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Andrew Lynch: So, Mr Cowen -- here's why aren't dancing in the streets

Crisis? What crisis? Brian Cowen's claim that the media should stop being so negative and try to cheer up the nation instead probably makes perfect sense from his vantage point in Government Buildings.

For virtually everybody else, however, it's a ludicrous notion that suggests the Taoiseach is even more out of touch than we thought -- and confirms that one of the few things that might actually put the country in a better mood would be a change of leadership at the top.

Cowen's complaint about "pervasive negativity" from journalists is uncomfortably reminiscent of Bertie Ahern's infamous outburst of 2007, when he urged people who talked down the economy to go off and commit suicide.

In fact, as we've since discovered to our cost, a little more negativity back then would have saved us all a lot of heartache. While the alarm bells should have been ringing, the Government continued to splurge money as if the Celtic Tiger was immortal -- and the Minister for Finance who loosened the purse strings was a man from Offaly with an unflattering nickname and no time for sceptics.



Chilling

With the party apparently in full swing, it became an official heresy to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this might not be the first boom in history to end without a bust.

At the MacGill summer school this week, the Friends First economist Jim Power told a chilling story about what happened to him when he dared to criticise Government policies 18 months ago. His employers were contacted by the Department of Finance, who were just as annoyed about his "pervasive negativity" as Cowen is about the media today.

Power believes that the Department was trying to get him sacked. They claim it was simply to find out if he was speaking in a personal capacity. Either way, the notion of a Government body trying to lean on a commercial sector employee is like something out of Stalinist Russia.

Since Brian Cowen apparently can't understand why people aren't dancing in the streets this summer, here are a few little reminders. Unemployment has passed the 450,000 mark, with even jobs at McDonald's attracting thousands of CVs from depressed university graduates. Interest rates are set to increase, putting even more pressure on the 250,000 households in negative equity. The banking scandal rumbles on, the latest public insult being the news that Anglo Irish is planning to change its name in a major rebranding exercise that will create another six-figure bill for the taxpayers who bailed it out.

A recent spate of gangland shootings suggests that the Government's emergency crime legislation is having a limited impact at best. The HSE's most recent screw-ups confirm that it cannot even carry out its most basic function of protecting vulnerable children.

Our national suicide rate is up by 25pc, public faith in the political system is so low that cabinet minister Noel Dempsey says it is "doomed" without reform, and even the weather is getting worse -- and while we can't blame the Government for that, its miserable response to last year's flooding and this year's cold snap should make us all fearful about the prospect of more extreme climate change.



Grumpy

If Brian Cowen thinks we should ignore all this and start rejoicing about a mildly positive message from an international credit rating agency, then frankly he has a nerve -- and not just because his own grumpy demeanour has done nothing to raise national morale.

The reality is that post-boom Ireland feels a bit like a country that's just been beaten in war. Of course we've had recessions before -- but coming after so many years of plenty, this one represents the biggest psychological shock to hit us since the Great Famine itself.

The media will be happy to report some good news about the economy, just as soon as the Government manages to generate any. In the meantime, Cowen should lay off the amateur psychology lectures -- and come up with a few more practical solutions instead.


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