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Brendan O'Connor: The devil is in all of us, some more than others


It is increasingly fashionable to think that what happened in this country was everyone's fault but our own. Right now, we mainly blame the Germans. Justifiably so, in ways.

But the sad truth is, of course, that the devil is in you and me and all our betters too. As the Eucharistic Congress reaches its climax today, we might do well to reflect on the sins of those who ruined the country. Because as old-fashioned as it all sounds, that's what most of them were -- sinners.

And it was sin that ruined the country. There were seven deadly sins in the Bible and in our case, these seven sins truly were deadly.

While different people committed different sins, funnily enough, nearly all of these seven weaknesses were exemplified in one man, hitherto thought to be a modest man.

There is no doubt that Sean Quinn was, for much of his life, a good man. But his spectacular fall from grace, and how he dragged the country down with him, shows that sin can afflict the best of us.

Sean Quinn was certainly a proud man. Proud enough to think he could do everything better than the established players. He took on the big players in cement, hotels, insurance, and ultimately he thought he could own his own bank. This pride would prove a fatal flaw when the man who possessed it met that most flawed of entities, Anglo.

Despite the fact that he was said to never bet more than a few pence, Quinn would prove to be greedy beyond our wildest dreams. The man who was so shy at cards would end up gambling billions, and like the worst kind of gambler, he poured good money after bad in search of that elusive win.

Quinn lusted too, for the power of controlling not a whole county and a vast international conglomerate, but the real power: that of owning a bank, which was where the real power was back then.

His wrath and anger have been felt too. Like so many of the other men who ruined the country, Quinn believes he was hard done by, by Anglo and by the authorities, and he has fought his fate with all the wrath he can summon.

Gluttony is perhaps not something we associate with this apparently modest-living man, but then we learnt of property all over the world, the desire to accumulate more money and property than any man could ever really need, and the desire to hold on to it.

Clearly he envied too, envied the banks, with their giant profits and their vast power. They were players in a way he wasn't. To own a bank must have seemed the ultimate holy grail to Quinn.

And then the sloth. We are stretching it now maybe, but the burying of the head in the sand when things went wrong, the refusal to believe that it was all crashing down, the inability to move fast and get out before it was too late?

But Sean Quinn wasn't the only sinner. There were many more, who, driven by maybe only one fatal flaw, did untold damage. You might all, in your own way, and your own words, want to say a prayer for them today.

Sunday Independent

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