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The wages of sin is political death

IF a house divided cannot stand, what chance does a nation, or a continent for that matter, have? The Government, last week, made much of its first 100 days in office but no amount of spin can disguise the fact that we are a society, following the collapse of our political and social institutions, increasingly at each other's throats.

We are also a nation surrounded by hostile foreign powers in a remarkably similar state. Last week, yet another one of our long list of new foreign rulers, Herman van Rompuy, appeared to come bearing the gift of an interest rate decrease and the good wishes of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Mr Kenny. Sadly, the amorality of the current EU crisis, which leaves the former Northern Ireland Peace Process looking like an exercise in transparency, means Mr Kenny should beware Belgian politicians bearing gifts lest they steal his treasure of the current corporation tax rate by stealth.

The Taoiseach would do well to realise, and quickly too, that even in modern politics, the wages of spin, in the long run, consist of political death. It is a lesson his Justice Minister and his strangely diminished Finance Minister also need to learn. Last week, as part of his Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide bonds demarche, which curiously enough led the news agenda on the anniversary of the Government's first 100 days in power, Michael Noonan claimed Ireland was not Greece. In fact, he and the Government are wrong -- and the bond markets know they are wrong.

When it comes to our shared plight, the superiority of the hedgehog who knows one big thing over the fox, who knows many small things, comes to mind. Ireland may be unlike the Greeks in thousands of little ways but we are, when it comes to the big-ticket issues, exactly the same. Both countries are being told by an EU that has surrendered to the self-interest of its largest nations to shoulder a burden of debt that is not sustainable.

We share other woes, too. For while the Irish are somewhat more moral in public, our system of governance is as rotten as that of Greece. Is there, for example, any other sane state within the developed world that must hold a constitutional referendum to force our judges to take their trotters out of the fiscal trough?

As Greece deals with a contracting economy, spiralling unemployment, and a nonsensical EU-led economic strategy that responds to bankruptcy by lending tormented countries ever more money than they cannot afford to pay back, it is time to realise that we are more like the Greeks than our elites would like us to believe.

Our greatest tragedy is that, like the outlying client states of any dying empire, be it Communist Russia or the Ottoman Turks, both countries are poised to become the first victims of the incapacities of our imperial masters. The most chilling event of the past week was the IMF warning that Europe was "playing with fire". Unfortunately, when it comes to the European tinderbox, the Greek child may get its fingers burnt first, but the flames will come lapping around our feet soon enough.

Europe in its current form is as divided and badly led as the old pre-Second World War League of Nations in 1937. Against a context such as this, the squabbles between Mr Kenny and Micheal Martin last week over the collapse of the former's special relationship with Europe, if indeed it ever existed, were truly Lilliputian. We may only be a Home Rule-style protectorate of the ECB, but our divided country deserves and needs a better response than the current feckless spin and sham-fighting.

Sunday Independent