Editorial

Saturday 26 July 2014

Editorial: Public has called time on austerity

Published 01/06/2014|02:30

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John Bruton
John Bruton

It may not have been entirely intentional, but John Bruton did the citizen and the State some service with his timely intervention on austerity.

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The jumble of electoral opposites across Europe has up to now defied analysis, but the anger and, in the case of Mr Kenny, outright nervousness that was displayed over Mr Bruton's forthright Malthusian declaration that we face another decade at least of austerity stamping its boot on our futures clarified matters enormously. The decision of the European citizenry to embrace the extremes of the Left and the Right with a level of vigour not seen since the 1930s is a clear signal that we have, when it comes to austerity, reached the limits of tolerance. Sadly, Mr Bruton's performance suggests that the signal being sent by the great mistral of European discontent is not clear enough for some.

The rest of the political class, however, is slowly realising that a great division is accelerating between the few who possess and the exponentially accelerating 'working poor' who do not. They are also beginning to realise that last week's Great Repudiation of the political classes was not a one-night stand. It was instead a declaration by the 'working poor' that they are in a state of burgeoning revolt against the ongoing grind of the Satanic Mills of austerity that is being implemented so slavishly by our eternally flexible political servants of the real masters of the Iron Age of Austerity.

It would be crass to compare the Irish experience under Mr Kenny to the spectacle where John Redmond sacrificed a generation of Irish youth to the service of a different vast historic error. But unnerving similarities exist between that time and Ireland's current supplicant position on austerity. Outside of the similar stupidity of the policies, we also know that while the Coalition cares in a vague way about the casualties sustained as a consequence of its political servility to the ECB and the even more distant bondholder gods, like the incompetent generals of the First World War, they appear to be incapable of imagining a way to avoid such casualties. In fairness, Ireland is not an island in that regard for the lives of tens of millions of a continent's citizenry has been sacrificed in the name of the voodoo economics of austerity.

The problem Mr Bruton and the rest of the advocates for austerity must face is not just that our multi-pensioned elites appear to be very open to the charge that, like Leona Helmsley and tax, they believe austerity is only for 'the little people'. The other gathering issue that governments must face is that too long a sacrifice makes the stone of the softest hearts. And significantly in the case of this administration, the mood of this electorate, let alone the rest of the continent, is beginning to calcify. In our case, the citizens have called time on austerity and if an old generation of politicians past their prime are too deaf to hear, they will face the same apocalypse as their predecessors.

This, alas, may not be as attractive as it first appears, for the crepuscular inability of our ruling class to display any imaginative empathy with the citizens is having toxic political side-effects. Winston Churchill once noted that democracy survived because, while it was imperfect, no one had found a better way. But if the franchise continuously fails the people, as with the Weimar Republic, a betrayed citizenry will flirt with darker dreams than social democracy.

Sunday Independent

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