Irish mastery of doublespeak has led us to a tragic endpoint
The Germans need to be hearing Message A: Ireland is in dire trouble. They’re getting Message B: Ireland is grand
So bad that we can’t have counsellors in schools even when kids are killing themselves, so bad that A&Es have to go back to the status of field hospitals in the Crimean War. So bad that we have to go back to 1950s levels of emigration.
All of this has to be done because the State is in a terrible financial crisis, but it is a dirty business and the authorities are very sorry to have to do it.
But on the other channel there’s Message B: we’re grand. It is intended for the international markets. It is a message of confidence and reassurance. Our public finances are not in crisis; they are eminently manageable. The economy has turned the corner. We are not just a success story – we are the success story. We are not merely a credit to ourselves. We are a shining example to others. This is not dirty business: it is a cleansing and a sanctifying thing. This doublespeak might have worked, for we ourselves are so used to it that we take it for granted. But in this case there is the complicating factor of a third audience: our gallant allies in Europe and in particular Germany.
The wrong channel
The problem is that the Germans have been hearing the wrong channel. They need to be hearing Message A: Ireland is in dire trouble. They’re actually getting Message B: Ireland is grand. Or, as finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble put it: “We think Ireland is doing very well. Ireland did what Ireland had to do . . . now everything is fine.”
Fine in this case includes not just the barbaric A&Es and the bereft carers and the suicides and the mass emigration but also the €64 billion of bank debt that we assumed to save the euro.
This is the tragic endpoint of Irish doublespeak. The boy who cried “wolf” came to a bad end because he said things were dire so many times that no one believed him when they really were dire. Ireland, uniquely, has pulled off the opposite trick. No one believes that the wolf is here because we’ve spent so much time assuring them that wolves
do not exist.