Posts categorized “Economy”

Haul in the Bloody Bankers


Haul in the Bloody Bankers!

 

Bring the bloody bankers before the Public Accounts Committee! There should be three important steps taken as a result of what can only be described as the spectacularly successful hearings of the Public Accounts Committee.

                           One, the lawyers cant about Dáil Committees being an intrusion upon the work of the judiciary and the right of a man to his good name, should be treated as the self-interested rubbish it is and the PAC should do as it has done in the Rehab and penalty points debacle, insist on the principle that it has authority where public monies are concerned and haul before it eh bankers and everyone else involved in the  greatest, most wasteful  expenditure of public money in the history of the State, the infamous bank bailout.

                             The greedy corrupt, and inefficient decision-takers in law, politics, the professions and the financial institution s who indulged in the orgy of reckless trading that brought upon us a crash that has driven people to kill themselves should be treated as those responsible for  the penalty point s debacle and the misuse of charitable funds held up to public scrutiny and condemnation.

                        Public opinion has c hanged since the lawyers helped to sway the referendum which decided again against giving the people, via their elected representatives, the power to  hearings into the causes of the bank crash. The workings of the public accounts committee have helped the change minds for the better and the change should be acted on.

              I say to the PAC: public opinion is with you, strike now while the iron is hot- bring the bloody bankers before you.

 

              The second point which I refer to in my opening paragraph is that, also arising from the PAC deliberations that there should be a thorough going inquiry into the running of the Garda Síochána. We need something on the lines of Chris Patten’s overhaul of the police in the six counties.

              For some time I have been increasingly annoyed at the annual statements by the Garda commissioner and his cohorts about crime statistics. To listen to the official pronouncements one would think that matters were not too bad, or even in some categories that crime is down.

              This is sheer nonsense. This week for example one only had to listen to Valerie Cox’ reports on RTE radio one about the reign of terror endured by elderly people in county Donegal to wonder did the crime statisticians live on the same planet as the rest of us.

              The plain fact is that crime in the Republic has gone to Hell in a hand basket. When I began work in the Evening Press in August 1954 there were two murders that year. Now one would feel lucky to only have two in a week. On top of that Garda stations are being closed down left, right and centre. No matter what anyone says this must have an effect on the crime statistics.

              The guards like the rest of the community are suffering pay cuts and morale in the force is low. There was too much reliance on overtime within the force and like other sections of the community the Gardaí in the good days were able to get loans without much difficulty. That’s not the case now.

              I remember during a previous recession in the seventies when prison warders were known to take their wives to New York for Christmas shopping until the overtime was suddenly axed, Drastic, but secret action had to be taken by the authorities.

              Lending institutions were visited by government representatives issuing warnings against foreclosures without notifying the authorities first. The Department of Justice wanted the opportunity of quietly helping out with loans rather than rendering the warders susceptible to bribery by the Provisionals.

              It’s high time that the whole question of moral in the force, how promotions are affected, how income packages are built up, what is the state of the equipment and why we can’t be told in plain language why we don’t see more guards on the street should be publically aired.

         I‘ve a particular interest in the police force, my father was the first Garda deputy commissioner and I grew up believing, as I still do that the establishment of an unarmed police force in the midst of a Civil War was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the state, it’s a legacy worth preserving – nobody suffers more than the average decent member of the force from bad behaviour on the part of any of their colleagues.

              If an inquiry would show that there is a genuine need for investment in the force, then let us have it, let there be recruitment, let there be more modern car fleets etc, isn’t it a damn sight better to have a top class police force than to pump billions into bank – and before the year is out remember, we may well have to cough up more billions when the Europeans conduct their stress test on our banks

              Already there has been one ominous straw in the wind Michael Noonan has let it be known that the government is looking for some international bank to come in here and help with lending as the economy improves. That’s a fairly clear indication that despite all the billions expended on them the Irish banks are not in a position to do that lending.

              Finally the third point, maybe last but it’s not least, but the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Garda Commissioner Mr Martin Callinan should resign, if this were England they’d be gone already. I’ll expand on this topic along with the significance of a very worrying incident concerning Garda oversight which I was personally involved in. Wait for it!

