Talking property


One man explains it all to ISABEL MORTONon her way to coffee

FORCED TO take a taxi the other day, due to my old banger’s refusal to start, I found myself incarcerated for half an hour on a lumpy leatherette seat, suffering the dual assault of Morning Ireland and my driver’s simultaneous translation of same.

There’s not much point pretending to be busy flicking through paperwork or texting: if they’re talkers, they’ll talk and what’s more, they’ll keep glancing in their rear view mirror to make sure that you’re paying attention.

Taxi drivers, particularly Irish ones, are second only to removal men for up-to-date information on the state of the nation’s affairs. Although, how this one found out anything of note was beyond me, as he spoke non-stop, asking questions and immediately answering them himself.

Initially, I thought he was just going through the usual litany of complaints but gradually it dawned on me that he had quite a different take on things.

There were, he insisted, a select few who “called the shots” in Ireland and the rest of us were just drones, struggling through this recession, forced into economic enslavement and therefore unable to rebel.

As he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, he simultaneously turned down the radio for dramatic effect, which was just as well, as I honestly thought I was hearing things.

They were the “grey” men and women; the “unseen people” who stayed out of the limelight.

They were, apparently, “not very civil, civil servants” who, through hypnosis and mind-altering drugs, manipulated our governments and dictated their policies, using tactics like a cult or a sect.

Ireland was chosen to be “the sacrificial lamb” because it was small and insignificant and an ideal country to be used to set an example to other bigger European countries, such as Italy and Spain, which were already in serious debt.

That was why our banks were permitted to borrow so much money from European banks; they knew we would spend it on property, he explained, “because they knew we were a nation of homeowners and that if we got half a chance, we’d be like kids in a sweet shop, buying up all around us”.

Stopped at traffic lights, he turned around to tell me that Europe knew that we’d go bust very quickly and then they could publicly humiliate us, as a warning to other nations. “We were the ideal choice, you see?”

I didn’t see at all but he immediately explained that apart from being a very young country, barely detached from Britain’s apron strings, Ireland was all wrapped up in Catholic guilt and behind all our “strutting about” when we had a few bob, we never really believed we deserved any of it.

“So, they knew we’d be so embarrassed and guilty, that we’d be down on our bended knees, apologising and taking whatever punishment they doled out. Of course, they have Nama controlling things here on the ground; just to make sure that there’s no uprising.

At any little sign of trouble, they nab another one of the big boys, to remind the rest of us that we won’t get away with anything.

“They’ve people everywhere, infiltrating the place and quietly running the show.”

I paid my fare and as he searched for change, he went on remorselessly, “they do tester leaks to see how we’ll react and keep heaping on the taxes, waiting for us to explode and then they’ll pull back a bit, knowing they’ve gone too far”.

When I had gathered my bits and was half out of the car, he added:

“Of course, they’re not well after all that drug-induced hypnosis: they don’t last, Bertie lost it and the poor Brians, God help them, and now Enda has the look of a man in a trance, he won’t last long either.

Not their fault really, they’re not well, none of them are themselves.”

I had my own views on who might “not be well” but gave him a decent tip before falling into a cafe to recuperate.

Still, on reflection, the expression “wake up and smell the coffee” seemedappropriate. Was his theory quite so mad after all?

Isabel Morton is a property consultant