IT was a tale of two recessions: In the 1980’s a gruff Irishman gave the world Live Aid, 20 years later a bluff one saddled the nation with Spiv Aid.
Will it work? Who knows? Certainly not Brian Lenihan. For all his treacly, slick assurances, this is still the Finance Minister who didn’t understand the parking-at-work tax after he announced it so let’s not fool ourselves he gets where this €54bn gamble is going to end up.
One thing was clear though – the clapping from the Fianna Fáil benches as Mr Lenihan sat down was not loud enough to drown out the sound of champagne corks popping across the rezoned greed belt as the boom-time rats gorged on the massive transfer of funds from the little people’s pay levies to the reckless speculators lifelines.
After a vicious bout of Whine Flu, a sweaty looking John O’Donoghue bravely tore himself away from the race track and turned up at Leinster House to do his day job – file his expenses, sorry, chair the Dáil. As soon as he started proceedings, a Sinn Féin deputy rose demanding to be heard on a point of order.
The Ceann Comhairle looked distinctly uneasy as the Shinners had threatened to bring his notorious global junket tour to the floor of the House, but Mr O’Donoghue was spared as Arthur Morgan demanded the Taoiseach apologise for “robbing the people”.
“You robbed them first,” a Blueshirt barked back at the Republican as the Dáil descended into 36 minutes of time wasting with the Sinn Féin deputy refusing to do what he was told and leave the chamber as Gerry Adams looked on approvingly from the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery underlining the pointless self-indulgance of it all.
In an unusually sharp intervention, Enda Kenny pointed out that while the Dáil had been interrupted for the Sinn Féin grand-standing, the country had borrowed a further €2.6m just to stay afloat.
Brian Cowen was in even uglier humour than normal, slumped back in his seat like a deflated soufflé, as Mr Lenihan outlined his plans to bung the bankers and their pals €7bn above what their property was now worth, just to tide them over until things get better.
Patriotism used to be the last refuge of the scoundrel, but Mr Lenihan had that rhetorical crutch kicked from under him at the October budget when his call for sacrifice to save the nation was washed away by the sheer unfairness of the burdens he placed on the poor and the old. This time out, he opted for that other ubiquitous shelter for the cornered politician – hiding behind the eloquence of Barack Obama.
The Finance Minister quoted the US president extensively and even ended by insisting Mr Obama would see Spiv Aid as a “bold, upfront action”.
But in reality, this was at best a frail, frightened Irish cousin of the American leader – Bankrupt O’Nama. The country cannot afford this to fail because it simply does not have the money to back it up.
The same bankers that heavied the Finance Minister at 4.30am one morning last September to give them the €440bn guarantee scheme – which the country can never honour because it is twice what Ireland Inc is worth – triumphed again and bullied the Government to flood them with three times what it spends on the health service in return for the mere promise of passing on a bit of it businesses starved of credit.
As befits the biggest financial gamble in the State’s history, it was a strange day in the Dáil in other respects, as Mr Kenny at one point propositioned the Taoiseach for money – but the Fine Gael leader was only lowering himself in the national interest, of course.
Mr Kenny said he was proposing to drop his own alternative to NAMA as he was not “dogmatic” about it – yeah, we kind of picked-up on the fact you weren’t totally committed to it Enda when you couldn’t even say how much it was going to cost. But Mr Cowen dismissed the offer to work out a new bad debt plan with remarkable loftyness.
Labour’s Joan Burton was also regularly on her feet branding the Finance Minister a “liar” several times. Mr O’Donoghue repeatedly demanded that she withdraw the most unacceptable of parliamentary language, but she just ignored him and in the end he meekly gave up – another telling sign of how diminished he now is by the appallingly lavish waste of public money he presided over as he toured the world’s finest hotels for the benefit of the taxpayer.
In the 1980’s Bob Geldoff famously demanded “Give us your f**king money!” as he championed the poor. In the inverted NAMA world of the slump this is now the battle cry of the bankers and spivs who sleep-walked us into economic disaster.
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