IT OFTEN happens that when politicians start talking about an issue, the facts and figures are the first casualties. The raging debate on default is the latest such episode.
Much of the discourse has been dominated by pro-European fat cats on one side, who, given their six-figure salaries and pensions, are insulated from the harsh realities.
Their view is that the mess we are in is all our fault; that we should be good Europeans, and that all sorts of bad things would happen if we did default or didn't accept our higher taxes.
On the other side have been the default darlings, who have engaged in dangerous scaremongering, bandying around huge (and sometimes inaccurate) figures to state their case, while achieving their ultimate goal of self-promotion.
It is worth remembering the vested interests being represented by those shouting loudest. It is no surprise that some of the more prominent voices against defaulting are those who have done very well out of the European project. Jean Claude Trichet
Top of that list is Jean-Claude Trichet. The 68-year-old French central banker who is in charge of the European Central Bank has done more than most to hurt Ireland. Time and time again he has stopped our leaders doing what they should have to rescue Ireland, all to protect German and French banks.
Remember back to September 2008: the €350,000-a-year boss ordered then finance minister Brian Lenihan not to let Anglo Irish Bank fail, and look how much that has cost Irish taxpayers.
Last November, he then stopped us moving against bondholders during our €85bn bailout. Ten days ago, he left Michael Noonan swinging in the wind by failing to deliver on a promise of medium-term funding. Then last Thursday, he stuck the knife in again by jacking up interest rates in order to tackle inflation in mainland Germany.
Let's be clear: Trichet is no friend of Ireland.
Former Taoiseach John Bruton Bruton, the big Meath farmer turned former FG leader turned mouthpiece for the IFSC, who received a pension from the taxpayer of over €100,000 in 2009, is another of the "how dare you speak of default" brigade.
Bruton, who served as the EU's ambassador to the US between 2004 and 2009, has long been one of the staunchest defenders of the great European project. Why wouldn't he be, when he has been one of the big beneficiaries of the gravy train?
Recently, he wrote to Jose Manuel Barroso saying he was right when he said we Irish had been reckless and irresponsible. "You were right . . . to remind the Irish people of their recent policy failings," he wrote. "I agree the main responsibility does rest with Irish institutions, the Irish government, the Irish Central Bank, the Irish banks and the Irish individuals who borrowed irresponsibly."
When it comes to movers and shakers, they don't come bigger or more pompous than this. The Goldman Sachs chairman, senior counsel, former AG and serial board member of huge corporations is a committed Europhile.
He said burning senior bondholders is "inconceivable" and recently warned that the Irish are being too negative and that we should remain committed to the austerity programme.
I suppose it's easy to say that when you have €200m in the bank.
Jose Manuel Barroso
Here is another man who has done well out of Europe, given his €340,000 salary plus €100,000 in expenses per year as EU Commission President. Barroso, aged 55, recently let slip his true feelings toward Ireland when pushed by Joe Higgins. Barroso clearly felt the crash was the fault of reckless bankers in Ireland and that we should pay.
He claims to be a friend of Ireland, but said we must stick to our austerity programme and take our punishment on the chin. Surprisingly, however, last week the former Portuguese leader took on the role of EU good cop, saying Ireland needs to be given some assistance. I don't believe it for a second.
Former RTE journalist turned failed PD leadership candidate turned European Parliament President. A shameless federalist, Cox, aged 58, was elected President of European Movement, an international pro-European lobby association.
Cox, recently involved in advising Fine Gael, characterised the policy of default as being akin to the strategy of a suicide bomber -- threatening not only to injure others, but to eviscerate ourselves.
The EU's top official, earning just shy of €200,000, based on official documentation. She was in town last week to reaffirm the need for us to be good Europeans and to take our austerity medicine like good little Paddies. "Now Ireland needs Europe and Europe is there for Ireland. But people also expect just a little bit of personal investment in the whole thing," she said last week.
Most of the leading voices in the default camp have been some of the leading celebrity economists. Fronting the charge is self-publicist extraordinaire David McWilliams. Yes, the same David McWill-iams who promoted the idea of the bank guarantee, the same David McWilliams who exaggerated the details of the time Brian Lenihan called to his house, and yes, the same David McWilliams who used to claim he coined the phrase "Celtic Tiger".
McWilliams has been arguing for default, saying there are many tens of billions to be saved by doing so. Truth is, there isn't. At best, based on my calculations, we could save €8bn-€10bn.
Constantin Gurdgiev & others
Another leading light on the default side is Constantin Gurdgiev, the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) economist.
The Russian has made a name for himself, and his regular appearances on Vincent Browne's TV3 show give him the opportunity to hammer his point home. But the issue of default has been a recurring theme of the 31st Dail, with independent TDs Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly last week calling for a referendum.
Ross, a thorn in the side of establishment Ireland, has used the default issue as his platform for speaking time in the Dail so far. One feels that with the independents, it's not necessarily the detail that is important, merely the fact they are speaking at all.