Eyebrows were raised shortly after 11am on Sunday morning when RTÉ presenter Marian Finucane introduced the guests on her show. Afterwards she explained that the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mary Hanafin, was due to make an appearance but she had pulled out the previous evening.
Hanafin's cancellation and the fact that no other cabinet minister was made available to replace her set tongues wagging. Hanafin going AWOL was the first clear signal that an announcement formalising the EU/IMF intervention was coming that day.
When Finucane's show finished, Richard Crowley opened the This Week programme by starkly asking: "Is the tricolor above Leinster House about to be lowered and the white flag formally raised this afternoon? After days of prevarication, is the government about to sign the application form requesting an EU/IMF loan of tens of billions of euro?"
Crowley's questions were more rhetorical than actual. The answer to both was, of course, "Yes". It came as no surprise that the finance minister Brian Lenihan came on to This Week and announced to the nation that: "There will be a meeting of the government this afternoon. I will be proposing to my colleagues that we should formally apply for a programme [bailout]."
With that the EU/IMF intervention, initially dismissed as "fiction" by the justice minister Dermot Ahern a week earlier, was about to become a harsh reality.
As soon as Lenihan made his comments on RTÉ radio, the story was picked up all over the world. Two words that officially signified a loss of the nation's economic sovereignty repeatedly flashed up on the ticker at the bottom of the screen on Sky News broadcasts for the rest of the day: "Ireland's Bailout."
As Sky and other international media outlets covered the story, journalists from everywhere began to arrive in Dublin and head for Merrion Street to hear the outcome of the momentous cabinet meeting.
At 7.50pm the government press office sent out a text message to local political journalists reading: "Press conference 8.15pm Government Buildings".
Roughly 40 minutes later ,Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the finance minister Brian Lenihan arrived into a packed government press centre to confirm the decision to seek a multi-billion euro rescue package from the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF.
During the press conference, Cowen said, "We should not underestimate the scale of our economic problems. We must have the faith in our ability as a people to recover and to prosper once more."
When he was questioned about Ireland surrendering its sovereignty Cowen stated that the government's four-year budgetary plan would not be changed by external institutions like the EU or IMF. But "a small, open economy like Ireland did not have the luxury of taking decisions without reference to the wider world".
As TV3's Vincent Browne launched a robust verbal attack on Cowen during the press conference, RTÉ came under fire for interrupting their live broadcast of Browne's attack to go to an ad break and then the Nine O'Clock News.
Conspiracy theorists might suggest that RTÉ deliberately cut-off Browne's onslaught as he was holding a TV3 microphone. RTÉ later rejected criticism of its coverage and insisted that it had not censored Browne.
Besides, a number of people who were at the press conference recount how one of the staff from the government press office signaled (with his right hand pretending to cut his own throat), that a member of the technical staff should cut off immediately the microphone into which Browne was talking. When the microphone was cut off it was difficult for broadcasters to pick up what he was saying anyway.
The Sunday Tribune understands that TV3 considered altering their evening programming schedule to show the press conference live from government buildings but it was decided that viewers of the X-Factor results show would switch over to ITV in their droves if they were bombarded with politics.
A number of the international journalists, who were based on Merrion Street for the week, and who had previously covered the Greek bailout story, were surprised at the way there were so few protestors on the streets when the Irish bailout was announced.
One local hack joked, "There would be riots on the streets tonight if Mary Byrne was not still in X Factor."
Just a few months ago, the New York Times was derided by the government when the paper posed the question: "Can one bank bring down a country?" As Ireland went to bed on Sunday night, the bleak answer to that question was "yes".
Ireland's stoical acceptance of the announcement – which has been largely limited to irate callers ringing Joe Duffy's Liveline phone-in show – was perhaps best summed up in our level of self-deprecation last week. Ireland's economy may be going down the tubes, but our mobile phone operators are among the few companies to continue making money – on the back of text message jokes about the economy.
As soon as the bailout was announced, one such text messages sent around by Irish people stated: "Bob Geldof is about to relaunch Live Aid. This time it will be held in Ethiopia and all proceeds will go to Ireland."
On Monday morning, the country plunged into a fresh political crisis when the Green Party madethe shock announcement that they were going to pull the plug on their coalition arrangement with Fianna Fáil and seek a general election.
On Sunday, Green ministers John Gormley and Eamon Ryan sat around the cabinet table and approved the government's bailout application.
One cabinet minister has since remarked that the two Green ministers were over 10 minutes late in returning to Sunday's cabinet meeting after a break. In hindsight, the minister now believes that the two could have been plotting their mutiny at that stage, unknown to the Fianna Fáil ministers at the table.
Speaking to reporters on his way into Sunday's cabinet meeting Gormley said: "I can fully understand that there's a great level of concern out there because I think the communications of last weekend were very poor and people feel misled as a consequence.