 


Scottish Independence Go For it


Whoever thought that the worst nightmare of Belfast Loyalists would be in danger of coming true this year?  But ‘tis true they, and those that think like them are dependent on a TAIG, the loyalist term for a Catholic, to preserve the Union. The Taig, Mr David Cameron of Eton and Westminster has emerged Toff Against Independence Granting (Taig) for Scotland.

Candidly I’ve always believed that the dominant theme in Scotland’s debate on Independence was an unstated one; Oh Lord make me good but not yet. We could go on discussing the symbolism of the fact that a British Prime Minister chose London rather than Edinburgh to deliver his State of the Union message but the point of his recent speech is that we really are getting to the sharp end of the devolution debate.

The ‘not yetters’ have either to make use of that pot or get off it.  I am an unequivocal believer in Independence for Scotland, the unity of Ireland and as much Independence in decision taking as regions emerging from a colonial past can reasonably manage.

I see no virtue in merely declaring independence so that a handful of zealots can do a Mugabe on a once prosperous area and take an oath of poverty which the people not the Zealots have to observe.  I genuinely believe that nationality, the Nation is an extension of the family, the clan and that there is a pride and an energising creativity in being independent which transcends reliance on the crumbs from the rich man’s table in a faraway metropole.

The Republic of Ireland has had its share of calamitous self-inflicted wounds since independence, one of the worst being the recent orgy of reckless trading presided over by government and facilitated by corrupt bankers, civil servants, financial institutions and the professions.

Bernard Shaw’s dictum that all professions are a conspiracy against the people was only too well borne out by Irish Lawyers, accountants and the stock broking fraternity who advised people to invest their life savings in banks run by their pals from whom they knew very well that a day of reckoning was coming but continued none the less to funnel funds into these financial monsters so as to puff both prices and their commissions.

The result has been a tidal wave of unemployment, bankruptcies, emigration and suicide, the rates for which are currently more than fifty percent above pre-crash levels, all this of course has long term implications for hopes for a united Ireland. But the same ability to make wrong decisions which Independence confers also gives a people the right and the ability to correct mistakes and Irish confidence is currently growing by the month as harsh medicine was taken, lessons were learnt and visibly the economy is starting to take off again.

Scotland has a proud tradition of achievement. Scottish soldiers, scientists and engineers have added to the reputation of Scotland in every corner of the globe. I believe that with independence the creativity and economic drive which is now being syphoned off to the south of the border could really make the Flower of Scotland bloom. Who knows some improvement might even be wrought in the standard of Scots rugby.

North sea Oil reserves are almost certainly far greater than the public has been led to believe and the region attracts colossal revenues both from whisky distilling and tourism. Scotland is literally one of the most beautiful places in the world and the number of its visitors can only grow with the expansion of budget air travel.

The Irish Development Authority (IDA) is recognised worldwide as a leader in the race to attract inward investment to small countries. From my friends in the organisation I know that its Scottish opposite number is regarded by the Irish as a formidable rival and though it would give my own people further competition I have no doubt that the stimulus of independence would increase inward investment to Scotland.

Whatever reasonable period of turbulence the country might expect to undergo after independence I have no doubt that the business acumen of the Scots and their tradition of hard work and study would greatly increase prosperity in the wake of independence.

The only caveat I will enter if I may, based on our dreadful experiences in Northern Ireland on the evils of sectarianism is that political and religious leaders and all sides of the independence debate should always be mindful of the need to avoid stirring up ancient religious passions. Sectarianism, the monster that lurks deep in the psychology of both Ireland and England is a destructive flame only waiting to be fanned into life by the emergence of a demagogue like Ian Kyle Paisley

The scots have nothing to fear from independence but fear itself. After all neither Braveheart nor Robert the Bruce were Englishmen.


Back to the Future


 

The light is fading on New Year’s Day as this is written, but it is not intended as a song at twilight but as a promise on the dawning of a New Year- I’ll keep the Blog up to date in 2014! After what we’ve been through it would be permissible to open the New Year simply with a salvo directed at the decision takers who have brought such misery on our people. But I feel that there is room for a modest optimism at the impending arrival of economic crocuses to join the floral ones on their way.

