Saturday 19 January 2019

No riots for me thanks - but I'll be waiting in the long grass

Sarah Carey

What do riots achieve except scaring away investors and tourists?

In 2008, it looked like the world was going to end. So I stashed some dollars under the mattress and bought a warm coat and good boots.

"Recession! Bring it on!" I figured the clothes would last five years, by which time the worst would be over. In case of calamity, I had hard currency. In the meantime I'd trade on my brave face and stoic disposition.

Five years on, my brave face is worn and the cash is gone. But thanks to good care and judicious mending, the coat and boots are holding their own. Which is just as well, because we're still in the thick of this crisis. When is it going to end?

One can cry out to the heavens, look in the tea leaves, or ask the cards. But last Tuesday I asked Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman.

He was in Trinity College, so I sprang at him as he took a breather after his speech to students. "What are Ireland's prospects for recovery?" I enquired. "Slow and painful" he responded. Sigh. The coat will hang in there: my complexion won't.

But there's no point giving up now. Stoicism is all we have.

Not everyone agrees. Left wing commentators regularly despair at the failure of the people to consider anger as a realistic option. Why aren't we out on the streets burning effigies of politicians and their Gospel Of Austerity?

Running out of patience with the decidedly docile masses, Fintan O'Toole recently accused emigrants of "fecking off". Last Sunday, using more measured language for prudish Americans in The New York Times, he complained that "other people protest in bad times; the Irish leave".

On behalf of my friends and family working abroad, I apologise to Mr O'Toole that they didn't hang around to stage the revolution. They've more important things to worry about -- like paying mortgages and putting food on the table for their families back home.

More learned types, like Professor Paul Krugman, expected that faced with appalling economic conditions, voters would panic and turn to the right or left, desperate for extreme political solutions to our financial woes.

But that hasn't happened either. Mick Wallace, Ming Flanagan and their inappropriate hair is about as radical as we've considered. Granted, the old-style Shinners carry the stench of past sins, but new style ones like Mary-Lou and Pearse Doherty aren't exactly flag bearers for a Marxist Revolution either.

No, here we are. Carrying our burdens but firmly in the centre. Why? Because we're not bloody stupid -- that's why.

I think most people get the bet the Government has made. Put on that national brave face and don't ruin our best prospect of recovery: investment.

What do riots achieve except to scare away investors and tourists? If protesting had a prospect of achieving something I'd be right in there. I watched Greece on the telly and thought, "Erm, no rioting for me today, thanks".

Anyway, if the much hoped for global growth doesn't materialise, then countries bigger than us are going back into crisis. Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain still verge on disaster -- and if the worst happens then there'll have to be a deal: for everyone, including us.

For now, fear of an even worse case scenario prevented politicians with their finger on the button from issuing threats of default and bondholder burning. I forgive them their caution: unlike columnists they have to take responsibility for decisions that could backfire.

But I'll never forgive the Eurocrats for forcing us to take the hit, and from that those commentators who rail against our conservatism can take some comfort.

It might look like the Irish have taken this lying down, but we've got long memories and long grass in these green fields.

We'll be waiting there. One day, the time will come when the besuited residents of Brussels will regret what they did to us.


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