Wednesday 23 October 2019

John Whelan: Bruton's austerity potshot is merely propaganda for bankers

Former Taoiseach far removed from reality for ordinary citizens, and always has been

John Whelan

The reactionary forces are about their dirty work in style. Never ones to waste a good crisis they realise that now is the time to press home their advantage on the hard-pressed populace and grind them into gratification. It is the "let them eat cake" austerity mantra of our time.

Who better to lead the charge than fat-cat extraordinaire John Bruton? The holier-than-thou former Taoiseach Bruton has a hard neck of course, but he also has form in this area. He has never been attached to the reality of ordinary people's circumstances in his life.

On this occasion, no doubt, Bruton's message that we all should stop whingeing, give up our old sins, tighten our belts and suck up the austerity, as it's good for us, came directly as a result of divine intervention following his recent visit to Knock.

We shouldn't be at all surprised by Bruton's attempt to chastise the nation into accepting its austerity rations – this is the man who lacked common sense or social savvy and brought down a government by putting VAT on children's shoes in January 1982.

What is surprising is that he should feel sufficiently smug to take a cut at President Michael D Higgins. Michael D, by stark contrast with Bruton and his ilk, has the pulse of the people and the welfare of our country and society at heart.

Bruton, on the other hand, is getting well paid to bat for his big-shot banker friends in the IFSC and elsewhere – the likes of Richie Boucher who are struggling on €840,000 a year. Other bank bosses were out this week also, crying that they were losing their best men due to the €500,000 salary cap.

Bruton's attack on President Higgins is neither harmless nor haphazard. Bruton's intervention in this regard is serious, if not sinister, and should not be taken lightly. There is nothing casual or harmless about it.

It is part of the wealthy establishment and financial services sector propaganda and push-back which has been under way for some weeks now. Bruton is not trying to win over public opinion or the hearts and minds of the media – he is bringing pressure to bear on the Government of the day, the decision-makers, the policy-makers – and make no mistake he still has friends in high places.

Bruton has attempted to undermine the credibility and intellectual authority of President Higgins not because he cares one whit about you or anyone else, but because he is a hired gun, wading in to protect the vested interests of his big-shot banking buddies who have so far gotten away scot free for bringing the country to its knees.

Bruton himself is one of an elite breed of politicians who managed to ride off into the sunset with his saddle bags full of a €140,000 pension, which you are footing the bill for, while he peddles his austerity wares.

Be under no illusion, John Bruton was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never known the trauma of losing his job; the fear of losing his home; the need for a disability allowance, home help or the children's allowance to come in so as to help pay a few bills. He is so detached from reality he is dangerous and even more dangerous becasue he is influential.

Bruton has had the nerve to go so far as to characterise President Higgins's position on austerity as immoral, socially unjust and not socialist. This coming from a man who is paid a massive salary to lobby for the financial services sector which is into the taxpayer for a staggering €64bn – now that's socialist!

Bruton demanded that we all should tighten our belts further. He went on to say that there is too much regulation in the banking sector and it needs to be loosened. Well, one of the last guys to claim that was Charles J Haughey – so perhaps President Higgins is blessed in his opponents and perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies that Labour are in government and that Bruton himself is not Taoiseach today.

John Whelan is a Labour Party senator.

Irish Independent

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