What is wrong with Ireland?

This will be a long post, so stay with me if you can:

Countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. When a country like Indonesia or South Korea or Ireland grows, so do the ambitions of its captains of industry. As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.

In Ireland, for instance, the private sector is now in serious trouble because, over the past seven years or so, it borrowed at least $130 billion from banks and investors on the assumption that the country’s property sector could support a permanent increase in consumption throughout the economy. As Ireland’s oligarchs spent this capital, acquiring other companies and embarking on ambitious investment plans that generated jobs, their importance to the political elite increased. Growing political support meant better access to lucrative contracts, tax breaks, and subsidies. And foreign investors could not have been more pleased; all other things being equal, they prefer to lend money to people who have the implicit backing of their national governments, even if that backing gives off the faint whiff of corruption.

But inevitably, oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt. Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them. Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.

The downward spiral that follows is remarkably steep. Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse. Yesterday’s “public-private partnerships” are relabeled “crony capitalism.” With credit unavailable, economic paralysis ensues, and conditions just get worse and worse. The government is forced to draw down its foreign-currency reserves to pay for imports, service debt, and cover private losses. But these reserves will eventually run out. If the country cannot right itself before that happens, it will default on its sovereign debt and become an economic pariah. The government, in its race to stop the bleeding, will typically need to wipe out some of the national champions—now hemorrhaging cash—and usually restructure a banking system that’s gone badly out of balance. It will, in other words, need to squeeze at least some of its oligarchs.

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Dublin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large.

Eventually, as the oligarchs in Cowen’s Ireland now realize, some within the elite have to lose out before recovery can begin. It’s a game of musical chairs: there just isn’t enough cash to take care of everyone, and the government cannot afford to take over private-sector debt completely.

First, an admission. The above is a quote from Simon Johnson’s excellent essay in the Atlantic in May of this year, The Quiet Coup. But I have modified it ever so slightly. I simply replaced the word ‘Russia’ with ‘Ireland’, and other slight edits to take into account energy versus property. You can see the original here.

Why the modification? Well it demonstrates at exactly the level Ireland is at.

We are a two-bit emerging market economy, dominated by political and business elites. I think it’s an open and shut case. Every word Johnson intended for Russia accurately applies to Ireland. We are almost the definition of a banana republic.

The only difference is in the last paragraph. “Some within the elite have to lose out before recovery can begin.” No. In Ireland, no oligarch property developer will lose out if the government can help it – thanks to the €90 billion NAMA, what will be the largest property ‘firm’ in the world.

The only people who will end up paying are you and me, our children, and our grandchildren. If people think our political leaders are acting out of the interest of the taxpayer they are dead wrong. Our political leaders are acting only in the interests of themselves and their paymaster developers.

Let us examine some of Johnson’s indicators that we are an emerging market, dominated by oligarchs. We could make a checklist:

* “Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders.”
Check.

* “As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.”
Check.

* “As Ireland’s oligarchs spent this capital, acquiring other companies and embarking on ambitious investment plans that generated jobs, their importance to the political elite increased.”
Check.

* “Growing political support meant better access to lucrative contracts, tax breaks, and subsidies.”
Check.

* “Oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt.” Check.

* “Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them.”
Check.

* “Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.”
Check.

* “Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse.”
Check.

* “If the country cannot right itself before that happens, it will default on its sovereign debt and become an economic pariah.”
Check.

* “The government, in its race to stop the bleeding, will typically need to wipe out some of the national champions—now hemorrhaging cash—and usually restructure a banking system that’s gone badly out of balance. It will, in other words, need to squeeze at least some of its oligarchs.”
Check.

* “Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among governments.”
Check.

* “At the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Dublin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government“.
Check. NAMA.

* “Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large.”
Check, minus the riots. Yet.

* “Some within the elite have to lose out before recovery can begin. It’s a game of musical chairs: there just isn’t enough cash to take care of everyone, and the government cannot afford to take over private-sector debt completely.”
Except in Ireland, where we are trying to assume €90bn in private sector debt. Liam Carroll as the elite one losing out? Check.

And so we return to the original question posed: What is wrong with Ireland? My answer is this: We believe we are something we are not.

We believe we have a more mature regulatory environment, a mature, transparent and accountable political system, we believe the media holds our government to account, and we believe that our elected leaders will act in the best interests of citizens. Even the media believes it holds the government to account.

These assumptions are all wrong.

When you examine, even to a minor degree, any aspect of Irish society, you will invariably find a distinct lack of all the above factors. For example captured regulators: The Financial Regulator, the Irish Stock Exchange, the ODCE, ComReg, the Financial Ombudsman.

Whenever and wherever corruption is discovered, nothing happens. Whenever and wherever whistles are blown, nothing happens. We live in a country where the very idea of accountability, or that our politicians are our servants, simply does not exist.

As a nation state, we are a failure. As a democracy, we have failed. As a country we are bankrupt, both morally and financially. We are the emerging market, banana republic of the European Union. Our political system is broken. It is beyond redemption.

Some will reply that I am a socialist, or other such attacks. I am actually right of centre economically, I just recognise what is standing in front of me for what it is. An almost incalculable political and financial mess – generations are being saddled with the debts of the oligarchs, and the taxpayer is being lied to by its own government.

The only hope is this: That the people, in whose hands all power rests, will realise the appalling vista of a broken Ireland – a country in need of radical political reform – and demand that it is changed.

If it is not, everything that has happened, will continue to happen, and we, the citizens, will continue to pay the price.

Please fell free to Digg this 🙂

Related links:
Michael Taft reckons NAMA won’t be so bad. Maybe.
Constanin Gurdgiev is less optimistic about NAMA.
Karl Whelan has lots of posts on NAMA

79 thoughts on “What is wrong with Ireland?”

  1. Very provocative and more than a little scary. I think the increase in the number of independents is is indicative of the failure of democracy, as personal and local interest subsume the greater national good. granted, you have to ask who is looking after the national interest.

  2. Brian Lenihan is certainly not looking after the interests of the people. Nor is Fianna Fail. Parish pump politics reigns supreme too…

  3. I am always nervous of commenting on political blogs for fear of revealing the depths of my ignorance but heres my uninformed two cents anyway.

    You have lots of valid points but the problem is in the line “the people, in whose hands all power rests”
    Most people I know feel almost disenfranchised the way things are in this country. The theory is that one has their say when voting but almost all the candidates still come from the same political class who are unlikely to rock the boat no matter how much shouting they do while safely ensconced in opposition. (I still vote, but out of a sense of duty than any hope of influence)

    What else can the people do? Strike. We have a government who are excellent at turning the people against one another to take the heat of themselves. Besides strikes cripple the small businesses who have no powerful lobby group but are essential to getting the economy back on track.

    I can’t really see what riots would achieve.

    It might be possible to lull people out of apathy to make a difference, but that would require a leader who could help define exactly what change ‘the people’ want, figure out the steps needed to achieve it (rather than the ranting without solution that all opposition parties specialise in) , and rally the disparate groups to work together for the national interest. Unfortunately good leadership is difficult to source in this country.

  4. I have long asked myself – why us Irish are so apathetic?
    I can only answer for myself. This “democracy” is technicaly set up in such a way that no one man can make a difference.
    Therefore, we need another uprising and though we may try to keep it peaceful, it won’t be if it is to succeed but it won’t happen because I, for one, don’t believe in violence. That’s the problem.
    They have the game sewn up. They can only win.

  5. While I agree that we live in a country where accountability is almost totally lacking, I think that otherwise you are overstating things.

    We can fix things in Ireland if we change the electoral system and also learn to stop electing “legally corrupt” (and illegally corrupt) politicians.

    I am no lover of the banks (that’s an understatement in fact) but it’s not true to say that they are being bailed out by generations of taxpayers. The losses that the banks incurred, through their unparalleled folly, have been borne in the first instance by their shareholders, who have been largely wiped out. The capital injections by the Government have been, and will be, on terms which should provide a return to the taxpayer, again at the expense of existing shareholders. And NAMA should not be pre-judged – let’s wait to see it in operation. It’s a bad solution but others are probably worse.

