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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 17, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    The Bailout that Dare not speak its name

    Harry McGee

    Brian Cowen was at it again in the Dail this morning, taking issue with the opposition for using the word ‘bailout’, saying it was a pejorative term.

    It reminds yout of the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Alice and Wonderland.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    And that is the question. The import of an unusually abject Brian Lenihan interview on Morning Ireland was that the game was up. The ECB and the IMF coming to town to hold discussions and look at the books is akin to the announcement of the appointment of an examiner to an ailing company. It is only delaying the inevitable. Everybody knows what”s coming down the line.

    There’s a debate as to whether a bailout of the Irish banks can avoid dragging in the State. Everybody to whom I’ve spoken to has said it’s not possible, including Government officials. Already one or two officials in Government have been doing a bit of accentuating the positive: ” Well the rate of interest will not be low and at the end of the day, is it such a bad thing when it gives us access to money?” they ask.

    And the response: Wellllll, yes!  it will be a bad thing if we have to cede our sovereignty.

    I think that some of the debate has been misplaced. A lot of it has focused onthe bank guarantee scheme in September 2008, saying it was flawed and that the Government should have refused to do it.

    Yes it was flawed. But for me that failure was venial. Was there an alternative? And if there was  – such as letting Anglo wither on the vine – could anyone honestly say that the outcome would have been  immeasurably better? Can anyone stand up and say that burning the Anglo bondholders and depositors  would not have led to a run on the other banks? And you must remember the context, the over-riding ice-chill fear of the western capitalist system on its knees. The guarantee happened only a matter of weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed when there were fears that the entire global banking system was about to collapse.

    The Government decision to guarantee assets was groping in the dark. Just like any other solution that would have been tried. Sure, including subordinated debt in the guarantee was a mistake – but that was 3 per cent of the total.  To me (but this is a conclusion I have come to only recently)  it is logical that all bond holders , including senior bond holders, should take a haircut when a bank goes south.  There’s a difference between an ordinary worker depositing in the bank and a professional investor who will enjoy higher interest. These are the selfsame guys who are now pushing up the interest rates. If they were so clever in the first instance, why did they not spot the dud that was Anglo? I shouldn’t be even asking that question. Because logic doesn’t even enter into it. It is governned by a combination of greed, fear and rapaciousness.  But the question still remains: would burning senior bondholders in September 2008 have averted catastrophe?

    The bank guarantee scheme now looks like a failure, and a corrosive one because it has made the State and the banks synonymous.  But then, Fine Gael also signed up to it at the time. Of course, they were under duress, as were the Government. Labour went against. But despite Fintan O’Toole lauding Eamon Gilmore’s bravery for going against the grain,  I have no confidence that Labour had any workable alternative.

    To me, that was a forgivable failure.

    The unforgivable failures happened earlier. And that was the failure by the Government and the institutions of the State (including its mammoth banks) to have the courage to call a halt to the welter of pro-cyclical stimuli that invaded the Irish economy after we adopted the euro. Low interest rates, the availability of cheap money, and a property bubble spelled disaster. And none of this will be corrected until property prices accurately reflect their true value. For example, in the Dublin suburbs, semi-d’s  which sold for well over €500,000 in 2007 look like they will continue to fall… to €200,000, to €150,000… to €100,000?

    The villains?  Major villains in chief:  Bertie Ahern, Charlie McCreevy. Mary Harney. Second-in-commande villain:  Brian Cowen. Lesser villains for not standing up to the dismantling of Irish society and our social cohesion: All the other ministers who served from 1997 and 2002 onwards.

    ‘Light touch’ or ‘principles-based’ regulation was a disaster. Politicians and the Financial Regulator sucked up to the bankers to an embarrassing extent. Property developers were lauded by the media as if they were wizards, whose cleverality was limitless.

    In the banking sector, what  was most preposterous of all was that Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were prepared to allow a new regulatory system to be introduced that would have led to the banks having even more control of regulation (or as we have seen, the complete absence of it).

    Both men set up a committee of the great and the good in banking and financial services which worked throughout 2007 and 2008 drafting new ‘principles based’ (i.e. light touch) regulation – essentialy allowing the banks to reguate themselves with no overt scrutiny by the regulator’s office.

    When the merde hit the fan, the work of the committee chaired by the senior partner in the Government’s favourite law firm, Arthur Cox, was quietly dropped.

