November 5, 2008

We need our own Obama to be an agent for change

Posted in Celtic Tiger · 133 comments ·

Yesterday I spoke to a friend — let’s call him Mike — a hard working, non-greedy, frugal individual. This is not the sort of bloke who went out and splurged in the boom. He has a house, a car and, up until recently, a steady job. He lives for his children, his family and yet he is in serious trouble.

While Mike saw through the hype of excessive lending, his boss did not. The owner of the company borrowed up to the gills, swallowed up competitors and expanded in an ego-driven adventure which saw his company become the biggest player in their — admittedly small — sector. The “growth” of the company was entirely debt-driven, leaving it with a huge borrowing overhang. As long as the banks were happy to keep lending, these huge loans could be serviced. Revenue growth was strong, so all looked kosher. The boss reacted to the increased debt burden on the balance sheets by setting the salesmen ever more ambitious targets and incentivising them with cars, bonuses and holidays.

This time last year when the Irish banks’ share prices started to fall, no one in the company worried because the problems were in the property market, which was a totally different sector. As banks’ share prices fell, their ability to raise money was impaired. But there didn’t look to be a real problem. Mike at this stage was oblivious to the “credit crunch”, which he’d never heard of ; little did he know it would affect his ability to buy presents this Christmas.

Yet over time the banks began to admit some small amount of “impairment” on their loan books.

Initially, these losses were said to be small and manageable. However, they were far from that. Meanwhile, back in Mike’s company, rumours began to circulate that salesmen were missing targets for the first time in seven years. The annual golf trip in June was postponed, as was the corporate 4X4 orienteering away-day.

When the wholesale money market closed as a result of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Mike read the story on the second page of the ‘Herald AM’ free-sheet. It was up there with stories of drug busts and a B-list celebrity wedding. It didn’t concern him, after all it was an American investment bank. But the closure of the wholesale money markets led directly to the Irish banks running out of their main source of funding.

They had bet the house on borrowing in the international markets to lend to Irish property. Now they couldn’t finance their businesses. Nobody trusted them anymore. They had been telling investors that all was grand, but obviously the banks were up to their gills in the Irish property scam.

A few days later, the bank’s HQ sent the message out that all loans were to be reviewed, all debts — where possible — had to be collected and no new lending could be sanctioned without senior management consent. What seemed remote was coming home to roost.

The debt of Mike’s company, which had been secured against the notional value of all the assets, began to look enormous and dangerous. As income faltered, because the banks were reining in credit everywhere, the company missed a monthly repayment. The bank, afraid to admit to yet another bad loan, told the boss that they would roll over his interest for a few months. The price of this reprieve was that the boss had to raise money.

The banks told the boss that he’d have to find the cash from cost savings otherwise they’d have to act against him, calling in the personal guarantees he’d signed in 2005. This meant the house and the holiday apartment in the Algarve, as well as the numerous houses and apartments he had bought in the boom — all of which had fallen dramatically in value.

So to save his hide, he started to cut. Hard-working, frugal Mike was in line for the chop. When we spoke yesterday, he was angry with everyone, the banks, the boss, the Government and even the immigrants, who still had jobs. He spoke to me about someone having to “look after Irish people first” and how we couldn’t just continue to support every “Tom, Dick and Harry” who showed up here. Mike was seething about the public servants and teachers who don’t realise that they are protected, and he insisted that next time he’d vote for someone who would “sort it out”.

These types of conversations are happening all over the country and they emphasise how the global economic meltdown permeates every corner of our society.

It also explains why we will see a wholesale change in the way this and other countries are run. The political pendulum is swinging. In the US, Obama’s campaign, which was running into the sand in September, got a huge kick from the financial crisis. People saw the collapse in the real economy, retail sales and house prices, concluding that someone must “sort this out”. However, if Obama is America’s agent for change, who is Ireland’s and Europe’s? This question is significant because America’s response to the crisis is probably quite different to Europe’s.

This economic and political cycle has three distinct stages. The first stage is the financial markets phase. This is where shares collapse. This can be very sudden and unforgiving, but it happens quickly and on present evidence, it might be abating somewhat. The speed and severity of the fall and the consequent destruction in wealth might have something to do with it. At one stage last week, the Dow Jones was down 44pc in a year, almost half the world’s financial wealth that was held in stocks had been destroyed and many investors are now indicating tentatively that, with central bank help, the worst might be over.

The second stage then sets in and this is the real economy slump. We see this in Ireland with house prices collapsing, unemployment rising and the public finances going into a dreadful tailspin. Gradually, job losses mount as heavily indebted companies go to the wall and thousands of workers, like Mike, find themselves of out work. We are only seeing the beginning of this phase.

The third stage is the socio-economic and political stage, where this giant economic and financial upheaval leads to significant social change. This has not even begun in Europe. America was lucky in the sense that its agent for change, Obama, far from being radical, sounds like a member of Fine Gael.

When stage three plays out in Ireland and the rest of Europe and the hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed, yet innocent, victims go to the polls, we will count our blessings if we have someone as plausible as Barack Obama leading the charge for change.

  1. The stage two you mention is very slow in taking off in people’s minds, for some reason, and that may well be our biggest obstacle.

    In one hand people want prosperity, wealth, holidays, homes, cars and all that goes with it but in the other hand they are clutching to an idea that their actions carry no responsibility. They can have everything they want without consequence. You cannot have both. It’s newtons law of motion. If, as a nation, Ireland is to change for the better (whatever that may be) then we need to focus less on what we want and more on what we need. Make these things priority and work hard to get them, then everything else will fall into place. It is impossible to have a perfect nation, but you can have a balanced one. We’re leaning into the ocean right now and debt isn’t the only thing weighing us down.

    Obama had a grassroot campaign. We can learn from that.

  2. sue

    I think David has hit the nail on the head, we are in dire need of serious change of leadership, the current muppets have only shown there incompetence by the fiasco that was the budget. We all know we need a radical shakeup to prevent our economy falling over the precipice… the government need to target major sources of overspending ie the public service, to simply target the vulnerable sections of our society for a few euro is not going to make a blind bit of difference financially. We need to radically address the need for change. What is needed is serious action on our key problems.

    1. Target the public service costs straight away (not pushing it away to various commitees.)

    2. Tackle the unemployment issue know before it gets out of hand.Get rid of FAS and get someone one knows what they are doing.

    3. Institute a world class entrepreneur scheme , where bright ideas get funding and support.

    But wait what do I hear OH NO!!!!!! we have another muppet from FG waiting in the wings.

    Please is there anyone out there who can suggest a credible alternative…

    Mike needs you now before things get much worse…

    • I just did, Sue. See my comment below.

    • Richie

      People have got to stand up and take responsibiltity for their own actions. “The Banks” cannot be held accountable for the whole mess the country is in. The Banks didn’t put a gun to to the head of Joe or Paddy when they were signing the credit agreement with the furniture shop for the new six grand leather suite with matching recliners, nor did they hold Paddy’s children hostage as he signed the “Buy now Pay later” agreement for the new 42 inch surround sound plasma with the sub woofers and the banks didn’t threaten Bob as he took out the five year lease deal on the new model upgraded car. Stand up and say “I did it and didn’t stop to think when I was trying to keep up with the jones”.

      The public sector will continue to falter for as long as the “job for life” contracts exist. This is the one sticking point and hang the unions, as a member of three in my working life, I have only seen them cause problems and solve little.

      I am the “public sector” worker that has been the ruin of this country. But I am fed up with being the root of all that is evil in this down turn. But I do wholeheartedly agree that the system stinks and I am forced to work with people who don’t have to work because they can’t get sacked. I work harder than most and I get the same salary as the people who do nothing. Until the managers of these people wake up and stop handing out these contracts and address the gross inefficiencies in every part of the system, the problems will continue.

      And it’s not just the public service pay either. The world and it’s mother knows a person who is dodging the system in one way or another, claiming an allowance they are not entitled to, cash in the pocket, etc. It all needs to be tightened up if this country is going to save itself. But it starts here. Everyone needs to look closer to home to find the solutions first, not the ivory towers.

  3. sue

    I forgot to ask if you were in MIKES shoes and had to start a business ?

    would you start up in Ireland or go somewhere else ?

  4. Greetings!

    Well, David, I know several people like your friend Mike, and I am sure everyone in the country knows at least one or two as well. And their number is rising daily.

    During the time of boom many company bosses behaved irresponsibly and let their greed get the better of them. They were encouraged and supported by the banks, and even by our government. Loads of more or less shady deals were made in the triangle marked by Leinster House, the Galway tent and the gold course. Few people kept their senses and remained sceptical, and I have to say that I am glad I was one of them.

    Nevertheless we all – even the prudent and sensible ones – will suffer from the blunder orchestrated by greedy bosses, even greedier bankers and clueless politicians. Stage two is well underway now, and stage three is just around the corner.

    Yes, we do need political and social change, and we need it fast. But who is going to do it?

    Sadly I cannot see any politician like Barack Obama in Ireland. Fianna Fail and the Greens are discredited for a long time, and Fine Gael has not much to offer either. Enda Kenny, even though a decent man, is no Barack Obama. His closeness to the government over the Lisbon Treaty has lost him and his party a lot of potential support, and it is not surprising that he has been rather quiet during the past three weeks of anger and uproar over the Budget.

    Eamon Gilmore has shown some more guts lately and gained political stature, but his party was locked into the pro-Lisbon coalition as well. If Labour wants to gain further ground, the first step would have to be a distancing from the Lisbon Treaty, even if it came rather late.

    So – who is there to save us? I cannot spot anyone in Leinster House who has the personality, capacity and ideas. Therefore the only real alternative is one I have mentioned here in another comment some time ago: We need a new political party, a movement that is not linked to the current power brokers and untarnished by their mistakes and blunders.
    There are plenty of decent people in Ireland – academics, businessmen and people from all walks of life – who have so far not been involved in politics. I think that they could and would do a much better job than the current occupants of Leinster House.

    But before they can do that, someone will have to organise them. You, David, strike me as a very good and suitable choice to lead such a new party (as I have mentioned here already earlier). You have both youth and experience, and an impeccable track record, especially in matters of the economy. Had our leaders be wise enough to listen to your warnings over many years, we would not be in the mess we are in.

    So, please consider this very seriously. If we want a change, we have to work for one. It will not be served to us on a silver platter by some benevolent fairy. I am a political analyst and consultant and would be happy to support you in this task. And I know quite a few good people who would be ready to join as well.

    History never just happens. It is made by people who act when the time and circumstances give them the chance to act. Barack Obama is a very good example for such a person.

    Let’s not wait until it is too late and this country is destroyed by turmoil, chaos and anarchy, which is quite a possibility if things get much worse and people get really angry. Let’s act now and do what Obama did in the USA: form a new movement and give the country a chance for change!

    • Garry

      @Emerald Islander, Agree we need new leadership but this anti Lisbon nonsense is worrying

      Just stop and think, have a look at iceland and think again. Please, if you’re suggesting starting a movement, start by being pro something and not anti something…

      The Euro didn’t cause our problems. We caused our own problems. Interest rates were set very low by the ECB following Sept 11 but there were still many levers we could have used to tame the housing boom which needed taming at that point. We didn’t use them, the Financial regulator and central bank screwed up, and the government screwed up, either of them could have solved the problem, they chose to ignore it…
      If you dont think this is true, try doing a tax return, it should open your eyes…. The form is like a builders charter with pages of shit about rental income from different property incentives. If we were promoting the ‘knowledge economy’ I would think there should be something in there for tax relief on broadband, microbusinesses, computer equipment whatever.. You’ll notice that weird things like car parking are not subject to VAT again a legacy of the builders republic.

      Now ask yourself where we want to be in 10 years time

      1) We have to be in the Euro.
      If we arent’ we could well be back to picking spuds. If you think thats crazy, have a look around. The world is at the start of the biggest financial crisis in many decades, we have no idea where this is going. The only thing we do know is foreigners arent idiots, they will take dollars, sterling or euros for their commodities in preference to some makey up currency from a basket case economy… Why do you think Iceland are getting loans in real money, that they love the IMF? Would you sell anything to them without cash up front that you can convert to real money?
      Blaming the euro or EU for our problem, is like blaming your car if you get caught speeding, its pretty stupid.
      2) We have to be trading with other countries.
      Apart from anything else, we dont have enough natural resources to be self sufficent so we will need to import stuff, which must be paid for.
      3) We have to be competitive
      Not hyper competitive, but good enough to win our market share
      4) We have to have reliable sources of energy.
      My own hobby horse, but our infrastructure needs serious investment and brave politicial decisions regarding nuclear power or a willingness to risk going cold subject to international events.

