Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Everybody Hates A Told-You-So #1: Your ‘umble scribbler predicts our dire predicament a year before the Euro!

You Read It In This Colyoom FIRST Productions reveals now that your ‘umble scribbler predicted our dire predicament in print a year before the Euro became Europe’s single currency. From the annals (yikes!) of my dusty files, here’s a piece I penned for the Irish Post in February 2001. For those of you with short attention spans, the last paragraph says it all...

(Thanks to the Irish Post.)
Is the Celtic Tiger and Endangered Species
Mary from da country is on an RTE radio phone-in, giving out to Georgio, an Italian official from the European Union.

“Oh yes, Georgio, we hed some verra verra haird toimes in this conchee, so we did, back in da Aytiz, but do you know what we did, Georgio, do ya, do ya?”

Poor Georgio doesn’t quite grasp the rhetoric inherent in Mary’s question.

“Way-all, Mary, I donna hexackerlee-”

“Well, Georgio, oil tellya what we did. We pulled in our belts, and we pulled up our shocksh, and we ate bread and water, and we worked like divills, and we went without holidays to Shpain and da like, and gradjally...gradjally we made it to where we are today, the most succeshful conchee in da world, which we are, I think you’ll find. And now, soon as we have got ourshelves out of the gotta, and made some money so’s we can go on holidays to Shpain and da like, you lot in Europe come along and tell us that we are doing it wrong. Do ya know what I says to dat? Do ya? Do Ya?”

By now, poor Georgio is just the slightest bit wary of Mary and her rantings.

“Er, yes, I mean no, so, we are hall very ‘appy for hireland’s success and-”

“Do you know what I says to dat, Georgio? I says you have no right, dat’s what I say. Joss because your Euro is so patettic and all that, and you haven’t done as well as we have at making a go of it, you can’t shtand seeing the little cunchee doing well, can you? Dat’s da trobble widjall your brossels broorocrats.”

At this juncture, the radio show host jumps in, but sadly fails to bring any sense to proceedings.

“So, Georgio, you can see the feeling in the country is running pretty high. Answer me this, Georgio, on a scale of one to ten, how does Ireland score for unemployment?”

Naturally, poor Georgio evades a direct response to such a crass line of questioning, but our host continues unabashed.

“Okay, so Georgio, on a scale of one to ten, how does Ireland rate for old age pensions? How do we rate for education spending?”

Poor Georgio states the obvious, that it is pointless to score points in this manner, but our host, (and Mary, whose continued presence on the line is heralded by her 40-a day wheezy breathing) are in the mood for a scrap, and any European foreigner will do.

“So Georgio, tell me, would you like to take back the tax cuts? Would you like to stop the old people getting a rise? Tell me, Georgio, which bit of our success would you like to put a stop to?”

I can’t take any more and turn the radio off.

What on earth is it that possess the Irish when they talk about their economic progress? Everyone, from Mary out on the bog, to Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, chooses to behave like four year-old children, if that’s not being completely unfair to toddlers.

Personally no, Mary, I don’t understand what you’re saying, to be honest, because, to use the vernacular, you’re talking absolute bollocks. As a child I was taught that when one friend tells me I’m wrong, I’m right, but when five friends tell me I’m wrong, I am wrong.

Charlie McCreevy recently came out of a meeting where all 14 European Finance Ministers admonished him for his inflationary budget, and just like Mary, Charlie stuck his tongue out and shouted

“I’m the King of the castle, you’re the dirty old rascals!”.
Then he ate some mud and was sick on the carpet.

Well, no, he didn’t, but he might as well have. Instead he adopted the same infantile argument as the radio host.

“Is anyone suggesting we take £500 million from health? Is anyone suggesting that we don’t go ahead with the very necessary roads infrastructure?”

No, Charlie, I’m not. I’m just taking a look at all those new roads, and Ireland’s improving infrastructure, and appreciating the billions of pounds that Europe have invested here over the last few years. Everywhere you go in this country, huge signs proudly fly the European flag, informing us that European funds have helped build this hospital, that road, this causeway and that airport extension.

What planet is Charlie McCreevy on? Given the billions of pounds of Structural Adjustment Funds that pour into Ireland from Europe every year, how can he have the gall to say
“Over the last five years we have not received any particular favours from the EU. Anything we got, we got on its merits.”

Right, and I’m Napoleon Bonaparte. Why do Charlie and Mary both fail to realise that far from wanting to spoil the party, the European Commission is trying save the Irish from rampant inflation, a misery that affects the poor worst of all?

You can’t expect kazillions of pounds in investment without some notional rules of control. You can’t sign up to a single currency, and expect everyone else to follow your lead.

Do the Irish really imagine that the Celtic Tiger economy has been built on Irish sweat and Irish money? People seem to understand that American multinationals bring jobs and money, and then leave Ireland to invest somewhere else where the tax breaks are better. So why do they imagine that they can take the European money, run away, and pretend it never happened?

It’s great that the inflation levels are slowing down, but it’s like a balloon. Slowing the rate of inflation doesn’t actually stop the prices going up. Next year the Euro arrives, and every single price in the European single market will be converted, and then rounded up to the nearest figure. Two years from now, the balloon will burst, and everyone who is now whinging about European interference will be running around with empty wallets, asking why it was allowed to happen. Why didn’t the EU do something?

The Celtic Tiger is a fragile, imaginary beast, more of a chameleon really, fed by American investment, protected by the camouflage of European subsidy. Until the Irish see that their success is very far from homegrown, they will have to mature quickly and answer to those who make their good lives possible.

©Charlie Adley

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