    They didn’t have a clue. Neither did the opposition. But then the opposition weren’t in Government. In politics, it is with those in  power that all responsibility rests.

    Back to the present. The contributions of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance with their verbal anti-aircraft artillery against the foreign invaders is beginning to sound like the pronouncements of Comical Ali in the hours before Baghdad fell.  Make no mistake. The IMF has landed and the Revolutionary Guard is on the run.

    • Annoyed Reader says:

      Yes it was flawed. But for me that failure was venial. Was there an alternative? And if there was – such as letting Anglo wither on the vine – could anyone honestly say that the outcome would have been immeasurably better? Can anyone stand up and say that burning the Anglo bondholders and depositors would not have led to a run on the other banks?
      Don’t write about this stuff if you don’t understand it!
      This is capitalism. Anglo’s depositors were insured. The shareholders and bondholders took a risk. They lose out when a business goes under. That is why they are paid a “risk premium.” Three years in to an existential crisis and you still don’t understand what is going on.

    • Jim O'Brien says:

      Great analysis. I think RTE has been covering itself in shameover the last few days, most people I speak to are getting their news from the BBC, dont believe RTE anymore. Contrast V Browne last night and Newstalk this morning with RTE’s Morning Ireland and the difference in incredible. I think an Irish version of Comical Ali is riding shotgun on the national station. Aine Lawlor gave Lenihan a cake walk of an interview this morning.

    • Enda & Eamon says:

      Thanks Harry……….fiver in the post

    • seafoid says:

      A very good article, Harry. Well done.

    • Liam says:

      The market works by rewarding sucess and punishing failure, FF are trying to invert the rule of gravity here. The banks should have been nationalised from day 1 and the “assets” handed over to the bondholders, the depositors are the only ones who should have refunded. Ireland was only ever 1% of foreign bond holder’s portfolio and the write off would have been done and dusted in 08. Also markets are forward looking and again FF have managed to push the past into the future.
      The definition of crony capatilism or fascism lite is an unholy alliance between government and special interests. This is what has happened here, no debate required “it quacks like a duck”
      Needless to say I am disgusted by all the parties here , and the spud faced chancers that manage to get to the top of the heap here. I look forward to the EU/IMF having a greater say here

    • Moldenwibe says:

      The Villians – surley you have to include CJ in here. He set the standards that all other FF politians followed, and look where we arenow…
      I packed up and left the country as I was being held back by my lack of interest in pulling strokes when doing business. Take a look around at what the politicians have done over the last 15 years, what they have got away with, and it is madness. There is a two class system in Ireland and we are now the servant class, ensuring the living standards of those with no integrity is maintained….

    • david nally says:

      the most sensible criticism I’ve heard of the bank guarantee was that it covered not just new debt but also all of the existing debt of the banks and it may be that a guarantee that just covered new money would have saved the system at a much lower cost to the taxpayer. I agree, however, that simply blaming the bank guarantee for our troubles is simplistic and that not guaranteeing any of the banks liabilities could have produced a much worse result

      dave in dublin

    • Laura says:

      All the commentry about who is to blame, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We were the ones who put these guys in power time and time again (just to note: I have never voted FF in my life). We as a country have to take the blame and learn from it. Don’t just get them out of power, obliterate their party in the next election!!! They will not learn from this, they are so deluded that they actually believe their own spin now. They’re still blaming Lehman Brothers for our whole economic collapse even though the governor of the central bank has said it was mainly homegrown.

      Yes, weak governance, insufficient supervision and government budgets are to blame for the banking crisis, but I managed to get a mortgage at the height of it for 10 times my salary, I knew it was ridiculous at the time, I knew it was un-sustainable to repay if unemployed but we all bought into it. We didn’t say ‘no more credit please, I have all I can afford’- we are all to blame. And now the real suffering will begin- the IMF is here and there is no hiding from them.

    • Commentator says:

      Flawed analysis Harry, The state needed to leave the existing debt with the Banks and allow them negotiate with the Bondholders. The State needed then to guarantee deposits as it did and guarantee only new bonds issued by the banks from that day forward.
      This was the simple workable solution !

      The blanket Bank Guarantee has failed – Lenihan got it wrong.

    • Finnian Mc Elroy says:

      If they won’t call it a bailout, will they call it a “dig-out”? Fianna Fail should simply CLEAR OUT. They are one day away from officially bankrupting the country.

