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We are the sheep to their carnivores

'Trichet insists decision will not hurt Ireland' said the headline in the Irish Times the day after the ECB interest rate increase last Thursday.

There seems to be a growing standing army of EU fatcats on about €500,000 a year who are quite phlegmatic about other people's pain, ours in this instance.

In fact, they even maintain that it's good for us -- a little bit of suffering -- especially when they would have us believe that we brought it on ourselves.

If you are in the trenches, it would surely be a psychological help if a few of the brass joined you there even for a little while, but we all understand there's no chance of that happening.

Siegfried Sassoon's First World War poem, The General gets uncompromisingly to the point with the bitter lines:

'Good-morning, good-morning!' the General said

When we met him last week on our way to the line.

Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead.

And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.'

We could be compared to a cancer patient undergoing harrowing chemotherapy treatment, with Trichet, Rehn, and Barroso around the bed reassuring us with the emollient words: "Keep going. You'll be just fine."

Anticipating the ECB increase, last week's issue of The Economist said: "In Germany, a small rise in interest rates will barely scratch the economy. In Greece and Ireland, as they push through austerity programmes, it will feel as if Pelion is being piled on Ossa."

For those of us who didn't know, it seems that when the giants Otus and Ephialtes attempted to storm Olympus, they piled Mount Pelion upon Mount Ossa.

Although Jean Claude 'Ephialtes' Trichet didn't say so unequivocally last week, more rate rises are on the way and, according to The Economist; the bailing out of Greece, Ireland and Portugal makes "the ECB all the keener to reaffirm its credential as a doughty inflation-fighter by brooking no delay in raising interest rates".

Trichet is due to retire in October, possibly to be replaced by Italy's Mario 'Otus' Draghi. It is stating the bleedin' obvious to say that the successful candidate will have to take the Germanic line on anything that even hints of inflationary laxity.

So here we are again, screwed on the German monetarist altar and its worshippers' obsession with inflation.

And, like Auden's Tyrant ('He knew human folly like the back of his hand'), inflation zealots know the weaknesses in the psyche of a subject people, and that our ingrained Jansenist guilt will unconsciously persuade us to blame ourselves for our misfortunes.

We have even some of our own eminent eurocrats telling us "don't burn bondholders. We have to stick with it. It's our own doing".

It's not that we lack the stoicism or fortitude to endure a tough measure of hardship, but that we feel helpless, trussed up in a Teutonic straitjacket with no say at all in our own affairs.

In his RTE news report on the first quarter cost of €3bn for Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide, David Murphy spooked the whole country by telling us that this would go on for nine years.

It's the feeling of impotence, I think, that gets to us more than anything else.

Brian Lenihan knows well what he's getting at when he repeats his daily mantra "they're

following our policies". What he's saying really is "this lot

are no better than we were".

The Who in Won't Get Fooled Again put it more eloquently: 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,' ran the lyrics. We know that feeling all too well.

There is a growing belief that when the new Government got into power, it quickly discarded its radicalism of the hustings, brought in a programme for government that nobody had actually voted for, and once inside the corridors of power in Frankfurt-Brussels, became more Europhile than even Pat Cox.

Unless Micheal Martin goes radical, Sinn Fein will corner the market for euro-scepticism in the 31st Dail and will get the benefit of it.

During the Second World War, Churchill called the Germans 'carnivorous sheep', with justification at the time. But things have changed since then to the point where, today, they're the carnivores and we're the sheep.

At last some cracks are beginning to appear in the monolithic Teutonic facade.

Last week, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that Berlin was being disingenuous in factoring out the culpability of German banks, particularly State-owned, in the Irish financial crisis.

"Ireland could well have gotten away if Brian Cowen had said 'we will save Irish banks but English banks and German banks are not our problem'."

German economic professor Henrik Enderlein said: "It's clear German state-owned banks are a key issue in the [Irish] problem. But if this got out into the open we'd have a problem with five state governors and if the German federal system needed to become part of solving European difficulties, then we would have a real problem."

These conscientious and eminent Germans, speaking at a Berlin event last week, are integrationists, but they are concerned that the European project is no longer the achievement of a union of equals, but of a German-dominated economic and monetary union.

As Fischer put it: "Under the Europe-sceptic Angela Merkel, Germany has ditched its European vocation in favour of a blatant leadership claim of a European Germany in a German-influenced Europe."

Sunday Independent