Lost in the maelstrom


IMF nations
Image via Wikipedia

This is today’s editorial from the paper, and hopefully most of it still stands. Things are just moving too fast for print at the moment. I was on Sean Moncrieff’s show on Newstalk today, talking about this and other issues.

 

Writing almost anything for printing the following day is rather foolish at the moment, because the swirl of information, misinformation, half-truths and plain old lies surrounding the body politic at the moment means that any printed information will be part of the maelstrom within seconds, and could be proven wrong just as quickly.

The past week has been momentous for the country and for every citizen, and you could have been forgiven for thinking the country was going to sink into the Atlantic at any time, leaving in its wake mythical tales of an Atlantis-like Tigerland featuring streets paved with gold and beautiful people drinking café lattes. Especially if you were watching Channel 4 News, which had a panic-inducing graphic of Ireland actually subsiding into the Atlantic.

The IMF is here. Weirdly, its presence is getting a very mixed reaction. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth about our sovereignty has made way for a sort of exhausted, relieved resignation among the majority of the population.

Many of us accept that we ceded much of our economic sovereignty when we joined the EEC in 1973. Some believe that this has finally been proven a disaster – using the argument that we are a sacrificial lamb to the markets, designed to save the euro.

Personally, I still believe our membership of the EU is a broad positive, and that it has contributed much to both our society and our economy. Our current difficulties are our own fault, although some of the pain we will take will be in order to save the euro. Although I may be a cynic, I can’t help thinking that the presence of an objective voice in Irish politics might make for fairer policies, within the context of a free market ethos.

Much of our problem is purely political; confirming the theory held by political analysts like Elaine Byrne (www.elaine.ie) that this is where the problem began, and where it must be tackled.

You get what you vote for, and we have spent years voting about petty local grievances, special and local interest groups, and our own pockets. The ability of a single TD to hold the country to ransom (hello, Jackie Healy Rae) over petty local issues and the lack of any ‘bigger picture’ thinking whatsoever, is at the core of much of the misfortune now befalling us. For our politicians to be mature, unselfish and farsighted, we must be too.

Next year all of us who still have jobs will be paying more tax. Yesterday, people on the minimum wage found out they will be earning €40 less per week. We learned that almost 25,000 public sector jobs are to be cut by 2014, and water and property taxes will be introduced.

Most of these items have been flagged for months now, and few are surprising. Some should have been introduced years ago – we have a relatively low rate of income tax, and both property and water taxes are important revenue raising measures for local authorities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting them; that money, too, will be going into the black hole of our banks.

The UK played host to the IMF in the late 1970s, and had a huge boom shortly after, even if that gave rise to Thatcherism.

It might look like it, but IMF intervention in itself is not the end of the world. Hopefully, the plan announced yesterday will be some kind of reassurance both to the terrified citizens of this country and to our international partners, and will be a first step out of the maelstrom.

 

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