    • John Mc says:

      The Irish need to resist this attempt by the EU & IMF to turn Ireland into a land of serfs enslaved by debt for the sole purpose of ensuring bankers are kept whole on their debt. We have all seen the destructiveness of the IMF. They are not saviors they are elites trying to turn the world into their slaves.

    • Gerry Byrne says:

      Meanwhile Seanie,Fingers,Davey Boy Drumm and the other greedsters live it up in the lap of luxury while Bertie and the mob gets the chauffeur treatment. Is n`t Ireland a grand little country.

    • Declan Sheehy says:

      Ireland Terminally Ill and In Denial!

      Interesting to listen to Irish Politicians and the media deny the inevitable. That Ireland is flat broke because of poor leadership and a gombeen financial sector that rewarded the people who caused the meltdown in the first place.

      Cost of the bank bailout so far has been Eu45 bn and the total estimated cost according to Central Bank head Patrick Honohan is Eu87 bn or about 50% of GDP. Total debt of Ireland’s banks is estimated at Eu567 Bn so the actual cost of the final bailout could total well over Eu 150, if you make a reasonable assumption that 25% of debt is probably never going to be paid back – that figure is Eu 141 Bn. Just for the record, that is about 1005 of GDP.

      To those who think these numbers are too high – just look at Ireland’s track record of reporting bank loses over the last few years. Clearly you cannot trust the politicians or the bankers whose numbers were never a real reflection of the catastrophe. For media pundits and politicians to deny the need for urgent action and a influx of cash is just blarney – and to think that because Ireland has funds through June of 2011 means all is well is more of the short sighted thinking that got us here in the first place.

    • CuChualainn says:

      Moldenwibe almost has it right, although CJ learned a few strokes from Dev we can’t really blame them. I and you, dear reader and everyone else who puts up with it are the villians. We only have ourselves to blame, we almost perpetually and repeatedly bought into it all. Our acceptance of the ‘brown envelope’ culture and gombeen politics has been around for as long as I can remember and thats quite a bit more than 15 years. So, we’re either very naieve, stupid or crooked. We can’t undo the past so why double-guess it now? The ‘bail out’ or whatever Mr Cowen wants to call it for banks or nation will happen and we’ll survive it. Hopefully those helping us out of the self-inflicted mess will do so with less stroke pulling than our lot. In the meantime, what we really need to do is to grow up as a nation. That starts with every individual taking real responsibility for the consequences of their actions and their votes.We have to insist and enforce real transparency and accountabilty from those who make decisions allegedly on our behalf. No more trusting and light touch regulation for the economical and political power elite

    • Peter B says:

      Although written over 2,300 years ago these words could not be more relevant…

      “The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, until philosophers are kings in this world, or until those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands, while the many natures now content to follow either to the exclusion of the other are forcibly debarred from doing so. This is what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound; for it is not easy to see that there is no other road to happiness, either for society or the individual.” (Plato, Republic)

    • Peter B says:

      This fiasco pre-dates the current banking and economic crisis. And, while politicians have clearly failed they did, to a great extent, reflect Irish society. Values, community, religion, culture (and probably a few souls!) were traded for money and we are now left with a situation as hollow as the over-priced bricks so many once queued to purchase. In 2007 over 40% of the electorate voted for FF and their empty promises aimed at the insatiable greed and interests of individuals. As McCreevy and the PD loonies dismantled the tax base Ahern and the unions engineered a bonanza for the public service under the guise of benchmarking. Based on what has emerged it would seem that pay was benchmarked against the highest and competence against the lowest! By 2007 it was clear that Ireland was close to the rocks but the same crew was retained. I imagine that Brian Cowen must be hurting. A more apt example of an emperor had no clothes one could not currently find. That, under this premiership, Ireland is in the clutches of the IMF has to be difficult for him to contend with and so he moves to deny reality. While from a reputational point of view IMF intervention is regrettable, it may have some positive benefits in the long run. Certainly the political system and public sector need to be reformed, something that was never going to happen from within and which the IMF will insist on. They will also negate the power of the public sector unions and other interest groups. That the current incompetent politicians and officals from the dept of finance will be negotiating is worrying. There should really be a team of competent professionals negotiating on behalf of Ireland.

