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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 12, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    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.

    • Keith says:

      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.

      Yet, Deaglán. Yet.

    • Elaine says:

      Politics by WB Yeats

      How can I, that girl standing there,
      My attention fix
      On Roman or on Russian
      Or on Spanish politics?
      Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
      What he talks about,
      And there’s a politician
      That has read and thought,
      And maybe what they say is true
      Of war and war’s alarms,
      But O that I were young again
      And held her in my arms!

    • Neil says:

      The Time Has Come

      Dear Sir,

      In the current climate of the collapse of the banking industry perhaps it’s about time that so called ‘conspiracy theorists’ were given a little leeway in respect of things that they’ve predicted in the past few years.

      The likes of David Icke predicted this over 10 years ago, as well as Alex Jones, the radio host and documentary maker in America. Daniel Estulin and Jim Tucker have exposed The Bilderberg Group over many years, who allegedly planned this world banking collapse at their 2006 meeting in Ottawa, Canada according to many ‘conspiracy theorists’ worldwide, well in advance of the current situation.

      This group holds annual meetings, in secret to decide the direction they want the world to move in and is attended by the elite business community, including the world’s richest banking families, politicians, etc…

      Perhaps it’s time someone in the mainstream media investigated Irish business people and politicians who have attended such meetings. These include Garret FitzGerald (1975, 1977, 1984, 1985, 1987). Michael McDowell (1992, 2007). John Bruton (1998). Paul Gallagher (2008). Charlie McCreevy (2008).

      The time has come for the mainstream media to stop repeating the mantra it’s fed by these same elites and move to expose what’s really going on in the world. I do understand that most of the media is controlled by the rich and powerful but journalists and editors have to realise that this will also affect them and their families for years to come.

    • Alex says:

      Internationally we must be a laughing stock on the financial scene!

      Listening to the Finance Minister this morning – what a joke!

    • Ray D says:

      Why are we so surprised at more corruption here? Corruption is endemic here. I worked for more than 43 years in the civil service and experienced widespread and endemic corrupt practices. Those who depend on public services want you to be corrupt, i.e., to give them what they are not entitled to and to overlook wrong payments. Many administrators and systems are simply corrupt.

      I tried to do something about abuses but got no support whatever in this. Anyone who has integrity in the public service is regarded as a crank or worse. He or she has little prospect of advancement so most choose to go with the corrupt flow. Corruption is the norm in Irish society in my expereience. If integrity ruled we could not be in the meltdown that we are in.

    • Ray D says:

      By the way the gravy-train for politicians has been massively extended to those Councillors who resign or lose their seats at the next Council elections.

    • Paul O' Sullivan says:

      Deaglán,

      ‘For the first time since this crisis began, one is starting to feel genuinely rather scared.’

      The timeline is out of synch. The first time to feel genuinely rather scared was when Charlie McCreevy, then Minister for Finance, made public comments such as ‘if I have it I’ll spend it’ and urged the nation to ‘party on’.

      Time for fearing was Budget ’09 – the passing of the buck from the political class to other citizens.

      Now is not a time for feeling at all, or allegorical prose for that matter. It is time for proactive, progressive, problem-solving thinking. Mr. Vincent Browne in today’s Irish Times is wholly correct in his estimation of the two Brians’ destructive capabilities. If the Taoiseach can be credited for taking swift decisions his – plus his colleagues’ – management capabilities are simple not of the calibre required.

      A political class: is this not a fundamental aspect of the problem? Is Minister for State Martin Mansergh, who openly rebuked Mr Browne for using ‘populist arguments’ and thereby exposing the party’s attitude toward the electorate’s opinion, part of this political class?

      If so, could they have the decency, dignity and honour to relinquish power which they are not capable of using for the betterment of this state?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Neil, for the love of cake, David Icke and his ilk also predicted England sinking under the sea and told us that lizard people ruled the planet. It’s like claiming someone standing feet out from a barn door with a blunderbuss is a sharpshooter because they manage to hit it some portion of it.

      As for this obsession some people have with the Bilderberg group I do wonder if they’re just a mirror image of right-wing republicans in the US who think the UN is a world government hiding in plain sight.

      P.S. in case you haven’t heard, the cake is a lie.

    • Deaglán says:

      The response from a David Icke admirer confirms my point about “new messiahs”. I also note that the latest poll commissioned by The Irish Times registers a very significant shift to the left among the electorate with Labour passing out Fianna Fáil for the first time since polling began.
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0212/breaking95.htm

    • Eoin says:

      Indeed these are “interesting” times. As someone who grew up with the excesses of the Celtic Tiger as the backdrop of my youth, it seemed at the time that the sky was the limit for our future successes. It’s apparent now that in reality the select few availed of these “no limits” too in their application of arrogance and greed.

      I recently graduated from college and currently in a relatively secure job but I’m still struggling to come to the terms with the punch-drunk shock and disbelief that my generation are experiencing.

      In my college days organisations such as the Students’ Union and campus politics were background distractions that we could choose to ignore while we indulged in the false freedoms of the Celtic Tiger. To us Dail Eireann was an abstraction and irrelevant. We were all going to graduate, get jobs and take advantage of the fruits of this New Ireland that we had grown up in. To us the colour of the party in power was irrelevant.

      When my generation do overcome what has become a daily barrage of catastrophes, former luxuries such as apathy and political naivety could be rapidly cast aside.

      In keeping with the Yeats:
      “All is changed, changed utterly a terrible beauty is born”

    • dealga says:

      The one thing about worrying what ‘international financial circles’ are saying about Ireland is that Ireland is far from unique. Dodgy balance sheets, regulatory failures and probably criminal behaviour are everywhere. We’re very fond of believing we’re the centre of attention in this country.

    • John says:

      Is this the same Labour that was instrumental in bringing in the Tax amnesty?

    • paul m says:

      The Celtic Tiger is dead! Long live the Celtic Tiger! too early to say RIP no? Maybe a phoenix will rise from these flames hahahahaha. oh…. mercy.

      although you may turn to Yeats, Deaglan i think for me this performance puts it all in cheery perspective (i am picturing the ministers singing it already)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1loyjm4SOa0

      Oh and rather conveniently the ‘hero’ is named Brian. Watch out for Bertie (played by a prisoner) reassuring him from the same lofty position and the nation is epitomised by the role of the mother.

      Shakespeare eat your heart out.


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