  6. I disagree. NAMA lacks any transparency, accountability, oversight… you name it. It is a license for the taxpayer to be royally screwed. It is buying assets at current market rates on the expectation of a return within a decade. It is a nonsense. If we wait and “see” it in operation, it is already too late. We won’t see it in operation at all, since there is no oversight.

    The losses of the banks have been borne by the taxpayer – via capital injections of over €10 billion. If the losses of the banks were actually borne, they would have gone to the wall. If the losses of the developers were actually borne, they too would go to the wall.

    Yet somehow, it is deemed necessary to save our oligarchs. Why?

  7. Well put Gavin. I agree 100%. Our big problem is that the mindless sheep that make up our electorate keep electing the same bastards again and again, no matter what they do. Its like a battered wife taking the abusive husband back again and again.

    You have apathetic people who claim “sure why would I vote for the other crowd? they’re just the same” – Vote for the other crowd just to teach the current muppets a fucking lesson! If they see that the people will turf them out sharpish when they make a mess of things they might not be so inclined to squander it all in future.

  8. Gavin, I note that you state you are right of centre on economic issues.
    While I agree with the vast majority of what you state in your post, I’d hope you bear in mind that it was, to a great extent, right of centre economic ideology that got Ireland where it is today – the privatisation of economic gain and the socialisation of economic loss. I’m not having a go, I am just pointing it out because I think right of centre economic ideology is relevant to how Ireland got to this point. Right of centre economics must not be seen as a cure for our ills. It is not the cure; it is one of the causes.

    In terms of the political system, the root cause in the breakdown of it is the Civil War and the party that split because of that. That party is now Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael. They are the same thing. As long as people vote for either of these two parties to the large scale exclusion of others, Ireland will never mature politically because a vote for Fianna Fáil and a vote for Fine Gael are the same thing.

  9. I’d also like to ask all of those people reading a question.

    What are you going to do to change Ireland? Are you going to sit there, reading this post and agree, nod your head and go on your way, or are you going make an attempt to change society in Ireland?

  10. Hi Tom,

    Right of centre economics, poorly regulated, with poor oversight, has led to the current global, not just Irish malaise IMO. Many of the regulatory lessons learned from the Wall Street Crash were gradually eroded, and ultimately eroded under Clinton in the late 1990s. As for Ireland, we *never* had much in the way of regulation, and even when we did, it was never enforced.

    Whatever our political ideology, the common ground is the mess we are in, and recognising that for what it is. We all seek the same things, cliches as they are: transparency, accountability, rule of law.

    I agree to some extent on the political system, but as far as I can see, even if Labour were majority government, the broken system would still persist. The system itself is rotten, an alternative must be found, and applied.

  11. Gavin, right of centre economics *is* poorly regulated. That is the modus operandi of such an idealogy because right of centre economic idealogy is about the “free” market, with little intervention. Regulated economic ideology is not an ideology that is right of centre.

    In terms of the political system, do note that I did not specify the Labour Party (which is, I admit, my political leaning). I deliberately did not specify it because I wanted to make the point that FF and FG are the same thing. They are not an alternative. If people voted for anything other than FF, FG, whether it was for Labour or some other party, it would be a start because it would be different.

    But that said, I don’t think the broken system would persist if Labour were majority government – for the reason that they do not come from the same history, took no part in the Civil War, and have a different outlook to FF and FG on what Ireland should be. They have a different perspective to FF and FG.

  12. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit……..etc (ad infinitum).

    We got the government we deserve. If FF put a donkey up for election in some parts of the country, people would vote for it.

    It’s rediculous.

  13. I think it is safe to say we disagree on that first point Tom, but I don’t think that alters where we do agree.

    On the broader political point, you may be right. But I as much as I might sympathise with your views, I do believe that the political system such as it is will persist no matter what party is in power (and likely because of PR STV it won’t be just one party).

    It is a broken system of cute hoorism parish pump gombeenism whatever way you look at it, and whoever is in power. Maybe labour would change, maybe they wouldn’t if it suited them. The point is the system is broken, and I am not sure Labour (or any current party) are the ones to fix it.

    Why all the silence from all parties on TD expenses (Gilmore said some stuff, but where are the actions?).

  14. Yawn, This is a total piece of shite. You give people too much credit (it’s not just mastercard then). Greedy sods who have trades and many who pretended to have trades jumped all over the property band waggon. unlike russia we tell our polititians what to do, hence the abundance of pohole fillers and lack of states men. No we are not as eamon gilmore would have us priestlynching, blame dodging, neo-communists. People all over ireland made bad decisions and through the scourge of partnership agreements we ended up with a fat assed public service and no savings of any substance except for the pension fund set up by the no so popular c. mccreevy. I owe nothing to anybody purely because my masters couldn’t match the reciepts for 3 breakfat rolls in terms of earning power so I didn’t buy an over priced timber framed house in north dublin tucked neatly between some well looked after asylum seekers and someone who works in the airport on 50K a year for handling luggage . I am happy that these free loaders are now feeling the pinch. Suck it up it’s your own fault. Have a paninni for yourself or something

  15. Let the banks twist in the wind. There are others. Tons of others only too happy to come in.

    Protect only those new borrowers, now with negative equity. (Owners occupiers only) Give them help, give them millions. They don’t need billions.

    All other mortage holders won’t mind the “loss” in property values. The house they might want to buy will have lost value, and equitably with their own, too.

    Devalue the country by 50%.

    Justice Peter Kelly has it right.

  16. I had look at some more of the rubbish above and wondered if some people have a problem realising that the reason a fianna fail donkey could beat a nice hair, nice smile all the answers smells good labour boy in many parts of the country, is because the issues they push even NAMA, a childrens rights referendum or any other old well spun shite aren’t what the electorate really care about and these people labour put forward aren’t generally close enough to the electorate and use formulaic waffle. Sometimes like joan burton they sound too desperate. Who wants a desperate woman apart from a hairy backed young lad at 3 am outside coppers. Not enough people care about the rubbish from amnesty, the council for civil liberties that some more raw politicos run with. These won’t cause a riot but get a couple of bus loads of orangemen for a march in dublin. Two and two mean no riot and it’s not a priority for people.
    One more thing just to help the slower big word using people out there. Here is what government recapitisation is good. What is the governments interest on these loans??? 8% What are irish bonds to the raise this money paying??? at most 4.5%. The difference is money that the government needs. Unless I’m wrong it’s a better return than you’d get investing in bus lanes or someother shite

  17. There are many sources of the problem. But one is that we are post-colonial. The new ruling class got decades of mileage out of not being “the Brits”. That let them get away with a lot.

    Then there are the more recent critical events where you wonder “what if”. 1997. Perhaps a poorly timed election, perhaps the voters taking revenge on Labour for going into coalition with FF. Funny how FF never encounters any revenge voters. And of course the Indo screaming about “payback time” on voting day. It’s “payback time” now for sure.

    2002. As Stephen Collins said recently, 2002-2007 government the worst in the history of Ireland. At that point the tribunals were only half way through figuring out Bertie’s finances. In any other country, the tax man or the prosecutors would have long since got him. So again it’s hard to disentangle the national crisis from the FF talent for staying in power. Until that’s undermined, we’re screwed.

    But as commenters above have said, it was up to voters to sort this stuff out, and they didn’t.

