Sunday 17 November 2019

Perhaps we should believe the praise they heap on us

Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan

THE poet Robbie Burns observed that it would be very good to see ourselves as others see us -- but he naturally assumed that their opinion would be less flattering than our own.

It is therefore startling to find outside commentators having a brighter view of our economic performance than we do ourselves.

It also raises a basic question. Do we tell them they are getting it wrong -- or try harder to prove them right?

The 'Time' magazine article is an interview with the Taoiseach, but however "sweet" its correspondent may think Mr Kenny is, that is not the reason she interviewed him. It is the widespread view that Ireland is dealing with its post-crash trauma better than the others.

This may be a bit unfair on the Portuguese, who are going about the unpleasant business of austerity quietly and effectively.

But the triumph of politics over disruption in Ireland compares dramatically with events in Greece -- or even in Italy and Spain.

This is something to be proud of, not ashamed.

There were the usual comments yesterday about the Irish behaving like sheep.

Irish people have more reason than most to know what happens when politics fails. Such comments can come only from those who want to make mischief -- or who don't know any better.


The arguments about policy are a different matter.

It is perfectly legitimate to think, and say, that the austerity programme is mad and the Government is a bunch of fools. But foreign admiration has now translated into lower interest rates for Irish government borrowing and signs of extra investment. This adds a tricky new dimension to deciding what to say at home -- and how to say it.

Whatever the merits of the policies chosen four years ago, we are so far down the road that, like Shakespeare's Macbeth, trying to go back now would be as bloody as going on.

That being so, there may be merit in the argument from the Central Bank yesterday that a bit more austerity might pay for itself in renewed foreign confidence and cheaper lending.

There is no sign yet, though, that sweet Mr Kenny is prepared to go that far.

Irish Independent

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