"But certainly we need to get clarity around this issue and that's why Mr Lenihan is bringing this proposal before cabinet and I'm confident that it will be effective and for that reason I feel the very legitimate concern of the people can be relieved."
For the entire week beforehand, a series of Fianna Fáil ministers had been out in the media denying that the IMF were on the way. But it was notable that the Green ministers kept largely silent throughout the week.
A Green Party TD told the Sunday Tribune, "Everybody is angry at the way the government would not tell people what was going on last week. But the reality is that we were kept in the dark by Fianna Fáil as well.
"They weren't very clear with us about what was happening. We were silent, not because we were complicit in what Fianna Fáil were doing, but because we didn't know what the hell was going on."
Throughout the previous week, the Greens had become increasingly frustrated at the way they were being treated by their senior coalition partner and they began to talk about an exit strategy from government.
The Sunday Tribune understands that there was a lot of debate between the six Green party TDs and senators over last weekend. The depth of anger among the party's grassroots at the previous week's events left the Greens with little choice but to pull the plug.
It may have been viewed as a politically naïve move that backfired, but one party figure said, "We could not abandon people who had stuck by the party through thick and thin."
A Green TD, "All sorts of offers were quietly made [by Fianna Fáil] to us over the last few months about pushing legislation through the Dáil. The Dublin mayor legislation was ready to go and there was a view in the party that we should have tried to force Fianna Fáil to push through climate change legislation and the legislation for the ban on corporate donations in January."
But the events of a fortnight ago, when the party's two ministers claim to have been left in the dark about the bailout, brought tensions between the coalition partners to a head.
The Green TD added: "The financial crisis is overshadowing everything and it must take precedence so there is no way we could get legislation pushed through on anything else."
So after a secret meeting of the Green Party's TDs and senators on Saturday, the two ministers attended cabinet on Sunday and did not utter a word about the party's momentous decision to leave government after three tumultuous years.
At 11.11am on Monday, the Green Party press office sent out a text message to political correspondents informing that party leader John Gormley would hold a press conference at 11.30am in the Audio Visual room in Leinster House.
The 'AV' room is where Fianna Fáil's 'Lemass Forum' group, the brainchild of rebel Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, holds its regular meetings. Immediately after the text message was circulated the Irish blogosphere was awash with speculation about the Greens.
Websites such as politics.ie were a hive of activity with various posters guessing what the Greens were about to do.
Leinster House is usually very quiet on a Monday as the Dáil and Seanad only sit from Tuesday to Thursday, so the Green party press conference created a rare flurry of activity as journalists rushed to the press conference.
Shortly after 11.30am the Green Party's six TDs – Gormley, Ryan, Mary White, Paul Gogarty, Trevor Sargent and Ciaran Cuffe – along with Senators Dan Boyle, Niall Ó Brolcháin and Mark Dearey arrived at the AV room.
Within minutes, Gormley had announced his plans to draw the curtain on the Fianna Fáil/Greens coalition.
He said, "The past week has been a traumatic one for the Irish electorate. People feel misled and betrayed."
He continued by claiming that his party believed that three things had to be done within the coming two months – the publishing of a credible four-year plan, the passing of the Budget and the securing of funding from the EU/IMF bailout.
But he added: "We believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011. We made our decision last Saturday after a long series of meetings."
As Gormley was making his seismic announcement, members of his parliamentary party sat in a row beside him. The eight of them were accompanied by a new addition – Ms Daisy Gogarty.
In a clear sign of how hastily organised the press conference was, Paul Gogarty had his 18-month old daughter Daisy and her teddy bear with him. The presence of the child at the front of the press conference sparked a flood of angry calls to Liveline the following day about whether this was appropriate. Gogarty's explanation was that he looks after his baby daughter on a Monday when the Dáil is not sitting.
Around the same time as Gormley was dropping the Green bombshell, Brian Lenihan was 'door-stepped' by reporters in his own Dublin West constituency. Asked about suggestions that the Greens were about to pull out of government, Lenihan said, "We had a very constructive meeting yesterday and I certainly haven't heard any suggestion of that to date."
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was also completely in the dark about the Greens' shock move. He was being interviewed on his local Midlands 103 station from 11.05am until 11.30am as Gormley was frantically trying to get in contact with him to drop the bombshell. Gormley eventually reached Cowen just minutes before he told journalists the news.
The poor communications between the pair was just the latest example of the apparent communications breakdown that the Greens had alluded to the previous week.
Meanwhile, Mary O'Rourke became the first in a series of Fianna Fáil TDs to publicly question Cowen's leadership on Monday. She suggested that the parliamentary party hold a special meeting in January to thrash out the leadership issue. Sean Power, Noel O'Flynn and Chris Andrews were among those to stick the knife in throughout the day.
Further evidence that the Fianna Fáil organisation was in meltdown, emerged on Monday when whispers about the party's annual Cairde Fáil fundraiser being cancelled were quietly confirmed. Traditionally one of the highlights of the party's social calendar, tickets for the event were priced at €95 for the dinner with the Taoiseach. But the event, which had a waiting list for cancellations in previous years, has been 'postponed'.