  18. Mr. O Neil makes a point albeit inaccurate, after hundreds of years of occupation (and don’t blame the brits- if they didn’t do it someone else would!) the biggest problem with the silent majority of irish people is their spineless wish for the status quo, the “beloved” 1916 rising is a prime example, on that easter sunday the vast majority of the capital were hob nobbing with the so called occupiers, betting on horses (which SMACKS of a certain tent in galway many many years later) while a handful of “upstarts” were holed up in the gpo…. Bertie made a re-election promise as the voice of “experience” to “protect your house price”, the mindless sheep followed his every word, he told migrant workers and potential first time buyers “get in now or miss out” within a year he had failed…. Did anybody give out? No. in general this “proud race” are much happier giving out about an issue in the pub than getting docked pay and taking to the streets, that’s why the paddies are credited with building every country they emigrated to…. they shut up and did what they’re told! The vast majority of irish folk are not leaders… we’re lead, it’s in our psyche.

    Don’t think for one second i’m praising the scatter of fruits who march/cause obstructions over “no more war” or a parade facing the wrong way, or even our “neutrality” because lets be honest if it came to a crunch, we as a nation are completely unable to defend ourselves and the only folk at our disposal are the brits and the yanks.

    it was irish greed that continuously re-elected the haugheyesque sham government we have- as a previous poster said “We got the government we deserve. If FF put a donkey up for election in some parts of the country, people would vote for it.” yes they did but only if the donkey was convicted of fraud and tax evasion before a ballot was cast. and for the guy who said we tell our politicians what to do.. ya right! go to Scandinavia where public outrage forces a minister to resign for not having a TV licence.. in ireland it’d get him votes!

    so yes people of ireland… shall we march on Parliament, demanding a reversal of income levies, liquidation of all bankrupt developers (with the spin-off of cheap properties for all), accountable politics, jail for half the golden circle, and the rebanishment of all snakes?

    any takers…

    no…….

    yea… didn’t think so

  19. I wish P O’Neill would drop the pseudonym and the blame-the-Brits mantra. The Republic of Ireland is a banana republic precisely because of the P O’Neills with their Michael Collins thumbnails. From 1916 on, the country was placed on the road to ruin through home misrule by an ignorant clique of ultra-nationalist murderers, perverted clerics, bad poets, mediocre civil servants, cattle jobbers, cute hoors, Cork hurlers, Kerry footballers, Dublin economists and cheap drink.

    The Irish made a fatal error when they opted for the allure of the gunman instead of an agreed form of co-existence with their neighbours, regardless of how long and frustrating that process would have taken. Killing was easer, faster and delivered the state that has become what it is today. The stonier path would have required patience, hard work, sacrifice, tolerance and forgiveness. For P O’Neill and his Provo-like ilk, however, this would not have delivered the blood they so thirsted after. The result is fiscal and moral bankruptcy and Michael Collins as an icon on blog posts.

  20. Heh, Mr. Fitzgerald I like the cut of your stirring gib there sir!

    The established clique have learned to play the game of left and right all too well. I have no suggestion for a replacement but the rules need to change or the board be tilted before anything will improve. That is up to the people. In the mean time I will pray to the gods above for the opportunity to remake the film Hard Target with Bertie reprising the role originally played by the muscles from Brussels I’m getting archery lessons and everything 🙂

  21. Small point for Eugene: Children’s rights referendum was not, as you suggest, the work of a “nice smile all the answers smells good labour boy”. Rather, it is a semi-active Government policy set in motion by Brian Lenihan in his previous role as Minister for Children.

    Hi Gavin, like the posting. The words of former IMF staffer Simon Johnson have also been echoing in my mind. You do him no injustice by quoting him here. I especially like Johnson’s description of that moment when an IMF man decides, in a face-to-face a cabinet representative from the in-trouble government, whether they are ready to throw some of their oligarchs to the wolves.

    “So the IMF staff looks into the eyes of the minister of finance and decides whether the government is serious yet. The fund will give even a country like Russia a loan eventually, but first it wants to make sure Prime Minister Putin is ready, willing, and able to be tough on some of his friends. If he is not ready to throw former pals to the wolves, the fund can wait.”

    With all the good will in the world, I cannot see a firesale of Liam Carroll’s assets being a bad thing. At the very least, it will give us a benchmark (pardon the dirty word) against which to measure NAMA’s decisions.

  22. Sovereign debt and sovereign ratings are just as strategically relevant as the maintenance of an army.

    In much the same way as, and for the very same reasons that, credit rating agencies (CRAs) awarded triple A ratings to what they knew – or should have known – were toxic products with a view to increasing their revenue, CRAs have been assigning investment grade ratings to sovereign issuers whom they know to be in a state of unresolved default on debt obligations inherited from previous governments by virtue of the successor government doctrine of settled international law, despite the fact that according to CRA-published rating methodologies and definitions such investment grade ratings are only assigned to issuers who are willing to pay and settle their repayment obligations in full and on time.

    They do this by disingenuously publishing footnote disclaimers concerning debt repudiations pronounced by revolutionary regimes such as those of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, and Russia, knowing full well that the footnotes are not empowered by the quasi force of law attached to credit ratings themselves and will therefore not be binding on institutional investors who find themselves under the obligation to allocate specific amounts of capital to securities enjoying specific investment grade ratings.

    This should not be mistaken for yesterday’s old-timer battle.

    While the spotlight has mostly concentrated on the flawed ratings of structured products very little coverage has been allocated to the crucial matter of flawed sovereign ratings – although these now carry the germs of the possible next crisis since governments worldwide have de facto become the guarantors of last resort for banking and financial institutions and also private depositors, and are poised for fierce competition to tap financial markets in order to plug huge deficits, all as a result of the wrongful actions of the CRAs leading to the subprime crisis in the first place.

    All this is happening under the complacent eyes of regulators who, just as they turned a blind eye to early Madoff warnings, have also turned a blind eye to complaints and documented evidence from holders of defaulted yet investment-grade rated sovereign debtors, see SEC complaint at the following link:

    http://www.globalsecuritieswatch.org/Letter_to_SEC_Inspector_General

    The problem is: how are investors to tell the difference between a bona fide sovereign who is demonstrably willing to pay debts in full and on time and a rogue state with a proven track record of taking evasive action, when they are both rated investment grade?

    Ireland is a case in point: we know it is willing to repay, but we are not sure it has the capacity to repay. So, what should be done about Irish debt, since it is rated just as the debt of rogue countries, who are in the opposite situation: they hace the capacity to repay, but are not willing to do so.

    What is the point of such ratings and how can general confidence be restored in CRAs as long as they persist in ignoring a) the absence of willingness to repay on valid claims and b) the false public accounting which results from public accounts which make no mention of – and therefore conceal – the existence of said valid claims?

    While some mainly cosmetic regulatory efforts are underway on both sides of the Atlantic to clear up the mess caused by reckless CRAs and regulators the overhaul will remain a toothless tiger as long as CRAs remain immune to liability and protected by the First Amendment.

    Ratings are not mere “editorial opinions” and everybody knows full well the power they wield all the way up to governments, heads of state, and international treaties.

    Ireland recently illustrated this when a few comments from a rating agency prompted immediate and furious reactions from the heart of the Irish government.

    The European Parliament has recently voted an unsatisfactory Regulation for credit rating agencies. Following the action of representatives of holders of thousands of defaulted sovereign bonds it has unenthusiastically asked the European Commission for a preliminary enquiry on the matter of misleading investment grade ratings assigned the many sovereigns who remain in a state of unresolved default: such as the Russian Federation of course, but also the People’s Republic of China, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, and others, see the press release at the following link:

    http://www.archive-host.com/compteur.php?url=http://sd-1.archive-host.com/membres/up/203786733364141878/G20PREN.doc

    Efforts such as these need the full support of anyone interested in restoring transparency, efficiency, confidence and finally sound performance to world financial markets and economies.

    Henry Mermet

  23. Many of your points are valid.I just want to poing out your closing remarks;

    “The only hope is this: That the people, in whose hands all power rests, will realise the appalling vista of a broken Ireland – a country in need of radical political reform – and demand that it is changed.”

