News Editorial

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Live in austerity, die by austerity

Shane Doran

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

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Olli Rehn
Olli Rehn

THE stark results of today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll are easily enough summarised: politicians who would live by the sword of austerity, no matter how apologetically they go about doing so, will die by the sword of austerity. Or to put it more accurately, they will be put to the sword by the electorate, while the grinning political opportunists of Sinn Fein stand idly by, waiting to feast on the remains.

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Today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll represents the most comprehensive repudiation yet of the never-ending slap across the face of productive citizens that is the essence of the political economics of austerity. The most immediate symptom of public anger is the ringing declaration by 73 per cent of the citizens that if Labour wants to live it must destroy the economic model of austerity or leave government. Intriguingly, Labour is not alone, for as Sinn Fein rises, the civil war parties of Fianna Fail, who have already flirted with political annihilation in 2011, and Fine Gael, who engaged in a similar dalliance in 2002, are becoming fatally detached from the sentiment of the centre. The sharp decrease in confidence among the citizens that the Government will survive until 2016 means an increasing number of voters suspect the centre will not hold if austerity reigns.

Sadly, when it comes to these new realities, like those foolish Bourbons, there are some who will neither learn nor listen. This was epitomised by the ringing declarations from Europe and Mr Olli Rehn that austerity must continue. It is a stance that is, to put it mildly, breaching the edges of democratic consent. Austerity is a policy not a religion, and few will feel inclined to be bound by the views of a politician whose own mandate is slipping through the political hour-glass as swiftly as the failed Cold War-style theory of austerity. Like those stupid First World War generals who never allowed ongoing defeats to deter their confidence, Mr Rehn may believe his word holds sway. But, except for the most devoted of austerity junkies, it holds the weight of the last sting of a dying wasp.

Europe can issue all the lettres de cachet it likes threatening immediate and terrible economic war should the bad Irish misbehave. But the citizens have had enough and the Government will face an escalating crisis if Europe decides we are to be denied any form of parole from austerity even after seven years of good behaviour and much proof that further incarceration will not benefit the patient.

For now, today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll suggests that Euro-scepticism is not on the rise in Ireland. But, as the Taoiseach Enda Kenny knows all too well, what 'Paddy' publicly says and what 'Paddy' privately thinks can be very different.

The huge vote of Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in the recent European elections, not to forget two referendum defeats in a decade, is indicative of a high latent degree of Euro-scepticism among the public. This may rise even further should Britain vote to leave an ever-more autocratic EU mired in internecine inter-state squabbling. A new political party, should it actually ever come to fruition might do well to consider this development when it comes to its positioning on the failed European model. Mr Kenny would, meanwhile, do even better to realise there is such a thing as society. Should the concept be too complex we can only hope the sight of Sinn Fein standing waiting for governance might act as a spur to his social conscience.

Sunday Independent

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