March 20, 2018

It’s Really All Our Fault, Isn’t It ?

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In just the last two weeks, four restaurants and a bookshop have closed in my area. Having spoken with some of the owners,  who have been through previous recessions, it became very clear that this recession is unlike any other and far deeper in its reach. Instead of concentrating on the present headlines regarding bank remuneration or private versus public service workers, I have decided to take much more of a “helicopter” view of our present situation and how we all contributed to it more importantly.

How we can all do something constructive to get out of it. As much as I do not wish to be a bearer of bad news, unfortunately our economy is going to get a lot worse. I will not go into the reasons why it will get worse now, but  by April of next year we will truly understand the meaning of a recession. It is time for a change in attitudes and not just the  continued expression of our anger and disbelief.

One thing that is generally accepted is that our government, who are elected by us, are supposed to shape and maintain a society which is in accordance with our wishes. Generally speaking, we as a nation probably agree on the fundamental requirements that this entails i.e. good quality education, an effective health care system, a robust and fair legal system, freedom of speech and association, a right to own property, to live in a pluralist society where neither race, creed, sex or political persuasion will lead to persecution and the right to  have these beliefs represented by those that we democratically elect. These requirements are not unique to our country and are generally accepted as the basis for any modern democracy and in particular those based on a capitalist economic system.

It has become very obvious to everybody living in this democracy, that these fundamental requirements have not been and are not being met. Class sizes are continuously increasing, our health service although making progress is still woefully inadequate and our government bureaucracy is becoming increasingly inefficient, overstaffed and over complicated. We elect the Dail  which in turn elects the Executive (the Government) . The Government then select ministers to oversee the implementation of national policy, through the efficient use of the resources provided for in their respective departments.

Sadly, while this is a lovely little theory,  it is not the case in practice. By any definition, our executive is devoid of competency in relation to their respective portfolios. When you look at the makeup  of the current Dail it is no wonder. In his book, “How Ireland Voted 2007”, Michael  Gallagher points out that over half the TD’s  were pursuing a career in one of the ‘professions’,  a quarter were in education (that’s 38!) , nearly the same again in small business and one tenth come from farming. So by any measure their collective and individual capacity or knowledge in running  a very large organisation is very limited or none existent.

Let’s face it, there is no organisation in the State that is bigger than the State itself, with five million customers daily and a staff of 460,000! Given the large number of extremely well paid public servants, not by any means the majority , it should be unnecessary for the government to continuously spend tens of millions  of our taxes on outside “consultants”  to help them do their job. But they have, and the return on that particular investment has obviously been very poor. Who, for example, has been advising the Department of finance? Or Education for that matter. Or Health? And how much has it cost ?

As our economy and our country crumbles around us we have people blaming the government, the government blaming the banks and the banks blaming the international economy. The harsh reality is that it is we the people who are to blame.  In order to understand why  we are to blame we must take a look at where we have come from. In particular, we must look at the  organisations and individual people to whom we handed over our individual and more importantly, our collective power, since the foundation of the State. These organisations, in particular the Catholic Church, the Fianna Fail party and the financial institutions have spent decades manipulating our society in order to serve their insatiable thirst for power, profit and control above ALL else. They have continuously influenced the very laws under which we must all live for the benefit of their nefarious ambitions.

I contend that this insidious process really got into it’s stride in the 1950s and can be demonstrated by the amount of reverence in which the Catholic Church was held and the power it wielded, over both individuals and all successive Governments. As a result of the recent wave of scandals emanating from the church, it has become obvious that there are a number of extremely corrupt, sick and dishonest people  at the very head of that organisation. There can be no doubt that over many decades, knowledge of their criminal  acts were known to many but few, if any, were willing to speak out. Thankfully, the church has lost its iron grip on this society. I will acknowledge that the Catholic Church played a significant and beneficial role in this country’s history but that can never excuse the darker side of its existence.

Now let us take a look at our personal role in government and how, over the last couple of decades , there has been a continuous decline in the numbers of people who are bothered to exercise their right to choose the people who will govern them i.e. to vote. Make no mistake, it is for this reason and this reason alone that we find ourselves in our present predicament. There were many commentators screaming from the rooftops two years ago that the then level of growth in the economy was totally unsustainable. At the time Bertie Ahern advised such people (myself included) that we should consider topping ourselves as all we were doing was talking down the economy. What we were actually doing was telling the truth.

Unfortunately it was a truth that the well heeled and the powerful would rather you didn’t know. It would not have served them or their friends in Government to put a stop to this runaway train. It was this pursuit of their own economic growth above all else, that led to the disastrous strategic decisions made by our government. It was short termism at its very worst. It was Party popularity above the needs of the nation. As long as the economy appeared to be booming, it was downright unfashionable to be in any way critical of those heroes that delivered the boom times. Well the chickens have truly come home to roost. And as much as they would wish it to be possible, Fianna Fail did not elect themselves.