    You must bear in mind,Ireland has the most apathetic population in Europe,the FF class is only too happy to exploit this apathy.Irish apathy has a share of the blame too,after all who voted time and time again of FF despite the many problems in health,education,transport during the boom years.Until people go out into the streets and demand change nothing will change.

  24. Sinead said “Most people I know feel almost disenfranchised the way things are in this country. The theory is that one has their say when voting but almost all the candidates still come from the same political class who are unlikely to rock the boat no matter how much shouting they do while safely ensconced in opposition.”

    Our problem doesn’t stem from having a political class, it stems more from the fact that our public representatives are very much of the people they represent. When people say the political class they appear to mean anyone has been elected or who is a member of an existing political party that has broad support. And those outside the political class are thus those that no one has supported. That’s a odd way to view the electorate process. I was a candidate in elections and my background is far from any political class. But in the eyes of some the mere fact of being a member of a political party or having been a candidate makes me a member of a political class.

    The fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves. The problem isn’t that the politicians on their own are politically corrupt (by which I mean their functioning in their political role has been corrupted by the political necessities involved in getting elected), it is that the people, the electorate, reward such corruption and run about after every new shiny thing when there is a problem. The election of Mannix Flynn ahead of Daithi Doolan of SF in Dublin City Council is just one minor example. Mannix had a raised profile because of the Ryan report but what had this to do with the workings of Dublin City Council? Nowt but Mannix was in the news, and didn’t Pat Kenny and Gabriel Byrne say he was a great man! And the manner of the election of George Lee with enormous support is another manifestation of this chasing after the latest will-o-wisp, people run out in the street for a messiah when what we need is not messiahs but a reformed electorate.

    We need to be the change we want in the world. We need to change our own behaviour. If we want an end to hospital waiting lists then we need to stop electing people who will help us jump the queue and elect people who will end the need for a queue at all. If we want a competitive economy we need to stop saying that only the prices others charge for their services have to come down. If we want an end to how FF behave in power then people need to stop voting for them.

    I’m glad someone used the battered wife analogy because it is all too true in Irish politics. FF bankrupted the country in the late 70s and did all they could to prevent FG sorting the problem out in the 80s until the people ran back to them in the late 80s.

    There are people who will always find some reason to not vote for particular parties because of X (FG took a penny off the pension) or Y (Labour don’t value the language enough) and the same people will always find some excuse Z for FF misbehaviour (sure Charlie Haughey did great things for this country, didn’t he give the old people the free travel). They’re locked in, forget about them. But we need to make the case to the rest of the population that voting for a party candidate must matter over and above how nice a person they are. Voting for the FF nice gal despite not being a fan of their policies is an aberration of what democratic choice is about. It’s voting for the bad singer with the sob story in Pop Idol and then bemoaning the lack of good music on the radio.

  25. Well Gavin, that’s a very well written blog.

    But I have to disagree with Tom Cosgrave about FF and FG being the same party, FG appear to have more integrity as they have had much less allegations of corruption made against them (with the exception of Michael Lowry-who is still suprisingly an independent TD in government!) He was ejected from the FG party because he was corrupt. Unlike Beverly-Cooper-Flynn who got a light slap on the rist for encouraging her clients to evade tax! She ran as an independent TD for a while and then got lovingly reaccepted back into the FF party when all the fuss had – “died down”…

    Fine Gael wants to sack wasteful ministers, not a bad idea! The hallmark of the past FF governments was throwing money at problems with out trying to at least tackle the root cause of the problem itself (because that would actually involve work).

    Why would I support FG over FF? Because they are fuckin better than FF! The last time FG and Labour were in government together (in the mid 1990’s) an economic boom was brought about through prudent spending and good management. This was the boom which FF and later the FF – PD government squandered.

    Trying to bring change to the Irish Political establishment is like trying to walk on water, you have to be in a political party to influence any real change nationally and everytime a young – freshed faced person enters the dail it is only a matter of time before they end up being silenced and marginalised by the older zombie TDs that are already there, and sooner or later they give up and allow themselves to become corrupted and jump on the gravey train.

    If any government in this country wants to be taken seriously and doesn’t want to be met with cynisism amongst the people, they can start by giving back their perks and benifits as well as taking a 50%+ cut in pay. That is real leadership. “Why should I ask people to do something I wouldn’t do myself!!” You won’t find this sentiment in any of the mainstream dail parties!!

    NAMA is a crock of shit, they say that they’ll go after the builders, developers and bankers… Will-they-fuck, only after they have put all their money into their wives names so we the ordinary Irish people wont get a sniff of it! We should have set up a state bank to guarentee that the Irish peoples need for credit was met, thus securing farms and small businesses whilst also investing in this “Smart” economy we keep hearing about and funding public works programmes to take people off the dole.
    But sure wouldn’t that be communism? Eh, no. Its actually socialism and in theory is the correct capitalist approach to the bad banks! Let the stupid bastards go to the wall! Thats what capitalism is all about. Survival in a free-market and they can’t survive so let them die off…

    Tribunerals are a waste of time too! Bring in the special criminal court to deal withe the corrupt developers, bankers and polititians- seperate them from their over paid leadal teams and shoe ’em up for what they really are! and save the tax payer tens of millions in the process whilst securing convictions with mandatory prison sentences attached.

    But sadly the public and political will just aren’t there….

    p.s. Try to keep in mind that Fianna Fail have only been out of power for a total of 16 years in this country…. For Christ’s sake can’t we help ourselves?

    But again, very good blog Gavin!!

    Colm.

  26. What’s wrong with this country is our lack of confidence. People are constantly bleating on about how our politicians are worse than everyone else’s, our private sector is more inefficient than everyone else and somehow we’re morally more degenerate than everyone else. For god’s sake, Irish people are alway using the phrase ‘that’s soo Irish’. That’s not so Irish. Our politicians are no worse than anyone else’s and in some cases they’re better. They haven’t blown up atomic bombs in the pacific, they haven’t suggested invading someone elses country for oil, they don’t sleep with seventeen year old. We don’t have widespread poverty, the likes of which you see in developing countries, everyone (more or less) is educated and we get to choose our politicians, even if we tend for ‘more of the same’ all the time. The facts of the current crisis is that a lot of small countries are suffering. We were raised higher in the bubble of the last twenty years and we’re also sinking lower than bigger countries. We’re in the unfortunate situation of having a property bubble burst at the same time but even that is a common occurrence – we didn’t invent the term ‘property bubble’ nor was it invented for us. There have been property bubble in some of the biggest economies in the world.
    If you don’t like how things are in this country then do something about it. Hassle your local politicians, join community groups, buy Irish etc. Just please stop moaning.

  27. Excellent post Gavin, really thought provoking. Now, I’ll just go back to googling nonsense and reading breaking news and doing nothing about it.

    Every single revolution in Ireland has failed, 1916 included. We’re just too lazy. We want to be spoon fed all the time and it’s that very inertia which allows us to be ridden by our own kind. Even the British weren’t that bad.

  28. What we don’t need is a revolution, something short and sharp that we can go home from after a week. We need to a political evolution, something that takes place over years and requires us to pay attention all of the time and which is hard work. We need to give more credit for making sure that roads are built properly in the first place and don’t fall apart instead of hailing the road opening and then the application of patchwork fixes to potholes once it falls apart. It’s the long term stuff and the dull politics of maintenance that we’re appalling at.

  29. Great responses to an excellent post, apart from Eamonn Fitzgerald’s ignorant, ill mannered and bizarre attack on P.O’Neill. All that can be concluded from that post is that Mr Fitzgerald cannot read or comprehend simple sentences. But sure why should that limit anyone when the answer to all questions is “it’s the Provos fault”? Provos? What f*cking Provos?

  30. I recall Johnston’s essay and remember noting the scary Irish parallels at the time.
    Well done Gavin for teasing out the analogy and putting the real scale of this crisis, and the scale of the corruption that led to it, on the record.