There are damn few reasons for optimism, floral or otherwise emanating from Northern Ireland of course. I didn’t expect the recent talks to produce anything.  One of the sharp images I have in my mind from the time of the Good Friday Agreement is of Geoffrey Donaldson driving angrily from Stormont as the Good Friday Agreement neared completion because of his opposition to its contents. I couldn’t see him driving towards a New Year’s Eve agreement with a smile on his face and he’s not the worst of them.  The reality is that in Dublin a Fine Gael led government preoccupied with economic problems and in London a conservative one not too bothered about the north anyway both took their feet off the accelerator of Northern Ireland progress.

London and Dublin should have been at the talks despite Richard Hass’ presence, and that of the attractive Megan O’Sullivan one did not have the feeling that here was the full monty.  We’re in a season of orange commemoration reaching from the signing of the covenant to the Larne gun running and a symbolism of the Loyalist camp at Holy Cross monastery in north Belfast should not be over looked.

The camp is of course an extraordinary provocation to the nationalists of that area whose children had to be escorted to school each day through cordons of chanting loyalists, but if any attempt were made to remove the camp by force what would be the chances of the survival of the monastery itself. They haven’t gone away you know even if Fine Gael and Labour chose to conduct themselves as though they had.

Back to our own economic and psychological state in the republic while I said at the outset and say again that a little guarded optimism is justified I consider it utterly opprobrious that those responsible for the economic treason are still walking about scot free while suicide rates soar, our young people shoal out of the country and able bodied valuable men and women gaze dull eyed a the dole queue and the emptiness of their future. The administrators, the bankers, the politicians and the senior figures in Ireland’s small but terribly influential financial community should be in jail by now not free to make golfing jaunts to the sun or to transfer some of their ill-gotten wealth to their wives.

It’s an open secret that the financial people are in league with the legal profession – important sections of which also invested in bank shares and property busts. Each side props up the other in an outrageous, but hitherto successful, attempt to defeat justice. To paraphrase Padraig Pearse ‘until prison holds these men Ireland will never be at peace’.  

However not to end on a sour note may I wish all my readers a Happy New Year, and one in which the flowers of economic revival really do bloom.


Are we Helpless before the Guilty?


Over the New Year I’ve been pondering the implications of a discovery I made while researching my book on the Famine* namely that one of its principal legacies to Ireland was what the psychiatrists called ‘learned helplessness’.  The beliefs that no matter how one tried there was nothing to do in the face of catastrophe save succumb to it or emigrate. There was no possibility of getting back at those who brought about the disaster. In the case of the Famine and in today’s Ireland people are either accepting whatever burdens have been placed upon them with varying degrees of despair or they are getting out.

If one looks at the plight of modern Ireland and comments in astonishment; ‘and nobody is going to jail!’ one can be certain that the automatic knee jerk reaction will be; ‘No! And nobody will go.’  The correct response of course would be for thousands to gather in the streets outside the Dáil demanding the prosecution of the politicians, the policy makers, the regulators who did not regulate, the overseeing civil servants who did not oversee, and the decision takers in the banks and other financial institutions who indulged in spectacularly reckless trading.

The good people, the would be educators of their families, the hard workers are being lashed into carrying the nation’s burdens while the decision takers responsible for their misery ride off unscathed in to the sunset with their pay offs and their pensions and knowing smirks on their faces.

How can we punish the people responsible for Ireland’s present economic and psychological woes? Crime is up, so is unemployment and Irish suicide rates are now acknowledged to be running at 50% above the pre- financial crash levels.  On top of this the country has lost its sovereignty and stands in a Brussels dole queue while it’s young people stand in airport queues to emigrate.

The people are coping bravely and industriously with the threat of unemployment, new taxes and wage cuts but those responsible go Scott free. The government has made no effort to beef up the fraud squad whose good police work is ultimately largely rendered impotent because of a public service embargo necessitated by the credit squeeze which prevents the hiring of essential expertise; forensic accountants, solicitors, senior counsel and so on.  Thus the people who caused the embargo to be instituted escape unscathed and a government reluctant to proceed against key figures in the worlds of law, politics, the Civil service and finance is enabled to shirk its duty of rendering the mighty as well as the meek amenable to the law.

