Muslim Community Lobby Ireland is an independent organization established 1st May 2007. Its motto is TO USE THE VOTE RIGHTLY AND TO RAISE THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AWARNESS WITH THEIR RIGHTS AND TO PROMOTE TOLERANCE AND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHER EXISTING GROUPS. لترشيد استعمال الصوت الانتخابي ولتوعية وتعريف المسلمين بحقوقهم في ايرلندا وان يعيشوا بتفهم للواقع وللجماعات الاخرى الموجودة على الساحة
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
They could have written the script themselves. Given the chance, they certainly would have written it. For our public representatives' talent for self-congratulation fully equals any praise we might get from an eminent individual -- or an influential organisation.
Trouble is, self-congratulation easily shades into self-delusion and has frequently done so in recent Irish political history, with catastrophic results.
Round about the same time that Mr Ban gave his hearers some momentary warmth and comfort, Taoiseach Brian Cowen addressed the Dail on the subject of our financial and economic crisis, with special reference to the latest report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF had some nice things to say about the Government's performance. They had some less agreeable things to say as well, but the Taoiseach did not mention them. Instead, he reverted to his "default position" -- criticism of the opposition parties.
Oh well, this is politics, specifically politics as practised in Leinster House. But did something more, and worse, than politics enter the reckoning here? Was there a tinge of that awful Irish capacity for self-delusion?
Let us stick for a moment with the IMF. It has long been unimpressed by Irish economic and fiscal policy. Its criticisms and warnings go back almost a decade. They cover Mr Cowen's own tenure at the Department of Finance and that of his predecessor, Charlie McCreevy.
In addition to the criticisms and warnings, there has been no shortage of specific recommendations. In August 2000 the IMF directors said that "private sector wages should be fully market-determined and public sector pay aligned with wages in comparable private sector jobs." In subsequent reports, this theme made further appearances, along with predictable recommendations about restricting public spending.
So far from taking any notice, Bertie Ahern's two governments made sure that private sector wages were not "market-determined" and public sector pay was not "aligned" with anything remotely comparable.
It is hardly necessary to emphasise the contribution these failures have made to the present crisis. Less obvious, perhaps, is their connection with the psychology of the politicians, especially Fianna Fail backbench deputies. These are unable to accept that they are overpaid; that the ministerial jobs to which they aspire carry even more unjustifiable salaries; and that by the time this crisis ends, politicians will have to swallow much more nasty medicine.
Last Friday they went back to their constituencies, this time not so much in the usual hope of glad-handing the voters as of avoiding them. The voters have suffered more than the politicians. They know they will suffer worse, but they do not yet know how much worse.
The leaks of the report from An Bord Snip Nua confirm what anyone could have guessed: that Colm McCarthy and his team recommend massive public service cuts, as well as cuts in social welfare. But this is only an instalment.
Over the next few years the economy and the administration will have to change radically. There will be a steeper decline in living standards, and the lower standards will become a long-lived feature of the scene.
The public service will become leaner. Unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean that it will become more efficient: far more likely, deep cuts will apply to front-line services and reform of the administration will once again be postponed indefinitely.
The process of changing the system of "universal" benefits began with the affair of the pensioners' medical cards and will continue with the restoration of third-level fees. There will be a great deal more on these lines.
Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that the measures taken by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan -- recapitalising the two main banks, nationalising Anglo Irish Bank and setting up the National Assets Management Agency -- will work. But there is no alternative, unless one counts further nationalisations or the "good bank" proposal put forward by Richard Bruton. (Whatever Mr Cowen may think, neither of these is incompatible with existing government policy.)
Anything else is an illusion, and the most dangerous mirage is an early economic recovery which might remove the necessity for harsh measures.
Evidently Mr Lenihan wants to dispel it. In a speech yesterday, he asserted "it is too early to talk about recovery, but we do have a clear strategy to lead us out of our current difficulties." That was, if anything, too mild and reassuring, but it attracted immediate attention because it appeared to conflict with Mr Cowen's optimism.
It brings us back to the question whether what the Taoiseach says is "only politics" or whether, like the Fianna Fail backbenchers, he engages in denial about the nature of our economic plight and self-delusion about our chances of getting out of it with relative ease and in a relatively short time.
If Fianna Fail deputies (or deputies of any party) are so far out of touch as to mount a mini-rebellion over their expenses, that is worrying but bearable. If the Taoiseach engages in self-delusion, that is terrifying. If there is any self-delusion about, can the Finance Minister put paid to it by outlining the facts of economic life to his colleagues at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting?
If not, future IMF communications may affect our lives far more intimately than the messages ignored in the past.
- JAMES DOWNEY