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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 28, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    ‘May you live in interesting times’ (Chinese curse)

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The level of pre-Budget speculation is greater than ever and this can be attributed to two things. Firstly, kites are being flown about the dreadful things ministers might have to do, if they are pushed too far. A speech to your parliamentary party is a good vehicle in this regard, because it is bound to be leaked afterwards to the media.

    This, of course, generates reaction among backbenchers and the general public and strengthens that particular minister’s position – at least in theory.

    Secondly, there are the tensions between the two government parties. One hesitates about even using the word “tensions”. Perhaps, “sensitivities” would be better.  Just as individual TDs have to placate their geographical constituencies, so, too, the coalition parties have to keep their support-bases sweet.

    In Labour’s case, the unions need to be kept more or less “on side”. As long at the Croke Park Agreement on public sector pay and conditions remains intact, there should not be too much trouble from that quarter. However, there are rumblings about the price other sectors and the general public are seen to be paying, e.g., in the form of a Value-Added Tax increase, and the finger is increasingly being pointed at Croke Park.

    These murmurings of discontent are not a serious factor at the moment. When we get around to the next Budget in December 2012, the climate could be rather different. Besides, the Passport Office dispute gave a glimpse of the potential for disruption on the part of public sector unions if they are riled.

    The whole Budget exercise is being conducted in the shadow of dramatic events on the European stage. The future of the euro as a currency is in the balance. There are moves for new treaty changes: that’s all we need in this country, another referendum!

     Discipline is the watchword. What a pity the same level of stringency was not applied when the eurozone was set up originally. It is obvious at this stage that Greece should not have been allowed to join – and I have the highest regard for that wonderful country and its people. Maybe we shouldn’t have been let in ourselves! Did nobody notice the laxity of our regulatory system and the crazy exuberance of the property bubble?

    Historians will enjoy sifting through all these issues. Unfortunately, it is a lot less fun for those of us who have to live through these “interesting times” which are taking on an unhappy resemblance to the 1930s with every passing day.

    • RPE McCarthy says:

      These are very different times indeed Deaglán but thankfully, compared to the 1930s Ireland is a much better country to live in.

      This is primarily a middle class recession and it is the 30-50 year olds that are paying the most in the downturn.

      I am disappointed with the approach the government is taking. I think had Richard Bruton become finance minister it may be very different.

      It is a ludicrous and antiquated approach to doing business and is ignoring all known examples of best practises.

      Open book proposals, a menu of options, open debate and a quarterly review cycle in the Oireachtas would be a much more appropriate budgetary cycle and approach.

      This has been pointed out countless times. It needs somebody with a vision of the benefits to the country rather than focused on managing tomorrow’s headlines wrapped around the next day’s fish and chips to make it happen.

    • Katriona says:

      I’ve just watched 20min of Prime Time’s investigation into the bailout & aside from feeling utter fury, I’m speechless at the incompetencies not only of our very well paid now ex- government, but also at the ECB & the EC. What on earth were they all doing? It seems to me that the ECB ignored our over-heated economy to its peril, the Germans and countries of the G-20 didn’t give a sugar what happened here until it threatened their bondholders and their banks. Then all of hell broke loose and Ireland was effectively bullied into the infamous bailout.
      In the meantime us, the very ordinary people, were left in ignorance for as long as possible, then allowed to elect a new government who are tied to the previous administration’s mess whilst the ex-ministers chill out on huge pensions, golden handshakes etc. Now we are paying for all the mistakes and poor judgement of the idiots and fools who caused it in the first place.
      So, indeed, we do live in interesting times.

    • Cath r. says:

      @ Katriona……….just 20min……..Perhaps, if you watched the whole thing you might have put aside your party political leanings and realized the fragility of a small peripheral EU country like Ireland when the Global economic crisis was “tsunami-ing” and the big players, with only the safeguarding of their own economies in mind, railroaded our government (at the time) into a frightening, dark cul de sac. The Cowen/Lenihan government (at that stage deserted by the lily-livered Greens) did the only thing possible at the time (to their political cost) and that was to hold their cards very close to the chest (by not officially and publicly requesting assistance from the EU/IMF) until the very last moment of the end-game; and as I have said elsewhere, I am certain their “bluff” could have worked and “the markets” would have swallowed it if the present Kenny & Gilmore lot (as inept then in opposition, as they are now in government) had not used one of the worst crises in modern history (brought about by the Global economic downturn) to bolster their political advantage by savagely and relentlessly attacking Ireland’s then government at a time when what was absolutely imperative was cool heads all round and putting on a confident exterior (poker face if you will) for “the markets.” Instead, the country and the world was subjected to a Gilmore/Kenny pantomime of civil war party political “big endians” v “little endians” which made Ireland look like a basket case and of course, our bargaining position was shattered. Personally, I am a great admirer of Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan — two of Ireland’s most sincere and adroit politicians. I have no doubt that both of these fine men would have laid down their lives for Ireland………..and one of them did. The present coalition politicians, now facing ever-increasing public dissatisfaction are reaping “the rewards” of their foolhardy opportunism.
      Oops, sorry, I’m leaning..!

    • John Kennedy says:

      Interesting times indeed. What is becoming more and more obvious is that Ireland is being split between “insiders” and “outsiders”. We see how badly the insiders looked after our interests on Prime Time and the revelations regarding what happened around this time last year. Then the only time we see one of our insiders being assertive in Europe is MEP De Rossa defending a fellow insider Mr Cardiff.

      The insiders refuse to take the pain. They have the four main parties defending their “entitlements” enshrined in the Croke Park agreement. Why is nobody representing the majority of us who are outsiders. Do these times call for a new politics where the majority are represented? It would appear that times will only become more interesting.

    • jbearmor says:

      @ Cath r : some one took an extra big swig from the Kool Aid container.

    • kellyg123 says:

      @ cath, Lenihan laid down his life for Ireland? really? I thought he died of cancer, obviously I was wrong and he should be up there with Pearse and co who actually laid down their lives for ireland. Your leanings are way more obvious than the commenter you called up on their political leanings in the first place, maybe you should take the blinkers off.

      the markets aren’t stupid, the only people who they were bluffin were the general Irish populace.
      have a look at this on the bbc (if I can post a link) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15748696
      Ireland has 1093% foreign debt to GDP – even now that makes Greece look good (they’ve got 252%).
      I have a feeling that that couldn’t be ‘bluffed’.

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