Saturday, February 21, 2009

More to Fighting the Recession Than Hot Air and Blather

An Spailpín Fánach allowed himself a wry smile this evening when he heard Mr David Begg of the ICTU damn “crony capitalism” during that protest in Dublin today.

If Mr Begg is against cronyism, it’s lately it came on him. He and his union were fully signed up members of the public private partnership that has essentially governed Ireland for the past ten years until the start of this month, when they finally got the smell of a cake burning, and they scarpered. And now Mr Begg claims he had nothing to do with it? Break me a give.

One of the many reasons the country is currently twirling down the crapper at the moment is because rats scurrying off a sinking ship are as a grandfather’s egg and spoon race at the school sports in comparison to the eagerness of the Irish nation to find someone – anyone! – to blame for the situation the country is currently in. Whereas the reality is, as Father Paneloux told his congregation at Agen in Albert Camus’ The Plague, “calamity has come upon us my children, and we deserve it.”

As an Tomaltach has rightly remarked, there is a very real and visceral anger in the country that so much has been lost so quickly. The really sad thing has been the nation’s reaction to that loss.

For the past ten or fifteen years we’ve believed that the Irish have changed as a nation. That the old days of tipping your hat to gentry and taking a begging bowl to Brussels were over. We thought we were a new, 21st Century nation, free of old dogmas, taking our place in the world at the vanguard of a technological revolution. The best educated workforce in the world.

And then things went wallop, and we reverted to type. It was straight down to the Dáil to demand that this gravy train keep running or that feather bed stay soft. The fact that the country is all out of both gravy and feathers wasn’t taken into the equation.

The facts are these. The country suffered a double hammer blow. The first is the near collapse of the world economic system. Nothing much we could do about that. The second is the collapse of the Irish housing market, which has had several knock-on effects – the revelations concerning gangsterism in the banking system, the cutting off of the Government’s chief source of revenue, the massive increases in unemployment. That list, God help us, is still being compiled.

Both of those things are spilt milk now. Boiling Seánie Fitzpatrick in oil outside the GPO will not bring any of that lost money back. Talking about what’s fair and unfair doesn’t come into it. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost already this year – what was fair about any of that? What’s fair about someone prudently investing their savings in Bank of Ireland shares only to see all that disappear into the void, never to come back? But I don’t think we’ll see Mr Begg organising any marches for them.

What would be nice would be if someone were to stand up and say: we’re drawing a line under this now. This is how we get out of this mess, and this is what I’m personally going to do, my own individual self, for the good of the country. A lot of vague old blather won’t do it. Let a leader rise who will talk numbers – we have this much coming in, and this much going out. This is how we balance the books.

An Spailpín shan’t be holding his breath. Pass the bananas.

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