      Agreed, the Lisbon Treaty is not the answer to our problems. Its not a cause of our problems either so Im not sure why you brought this up.

      But being committed EU members i.e. ratifying the treaty is an important part of the solution.. If you don’t think this is true, I despair.
      In a strictly legal sense you may be correct but politics is the art of the possible, and ways are always found to ignore or work around the uncooperative, the stupid, the anti everything brigade which you have in all walks of life. If you find you are the only one in a group of 27 who is complaining and refusing to cooperate on something that doesn’t explicitly disadvantage you, maybe its time to stop boring the other 26 with your whinging and look again, the problem may be you. Or f*** off and find new friends who enjoy pointless arguments.

      The old fashioned values of courage, hard work, honesty in public life and honesty of effort are what will get us out of this. For a trading nation to be anti everything that its neighbours, trading partners and friends are for, it is stupid in the extreme. Rightly or wrongly, were getting the name for this. Any trading nation needs to be smart, efficient, and welcoming of the outside world, with the self confidence to instinctively welcome external change.

      @David. I feel this was a very thinly veiled prediction that a new anti immigrant party will rise, yes the Americans are fortunate… my prediction is that the rise of the independents will speed up as everyone ducks the hard questions and wants something for nothing

      • Malcolm McClure

        Well said Garry. I agree with your suggestions about where we want to be in 10 years time.
        Regarding Nuclear energy, a Plant to replace Poolbeg output would cost about €2 or €3 billion and take about 7 years to build so to have it come onstream in 10 years we need to start planning now.
        Nuclear cost per KW is rather cheaper than wind power. Gas from Corrib would generate cheaper electricity but not if you factor in the CO2 costs. Oil plus CO2 costs would be even more expensive. We also need pumped storage reservoirs that also have an environmental cost as they will spoil attractive highland valleys somewhere. Lets start the debate by making suggestions of suitable sites.
        The other priority infrastructure element is fibre-optic broadband throughout the country. Pay for it by selling off the analogue TV bandwidth released by the switch to digital.

        • Furrylugs

          Malcolm, Garry,
          There’s also CAES or compressed air pumped storage and the notion of an Energy Island like an Atoll where excess windpower pumps out an internal lake and floods through generators at peak demand. Theres also loads of deep coal mines etc unused which can be tunnelled to form hydro pumped storage. All these solutions are in operation elsewhere with minimal environmental impact.

          Myself and Lorcan will report to the board on feasibility presently. (Provided the ESB don’t electrocute us first)

        • Malcolm McClure

          Furrylugs: ‘Fraid there are no suitable deep coal mines in Ireland. In any case pumping water into and out of them would soon create a slurry that would foul up the pumps. Likewise salt water is too corrosive for pumped storage. We need a high level valley that can be dammed and a close-by low level fresh water lake to fill it at night. (Or vice versa).

        • Furrylugs

          Not to get away from the economic bias, Arigna is perfect for CAES tied to wind for the electricity / compressors. Free compressed air is very efficient. The salt water atoll set up is in operation elsewhere. It’s feasible now to tunnel a totally underground pumped storage facility. I won’t bore you with the details. I’m only going on my experience and efforts in other places. But this is the type of inventive discussion an Energy Department should be having with a Finance Department. Not only going “Glas” but making money from it.
          However that implies interest and an entrepreneurial spirit, the lack of which we have discussed ad nauseum on here.

          If the folks down the Cork and Kerry valleys were to be flooded out a la Rutland in the UK, there’d be war.

      • Thanks for your detailed comment, Garry. Always good to have a substantial debate.

        However, I think you might have the wrong impression of me. I am far from being a member of the “no to everything” brigade. In fact I am very pro-European, and have been since I joined the European Youth Movement at the age of 16. This was on the Continent, and in the same year Ireland joined the EU. I still remember that my first political battle was the fight for direct election of the MEPs, which were then still appointed by national governments.
        And because I am pro-European, I campaigned and voted against the Lisbon Treaty, which I actually read from cover to cover (in contrast to our political leaders). It had nothing to do with the Euro, with our EU membership or with being competitive. The treaty was trying to reduce our political influence in the EU, to reduce trade union rights in general, and to establish an unelected EU executive and president. It was rejected for good reasons, and if the other EU countries would have had a referendum on it as well, it would have been rejected in many, perhaps even most countries. So we are not alone against 26 here. The correspondence and support we had during the campaign from all over Europe was a clear indicator for that. It was an attempt by the established political class to take away democratic structures and gain more uncontrolled power. And it will not be brought back.

        But the Lisbon Treaty has no great importance for me as such. I would never make it a key point of a new political party or movement. I only mentioned it in my original comment for one reason: It has for sure reduced the potential support for Fine Gael and the Labour Party (as well as Fianna Fail, of course) and thus weakened the opposition when it should be strong. The number of people who used to vote for FG or Labour, but would not do so again because of their partnership with FF over Lisbon, is quite significant. (This is not an opinion of mine, but established through surveys and polls.)

        Enough of that, as it is in the past anyway. Let’s look forward! And there we seem to have almost the same outlook. Yes, of course we need the EU and the Euro. Only a fool would think otherwise. And we need indeed to be more competitive, productive and efficient. This will need some retraining of the Irish workforce, but it can be done. I also fully agree with special programmes and funding in support of modern technology, broadband, micro-business etc. Absolutely. And these will do us more good than another big US company, lured here with millions and leaving again after ten years.

        With regards to energy we have to regroup and rethink, I agree. And if there is no other sensible and viable option, we might have to look indeed at nuclear energy. But before we do that, we should first look a bit closer to home. Being an island nation, wind and wave energy should be used as much as possible. And we should revisit the deal made by Ray Burke with Shell. The man, now a convicted criminal, gave away our national reserves of natural gas to a foreign multinational company for absolutely nothing in return. It would be laughable, if it were not so sad. Take a look at Norway, and then let’s learn our lessons and do the same what they do there.

        A new political movement will have to embrace and include a lot of different streams of thought and policy, just like the Greens did when they were founded. But the task at hand is not to fight ideological battles or establish political dogmas, the idea is to offer a clear alternative to the corrupt, incompetent and failing government we have now.
        Such a movement, led by the right man (and yes, for psychological reasons it will have to be a man and not a woman) could sweep the board and walk straight into Leinster House off the street. I speak as a political consultant and analyst, who is in this line of work now for more than 15 years. I know what is possible, and what has been done elsewhere (sometimes with my direct help).

        You are absolutely correct in pointing out the old-fashioned values of courage, hard work, honesty in public life and honesty in general. These are the traits we need, and there are plenty of Irish people who have them. But we have to realise also that an ever larger number of our people are clueless and feckless, lazy and workshy. This is fuelled by our drink and drug culture, which goes straight through all social levels. This has to stop, and people have to learn discipline as well as self-discipline. I know we can do it, if we do it right. I propose David as leader and pledge my full support to such a party or movement. Are you with me, Garry?

  5. Lorcan

    Ste – Great site, and great comment.

    David, I am a little confused after reading your article. Your friend bemoans the fact that he is loosing his job due to the financial crisis, and so fires off a scatter-gun of blame. As you point out, there are many like him in Ireland (and across Europe) having the same rant.

    Then you say we need an agent for change to be elected to ‘sort it all out’. Do you really think any Irish government, no matter how revolutionary, can effect change that will insulate us from the vagaries of the international economy?

    I understand the frustration that people have when things go wrong, I’ve had more than my fair share of that, but to put our future in the hands of change for change’s sake seems counter productive.

    Radicalisation of the electorate will occur, it usually does during ‘phase three’, but there is no mesiah out there. If your friend was smart enough to see through the financial hype, I hope he will be smart enough to see through the empty promises of those who come promising to ‘sort it all out’

  6. Philip

    I think that Stage 2 not sinking into the psyche of the general population here is a key point. 90% of people out there haven’t a clue. The attitude is one of both apathy and helplessness. We are like a mouse caught in a cat’s maw. Apparently it has been shown that the mouse decides to give up and enjoy their last moments.

    Will so many pubs closed and no consolation and little consolation to be had anywhere, who knows, without access to a decent few scoops, we could be creating a powder keg for social disruption.

    Obama et al have talked the talk. And best of luck to him on walking the walk. I do not know if the Irish solution is a charismatic figure like Obama – we’re too cynical for that. We just need sound leadership and management and admin skills. The current crowd are just inept. We did it befofre with the rainbow coalition (when people were not that appreciative of those skills) and we have the people there to do it again. There is no magic – just plain knuckle down hard work and competence. Kenny and Gilmore have it. My hope is that people here will start to recognise this virtue above the vacuous showman horsepooh of the current bunch.

    On Lisbon, I think people need to realise that 1) The Euro saved us for now, 2) Ireland Inc is simply not a viable proposition – we are simply too undeveloped across the whole spectrum of infrastructure, non-middleman business and admin/government and 3) Ireland has lost a mountain of credibility. There is little we can do outside the tent and we need to eat humble pie and get in there. Europe needs us as well so it can develop a uniform response to global crises like think. Right now, Europe is a non-player and is being hampered by cheeky gits like Ireland who really do not know how lucky they are. So I think Lisbon needs to be revisited. We need to get in there and get our influence back.
    Maybe by 2020, we’ll have a country that has some legs on it – not a smoke screen of “apparent” wealth brought on by greed driven bling financed by the Germans.

    • Yes, too many of our people are blind and clueless. This deficit is partly a result of education (or lack of it) and partly of the widespread laissez fair attitude. But that can be overcome with good will and the right leadership.

      With regards to Europe and the Lisbon Treaty: I am very pro-European and have been since I was 16, when I joined the European Youth Movement. But the Lisbon Treaty is wrong and would lead us in the wrong direction. Thus I fought against it as good as I could, and – against all odds – it was defeated. I don’t see it as a solution.

      What we need is to find our own national identity first, which – strangely enough – has not yet emerged after 86 years of running our own country. Most of us still try to copy the English and our economy is widely dominated by British influences. If we want to be a real country with a proper identity, it is time to work on our image and develop our own system. It can be done, but not with the clowns we have as a government for the past 11 years.

      Europe can and will help, as it has since 1973. But the Lisbon Treaty is not the answer to our problems.

  7. Paul

    I moved back to Ireland in 1995, when I saw the economy picking up. My brothers refused to move back, as they had both graduated from college in the 80′s, they had lost trust in the government on this Island, and decided they would not get stung a second time, so they stayed away. I think a lot of people forgot just how useless our Politicians are, simply because they threw money at us, while just a few did not fall for this ploy. I fear that the Irish will forget again, we only seem to remember dates that include the British Army (usually after a few beers), we forget about all the Irish that oppressed or betrayed us, we will all probably keep voting for gombeens in the future.

  8. Philip

    @Emerald, Lisbon is not perfect. That said, Europe as a power block needs to be developed. The idea of Ireland standing on its own feet is but an impractical dream. And this crises has revealed the sham of our economy and its management. I really do not see how this can be done outside the concept of a federation.

    Even in its poorly formed state, we see the EU tell the local government that the problem is of their own making. They are already helping the local populace. The idiots in finance have tried blaming the Euro. Clearly we are in the grips of lunacy at the highest level in this country. A lunacy that has no interest in the welfare of the people.

    If we are to play on the global stage, we need to partner strongly with someone. Either it’s the US or the EU. It has to be tight relationship which has our sovereignty as part of the bargain. We are just tiny on too many levels to consider an alternative to that. OR…we withdraw from the global stage (not attractive) and somehow build ourselves with other goals in mind. Maybe a new island of saints and scholars?

    • b

      @Phillip. Lisbon is a crock of right-wing shit. Saying its not perfect is like saying Hitler liked to have things done his own way. Godwins law notwithstanding.

