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Jody Corcoran: The issue is not who caused the mess but who is paying

It was not what the Taoiseach said, but where, or rather, to whom, he said it that seems to be the problem. He should have said to us what he said to the bankers in Davos -- that we went mad borrowing; and he should have said to the bankers in Davos what he said to us -- that bankers, regulators and politicians have a huge responsibility to bear.



In that respect, then, Enda Kenny can be faulted for trying to have it both ways. That's politicians for you. But that does not make him any less right in what he said.

He was right in his address to the nation when he said to people: "You are not responsible for the crisis." He was also right in Davos last week when he said that people here participated in a system that spawned greed, went out of control and led to a spectacular crash.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: not everybody went mad borrowing beyond their means, nor is every banker responsible for the madness which took hold.

But that is not necessarily the issue. The real issue is -- who pays?

Mr Kenny would not be in a spot of bother now if, on both occasions, he had laid the blame where it belongs in order of choice: bankers, regulators, politicians and citizens. Taken together, his broad assessment that all of these groupings, which must include the people, are to blame for the mess we are now in is taken as read.

In many ways, we have already moved on from that; or at least we should have by now, although there are still many who would like to apportion blame elsewhere, anywhere, rather than to themselves. The issue as to who pays is, perhaps, at the root of the anger that Mr Kenny seems to have provoked, because, four years into the crisis, it is abundantly clear that those primarily and hugely responsible will not pay.

Not the bankers, who are, by and large, still wallowing in a culture of massive salaries, bonuses and perks.

Not the regulators, who have mostly retired on comfortable pensions; nor auditors or accountants for that matter, who still get to do what they should have done before.

Not the politicians, who are interchangeable; those who were directly responsible have mostly retired, also on comfortable pensions for life -- the only conveniences withdrawn are the support of a driver, a secretary or a mobile phone.

The problem is that only the people are paying -- many but not all of whom went mad borrowing -- but they are not necessarily responsible for the crisis.

The real cause of the anger, then, is not at what Enda Kenny said in Davos, or in his address to the nation, but the fact that he, his ministers, and well-padded advisers promised one thing before the election and delivered another. They promised the bankers would pay, and the regulators and all of the rest of them.

But quickly they have given up on even the pretence that the bankers will pay. The only issue now is over what period of time, and at what interest rate, the people must pay.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, held that there are two kinds of knowledge: sensible and logical. Sensible knowledge is based on sensation; logical knowledge on reason.

Over the past four years, we have become expert in logical knowledge: we are familiar with terms such as "bondholder" and "promissory note" and the meaning of them.

Indeed, most of us have developed an expertise in tracing the trajectory of the economic crisis, its causes and effects, and of the failures of those who caused it to deal with it.

But we are also familiar with the no less relevant, no less important, sensible -- or sensual -- knowledge that a great injustice is being perpetrated here and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.

Sunday Independent