When it first came into office the government did make an effort to set up Dáil committees of Inquiry which would have brought relevant figures to the Dáil to explain themselves as is done in London and Washington. However the attempt was made valueless by the half-hearted way in which the government went about winning the referendum campaign which would have been necessary under the Irish Constitution to allow these committees to be set up.  The referendum was lost, paradoxically in part because the public had become so mistrustful of the politicians that they shrank from giving them further powers.

Moreover a phalanx of former attorneys general further discouraged the public by signing their names to an open letter stating that the proposed committees would interfere with a man’s right to his good name and the judiciaries’ right to independence.

One of the signatories to that letter Mr Dermot Gleeson, was the chairman of Allied Irish Bank.  Another was Mr Peter Sutherland of Goldman Sachs. Incidentally another referendum called for by the financial crisis was one which was necessitated by the reluctance of judges to accept the same pay cuts which other ordinary citizens had to undergo.

There is a great sense of unfairness abroad in Ireland.  As I write these words people are agonising over where they are to get the money for yet more taxes due later this year, a property tax and a beginning to Water rates with the introduction of meters. The Irish are no less patriotic and hardworking than they ever were and just as willing to accept sacrifice for the public weal, but that sacrifice should not be borne solely by the innocent people who would be far more willing to shoulder their burdens if they felt that the guilty suffered for their crimes along with the innocent. It’s time for the government to either revive their original committees proposal or introduce some new initiative to wipe the smirks off those fat cats’ faces.

Feel free to contact me with any comments, suggestions or ideas through the contact section on this website or through my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/timpat.coogan.3

 

 

Tim Pat Coogan’s new book, ‘The Famine Plot, England’s role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy’ published by Palgrave Macmillan is available in bookshops now.

 


“Michael Collins & the Bankers” Lecture at Glasnevin Museum


Tim Pat will give a lecture entitled ‘Michael Collins and the Bankers’ on 19 August in the Glasnevin Museum as part of the Glasnevin Trust lecture series. Tickets for the event cost €10. All monies raised will benefit the upkeep of the cemetery.

The lecture, which starts at 2.30pm, will consider what Ireland’s first Minister for Finance might have made of the present day banking crisis.

Within days of being appointed Minister for Finance in 1919, Michael Collins set about raising the funds necessary for Dail Eireann. Writer Frank O’Connnor said of him: “He was a born improvisator, and from the moment he was appointed … the Department of Finance began to function, within a few weeks his mighty Loan was under way and even today when we have forgotten or can no longer imagine the preposterous conditions under which the department worked – censorship, imprisonment, confiscation, murder – one is filled with respect for the variety and thoroughness of the work performed.”


Tim Pat to deliver Mac Lua Memorial Lecture – “Why Is No One In Jail?”


Tim Pat will kick off a series of debates on Ireland’s economic woes when he delivers the annual Mac Lua Memorial Lecture for Irish Writers’ Month in Hammersmith, London.

The event, with a Q&A to follow, will take place on Wednesday 6th June, 7pm.

» For full details go to www.irishculturalcentre.co.uk.


Sure we’re not right Michael, Sure we’re not! – Tim Pat at the Percy French Summer School


Tim Pat will be speaking at the 2011 Percy French Summer
School
, to be held at Castlecoote House, Co. Roscommon, from 11th–15th July

The Athlone Advertiser reports that the headline talk “… is one of many that aims to address current socio-economic issues… Some of Ireland’s leading academics will gather to celebrate the work of Percy French and debate issues such as ‘The Irish conscience’, ‘The Female education debate in 18th century’, ‘Trades, crafts and people of old Fuerty’, to name but a few…. Tim Pat’s talk is of course taken from Percy French’s well known song ‘The West Clare Railway’”

Question and Answer Session – Thursday 14th July, 12.15pm

Sure we’re not right Michael, Sure we’re not!

A reflection on the contemporary political and economic crises with apologies to ‘The West Clare Railway’ by Percy French

Tim Pat Coogan
Luke Ming Flanagan TD CHAIR


Summer schools for thought


Throughout the summer Ireland explodes with summer school mania. Indeed, these schools or festivals pop up amongst the Irish across the world, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish success and good cheer to the good people who will be staging their annual event at Butte, Montana, in a few days time. But it is on two Irish festivals that I wish to focus.