    • Nobody suggested we should stand on our own and leave the EU. I am very pro-European. But I am also a very freedom-loving democrat who will not be hoodwinked into abandoning the rights our ancestors fought and died for. That’s why I was against the Lisbon Treaty, which is now part of the past.

      The only reason for mentioning it was to point out that it has cost FG and Labour support they would now have otherwise.

      And when I said that we have to develop our own national identity, I id not say we should do this alone and leave the EU. All other members have their national identity, and no-one would see that as a reason for them to leave the EU. Only Ireland ha not been able to develop one in 86 years of running our own show. Europe is important, and it will give us strength. But it will not help us to find our feet and identity. This we have to do by ourselves and for ourselves. There is a big difference between nationalism and national identity.

  9. Joseph

    To anyone who thinks that this government has been the cause of the problems that we are facing now, and that we are so sure we need a change and a change fast, what is it exactly you would have changed, and what is it exactly that this government did so wrong that “put us here”.
    Irish people have always been quick to give out when things go wrong, and say how they would have been umpteen times better, had they had the chance. Well now is your chance, your soapbox awaits, as everyone s dying to find out your secret.

    In my opinion there wouldn’t be a group of people out there through all the parties and leading figures who would have stopped the situation that happened here, too much of it was out of our hands, and what was in our control, would have been too unpopular to enforce. Truth be told no one wants to be the bearer of bad news.

    If say, for example, that raising taxes to 60% was the answer, hypothetically speaking of course, who would want the job of announcing it? At the end of the day people are only interested in good news, and not necessarily what’s best for them, why? because people don’t know what’s best for them.

    • Grossly overpriced houses. I thought that was fairly self evident. David has pointed it out here a number of times.

    • Three words, Joseph: incompetence, greed, corruption. And the worst of the three is incompetence. Just look at the Cabinet and show me one person in there qualified to do the job they have.

      In most other EU countries ministers are appointed on the basis of knowledge and expertise. Only here and in Britain, which we still copy in so many things after 86 years on our own, are ministers appointed on the basis of party membership only, and ‘reshuffled’ every couple of years, so that the incompetence stays at a high level.

  10. Furrylugs

    I think the change is one of generations. FF have too many fingers in every important pie in the country and that grip has been consolidated over many years.
    FG aspire to power but still wallow in the trappings of opposition. Every citizen succeeding abroad would be loath to risk bringing their abilities home.

    It’s true, therefore, that we need a younger team with a global perspective to harness the energy and flair we have demonstrated abroad and stifled here for parochial political gain.

    Look at this blog. We have Miners, Political analysts, Energy consultants, businesspeople to name a few and all with the common theme of making Ireland a success. We don’t always agree but thats democratic discussion. It doesn’t openly happen in Ireland. People are actually afraid to speak out in case it affects their livelihood. On the question of indigenous resources, apart from an inventive populace, we have wind and wave for energy. We have billions of cubic meters of natural gas. We are a natural stepping stone for Europe. We are sparsely populated and make a perfect naturalists destination. We have millions of upland acres fit for biofuel harvests.All these assets and more have been sold out for party political gain.
    The world would be a lonely place right now without the Euro shield but that does not mean selling our heritage to Lisbon. We, due to squandered Euro funding, are still a developing nation. Maybe not fiscally but definitely in identity. Brussels sees us as having drawn down sufficient for our means but we wasted it. Not much room for sympathy.
    Every country in the world has felt the hand of our neighbours and their ilk. Iraq has it at the moment. But we, uniquely, don’t move on. The merry wars and sad songs mentality continue to be promoted by a coterie of vested interests.

    I fundamentally agree with David and even if we don’t see eye to eye on occasion, he’s one of very few commentators putting his head above the ramparts. So I’m back to an embryonic coalition of McWilliams, Ross and Prof Kelly. The ECB would see true economists leading the charge. Richard Bruton looks to be the only politician earnest enough and hopefully honest enough to lead us through this. I think Enda Kenny has had ample opportunity to show his teeth and would probably make a credible EU Commissioner. For now. The future will throw up new leaders.
    Our President and former President are well regarded worldwide. Subsuming to the “Bertie” propaganda on RTE, immersing in wistful memories and allowing that architect of usury to access the Aras would destroy what honour we have left in the world community.
    Start with that negative, prevent it from happening and speak to as many people as will listen to what we say on here. I do and I get an audience.
    As a people, we dislike witchhunts. Our beliefs are deeply ingrained but we will listen to honesty, truth and constructive debate now that we have an inkling of what our rulers have perpetrated and wasted over a generation.

    We can start with the local elections. We can keep badgering our TD’s. We can spread the word about this forum and others. We must encourage open dialogue. FF, FG and Labour hold deep beliefs that the general Irish populace are easily seduced. The Greens will go the way of the PD’s for selling out their ethos. People are still wary of Sinn Fein.

    To effect democratic change, I think the gap in the market for a new party lies with the 30 somethings who are being hit hard at the moment. Policies of distributed wealth, a recognition that we are a small developing nation, firm but affable foreign policies, no small amount of Glasnost and a pragmatic view on global ecological issues. We need to look at FDI as a bonus and eke out our GDP from our own SME’S. And a charter of rights to include political roles and responsibilities. No more quangos or consultants. Maggie, as much as I hate to admit it, rooted out all that buck passing.

    I for one, would join a Party like that in the morning. If only to lick the envelopes.

    • Lorcan

      Looks like New Zealand are set to elect a former investment banker as their new prime minister.

      Pity we don’t have any politically savvy former investment bankers to call on here.

      • Furrylugs

        Normally you’d see the people turning to venerated and respected elser states persons but they’re like hens teeth as well.

      • Jose Antonio

        Well there is always the chairman of Goldman Sachs international … a certain Peter D. “Suds” Sutherland.

        He ran once for FG in Dublin South East but he is not interested in a return to national politics according to the Sunday Indo.

        But yeah … would be interested other suggestions of people who could be parachuted in (serious ones though not Dáithí Lacha .. who in fairness knows this himself)

    • Liam

      and me to make the coffee

    • Well written and said, furrylugs. And I am with you all the way. Yes, we have to work for change and for a better Ireland, and we are indeed a motley crew of people, but a motley crew of bright people. This sets us apart from the present government, and thus we have a chance to succeed. Can we do that? – Yes, we can! (as a now famous man keeps saying to his people)

      Putting our trust into the ‘old’ parties would change nothing, except the political colour. There are people we should consider, and Richard Bruton is one of them. I also agree with the proposal of Enda Kenny as our EU commissioner. That would suit him well. Richard Bruton could then lead FG, and probably be Tanaiste in the government headed by the leader of the new movement we have to establish. I have already proposed David for this position. Are you with me?

      I would also see leading roles for Senator Shane Ross, some other independent Senators and various of our distinguished academics, including Prof. Kelly.

      And yes, we have to prevent Bertie from becoming President. Absolutely. He would indeed tarnish the good image the previous Presidents, and especially the two Marys, have created all over the world.

      If Bertie must have another job, then let’s make him our Ambassador to Russia. In that corrupt country he would feel at home and could use his ‘charms’ to secure good energy deals for Ireland.

      The local and European elections should indeed be our first political battle, and we could start with getting people into Councils and the European Parliament. I also believe that the ext general election will be rather sooner than later. This government will not last the whole term. So we have to be prepared.
      Are you willing to join and fight with us for a better Ireland?

      • Furrylugs

        Kind words Emerald and I thank thee.

        On the Drumcondra Deputy going up against the Duma, that would test him. And they tend to give out some nasty medicine if you cross them. Kind of Eireanns version of being sent to Siberia. There’s something dark about a mind that would come up with that particular scenario. I’m seriously impressed.

        On a more serious note, you consolidate some good potential pointers for the future, but I have a question. Promoting the above names for high office is not being undertaken lightly nor flippantly. We are all earnest people here that take our nationalism seriously.
        The question is, how often or ever do the above names flick onto this website. If they do, what relevance do they attach to the comments or are they content to shine above the general hoi-polloi, leaving change to others?

        Shane Ross is a Statesman in the fullest sense of the word. Prof Kelly has consistently advised, accurately, on the coming storm.
        David McW is vociferous in his arguments.
        If Libertas came out and said what they really stood for, they would galvanise not just Ireland, but Europe.At the moment, they appear a litttle too far right of centre for most tastes.

        We need this calibre of individual, with full understanding of the system, to kick start the movement.

  11. Deco

    We have two options that could come close.
    1) A coup within Fianna Fail consisting of backbenchers. This would remove the current front bench of Fianna Fail. Cowne, the Lenihans, the Aherns, the Kitts, Cullen, Roche, Dempsey, Coughlan, Hanafin, to the back benches. It is a long shot. But it was heading that way a few weeks ago. It will not happen because the media wants prefers the current Fianna Fail front bench. The liberal end of Fianna Fail are in charge of the party, post Ahern. They are also closer to the vested interests. They are sitting tight on their positions. The measure of discontent in mainstream Fianna Fail is the key measure of how close we are getting to an all out Fianna Fail internal rebellion. The Tribunals caused a lot of problems for the front bench, especially the Grainne Caruth affair. Support from the top level within Fianna left many people exasperated, but resulted in councillors and backbench TDs withdrawing support for Ahern. Ahern’s best manoevre was to slide Cowen into position, before a vote was called. A substantial election fallout, which is highly likely, could result in serious problems for the front bench in Fianna Fail. This might cause internal reform. Though I expect the media to cover the Fianna Fail front bench through the crisis. If there was an internal coup within Fianna Fail, it would raise the level of administration competence in the political system substantially. Incompetent office holders would be cast aside to the backbenches, and would no longer be able to use the state as a means of increasing their local voter loyalty. There would also be a very different dialogue in the cabinet, with new ministers in a position of being able to admit to the litany of mistakes. And this could be the basis of a greatly increased level of competence in the public sector.

    2) A Fine Gael party large enough to form a government without Labour. Alternatives offered could be Fine Gael + Greens, or Fine Gael + Independents. This would be Fianna Fail’s worst nightmare. Fine Gael would not be locked into commitments with public sector unions. Fine Gael policies would be Dukes-like. The vested interests would get offended. Fine Gael would be able to go directly to the private sector. This means Fine Gael would get the critical mass in the Dail to formulate a sensible policy without always having to formulate everything to suit the Labour front bench – who in many cases are competing for the same voters. To do this Fine Gael would need a front bench consisting of competent people. It does not have this yet. Bear in mind that if Fine Gael do reach critical mass, and overtake Fianna Fail, that the Labour Party will then start negotiating with Fianna Fail as a means of holding back/controlling any movement by Fine Gael to capitalise on their new found freedom.

    There is a wide range of interests who do not want anything to change in respect to the current adminstration in Ireland. The media want the current Fianna Fail front bench to stay in control of Fianna Fail, and they want the Labour Party to control any possible alternative. There is a broad range of commercial interests backing Fianna Fail, and the role of the PDs as a junior partner in any government. And the public sector unions have an interest in ensuring that the government will be controlled by either public sector chasing Fianna Failers, or the Labour Party. And the professions, which have a lot of influence in Fine Gael will be lobbying to prevent any rectification of uncompetitive markets.

    Basically, we the people, will have to circumvent the lot.
    Which brings us to option 3.
    3) Something completely new. I don’t see this happening. And you can be certain that any new poltical movement will be firstly vetted by powerful vested interest groups to make sure it is sufficiently compliant to be allowed to progress.

    But one thing is certain – something needs to happen soon to change the discourse towards problem solving and away from voter block deals like benchmarking, and media sweeteners like the now routine hikes in the TV licence to get RTE onside in misinforming the people. Irish people are waking up and becomming less naive !!

    • Go for option 3, Deco, and trust the good and solid instincts of the Irish people. New movements are rare, and they seldom have much success. Agreed. And we both know why. (you mentioned it clearly)

      But with the right leader this all can change. I cannot see any bank, business or other vested interest here having a problem with David, but he could – like Barack Obama – bring his youth and experience to bear and win the support of the people.

      I would not put my hopes into a backbench rebellion in FF. And even if it happens, it is still FF, the most corrupt and incompetent party I know in western Europe.

      I have also not much trust in FG. They have not enough people with proper leadership qualities at present. Richard Bruton should be leader, and Enda Kenny go to Brussels as EU Commissioner.