  31. There certainly something extremely flawed about the Irish alright. It is clear that the elite are so corrupt that the Irish should have the powers to regulate their banks withdrawn and transferred to Europe permanently. Crony capitalism seems to be entrenched in the Irish psyche and limiting the damage by transferring these rights to responsible adults who once had empires seems to be the best policy. Lets all hope that the states finances hit a wall sooner than later so that the Republic can start behaving less like a hedge fund and more like a sovereign nation. Pearse and Co. must be rolling in their graves! I love my country but I hate it…

  32. With regards to Beal Bochts comment, a year ago I would’ve strongly disagreed with handing over the regulation of our banking system to the E.U. but now I think it might not be a bad Idea given the poor attidude and in-action of our regulator and stupidity and greed of our bankers. I guess the Irish mentality of “sure it’ll be grand ;-)” has bitten us in the arse again…

    p.s. I love my country and many more Irish people love it as well. If only we could get the the polititians, developers and bankers to feel the same way…

  33. While I do agree that we got to the mess we’re in today via crony capitalism, populist policymaking and an over-reliance on the construction industry, there is a wider cultural issue which must be resolved.

    As a nation we have a rather narrow outlook on life motivated entirely by our own self-interests, where if it benefits us and our immediate circles, then that’s all that matters. This crosses over to the way we vote, where we’ll pick, for instance, the person who promises to benefit our particular tax brackets the most, or allow us to buy a second house, not the one who’ll improve the infrastructure of the country. A good example of this narrow self-interest can be found in a well known book by Joseph Lee called “Ireland, 1912-1985” which highlights the Irish people’s deeply ingrained focus on the “possessor principle”, or the ownership of property and material goods, over the so called “performer principle,” have led us to consistently underperform economically since the establishment of the independent Irish state.

    This narrow outlook is also the reason why, after 15 years of almost unbroken economic growth and prosperity, we have absolutely nothing to show for it, apart from plasma TVs, extensions on the back of our houses, a casual cocaine habit and a holiday home. It’s the reason why teachers feel they can give out about earning €40k+ (more than the european average) for working 9 months a year (less than the european average), if even, with below average results – see http://www.ronanlyons.com/2009/04/20/tackling-the-thorny-issue-of-teachers-pay/ , and electricians feel entitled to go on strike for pay rises even though the sector they work in has imploded under their feet.

    Meanwhile, Ireland still has an abysmal health service, crap roads, crap public transport, and schools made of portakabins. It’s a bit rich for us, therefore, to moan about a lack of accountability and transparency in (recently scandalised industry x) when we never sought it in the first place because we were rolling in dosh when the dirty deeds were being done.

  34. Gavin you have mostly got everything spot on.

    My two cents (not) worth (a damn) follows. The mentality of this nation is borne out in the comments (including this comment). We come on here and bitch and snipe about the “state of the nation” yet not one of us has the nadz to say NO. No to more tax on an already overtaxed workforce. No to more motorways – fix the fucking roads that we have first. No to lack of a working health system. No to the cunt next door who works and draws down the dole because “he knows he can get away with it”. No to the cheeky git who takes as much as he can get from the country without ever giving back. No to the scum who dump their rubbish at the side of the road in a black sack because they say “that’s ok … sure the council will pick it up”. etc. etc. ad-infinitum.

    Vote for the other shower of jabasses. If you vote them in they are still the same shower of jabasses that are already in there – not one thing will change. One of the biggest problems is this Political Party system. Political Party’s breed scullduggery and an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach. Political Party’s breed contempt for anyone who is not a member of that Party.

    Here’s something new – get rid of the Political Party system. All wannabe-Politicians should run based on their own ideals for this (great?) Nation. Then let the individual voters choose their preferred representative. Also when the voters are voting they also choose their preferred leader. It’s just an idea and I don’t see anyone else posting solutions – just more griping.

    We need ideas and solutions not more of the same shit we’ve had since forever.

  35. I left school in Dublin’s Northside in 1984 . Unemployment was a way of life . The solution was to emigrate . A minister even told us that there was not enough room for all of us on this little island . Now we have their offspring ruling over another failed economy . Whose fault is it ? Well its not the government . Its not developers and its not bankers either . It is the Irish people . We reelected the same government for 12 years . We sat by and did nothing except vote them back in when faced with naked corruption via the tribunals . We cheered them on with booming property and jobs for everyone . We sneered at international economic organisations warning us over our unsustainable economy . We actually thought that we had discovered a secret economic theory . Irishness . We were more than delighted when a house in Dublin was more expensive than in the centre of Paris . Thought nothing about pricing Eastern Europeans out of their property market . We were drunk on greed .
    And now in a final winner takes all we are transfare all our wealth to the banks and developers through NAMA . FF can’t even run a health service and thats something that they have experience of running . Its in their job description . However we expect them to run the biggest property portfolio in the world and actually turn a profit . They will close every hospital in the country to keep NAMA afloat if they have to . Ireland has no future . NAMA will cost billions and as banks like to drip feed bad news they have not yet revealed the next bailout that they are going to need through bad debts from credit cards , business loans , mortgages etc . If that does not send us begging to the IMF , Anglo will hoover up billions more . 60 billion in fact .
    Because I left school in the 80’s and lived under FF ‘s economic policy I know live in Australia , having left Ireland in 2005 . I could not wait until the sale of my house went through as they were so overpriced even then that I thought that they would collaspe at any minute . I learned a very important life lesson in the 80 ‘s . FF would never hold me in economic prison again while they lived like Kings . I was right as they are doing it again with everybody unemployed while they enjoy massive wages with expenses coming out of their ears .

  36. Hey Gavin, I’m back again, thanks for correcting my earlier comment.
    You are accurate in the statement of the problem and its genesis. Very accurate. There is a solution too I think, which I tried to explain in my earlier comment.
    Why should we care if property values fall? The vast majority of us have not speculated or invested in the property market, save for our homes or apartments. Who stands to lose? Of course it is the people you have pointed at in your post.
    Understanding this, and also being sensitive and generous to the 1st time owner occupiers, we should let this banks fall .Words fail when I come to Anglo Irish, and I have yet to find anyone among my circle of friends who are banking with them. This is the institution which held a gun to the lamped rabbit Brian Lenihan late that fateful evening when this NAMA chaos was born.
    There are maybe 50,000 people out there with negative equity (owner occupiers), who might need 100 k each, that’s 5 billion. (There could be many iterations of this calculation, but I think the figure is correct)
    Help these people – the rest of the owner occupiers are okay, they can buy and sell.
    Deficit to date 2009, 16 Billion, up from 6 Billion this time last year – 6 Billion of the increase is accounted for to prop the banks. And this just the start.
    So, let them go to the wall. Why not. We don’t need them. Use our taxes to help the people. Others will come and take up the slack.
    Start shouting and marching.
    Thanks for the opportunity.

  37. Reading all the above has brought something back to me about my father and why I am so proud of him.

    He was Workers Party during the bad times of the 70s and 80s and never ever sold out.

    It was a very small party, but I’m intensely proud of it and the sense of revolution and integrity and being “outside” of the gombeen class that it brought to me as a kid, trudging through the streets of Cork, delivering election leaflets door to door.

    Ireland needs something like that now – no, not the Marxism – but a movement, or party or whatever , that is utterly OUTSIDE the current political system and has no connections to it whatsoever.

    In my view that is the only way we’ll be able the purge the current system and look forward to the day when we we declare a constitution for the 2nd Republic.