And what about the banks? Well, what we do know is that due to the policies which they pursued they lost a considerable amount of money. But, you must ask yourself who exactly are the banks? In simple terms, they are a business just like any other and they are owned by their shareholders. The shareholders include other financial institutions, pension funds and individuals. All of these owners have one simple thing in common. They paid money in exchange for part ownership of an organisation in the belief that the return on their investment would be greater than the amount of money that they invested. It was (or should have been) a measured decision balancing risk with reward. If they wanted a guaranteed return on their money they could have bought government bonds, from any western nation.

In not doing so, they obviously decided that the potential return on their investment in an Irish bank would be greater and, unless they had their heads buried firmly in the sand, should have realised that with a greater potential reward comes a higher risk to their cash.  The fact is that these investors made, what was to become a disastrous decision. They sat  on there hands while believing that the advice  been given to  them by their ‘Financial Advisor’s’ to hold on was informed, as they watched the crash of the share price. This information and advise only served the greed and self interest of those dispensing it.

But wait!  Their predicament wouldn’t be quite so disastrous if they could find somebody (one who was never to benefit from any increase in the banks  value) to bail them out by compensating them for their loss. Even though this goes against the most basic and fundamental rules of a free-market economy. The Government decided that a bankrupt institution could not be let fail, even though there cannot be any greater failure than becoming bankrupt in the first place!  The decision not to let the laws of a free market economy prevail was and is perverse. The only guaranteed beneficiary will be the very people that made the bad investment in the first place.

With NAMA the Government are now going to bail out the banks and going to use you’re hard earned salary to do it, without  either consulting or asking your permission! The phrase “one law for the rich and one law for the poor” springs to mind. They fucked up and you pay. Simple really. By the way ALL of the directors of AIB (and practically all of their BoI counterparts) who presided over the catastrophic collapse, are still on the board of Directors. And you’ll be paying their salary’s (15 to 20 times the National wage, each) for the foreseeable future.

The one trait that binds the church, the government and the banks together is their total lack of competence and their measured irresponsibility in relation to the interests of the very people they were supposed to protect or represent. You see, if you place your welfare, security and quality of life in the hands of people who are neither qualified nor sufficiently motivated to serve you, this is the result. In a House of Lords speech in 1770 William Pitt the Elder observed “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.

The only way we can change this failed system of political and commercial government is to regain and assert our individual and collective power over these people who continue to destroy our quality of life. As you may know, I am not a big fan of marching although I have done my fair share, and we must not allow ourselves to fall into the divide and conquer trap, private versus public worker. No, it is time that we do something collectively, that will have a massive and immediate impact on the very people who are ‘leading’ our Country.

You are probably aware of the manufactured row in which the government and Allied Irish Banks debated the recent appointment of the managing director and the furore over the individuals level of remuneration. What you may not have realised is that this was a smokescreen, covering up the fact the bank was appointing one of its own to the position. This is the true crime. I have nothing against the individual in particular (though you have to question his abilities given that he has continued to serve on the banks Risk Assessment Committee), but everything against the fact that this particular institution, which I believe will be nationalised by next April, have the arrogance to appoint one of its own people to such a responsible position.

It is inconceivable that a director of a company who was directly responsible for the sustained losses and atrocious commercial judgement, would retain any board position, never mind  being appointed ‘Managing Director’ . He is one the people that were personally responsible for destroying the organisation.  But this is the culture exists and the relationship between it and and our present government runs so deep as to be very suspicious. Either that or  the Government are just complete gobshites.

As you well know, there has been no material changes whatsoever in the institutions who are guilty of these most serious  abuses of trust. The church for example, carries on regardless, while striking a secret deal with the government to abdicate on it’s responsibility in relation to the financial compensation of  their victims. The church has no cause for worry, after all it is we the people who  have picked up the tab. The Government is still comprised of exactly the same people who got us into this economic disaster and yet they expect to be allowed to get us out of it. Their arrogance is absolutely staggering. And lastly the banks , these are run by the people who were and are driven by a profit motive  (?) and personal greed, the same people who decimated not just their shareholders investment but, with the help of our government, our Country.

So come on Mr Cowen, what this Country needs now is leadership and you could demonstrate yours by allowing us choose a competent Government. Or maybe you and your cohorts actually believe that by refusing to call an election, you are doing ‘what is right for the Country’. No disrespect, but what could you possibly know about what is right for the Country? Personally, I just don’t think that you (or your hand picked Cabinet ) have the courage to do what is right and courage in the face of adversity, is the defining characteristic of a true leader.