      And the Greens? In a coalition with FG? NO WAY!!! This would be rewarding double traitors for their greed and betrayal. For me, a former supporter of the Greens for many years, this party is dead.

      So we have to do it ourselves, like the people in the USA did under the leadership of Barack Obama.

      If you look for an Irish equivalent, my answer is: David McWilliams. Are you with me?

  12. Deco

    Eh, actually that was three options :)
    Agree with the poster EmeraldIslander on many issues.
    I would lay a bet that there will be a mini-Budget between now and the aptly named April Fools Day.
    And another one again, after April Fools Day and before Sept 1, 2009. Basically the Budget has created a lot of controversy, and solved nothing about the nation’s finances. In fact the state budget is making everything worse. And it causing worry in the competitive sector about how the Irish government is going to finance everything.
    It is a recipe for disaster for the majority of people, but the builders will get a price floor and your local council will get the bill for the rest of your life. Most councils like are already on the point of insolvency. The collapse of retailing, and thereby commercial rates is making it even worse.
    We are really running out of options. And too many seem resolved to the failed methods of dealing with the situation from past eras of going nowhere – drinking, leaving, or passing the bill to others.
    A culture of responsibility is required.

    • Thank you, Deco. Nice to get some support. :)
      I didn’t see this post before answering your previous one.

      With regards to the Budget, yes, it was a complete disaster. And another example of FF incompetence.
      I am no economist – like David – but I wrote a long and detailed analysis of the Budget after Brian Lenihan presented it in the Dail. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to have a look here… >

      And if you scroll down and look on the right-hand side under Subjects for the word ‘budget’, you’ll find a total of so far 11 articles. If you have the time, it might be worth reading them.

  13. Furrylugs

    The din for realistic change is getting deafening.

  14. I have to defend the honour of my erstwhile home state of Nevada, where I was proud to vote by absentee ballot a few weeks back.

    Nevada voted BLUE–not RED as your illustration has it!

    While I’m writing…thanks for your great articles, David.

  15. Furrylugs

    “And too many seem resolved to the failed methods of dealing with the situation from past eras of going nowhere – drinking, leaving, or passing the bill to others.
    A culture of responsibility is required.”

    I know, and I’m staying off the booze but I have to eat. So I have to go. The choice is that stark. And I’m not proud of it, neither am I going to adopt a high handed stance from afar. I’ll do my bit but the family have to come first.

  16. Stephen Kenny

    It’s funny you should mention Maggie, FurryLugs, I was just thinking about her.
    (Successful) Leaders don’t really talk about economic issues, they never have. They inspire, encourage, and to some extent, direct:
    The history of the world might have been very different if Adolf HItler had stood up in front of the serried ranks of black uniforms, at the torch light rally at Nuremburg in 1938, and spoken about farming subsidies and tax policy.
    Maggie, although let’s be clear, I don’t compare her to the aforementioned German chancellor, launched a thing called the ‘Enterprise Culture’, back when I had a lot more hair, and had recently left university.
    One upshot of the Enterprise Culture thing was that everyone seemed to be rushing around trying to create great businesses. Certainly, pub conversations were more about business ideas, rather than property investment. After the 60s and 70s, no one in England in their right minds went near property, as it was just a really good way to lose money.
    I’ve no idea whether she ever said it, I didn’t listen to her much, but the feeling was rather akin to JFKs “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
    As with all such efforts, a lot went wrong, but it could be instructive.
    There was a general direction, too: Computers. If you started a company doing “something with computers”, you could get cheap office space, help with training, subsidised staff, and so on.

  17. Philip

    Deco, that is one very interesting analysis of options. Basically, there is no solution. The system as it stands at present is too ingrained and self interested (no matter what option is used) or you simply do not have enough time to effect evasive action to create a new broom – so to speak.

    Well, the change will be imposed on these interested parties whether they like it or not. We have about 100K people laid off this year. 25% more than would fill Croke Park at a packed All-Ireland. That is probably impacting 50K families plus 1000K already in business. These are huge percentages of our population.

    I agree that witchhunting is not in our nature, but such is the scale of disruption here that I fear there could be trouble. Threat culture here is very strong and can be intensified very rapidly when you run out of options. I can see a typical situation where a garda catches a guy will an out of date tax disc. Said garda might be told where to go. Law and order is a matter of social contract and the latter is coming under pressure unless something imaginative is done and done soon. For me I see gestures as the initial basis to recover credibility. Firing the financial regulator, dismissing a lot of the quangos and bank boards etc. After that rude awakening (and it has to be soon) , maybe some real business can be seen to be done on the PS unions side to show them that there’s no room for negotiations.

    • If there is “basically no solution”, then we are back at Good Friday 1916.

      Or we might as well hand the country back to the Queen, with a handwritten note, saying: Sorry, but we are too thick and lazy to run a country.

      That’s not good enough, at least not for me. We have options and alternatives. But we have to get up from our comfortable chairs and act. I am all for it. Are you?

  18. Lorcan

    Quick question David. The article above was published in Wednesday mornings Independant. I presume this meant you had to hedge your bets and write two articles for the editor, one to be published if Obama won, and the other to be published if McCain won. Any chance of a look at the other article?

  19. Liam

    I’ve posted here a couple of times now and i think i end up saying the same thing over and over… Ireland has pissed away a golden opportunity to develop a small, dynamic and fast moving entrepreneurial economy, and subsisted on the heroin of FDI.

    Withdrawal will hurt (and with luck Obama will force the issue with tax breaks) but it may not be too late to change if the current shower in Kildare Street have the insight to see that we’re going to take a bath now but investments and public spending in the right areas, and the cultural re-educating of the population to understand that Ireland has had a free lunch and has to work for the next growth phase to happen, starting today.

    So heres a starter for 10: Start teaching entrepreneurship in universities, and in schools, give tax breaks for VC and Angel investors and R+D tax credits for more established companies, or for foreign companies that establish R+D activities here, promote industry-university cooperation with direct and bureaucratically elegant funding of collaborations. Where necessary fund Irish people to work with the best institutions and companies in the world, and use the diaspora network to do this (there are loads of top class displaced Irish everywhere) by funding internships and secondments during gap years or summer holidays. Yes I know half of them will feck off and never come back but if we create the conditions and attitude that they can be successful in Ireland, the losses can me minimised.

    Obama was successful partly because of Obama but partly because Americans, whatever you may think of them, have a can-do attitude, and attitude is everything.

    @Joseph: I can’t quite believe your opening question, and it is one i have heard before when i have criticised FF lunacy over the years when i have been on visits back home. I really struggle to understand why it is not plainly obvious to everybody in the country that FF has taken you all for a ride. I’ve not lived there for ten years or more so perhaps because of my detachment and non investment in the boom I have a different view or maybe its because i just plain hate FF, always have done, since the 80′s and Haughey.

    • Liam

      oh and i completey forgot to mention: if you really want good leadership, invest to create at least a couple of truly world-class universities that will produce the next generation of leaders in business and politics. Leadership talents may be latent, but if not nurtured and formed properly, are wasted and we end up with have-a-go amateurs running the economy… We are where we are partly because the current system does not produce a capable elite (or any elite at all for that matter). While your at it, bring back fees so that they have some base to sustain themselves and are less dependant on the exchequer for their existance.

    • Good ideas, and well achievable, if the right leadership and will are there. Let’s start working on it. Are you with me, Liam?

  20. John ALLEN

    Yes Lorcan……thats a great idea…….there must be inspiration from it to learn….

  21. Paul

    ” I really struggle to understand why it is not plainly obvious to everybody in the country that FF has taken you all for a ride.”

    This is because the average voter is only interested in the current sub plot on Eastenders or Coronation Street, I think it is whats know as dumbing down society. That and the fact, that most people vote for the same party as their parents.

    • Liam

      Thats suggests that there is some ‘active’ policy on behalf of the government to encourage this disposition. At once you dismiss the voter as being stupid and elevate the leader’s prowess. I’m not at all convinced that is what is going on, partly because I think the average voter is probably pretty smart, if a bit ill-informed (but circumstances are changing that), and I really believe the government of Ireland for at least the last five years has been grossly, willfully, negligent and stupid.

      My favourite theory its that its more to do with abject fear of accepting that current Irish lifestyles are totally unsustainable, coupled with government telling people what they want to hear instead of actually doing anything, or encouraging others to do so. The Irish electorate seems to be trapped in a state of cognitive dissonance. Well, for the moment anyway….

    • Good point. Will remember that for a future broadcasting bill. All we have to do is following the example of France and put quality standard demands on RTE and all other broadcasters.

  22. roc

    God. All this talk of supermen, or new men…

    We’ve got what we’ve got. Our schools, culture, values, and vision have made those in upper positions what they are…

    Rather than talking about finding new supermen, how about we properly articulate and agree on a new vision and values to work off of?

    This could provide a new blueprint for the behaviour of everyone with hands on levers…

    • Not supermen, roc. They only exist in degraded US subculture. Just good people with brains and integrity.

      I agree that the current leadership is a product of the existing system, which has many flaws. So let’s reform it and do things better.

      If you had cancer, you would expect surgery, and the cancerous cells to be removed – not being told that the human body is prone to produce cancer and that is that.

  23. Malcolm McClure

    Everybody beefs about politicians but they can only be as constructive as our underpinning creed of ideas. Seems that globally we have run out of constructive ideas. Fascism failed. Communism failed. Socialism failed. Capitalism failed. Islamic values have failed. Christian values have failed.
    Greed rules. Celebrity rules. Nepotism rules. Debt rules. Begrudgery rules. Brown-nosing rules. White-nosing rules. Green-nosing rules.
    Politicians merely deliver what we deserve.

    • I agree with your analysis. Well put, and in only a few words. This is the start position.

      You did not mention Social Democracy, which has not failed and is practised in several European countries with great success. This is for me the direction to look at.

  24. Colin


    Christian values failed???????

    Come off it. Don’t blame Jesus for this mess.

    If we had practiced the 10 commandments we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    As for the 7 deadly sins, Ireland as a nation has committed the most.

    • Malcolm McClure

      The Golden Rule is the ethic of reciprocity or “Do as you would be done by” –as expressed in most religions; for instance: Leviticus 19:18 (“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”) and Leviticus 19:34 (“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself).
      David suggested “We need our own Obama to be an agent for change.” Perhaps our characteristic begrudgery with home-grown prophets means that we need someone from outside our native comfort zone to lead us in a radical direction. Wherefore art thou, William Pitt?

      • Lorcan

        Malcolm, I don’t mean to undermine your well argued point, but the Leviticus reference reminded me of an e-mail I recieved recently that highlights some of the more left-field aspects of that book of the bible. I’ve copied it here for your amusement.

        Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?
        October 2002
        Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to
        people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an
        observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to
        Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The
        following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast
        resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as

        Dear Dr. Laura:
        Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I
        have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that
        knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend
        the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that
        Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
        I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other
        specific laws and how to follow them:

        When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
        pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors.
        They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

        I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus
        21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for

        I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
        period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how
        do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

        Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and
        female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
        of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can
        you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

        I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
        clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to
        kill him myself?

        A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
        abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
        homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

        Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a
        defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does
        my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

        Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
        around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
        19:27. How should they die?

        I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
        unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

        My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different
        crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of
        two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends
        to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all
        the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? -
        Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family
        affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.

        I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident
        you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is
        eternal and unchanging.

    • I have to agree with Malcolm McClure: Christianity has failed. Just look around you in this supposedly ‘Christian’ country, not to mention many others I can think of.

      And ‘Christianity’ as we know it has absolutely nothing to do with Rabbi Jehoshua ben Joseph (also known as Jesus). It was created by a group of power-hungry people under the leadership of Emperor Constantine 300 years after Jesus died.

      Regarding the ‘seven deadly sins’ I do agree with you, Colin.

  25. fingahs

    A quick note on the Obama campaign, it was never running into the sand in September. I believe the outcome on Tuesday would have been more or less the same whether or not the economic crisis hit. There was a rising wave of energy here in his favor for ages (I’m in the States, since the 80s), undetected, like a Tsunami before it hits the shallow shoreline. Undetected it is by the mainstream media, but not by the people, myself included. (I was never in doubt, not for a second. Thank you Internet!!, and Tim Berners Lee, for this!!) Even at 8:30 here on election night, they were still speculating it could still go McCain’s way. I hope they will learn from this experience to really find out what’s going on. And to think that they still touted Ms. Palin and her divisivness and Joe ‘the ass-crack’ Plumber and his inefficient and greedy sloppy ways represented a significant slice of Americana. Good riddance to both of them.

