Hiking along the Kokoda Trail in remote eastern Papua New Guinea last summer, Denis O’Brien discovered he didn’t have a mobile phone signal. The sturdily built Irish telecommunications tycoon knew how to fix that. He stormed into the local office of Digicel Group Ltd., the wireless operator he’d founded in 2001, and demanded that extra phone towers be erected along the route.
Among his supporters in the southwest of Ireland, lawmaker Jackie Healy-Rae is known as the “Sugar Daddy” for championing his region. Now Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen may depend on his former political ally to pass next year’s budget and keep international patrons sweet.
Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will outline 6 billion euros ($8 billion) worth of spending cuts and tax increases today, seeking to seal an international bailout to rescue the state’s finances and banks.
The euro fell from near a two-week high against the dollar as Ireland’s parliament neared a vote on austerity measures that are required for the nation to qualify for an 85 billion-euro ($113 billion) aid package.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s future may be played out in a corner of Ireland nicknamed the “forgotten county,” where voters will get the chance this week to show him that the country’s bailout has a political cost.
Ireland’s Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will today lay out a four-year deficit-cutting program that his party may not be around to deliver, as the government’s majority evaporates and a bailout approaches.