10 Comments on It’s Really All Our Fault, Isn’t It ?

  1. Eamonn

    Your rant is a quality rant – very Blaneyesque.

    But you finish asking Mr Cowen to allow Ireland vote in a new government. What’s the point? Enda, Pat Rabbitte or whoever can’t do any better, FG’s or Labour’s army of teachers, farmers and small businessmen are no better equipped to take our nation into the next decade than Mr Cowen’s.

    An election in Ireland will not change one thing. You’ll get the same 2 parties dominating the polls, the issues, and the airways.

    Ireland needs a much more radical solution than Irish politicians are prepared to articulate. During the Tiger years we made too much, we paid too much & we owned too much. We Irish can get by on very little because we know that life is for living, talking, enjoying, family, friends, celebrating etc. and we know how to do that well. Celtic Tiger made us morph into something we are not – the equivalent structure of a Bernie Madoff For-Profit Fund. We need to do the sums around what we are good at, what we could 100% control ourselves on our island and what we need to import – from there build a new model for Ireland, it might be a bit socialist but in my opinion we should not try and create Tiger II, the sequel.

    • Brilliantly put Mick, I agree with you 99%. The 1% deficit relates to your comment regarding electing a new Government making no difference to the status quo. I believe that the people of Ireland will not vote along traditional party lines if given the chance. I also believe that a number of very capable and selfless individuals may put themselves forward for election as independent candidates. these people will act I believe in the interest of the country and the support of the people. This is a great country but is lacking in leadership. Hopefully we will learn the lessons of entrusting our democracy to a bunch of incompetents and next time personally consider our vote and actually use it.

  2. Good post Eamonn. You’re probably not being hard enough on us though. As well as electing largely incompetent politicians and being willing partners in the property boom tango, we rubbed our hands in glee each time the deeply flawed Social Partnership process delivered another unsustainable pay deal. We became incredibly materialistic and obsessed with our new ‘millionaire’ status, which was built on our asset market bubble. But we knew better and everyone else was wrong. Hard as it may be to hear, the misery of the next while will be good for us in the end. After a painful adjustment, our competitiveness will again improve and we will be better able to hold our own in the global market. Hopefully, we will finally understand that we the people are responsible for our own actions and we can’t keep blaming everyone else.

  3. John Mccarthy November 26 at 5:46pm
    I just read your rant on your blog. I know I have been away for a long time I do keep an eye on things on the Irish Times online and through Irish mates here so have a fairly good understanding of the state of affairs prettyu grim its seems . The article was one of the best I have read in a long long time and I mean that. It flows well I totally agree with you . The very people who constantly whinge are the biggest part of the problem. They are not willing to stand up and be counted. Rest assured I always excercise my democratic right at every election no matter how much of a difference it makes . They need to introduce Compulsory voting like they do in Oz . You dont vote you get a fine . Its only about $100 but it makes people get off their ass and vote. Hopefully people will wake up and smell the fucking roses.
    Next step you will start to see people in dark coats hanging around under street lights monitoring you as a recalcitrant 🙂
    Time for you to run for the Dail me thinks sounds like the country badly needs some progressive thinking .

  4. Eamonn,
    Fair Play to you in taking the first step to educate.
    After stating and restating all of the truths, which by the way, I agree with you. Take on a new role for Ireland. Step up and institute the changes that will be beneficial to all of Ireland. Marches are not truly the answer! Perhaps you are the new great white hope. It is what it is and yes society has allowed it. People become complacent unless they have a cause to fight for. Take it easy on the voters…they haven’t been truly heard for a very long time. Mostly, some get fed up and leave the island. And where does that get you? The church….corrupt ….the government…corrupt. Absolutely. Get in there and set them straight. We know the problems. You my dear need to start voicing the solutions.
    “if you are not a part of the solution….” Good luck. Over turn the barbaric rituals and out dated beliefs of government and church that no longer apply to the beneficial advancement of our world as a whole. Teach them how to demonstrate a positive presence in our ever changing world. We know the problems, all too well. Initialize project solution!!! Best of luck to you.

    • Thank you Mary for you’re comment and more particularly on the the advice contained therein. And now I know who to go to for advice on my ‘professional image’ 🙂

      ps, Mary it would be a great help in getting the message out to people, if you could share the article on any of your social sites, by simply using the ‘Share This’ button at the bottom of the page.

  5. Hi Eamonn,

    Greetings from Kampala, you probably heard I am working out here, and hopefully for a few years based on what’s happening back home. Anyway, just a quick note to commend you on an excellent prose. Keep it up.

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