Celtic Tiger R.I.P.
Deaglán de Bréadún
I’m looking for reasons to be cheerful in this recession and not finding too many. Not only is there no light at the end of the tunnel – there ain’t no darned tunnel.
The jiggery-pokery at Anglo-Irish Bank is even worse than we thought. Last night on TV3 the Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming – who is no “daw”, as the country people say – seemed to suggest there were more revelations to come.
Ireland’s reputation must be seriously damaged at this stage in international financial circles. Cynical and manipulative as these people are supposed to be, even they must be taken aback at the carry-on here.
Brian Lenihan’s admission that he had not read the relevant section of the PriceWaterhouseCooper report was . . . what is the opposite of icing on the cake? As Shakespeare said, when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.
Listen to George Lee on today’s Morning Ireland. It’s a unique contribution: his comments appear totally justifiable and a good example of when it is legitimate for a journalist to step outside the normal role of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other reporting.
Politically and economically, there is a bad smell about the place. Not only is the Government losing popularity but the entire political class is in danger of being discredited. I will not bang on again about the perks of the job but some may wish to read a piece I did today on one of the more obscure carriages in the gravy-train.
The trade union protests may be intended by some of the leaders as a means for their members to let off steam before going back to work, while they still have jobs. But it could go deeper than that. The biggest economic crisis since the 1930s could well provoke the greatest social upheaval since that time as well. The people are losing faith in their leaders and may look around for new messiahs.
We need a CAB-style (Criminal Assets Bureau) operation to deal with the trickery in the world of high finance. The current regulation system has suffered major damage in the public estimation. We need a Mr (Miss/Mrs/Ms) Clean along the lines of the US Special Prosecutor to go in and look at the books, then report back. This is important for restoring public and international faith in the system.
Perhaps this can be done through overhauling existing structures and personnel in the regulation regime or by setting up something new through emergency legislation, but decisive action needs to be taken quickly. Whatever else, Brian Cowen – who looked really annoyed and fed-up yesterday – at least has shown the capacity to take swift decisions.
For the first time since this crisis began, one is starting to feel genuinely rather scared. Nobody knows how many bad debts are out there and now it is clear that nobody (or nobody we might be able to trust) knows the extent of backstairs and “inappropriate” (how I love that word) dealings that have been going on in the world of high finance.
The one bright spot is that the Big Two of AIB and Bank of Ireland have not been caught up in this imbroglio. It that had been the case then we would all be looking to the lifeboats.
None of this conduct bespeaks a society where simple patriotism and basic humane and Christian values hold sway. When you think of the youngsters in former times who laid down their lives so we could run our own affairs . . . and then the way we are running them of late.
At times like this I reach for my old friend W.B. Yeats:
Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.