| 14.5°C Dublin

Remember, we are a people -- not just an economy

•Mine is a forlorn cry for a return to our senses.

Since 1957, Europe has been engaged in a project to maintain peace in a region that, little more than two decades previously, sparked a World War that killed 45 million people. Its aim was peace and stability, and that is as precious now as it was then.

That is why it is so deeply regrettable that the 'Merkozy' axis is behaving in such a dictatorial way. Their dogged pursuit of totalitarian capitalism will have catastrophic consequences.

They have already dismissed two governments, in Greece and Italy. There are 17 members of the eurozone, but only the Merkozy voice can be heard.

The 27 members of the EU comprise much more than an economic entity. If all they now value is economic co-operation, then it has sold its soul -- and men like Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl would be deeply ashamed of what we have become.

Back home, I would also ask people to remember how this country came to be in the mess it is. As a nation, we were also sold out by Fianna Fail. The bank guarantee was a craven act of submission, and we will pay for it for generations. The present Government is already being lashed to the bone by people who refuse to see the mess they inherited.

No one said there could be a quick fix. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is doing his best in a desperate time. Do not dare to presume that there is a guarantee of success for all the effort.

Our economy went over a cliff as Cowen and Lenihan Inc slept at the wheel. But I noted with alarm yesterday that the latest opinion poll indicated there could still be a pulse in the body politic for the Soldiers of Destiny who toyed so ruinously with the future of our people. While Fine Gael is at 32pc, Fianna Fail is up four points to 18pc, and Labour has lost two, down to 15pc.

As a nation, now is not the time to develop goldfish memories. To hear Micheal Martin berating the Coalition is akin to hearing the histrionics of a bawling infant who has thrown his rattle out of the pram scolding his busy parent for not picking it up with alacrity. And perhaps this is unfair to infants, for Mr Martin and his colleagues may as well have been lobbing hand-grenades instead of rattles when you see the bill for the damage. They would seek to seal off the past with a dismissive: "We are where we are." We are, Mr Martin, where you and your cohort have left us.

Today, we have no choice but to recognise that our fate is now in the hands of the comptrollers in the EU. That is where the game will be won or lost, so we must now work with might and main to get the best we can from a bad situation.

We need €56m a day from Europe to keep afloat. Europe is the only source for this funding. We must recognise where we are, and who brought us here -- and become much more effective in making our presence felt.

Today, we will be hit again with the Budget, but we will not fall to our knees because that would be the ultimate betrayal of all who have battled before us. Remember, we are a people, not just an economy. Now is not the time to walk away from the EU, but that day may soon be dawning. Yes, we have lost fiscal independence, but by resurrecting our fiery national spirit we can reclaim our pride and dignity. What ever happened to the courage of the fighting Irish ? Find that and the rest will follow. JJ O'Brien

Clifden, Co Galway

Irish Independent