The two are being held North and South of the border, and accurately sum up both the country’s present preoccupations and the frequently over-looked, but central, identity problem facing contemporary Irish society.

One, to be held in Ballina next month at The Humbert School, asks a stark question: Can Ireland be redeemed? As it normally does, the Humbert lists an imposing cast of participants, ranging from John Hume, to Judge Ryan – who produced the recent Report into clerical child abuse – and European and Irish political and clerical luminaries. Over the weekend of August 23, the School will hold a think-in on the issues of the day – banking and political skulduggery, the Lisbon Treaty, child abuse, and Ireland’s diminishing response to world poverty.

The only major Irish institution to escape scrutiny is the GAA, and given the fact that Mayo are doing particularly well at the football this year, it too may come up for mention. If it does, it will be the only influential force in Irish society which can reasonably expect a kind word.

The thirty two county GAA has historical roots in the subject matter of the other Summer School, The Tom Dunn School, held in Rostrevor, County Down. The school was named in memory of the United Irishman Tom Dunn, who was flogged to death in 1798 without betraying his comrades.

I have just taken part in this remarkable event. It combined magnificent Irish music, a moving tribute to the late Paddy O’Hanlon, a founder of the SDLP and a behind-the-scenes architect of the Good Friday Agreement, by his uncle, Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, the former Fianna Fail Minister whose father was one of Michael Collins’ squad.

The highlight was a banquet, at which 18th Century costumes were worn. The menu was the same as that for a dinner held in honor of Wolfe Tone in Dunn’s time. The toasts included the President of America, of France and King George. The event attracts both Catholic and Protestant support and, while honoring the memory of the United Irishmen in general (and Dunn in particular),  it also seeks to promulgate the Republican doctrine of uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in a common sense of community.

These admirable objectives should command widespread support in the Republic also but, given the anger, cynicism, pessimism, and sense of betrayal, that now permeates  Ireland, anyone who stood outside the GPO today advocating anything which smacked of idealism and a United Ireland would risk either been beaten over the head by a copy of the An Bord Snip Report, or run over by a shopper heading north attracted by prices far lower than those obtaining in the Rip Off Republic.

For at the moment there is nothing left in Irish public life that one might term a tent-pole philosophy around which a sorely beset people could group.

Back in the eighties, not long after I had left the Irish Press in 1987, I began to get worried about the prospect of such a lacuna arising and became so angry at the direction of Irish life, and the clear indications of corrupt relationships between the rich and the would-be rich, and the political elite, that I broke a vow which I had made to myself to shun newspapers and devote myself solely to book authorship.

I rang my old Irish Press colleague, Damian Kiberd, who had earlier left the Press to found the highly successful Sunday Business Post, and arranged to write a blistering article on the theme that Ireland needed to develop a sense of national outrage. In my best Cassandra mode I pointed out that the Irish lack a sense of outrage.

We put up with both the doings of the faceless mandarin and the political poltroon with equal indifference. The stroke-puller, the corner cutting financial whiz kid, the lengthening dole queue are all either tolerated or lazily over-looked until we suddenly find ourselves joining the dole queue, with a mortgage and kids in fee-paying schools.

As a result, twenty years after I wrote that Sunday Business Post article the sense of outrage is all too obvious. Thatching on a windy day has always been an Irish political tendency. But today the thatching is being attempted in the teeth of a howling gale.

To return to the question posed by the Humbert Summer School: Can Ireland be redeemed? The government is hoping that by setting up something called NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) it will calm the tempest. NAMA is supposed to take over the management of the banks’ property loans at a discount, to preserve the ailing Irish banking system. It is a perilous venture.

Nothing definite is known of the extent of the banks indebtedness but guesstimates range from twenty to forty billion. However, in the course of an action brought against a developer last week for a relatively small sum, it was revealed in court that a so called ‘asset’ in Sandyford Co. Dublin, a development site against which 22 million had been loaned, is worth only a half million in to-day’s conditions. That is to say forty four times less than its supposed value.

