Sunday 23 November 2014

Austerity will be fatal for all of us

Published 25/08/2013 | 05:00

TWO-and-a-half years ago, on February 25, 2011, Labour was basking in its greatest electoral victory. It is a measure of how the political world has changed since that few will argue with the warning by Labour Senator John Kelly that continuing with the politics of austerity will 'kill the Labour party'. We will qualify our praise by noting the senator was only half right, for austerity – both in economics and the timorous, parsimonious spirit afflicting the current administration – is killing us all. Labour is just the most high-profile casualty.

Recognition of the damage being done by the great Fine Gael-led austerity gamble is, alas, scant within a Government where Enda Kenny now rules party, cabinet and coalition partners with an iron hand. Despite his current position of strategic strength, the Taoiseach would be wise to realise that his political position is equivocal. Mr Kenny may, behind the safety of the high walls of the Dail, be a Don Corleone. But amidst the citizenry Mr Kenny is, to put it at its kindest, seen to be more of a Don Quixote.

The most critical failure of this administration is its ongoing inability to regenerate the morale of its citizens. If there was something of manic elation surrounding the mood that drove the economics of the Celtic Tiger, the Irish patient has now swung towards the opposite end of the scale. This process of healing the fractured Irish psyche has not in this regard been aided by the hesitant progress of Enda Kenny's much heralded, now vanished 'democratic revolution'. The electorate's judgement on Fianna Fail in 2011 was that, having been misgoverned for a long time, often with our own connivance, it was time we devised a better way of doing things. Instead, in yet another example of the endemic capacity of this Government to confuse style with substance, when it comes to the better way, all this administration can come up with is a bun-fight over the political dead school of the Seanad.

It should be noted that more than the media have been casting a critical eye upon this administration. One of the more intriguing features of the relationship between Ireland and the soon-to-depart Troika is that the longer the latter has stayed, the more irritated it has become about the enduring capacity of Ireland's guileful political masters to sweet-talk the world into believing trouble is not in the room even as trouble starts to break up the furniture. The Troika has ever more frequently questioned the inability of the State to resolve the appalling scenarios where one-third of our under-25s are unemployed, welfare is the sole Irish stimulus and domestic rotten boroughs such as the legal profession are still, when it comes to reform, in a state of inglorious disrepair. The still escalating numbers falling into mortgage arrears may indicate that the Troika's critique of the slow progress of our banks in cleansing their Augean stables is equally accurate. Despite, or perhaps because of this accuracy, gratitude has been distinct only in its absence when it comes to the Troika's critique of all the naked Irish Emperors.

Nothing epitomised the declining state of Ireland's previously public love affair with the Troika more than the recent tart declaration of Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin that he could not wait to witness its departure. A nation, getting used to the slightly better school of governance that has accompanied the rough honesty of the Troika, is likely to be more equivocal.

Sunday Independent

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