WHAT do you make of Irish Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, calling the current recession inIreland “economic treason”? Is he right or wrong to do so? After all, he indubitably helped to make the ‘treason’ possible. His policies and those of the rest of the Fianna Fáil party, particularly when they were in government with the Progressive Democrats, have hurtled us towards the current recession.
They presided over good years, for which practically ALL the political parties, take responsibility. They preside now however over horror years and NONE of them wants to take responsibility.
Fianna Fáil and the PDs had cheerleaders in the business, banking and media industries. Indeed, you risked being isolated if you did not agree with them. They also had cheerleaders in the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (IBEC). So, is Noel Dempsey utterly guilt-free? I don’t believe he is. There is a societal responsibility for what has befallen us here . But a government minister, as a leader in that society, cannot just dump on others and accuse them of “economic treason”.
There is an old rule about a captain being last to leave his sinking ship. If he doesn’t make it, that’s too bad. It’s sad. That is the rule, however and it is right. Taking ‘responsibility’ for successes only and refusing to do so for abject failure might, at best, be human. It’s also dehumanising however. There are almost certainly many more like Noel Dempsey.
Bertie Ahern, when he was Taoiseach, allowed the Progressive Democrats to do what might not be possible under a sole Fianna Fáil administration. He was screened so much from the excesses of ‘right-wingery’ that he had the cheek to call himself “a socialist”. Nobody took that seriously however. How the developers and the builders must have laughed at that.
But the blame-game is big in Ireland at present. The former chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick, is perhaps the greatest hate figure at present. He transferred €84 million of personal loans to keep them safe from auditors. He was once identified as a key player in Celtic Tiger Ireland (that idiotic ‘Ireland Inc’ you hear so much about). Now he’s seen as a wrecker of a country. He isn’t, of course. But he’s symptomatic of greed.
He’s probably followed by Sean Dunne – a developer who paid €260 million ($328m) for the 4.84 acre Jury’s Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin. That was at €54 million ($68m) an acre. Because of access concerns to the site, Dunne then purchased the adjoining Berkley Court Hotel for €119 million ($150m). In doing so, he pushed this record up to €57 million ($72m) an acre. Expect it to last some time.
The problem came with the ‘differentials’. The average annual wage in Ireland is about €34,000. Working for that for 40 years would lead to a total of €1,360,000. You’d need around 35 lifetimes – assuming you lived to between 550 and 600 – to afford one acre in Ballsbridge. That, by the way, would be saving every penny. You’d be doing well to afford the acre after 100 or 200 lifetimes.
That is absurd. It’s ridiculous. There might not be a Ballsbridge in 600 years time. Yet these are the deals people like Sean Dunne has done for himself. He was lionized in the Irish media. It rid itself of more centrist and left-wing commentators in favour of cheerleading for the economic system. That’s fine. You might view it as the zeitgeist – “the spirit of the age”.
However, you’ve had your go and it ended in disaster. Why should anyone believe you now? Why should anyone believe economics to be a science? It’s not a science because the variables are just too large, too great, too huge. Surely, somebody is studying this recession. That doesn’t mean however downturns (recessions and depressions) are not part and parcel of capitalism. They seem to be.
The media are corporations first and foremost. It’s in their interests to support a corporate agenda which, while keeping prices on the knuckle for consumers, drive down wages and conditions. Hence the sweat shops of Bangkok, Calcutta and Mumbai. Similar sweat shops were opened in New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the 19th century.
Maybe those of us used to prosperity, for the last 15 or so years, will find it difficult to adjust. But consider that there are thousands of Irish people in over-priced houses, paying a mortgage for 40 years, and those of us who have the mortgage paid are not so bad.
Still, we seek people to blame. Business was the big winner during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger. But it was business concentrated in only a few bank accounts. Now many of those too are effectively shredded.
So, was Noel Dempsey right to call what’s befallen our economy “economic treason”? Only if he’s prepared to admit to preparing the path for such. In fact, Fianna Fáil, their business and banker backers, their builder friends and the ‘privatise’, ‘privatise’, ‘privatise’ Progressive Democrats (whom Bertie Ahern hid behind) are more responsible than most. They should stay quiet or be prepared to admit it. We might begin to heal then.