You know Ireland is in trouble with the sovereign debt markets, and that we face accepting hugely expensive bailout cash (maybe even a default), when our minister for finance starts agreeing with London's Daily Telegraph.
One of the leading commentators for the paper – not noted for its love of the euro or the eurozone– wrote last week in his blog that German leader Angela Merkel had dropped Ireland in it with her proposal to protect German taxpayers from the national debts of the Irish, Greek and Portuguese.
"Desperately unlucky" Ireland was running out of time, predicted Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who has always been fair on Irish matters. "The trigger for Ireland's bond hell this week was of course the Franco-German deal preparing the way for orderly defaults and bondholder haircuts for eurozone states that get into trouble," he wrote.
"This shift in policy changes the game entirely. Why would pension funds step into distressed debt markets after they have been told that the EU will, suddenly, no longer stand behind the debt," he asked. In other words, Ireland, which was already facing a near impossible task of trying to get foreigners to lend it money, had been totally undermined.
In Ireland's case, it would mean that the foreigners who have so far loaned us €90bn – money which underpins Irish living standards and services – should be repaid 10%, 20% or maybe even a quarter less than they are owed.
Defaulting would for Ireland be an unprecedented move, which would have long-term implications. Citizens of states that fail to pay back all or some of their sovereign debt traditionally face hardships. But after the huge mishandling of the crisis by the government, it may after all be the only path for Ireland to follow. That is a measure of how badly the government has handled the bank crisis over more than two years, mostly supported by the main opposition party.
To stop Ireland being shut out of the sovereign bonds markets – the definition of national economic sovereignty – the government set out quite properly to quarantine the huge debts built up by our bankers. A small group of probably no more than 50 bankers had dumped over €50bn of their bills onto their fellow citizens. Protecting the economy from bank debts is what governments have done around the world down the ages when faced with financial crises. But the specific way Nama was set up, its slow dealings with bankers who were allowed to continue to run and ruin our banks, and the government's strange reluctance to nationalise AIB and Bank of Ireland (to name just some of the mistakes) has self-evidently failed.
The charge sheet for the government includes record sovereign interest rates, the continuing lock out from the sovereign bond markets and a looming bailout or some sort of forced default being forced on the state.
For Germany and France, forcing some sort of default on Ireland, Greece and Portugal makes absolute sense because they can end the guarantee of German and French citizens for the debts of their fellow three eurozone countries. The significance for the euro project could not be bigger and it was not lost on the Telegraph.
By Thursday, there was apparently no reason for Brian Lenihan to disagree with some of the sentiments of the Telegraph's commentator. In an interview with Matt Cooper's The Last Word, Lenihan said the Irish government interest rates had gone up because of the actions of the German government.
When the most senior government in Europe declares it is examining the option of not paying back investors, then markets will be spooked, he said. Lenihan could have added that the crisis did not start in recent days.
A sovereign debt crisis mishandled at every turn has been building for more than two years.