    • Citoyen says:

      Humpty Dumpty’s reply to Alice is also pertinent:

      ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

      The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      You know Harry, I’m sick of hearing the media act as if they are not as much to blame for the mess Ireland is in as politics, the church, business and the professions – you are all to blame. Enough of the denial. It’s time for the Irish to grow up – you should see the way Ireland is reported by the media outside Ireland, amzing how clearly they can see things but no, in Ireland it’s all the Germans or Finns who are to blame. When they have just had enough of the lies and gombeenism. Rightly so.

      Remind me Harry, when did you point out the folly of what Brian Lenihan did in September 2008? How many times do we hear ‘brave Lenihan battling illness’ in the same interview as him being allowed spout guff about reforms and taking the right decisions. He is either in perfect health that he can do his job or he isn’t – it can’t be both. If he’s not well he shouldn’t be doing the job, he should resign. As he hasn’t, we have to assume he is better and that the cancer wasn’t as serious as he let people think, we all know cancer can be a type that can’t be treated or the type that can and when caught early and treated and you make a full recovery. So why did the media allow his health to be used to avoid holding him to account during the most serious crisis since the foundation of the State save for the civil war and the setting up of Provos by Fianna Fáil, when he was never in danger or if he was, what sort of person thinks it is correct to be doing the job he is doing when he clearly could not be focused on the job because if his health was so bad, there’s no way his concentration and attention to the detail was up to requirements.

      Only today in The Herald there is a comment piece by Dan White who says about Lenihan ‘it also helps that he only joined the cabinet for the first time in 2007 so he bears no responsibility for the mess he is trying to clear up’. This is meant to be a serious journalist – try not to be snobby given he works for The Herald.

      Your article doesn’t even mention Brian Lenihan by name and only refers to the Minister for Finance at the end.

      The Irish media have falled miserably to do their job and not just recently, the fawning over Bertie and the fear of telling the truth about Fianna Fáil, allowed people to delude themselves there are no consequences to voting for that party. Well we know differently. People knew in 1977, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1992 & 2007 and still they kept voting for FF – exactly how low do Ireland need to be for the penny to drop with the public about the consequences of voting for FF?

      Then there is the issue of the cronyism which rotted the political system from the inside out from 1977 onwards, which finally brought us to where we are today.

      Then you add in the tax evason allowed by every government of every party over the years leading up to the tax amnesty proposed by The Labour Party in the early 1990s. Turning a blind eye to tax evasion by the middle classes fed the culture of corruption and cronyism. The same fat farmers and public sector workers, and their children, now moaning about paying their fair share.

      Then you had the media cheerleading of Fianna Fáil and its snakeoil which brought it to victory in 1997, 2002 and again in 2007. In the meantime there were the cronies appointed to countless overlapping and interlinked state boards and private sector firms, who then got to meet privately with Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrat ministers and have them do their bidding, presumably in return for financial favour.

      Then add in the media hype terrorising people that if they didn’t buy that house for €250k today, it would be €275k by tomorrow and on and on it went instead of saying, you know what, that house isn’t worth €250k so walk away from a 35 year mortgage and save your money and wait until sanity returns. But oh no … and The Irish Times was one of the worst for piling on the pressure about buying houses.

      So we get to Northern Rock in 2007 and still our government, of which Brian Lenihan is by now a full member, do nothing. Carry on and ignore all the warnings.

      Then we get to September 2008 and, this is the reason we are where we are now, for some reason no one is able to explain why Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan thought it was right to include Anglo Irish in a blanket guarantee despite the fact all normal deposit holders there were already covered by the regular guarantee and, if someone is stupid enough to keep more than €100k in a deposit account, then it sort of serves them right if they lose some of it.

      Lenihan raised no objectiosn to having the decision taken without a proper full cabinet meeting, with everyone dragged out of their bed and a full record of what was discussed kept. When the most important decision ever taken by an Irish government after the 1920s was made, the Irish government literally couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed – Lenihan lacked the ethical standards to know making such a decision in that way was deeply wrong.

      Where was the outrage from The Irish Times in September 2008?

      So here we are and the government is so deep in denial it is willing to destroy all economic credibility so Fianna Fáil can hang onto power – we know what FF was doing in the last manic months of the GUBU Part I government so the mind boggles at what the new government will uncover when it reviews what GUBU Part II have been doing over the last few months in the bunker, yet the opposition is denied access to the proper state books and banks are still allowed lie about the data they use and Brian Lenihan has done nothing since Sept 08 to stop the banks lying or to be a real patriotic and put aside tribal politics and let Fine Gael and Labour see the reality of the mess so they can build their policies based on the facts.

