We’re forced to do silly things out of desperation, things that other nations don’t have to resort to. For instance, we’ve the lowest corporate tax rate in Europe at 12.5 per cent. Sarkozy recently excoriated us for this. But we use it as an incentive to bait the multi-nationals. We’ve no other choice. Why else would the big companies bother locating here? If the labour market is cheaper elsewhere then we have to compete somehow, we’re told. We lure them in by offering them tax shelters. We even set aside developed estates for them and we build their factories when they come, with the Taoiseach on hand to cut the ribbons. Their overheads remain very low and then we allow them to siphon all their profits out of the country.
Talk about being recolonized by self-imposed deference, but Ireland is a dependent economy and does what it must do to survive.??There are other options, of course. There’s the old reliable one of emigration. 100,000 people will leave Ireland this year alone, and the numbers are rising, again. That’s one way of solving unemployment, but it’s not completely or satisfactorily solving our problem. Our crisis. As of this month, the CSO (Central Statistics Office) quotes the unemployment rate at 14.1 per cent, that’s over 400,000 people out of work. Those people will be on the dole or getting some version of welfare, which starts at €197 per week and rises according to number of dependents.??The CSO’s figures are frightening. They say that of the over 800,000 mortgages in the country, worth €120 billion, 40,000 are in arrears and that figure will rise to 70,000 in the coming year: the banks will be forced to repossess these houses. But the banks don’t want all that property. What good is it to them? They especially don’t want to be shackled with toxic real estate when so many are already in negative equity. Every town and village in the country sports its token ghost estate, the relic of the boom years, a reminder of the savage greed that swiftly plunged us into ruin. More on that in a bit.
The ESB [Electricity Supply Board is shutting off service to 50 homes per month for non-payment of bills.??Health Care in Ireland is totally banjaxed: My father who is 80 spent three nights on a trolley in a hallway last year because there were no beds available. He is no longer able to regulate his body temperature because he suffers from leukemia and other complications, so he nearly shivered to death in the one place he went to for care. My sister is a doctor but she could do nothing. Our Health Care system was dismantled and then rebuilt in order to centralize it, hospitals were closed all over the country and acute services scaled back or abandoned altogether. A moratorium on hiring nurses and doctors was instituted and all administrative staff downsized.
?The Minister for Health who oversaw this fiasco, Mary Harney, has just resigned her ministerial post and will get a lump sum of €310,000 plus a pension when she leaves office. We like to reward incompetence in Ireland. Education isn’t faring any better: we dumb down our students and prepare them for a life of servitude and passivity. A moratorium has also been placed on the hiring of new teachers, a freeze more like, and funding has been withdrawn from special needs projects. Almost every other state run body is experiencing the same level of incompetence, and yet the nation is expected to grow its economy enough to pay its debts and still balance its books.??
It’s not helpful to speak about the criminal behavior that got our country into this debacle. We’re not allowed to focus on the deranged and delusional freak-show that was the hybrid known as the Celtic Tiger. Our attention is quickly diverted if we mention how local councils all over the country used their zoning powers to wheedle dirty money from developers (this being their only way to raise money) in order to line the pockets of avaricious landowners and bankers. Many of these useless developments were erected on flood plains or dangerously unsuitable terrain. It didn’t matter so long as the bonanza was in full tilt. ??We’re supposed to forget that the bankers were throwing money at these developers and builders, money they didn’t have, and never had, money they were borrowing from German savers anxious to invest their surplus. Nobody thought for one second any of this would have to be repaid.
Meanwhile, a select group were living the high life, like oil barons or movie stars jetting here and there, flying their private planes and helicopters all over the country to race meetings and golf tournaments and toddler birthday parties. And when they ran out of suitable sump holes in Ireland they spread their good cheer abroad. Over €1,265 billion was invested by Irish citizens abroad in 2009. One shouldn’t mention that the bankers were in the pockets of the builders, who were in the pockets of the developers, who were in the pockets of the politicians and that the resulting circle jerk which met in secret every few days, regular as clockwork, had a grand old wanking session. It is downright begrudgery to allude to the financial regulator or the governor of the Central Bank or to ask how they could sleep so soundly through the nightmare that was the rape of their country.??