  38. excellant post Gavin,I couldn’t possibly add to it,sums up all I feel ’bout this country,perfectly.I left Ireland during the last recession,{’85},and returned 1995,now I find myself almost back it seems,in the same situation.I curse the day still I came back,{but I console myself by blaming a now ex-wife,missed the mammy and the sisters,y’know the script}.Now at the age of almost 50,I wait for my sense of ‘adventure’ and or nerve to come back,and head to blighty again,where I never felt I was serving a Queen or Government,unlike here.Last month I visited a pal in Germany,and unlike most othher times when abroad,I dreaded anybody inquiring of my nationality,’cause of the shame,real or imagined,of how I feel of what people might think of ‘The Irish’…..I really feel that bad…again,a wonderful article,maybe your best,in my opinion,and you’ve had some good ones over the years…thanks,if you do,for allowing me space for a rant…..and this article is whizzing across the world to many friends who had the stamina to stay away from this excuse for a nation..

  39. Great post.
    Hearing Bertie Ahern saying he is proud of the country he has created is nerve-jangling.Even after being told to drop the Celtic tiger spiel from his ‘after dinner’ speeches,he still feels his ‘legacy’ is sound.
    I am fucking seething.

    “Viz.,that they are not ashamed to sin,and yet are ashamed to repent;not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools,but are ashamed of the returning,which only can make them be esteemed wise men.”

    – Robinson Crusoe.

    Not alot has changed in 300 odd years.How comforting.

  40. I heard Bertie on Talk106 this am and I am in despair since–he won’t accept that we have a problem and neither I think will the privilaged elite. Until they accept the reality or are made accept it there is no hope.He is even dictating his terms for being the first directly elected Lord Mayor of Dublin–nightmare scenario—suppose he runs and gets elected.It couldn’t happen, could it.

  41. Well, considering the drubbing de Bert’s brother got in the by-election, perhaps people have come to their senses about that particular slimeball.

  42. Jaysus I don’t know but I’ve had a bit of a search through this and many other sites and I can’t find a single example of anyone bemoaning the fact that they were making a load of money during the good times ! Maybe I’m missing something !

  43. Well Peader, in all honesty, nobody really made money during the good times because they thought they could afford to spend it rather than save it…

    Whats more the rip-off republic was and STILL IS in full flight. People were being fucked left, right and centre. They were ripping off peter to pay paul. Pay rises only helped to raise the prices of goods which were already over inflated. Easy access to credit was also partly to blame with people gradually sliding into debt without any alarm bells ringing only spend, spend, spend. In reality, all we had was the illusion of wealth.

    In 2007 Ireland was said to be the richest country (per head of population) in the world, but there was little or no public wealth i.e. no health system worth speaking of, poor services and low grade infrastructure… If one thing can be said it is that the people did make alot of mistakes, they got credit-cards, they took out 100% mortgages, car loans etc. etc….

    Yes they made the same mistake that a small mouse makes when it goes in after that bit of cheese and gets itself killed in a trap that it has no comprehension of. And thats whats basically happened, if the boom was managed properly and the crash hadn’t been so severe in Ireland people would be able to work off their debts, but because we are loosing jobs (435,000 on the dole today), and those who have work have to pay for those that don’t through excessive tax, it is made tighter and more difficult to get by for ordinary workers.

  44. Jesus the country isnt on its knees, its on a leather sofa, and all you pop-psychologists seem to have all the answers to her dark past…

    A lot of what you say Gavin seems to make sense, and I am even beginning to wonder what would have happened if Lenihan and co had folded their arms and said fuck the lot of you (banks and developers) Maybe it mightnt have been the dooms-day scenario they told us it would be..

    Would FG and Co, if elected in the morning, scrap NAMA?

    What is this change people call for by the way? Who should we change to?

    We couldnt afford a labour government at the moment.. All we could hope for (economically) is for the FG boys to revert to their old ultra right wing ways and penny pinch our way out of the turmoil…

  45. Gavin – if you want a starting point you have to formulate an aim. What is your final end point? What are you trying to acheive?

    I would suggest a very simple idea – a 2nd Republic
    (like France – they periodically go through renewals of La Republique…)

    And the basic principle of this 2nd Republic is a total and utter separation of Church and State – a secular republic like France or the United States.

    From that basic principle, a heck of a lot of things will flow.

  46. For the commentators on here, and Gavin, here’s one example from the UK that is a political party and is outside the mainsteam

    http://lpuk.org/

    Now, you might utterly disagree with their politics , but the key point is this:

    “At the last UK General Election, 4 in 10 registered electors—over 17 million people—chose not to vote. That’s 17 million people who aren’t happy with business as usual. Are you?”

    In other words, if you are going to formulate a political movement, you *have* to go after the electorate that do NOT vote. It is pointless to chase after core FF, or core FG , or core Labour..

    In my view, with regards to Ireland, I think that the Socialist Party is a good example of going after this disillusioned vote.

    However, that leaves out the disillusioned voters who are instinctively right-of-centre.

    The Progressive Democrats , when they were formed, recognised this and went after that vote. Their downfall was that rather than being outside of the political class, they became part of it. And merged with it – in an almost Borg like fashion.

    We have to avoid the Borg if we are even to have a chance at forming the 2nd Republic.

  47. Another question to ask about the Irish political system is – how come all the revolutionary types are on the left?

    Where is our version of the right-wing revolutionaries from Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic?

    Where’s our Vaclav Klaus?
    Where’s the argument for a flat-tax rate?

    Here’s a map – the ones in green are flat tax.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flat_personal_income_tax.png

    Bet you didnt know this. Well of course – the media would rather not trumpet the fact that even Russia has gone flat tax.

    What i’m saying is – where is the right wing revolutionary argument to balance out the left wing in Ireland?

  48. i’ll stop now – but one more point –

    good example of “good intentions” and then ending up being part of the “Borg”

    George Lee.

  49. Great post Gavin, great debate in the comments as well (so far)

    @justinf – Ireland has never really been a left v right society, its always been more of a right v right, with both major parties borrowing the clothes of the left when it suits them – both Garret Fitzgerald and Bertie have at times claimed to be socialists (though even Bertie couldn’t keep a straight face when he said it). Given that the citizenry at large have never been interested in a left v. right debate, perhaps the move now is not to import a champion of the right, rather to look beyond notions of left and right and figure out what works regardless of ideology. Steal a little from all ideologies, if it works, that’s what I say.

    Although I’m a member of a political party (and find myself increasingly at its furthest fringe), I’m starting to come around to @eru’s point that it is increasingly the Party Political system itself that is at fault. We are overrepresented for a country of our size, our politicians are paid far too much for the work they do, and yet still manage to sustain an appalling level of corruption. The dynastic nature of it all ensures that power rests within the hands of a few chosen families, passed down from father to son and husband to wife, and leaves the fringe parties the domain of the politically ambitious but ideologically bereft who see it as their only route to power after being excluded from the big two parties by an accident of birth.

    The decision by the BCI that may see individuals from outside the Party Political system excluded from national coverage and or public debates on issues like Lisbon II, coupled with rumblings from Gormley on the abolition of our current PR system in favour of a Party List system will only further increase the stranglehold of the parties and the disenfranchisement of the individual.

    I don’t have any magic solutions to add to this thread, only my belief that an informed citizenry is key to any change. The recent public debate over the An Bord Snip Nua report filled me with hope, not for any positive outcome, but because so many people actually took the time to read the report and say, “for feck’s sake, this is what our money is being spent on?”.

  50. The right-wing in Ireland went to the wall with the ending of the PD’s as a viable political entity, the right winggers have only Mary Harney’s poorly thought out health strategy and Micheal McDowell to thank for that.

    Fianna Fail are virtually the only Right wing party left, Fine Gael might be just right of centre these days but they will probably be going into government with labour which will cancel that out…

    Besides after 12 years of right-wing government there aren’t too many “activists” out there who would stand up and defend the indefencible…. The most redical people want a change from the statis quo and will therefore be opt for a more cetre to left leaning alternative government.

  51. I’d just like to add one last thing in responce to justinf’s point about flat tax, I does seem to be a good Idea! By closing loop holes and having everyone on a manageable, fair and equitable system of tax whilst having a knock-on effect on increasing compliance with respect to our tax system…

  52. Lambs to the slaughter.

    We live in an ever expanding groundhog day with the same shyte for breakfast as though we’d never had it before.