    Ok, enough said about Mr. Obama and the US.. the question David raises is whether Ireland can produce it’s own change agent. David, you are that person, whether you choose to accept this or not. You are a man for your time. (And I’m not alone in thinking this of course.) I don’t know if you plan to run for office, but if you do, I’m with you.

  26. John ALLEN

    I think Time of Fear …has begun in aoulde eeerland……deeze lande in deze West of europe ……..just look around you …..constipation has increased ten fold so early B4 Xmas………..we aint seen anything yet

  27. Deco

    Furrylugs – I see your point. 100% valid. Family comes first. It is more important to feed the youngsters. If you were here, you would be subsidizing quangos, cost overruns, massive public waste, oligopolies, and the economic rent infrastructure.

    This is the power of the economic rent infrastructure in Ireland – it is driving working people out, it is driving productive capacity out.
    But Furrylugs, because you are actually analyzing the situation and applying your noggin to it, you are doing more good than thousands of sheep. As Paul stated seem a majority of people in this country seem more interested in the subplot of Coronation Street, Manchester United, the new 4WD, shopping, or some other abstraction of reality, than in the reality that is starting them in the face. The media has dumbed down our society to create obedient consumers. We are a collection of buyer behaviour groups and not a society. The reality is now getting very stark. Reality like 500 Billion Euro exposure in the banking bailout. Reality like an unemployment rate that is rising so fast, that the social welfare office cannot process enter the records fast enough. Reality like the fact that the Health Service is costing an absolute fortune, but people still come out of hospital with bugs, infections that they never had when they went in. A case of ‘look after yourself and stay out of hospital’-especially if you live in the rural regions where the bad organization and worse funding is causing nightmares.
    Our public sector is rampant with the ‘I use the system to sustain my lifestyle’ mentality. We public sector unions that tell us that the public sector cannot perform unless we have the most expensive teachers in Europe. Nobody represents the taxpayer in putting a stop to this sort of nonsense. We have a political elite who are engaged in a continual campaign of keeping the people confident, blasse, loose minded, naive and living beyond their means.

  28. Philip

    Steam Power caused the first industrial revolution and I am sure subsequent revolutions were caused by electricity, the car, you name it. We are at the end of the computer/ internet revolution. There is nothing new in that business anymore except for a few refinements. It’s all been value engineered to near zero. Many successful people in that business have invested their retirement in property and many may be feeling silly right now. Eneryone seems to be aiming to get to a point where they do not have to work to earn a crust. Is that not really the aim of entrepreneurialism. Create a business, flip it and retire.

    We need innovation. But it never comes when you look for it. Adversity is what drives innovation. War causes many innovations. So does does big seemingly pointless projects. Many fail to understand what the 1969 landing on the moon did for computer technology, marerials science, project management etc. and the many advances that occured subsequently – only to be stunted by the greed as they proceeded to cull the programme.

    Ireland could do worse than pick a daring project for itself to accomplish…e.g. eliminate all use of fossil fuels or near free energy for all. You need to have an accountable group at the top of such a project (not some goverment appointed quango) who would just do it. Give them 5 years, unlimited resources and a firing squad if they screw up – incentives should work both ways. I guarantee this would cause dozens of world class innovations.

    All innovation requires a backbone grand idea that people can feed into. It lends focus. IT and Telecoms used to be able to do this. But it’s run out of steam – every idea is another website and little else.

    • Furrylugs

      Philip, I’d say that argument puts you up front and centre to head up the Ministry for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Davids new cabinet. I like the firing squad incentive. How about a little light stoning for missing targets? Great replacement for KPI’s.

      • Lorcan

        Furry, You seem to be in charge of handing out jobs in David’s new government. Does this mean that you are going to be Chief Whip?

        Philip, you are right. But the space race was a so well funded because it was a race. It was driven by national pride. We need a clear and present danger to drive the innovation that is so sorely needed.

        Perhaps we should invade Iceland?

        • Furrylugs

          Nah. Chief cook and bottlewasher.
          Invading Iceland has possibilities though. Large source of geothermal energy harnessed to a hybrid desalination plant could bring in millions of Euro selling fresh water?

          We seem to have had a profits race after the space race. Everyone jumping on the bandwagon to make a buck.

          The one issue that hasn’t sunk in yet and is far from most peoples minds due to the “crunch” is the Earth itself which is under pressure like never before.
          If the same effort was concentrated into survivability, not sustainability, then there’d be a buck for all again. Until the next crash in 50 years time.
          All the worldwide economies are navel gazing and incapable of planning further than a generation.
          I think someone said once that old men make bad leaders because they have nothing to lose. Maybe this Obama lad will bring impetus to the thing. We can’t keep going on about what failed.
          I’ve been to Antartica (almost), rain forests, steppe and even at home things are changing. No-one agrees why. The environmental equivalents of the DMcW’s are screaming blue murder but sure they’re all hairy hippy professors, aren’t they.

          This is one cup of coffee that needs a serious sniff and the Irish have enough resources to profitably lead the way. Russian gas will become the new gulf oil in our lifetime but the wind and waves will always be there.

          Look at the kinetic energy buried in the tidal rips of Killary and Cork harbours. Source of energy for generations.

          Must have the cocoa and check out Icelandic beachheads.

    • Correct description of industrial history, Philip. And it does indeed look as if we have run out of new options and challenges, at least for the time being.

      But we should not be glued to machines and instruments. All these previous technological revolutions took place under systems that were still dominated and controlled by religious doctrines and a rigid social class structure.

      What we have not tried yet is Brain Power, People Power and true Meritocracy. I think we should aim for those three, and we will see a lot of new innovations.

  29. Jingo

    While I feel sorry for Mike and the hundreds more like him, I’ve had
    umpteen conversations with people like ‘Mike’ over the past three or four years
    pointing out the property pyramid, Fianna Fail kleptocracy etc… yet these ‘Mikes’ voted
    the same crowd in again. The Irish people need to take a long hard look at themselves
    and apportion a large part of the blame to themselves.

    Only the other day a well educated colleague expressed the opinion that if Bertie was
    in charge things wouldn’t be as bad and was supported by many around the table. I couldn’t
    believe my ears – he couldn’t make the connection between Berties policies and the current mess.

    Looks like things have a way to go before people wake up?

    • I agree with your comment. Yes, the Irish people have a lot to answer for, as they kept electing the wrong people for over a decade. And there is an old saying: “Every country has the government it deserves.”

      But in order to vote for an alternative, the people need to have an alternative. And that’s what has been lacking in Irish politics for decades. There is not much difference between FF and FG, two parties that only exist because of the Civil War of 1923.

      They are still locked into this unfortunate conflict, and thus there is not much to expect from either of them.

      If we do what I have suggested – form a new political party or movement of untarnished people – we will see if the people are really as stupid as it seems, or if they give change a fair chance.

      I believe the latter would happen. Are you willing to do your share for change, Jingo?

  30. Colin

    Lorcon, Enjoyed the email about Leviticus.

    Malcolm, How’s about Des Bishop for Taoiseach? They say laughter is the best medicine. He doesn’t drink, unlike that Bass swigging Drumcondra gombeen

    • Malcolm McClure

      Des Bishop tackles fear and prejudice in a different way from Barak Obama. Laughter is a palliative, postponing one’s fears about the reality of life. A leader needs to address the causes of those fears and provide an effective and practical antidote.

    • With all respect, Colin, we had a lot of laughter in recent years. Perhaps even too much of it. Many Irish people think that everything is “just a laugh”.

      As much as I am in favour of humour, it is time for Ireland to be serious if we want to survive as a country.

  31. Deco

    Colin, the biggest of the deadliest sins is Pride. A lot of that in evidence in Ireland in the last fifteen years. Look were it got us. Up to our necks in debt accumulated for stuff that no longer matters. The Irish are full of pride. And we are led by people who tell us that we must be proud. That this is very important. Important because it means that we pay up for the Economic Rent Infrastructure that is robbing us blind. Pride is the emotion that receives commitment even though we are all being taken to the cleaners.
    In view of the state of the country and the nation’s finances, I conclude that it is better to opt out of the ‘proud to be Irish’ nonsense. Let’s all grow up beyond all that childish nonsense and instead concentrate on being smart enough to see through all the fraudsters that come into circulation. Fraudsters that make a full time career trying to get something for nothing at other people’s expense. Fraudsters like the ‘experts’, the regulators, the political eltie, the media, the commentators, the advertising moguls etc..

  32. Anto Climax

    David your headline reads “We need our own Obama to be an agent of change”. But Obama is hiring Clinton people right left and centre. That is not change – that is more a case of here we go again !!!

    • Good point. But he has only limited choices at this time. Let’s see what he is doing over the first two years, and how many new people he will have brought in by then.

    • Colin

      I predict a completely disasterous obama presidency. Change me arse. The only change is the colour of the president’s skin. He may end up being hounded out of office because the country is deeply polarised.

      And Russia, Iran, North Korea etc… will see him as weak and make the most of the situation. Global chaos will ensue. That means more financial trouble if you didn’t know.

  33. Deco

    Colin – my point being – we Irish were full of pride, following the rabble rousers (Ahern, McAleese, etc.) telling us to increase our pride, at our ‘achievements’. The whole thing has turned hollow. We are learning to be humble for the first time in twenty years. However I expect a rabble rouser to show. He/She will tell us that we can keep our pride, ‘to wrap the green flag around me’, to continue believeing all sorts of unworkable nonsensical delusions like the 2000 mile stag party, the 6000 mile pre-Christmas shopping trip. We will be told to hit the malls and to get back to borrowing and spending, etc…

    • We just have to be proud of the right things, Deco. And there are plenty to be proud of. We have a rich history with great role models.

      Consumerism is not an Irish tradition. It was – and still is – imposed on us by foreign powers, political as well as economical. Most consumer products we find in our shops were made by companies from the USA and the UK. It is up to everyone to be stupid and buy the stuff, or to be proud and make differences. I have done this in my personal life for many years, and everyone can do it.

      There is nothing wrong with the green flag, and I wrap it around me happily any time. But the flag alone is not more than a piece of fabric. It all depends who is carrying it, and for what purpose. Here is our chance to make a difference as long as there is time.

      If we miss this chance, other will use the same flag for acts of violence and create a chaos. If we are not careful and act in time as the once silent – but now articulate – majority, we might find ourselves sooner or later in another civil war. What has happened in Bosnia could easily happen in Ireland, if we wait and do nothing.

  34. @ Malcom I am surprised at you again suggesting Nuclear for a man who does so much research you haven’t looked too deep into the disposal of its by product .
    On the subject of power and to keep my post brief and not another long winded ( excuse the pun ) essay that others like to post here. We can become self sufficent for domestic and commercial power by developing wave , tidal, wind ( build farms just within 5 miles ) , and even solar which uneducated will of course laugh at since we don’t get sun here !, but they don’t know the principles. Our cars all vehicles can now run simply on water ( H2O ) hydrogen is the H.
    But we need our current Green party to stay concentrating on their pensions and salaries for another few years and worrying about light bulbs at least till the local elections , by then Furrylegs should have a few candidates to join the thirty something party .
    @ Deco ….your loosing the plot looking for a revolt within F.F. , it’s time we grew up and moved on from a party who’s present leader reckons this is our greatest challenge in 100 years , met him in Carlow this week and if you judge a man by his hand shake , he’s even weaker than I had thought before, the lot of them need to be kicked out if any of them had any back bone they would use the Dail to speak out against the CEO’s of the banks and they didn’t as for now they know which side their bread is buttered on. So let them all get a bit fatter and hopefully their small hearts will led to their deaths to save us wasting bullets on them !

