Curses and Distractions
Deaglán de Bréadún
Bad as the floods are, if I were in government I would welcome them as a distraction from the economy and the Budget. Likewise the glorious controversy over Thierry Henry’s hand-ball.
Maybe there is a Supreme Being who has decided s/he likes Brian Cowen and is trying to help him out. Even the unions are sending out a signal that there could be a deal if basic pay is left alone. The redefinition of overtime could save quite a bit of money it seems.
Once upon a time, in the course of a previous downturn, I recall a cover on a US magazine which stated bleakly: “It’s the Last Christmas in America”. That crisis would be regarded as far less severe than the current one but clearly some super-pessimist was doing the lay-out that week.
It’s useful to step aside from the cut and thrust of debate and take the long view. What we are seeing now is an economic version of nimbyism. Nimby is, of course, the acronym for “Not In My Back Yard”. People in different sectors are kicking up because, if they don’t, they fear they will be seen as a “soft touch”. There’s some justification for that too, it has to be said.
But taking the long view, assuming the Budget goes through, there ought to be greater stability in general. Perhaps foreign investors will say that the Irish, at least, are getting to grips with their problems. Investment decisions are influenced by a whole range of factors and a State that’s heading for bankruptcy is not an attractive location.
I always felt it was no coincidence that the Celtic Tiger boom coincided with the IRA ceasefire and the emergence of the peace process. There are uncomfortable ripples lately that suggest a new phase of troubles might be starting in the North. The political scene at Stormont reeks of stagnation and there are regular attacks and other violent incidents that suggest a new campaign is under way. That’s very offputting for anyone, Irish or otherwise, trying to develop a business in any part of this tiny island.
If the Budget fails to get through, a general election will obviously have to be held. Judging from the polls, that will bring in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition but there will still be very hard decisions to be taken. The prospect of an election campaign in January/February is an awesome one, if the current weather continues and I am beginning to understand the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”. In other ways, though, it could be great fun.