Archive for February 12th, 2009


Is Brian fixing the economy with sparknotes?

A thought occurs to me. How embarrassed are Fianna Fáil voters feeling these days? I mean, they won the last election largely because they were seen as the best stewards of a successful economy. I recalled an episode of Questions & Answers where Brian Cowen (then finance minister) displaying a smarmy, sarcastic attitude that seemed to suggest, “If you really trust Fine Gael with the economy we built go right ahead and vote for them,” which of course was largely their campaign message. I watched several vox-pop segments where people said they were pissed off about the miserable public service in this country but they were still voting Fianna Fáil because they didn’t want to “rock the boat” (it’s a shame that boat turned out to be the Titanic).

I ask this because Brian Lenihan yesterday achieved something I’d previously thought impossible by continuing to astound us with his government’s incompetence. A report commissioned by the minister stated that the bank he was in the process of nationalising had been hiding its financial problems with loans from other banks, and he DIDN’T FUCKING READ IT. It would be hilarious, if not so bloody infuriating.

Anyway, a FF backbencher (I don’t remember which one) was on Vincent Browne’s show last night suggesting that when judging this government’s performance one must consider it in a global context. The problems with the Irish economy simply reflect the problems happening the world over, he claimed. Cowen suggested something similar on Marion Finucane’s radio show last weekend when he said our problems have been fuelled by the collapse of international markets for Irish goods. Sorry, Biffo, but that’s not good enough. There was no international market for Irish houses. Our problems, which are exceptional even in the current international climate, came about because our economy was completely dependent on a grossly inflated housing market that the government had to know couldn’t sustain itself. That and the complete inability to regulate institutions lending money to people who clearly couldn’t pay it back.

Of course I don’t buy the “I never read it” excuse. It’s far too convenient, and amazingly similar to Barry Andrew’s handling of the Bishop of Cloynes case, or Michael Martin being unaware that the HSE were ripping off of pensioners in nursing homes because he was late for the meeting where it was discussed (god be with the days when a minister’s job could be questioned because somebody in the department forgot to post a letter). What seems to me to have happened here was that Lenihan was aware, at least to some degree, of what had been happening at Anglo Irish Bank, but didn’t react because he had no idea how to. Much of our government’s incompetence is borne from ten years of a policy of ignoring problems in the hope that they would go away. After all, it worked fine until now.

The more I think about it the more I feel my future lies outside this country. I’d hate to leave, and I realise every country is feeling a crisis on the jobs front, but for the sake of my sanity I’m becoming increasingly convinced that I must live in a real country, with a government that offer even the slightest indication that they have some grasp of the problems they face.