    • Furrylugs

      In all due respect Brendan, sure we know all that and most of todays posts were stabs at what we can do to move forward. BTW. As I have pointed out previously, It’s Furrylugs. I don’t have a hirsute issue down below.
      My point regarding the 30 somethings related to the DINKYS who have graduated with the intellectual capacity to instigate change. Our generation have not succeeded. Hence the generation comment.
      If that genre succumb to the glad-shaking , weak, limp-wristed or otherwise, who will then stand up?
      Any leader has to have support and the country has proved itself thus far to be mute. Discount the OAP revolt. They were the previous glad-handers protecting their interests.
      Change is effected by intellect.
      Expect DMcW to ply his trade in the US come next fall if I’m right.

      I thought your post was, uncharacteristically, a tad high handed. It’s an open forum with all attempting to add measured comment. Shooting people is not very environmentally acceptable.

    • I agree with you, Brendan. FF is a lost cause. They had plenty of time to get things right, and they have failed us at every possible occasion. The only right thing to do is indeed to kick them out into the long grass, and leave them there.

      But we need a real alternative that can take over, thus my proposal for a new party or movement, headed by David. Are you with me on that?

      With regards to Brian Cowen, I also agree. He is a weak man, and – like all bullies – a coward on the inside. A week ago I wrote a long piece of analysis about him. Have a look at it if you haven’t seen it yet.
      You can find it here… >

  35. RB

    I don’t think that Obama is a “saviour” in any way but certainly he is a major improvement on the goon Mr. Bush..

    That said , surely Ireland could do with at least ONE politician with some integrity , charisma , or even an ability to look like a member of the human race…
    Obama has more of those characteristics in his toenails than any of the politicians on offer on this silly little Island of ours..
    Personally I like Eamonn Gilmore , he is a great orator and seems like a real Human being…
    But Irish politics always falls into the conservative middle unfortunately… Socialism seems to terrify people for some reason..
    We may have kicked the brits out and gained our independence , but we are still a long way from real freedom, evolution as a people and revolutionary Ideals… There hasn’t been any visionaries since the 1916 rising.. (and even that wasn’t enough)
    James Joyce was right ..
    Us Irish, we’re a nation of complacent moaners.

    • I agree with your comment, RB. We have still a long way to go.

      Eamon Gilmore is indeed one of the few TDs with stature and integrity, and his party would make a good coalition partner for the new party or movement I have proposed above.
      The blatant capitalism of the Anglo-American kind which we have now – and had for quite some time – only destroys the real values we need to rebuild our country and economy.
      Social Democracy and a truly meritocratic system is what we need. It has never been tried in Ireland, but it works very well in many European countries. Let’s go for it. Are you with me?

  36. John ALLEN

    Furrylugs – did you know that 50% of women and 25% men in Iceland are Celtic from Ireland and that the parish of Iceland is part of the Roman Catholic Diosces of Derry and that Vestmannaeyer Islands ( Irish man Islands ) on south east coast and that they sings all Irish Ballads in Icelandic …and that Brehon Laws are practiced there as in mac and ni – son and dottir …..and in the natural order of things as a source of law ….and that vigdis finnsbugsadottir was first female president in the world …as in tradition of queen maeve of connaught ….and that thousand of Irish were slaughtered in the killing fields in Vestmannaeyer …and that irish Monks gave some of the exceptional letters used in Icelandic today and were used in the first german bible ….and that their literacy is the highest in nordic countries ..and that their sagas are our sean nos ….etc ….we dont need to invavde them … .we are that close so lets hope and pray we dont go down the same road and find ourselves in a devalued debased currency too

    • If only those Norse vikings had established us as a proper colony we could benefit from their massive capital reserves which they’ve sensibly put aside from the boom days of north sea oil drilling. Semi-seriously though, I’m inclined to believe that the biggest problem is that too many of the wrong people have made significant amounts of money from the property boom. I’m not sure their ingenuity at making and losing money from property will be applicable to other industries. This is a mixed blessing of course :) There were many vitriolic comments about the arrogance and greed of property developers in this country. It’s my experience that this is largely true. Many may be cunning but few had vision or any semblance of a social conscience. This creates a serious problem in kick starting entrepreneurship.
      And we need it badly. The young entrepreneur is more likely to get cash from Enterprise Ireland who have adopted the role of VC than any of our supposed VC funds or angel investors. They can’t even rely on that old faithful, remortgaging the house as there’s likely no bloody equity in it. I’d propose having a lower rate of capital gains tax on particular kinds of “knowledge economy” investments. Any such scheme would have to be tightly regulated to make sure it doesn’t become another property vehicle like BES, which became a glorified tax break for current and wannabe hoteliers.

    • Furrylugs

      Well now I did not know that collection of facts John. At least not in that detail. Many thanks and I share the sentiment about the currency.

  37. Deco

    Brendan W – if there is no revolt within FF, then we will have the current ministers in charge of various departments for another four yeas. The Greens are happy with their new mercs, and the PDs will stay inveolved, because when this government is over, then the PDs are over. Besides the Greens are able to go to conferences and talk about the rain forests. So the Greens are very happy. But, we need a solution now. We keep hearing phrases like ‘we are staying with our commitment to government’ and ‘we need stablity to lead us throught the crisis’. This is nonsensical and the people are not buying it. The government is making one unintelligent decision after another. We need those useless ministers out of position tomorrow. And it will not happen as a result of an election for another four years. I don’t think Fine Gael/Labour are any better. The last time we had them in power it was mayhem, with nepotism and cronyism rampant. I remember listening to Joan Burton explaining to Vincent Browne that Ruairi Quinn selected his cousin’s company for a big government advertsing contract. Vincent Browne had her tied up in knots. He then asked her about the use of the government jet, and her shopping trips. She was continually changing the topic. And this is the person who wants to be Minister for Finance. No sorry I am not convinced. We need completely new faces all round. I think that Labour in government will behave like FF plan B. Since the Noonan wipeout FG have been rid of many of their front bench turkeys, and might actually be the freshest approach. A similar wipeout of FF and Labour front benches and local power brokers is required to raise the level of competence of the Irish political system. Maybe the backbenchers of both parties might contain people who want to fix things. But I have listened to the same old turkeys on Prime Time for the last fifteen years and they are all leading us nowhere !! And it looks like apart from local elections, we will endure this for for four more years. The only option I can see is to create as much chaos as possible be voting in independents, etc.. to frighten the main parties into getting their act together.

    • I agree with you but we really are highly reluctant to rock the boat. Whenever I chat to a staunch FF supporter nowadays they explain to me that Ireland’s woes are entirely symptomatic of the worldwide financial crisis and that I simply don’t understand. Many FF supporters will forget the issue with the medical card, university registration fees, the extra taxes et al. when they go to vote again. Obama got elected by being FG-like, meaning mainly centrist but with some vaguely socialist policies which he couldn’t really discuss during the election campaign anyway as he’d be labelled a communist. In many respects Ireland is even more politically conservative than the US with very few of off-beat right-brainers ending up as TD’s. We misuse the term “character” to describe politicians that are actually “rogues”. At least there’s a bit of colour in the senate!

      • Furrylugs

        We need a more diluted gene pool and a critical mass population of say 8 – 10m people to allow fresh ideas and political movements to grow.
        The place is being used as a private members club for those in the know with a quasi fuedal system of patronage in place for the rest of the serfs.

        “I joined the Party and the TD kissed my baby, the councillor tarred my road, little Johnny got on the team to win the county final and Mary won 20 euro on the lotto. Aren’t we doing well.”

        Trinkets. Trinkets. And gullible natives.

  38. Philip

    One thing that develops innovation no matter where you go in Europe, Asia and naturally America is Weapons. Even the nice Scandanavians are blessed with their wonderful development in mobile technology courtesy of military requirements.

    Military application leads to new technology (with associated boffins) and the rest is history…in a positive sense.

    I am a great believer in Green energy initiatives, but I know what energy density is needed for many of the things we do in our daily lives and believe me, Nukes are not to be ignored. Wind, Wave etc. do deliver humungous amounts of energy – but not in usable or timely form. The most reliable natural source is a thermal tap into a Volcano or drilling several miles down and Lambay Island went dormant a few million years ago.

    I do not believe we will develop a groundswell of knowledge to do the above unless we also have some military application as well. We should have the US install their missile shields here – Brits as well – hey maybe the Russians and the Chinese!. Why should the Poles and the Czechs have all the fun.

    And you can use all the excess property as target practice.

    • Philip

      Actually…joking aside on the weapons front and probably a 10 fold increase in brothels that would ensue. I do think there is very little that can be done in terms of giving direction on leadership or innovation.

      The reality is that the world economy is on a roller coaster of major correction. We are now seeing things come down to their actual value rather than to what the market can stand. Credit is gone and prices will simply have to drop and drop they will to levels not seen since the 80s when the deregulation cut in. The previous blips we have seen even in all our respectively short careers spanning 10,20,30 or more years were watered down by printing more money and allowing developed economies not have to take the bitter pill of deflation. Bad for the pensions don’t you know for the Public services etc.

      Government intervention of allowing more credit or printing more money gave way to a massive difference in the price for resources of simiar value. A prime example of this is that the price of 1hour of a Chinese engineer’s time being a fraction of that of an American engineer. And so outsourcing took off and further fuelled the inflation of developed economies who thought that entrepreneurialhsip amounted to opening a coffee shop chain. There were also lots of other effects I will not list off, but you get the drift.

      Now that all the American Engineers (turned Burger Flippers and Coffee Stand waiters) have found their minimum wage could go to zero as no one wants to spend 7 USD for a MocchaLatte whatever, the engineer and many like them have found that the last source of revenue has vanished and so the house of cards collapse. Many countries mimicked the US and none more so than Ireland which unfortunately have little else in terms of intellectual capital and much exascerbated by the crowd in there at the moment. Nuff said on this…

      Whatever leadership we have now needs to recognise that the price of things now MUST now reflect their utility value. Not what the market can stand. This game is over as are the associated economic rents. Within 6 months no one will be able to afford it. I know this is incredible to believe and resistance to it will be high as it is outside the span of experience of us all. For me logic merely dictates it. This is a buyers market is a manner never before seen. Micheal O’Leary will be seen a pushover in comparative terms.

      The plus side is that cost of labour and specialities will become equalised across the board. Making stuff in China or India etc will no longer offer comparitive advantage. Manufacturing will be rekindled big time in Europe & US starting with the big population centres.

      The leadership needs to understand the new dynamic. Value driven culture will dominate and in many ways, there is actually a lot Ireland can deliver here. We are back to the days of quality, frugality and maintenance in a manner never seen before.

    • Furrylugs

      “but not in usable or timely form”.

      There are great strides being made to make sustainable energy more “instant” but, yes, fossil / nuke energy is quicker to come online. Maybe we have a social change too where everything won’t be so “instant” in the future. I don’t know.
      Politicians only deliver what the people want to get re-elected. Unless young Obama lends his weight to the sustainable argument, our kids are cooked.
      Kyoto was well short of what was required but the yanks baulked at that. The Chinese had a laugh and if Obama pours resource into Africa, another powerhouse is born to pollute some more.
      We have to cut back to allow them to come forward.
      Someone once said the likelihood of that happening was the same as an afro-american getting into the White House.
      We live in strange times.

  39. Stephen Kenny

    I agree with Phillip, technocratic leaders just don’t cut it.
    So what sort of leader would people, the thirty-somethings for example, rally around? What sort of person is the Irish Obama?
    There are many configurations for a successful leader. In terms of popularity (and not necessarily populist), the rallying cry can be a negative (anti-English, anti-Europe, for example), but without a positive direction, it is, at best, just sound and fury signifying nothing, and at worst, somewhere we really don’t want to go.
    A rallying cry of ‘Rebuilding of an Irish Ireland’ (i.e. a positive description of ‘anti-old order’), supporting a rebirth of education, based on the classics & humanities, and a drive to integrate with German and French industry. Use the massive infrastructure of global leaders in the highest of high tech engineering industry and commerce, via government-led partnering, and training, programmes.
    On the one hand, accept the reality of being a small population, and it’s need to be part of a greater group, and on the other, have an educational system that creates a positive sense of
    national identity.

    • Furrylugs

      From my point of view, there’s been more positives on this particular blog than I’ve seen I since I first discovered it.
      And all worthy of discussion, even if to dispense with the negatives and formulate a way forward.
      Very encouraging and enlightening.
      If David were to pen an article to galvanise the Diaspora and frighten the living bejasus out of the incumbent me-feiners, I would be a happy bunny indeed.
      I think our “Movement” needs to be legacy based for the next generations. Forward thinking and expansive. Our old friend BRM couldn’t cope with a reasonably honest and socially responsible populace.
      And something needs to be done about a constitution written by patriots and manipulated by a mindset worse than it replaced.

