kicked off, and festival programmer Naoise Nunn was presented with a cake at one of Saturday’s shows to mark his 40th birthday.
But the real honeymoon period – which will run out within the next year, the experts agreed – was the dwindling time frame in which Ireland has enough leverage to demand a better deal for itself, including its upcoming EU presidency starting in January.
There were lessons to be learned from Greece, which once “held all the cards,” to use the title of one of the sold-out shows, but whose window of opportunity has largely closed.
There were lessons from China, Germany and Iceland, and there were lessons from Irish Mammies, courtesy of comedian Colm O’Regan.
There seemed to be consensus among audiences and contributors that Irish people feel their leaders are not doing enough hard negotiating to get a better deal for Ireland’s future. There was also wonderment, however, about a lack of protests and outcry.
Several of the post-discussion audience Q&As heard members of the public asking for ideas and calling for leadership, and the response was largely that people have to come together, stand up and do it for themselves if their elected leaders aren’t taking the reins.
One opportunity is the €3.1 billion promissory note payment due on March 31 of next year, which will essentially see the public money being tossed into the black hole created by the implosion of the former Anglo Irish Bank. It’s the same amount, panellists noted, that is due to be taken out of the economy in next year’s Budget in the form of spending cuts and tax increases.
Would the public make a stand against this payment, or would things be pretty much the same by the time next year’s Kilkenomics comes around? The comedians might have added a dose of humour to the financial discussions at the festival, but it isn’t likely that the status quo would bring much laughter in a year’s time.