Party sources said that the 'optics' of holding the dinner in the current climate would have been terrible and the postponement was not down to poor ticket sales.
Immediately after he got the call from Gormley, Cowen rushed from Offaly to Government Buildings for an urgent meeting with his Fianna Fáil cabinet ministers. Throughout Monday afternoon there was speculation that Cowen was going to Aras an Uachtaráin to hand in his seal of office, dissolve the Dáil and call a 'snap' election.
While the meeting was going on, opposition figures such as Fine Gael's James Reilly and Labour's Eamon Gilmore piled the pressure on Cowen to call an election. Independent TDs Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry were also quick to withdraw their support for the government in media interviews.
Amidst these calls, there was speculation that a major row had developed at the cabinet table with Cowen wanting to call an election while other senior figures such as Dermot Ahern favoured hanging tight.
In the British House of Commons, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed that Britain would extend a £7bn (€8.2bn) loan to Ireland.
Then, shortly after 6pm, the government press office announced that Cowen would make an announcement at 7pm. So journalists and cameramen packed into the area below the large stairwell in Government Buildings to await Cowen's arrival.
Without his two Green ministers, he was flanked by his cabinet, a number of whom looked ashen-faced and emotionally drained, when he arrived to read out a statement.
He announced, in what was an impressive performance, that he would dissolve the Dáil as soon as the December budget had been passed, signaling a general election in early 2011.
Bringing one of the most fast-paced days of political activity in living memory to a close, Cowen later called Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore offering to make financial advice available to them about the December budget, in the hope that they would support it.
The front page of London newspaper The Independent carried the headline: "Will Irish bailout spark contagion?" on Monday morning. And fears that the Irish crisis would spread to Portugal and Spain still gripped Europe on Tuesday morning.
The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, claimed, "The future of the euro depends on Ireland and they are in political turmoil", while EU economics Commissioner Olli Rehn, gave a stark warning that Ireland must pass its budget soon. He said, "Let's get it out of the way and let's move on."
In the Dáil, Enda Kenny requested an early budget and claimed that a slimmed-down version of the Finance Bill could be put through the House with the budget's key ingredients this week.
He said he would agree to the house sitting from Monday to Friday this week, facilitating the completion of the necessary legislative work by Christmas. Kenny said, "This will bring some measure of certainty to a government that is out of control."
But Cowen rejected Kenny's suggestion and said the €15bn four-year budgetary plan would be published on Wednesday and the budget would go ahead on 7 December as planned.
Cowen may have averted a snap election on Monday but the turmoil in Fianna Fáil had not abated on Tuesday as rebel Cork TD Noel O'Flynn predicted that that night's parliamentary party meeting would be "a bare knuckle" affair.
Mary Hanafin said that she would not lead any heave against Cowen but she would be interested in becoming leader if a vacancy arose.
In the end, Fianna Fáil held a lengthy parliamentary meeting behind closed doors but the talk of Cowen being replaced has been parked until after the budget.
The majority of Fianna Fáil TDs and senators privately do not believe that Cowen will lead them into the general election.
Just as the Fianna Fáil meeting concluded, the roller-coaster nature of the week continued as RTÉ's Nine O'Clock News reported that the EU/IMF bailout would be in the region of €85bn.
Proceedings in the Dáil the following morning were dominated by the €85bn figure and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore described it as "one hell of an overdraft".
Then, getting down to much more parochial matters, Cowen rejected a claim from Fianna Fáil TD Seán Power on his local KFM radio station that "shortly after the budget, he [Cowen] will tender his resignation" as he "realises the game is up".
By 2pm attention had switched to the government's announcement of its 140-page four-year budgetary plan to save €15bn.
Officially called "The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014", it outlined a package of measures designed to raise an extra €5bn in taxes and reduce public spending by €10bn by 2014.
"Your €4,600 bill", blasted the main headline on Thursday's Irish Independent, which labeled the plan a "draconian blueprint" that will cost the average family an extra €4,600 in taxes each year.
The Irish Daily Mail lead headline stated: "Welcome to the age of doing without".
The level of anger reflected in the morning papers was replicated in the Dáil chamber as the opposition attacked Cowen.
In a strong performance in the Dáil, Cowen stated that the four-year plan is a "pathway to recovery".
But a robust Kenny, who already appears to be on an election footing, claimed, "I have never seen such a po-faced, somber, de-motivated, beaten crowd," as Cowen's cabinet.
Among the more colourful criticisms of the four-year plan came from Siptu leader Jack O'Connor, who claimed, "This equates to a roadmap from the Stone Age."
Even for O'Connor, it is a bit of an exaggeration to compare anything that happened last week to the Stone Age. But there is no doubt that it was an era-defining week.
By any yardstick, it was among the most important seven days in a generation.
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