  40. AndrewGMooney

    The last time this ‘kind of thing’ happened: Someone did eventually step forward to ‘sort it out’. Here’s a clip of the historical foreign-language film ‘Mike’ tuned into one night after a few sorrowful pints in the pub.

    • Lorcan

      Fantastic stuff Mr. Mooney.

      A much abused video clip. Remember this from the Lisbon treaty?

      To get back on message.

      Two OP-Eds in the Irish Times during the past week sum up rather well where we should be aiming to be when the storm is over.


      The question, for me, that springs from both of these articles is: Are we willing to pay for the future? Will we accept a return to 55% income tax and reduced benefits for all on a promise of future prosperity? Or will we, while collectively accepting the economic crisis, fight against paying for the solution?

      It is not fair for most involved, and certainly not the ‘Mikes’ of this country but there is little choice, IMO. The longer we continue to want European levels of public service with US levels of taxation, the further we will drift from the road to recovery.

      • AndrewGMooney

        Lorcan, thanks for those contrasting Irish Times Op-Eds. In answer to your question, my take is as follows.

        This is a civilizational crisis at least as much as it is a crisis of current economic orthodoxies. The risk-measurement models which were supposed to ‘prove’ the stability of laissez-faire Casino Capitalism have blown up, discrediting for generations the underlying ‘efficient market’ Faith. Which is all it was: Faith. Belief. Wishful thinking. Based on certain philosophical and ideological value assumptions about Human Nature.

        Whether Euroland, UK or USA: In the chaos and disorder that lies ahead, I expect wild swings from one previously discredited ‘solution’ to another, as people frantically seek a safe harbour which may not even exist. Left-wing, Right-wing. Cue Dylan quote. Whatever cyclical patterns emerge (Kondratieff, etc) : There’s no guarantee that this isn’t a ‘black swan’ for which no previous experience provides a complete guide.

        Actually, I’m hoping Obama is The Black Swan. Elegant, graceful, with a calm visible surface hiding furious activity. Not all Black Swans are negative, as Nassim Nicolas Taleb reminds us. If it wasn’t for a positive ‘black swan’, The Internet: We wouldn’t be having this conversation. Who knows what ‘game-changers’ the next 10 years will bring? No-one. That’s why I’m not sure we’ll get a recognisable re-run of the 30s, 70s, 80s or 90s downturns.

        In my view, it’s completely untenable to suggest that the Banking Babylons are deserving of rescue whilst The Poor in whatever shape or form, have to carry the can.

        Having worked in both ‘private’ and ‘public’ sectors, it’s obvious to me that waste, inefficiency and empire-building are the norm in both arenas. No-one who has been, or worked with, the average Corporate career psychopath scything their way to the top of the greasy pole – regardless of collateral wastage – can seriously suggest otherwise. Waste, inefficiency and personal aggrandisement are the norm in both public and private sectors, no matter how many ‘blue-sky thinking’ golf away days there are ‘to rebuild The Team‘. You can’t have competitive capitalism without a huge amount of wasted talent. Or can you?

        So much of the essential work which needs to be done in post-industrial society is ‘economically inefficient‘: Caring for the young, the old, the sick, ‘lame’ and ‘insane’ simply doesn‘t make economic sense. When I look at the ’opportunity cost’ of the lost capital investment in raising 2 kids, it doesn’t make sense. I could have invested that money in the stock market for my pension! Ho-hum.

        However you cut it, The Profit Motive isn’t the prime driver in any meaningful individual or collective life. ‘Money‘ and ‘Wealth‘ are not one and the same thing. Money is Energy. You either use it to build Sustainable Wealth Generating Capacity (education, health, physical and environmental infrastructure) or you waste it (bling lifestyle,etc). Culture, Heritage and Values are other forms of ‘money‘. All are also encoded Energy legacies from previous generations which can unleash future wealth if ‘decoded’ and applied to current circumstances. It depends on the civilisational aspirations of the host society:

        That’s why France is recognised as having ‘the best’ health care in the developed world by the World Health Organisation. And why America is not so recognised. In my view: The USA has a shambolic and shamefully wasteful system no matter how ‘profitable‘ it may appear to it‘s adherents. A system that ties non-portable healthcare to a ‘dynamic‘ (now dysfunctional) jobs market is not one to trumpet. Just ask GM, Chrysler and Ford how they are going to provide their current and retiree / employee healthcare benefits without imploding into bankruptcy. Ireland too, like the UK, has health-care challenges as recently highlighted by the astonishing Pensioner Revolt over health-care. That was a clash of values as much, if not more, than it was an ’economic’ argument over allocation of scarce resources.

        As for America, the ‘richest’ country in the world, being unable to provide even basic health coverage for it’s children: Obama can uplift and inspire America without breaking the budget, by tackling this one issue.

        The real waste in US healthcare is in the ‘private-sector’ insurance pen-pushing and form filling. And the lobbyists. Yes, it’s profitable in short-term private economic terms, but is it also ruinous to the long-term productive capacity of the country? Ditto American education which produces citizens like Governor Sarah Palin who don’t know that Africa is a continent, not a country. Allegedly! I’m gonna miss her humorous take on reality.

        America, Ireland, France, Finland, China, Japan and the United Kingdom are all civilisational projects first and foremost. Can any country afford not to have the highest possible civilisational aspirations despite the short-term ‘economic’ costs? Will the Nordic, Germanic and French models be the tortoises that beat the Anglo-Saxon hares in the race for sustainable wealth? Whether in education, health-care or in the structures of the various state-managed capitalisms competing for investment? Surely all these areas are inextricably linked.

        Many contributors to this site get lost in a ‘private good vs public bad’ tautology, with an underlying assumption that the private sector is necessarily and always ‘dynamic‘ and efficient. Wot? Like the Banks?! Like American health-care? It’s just ideological nonsense. The Politics of Pragmatism is surely the way forward. What works? What doesn’t? Who cares if it’s supposedly left-wing or right-wing? The Finns don’t. That’s why they have private sector profits (Nokia) AND superb communal wealth (health, education, infrastructure, etc).

        It always amuses me that people accept the redundant riff of ‘we must compete with China, India, Vietnam. Whatever. Any cogent analysis of those countries (Will Hutton springs to mind) shows they face the same problems we do with regard to demographics, environment and ageing, but just a generation or so later. Actually, if China doesn’t immediately solve it’s ‘water problem’ there’s no more ‘China story’, according to Jim Rogers. And he, of all people, should know.

        I’m currently studying a UK site suggesting a basic Citizen’s Income as the way forward from this nonsensical ideological impasse. On the surface, it’s persuasive in it’s arguments. Get rid of all the hierarchies, departments, pen-pushers and empire-builders. Just give everyone the cash for a basic, dignified existence. Then, on that platform: Let them go forth and create whatever forms of Capital or Social entrepreneurial wealth they like. Here’s a useful link to a primer on the site:

        Who knows what new forms of persona and collective ‘wealth’ might emerge if people weren’t ‘pretending’ to be interested in their non-jobs? Whether in the public or private sector. This assumes, of course, that you have an optimistic view of human nature and don’t think everyone would just sit around all day playing poker on the Internet and watching chat-shows. Leave that to me!

        Lorcan, I only intended to write you a brief reply, but the engine revved up, as it often does. I’m still on an ‘Obama high‘, especially seeing as both Volcker and Buffett are in his economic team. Or maybe they’re both ’closet socialists’! For now, at least, I’m enjoying the ‘minor miracle’ of his election:

        “In America, The land of the free, they said, And of opportunity, in a just and a truthful way. But where The President, is never black, female or gay, and until that day: You’ve got nothing to say to me, to help me believe….”

        Lyric quoted from Morrissey ‘America Is Not The World’

        Here’s hoping America has something really interesting and inspirational to say to us all over the next four years. And Ireland. As Margaret Thatcher once let slip: ‘Economics is only the means. The object is to change the soul.’ Of course, Stalin could have said the exact same thing.

        So, what is the ‘soul’ of Ireland? And how will it be expressed by means of it’s ‘economic’ reaction to The Crisis? Time will tell.


      • AndrewGMooney

        Lorcan, here’s a direct link to the Irish Basic Income site which I forgot to add to my previous reply:

  41. John ALLEN

    Furrylugs……..i think what u are trying to say is that we need a new national manifesto…….these are known to add to GNP…….its worth the thought to try

  42. Deco

    I think that the real source of the problem is the high degree of overlap between national and local politics. And this is derivined from the powerless of local government and the centralization of power in Ireland. Irish government is excessively centralized. In every community in every country will have local level politics. I mean if you read a local newspaper from the early 1990s you will see councillors being lobbied to get Telecom Eireann to install phone boxes in estates. These were expensive and the bill was picked up the taxpayer. 10 years later and they were idle. We have to accept that local politics will always be local.
    The real problem is that the divide between local and national does not exist. There is no delegation of power to local authorities. TDs are meddling in local affairs. And that is TDs of all parties. By the time TDs get around to national issues, they are missing perspective. The ministers are always TDs that out do other TDs at retrieving resources from the national pool of money. What I am saying is that local government in Ireland is an absolute failure, it is toothless and has no autonomy. Many local authorities are coming close to financial isolvency. Funding for local authorities is the result of lobbying at national level. Therefore to actually make local government effective, I propose that the local authority is allowed claim a share of the tax take of citizens living within it’s boundaries. Some rural counties in the West are going to need a subvention, because there is far more money in Dublin, Kildare etc.. than there is in Donegal, etc.. But the current system only results in a massive amount of lobbying anf favour swapping between councillors, ministers, TDs, and semi-state organizations.
    If the local authorities had more automony and responsibility, then the national TDs would not be dragged into finding money for pavement repairs at the second corner in Newfield Avenue etc..This type of minute irrelevant stuff is cloggin up the system. Our national politicians are continually dragged into this sort of nonsense. And all parties do it. Everyone of them.
    We can then reduce the number of TDs. And we can consider changing the structure of the Seanad. Some Universities have no representation. We should also have it structured so that graduate votes have equal ratings across all univesities. It would also help if the Institute of Engineers had a senator. If possible it would be useful of teachers were prevented from wasting the Seanad as a platform for pay negotiations !!

    We also need a more open debate about national policy. Every aspect of national policy debate is heavily influenced by the two dominant news media organizations, and the state broad caster. We do not always get real time news coverage – for example, coverage of economic matters was muted for months leading up to the Lisbon Referendum. Six days later the ESRI announced the recession as being official. But for 50% plus of the population the recession had already become a part of their lives !!!
    All debates in this country on national policy seem to end up going nowhere. There are many good ideas on this board but they will not get anywhere. In the age of the internet we should be able to devise a technological solution to ensure better ideas. Currently ideas in Ireland are filtered for suitability for vested interests – the suitable ones get forwarded. Ideas are rarely assessed in terms of the common good. This filtering occurs in a very subtle manner in the media. There is a certain bias also towards projects and interests that suit the moneyed and vocal interests.

    Our public planning policies are still a hodge podge of ideas, concessions and the odd ego project thrown in to soak up millions of Euro. The cheaper alternative does not get selected, even if it meets all the criteria. This is often because there are engineers proposing an idea on the way to a bigger career. And with a brwon envelope here and tickets to Croker/the K-Club there the deal gets done and the consultation process circumvented. As Mary Harney said once – ‘the public will have forgotten all about it after a few months’.

