Kenny's dead words fail to convince


At 9.16 pm on the night of the budget, the Dear Leader appeared on television. He knew, presumably, that people were in deep distress, that many of them would not be able to sleep that night because they were churned up with fear, anger and despair.

Enda Kenny stood in a wood-panelled office with the national flag at his shoulder. He squared up to address the citizens who were hoping to hear something to give them hope – or even just some comfort. And out of his tight little mouth came a stream of banal inanities.

Here are five things said by the Taoiseach in less than six minutes:

1. “In the last 12 months we have seen signs of confidence returning to our economy, interest rates falling….” (The fall in interest rates is a mark, not of confidence in Ireland, but of the sheer depth of the euro zone crisis.)

2. “What we are at here is continuing the process of moving the country forward towards, em, economic development where we continue to be competitive, where we continue to be attractive for investment from abroad, where we make no, em, make no, em, em, no, em, complaint about putting real progress in the small- and medium-enterprise sector, which is the lifeblood of our economy and which will deal effectively with all the hundreds of thousands of hard-pressed families and their children, which will, which will be in the interest of guaranteeing their economic security for the future...” (Only textspeak is adequate: WTF?)

3. “This was going to be challenging in the sense that I’ve read some of the speculation and rumour before this budget of things going to be very much worse indeed.” (All the speculation and rumour was based on carefully placed leaks by the Taoiseach’s own Government.)

4. “It’s important to remember that, for instance, here in Dublin, where the vast majority of the money collected under the property tax, will be spent in the local authorities for services to be provided by people.” (As opposed, presumably, to the services provided by monkeys or robots.)

5. “I’m very confident, eh, against a background of great difficulty at a European level, we actually, eh, we’ve actually achieved growth here in this country and, as I’ve said, signs of confidence returning to the economy are evident. They’re not, not, eh, not sufficient as to where we want to be, em, but next year we hope to, we hope to continue to grow on that, on that progress.” (The budgetary forecast is for real GNP to grow by just 0.9 per cent in 2013 – even less than it grew in 2012. If we continue to “grow on that progress”, we’re screwed.)

I could go on with further quotations but I can’t type this stuff and retain the will to live at the same time. I could quote, for example, the Taoiseach referring to people on low incomes as “that particular sector” but readers have suffered enough.

The point is that much of what the Taoiseach had to say was inarticulate drivel and all of it was waffle.

He was starting sentences without knowing where they were going to end. He was using random verbs with no relationship to their objects. (In what language can “progress” be “put” or “grown on”?)

He was making claims, such as low interest rates being a sign of Irish confidence, that it is terrifying to think he might actually believe. He was half speak-your-weight machine, half Alan Partridge.

We pay this man €200,000 a year plus a €3.2 million pension pot. But if a trainee manager in a greeting card company made a presentation so inarticulate, ill-prepared and banal, he would never get to be a manager.

At a moment of trauma for so many people, worried sick about their kids, their mortgages, their elderly parents, their jobs and their futures, the Taoiseach couldn’t produce one instant of grace or dignity or consolation.

He clearly hadn’t bothered to sit down with his well-paid advisers for half an hour and think through what he was going to tell us.

Why? Because he has nothing to say. His Government has no real story to tell. Its only narrative is “a tale told by an idiot” – the yarn that sadistic cuts in respite payments for carers at the end of their tether will somehow lead us all back into the light, even while we continue to burn over €3 billion a year on promissory notes for dead banks. It has no vision of what kind of society we will be left with at the end of all this self-flagellation. It doesn’t even have the basic principles – justice, decency, rationality – on which a convincing story might be built.

This crumbling of language leaves us back where we started. We knew how deep our troubles were when we had a taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who could speak only in the strangulated bureaucratese of “front-loading consolidation”. After our “democratic revolution” we’ve ended up with another Taoiseach who cranks out dead words because he cannot look his people in the eye and tell them why their suffering makes sense.

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