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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 19, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

    And then there were…

    Harry McGee

    …Ten.

     I think anybody who follows politics and finance closely could probably guess the identities of at least half of the ten bankers involved (I hasten to add that I have no inside knowledge as to their identities).

    There’s an extraordinary race taking place at the moment between media outlets to be the first to out The Troublesome Ten. Will it serve any public purpose besides a dose of schadenfreude? Probably not. It’s a bit of a distraction. The only political significance is if there was indeed a ‘golden circle’, a nexus between these guys and Fianna Fail in government. I just can’t swallow that line. Sorry.

    The real trope? A seasoned Fianna Fail TD saluted me today as I trundled through the carpark.  Like all FF TDs you meet these days, he said something along the lines of “things are bad and it’s worse it’s getting”.

    He added – and a lot of them do – that the people (ah yep, the great unwashed out there ) are just not attuned to that grim horrible reality as yet. “They don’t realise what’s going to hit them,” he declared.

    He’s wrong. I was down in Galway at the weekend. And knocking around the streets of Dublin this week. And every conversation I was  involved in, or eavesdropped, or half-heard, was been about the state of the nation and it being banjaxed (though the word used was shorter and less polite in most cases) or about poor Brian Goggin having to survive on less than €2 million this year.

    Misery has had a viral effect on people. The contagion has spread. They are being accosted with it everywhere. And that’s caused an inertia, a hoovering of confidence from consumers, from employers, from workers.

    The constant barrage of doom-laden stories in the media is also relentless. Misery seems to be the only thing that’s in plenty now.

     The visual clues have also emerged: the  ’for sale’ signs on every high street and on every housing estate; the fact that we all know somebody who has been let go or can’t find a job; or know a public servant who has discovered they are a lot less well off than they were a couple of weeks ago. Now there are stoppages. Soon there will be strikes. Not long after, there will be street protests. And possibly riots.

    Most people are wise to all of this.

    We are all doomed. And we all know it. The other thing that’s changed (unsurprisingly) is that people have become very politicised… and very polarised too. Just a flick through the comments we get on this one blog (besides the ones that berate my spelling and my grammar) show how strongly and quickly people have adopted sides and positions (and occasionally prejudices!). And boy are they sticking to their principles and to their guns.

    If you are a politician (usually FF or Green) in their crosshairs, beware. They are angry. Very angry. That Fianna Fail TD out having his cigarette in the Dáil carpark declaring that people don’t really know what’s going to hit them is as familiar with the zeitgeist as Pat Kenny was with the world and world-view of Pete Doherty.

    And in all that, is there no place for hope, or for some kind of solidarity in all of this? Does Brian Cowen and his government have the emotional wherewithal to spell out the reality of the situation but offer some semblance of hope and normality, some distant gleam of light over the far horizon?

    I suspect that, ultimately, they don’t. Nor does the Fianna Fail side have the vocabulary or maturity to ready up and admit the mistakes, its culpability (along with the PeeDees) in overheating the market and ratcheting up the greed factor over ten years.

    It begs a few questions: Was the mantra of low personal and low corporate taxes a spur for the Celtic Tiger or was it just a massive loan we drew down for a decade?

    The more I look at it, the more the Celtic Tiger seems like a massive Bernie Madoff wheeze… a State-wide Ponzi pyramid scheme that fooled us all for a decade that growth and profits could continue indefinitely. That moral hazards had been consigned to the past.

    • eamonn crudden says:

      Cannibalism is the closest descriptor of the stunts the ‘well-off’ have pulled around here lately. Made this visceral marxist critique to convey my feelings on the matter: Wallets Full Of Blood http://vimeo.com/3269259

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      the low corporate taxes were necessary as was some lower in personal taxes. However, we could have each happily gotten by on 25% and 45% rates with a 10% for those on the minimum wage combined with tax rebates out of the surpluses instead of cuts in income tax that people came to view as permanent. And we could have introduced a property tax slowly but surely to broaden the tax base.

      In many ways it was a temporal pryamid scheme where we took not alone money but also work activity from the future and squandered it on plasma tvs and overpriced houses. to blame it all on the bankers and the government is really to deny ourselves our free will. We are not blameless in this either and those who suggest that wage prices are what is needed miss the point of why companies are pulling out.

    • Harry says:

      Agree, Dan. Property tax, for some reason, has become a taboo in Irish society, as have water rates. Something else to blame on Jack Lynch and his 1977 ‘manifesto’! Seriously, there’s no argument I can think of against water rates, the setting-up of a scheme that is poverty-proofed.

    • Paul O' Sullivan says:

      A FF TD out of touch? I’ll once again refer to the Minister for State’s rebuking Vincent Browne for perfectly plausible ‘populist’ arguments.

      Brian Cowen shouldn’t spend time spelling anything. Surely we all know this year’s buzzwords by now, at least some of them.

      Why wait for the politicians to tell us what we already know? In last Sunday’s Sindo article Senator Eoghan Harris was right about one thing, speed is of the essence.

      We need to get a jump, up to speed, whatever, on this thing. We, the people, need to realise how deep in the proverbial we are, and BC and the boys need to start brainstorming ways to counteract it.

      An allegorical aside: One evening this week I witnessed a near-collision of a car pulling out from Leinster House and taxi turning onto Kildare Street, which seemed quite humorous at the time!

    • dealga says:

      It is an absolute fact that, despite having the highest levels of disposable income in Europe for years, people in this country believed and still believe they are over-taxed.

      It is an absolute fact that the vast majority of the population believed and still believe that they are fully entitled to ‘first world’ healthcare (whatever that means) and education, and Guards on every street corner, free child care or child care assistance, free water, free waste disposal, care for the elderly and those with special needs and so on and so on – all on the basis of their existing, relatively paltry (by other European standards) tax burden.

      Yes, people are aware the country is banjaxed but the problem is that people are both refusing to accept any responsibility for either the mess we’re in or sorting the mess out. It’s all someone else’s fault. As if we’d suddenly balance the books if we seized the assets of a couple of dozen bankers and property developers.

      The way people are carrying on you’d think that the number of people who benefited from the Celtic Tiger can be counted on one hand with a missing thumb. The public sector workers brazenly acting as if benchmarking never happened. The construction workers in their 20s who were earning more than their parents and who flashed their wealth in everyone’s faces. The middle-aged who flogged their houses for ten times what they paid for them and who told the world and their children that property ‘never lost value’. The unionised workers who rode their multi-national employers sideways then acted all surprised and upset when they upped and left.

      The fact is we live in a country of lemmings who believe whatever it suits them to believe. And yes, the electorate are, generally speaking, that stupid. They saw the waste and the mis-directed money for 10 years, then went along with it again because they never thought all this would happen.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I find the ranting against water rates really odd, “sure tis free we’re told doesn’t it fall out of the sky”.

      “Well why don’t you collect it yourself then and use what you collect?”

      Set an amount per person as normal usage and then meter houses and the more they use over that amount the more they pay. The less that is used then they get a rebate.

    • Mother of Three says:

      I wonder is Bertie Ahern one of the Golden Circle? I wonder is that why Brian Cowen does not want to know? Could someone please publish this list of names. If the Swiss banks can do so why can’t Ireland?

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      It will be nice for a change to see anyone sticking to their principles and their guns around here for a change. It will be nice to even SEE a set of Principles in Ireland. I thought they were extinct. Wartime does tend to bring out the best as well as the worst I suppose.


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