Saturday 23 November 2019

John Drennan: Ray of light but Rainbow must heed three wise men

Angry radical voices ought to be a wake-up call for our supine Government, writes John Drennan

So could it be that finally out of our recessionary fugue some shards of light are coming? Our elite may still be dealing with the great Irish disruption like the hare that hides, ears flattened against the grass, praying that the hunting pack of the ECB will not see it.

However, the contributions of three unexpected sources suggest we are beginning to experience a form of national renewal. And, better still, the voice that is articulating such strange new sentiments is an angry radical one.

The first sparks were kindled by that rarest of creatures known as "the good civil servant". Robert Pye's polemic against the intellectual venality of the mandarin classes, who suppressed dissenting voices to protect the 'special relationship' they built, increment by increment, with their political masters, confirmed our deepest suspicions.

The Irish public have been stabbed by a cosy cartel who, when their incompetence was exposed by the world markets, told the ECB to go rape the nation in whatever way it pleased... so long as they kept their terms and conditions.

In a nation whose capacity for outrage has been dulled by two decades of affable pragmatism there was almost something of Thomas Davis's romantic nationalism about Pye's attack on our so easily accepted status as the new PIGS of Europe.

Mr Pye's prescient warning that most PIGS end up having their throats slit quickly found an ally in Morgan Kelly's apocalyptic 'big bang' economic thesis.

Whatever about the man's economics it is hard to deny the accuracy of his critique of a political and civil service-led strategy where Ireland lies stricken on the side of the road like an indigent beggar looking for pity.

The fiasco surrounding the ongoing failure of Enda Kenny to secure an interest rate cut from "Dear Angela" is just the latest example of how, in Europe, we are behaving like the dog that rolls over and shows its belly before the fight begins.

This was, in the past, a strategy that was successful if you wanted to appease a few domestic trade union beards. But, like Mr Pye's unfortunate PIGS, when you are dealing with wolves like Jean-Claude Junker who believes EU policy should be discussed in 'secret dark debates', the hopeful dog that rolls over on its back gets its throat slit.

Mr Kelly is certainly not for rolling over for there were almost trace elements of the passion of Pearse in his rise up and fight 'em-style appeal to national pride.

Before everyone gets too excited it should, of course, be said that Mr Kelly's 'big-bang' default theory is not a perfect counsel. There would certainly be a grand moment of national catharsis if we were to indulge in the banking equivalent of the Boston Tea Party but the concerns of the more cautious economic creationists that Mr Kelly is like one of those jihad-loving economic prophets who spend far too much time conversing with burning bushes are valid.

Should Ireland become a European pariah, a sort of Albania crossed with Craggy Island, Mr Kelly's popularity might not survive the ending of CAP, a default-led flight of the multi-nationals or the consequences that cutting public spending would have on the fragile main street.

Still Mr Kelly may have played a positive role, for any prosecuting counsel will tell you that success in rape cases is always more certain if the court is told the victim put up a vigorous resistance. Kelly's polemic may yet chime with the growing mood that we should be more like the Greeks who have been telling their IMF/EU Axis "partners" to 'f**k off with your memoranda'.

Ultimately the most surprising intervention came from the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan's devastating critique of the up to now "untold social harm' the banks" pointless enforcement of our bankruptcy laws was doing.

It is a measure of the disrepute the law has fallen into that the miracle of a legal figure expounding a moral vision was a source of consternation. Unsurprisingly, the claim by Mr Honohan that there needed to be debt forgiveness and his warning that the casual cruelty of our failed bankers was driving ordinary citizens to suicide also received a dusty welcome.

Pat Farrell, the acceptable face of Irish banking (and we believe you can trouser a lot of money if you're prepared to be the acceptable face of that lot!) was soon on the radio indulging in sleeveen sentiments about how Mr Honohan was being somewhat "emotive".

We are indeed living in changed times when quasi-judicial figures use 'inflammatory language' about injustice. Sadly, the bad news for Pat the bankers' sleeveen is that we may actually be starting to enter a new space for, in a classic example of how statements from the bench do count, our Reverend Mother of a Tanaiste and Alan Shatter jumped like a pair of skinned frogs who had seen a salt cellar approaching, and made it clear reform was on the way.

Of course, even amidst this burgeoning renaissance there are a number of alarming lacunae.

The most worrying, though not at all surprising, absentee from our new national roll call of straight-talkers is our political classes who were obsessed last week with fripperies such as Mr Kenny's jobs initiative which appears to believe greater numbers of lollipop ladies will save the economy.

Morgan Kelly's 'big bang' theory of economics may be open to serious criticism but our Government's modest whimper was most acutely summarised by one businessman as resembling someone shouting "let me through, I'm an aromatherapist" at a motorway pile-up.

It would just about be unfair to say that, like the famous denouement of Animal Farm, there is no difference between the current

administration and their dysfunctional Green Party/Fianna Fail predecessors. But the attics, the schools and road-relief schemes were more like the sort of projects a Home Rule government would receive from their benevolent imperial masters to combat a famine.

That was the best of it too, for by the close of the week the attention of our political gadflies had moved on to the queen, Seanad nominations and handbags between old windbags like Pat Cox about who will become our next utterly irrelevant president.

The Government would be wise to be far less self-satisfied and realise the window of time where our failed State can be saved from bankruptcy is narrowing exponentially.

Our "cautious" Cabinet is becoming far too fond of "modest" initiatives. They need to understand, and swiftly too, that modesty is only "a stepping stone" away from supplication and we have had quite enough of that.

It is worrying that our dusty new Rainbow, which is becoming alarmingly peripheral to the real concerns of the people can, after such a short period in office, be so far off the pace of the game.

They, however, should be more concerned for if, like the old Home Rulers of 1916 who were overtaken by a motley crew of Fenian poets and shopkeepers, our dusty new Rainbow fails to connect with the national mood being articulated by our masters, "good civil servants" and academic economists, the chameleons of Sinn Fein are waiting in the lobby.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss