Tuesday 11 December 2018

Kenny bows down before his masters

There is no unifying 'we' – it's them and us, a class divide, and we're being screwed, writes Gene Kerrigan

LAST week, Enda Kenny effectively quit as Taoiseach. When the Anglo recordings surfaced and the giggles of gobshite Irish bankers reverberated across Europe, his duty as Taoiseach was clear. Instead, Mr Kenny instinctively acted not as Taoiseach, but as leader of Fine Gael. And as leader of the party that has for two years systematically depressed the economy on instructions from Frankfurt, his response was automatic. He bowed towards the Germans and attacked Fianna Fail.

Now, some of us have no problem with sticking it to Fianna Fail. We were questioning the bank guarantee even as Mr Kenny and his party lined up to support it. But there were bigger things at stake last week than the petty rivalries of two of the parties that have made this country what it is today.

Bigger things at stake, too, than an inquiry into the banking collapse. Everyone wants an inquiry – and it's important that we know exactly what happened – but if those Anglo recordings tell us anything, they tell us we're under attack. And – very late in the day – we need to begin defending ourselves.

First, let's define the term "we".

When Mr Kenny and his chums use it, they mean all of us who are citizens – because "we" are "all in this together". But we're patently not. Let's take someone not quite at random – John Bruton, who is forever popping up to tell us how to behave. I'm sure John is on a good salary from his job as a mouthpiece for the banking business. He doesn't need the €140,000-a-year public pension he's been entitled to since he quit the Dail, but he takes it anyway. And he doesn't blush when he lectures the rest of us on the need for austerity.

The country is crawling with that sort. Well-padded individuals in positions of influence; politicians on pensions that far exceed the salaries most of us couldn't even dream of; bankers and developers who "lost everything" but somehow continue to live the high life.

The policies of the Cowen and Kenny governments have created a massive bill for this crisis. The struggle, since 2008, has been to determine who picks up that bill. And there's no single "we" – there are conflicting interests at work.

The "we" I'm concerned with are those of us who worked hard for decades, didn't dodge our taxes, didn't gamble or spend recklessly – and who have had our income cut and services savaged. The "we'" who face another decade of austerity and retirement on the kind of depleted pension that won't allow us visit our children and grandchildren who have to go into exile to find work.

We are under attack. And have been since long before the banking collapse. The Anglo recordings disclosed in the Irish Independent and today in the Sunday Independent show our enemies at work. Faced with the collapse of their empire, they sought patsies on to whom they could unload the debt. Various other interests had platoons of lawyers and tax consultants ensuring they didn't get stuck with the bill. And since then, we've been the patsies.

They assumed – correctly – that if they continued to swagger and shout, they'd get their way with the politicians and civil servants. This country has been in thrall to the cult of the Gods of Business. People like David Drumm were who we should admire and imitate – we knew that because the politicians and the media were never done telling us.

Drumm, no one can deny, is a bona fide gobshite, spoofer and massive incompetent, who drove his own business into the ground. When we heard, back in those reckless days of 2007, that he was on a salary of €956,000, with a bonus of €2m, some of us took it as evidence of societal madness. Others – many of them now claiming to be "shocked" by the recordings – told us that if those lads didn't get the big bucks, they'd take their unique talent elsewhere and the Celtic Tiger would be in trouble.

Their unique talent, it turned out, was the ability to borrow money from foreign bankers who were hysterically thrusting it at them and then to lend it to developers busily creating a property bubble.

David Drumm and his type were merely crucial cogs in a business class hyped up in a frenzy of greed – a whole lot of people hysterically looking to make money as the credit and property bubble grew ever bigger. And their cheerleaders in politics and the media urged them on.

The politicians and civil servants believed in these Gods of Business. These ass-kicking buccaneers were what they wished they could be. They were in awe of them, they deferred to them. These people backed one another up, told each other – and us – how brilliant they were.

What's most significant is that nothing has changed. At every crucial step along the way, our enemies have relied on – and received – the co-operation and the class solidarity of the politicians. The bank guarantee, the decision to pay the debts of the bankers to the bondholders. The Geithner moment, when twenty billion was added to our debts and neither Enda Kenny nor Michael Noonan had the guts – face to face with both Barack Obama and Tim Geithner – to defend our interests.

If there is what Mr Kenny calls an "axis of collusion", he is every bit as much a part of it as Brian Cowen ever was.

The attacks, by our enemies and their cronies and colluders, haven't stopped. There has been, and continues to be, a massive shift of debt and resources. Debt piled on to our shoulders and resources stolen from us that we have long paid for in taxes. From that first Budget in 2008, we were losing and we're losing still. Every cut in our income, every cut in public services, is part of that massive shift of debt and resources.

Last week, we were told that the recordings showed that the bankers held the rest of us in contempt.

True – but they weren't the only ones. Anyone who didn't buy into the cult of the Gods of Business was held in contempt by those who did.

And even as Enda Kenny and his followers badmouthed Drumm and the other gobshites, they were defending others of their class. When Angela Merkel expressed her anger, Mr Kenny rushed to assure the Germans that these were rogue bankers. We are assured that today's bankers are somehow different. They have become part of the "we" – they are with us, the fairytale suggests, acting in our interests.

It's clear that Kenny sees the purported inquiry into the bank collapse merely as a means of mauling Fianna Fail – and using our anger to do it.

Last week, one of the Ballyhea protesters, Fiona FitzPatrick, said on Twitter: "I don't want to argue whose fault it was. I know whose fault it wasn't. And those are the people paying the price."

We need to step outside the old habits. If we're unable to escape our Tweedle Fail and Tweedle Gael past, we will be doomed to repeat it – again and again.

Irish Independent

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