Just what is the scale of the debt being assumed by the Irish tax-payer, their children and seemingly, their children’s  children? The short answer is we don’t know. But we do know that there are Sandyford-like situations all over the country, and that  the loans involved in them run not to millions but  billions .

However, the government is persevering with NAMA because it fears that if not, Irish bonds will lose their attraction to international investors and the country will go bust. Perhaps so, perhaps not. Most of these bonds are held by international pension funds that have already made provision for bad debts. There is a serious school of thought which says that Ireland is ultimately going to be forced to default on its commitments, because of the real debt situation, and the banks will collapse anyhow.

Better let them go broke now, and allow healthy banks to emerge over the next few years, runs the anti-NAMA argument. How the argument will ultimately be resolved no man can say, but if ever there was a time when the Irish Republic could do with a return to the idealism, and sense of identity, which inspired the Republicanism of Tom Dunn, George Washington and the French revolutionaries,  it is today.

- First published 27th July 2009 at IrishCentral.com


Irish mood picks up as sun shines down on Ireland


“This will take an awful lot of hardship.”

“It doesn’t take much.”

Both of the foregoing contradictory statements are true of Ireland’s economy and mood of the moment.

On the one hand there is the demoralizing game of pass-the-parcel being played by the politicians with the report of the popularly-termed An Bord Snip Nua which contains the horrific list of cuts which the economists say are needed to get the economy back on track.

On the other is the clearly observable mood of national cheerfulness brought on by a combination of welcome ephemera which have nothing to do with the economy.

The fine weather, the success of the rugby players and U2’s Barcelona opening are helping to offset the gloomy impact of the incessant flow of news bulletins about job losses and yawning trade deficits.

It is many years since Thomas Davis wrote that there was no nation on earth over whom music had such power over as the Irish. He was writing in an era of famine, but he had hit on an essential truth of the Irish character which has carried them through many a fearsome trial and may do so again in today’s circumstances.

Priceless gift

The race does have a priceless gift of being able to seize the moment if an instant of distraction or of uplift beckons. The sun appears briefly and, from God knows where, people flock to the beaches. A famous horse runs at a race meeting, and the punters forget the dole queues to spend money no-one knew existed.

The gift of laughter and an ability to make music out of spoons and bones helped the Irish to survive the horrors of mining or ditch-digging in disease-ridden swamps. The obverse side of the medal is of course depression and alcohol and substance abuse.

But here, in the now, where I am on the Aran Islands the sunshine is causing the Irish to revert to tradition attitudes. Instead of going abroad for the sun they are flocking to the Aran Islands to enjoy its spectacular beaches and incredible cliffs. In place of Germans and Scandinavians I now meet clouds of cyclists who pay me the compliment of taking me for an Islander and addressing me in half-forgotten, school book Irish.

But for how long will the sun shine? The sportsmen enthral? The day of reckoning can not be postponed indefinitely. And the passing of the parcel will have to stop sometime.

No soft words

The government somehow managed to get the IMF to tone down its recent report on the Irish economy so that while stigmatizing Ireland for creating the most overheated economy in the developed world, at the same time it still managed to sound vaguely complimentary about how it was dealing with the consequential crisis.

However An Bord Snip contains no soft words. It is the day of reckoning. It contains the precise recommendations for slashing welfare and public service budgets which the government hopes will induce the international financial community to keep Ireland afloat.

Various drafts of its real or imagined contents have been well leaked. They range from cutting children’s allowances, reducing the number of Gardai, dropping some 10,000 superfluous civil servants off the State pay roll to removing certain appendages from members of the Cabinet (a particularly well-received rumor this last).

For some weeks now the publication of the Report’s contents has been expected almost daily. But what has been received instead have been circumlocutory official statements to the effect that: “It is expected that the Report will be presented to the Minister for Finance tomorrow.”

‘Riot Police’

So far tomorrow has not come and the statements about ministerial, presentations are being (correctly) interpreted as code for “Jaysus lads. If we publish that any savings we might make will go on paying riot police.”

This is not an entirely unreal forecast. Already the elderly have taken to the streets over the withdrawal of medical cards and at least one section of the trade union movement, the electricians union, has shown its willingness to disregard government urgings for restraint by serving strike notice, not over the now universal pay cuts, but for a wage increase.

