Gene Kerrigan: Endless words obscure facts like snow
The vague language of the so-called 'deal' is designed to keep us believing the fairytale, writes Gene Kerrigan
LET'S see if we've got this right. Back in June, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore achieved a "major game-changer" of an agreement with EU leaders, a "seismic shift" that would save Irish citizens an untold number of billions of euro. There were just a few details to be worked out -- and, sure, didn't they have months on end to do that?
The Irish media bought it: "Taoiseach Hails Overnight Deal on Debt Burden" (RTE).
Then, when the applause died down, Angela Merkel's people said, "Ah, no, that's not what we agreed", or words to that effect. So, the week before last, Enda went over to set Angela straight. And he came back and said, "No problem, folks, it's all sorted", or words to that effect.
At which point Angela made some remarks that suggested things were entirely unsorted. When Enda saw last weekend's headlines ("Appeasing Merkel has cost us the bank deal"; and "Ireland gets its reward for being EU's little pet poodle -- nothing" -- Sunday Independent), the Taoiseach went ballistic.
He got Angela on the blower and -- wait a minute, I'm sure I've got the transcript of that call somewhere on my desk. Here it is:
Angela: "Vat's the problem now, dummkopf?"
Enda: "Ah Jayzus, Mrs M, they're only roasting me! If this keeps up, sure, I won't last until Christmas. Any chance of an oul' dig-out?"
Cue next day's headline: "Merkel rides to Enda Kenny's aid and agrees Ireland bank debt is a special case" (Irish Times).
Before you could say Five Point Plan, a German insider was explaining that this meant that the alleged deal required Ireland to accept another "bailout", which would require extra austerity and years of indirect rule from Berlin, or words to that effect (something like, "Die Iren werden gefickt").
Now, at this point, there were some who were harbouring doubts. Why is it, we asked ourselves, that our leaders have such trouble making themselves understood?
Why is it seemingly impossible, over several months, for these people to come up with a coherent form of words that explains what was agreed? Why is it that any statement on this major issue is freely reinterpreted to say whatever any of those involved want it to say?
Whatever you think of their bog-standard right-wing politics, these people are educated, and they're surrounded by highly paid consultants and advisers who speak several languages.
Besides, there's nothing complicated about this alleged deal. Either the "recapitalisation" of the Irish banks is now covered by EU policy -- as the "recapitalisation" of the Spanish banks is -- or it's not.
What exactly was agreed last June? Was anything agreed? Was the issue of Irish bank debt even discussed -- or just mentioned in passing? Why have our leaders and their EU masters remained for so long so remarkably inarticulate?
The truth is -- the language of the alleged deal is deliberately meaningless. It's designed to mean
whatever these people want it to mean, whatever the circumstances.
George Orwell explained, in his classic 1946 essay Politics and the English Language: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible." One could not, however, use plain language to justify mass slaughter, carpet bombing, show trials and the like. Citizens would be made uneasy by such open brutality. Politicians talked instead of peace and progress, of pacification and the need to remove "undesirable elements".
As Orwell put it, "Words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details."
And so it is today: ". . . The heart of Europe . . . five-point plan . . . turned the corner . . . back on track . . . we all partied . . . Frankfurt's way . . . there's no alternative . . . only game in town . . . mustn't play the blame game . . . meeting our targets . . . we are where we are . . ."
One of the central issues of today is the systematic transfer of debt from private banks to the citizens. Politicians can't very well say: "We're giving the banks tens of billions, because we see the banks as the centre of the economy -- this was our political view when we facilitated the credit bubble, and it's our political view now."
Instead, they speak of "recapitalisation" -- which means "give the bankers free money, by the tens of billions". And when they explain why -- oh, it's in order to "get credit moving". And to "deal with mortgage debt".
And this explanation is used despite the fact that credit doesn't move and the bankers refuse to face up to the unpayable mortgage debts.
The fairytale is that the banks are being fixed for all our sakes -- and that Enda is kicking German ass, to ensure the "burden is shared".
The truth is that the banks are being given tens of billions, free money, and that money becomes the debt of the citizens. It's about euro stability. Meanwhile, the citizens are forensically stripped of wealth -- via charges, levies, wage cuts and price rises, with public services cut to dangerous levels.
And, Enda and his Euro-pals come up with whatever form of words they figure will sedate the mugs.
Thus it was in June, when they were working on the problem of Spanish banks, Enda whinged. So, they let him tell us there was now a bank debt deal in place because Spain and Ireland are "similar cases". And now, they allow him claim there's a deal in place because Ireland is a "special case", not at all similar to any other.
Crucially, the issue of the transfer of debt has been obscured -- the issue is now about getting a handout from our nice EU masters.
Consistency doesn't matter, truth doesn't matter. What matters is that Enda and Eamon get an apparent concession -- a handful of billions cut from the dozens of billions in debt heaped onto us. This allows them to jump up and down and claim some kind of achievement.
While all this is going on, in the real world the emboldened bankers take less bother about concealing their own greed. Increasing numbers of executives earn more than €300,000. There's supposed to be a €500,000 cap, but some are on packages worth more than €800,000.
The bill for the top 1,700 unremarkable bankers is now way over €200m a year. That's money we have to borrow.
Meanwhile, the rank and file -- the cashiers who handle retail banking, the useful end of banking -- are being thrown on the dole. AIB is closing 67 branches, undermining communities and small businesses.
Among the citizens, distress, fear. For some, real hunger, as income doesn't stretch to the end of the week. Perpetual unemployment, emigration, uncertainty -- all the circumstances in which a society falters and fails.
But the banks are alright. And soon there will be some agreed form of words that covers Enda and Eamon's political asses and allows them to smirk at the Fianna Failers.
Here, just in, an exclusive transcript of Enda at work.
Merkel: "I think we're all done, okay?"
Enda: "Ah, come on, lads. What about poor wee Ireland?"
Merkel: "Ah, Gott, lass diesen Dummkopf hier?"
Enda: "Pretty please?"