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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 24, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    Where do we go from here?

    Harry McGee

    Every morning this week the radio alarm has blared into life just as the business news goes out on RTE.

    And this morning, trying to remember what I heard all week through the bleary haze, it worked out as follows.

    One morning. Stocks up. Joy to the World. Next morning fall in Tokyo, nervously waiting Wall Street to open. Woe is me. Next morning. Another rally. Phew, what a relief, the worst is over. And then the next morning. Bank shares plunge again. And so on.

    The uncertainty unbelievable. Nobody knows what’s going on. Really. And the stock markets are such an unreliable indicator. But they are the only one they have. The amount of shares being traded in Irish banks, for example, is infinitesimally small. But such is the general jitters out there that even tiny movements (especially when the price is rock bottom) can induce panic.

    And so it has been with the Government. We wake up every morning trying to make sense of the astounding events of the day before. And I think that with every press conference and with every new announcement the Government thought it had finally pulled itself out of that deadly undercurrent into calmer waters.

    No such luck. Every morning they woke up in the hope they were Kilkenny only to find that were actually Waterford.

    One of my great achievements as a political writer is the consistency of my predictions. Nobody has got it more wrong more often than me in Irish politics over the past five year. I cherish the day earlier this year when I said on national television that Hillary Clinton would be handing over the bowl to Bertie Ahern in the White House next year.  Or the day I predicted that Sean Haughey would get the leg-up as junior minister on News at One, only for Mary Wallace (Mary Wallace!) to get the nod a half hour later from the Anorak.

    I think I’m a bit safer with this one. The Government will give no ground on the education cuts. It can’t afford to. If it does, it’s not going to weather the storm. It will be gone within a year, with Brian Cowen fighting enemies within and without his party, having being cursed with a reputation as a vacilator and a political weakling.

    It’s going to be tough. The teachers will march next week. Street and protest politics will come back and the Government will find itself trying to quench bush fires on all fronts.

    There is no predicting to it. What’s unfolding in the world is so complex and so multi-faceted that all this talk of a recovery in 2010 and 2011 has to be taken with a shovel-load of salt.

    Where do we go from here? Who knows? The Government don’t know. The opposition doesn’t know. The wider world doesn’t know.

    • Markham says:

      Harry,

      On something of a tangent – one thing I’ve always wanted to know is just how audible protest crowds are from inside Leinster House?

      When 15,000 pensioners rock up at the gates, shouting their lungs out, can you actually hear the din indoors, or is it just something that wafts in once in a while when someone opens a door?

      M

    • Harry says:

      If a flea were to break wind in the vicinity of Leinster House, the politicos inside would be aware of it. There are exceptions of course but there are a couple of identifiable trait to the political caste. They are primarily people’s persons and that makes them acutely aware and acutely sensitive to what’s going on the ground. The precarious nature of their profession also makes them incredibly insecure and unbelievabley sensitive.
      There was nobody inside Leinster House who was not aware of the pensioners’ protest. Within the bowels of the building you can’t actually hear it going on. But most will have been in the vicinty of the plinth (the slightly raised area in the front carpark where they do media interviews) and seen it with their own eyes.
      It was incredible on Wednesday. It was like the whole place was under siege. If they were FF, they went nowhere near the front gate. Michael Kennedy from Dublin (as Miriam L noted) went out into the baying crowd and tried to use a little plámas which got him nowhere. Lucky for him (a former Dublin footballer) that he is such a big man.
      Another TD accosted by the crowd said that somebody had said in passing: “you are lucky that you got out alive”.
      That’s how militant it was!
      I make the point again. The system stank. Doctors in middle class areas became wealthy on the back of the age-granted medical cards while doctors in poorer areas got four times less for their pensioners on medical cards.
      How could the IMO and James Reilly (the protagonist of the piece) have allowed a system that created such inequality between richer and poore areas, and which discriminated against their own members who are noble enough to work in working-class communities and more remote rural areas?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Harry, sure the system stank. However, it is not all about it being good for affluent areas and bad for the deprived. As some doctors from the northside pointed out on Q&A last week they were using the extra cash for the over-70s to cross-subsidise the other GMS patients. And as far as I know all new over-70s added from the time of the new scheme were billed at the new price not the old price

      James Reilly had a role to negotiate a deal on behalf of the doctors and the government had the role of negotiating on behalf of the taxpayers and the patients. The government didn’t budge on a general increase in the GMS so the IMO pushed them on the per person funding for the over 70s. And the government caved because it had announced the measure before starting negotiations and with an election in the offing.

      I’ve already gone through some outline numbers of where we might be now if McCreevy went a different route.
      http://dansullivan.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-if-mccreevy-had-continued-to.html

      All the FFers now all so concerned about thresholds and millionaires and judges on pension were cheerleaders for McCreevy when he made the decision he did, where was their concern for the public purse then?


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