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Do your worst -- we can take it

Of course we Irish have never been very good at taking a compliment. "That's a nice dress." "This old yoke? It's crap." "Have you lost weight?" "No. I'm fat and ugly."

And so when Standard and Poor's tried to tell us last week that maybe the worst was over in terms of property, we laughed them out of town. When Standard and Poor's used to insult us on a regular basis, we took it all almost gleefully. After all, this was the great Standard and Poor's and we were only a bunch of idiots.

The closer they got to using the word 'junk' about us the more we went into ecstasies of mortification. Finally, proof, from experts in the outside world, that we were a piece of crap. Finally someone to put a stamp of approval on our self-hatred.

So when they suggested last week that property had bottomed out we felt confused and betrayed and unsure how to react. So we reacted by rubbishing them.

You knew things were bad when even people in the property-selling business like the Myhome.ie types and the estate agents, seemed to be taking issue with S&P's verdict. An estate agent's normal reaction to bad news about property is to claim this is the best buying opportunity since 1987. But last week the chorus seemed to be "don't mind S&P; there is worse to come; don't, whatever you do, buy anything; you'd be mad".

It was easy, in ways, to pick holes in the S&P verdict. S&P seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that property here has fallen by a third. Whereas anyone who's tried to sell something recently will tell you that the fall could be closer to two-thirds. But we could have at least done ourselves a favour and gone along with their general gist that we have hit the bottom.

But no, just as we revelled in having the greatest property bubble in history, now we won't accept anything less than the worst crash in history. Ask people now if they don't think property has maybe fallen enough and they will tell you indignantly that Japan fell 90 per cent. There is an implicit suggestion that anything the Japanese can do, we can do too. Of course, they are probably right. As long as we refuse to believe the bottom has come then it won't come. And so the bloodletting continues, as we enjoy, in some twisted way, being, again, the talk of the world.

You wouldn't mind, but S&P weren't even suggesting another bubble. They were suggesting we would scrape along the bottom for years to come. But even that was too cheerful. We were much more comfortable to fall into the loving arms of our own Dr Doom, Morgan Kelly, yesterday.

Kelly told us a few things that we had all half suspected, like that Patrick Honohan pulled the rug from under Brian Lenihan's negotiating position and sold us out; that we would have been much better off with just the IMF; and that this bailout will kill us. Now that's the kind of soothing talk we understand.

But of course, even though Kelly suggested a few simple remedies, we won't do anything as crazy as listen to him. We will just wallow in the part of his message that says, "We're all doomed". It's almost as if we've learnt nothing about the dangers of our herd mentality. Except this time we're a herd of lemmings.

Sunday Independent