Quartet's stringent criticism is music to the ear
Four Angry Men paint a stark picture of economic woes but still raise laughs
With horizontal rain lashing the streets of Cork, a sodden rugby match down the road in Musgrave Park and Cheryl Cole’s autobiography topping the non-fiction bestsellers, it was a poor outlook for the Four Angry Men – all with Penguin-published books hovering below the English pop singer in the charts – arriving to debate the state of the nation.
Yet “four years down from the great collapse”, in the words of moderator Olivia O’Leary, and three years since their last tour, 600 people – including Mattie McGrath – paid about €25 apiece for a seat in the Opera House and what Douglas restaurateur David Halpin hoped would be a vision of the future.
“Pretty much all the truth is out there now so the question is where do we go from here?”
Eleanor Crowley and her daughter Paula, an IT specialist, were looking for nothing less than a new political party. “It’s the only way,” said Eleanor. “It’s like Fintan O’Toole says, we need to spark the flame of a republic,” said Paula.
“Anger can be destructive and will eat you up if it isn’t expressed,” said O’Leary, offering another reason to be there, while introducing O’Toole, David McWilliams, Shane Ross and Nick Webb.
McWilliams, in open-necked shirt and nice suit, reckoned the problem lay with Ireland’s negotiators. “We know our people desperately, desperately need to do a deal that will fix the country, to sell a deal it to the Europeans. Why don’t we do it? Is there something else going on in the Irish psyche that explains our negotiators’ stance?” His theory is we want to be liked too much, that we don’t want to be awkward or different, we just want to be the best boy in the class. “Meanwhile, the mortgage time-bomb is ticking away, like a virus in a crèche ... Mario Draghi has opened the door and said, come in and do a deal.” But, he said, triggering a ripple of laughter, what we need is “some bollix like Michael O’Leary to do a deal for us ... You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
Ross and Webb did a double act, each with his own part. “Welcome to a land where accountability does not exist,” said Webb. “Nothing has changed. That is the message from us tonight,” said Ross.
They conjured up images of politicised judges, who don’t declare their interests, lawyers contorted with conflicts of interest, accountants hired to keep the banks in line and still claimed their €164 million fees when things went “horribly wrong”, the National Treasury Management Agency’s startling salaries and pensions, the non-actions of the Pensions Board, the auctioneers making a fortune advising Nama, and a former secretary general of the Department of Finance also known as Forrest Gump.
And finally, the bankers — “some elevated, some still in situ, some sort of humiliated, some resurrected, some new ones who have been created – and no one has been convicted of anything at all”.