Won’t be fooled again?
It was the ultimate GateGate. At 7.30am last Wednesday, a dude drove his cement truck towards the gates of Dail Eireann. The truck was decorated from head to toe with various banking tags (tags of the toxic bank variety) and, …
It was the ultimate GateGate. At 7.30am last Wednesday, a dude drove his cement truck towards the gates of Dail Eireann. The truck was decorated from head to toe with various banking tags (tags of the toxic bank variety) and, hugely topical given the Ryder Cup was around the corner, references to golf and golf balls.
Cue online and offline media meltdown as the truck dude became the latest cipher for all the anger, rage and unhappiness in the country at the thought of our feckless, careless, useless politicians using our cash to bail out the feckless, careless, useless gamblers in the banks. Call it Cementgate, Gategate or Truckgate but it was the story of the morning.
Of course, many people applauded the actions of Joe McNamara, the lad in the lorry. There were letters to the editor calling him a “hero”, loads of tweets praising his action and plenty of after-the-fact applause.
But, as Mick Clifford pointed out in the Sunday Trib at the weekend, it’s not as clear-cut as it looks. Per Clifford, McNamara turns out to be a property businessman who did his level best to make hay while the sun shone during the boom leading to him to over-estimate his prowess as a developer. “Like a lot of others, it now appears he was in over his head. His beef with Anglo concerns a debt of €3.5m, which he borrowed to develop properties.”
When you take a different look at the incident – property developer and businessman who owes money to the bank and council because he overstretched himself drives lorry towards gate – the praise and “hero” worship looks slightly different. After all, isn’t it lads like Joe the Developer, people who were happy to take the money on offer from the banks in the good times to make even more money and then couldn’t pay the loans back in the bad times, who are also to blame for the mess we’re in?
Yes, we’ve already put the bankers and politicians up against the wall, but they’re not the only ones who are complicit in the current multi-billion mess we find ourselves in. If we’re to give the bankers and the politicians a well-deserved lash for their deed (the over-the-top reaction to Bertie Ahern doing a R Kelly and getting trapped in a closet shows we haven’t forgotten his antics), we should remember that they’re not the only guilty parties. That many are willing to view a delinquent developer as a hero because he drives a truck towards a gate says a lot about misplaced anger.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of this anger is, of course, expressed in hindsight. As this fascinating analysis on the back of last week’s Irish Times’ opinion poll shows, the Irish electorate (or at least that part of the electorate tapped for their opinions in these polls) were always happy with our leaders when times are good.
Even more telling was a table in last Thursday’s paper – which I can’t locate online, apologies – showing the huge level of support which Ahern was receiving all the way through 2007 and the first half of 2008. It was only when the shit really hit the fan in September 2008 (and when Ahern had skipped government buildings) that the Irish electorate turned on Fianna Fail. Sure, we may have suspected that something was up, but we were prepared to do the dog and horse it around like everyone else. It’s only after the fact that we began to fume and roar and shout. Naturally, we won’t be fooled again….will we?