      All that has happened since Sept 08 is that Cowen and Lenihan have heaped on dozens of billions of Euro in debt, while not one single reform of how the country is financed or spends that income has been completed – not one. Random cuts have been made with no regard for the consequences or knock on effects.

      Yet, there are still 20% of people in Donegal who would vote for Fianna Fáil, is there something particularly stupid about people in Donegal or is the country as a whole that is so deep in denial – they are like the person who won’t admit their home is going to be repossessed until they are sitting in the gutter and even they refuse to look at the house. Can an entire country have Stockholm Syndrome?

    • Geoff says:

      “Cleverality” ? How did that get past the spellcheck ?

    • Joe Bolsiano says:

      You blame the banks and politicians but surely the greed of those who gleefully joined in when the property bubble was at its height should also share in this. I remember visiting otherwise sensible and intelligent friends in Skerries at the time who were busy buying up property as if there was no tomorrow. They, of course, are sufficiently wealthy to be insulated from the crash. How on earth, though, does such a tiny country get itself into a position where it needs a $136bn bailout?

    • John Chicago says:

      The game is up, and all the skeletons will out, a great purge is the required medicine and necessary for Ireland to move forward. I want to be proud to say I’m Irish again, this sorry mess reflects badly on all, Ireland is a democracy after all . I think a necessary part of the purge should be accountability, a fair trial and then hang them.

    • robespierre says:

      Hi Harry

      Interesting post. I don’t fully agree with your landing McCreevey and Harney first and foremost in the dock. They were both out of the economic portfolios by 2004. Had Cowen a mind to changes things he would but he is a man devoid of any ideology other than the pragmatic pursuit of nationalism. The green-eyed nationalism he espouses is definedly proud of its highs and also extremely forgiving of its lows. Fianna Fáil embraced the state funeral of its disgraced former Taoiseach CJ Haughey with more fervour than that of one of its nobler sons, a former first citizen, Patrick Hilary.

      Remember that Cowen did almost nothing while in Finance to change the macro-economic thrust of our policy. If you read your own pieces or the likes of “Showtime” by Pat Leahy it chronicles the manical glee with which the fiscal base was contracted and transactional taxes were used to give out wads of dosh to the most unproductive sectors of society.

      Someone with a greater sense of Millsian pride or better nous would have tried to do what JS Mills campaigned for in the unparalleled boom Britain went through from 1850 to 1880. Namely, from each according to their means, to each according to their needs. Obviously Victorian society was harsh and cruel in many ways but from a tax perspective it could teach us more than a few lessons.

      Universal benefits are a nonsense. They always have been, they always will be. The richest 20% of the populations can probably pay for most services fairly comfortably. Cowen nothing to alienate any voters. The all consuming desire for a third term for Bertie was first and foremost.

      So what do you do? Reform training infrastructure to ensure all those capable of work can work – no lets send a few lads finishing their YTS to NASA.

      Get the revenue commission and social welfare to collaborate to identify welfare cheats – no because welfare’s vote in th ebudget may get reduced, heaven forbid we might save some money from criminals.

      Reform the political system? No why don’t we increase the number of junior ministers to 19.

      The level of incompetence from these jokers is quite simply beyond belief. When historians look back at this period I am afraid that Fianna Fáil and all who sailed in her ship will be found guilty of incompetence and fecklessness akin to what one of their own did not so long ago – they went to the gee gees, placed a big bet on the nose, got stocious, sat behind the wheel and then tore off up the road against the flow of traffic.

      I am normally fairly temperate or at least try to be but all I feel is anger at the moment. Fine Gael may well take on its traditional role as chief sack cloth wearer after FF have ruined the economy and don the hair shirt again but I do not want somebody who cannot explain a simple redundancy plan as Taoiseach. We have compromised enough in our choice of “leader”. Whatever else we say about Bertie Ahern, only he and Reynolds have received a direct mandate from the people in recent times.

      I am becoming less worried about Labour’s involvement in an alternative government but only if the IMF are looking over the shoulders so their pals that sat on the board of the Central Bank during the bubble (step forward David Begg) and in Liberty Hall (step forward the other comedy beards) cannot hold up the realignment of the structural deficit.

