herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: It's their fault

ARMAGEDDON: We'll be bailing out the banks for years to come, yet still no apology from Cowen

You break it, you pay for it.

The old china shop principle is one that most of us learn at a very young age, but it still hasn't sunk in with some of our supposedly highly intelligent politicians.

Even now, Brian Cowen still can't bring himself to utter a word of apology for his role in creating the economic Armageddon that was laid bare yesterday -- and that, more than any other reason, is why his days as Taoiseach are now strictly numbered.

We all knew that Black Tuesday was going to be bad, but few could have predicted the sheer scale of the horror show unveiled by Brian Lenihan in the Dail.

Even if some of the figures are too vast for most of us to get our heads around, the bottom line is that taxpayers will be footing the bill for a multi-billion bailout of the banks for generations to come.

The chief culprits are also fairly easy to identify -- a massive property bubble inflated by misguided tax policies, fuelled by an unhealthy relationship between Fianna Fail, bankers and developers who apparently thought this would be the first boom in history to last forever.



Terrifying

When Cowen was gently asked about his own responsibility at a press conference last night, however, he retreated into a familiar mixture of blather, self-pity and feeble excuses.

On Planet Biffo, it seems that every Irish problem is the fault of reckless foreign investors and the collapse of American financial giants such as Lehman Brothers.

Either the Taoiseach genuinely believes this nonsense, or he knows he made massive mistakes during his tenure as Minister for Finance but is too scared to admit them -- and given that he's still the man calling the shots, it's hard to know which is the more terrifying possibility.

The same goes for Bertie Ahern, who as recently as 2006 claimed in his own inimitable style that, "The boom is getting boomer."

Just like his successor, Bertie has never owned up to a single one of the bad decisions made on his watch.

He may be good at backing horses, but his recommendation that people buy Bank of Ireland shares in 2008 suggested that his stock market skills are rather less impressive -- and until he learns a bit of humility, he would be mad to even consider running for president next year.

The lack of accountability from our politicians is matched only by the continued arrogance of the bankers themselves.

Even after stinging us for tens of billions, financial institutions such as AIB seem determined to rub our noses in it by raising mortgage rates and other charges.

They are also resisting Brian Lenihan's attempts to clean out their boardrooms, as well as maintaining the astronomical salaries and bonus culture that helped to create this economic disaster.



ABANDONED

So where does that leave the voters? The only certainty is that at some stage over the next two years they will get the chance to kick Cowen and FF where it really hurts, in the ballot boxes.

FF backbenchers are now officially in SOS (save our seats) mode, as well they might be considering that their leader appears to have abandoned all hope of any political recovery.

The most important political consequence of all this is that FF have lost their reputation for economic competence, the trump card that won the last three General Elections but is now probably gone for good.

This should make the opposition jump for joy, but in fact Fine Gael and Labour look almost as glum as the Government parties because they know their inheritance will be such a grim one.

There is a terrible sense of depression around Leinster House these days, a feeling that the relationship between the political system and the Irish people is broken and that nobody really knows how to fix it.

A proper apology would at least be some kind of start.

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