Facing up to the crisis in public finances


Madam, – As the Irish financial system’s goose gets cooked and the country’s international reputation is increasingly lambasted, recruiting the help of Wild Geese executives might help to restore credibility.

Many Irish-born executives populate the upper echelons of world-leading financial institutions. Their international experience and reputations would deliver necessary leadership at a time of economic instability. – Yours, etc,



New York, USA.

Madam, – Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey’s attack on those he claimed had committed “economic treason” was entirely predictable, if a little belated. It is part of the strategy of Government leaders to blame international events and a small clique of speculators and bankers for all our woes.

They are being completely disingenuous in doing so and I do not believe the Irish people will be fooled.

The real architects of this economic debacle were the successive Fianna Fáil/PD governments under the “leadership” of Bertie Ahern. We were particularly unfortunate to have as taoiseach a man so lacking in political vision and integrity at a time of great, though transient, wealth. Successive Ahern administrations failed to manage the economy in a sustainable manner. Their ineptitude was staggering.

They claimed they wanted world-class public services at the same time as they were reducing taxes. They reduced direct taxes to the lowest level in Western Europe, simply to win elections, and now we find we have an unsustainably low level of taxation, which cannot allow us to even maintain the poor level of public services we currently “enjoy”.

They failed to institute a fair tax regime while giving generous tax breaks to speculators, fuelling the construction bubble. They also established less ethical, though technically legal, tax breaks, which have earned this country the dubious distinction of being compared to Lichtenstein. They were a government of “chancers” led by the “Dell Boy” of European leaders.

They established a regulatory regime which was lamentable, as we now know to our cost. They presided over a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money by adding layers of Government spin-doctors and advisers, often duplicating the work of civil servants. They appointed cronies to state bodies such as Fás, the organisation of jobs for the boys and junkets for the boys.

They established juggernaut bureaucracies such as the HSE. They built up a level of government spending that was patently unsupportable, based as it was on tax revenues from the sandy foundations of the construction industry and the property market.

All this time we were led by a man who, by his own admission, could not manage his own finances. So how in God’s name could we have expected anything other than the mess in which we are now mired?

Ahern’s decade has seen arguably the worst government in the history of this State, certainly the most morally bankrupt. It has made paupers once again of the Irish people. The leading figures of these administrations of the past twelve years – Ahern, Harney, McCreevy, Cowen, et al., are the real economic traitors.– Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Madam, – Release the Anglo Irish Ten! – Yours, etc,


Charleston Avenue,

Dublin 6.

Madam, – Cathal O’Loghlin (Opinion, February 24th), says the Ictu cannot object to the proposed pension levy on the basis that it amounts to “tackling public finances without charging the wealthy a cent”. He says the Ictu has already agreed with this approach in the Framework for a Pact for Stabilisation, Social Solidarity and Economic Renewal, which states that “given the urgency of the situation and the role that taxation will have to play in bringing stability back to public finances, the Government is asking the Commission on Taxation to. . .identify options and. . . report by September 2009”.

So while the Government waits for the Commission on Taxation to “identify options” (increase taxes on the rich?) it needs no advice or waiting period to increase tax on civil servants by about 7 per cent. Oh, sorry, it’s not a tax increase, it’s a pension levy. My mistake. And yes, I am a civil servant. – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

Madam, – “Never was there a country so utterly downcast, so depressed, so pitiful, so spiritless. Yet I do not, could not, despair of her regeneration. Nations do not die in a day. Their lives are reckoned by generations, and they encompass centuries. Their vitality is inextinguishable. Their sufferings are sometimes terrible - but they survive the deadliest plagues - the red of the battlefield, the storm which topples towers and pyramids, the fire in which millions of breaths are melted down, the earthquake which engulfs cities, and buries a whole person in one indistinguishable sepulchre – they have been known to survive all.

“Greece has so outlived her ruins and vices. Italy has so outlived her degeneracy and her despotisms. Thus, too, shall Ireland survive her sufferings, her errors and disasters, and rear, one day, her Arch of Triumph high above the wreck of wilderness of her past. This is my sincere faith.

“Orders have come. – Yours devotedly, Thomas Francis Meagher.”

The above extract is from a letter written by Thomas Francis Meagher from Richmond Prison on July 9th, 1849 – the night before he was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the aftermath of the failed rising of 1848.

Ireland was entering one of the darkest periods in its history with the country in the throes of the Great Famine. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Meagher’s letter is currently on display in the Waterford Museum of Treasures, on loan from Senator Mark Daly. – Yours, etc,



Waterford Museum of Treasures.

Madam, – Justin O’Brien, a professor of corporate governance in Canberra, Australia has given us another yet incisive insight into our banking and political affairs (Opinion Analysis, February 23rd).

He reminds us that the partial release of the PricewaterhouseCoopers confidential report late last Friday focused only on Anglo Irish Bank. Prof O’Brien thinks it a source of extreme concern that no information is provided about the relative health or sickness of the other banks.

He also thinks that the timing and the sparse detail provided may represent an “act of breathtaking political cynicism”. To remedy this, he says, “if only to save itself, the Government must publish the report in its entirety. Today.”

It seems to me that when someone with relevant expertise from outside the country, and consequently independent of the various interests involved, comes out with well argued, if hard-hitting, recommendations, they should be listened to and acted upon. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Dublin 13.

Madam, – Unions are calling for strikes. In mulling this over they obviously considered the following:

(a) These will reduce the national income even further; (b) tax revenue will fall further; (c) employers who are now just hanging on may fall into the abyss; (d) unemployment may increase; dole payments may go up.

All worthwhile objectives. Lemmings, lead on. – Yours, etc,


Leopardstown Road,

Dublin 18.

Madam, – Is it not time we launched some form of National Recovery Bond. This would be an easy way for the plain people of Ireland to put a few euro each week into a bond that would directly benefit the State.

These could take quite a basic form, have a good rate of interest and be sold via National Lottery outlets, post offices, etc. They could also be offered over the internet to the millions of Irish people and people of Irish descent worldwide.

We might not raise enough to bail out our disgraced banks, but perhaps enough to help with the interest on Government borrowing until recovery arrives. – Yours, etc,


Raglan Lane,

Dublin 4.

Madam, – Peter Sutherland, in his interesting analysis of why Ireland’s economy is the worst in the euro zone (Opinion, February 24th), runs away from the Lisbon Treaty and fails to even mention the euro of which, at one time, he was one of the strongest proponents.

Many of the Republic’s problems are common to other countries. There is one exception: the euro. By abandoning the punt to join the euro and turning its back on its main trading partners in the US and UK, the Republic has seen a collapse in its exports – and a massive move by tens of thousands of its people each week to Northern Ireland where sterling is cheaper. This is a further drain on the Republic’s economy.

It can always be rectified quickly by a decision to restore the punt as the national currency. An urgent response to the crisis is required as Peter Sutherland correctly states. Has the Government got the courage? It would benefit many people through more jobs and a recovery of business, exports and investment if the Government reinstated the punt. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Madam, – I trust it was purely shortage of space that prevented Peter Sutherland from mentioning his role in the Royal Bank of Scotland debacle and the fact that Goldman Sachs is into the US taxpayer for $10 billion? – Yours, etc,


St Jude’s Crescent,


Madam, – While cleaning out a desk drawer I came across the Government’s booklet Preparing For Major Emergencies. I read every page.

While I came across numerous helpful hints for dealing with floods, nuclear war, animal disease, fire, and other catastrophes I didn’t see anything that could help us out of this current emergency.

It doesn’t look good. – Yours, etc,


Parnell Road,


Dublin 12.