Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Sow's Ear Year - Will Brian Cowen Ever Catch a Break?

The Celtic Tiger, such as it was, was fuelled by the Jumbo Breakfast Roll. Two scholastics from two entirely different schools, Mr David McWilliams and Mr Pat Shortt, both identified the Jumbo Breakfast Roll as the very asphodel of the Irish economic revolution.

If the country were not catapulting to Hell in a handcart at a genuinely astonishing rate of knots, this would count as a delicious irony in the light of the weekend’s pork recall. Instead, the very word delicious will only serve as a goad to the memory of the fries that were not eaten this morning in Erin, and the tears return again.

Bertie Ahern gloried in the nickname of the Teflon Taoiseach, as everything he touched turned to gold. Bertie’s greatest gift was his singular ability to always steer clear of disaster. His successor, in marked contrast, seems to attract disaster the way Newry attracts shoppers.

The late John Healy wrote at the height of the GUBU crisis of 1982 that if Charlie Haughey had ducks, they would drown; to borrow from the great man a quarter of a century later, it seems fair to say that if Brian Cowen had ducks, not only would they drown, they would pollute the lake, kill the fish, sink the final nail into the coffin of Irish tourism, the only industry left, and would then turn out of to have copped it in the first place because they were being fed on that diesel-flavoured feed as well.

A week without fries the country could survive. Porridge is fine food, irrespective of Doctor Johnson’s teasing of Boswell. But my Lord and my God, Ireland Inc does not need another industry to collapse after the building industry went to the wall.

This is the point. While the empty shelves, such as Tesco’s in Phibsboro, D7, above, are evocative, the bigger picture is that the world woke up this morning to the news that Irish pork isn’t safe to eat. No matter how that’s qualified as the week rolls out, that’s what people will remember. After the collapse of the building industry, and the sudden ending of the many streams of revenue that industry supplied the public purse, Ireland Inc now faces the prospect of hard times for another major industry and the double jeopardy of another queue of people outside Government Buildings looking for compensation.

This is in keeping with yesterday’s protest by the INTO on O’Connell Street. If An Spailpín were in danger of losing his job he wouldn’t like it either, but it was hard to disagree with Brendan Keenan of the Irish Independent on RTÉ Radio 1's This Week this afternoon when he queried where exactly the INTO thinks the Government will get the money to pay their salaries?

Charles Dickens has Mr Wilkins Micawber, that marvellous man modelled on Dickens’ own hopelessly profligate father, explain the simple facts of life to our protagonist in David Copperfield, a lesson to which the nation could do with hearing right now:

“‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six; result, happiness. Annual income twenty points, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six; result, misery.’”

It really is as simple as that. An Spailpín would have some sympathy for the teachers, as they provide a vital societal function. But if every dog and devil on the public purse thinks that benchmarking can continue in the teeth of current events, then they are living at a considerable remove from the real world. Don’t forget, the people whose job it was to stop illegal feed being fed to pigs are benchmarked; they will get their hearty pay rise this year same as ever, even as the country collapses around their ears.

There are 350,000 people employed by the Irish state, between civil servants, public servants and whatever one calls a person that works for a quango – leisured servants, perhaps? That’s enough votes to elect ten to twelve new TDs, or else show the road to ten or twelve in there already. Something else that Brian Cowen will be all too sadly aware of as he munches his kiwi and grapefruit tomorrow morning, neither much of a substitute for the rashers and sausages.

The Taoiseach’s party piece is Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore; perhaps in the light of current events, he’d be as well off to consider a change to Born Under a Bad Sign? Right now, the refrain of “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” seems all too terribly apt.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,