Any government, even the IMF, is better than none


Even a direct takeover of the country by the IMF or the ECB would be preferable to the current political and economic paralysis, writes SARAH CAREY.

SOMETIMES I get things wrong. It turned out I was wrong about Slumdog Millionaire. “How,” I demanded in a pre-menstrual shriek to my slightly alarmed friend, “How did they get away with that?”

I was pointing at the promotional poster while other cinema-goers moved briskly by, avoiding eye-contact with the over-excited lady. The headline read “Best Feel-Good Movie of the Decade!” It was not a feel-good movie. It was a feel-bad movie and I had gone to the cinema to feel better, so I was in a feel-cheated mood too. Had I not been sitting in the middle of the row I would have left halfway through, having yelped in shock at one particular act of premeditated violence.

In fairness to the producers, they couldn’t know that I had two little boys who looked just like Salim and Jamal. Well, except for the fact that my lads are pale-skinned, blue-eyed, redheads and not brown-eyed, brown-skinned Indians. But other than that, they were just like them and so my tendency to over-identify with fictional characters was over-stimulated and I was upset. Over-excited, over-identified, over-stimulated. My life is too over.

Anyway, other than my hormones, I thought the film had a fatal flaw.

Every tragedy, and there were many, which befell these poor children was completely credible. Further, it seems quite clear that their miseries are common to thousands, if not millions of other children on the subcontinent. There was nothing fictional about their bereavements, exploitation, torture, near-starvation and heart-breaking betrayals. The happy ending is the only part of the script that we know is utterly incredible.

In real life, small, orphaned children are mutilated to improve their begging potential. In real life, deserving heroes do not win piles of money honestly and honourably. Nor do I think that substituting miserable Indian childhoods for miserable Irish childhoods in popular culture is good for the nation’s mental health.

However, it appears that I was wrong. Everyone else felt good about the film and so it is a great success. This does force me to consider that I might be wrong about other things.

Am I wrong in thinking that in six months time a cruel-looking German in a pin-striped suit will board a plane in Frankfurt bound for Dublin? Flashing an ECB identity card at Government Buildings, will he enter the Taoiseach’s office and announce: “For you Herr Cowen, ze var is over!”? And Brian, rather than protesting, will be rather relieved that the cup has finally passed. Perhaps he will return gratefully and quietly to Clara while the Eurocrats or, God help us, the IMF, get on with running the country we ran into the ground.

Am I wrong in thinking that Cowen hates him so much, he would rather see international intervention than Enda Kenny as taoiseach? Is his belief in Fianna Fáil’s divine right to rule so ingrained that he would rather the country hand over sovereignty to the fund or the ECB rather than the Opposition? Is that why, no matter how much the Sunday Independent demands a national government, we won’t get one, not because Enda or Eamon won’t say yes, but because Brian can’t bring himself to ask?

Am I wrong in thinking that the Taoiseach remains paralysed by a combination of shock and delusion that cute hoorism still has a place in Irish politics? His insistence on outsourcing a decision on tax increases to the Commission on Taxation is surely evidence of both. The commission is due to report in July and the Taoiseach, despite his clear majority in the Dáil, will have the permission he craves to implement the tax hikes everyone else has long accepted are necessary.

In July, it will have been one year since Brian Lenihan entered the Department of Finance and turned green.

One whole year when we could have been putting things right and putting money away. The strangest part is that the population does not protest, but rather begs. Brian! Tax us! Please! We’d rather cough up now than starve later. And still he dithers and snarls and still the international institutions look on, increasingly bemused as to why the Government fails to act as they flick through their travel guides of Ireland.

Am I wrong in thinking that it is simply an old-fashioned ego problem? Is he so determined to keep his promise that there will be no mini-budget that he would rather bankrupt us than change his mind?

Am I wrong to worry about February 3rd when the Taoiseach insisted several times in the Dáil that the pensions levy would raise €1.4 billion? Later it transpired that the tax offset means it will save only €900 million.

Was he spinning that day, or worse, had the Government forgotten that pension contributions are tax-deductible? Is it wrong to prefer to believe that he was deliberately massaging the figures rather than exhibiting gross incompetence?

A government that has the wherewithal to mislead and spin is surely better than a government that can neither add nor subtract.

Maybe it’s those damn hormones or maybe it’s too much exposure to feel-bad movies, but I’m tired of waking up wishing that the worst would happen and the Germans would come. Any government is better than no government.

It’s the waiting. It’s the watching. It’s the shouting at the telly: “Get on with it or go, Taoiseach. Please, just let it be over.”