Saturday 24 February 2018

How we got here is not a simple tale of friends, foes and a 'plucky little nation'

Racing on to the battlefield after all is lost is no substitute for the real thing, writes Marc Coleman

'WE serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland." Stories of betrayal by the European Central Bank last weekend brought this great quotation to mind. At the same time patriotic and cynical, it's an answer to those who think that Irishmen have any business serving the interests of Britain or Germany. Suspicious of outsiders, it was the old Sinn Fein party's call for Ireland's leaders to always look after number one.

But patriotism comes at a price: Tempting though Brian Lenihan's "betrayal" theory is, it ignores that you can't have a Strongbow without a Dermot McMurrough: Between 2004 and 2007 the old Sinn Fein ideals of an independent Ireland were laid low by Me Feinism: An institutionalised binge of irresponsible spending that has tethered us to new masters by way of an annual €16bn borrowing requirement. As John Bruton reminded us this week, you can't burn bondholders when your government is going to them looking for large loans.

So though it might cause a rush of blood to the head, the 'plucky little nation' story isn't as simple as it sounds. The 'November criminal stab-in-the-back' narrative is also dodgy, having as it does a rather unfortunate pedigree in European history -- one that EU institutions were established, incidentally, to ensure never reoccurred. And as France, Holland and Belgium are discovering, once out of the bottle, that particular genie is very hard to put back in.

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