      My wife is a teacher and a 20% cut in her salary and pension will hurt us but we will work through it. It is however imperative the structural deficit in closed and that unpalatable decisions in the McCarthy report on things like Garda Stations, Post Offices, small schools, hospitals are made and that those that are not viable are simply shut.

      As Sarah Carey said in her column today, we have to get used to hearing bad news, picking a way to resolve the issue and then moving on.

    • Paddy O says:

      How very dignified and calm (awe-inspiring in fact) was Peter Power (FF Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid at the Department of Foreign Affairs) in his handling of that frenzied attack by a more than usually OTT Vincent Browne on Tonight With Vincent Browne last night, and especially as the other two guests seemed to have been wheeled in to play the roles of Grim Reaper and Medusa – I’d say Peter had to use all his “power” not to be turned into stone by the cold darting glances of Justine McCarthy whose meandering blond ringlets must have appeared to have been morphing into writhing serpents in the psyche of the beleaguered minister – who nevertheless held his ground and spoke the most sense of anybody.

      COOL HEADS at a time of crisis is what this country needs and in my opinion all the cool heads are in the present coalition government and these men of integrity, in my opinion, will steer EU-Eire (a different kind of sovereignty) through this rough patch and most importantly are now savvy enough to spot and eliminate a rogue banker or any other kind of rogue (even from within their ranks) from any distance. EU-Eire has no time to break-in a new coalition at this crucial time.

    • Harry McGee says:

      Sorry for slowness in posting up comments but it’s been very busy and you have to read through them all to make sure nobody is going to sleepwalk us into a €10 million libel payout! Not that any of the above would. Some fantastic comments.
      A short note on the media. It’s fair comment to say we were as oblivious to it as everybody else. Even though we quibbled with Bertie Ahern’s bombastic prediction that the the ‘boom is getting boomer’ and Cowen’s portrayal of a soft landing for proprty, no political journalist that I know predicted anythign like the calamity that was coming down the tracks.
      Neither, by the way, did any member of the opposition. But that doesn’t excuse us from responsibility. Eamon Dunphy was honest enough to admit that he didn’t have a clue. I think the nature and scale of the collapse was of unimaginable proportions to everybody save a couple of savvy (and expert in this area) economists like Alan Ahearne, David McWilliams and Morgan Kelly (as well as Richard Curran and George Lee) who all played a Cassandra role to an unbelieving political class.

    • Gareth H says:

      Good article and analysis of the underlying failures. Historians will debate the merits of the bank guarantee for many years but the real failures occurred well in advance.

      Let me give an analogy:
      When the captain of the Titanic became aware of the impending iceberg he was faced with a terrible dilemma. He chose, disastrously and too late, to vainly steer to ‘avoid’ the iceberg. As a result the ship was holed, many times, below the water line and sank rapidly. Allegedly an immediate, frontal impact would have proved less fatal. A final poor decision perhaps amongst a range of terrible options
      But clearly the key to the disaster lay in what preceded this dilemma.
      Crucially, basic monitoring procedures were ignored. The ship lacked adequate telescopes or binoculars to spot icebergs ahead. Water temperate was not adequately checked for warning signs. Radio signals from other ships were ignored or not passed on.
      Most infamously, the ship did not have enough resources – lifeboats – to save all of its passengers.
      The consequences are telling.
      In the end wealthy, first-class passengers were disproportionately saved at the expense of third-class passengers. The wealthy were the ones with easy access to the lifeboats. A widespread state of denial resulted in the loss of precious time to take action. The actual rescue operation was shambolic.
      It is not a mystery that the North Atlantic is strewn with icebergs. So how could so many have been so recklessly endangered?
      Hubris and arrogance.
      The Titanic was different from all other ships. Thanks to new advances it was unsinkable. The old rules not longer applied. Why bother, therefore, with safety mechanisms or worry about routine checks?
      Instead the goal was to race, at reckless speeds, across the Atlantic to prove how much better and faster this ship was.

      The result? An entirely preventable disaster

      I invite you to substitute ‘Fianna Fáil’, ‘Anglo Irish’ and many other players into this story.
      However there are some key differences:
      According to legend, the architect of the ship, Thomas Andrews, tried in his final minutes to save others and chose to go down with his ship. Despite previous failings, this is remembered as a final act of bravery and responsibility.
      Sadly I can find no counterpart here amongst our ruling élite.


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