24 March 2012

#Crony2012

#Crony2012, by Will St Leger
Temple Bar, Dublin, Saturday 24th March
By now you all should have had plenty of time to read through the Mahon Tribunal report, all seven million pages of it. I spent most of Thursday morning skimming through it, but if you haven't read it (spolier alert), Bertie lied. A lot. About everything. In fact the phrase "The Tribunal rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence" or variations thereof appears 12 times in the report, it's a wonder the whole section on Bertie wasn't just replaced with the words "The Tribunal found Mr Ahern's trousers to be aflame. Continuously aflame".

The coverage of the findings of the report have been almost as interesting as the coverage of the reaction to the report, with the biggest public gripe seeming to be, "You spent €250 Million to tell us all that Bertie was corrupt? Sure we knew that all along". The problem with this is that while we may indeed have known this all along, as Fintan O'Toole inconveniently points out today in The Irish Times, 900,000 people still voted for him back in 2007, when, as they say, even the dog in the street knew he was on the take.

What were they all thinking?

Clientism and the dynastic nature of Irish politics is a frequent topic of posts here at Booming Back, as is the inherent conservatism of the Irish populace. What is more mystifying to me is how nearly a million people who all knew that Bertie was on the take, and brazenly so, still happily voted for Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats in 2007, and how the Greens could go into government with such a man. It seems immediate self-interest trumps better judgment every day of the week in the Irish psyche.

Reading through the Tribunal report and subsequent coverage, the thought occurred to me that what we could now be witnessing in this, our Winter of Discontent, is a new methodology for teaching kids maths in school, with future copybooks being filled with equivalencies suitable for the 21st Century, such as: 1 Anglo Promissory Note = 12.4 Mahon Tribunals = 14,777 Dig Outs to Bertie = 31 Million Household Charges.

I feel smarter already.

Speaking of household charges, it is heartening to see that thousands of people turned out to the National Stadium this afternoon for the first national Anti-Household Tax rally, where folks from around the country were bussed in and an overflow assembly is being held in the car park because there were no seats left indoors. I was going to head down meself but by the time I was setting off I was already getting word back from folks there that there was no room at the inn. Any feelings of disappointment that I might have had at not being a part of such a monumental event are slightly softened by the pleasure I feel at seeing how large the protest actually is, and how successful. Interestingly enough looking at the photos from the event it would seem that a sizable chunk of the audience are senior citizens, and given how quick the last government was to U-Turn over the prescription charges once the Grey Vote was mobilized on the streets, the outcome of this is far from certain.

While the current Government may be out hay-making while the Mahon Tribunal shines (a particularly hollow exercise coming, as it does, mere days after Enda stood and rang the NYSE opening bell hand-in-hand with Denis O'Brien), blaming the other guys for all our woes will do nothing to quell the popular uprising that we are witnessing over the Household Charge and other instruments of fiscal inequality.

The citizenry are angry and the curtain behind which the political puppet masters have been hiding has been torn down. What we can see now may just be the tip of the fetid landfill of corruption, but never again will 900,000 people be able to look the other way and pretend that everything is fine and dandy.

An irate and informed citizenry - every politician's nightmare.

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