ENDA Kenny's recent proclamation, in relation to paying the unsecured bond holders of Anglo Irish Bank, that "we are not going to have the name 'defaulter' written on our foreheads" rested a little uneasy with me. His logic is (I think) by looking after the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves. In other words, (Enda thinks) if we pay now, Europe will re-negotiate, which will eventually save us billions. This is what I am hearing anyway!
What I resented, however, was the connotations he evoked with his language and his imagery. It propelled a vision to form in my head of us all walking the highroads and byroads of this island with stickers screaming 'Defaulter'. The context in which he put this and the tone he adopted implied that to accept the title of 'Defaulter' might well be one and the same thing as going the full hog, sitting in the corner (of Europe) and putting on the 'dunce' hat.
Through no fault of our own, half the country is defaulting. It is not nice, it is not pleasant and it is certainly not something anybody wants to bring up at the dinner table (that is if there are still dinners being served). But at the same time, no one should be made to feel marginalised, alienated or stupid by example and particularly not by the guy who is supposed to be the face and voice for us all.
I met a girl recently who was so busy trying not to be a 'defaulter' that she cannot act on the advice that her eight year old son might have special needs and would benefit from assessment. Who can afford that luxury when there is a mortgage to be paid, heating to finance and electricity bills to meet? Yet, in this case would it not be better to 'default' and use the money for her son? This is not a judgement call on this lady. It could be me! It could be any of us. It appears to be inbred into the Irish psyche that the bills must be paid at any cost. I am not denying that it is a noble attribute and an enviable one even. However, can I ask the question? Should this still hold true, even if that cost is much higher than the sum total of our bills?
And what if you are a 'Defaulter'? What does that make you? A thief in the night, a chancer, a yarn-spinner? Or perhaps all it is, is the unglamorous truth of losing your job, depleting your savings and having nothing left in the kitty.
Wouldn't it be a great thing if we all had the confidence of our Taoiseach, to renounce loudly and boldly the 'defaulter' tag. However, the people of Ireland don't have that choice nor do they have that luxury.
Celtic Tiger Ireland was synonymous with labels. Let's not do the same to austere Ireland. And, can we start at the top there Enda please?