The gardai and civil servants unions might well be expected to respond with demands for thousands of job cuts by exercising the nuclear option. Realistically speaking, a government which has already been ravaged in last month’s local government and European elections could be looking at near total extinction in any forthcoming general election.

And, fears for a general election apart, there is the looming question of the re-run of the Lisbon Treaty. It is generally accepted that a central factor in the electorate’s rejection of the last Lisbon Treaty referendum, which made Ireland the sore thumb of Europe, was anger at the government’s performance.

Sinn Fein

But there were other considerations such as fears about abortion being introduced to the Republic, the ending of the traditional policy of neutrality and the unlikely, and un-lovely, shared attack on the Treaty from the left-wing Sinn Fein and the right-wing Libertas party.

Since that referendum the Irish government has managed to secure remarkable concessions on the neutrality and other issues from the European Parliament. Moreover both Libertas and Sinn Fein suffered reverses in the recent European elections so there were strong grounds for supposing that in the Lisbon Treaty’s Second Coming, next autumn, the measure would succeed.

Ordinary common sense would appear to dictate that it would pass, if for no other reason than that there is a general realisation that the Republic of Ireland’s continuation as a sovereign State depends on the support of the European bank, but if An Bord Snip were to trigger a bloody-minded reaction on the lines of the electricians action then anything could happen.

And so the Awful and the Cheerful reign over Ireland at the moment. I’m afraid that as the summer fades into winter that rugby alone, or even the exploits of the great Kilkenny hurling team, will not sustain the national mood. But Davis’s words still hold true and after all the Irish spirit did survive the famine and the awful effects of building the canals through the dreadful, fever-infested swamps of New Orleans.

- First published 6th July 2009 at IrishCentral.com


The tides of electoral change run over Ireland


The new celebrity politician of Ireland, George Lee, accurately summed up the implications of the rip tide that has run through the electoral triathlon, of which two legs have  been effectively decided.

In his victory speech, he said that the Government does not have a mandate to continue. The local government wipeout which seems to be in progress and the way the two by-elections to the Dail are going would certainly bear this out.

Nor are the early forecasts for the European Elections any more hopeful for the government. It’s too early to call these with certainty, but Fianna Fail could end up with no representative in the East (effectively with no one in Dublin), and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou MacDonald could also struggle to retain her seat.

Both sides of the Irish Sea are swept these days with the prospect of electoral change, as England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown could no doubt ruefully tell Ireland’s Brian Cowen.

But more soberly, what each leader could equally truly tell the other, is that electoral change could, very likely will, come without bringing major policy changes.

For the elephant in the Irish room the fact is, that to all intents and purposes, Dublin has ceded control of her economic affairs, no matter what new coalition of forces comes to power in the Dail, to the European Central Bank.  Whatever unpalatable medicine that institution chooses to dish out will have to be swallowed by us all.

Love affairs have to be paid for and Ireland’s fatal romance with the property developers has indeed proved a Liason Dangereuse.

The money for the dole and for bank bailouts has one thing in common – it has to be borrowed – and Brussels is the only place it can be borrowed from, that is if it can be borrowed at all.

A mini International Monetary Fund (IMF) regime of spending cuts and credit restrictions is already in place, and a much more stringent one, more closely resembling the full blooded IMF variety, is scheduled for the autumn budget no matter what government is in power.

However, despite the restrictions of the Brussels straight jacket, the Irish electorate have managed to make one important, independent statement.

It has said loudly and clearly that it is sick of greed, corruption, inefficiency and waste. In caning Fianna Fail as it has done, and may yet do further, it has issued a warning to the political class that some kinds of behavior can no longer be gotten away with.

The powerful Irish institutions of the Churches, the Banks and the body Politic are learning a new and threatening word, accountability.

There is a seeking of justice abroad; people want to see bankers in handcuffs for fraud, and clergy in jail for the horrors they inflicted on children in their care.

The electorate wishes to see decent people taken off dole queues to which they should never have been consigned by bankers and by developers’ greed and by political corruption.

All these goals may not seem important in Brussels, but they are also important to the people of Ireland, whose votes are being counted this weekend.

- First published 6th June 2009 at IrishCentral.com