Ireland was in a dangerous place in 2012

The behaviour of politicians never fails to amaze and astound me.
Ireland was in a dangerous place in 2012

In Spain recently, Taoiseach Enda Kenny clearly embellished the story in relation to the need for the army to be on standby in the event of ATMs running out of money at the height of our economic crisis.

Mind you, the logic of having the army protect ATMs that are out of money eludes me.

Be that as it may, opposition politicians have jumped on these utterances from Mr Kenny and are using it as a stick with which to beat the leader of the country.

This shows just how desperate the opposition parties are, but, at a more fundamental level, the reaction of the opposition is just further proof of how stupid, pointless, and childish many aspects of our political system are.

Isn’t it a pity that our politicians wouldn’t spend more time constructively addressing the many social and economic problems with which we are still trying to grapple?

That is a forlorn hope, however, because the last time we saw anything resembling constructive political behaviour in this country was in 1987 when Alan Dukes pursued the so-called ‘Tallaght Strategy’.

The reality is the period to which the Taoiseach was referring was indeed a very dangerous time, not just for Ireland, but for the whole of the eurozone.

We know exactly how precarious the Irish banking system in particular and the economy in general was at that time. And history will show just how close the EMU experiment was to breaking up during that period and, indeed, on a few occasions subsequently.

A break-up of the euro would have been a very dangerous event that could have had catastrophic implications for small struggling peripheral nations such as Ireland.

It is not inconceivable that panic would have ensued — and civil unrest could not have been ruled out. Some of the Irish Water demonstrations have shown how easily civil disobedience can quickly turn into something more serious, just as the Beirut-like characteristics of parts of Dublin on Halloween night show how close to the surface violent and anti-social behaviour is in our society.

If the euro had collapsed and the Irish banking system had plunged into crisis, then the notion of utilising the army to maintain law and order might not have been inconceivable.

Granted, the Taoiseach used poetic licence and hyperbole to make his point in Madrid, but he was making a very valid point about where Ireland was at the time, and that was not a very good place to be.

Thankfully, we are in a much better place today, although it is far from perfect. However, the economy is making clear progress and this seems to be upsetting some opposition politicians.

Hence they are making political capital out of an unimportant event in Madrid to deflect attention away from the emerging economic reality. This economic reality is a much more positive one than we have seen for some time, as demonstrated, once again, by a couple of data releases this week.

The exchequer returns for the first 10 months of the year make for pretty pleasant reading. The exchequer deficit in the first 10 months of the year stood at €2.18bn, which is down from €8.5bn in the same period last year.

While some of this improvement is due to one-off items, tax revenue buoyancy, on the back of the stronger economy, is the most important driver. Tax revenues in the first 10 months were almost €2.5bn ahead of expectations and were 9.6% ahead of last year.

The stronger labour market is instrumental to the whole improvement. In October, the unemployment rate fell to 9.3% of the labour force, and the unemployment total fell to 203,000, which represents a decline of 24,900 over the past year.

The improving labour market is by far the most important indicator to take into account, and it is clearly moving to a much better place, although there is still a distance to go.

Against this background of improving economic fundamentals, it is no wonder that desperate opposition politicians are grasping at pathetic straws.

If only our political system became even a bit more constructive, it might go some way towards alleviating the deep cynicism that many of us share in regard to the current Irish political scene.

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