    Many valid comments but a truly well observed post to begin with. I wonder not about where we’re going; unfortunately.

  53. “The dynastic nature of it all ensures that power rests within the hands of a few chosen families, passed down from father to son and husband to wife, and leaves the fringe parties the domain of the politically ambitious but ideologically bereft who see it as their only route to power after being excluded from the big two parties by an accident of birth.”

    i think you’ve nailed it.

    we have to pass anti-nepotism laws.

  54. “Colm Carrigg on August 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm”

    read up on Estonia – the experiment started there, and was then copied by other eastern european countries.

    in estonia you can fill in your tax return on the back of a postcard.

    now think of how many elites in Ireland that very idea threatens. tis no wonder its never discussed.

  55. “Colm Carrigg on August 8, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    The right-wing in Ireland went to the wall with the ending of the PD’s as a viable political entity, the right winggers have only Mary Harney’s poorly thought out health strategy and Micheal McDowell to thank for that. ”

    i agree with you there – it saddens me that the “right wing” in ireland only seems to produce pseudo-fascist authoritarians.

    where are the libertarians?

    it seems to me that all poltiical sides in ireland are statist to varying degrees. and if they are all statist, then that points to a political imbalance which produces the very corruption that Gavin has so eloquently pointed out.

  56. Well Justinf, Thanks for that. If wour interested there’s a blog; http://www.cowengate.wordpress.com

    On the subject of political change, cutting the No. of TD’s was mentioned in one of the comments above… As well as removal of political parties from the political scene altogether and instead having everyone run as Independent TD’s. Also many people don’t vote which is a fair indictment of the state of democracy in Ireland today. I think these are good ideas on paper but sadly wouldn’t work out in reality.

    If TD’s were cut back in number it is obvious where they would be cut from, “THE WEST”, people out here have poor access to healthcare (Clare has only 12 hour accident & emergency service in its County Hospital in Ennis), second grade infrastructure (cant get a train from cork to sligo) and are at a greater exposure to crime because in some places the nearest garda station is 15-20 miles away. Reducing their representation in the Dail will just turn them into second class citizens (as if we weren’t already)…

    Whats more, any chance of change within the system will grind to a hault as the seats of the stuffy, old and corrupted TD’s will be protected, (not trying to be agest here) and young people will just be handing out flyers com election time and struggling to get a break in pothole politics, soon there after they will become disolusioned with the system completly and will be syphoned out of politics altogether. This is already a serious problem cutting TD’s will only make it worse.

    A solution to this would be to cut the expences accounts and TD’s pay, thus allowing them to learn the true value of their extravigance without being a drain on the public purse!! They call themselves “Public Servants”, they should START SERVING THE PUBLIC!

    As for removal of political parties and everyone running as independents… Well if the squabbling was bad enough before with the political parties, I would imagine that it would get a whole lot worse if everyone was at each others throat. How would you run the country?? In the 1980’s several Irish governments relied on indepent TDs for support… as soon as anything negitive that affected that TDs special interests or plot came along he/she or they would vote against the government in a “No-confidence motion” (see RTE’s reeling in the years 1980’s) and thus the government would collapse…

    A solution to this would be to introduce a system of ethics for political parties which was leagally backed up, i.e. introducing a blanket ban on all corporate donations and publishing a list of all private donations in excess of E100 to politions regardless of party! Act the “cute hoor” and recieve a life-time ban from politics, loose your pension and recieve a summons for the special criminal court.

    And one more thing with regard to protesting by not bothering to vote; “Bad leaders are elected by good people – WHO DON’T VOTE”, If more democrats had come out and voted back in 2000, the WORLD would probably be alot different today… If more reformists voted in Iran a few years ago they could’ve prevented Mahmoud Amidinajad from coming to power there in the first place. In Ireland if more Socialists had come out and voted for Labour in the 2007 we might have had a rainbow government when we needed it the most.

    But I guess we’ll never Know…

  57. I dont actually belieive that FF is a right wing party. Its a party of pragmatism. Having said that, if you do a trawl thru of previous manfestos, FF has a left of centre tinge.

    Dont get me wrong, FF has social conservatives in abundance….yet with joining the ELDR and ALDE, I expect the Liberal members to come to the fore.

  58. “Its a party of pragmatism.”

    maybe thats the entire reason why we got into the mess.
    no core principles. all things to all men.

    and if you have no core principles – well , you end up looking like New Labour.

  59. “A solution to this would be to introduce a system of ethics for political parties which was leagally backed up, i.e. introducing a blanket ban on all corporate donations and publishing a list of all private donations in excess of E100 to politions regardless of party! Act the “cute hoor” and recieve a life-time ban from politics, loose your pension and recieve a summons for the special criminal court.”

    100 per cent agree. thats a good central kernel of an idea that everyone , no matter what the political shade, can subscribe to.

    A ban on nepotism wouldnt go amiss either.

  60. Well justin, I don’t know if an out and out ban with regard to children following in their parents political footprints should be enacted (it’s a civil rights issue)…

    However, I strongly disagree with the Idea that sons or daughters should be alloud to simply “walk right on in” to a TD’s seat. You want it, you’ve got to earn it! You join the youth wing of which ever party you are interestd in and muck in and help out like all the other young party activists.

    If and ONLY if your judged, by your elders, to be competent, intelegent and have the drive to the right thing, not for ones self but for the good of the country as a whole, should you then be alloud to engage in local politics and progress from there… The best statesmen are those with a no-bullshit approach to problem solving, party and ideological interests have to take a back seat.

    But this would only work in a perfect world and the world is an imperfect place. The Irish political political system being a prime example of that imperfection.

    As for Donnachas point about Fianna Fail being a tinge left of centre… It is a good point, BUT, if you look at NAMA and who it is designed to protect (Developers and Bankers), then look at who is paying for it (tax payers) and then look at who will suffer the crippling cuts to vital public and health services (the young, the old, the sick, the disabled, the impoverished etc. etc.)… the picture is changed some what.

    They tell us that it is “the right thing to do” and that in the years to come we will be recapitalised by it, but the sad fact is that it is croneyism in its purest form. Not very left of centre… Bertie Ahern’s “conversion to socialism”, was at best only a populist gag to trick would-be labour voters and at worst a smoke screen to make him look better before he went to the Morriarty Tribuneral.

    As for Fianna Fail being a party of pragmatism… well one of the problems with many Irish (and other) politicians is that they are only really good at one thing and one thing only… thet is VOTES, they will sing any song and dance to any tune as long as they get those votes. Doing the popular thing is the main idea! Promise ’em the sun, moon and stars and that’ll do the job. when you get elected and they ask you to live up to the promises you made; fuck them, blow them off and ignore them.

    Politicians should just be frank with the people and treat them like adults, not children. i.e. “I can’t get the old factory to re-open… those jobs are going to go to the places where they can be done the cheapest. But I can promise that we will allow for you all to attend special courses in the Institutes of Technology that will allow you to get up-skilled and thus enable us to attract the kind of industries that will stay here on a more permanent basis etc etc…”

    But this would only work in a perfect world and the world is an imperfect place…

  61. * “Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse.”
    Check.
    Uncheck – what local banks have collapsed?

    * “If the country cannot right itself before that happens, it will default on its sovereign debt and become an economic pariah.”
    Check.
    Uncheck – we have not yet defaulted.

    * “Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among governments.”
    Check
    Lets see what happens with some of the developers’ trying to dodge ACC

    Interesting fact, most bloggers offer the problems but rarely offer, or are part of, any emerging solution. Bloggin is great, removes the need to be responsible for anything 😉

  62. Anglo. Nationalised before it could collapse under the weight of its own crap.
    Sovereign debt. IF the country cannot right itself , we did barely, by writing a blank cheque to our banks in the form of a guarantee.
    ACC/Rabo is not doing as other banks by virtue of its non-Irishness. This adds further weight to the oligarch argument (nexus of politicians/developers/bankers) outlined in Johnson’s article.

