THE British government's decision to make a substantial loan of about eight billion euros to Ireland, in conjunction with the 90bn euro IMF-EU rescue bail-out package, is absolutely correct. The Chancellor, George Osborne, put the situation quite clearly in Parliament: “Ireland is a friend in need...It is in the UK's interest for Ireland to have a stable economy and banking system...There is a deep connection between our two countries...Ireland takes more of British exports than China, Brazil, India and Russia put together.” Labour supported the action while querying a few of its details but some eurosceptic Conservatives seized the opportunity to make their usual negative points about everything European. Mr Osborne would have been wiser not to speak about the “tragedy” of Ireland's predicament after having done so much to improve its economy in recent years.

Since neither politicians nor journalists are angels it was inevitable that he would be reminded of his praise for the Irish example in The Times four years ago when he wrote about Ireland's “shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic planing” and suggested that Britain should take lessons from Ireland's “economic miracle”. Ireland is in a terrible mess at this moment. A budget is due shortly but it is quite possible that the coalition government will fall before it can be delivered. If an election is held the victorious party will have won a poisoned chalice.


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