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Looking on the bright side during the strangest of times in Ireland

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Illustration by Cathy Bartholomew
These for sure are the best of times, the worst of times and the strangest of times in Mother Ireland.

Over here many of us have begun to hit the remote for a sports channel when yet another gloomy panel of financial experts begins to discuss the financial situation in Ireland and Europe and the whole bloody world yet again.

They use financial jargon about bond rates and markets and shares and sovereign debts and financial haircuts for certain bondholders that the majority of us cannot understand at all. If they can deliver two long words instead of one short sharp one that is what they will do.

They will hedge all their forecasts and predictions. If you do try to comprehend any of their debates you will be just as wise in the beginning as you are in the end.

It's much better to relax by watching football or boxing in the serene mindset that whatever happens in the financial world is going to happen, and there is nothing we can do about in the meantime.

I have to travel to the Vatican later down this piece, but there are a couple of issues surrounding our little parochial financial mess which I have to deal with first.

We have a tough budget coming up in a couple of weeks. It is imposed on us by our new Euro bosses.
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We have to raise just under €4 billion to ensure we continue to get our bailout billions from the IMF and the European Central Bank. Yet, only 10 days ago, a close inspection of the national financial balance sheets revealed that we were almost €4 billion better off than we thought!

The boffins in the Department of Defense had got their sums wrong by that amount. And so did  the visiting inspectors from the IMF.

My question accordingly is: If we are a whacking €4 billion better off than the financial wizards assumed, then why do we have to suffer an austerity budget at all?

We should have some kind of even slightly “soft” budget with some modest increases for those on unemployment benefit, for example. Or for the most vulnerable folks in our society.

I suppose there is some gobble-dookery financial reason why that can't and won't happen, but for sure it is one new element of a complex and puzzling situation both here and globally.

There is something else which I have difficulty in putting words on. But I will try.

As an ordinary worker I have lived all my life in a country that was always poor by international standards except for the brief lifetime of the Celtic Tiger.

We married and had a family, we saved up to buy a bungalow and purchased its furniture and fittings piece by piece.

When we went into the house all we had was a double bed and a cooker. And two babies.

Times were hard, interest rates were far higher than now, money was scarce because there was only one salary coming in. All of my life the wolf has been living in the same parish and he came scratching at the door more than once.

But dammit we managed, like our neighbors, not just to survive but to have a good wholesome life and nobody starved.

The wolf scratched on the door again in the eighties recession when I was widowed and my paper closed down. Four voracious teenagers to be fed and watered.

But, dammit again, we got through it, the good times and the bad, as did our friends around us.

The point I'm trying ineptly to make is that we, as a nation, are well inured to living through tough times, tougher times than now. Emigration was always an option, but so was prudence and ingenuity on the home front.

And I have always felt (and again it is difficult to express this properly) that we working classes are never punished quite as much by recessions, global or local, as the sleek wealthy classes above us, the genuinely privileged men and women of money, the speculators and gamblers and bankers and chancers and hedge-funders who are now imploding in flames and squealing all over the world.

Yes, down the ladder, we suffer. But we know how to suffer and how to cope. We cut our cloth to a tighter measure and hope for the best.

Just one small personal example.  Until recently the Dutch Nation and I had two cars and a camper van. We discovered we could manage perfectly well with one car since I work from home.

And the camper van might hit the road without us too if the budget is as harsh as they expect! But that won't matter a curse on the wider scale of things, and the prudent Dutch Nation now has a vegetable plot that would feed two families.

Maybe I go out to the Honk a little less than of yore but I'm still there probably too often. And I smoke like a train at ***** 8.30 a pack.  And will continue to do so.

Life goes on and there is still a lot of laughter and craic in the Four Green Fields. It's not all doom and gloom.

Finally to the Vatican situation. I never thought I would live to see the day that an Irish government would finally put the Catholic Church in its place, removing it effectively from its special position by sharply closing down the embassy in Rome.

Well done. We now have clear proof about every month on the dreadful way the Hierarchy abused and maltreated its passive and faithful Catholic flock, especially so many of the youngest and most vulnerable. And I'm sure there are still scandals to be revealed.

Enda Kenny's government has earned a plenary indulgence from the people for a mighty and worthy decision.
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