Jude Collins

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I'm sorry, I haven't a clue

Sinn Féin are going to miss Arthur Morgan. He was on RTÉ’s ‘The Frontline’ last night and he showed why, with the exception of Pearse Doherty, he’s the most effective Sinn Féin TD in the Dail. He’s lively, unafraid and above all, he talks about the economy in human terms. While the other politicians on the show spoke of jobs stimulus and going forward and interest rate renegotiation, Morgan spoke of local people setting up businesses, people getting a job, people paying tax into the exchequer as their business – a shop, a garage, a bakery – grew. Real stuff that listeners could picture and almost smell.

I know we’re all supposed to be well-versed in the economic system by now so we shouldn’t have to need people like Morgan presenting it to us in human terms, but that’s a myth – the well-versed thing. Most of us want to see and hear politicians who say things that relate to our lives. People like Harold Wilson, with his talk of the pound in your pocket, knew that. Richard Bruton, who’s often accepted as some kind of economic Svengali, is incapable of doing it. Arthur Morgan, maybe because he’s part of a family business, can and does.

Probably the most-admired economic commentator in Ireland is David McWilliams. He’s been hailed because when everyone – politicians, journalists, heads of banks – was saying that the boom was getting boomer, McWilliams warned the state was heading for disaster. And so it proved. So what’s he saying now?

‘Make no mistake about it, this 'bailout' will sink Ireland. We are witnessing a monumental struggle between the innocent average Irish person and the guilty creditors of the bust Irish banks’.

First, notice the way he writes – down-to-earth presentation of what’s involved in the IMF/EU bail-out . In fact, he says, we should stop calling it a bail-out –it’s the EU giving us enough rope with which to hang ourselves.

Second, note what he’s saying: the supposed bail-out is a disaster. The Irish people are assuming bank debt as their own, and in the process laying a spine-cracking burden on themselves, their children and probably their grandchildren. Our only hope is to toss aside that burden, and the only way that can be done is by sluicing out the Dail and removing those who support this disastrous bail-out/neck-noose.

There aren’t many people speaking as clearly as McWilliams or Morgan, although Morgan will be gone as from today, as soon as the Dail dissolves. When he warned of the coming crash, McWilliams was a near-lone voice. Now he’s warning of the death-sentence offered by the EU bail-out, he’s still alone.

Or nearly so. What he’s proposing sounds like a good match with Sinn Féin policy: don’t tinker with the EU/IMF loan deal, reject it. When Eoin O Broin articulated his party’s policy on TV3’s ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’ last night, Browne told him he obviously hadn’t an economic clue.

Which must mean McWilliams hasn’t a clue either. So remind me: what did they say a couple of years back, when McWilliams warned of the oncoming train-wreck? Ah yes. McWilliams, you haven’t a clue.

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