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Thursday 8 December 2016

Nothing has changed except the face of Government

Should we be surprised that the prospect of burden-sharing vanished like a pre-election pledge? asks John Crown

Published 03/04/2011 | 05:00

WHY all the hand-wringing over last week's stress test results? Was anyone really surprised that we need to put ANOTHER 20 to 30 billion euro into the banks?

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By the way, that works out at another €4,000 per man, woman, child and infant in the country.

No, given the fact that the same smart economists who predicted the collapse had warned that we were underestimating the depth of the banker-dug hole that Europe was urging us to jump into, there was an inevitably about these results.

Even the sober suits of the IMF knew this. Why else would they have budgeted for it?

No, these results were the least surprising surprise in town. Nothing had really changed, except for one thing. The Government had changed. Sadly, it appears that government policy had not changed, particularly in respect of burden-sharing.

The new Government is essentially following the salvage policy of the previous Government -- which is to reimburse the bondholders, those incompetents who decided to invest their money or the money of others, to whom they had a fiduciary responsibility, in our huge national Celtic fly-by-night property scheme.

The contrast between the pre-election position of the coalition parties -- which was to force these speculators to share some of the pain with the patients on our waiting lists -- has apparently been abandoned with the assumption of power.

As someone who had high expectation of the new Government, I for one am hugely disappointed at the about-face.

It seems there are two possible interpretations. The first is that the government parties were ill-informed enough to think that burden-sharing was possible, but then found out on assuming power that it was not. And I'm sorry, but this just isn't plausible.

'Being honest when the news is bad is tough'

The second, less palatable but sadly more likely interpretation, is that they decided on the basis of pre-election focus groups, and polls, that adopting a harsh posture vis-a-vis the bondholders made for good politics, even if they felt it to be unrealistic.

This is the type of governance that reinforces the prejudice that our current party system has utterly failed, and that the old charges of Tweedle-Fail alternating power with Tweedle-Gael are justified.

Being honest when the news is bad is tough. People in my profession, who are often at the heart of the worst day of people's lives, know this. It is no more ethical for a political party to promise burden-sharing which they believe cannot be delivered, than it would be for a doctor to offer the false hope of cure to a dying patient in order to get their business.

When the news is bad, we deserve to be shown the respect of being told the truth.

John Crown is a consultant oncologist and a candidate for Seanad Eireann on the NUI panel. Find out more at www.JohnCrown.ie or on Facebook: John Crown for Seanad

Sunday Independent

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