    Interesting fact, based on?

    Solutions to what, exactly? Endemic corruption?

  63. just off the phone with my dad in ireland.

    apparently the hotels are now looking for taxpayer funded grants to put them into mothball i.e. pay off the loans, lay off the staff, but remain as going concerns rather than going bankrupt.

    when things go bad, it is amazing how these people suck at the teat of the taxpayer.

  64. “Colm Carrigg on August 10, 2009 at 11:34 pm”

    thinking about it – i think your right. anti-nepotism “laws” would infringe on individual freedom.

    it would be nice for political parties to introduce such rules. and that would be the better option. but if they dont – i think the law should be introduced to enforce it.

    we have to start from somewhere. and anti-nepotism is one aspect in that renewal of the republic.

  65. Not only are “the hotels …looking for taxpayer funded grants to put them into mothball”, but many have been pocketing tax reliefs to build them in the first place. If you have enough input into the political systerm you can get subsidies to build something there is no market for, or that you are not competent to make a success. You then get bailed out by the taxpayer when the chickens com home to roost.
    By the way, does anyone out there know how much the government could save by abolishing section 23 relief on property?

  66. Well justin, don’t get me wrong, I do agree with the idea of the anti-nepotism law, but it would be good if it could be moulded into the frame work of that legally backed up “system of ethics” for political parties…

    In reality, this system would never be adopted by the majority TD’s, councilors or government. It would have to be made mandatory in order to garner full complience from all concerned. The simple fact is that the system is self-regulated and that is the biggest hurdle that such legislation would have to get over. God forbid that they would loose out. Although I’m sure that there would be a small few TD’s who would be interested…

    However, I can’t help but wonder; what if the mainstream media picked up this Idea, and it started to take root with the public. The people might demand that the system be implemented. It sure would save money on tribunerals and would help to make greed, dishonesty, back stabbing and possibly incompetence in public office a thing of the past…

    As for the hotels, there are approximatly 10,000 too many rooms in this country, we simply can’t sustain them. The idea of government/bank run, tax backed hotels will also destroy localised family hotel businesses. This is unfair and anti-competitive. I used to work in a hotel a few years ago and the thought of seeing all the full-time staff who i used to work along side loosing their jobs worries me. That said, alot of hotels were treating costomers unfairly by charging far too much for rooms, food and drink etc.

    Since today is the day of the leaving cert. results (congrats to them all) another problem facing young people in Ireland is the fact that they are going to have the burden of up to E30,000 in the form of tuition fees to pay when they finish college, that and the fact that student loans are not as easily gotten as they once were is compounded by the lack of part-time work available to them, as mentioned above. There’s a rough road ahead…

  67. Gavin, I agree with your: “As a nation state, we are a failure. As a democracy, we have failed. As a country we are bankrupt, both morally and financially. We are the emerging market, banana republic of the European Union. Our political system is broken. It is beyond redemption.”
    There is no doubt that Irish-style ‘democracy’ has failed. A general election will solve nothing – except a few yahoos from the partisans.
    If I bet on a horse and lose – so be it. I am responsible – full stop; yet our oligarchs do not take responsibility for their actions and need long-term financial cossetting.
    Everything is relative. I think this save-the-developers NAMA thing is a mis-direction. Who are the bondholders??????? This group was specifically mentioned in Mr Lenihan’s guarantee of 30 September 2008 and have been overlooked in majority of comments.
    I look forward to the IMF in charge of Irish finance.

  68. p.s. for any one who disagrees with NAMA, go to the “No to NAMA” group on Facebook!! Join up and invite your friends! People commenting on this blog complained of in-action, well these guys are encouraging people to write to their TDs and are also planning actual street protests against NAMA, provided they get enough people to join! (they need 50,000 people on Facebook). Within 3 days of starting this group on facebook they had 1,500+ members!!

  69. The sad reality is, the majority wont take to the streets, as they are so underinformed… We are just too meek

  70. Well if we just give up then we’ll never know if the NO TO NAMA campagine will be a success… All we need is a minority of people to demonstrate. Once others see this they might take courage from it! Every individual must ask himself or herself if they will be satisfied down the line to have someone elses mistakes dumped on them when they could have come out onto the street and protested againsted it when it actually mattered… There is no point in feeling sorry for our selves when its too late.

  71. Somebody commented that we do not have a left vs right political spectrum. Actually we have three parties trying to pretend that they are centre left. The largest (historically) is aspiring towards getting it’s hands on the nation’s wealth, and exerting the values of the poor on the wealthy. The scond largest is obsessed with keeping the nations wealth in the hands of the wealthy. And the third is (the Champagne Socialists) is obscenely obsessed with exerting the values of the wealthy on all of society, and expressing class differentiation (were you in Trinners or Belfield before the free education system was founded).
    Throw in the Greens (hypocrites who will galdly take money from corporate concerns), and the Shinners (who have one foot in the Northern Rock Bank and one foot in a private firing range in Bulgaria. Oh yeah, and the one PD TD. (and even that is more than the country can afford).

    The political system is an expression of the Post-Catholic, post-Socialist, post-working class, vulgar, indulgent, delusional, consumerist, I am having whatever I can get away with, and I am making up the rules to suit my self as I go along.

    And because everybody does it with Pride, (the official term used instead of the more accurate term ‘arrogance’), the individual is never obliged to take any notice of the rest of the community.

    In the last fifteen years, the crows have come home to roost. And most people have been too utterly stupid to notice. But this in itself is not a wholy Irish problem. In the UK (that includes all parts) it is even worse.

    Welcome to the Kerry Katona Age.

  72. Well it's an interesting post and an excellent essay but I'm not entirely sure what is wrong with our political system (which you say is broken and beyond redemption). I'm not referring to the behaviours of government or the points 'check'ed above, rather the process by which we elect our representatives. The alternatives would seem to be either 'First past the post' or perhaps a list system. The latter would be a greater change but both are just tweaking. Ultimately the people still do decide. It is really up to the people if they want change. And they have free will to exercise that each election. I suppose trotskyite revolution could pose a theoretical alternative but generally that's reserved for systems where free elections are not held, at least that's my understanding. The people will have to start rewarding and discouraging behaviours at the polling booths if they want change but they have that choice already.

  73. hi, as human nature follows typical trends, i.e. greed, power, self importance, happiness, sadness, violence, we wonder where it all goes wrong, like the monarchy of old “dear subjects” we now have an organised so call elected elites” Us, cannon fodder and peasantry” only you have more comforts in life in comparison to days gone by. Capitalism was and is the ideology of humanity. This is fact “The system” however steps must be take to insure that fairness and humility privile. The elite “The leeches” who rob from the hard work of many and proclaim to have special insight into making money, remember they are using your money as their own private piggy bank , your money is invested in your assets “home” speculative knowledge is applied to grow their pyramid scam. Why I might ask? is there nobody protesting, maybe we Irish are afraid of the garda, the corrupt bunch of I.F.A sons of bitches are the muscle of the elites, the brains are the soulless corrupt political classes and the payed mouth pieces, come on what the fuck are we sheep or men, the best way to really explain how far we have got as “Ireland Inc Public” take a look at the corrupt set up in R.T.E. The banana republic is alive and well, at least the Greeks showed their elites the two fingers, it makes me ashamed to be Irish, with all our drink talk, it any wonder the English invaded.

    PS: These thieves have just stolen 24,000 euro from each man women child, to help their friends and sold you a crap 13ftX13ft (approx 169 sq ft) square foot of Irish house, that’s a great investment.

    Capitalism excess should, induce a violent reaction to the speculative dreams of others. The selfish mess of human misery, that is the sham Capitalism

    clare boy..

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