Government’s destruction of Ireland is complete

By Vincent Browne (for the Sunday Business Post)

The spin, the lies, the denials, the delusions, the conceit and the arrogance added insult to ignominy.

An initial benign suspicion emerged that this was a cognitive impairment caused by the shock of becoming aware of what they had done. But that soon gave way to a realisation that it was what Fianna Fail does best: tell the people not to believe their own “lying eyes”.

In truth, it was - and is - part of the deceit that is endemic in our political culture: a denial of the reality that is before us.

Never has Taoiseach Brian Cowen conceded that he was in any way to blame for the catastrophe that has unfolded in this country.

No responsibility for the pro-cyclical budgetary policies which he espoused, and which inflated the property bubble and ravished the tax base; no responsibility for the banking crisis, even though he knew that Anglo Irish Bank was in deep trouble at least a year before the debacle.

The Department of Finance knew in early 2008 that a crisis was coming down the line, and some officials began to examine how it should be managed. But Cowen did nothing.

It was he who capitulated to the big boys in the financial world some time in 2007 over the stamp duty on contracts for difference.

The Revenue had imposed a duty on these, but when a few stockbrokers got to Cowen, he surrendered.

Through all this, he was aided and abetted by Mary Harney, who bears perhaps the most responsibility for this debacle.

Remember how she extolled the rampant capitalism of the US over the more moderate European model in her remark about preferring Boston over Berlin?

She was the light-touch lady, the one who remodelled the regulatory banking mechanism that then failed to regulate.

I passed by St Luke’s in Drumcondra recently, the seat of government from 1997 to 2008. You’d never have thought the strategies devised in that modest little red-brick house, beside the Tolka and across the road from Fagan’s - aside from the dig-outs and sterling bets, and the cash that came in the suitcase - were to collapse the country and endanger the eurozone.

Quite a feat, really. With Cowen and Harney were Dermot Ahern, Micheal Martin and Noel Dempsey, in government during all that time, and later the rest of them: Mary Coughlan, Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin, Eamon O’Cuiv, Brendan Smith, Batt O’Keeffe and John Gormley and Eamon Ryan of the Greens.

It is sad to include Lenihan among this lot, for he has more talent than the rest put together - or so we thought. But he too has lost all credibility.

The scale of their depredations still remains incalculable, but it certainly involves something like the following: an increase in the state’s debt of the order of E50 billion to E100 billion to recapitalise the banks and cover the fiscal deficit; the ravaging of welfare payments; forced redundancies in the public service; and expenditure cuts in the health and education sectors.

A direct and inevitable consequence of this catastrophe will be deepening inequality and, as a direct consequence, the premature deaths of many people.

I am not talking about merely suicide and mental illness; I am talking about the phenomenon where, in unequal societies, people in the lower echelons of the social pyramid die prematurely - in Ireland’s case, about 5,000 of them annually.

Of course, there will be more suicides and more terrible tragedies arising from the conscious neglect of the mental health services. The public refusal to acknowledge the consequences of an unequal society is part of the denial that is endemic to our political culture.

Last Friday, Cowen, at the opening of the new terminal at Dublin Airport, said that he had job to do to address the budget, a four-year economic plan and the problems facing the euro.

There was no appreciation at all that he is a fatal liability in all these spheres. Nobody believes, or will believe, that this government is capable of formulating a budget or a four year plan - and as for saving the euro. . .

On the same day, Lenihan said that the IMF and the EU would merely “advise” on budgetary strategy, and it would be the government that would decide.

There was no appreciation of the disaster the government has brought on the country. And Harney said it was the bankers that had destroyed the country! I think Freud might have had a name for this condition.

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