    Dublin seems to get much more spent on local government projects than any other city. Not that Dublin just gets larger projets. But even if another city/town got an equivalent project, the money required in Dublin to achieve the same aim is always twice as significant. And there are never any questions asked about this in the media. Cork’s Jack Lynch tunnel can be perhaps one tenth the length of the Port Tunnel. In addition the Cork Tunnel was built fully to specification(An Post Lorries will fit), before the completion deadline, and within budget. It was undoubtedly cheaper per metre also. That should suffice for Cork – there will be no electrified rail like the DART, no luas, and there will be much less buses per capita. In comparison, the luas was a disaster in terms of project management. Any public transport proposal for Cork will need to be far more cost effective, than any showcase project pushed by Bertie Ahern or North Dublin Fianna Fail, to get funding. Other cities are in a likewise predicament. JP McManus bailed out Thomond Park, and Gaelic Park in Limerick. But the state coughed up for prestige level projects Croker, Abbotstown, and Landsdowne Road II. This equated to triplication (not duplication) of investment waste of tax funds – in the context of Croker being made available to all sports. Meanwhile there are schools in Sligo that are rotten with rodents. The (Dublin-based) media never complained. But it is a distortion of public planning. It contributes to the lopsided development of the economy. And it is a wasteful. EU money for the regions gets massive transparency because the Germans and the Netherlanders are paying the bill. But the Irish tapayer gets made a fool under his own nose. Accountability within Irish forms of government is barely in existence.
    The decentralization plan was an example of local political magnates distributing the centralized structure of government all over the country. It mostly failed. Though the parts of it that suceeded will actually free up capital for the state, if the offices in Dublin 2 were placed on the market in enough time. The first people to oppose the idea were auctioneers in South Dublin, because it migh have resulted in more houses placed on the market. This is a surprisingly powerful lobby group – they provide a lot of advertising revenue to the Irish Times, and thereby they can get more consideration in editorial policy, that they would otherwise merit. And of course, you will be none the wiser !! Incidentally none of the criticisms suggested making an adminstration centre in Athlone (cheap, congestion free, spacious) for those who wanted to leave the congestion of Dublin 2. There was a complete lack of positive options, for the taxpayer, when a vital commercial interest was to be served. Because the status quo must be maintained. The economic rent infrastructure must not be undermined !!! Every politician knows it.

  43. Deco

    Furrylugs – Obama will not pour any resources into Africa for some time. Bono claimed that Bush did more for Africa than any American or Western leader. I think this is a bit on the generous side. And I suspect that even these commitments will now get postponed.
    The Chinese are watching the new Obama Administration with respect to Africa. The Chinese will be very cautious. Bush needed Chinese support for various manoevres, including gaining influence with/applying pressure on Pakistan, Syria, North Korea, and even Burma. With North Korea mellowing somewhat, Syria now fighting Al Qaeda, and Iraq becoming increasingly autonomous, US foreign policy in Africa will be more strident. Apart from any personal interest Obama might take in the matter. The ‘George Clooney’ wing of the Democrats have great expectations.

    • Furrylugs

      Dunno Deco. Apologies for the apparently racist comparison between Afro president and Afro assistance. The other half ate me for that. Ye live and learn.
      Any Christian would want to see something done though. Tis shocking what has happened in Darfur.

  44. @ furrylugs furrylegs what really is the difference both are posthumous and neither are your real name so don’t be so worried about your bodily hair.
    While I to enjoy visiting this site , have read Davids books I have also noted here that there are a few calling on Mr Mc Williams to step up as a leader of a new political force which is certainly needed on this small island of ours, while I have also noted there is less than sixty regular posters to this blog, which amazes me considering the number of books he has sold and the readership of the two papers David contributes to so if he was to step up to the political mark he would need a bigger ground base than is presently on this site. Trouble here is the general lack of interest in how we are governed so until people like your self step away from your keyboards and start asking your work colleagues to question what is happening on this site and on our streets , we will never get any where. While David if he was interested in a political career he would by now have penciled his views but , he seems to prefer the pop status and after dinner speaking.

    • Furrylugs

      Which is why I asked above are the established commentators content to effectively blather or take a stand. If you consider Emeralds exhortations, which we all seem to agree with, we are very interested.
      It’s an open forum. Things are bad. There is an active interest here about how we go forward. No one here has tried to make DMcW into a guru of sorts. We have all welcomed the chance to air our views, right or wrong.
      Some of the guys here, anon, are in the middle of it.
      I don’t know DMcW. You may be right. He may be a glory boy. I doubt it having heard him tackle the established mindset.
      But I do know that a forum like this or others is healthy for a mature democracy..
      Ordinarily, I work a long day. I get on my keyboard late at night. But by then I’ve spoken to a lot of day to day people. And all they want is clear leadership.
      I repeat that your comment is a tad high handed and somewhat out of touch.
      With Respect.

  45. Stephen Kenny

    If you look around, internationally, there is a slightly strange situation in many countries, and especially in those that are up to their necks in this financial mire: They all have a similar problem of there being little to chose, in practical terms, between their political parties.
    As I see it, at the moment, everyone is, and has been for quite a while, a supporter of ‘borrow and spend’.
    Because the trouble hasn’t really hit main street yet, the politicians still have to promise to solve all known problems by throwing money around. Governments are saying that they’ll cure the problem that they caused by a vast excess of credit, by, you’ve guessed it, creating more credit. Everyone nods sagely, and carries on enthusiastically digging.
    Just as economics isn’t just about money, neither are crashes. The description of the phases of economic crash (denial, acceptance/hope, capitulation) apply as much to psychology as they do to money, after all, when all is said and done, it is our efforts that create the wealth, that underpins the money.

    In this environment, to create an impact, and get everyone onside, the effort must be made during the capitulation phase.
    During the first two phases, but especially during the ‘hope’ phase, the incumbent government, slightly counter-intuitively perhaps, gets a boost, as people cling on to who’s currently there.
    The opportunity to create a successful new movement, must surely be when everyone is sitting around in a huge, disconsolate, heap, giving efforts by the existing political establishment, a lazy one-fingered salute.

  46. John ALLEN

    Furrylugs – I agree ……we are all here because we want to exercise our maturing democratic rights and to feel free to do so without impediment …with people who are commited to make that happen at all levels …….long live ferrylugs

  47. Malcolm McClure

    I don’t suppose many of you saw the programmes about the 1930s depression on BBC4 last night. – Factory gates locked, ships laid up, the dust bowl, food mountains destroyed while people went hungry, soup kitchens, hoboes searching for jobs all over the USA. In Britain there was the Jarrow March, which didn’t result in any change in a government policy of Laissez Faire. That just goes to show how deeply entrenched political partys have become, when an economic disaster of even that magnitude fails to produce a fundamental shift.

    In America it took the New Deal under hardheaded patrician FDR to get people back to work. In Britain it took the threat of Nazi Germany to get the wheels of industry moving again rather than any imaginative political initiative. FDR was wrong when he said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” because, until people are really afraid, they refuse to change their habits of a lifetime. In Ireland we still have a long way to go to reach that fear threshold. I have seen real poverty in the third world and how it can spur change for the better at a fundamental level. If this turns out to be a mere “muddle through” recession, then we are simply stuck with our sorry lot.

    • Further to what Malcolm and others have suggested about getting the government we deserve….
      The worldwide financial crisis merely reflects what we are rather than what we aspire to be. People are fundamentally limited in our viewpoints which leads to selfish and socially unwise behavior. We have some perspective but on the bell curve of social conscience I’m willing to believe that the middle bulge generally believe that it everyone looks after themselves then it’ll all work out. They believe in the equilibrium of an non-cooperative game without understanding that the timeframe for reaching a comfortable equilibrium could be long and the path arduous. Quick fix and laissez faire are not compatible.

      In many respects all this talk of supermen is highly relevant. We don’t need someone with average intelligence or social conscience to help inspire the Irish people to be better than they really are. All the major religions come from powerful and charismatic figures who had markedly uncommon wisdom and presence. There are good and bad points to this, as lampooned in the LIfe of Brian. Holy gourd of jehovah anyone?

      In seriousness the US are lucky. They’ve gotten a leader of formidable intelligence and powerful charisma who appears to have a genuine social conscience as evidenced by his decisions since graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law school. Every top firm wanted the first black president of the Harvard Law review as they recognised an innate brilliance as a litigator. He could have joined a major law firm but instead became a community organiser and civil rights lawyer. Does this sound like ANY of the people we’ve elected to run this country?

      Largely we’ve elected mammon. Many Irish don’t want to be represnted by those who are smarter or better than they themselves. Direct empathy with our problems is more important than solutions.

      It’s difficult to point towards a single inspirational character in the dail. Eamonn Gilmore comes closest and he’s no Obama. As a nation we’ve only recent emerged from a haze of dogma induced superstition. That dogma took the form of civil war allegiances and religious beliefs but the narrowness of the argument and differences between ideologies only underlined how stagnant this country is. How entrenched in the politics of colonialism.

      My experience of doing business in Ireland over the past few years is that if underhanded dealings and collusion were olympic sports we’d beat all comers. We conduct our dealings based on refutable conversations and handshakes. If you don’t believe so then look at the Flood and Morris tribunals. We elected a “Handshaker in Chief” in Bertie. There’s a tacit acceptance throughout Irish society of skull duggery and roguery that is holding us back. Irish society has more respect for cunning regardless of it’s underlying morality than it does for humanitarian concern or intelligence. The knowledge economy won’t be founded on ruthless cunning, although it has its place.

      We need a hell of a leader to come along to lift us out of this mess. He has to overcome the desire for a quick economic fix. He must make an election about national rather than parishional issues and he must encourage the Irish people to adopt a more sophisticated altruistic view irrespective of colour, creed, etc.
      All this in the confines of one of the most conservative and shallow political genepools in Europe.

      With this mountain to climb to rule a boithrn of a country, If Obama had been born in Ireland I’m not sure he’d have gone into politics at all.

  48. Deco

    IMPORTANT !!!! Do we have a strategy to make the competitive part of the economy competitive. If not then we are finished. Obama’s economic advisors are producing recommendations to the Irish to get prepared to changes in the tax code. Can we compete without the tax breaks ??? We have the economic rent infrastructure to support, and currently this is inhibiting us from competing efficiently, as we move foward.

    David – it will be people like you, Moore McDowell, Morgan Kelly etc.. who will have to advise the IDA etc on how to respond. Preferably in an understated manner. It now looks like that Foreign Direct Investment is under threat. We need to make our economy more efficient. We need to start feeding the goose that is laying the golden eggs. Until now we have been feeding the developers, the bankers, the legal profession, the teachers, the civil servants, the retired politicians at everybody else’s expense.

    Furrylugs – I doubt that it is racist to say Obama might help Africa – I mean GW Bush made big commitments already to subsaharan Africa – along with GOP fundraiser, Bill Gates. There is nothing unusual in being more aware of certain parts of the world, because of family connections. Bill Clinton helped the peace process in Northern Ireland. But I will make one comment that you might find amusing. Donald Rumsfeld tried to get in contact with his relatives in Germany – they completely disowned him !!!

  49. [...] read David McWilliams Blog recently about needing our own Obama for [...]

  50. @ Shane Dempsey , excellent post concise and to the point , politically I hope we will see a change here in the upcoming local elections while we may still be underpopulated as a country we now have a influx of non nationals who are more politically minded and educated than the vast majority of Irish people are , as we have for decades just followed our fathers and voted for the same party as they had voted for , where as now with the age of communication and mass media even through a state controlled media people see how inept our current crop of politicians are, while I don’t expect to see the old established parties of FF and FG disappearing they will be frightened enough to see that they must change , it is already happening within FG. Eamon Gilmore is also one of the bright ones in our current Dail and I don’t think if they got elected this time you would see the level of croynism as in previous times as they have more savvy today.
    Also I would keep an eye out for Mr Ganley and Libertas , if he hadn’t come on the scene we really would have had nobody to really question the Lisbon treaty.
    This downturn is different than any cycle than has gone before be it the 1920′s or the 1980′s and the fact that it is a global situation effecting western nations. Our own situation was of course brought on by simple greed within the construction section now that the auxiliary services connected to it are also suffering these people won’t want to emigrate as in the 80′s .
    There is a momentum presently due to the rapid slow down in our country and the situation is certainly going to get worse before it gets better, but this is good simply because it will show up where we are wasting so much on civil and public services the quangos and the likes of FAS.
    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Old age pensioners , teachers , or farmers protesting for their sectors , we do need these protesters to keep it in the mind of the general populace how our Government wastes our resources.
    Shane Ross at the height of our boom was asking then why we needed a Government job agency such as FAS and now in this downturn it is even more redundant as it has become a machine with no funding available due to the simple cost of running the entity.
    Mr Mc Williams here will also I hope step up to the plate and risk upsetting his pay masters on the after dinner circuit as the general populace are afraid and all are looking for our very own Obama .

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