But the house of cards was destined to collapse and when it eventually did we all know what happened next. It’s yesterday’s news now: the good old boys in the government provided all the safety nets their hand-shandy buddies needed, bailouts, emergency loans, triage funding, congratulatory pats on the ass and golden mickey shakes when they fled the country. It has emerged that our Taoiseach personally guaranteed the odious thugs at Anglo and used NTMA money [resources reserved by Treasury Management for the daily running of the country], to infuse their defunct and toxic bank with the exchequer ‘s funds. The government then nationalized those broken banks, claimed their problems were systemic and shackled the tax-payer with their very private and self-inflicted debt.??
The banks debts has now become our sovereign debts, just as NAMA nationalized all the ghost estates and turned the inflated and non-buyable property over to the citizens, as if they’d acquired a new portfolio. Merrill-Lynch was solicited for its counsel prior to the fiasco and advised against a blanket bank guarantee.?That didn’t matter, cronies is cronies, the old boys club needed bailing and the subservient and pliant peasantry could be directed to cough and pay up.
That’s what we do so well in Ireland – we rant and rave, we purge and we vent the pent, we get sloshed or high, then we return home in the early hours with our dignity between our legs, all limp and shriveled up, poxed and ridden, and we bend the deferential knee, bare our arses for the ritualistic buggery and we thank our sado-masochistic sodomites for giving us a good hammering. We did it for 800 years. It’s in our blood. And when the Brits left, we installed the church as sodomite-in-chief, just in case we might think ourselves free, self-determining, and independent. We daren’t ask or hold anyone accountable. What’s the use when the slick politicians will only lie and cheat their way out of culpability anyway? We’ll shoulder the burden and we’ll always be ready with the Vaseline.??
Besides, our politicians are incorrigible, especially the fuckheads in Fianna Fáil, who’ve been in power for most of our republic’s history. They’ve sold our future into slavery, thrown away our sovereignty, reduced a nation to penury, dismantled an infrastructure that was the envy of the civilized world, broken every institution, shown contempt for the people and utterly disgraced our country. They’ve said to our neighbours across the pond, ‘you were right all along; we were incapable of governing ourselves. We tried and look at the mess we made of things.’ Instead of focusing on the emergency state we now find ourselves in with mass emigration, mass unemployment, a colossal and unmanageable debt, inflation rising and a very bleak future in store, what do these fuckers do? They propose patriotism for the rest of us and entitlement for themselves: we are expected to live on fresh air as they feather their own nests. I can only imagine if a man like Dan Breen were alive today to see what has been made of his sacrifice.??
Instead of serving the people, as they were elected to do, these fools turn inward and bicker amongst themselves; their only public statements now are pontifications about their own virtues and to engage in cynical electioneering. Instead of working together, all of them, to save the country they destroyed, they resort to internecine feuds, screaming and yelling at one another across the floor of the Dáil chamber, tearing one another asunder, raising votes of no confidence in their own leader, voting in and out that leader, threatening to resign, and then resigning [six cabinet ministers resigned their posts last week], but not before receiving their handsome Ex Gratia lump sums and, rather than face the truth of his political demise, the leader who has lost half his cabinet persists in the delusion that he can still run the country with a mandate, he refuses to step down or call an election, but then finally he agrees to resign as the leader of his party while remaining as Taoiseach.
Such grotesque shenanigans have robbed the people of any confidence they might still have had in the political process. People are pissed off, royally pissed off, not that they will do anything about it.?Our country is a joke, a farce. We’re a disgrace. ??Our politicians are gombeen men and women. They’re still only out for number one. While the country is being flushed down into the sewer and the citizenry is drowning in tidal waves of slurry, these clueless, incompetent and shameless bastards are only worried only about whether their political party will survive, whether this or that machination is good for the party, whether the party will be strengthened or weakened going in to the next general election.
It’s all a load of tripe. They don’t care about the people. They’ve grown so cynical and greedy, with their Mercs and perks, their expense accounts and their lump sums and pensions, their endless bailouts and their profligate sense of entitlement that the people don’t even compute in their perfidious calculus. It’s all about themselves, their self-interest, their advancement, their self-aggrandizement.
They will never want for anything again, so it’s easy for them to be cavalier about austerity and to bandy about the patriotic buzz words. They’re secure and protected. And we’re the mindless cretins who have protected them. Ireland is broken and on a deathward spiral. The country’s in a shambles and why wouldn’t it be when Biffo’s is the ugly mug we present to the world. If it’s true people get the representatives they deserve, then we Irish aren’t worth a bucketful of rabid mongrel’s piss.
DANIEL CRAWFORD (aka Rdan) owns and manages the Angry Bear blog. where this essay originally appeared.