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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 3, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    Cowen, Churchill and Yogi Berra

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Well, he’s done it. Brian Cowen finally took the advice of the commentariat, not to mention the evening newspaper which ran the headline today: “Just Do It”. The unions couldn’t or wouldn’t sign up, so he went ahead and imposed the paycut disguised as a pension levy.

    General reaction in Leinster House was that he performed resonably well. It’s not his decisions that have been the problem up to now so much as the way he has presented them. People want Churchillian passion and commitment, not a solicitor from Offaly listlessly reading a prepared script.

    There was no script in view, at least not from my seat in the second row, during the press conference he gave in Government Buildings tonight. Some of it was carried on the Six O’Clock RTE News and apparently came across quite well. It was a big decision to go viva voce and the reaction was fairly good.

    Most other members of the Cabinet were sitting close by, none of them looking particularly happy with life it has to be said. Politicians hate to be the bearers of bad news.

    The press conference was quite sedate: no one was in a mood for confrontation. The scenario had been played out many times in advance, so there were no surprises.

    It was noteworthy how often Cowen protested the importance of the Social Partnership process: it hadn’t worked on this occasion but it wasn’t dead.

    The general suspicion in these here parts is that the union leadership just could not allow themselves to be put in a position where they had to break the bad news to their members, thereby incurring the immediate reaction and initial obloquy.

    No doubt there will be a protest march, perhaps on Saturday week in Dublin (I’m guessing.) Serried ranks will demonstrate against the Government for bearing down on working people while letting the Fat Cats off the hook.

    Others will argue that the  Fat Cats are on a pretty lean diet at the moment and many of them are up to their necks in debt with little chance of paying it off. But public opinion wants to see someone suffer at the top and feels that too many sleek manipulators are dancing away from the disasters they brought about, toting sackfuls of dosh for their pensions.

    The sight of a severed head dripping blood on the scaffold (I speak metaphorically of course) would have a cathartic effect. It was the American baseball legend Yogi Berra who said predictions were very hard to make, “especially about the future”, but there is a lot of anger out there and the danger of Greek-style disorder is quite real. In the US they appoint special prosecutors to investigate those who are accused of acting against the public interest: why not here?

    No doubt Cowen did not expect his tenure as Taoiseach to go along these lines.  Presumably he expected occasional difficulties, the normal ups and downs of political office but not the biggest financial crisis for 70 years. Nobody told him there’d be days like these: strange days indeed. But as Yogi Berra also said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    • Eoin says:

      So, you’ve been reading a biography of Yogi Berra then?

    • Deaglán says:

      So you’re being patronising then?

    • paulm says:

      “In the US they appoint special prosecutors to investigate those who are accused of acting against the public interest: why not here?”

      Judging by our drawn-out and woeful lack of results from the Mahon, Moriarty and Flood tribunals we’d be incapable of having anyone’s metaphorically-severed head on a stake anytime within the next ten years.

      Even the Seanad’s highly-entertaining grilling of squirming senior execs is not enough. Two senior staffers at banks will ‘retire’ this summer and will walk away with bonuses and then some. CAB should be given the powers to freeze this and the secret loans that were being dipped into by certain individuals and put it back into the state coffers.

      Heads will roll stateside but not here. As usual we shoot the messengers but not the guilty parties.

    • Eoin says:

      No, I was being serious. Is Yogi Berra one of these famous people who’s prone to producing barmy quotes, like Bobby Robson?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      It’s odd that the press conference that was partially carried on the 6.01 news is apparently meant to be after the fact an address to the nation. It’s like that old poster about “what if we had a war and no one came?”, this is “what if we gave an address but no one was there to listen”.

    • Deaglán says:

      Sorry for taking you up wrong, Eoin. Yes, as well as being a baseball legend, Yogi is also a famous generator of what I suppose would be called Malapropisms. My favourite is his reaction to the news in 1956 that the popular Jewish politician, Robert Briscoe of Fianna Fáil (father of Ben) had been elected Lord Mayor of the mainly-Catholic city of Dublin. Yogi said: “Only in America can a thing like this happen.”
      For more see: http://www.geocities.com/hotofftheinternet/bbyquote.htm

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