Angry commentators who are getting even angrier on our behalf

TAKE some time to relax with a nice glass of wine in our bar or restaurant and enjoy a delicious pre-show dinner”, says the advertisement for a hotel package I’m led to when I try to book for Four Angry Men at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on Nov 27th.

Haven’t they got the wrong idea? Shouldn’t they be doling out hair shirts in the lobby instead? How can I keep my anger alive and kicking through dinner and half a bottle of wine? Will I be going in with the wrong attitude? What’s my problem?

The four angry men — Fintan O’Toole, Shane Ross, Nick Webb and David Mc Williams — manage to keep their anger bright no matter how many nice dinners and bottles of wine they consume.

It doesn’t seem odd to them to be charging people €25 a head to sit and listen to them “angering up” because other people — who are not in the theatre — are in desperate circumstances.

It doesn’t seem even a little bit incongruous to them to be sitting in a 2,111-seat theatre, built by Nama developer Joe O’Reilly at the height of the boom, telling us all how angry they are at the state of the country, which the recession has pushed, let’s remember, only two places from number five to number seven in the world under the UN Development Index.

Not one bit. As Brendan O’Connor introduced them on The Saturday Show, they’re “the rock stars of dissent.”

Between them they’ve had hundreds of newspaper columns and at least seven books out of it, with Shane Ross and son-in-law Nick Webb positively churning them out: Wasters was a bestseller in 2010 and now The Untouchables is ready for the Christmas market.

In fact things are going so well for these people that you have to ask yourself why they are angry at all.

The Four Angry Men tour kicks off in the Cork Opera House on Nov 25 and finishes at the Radisson Blu, Galway, on Dec 2. Fintan O’Toole, who I remember as a courteous team-player as my colleague in The Irish Times, has a highly-paid newspaper job. So does Nick Webb. David McWilliams charges thousands for his speaking engagements. Shane Ross has a TD’s salary plus a few hundred a week for his column in the Sunday Indo as well as his earnings from his best-selling books and his other interests.

Ah, but you see, these are special people. They’re not angry for themselves. They’re angry for us.

How do they know we want them to go on suffering for us? They look, like de Valera, into their hearts.

No, that’s not fair. Fintan O’Toole explained to Brendan O’Connor, he has been “talking to people”. And he has discovered what our problem is: “We’ve never psychologically accepted that this is our country.”

We used to kow-tow to the Brits but now it’s to Angela Merkel. We could avoid paying those pesky promissory notes for the Anglo debt if our politicians just knew how to stand up for us.

But they’re fatally flawed and so they can’t: “They like people to slap them on the back”, O’Toole explains. What they lack, Nick Webb explained to O’Connor, is “testicular fortitude”: “They need to grow a pair.”

Some might argue that we wouldn’t have had a property bubble or a banking crash if “testicular fortitude” had been less in evidence. But not right-wingers Ross and Webb.

Shane Ross was a cheerleader for the insane levels of lending which have bankrupted the State. In 2003 he applauded Michael Fingleton — “Fingers” to you and me — for his “spectacular” figures, which he described as even better than those of “superstar” Sean Fitzpatrick. He described that famous bankrupt and Anglo debtor Sean Quinn as a “business hero” and a “genius” as recently as 2007.

Even on Saturday night’s show, he was complaining about the Government “taxing people out of existence.” What is he doing with leftie Fintan O’Toole? It’s a worrying trend in any serious recession: an anti-establishment union of Left and Right. The US Tea Party “burning the bond-holders” along with Greece’s Syriza. Shane Ross and Sinn Féin.

O’Toole’s position on the economy is identical to that of Sinn Féin. He seems to see our economy as static and our income coming to us by way of a block grant. Instead, our economy is dynamic and our income relies on thousands of relationships with the outside world: with markets, importers, creditors.

The only question worth asking in relation to our debt is how do we do least damage to our economy?

Our elected Government representatives have mostly taken the view that for a small trading economy like ours it would be more damaging to burn our boats than float them.

Yes, it’s true that the current Coalition was swept in on promises of “burning bond-holders” and what have you. But it was obvious to anyone with any cop-on that they could never deliver on any of this stuff. Obvious to Ross, I suspect, or he would have run for Fine Gael.

The fact that they have gone on to do precisely what the last Government did, despite the damage they will suffer at the hands of populists like Ross and Sinn Féin, must lead us to suspect they have carefully considered all the angles and they think it’s the best course. Or the least bad.

If only we had journalists running the country instead of a democratically elected government! If only Fintan had run! “You would have been fantastic”, gushed the Famous Four’s MC Olivia O’Leary on The Saturday Show.

Why couldn’t a brainy journalist be taoiseach instead of Enda, dismissed thus by O’Leary: “Sometimes I’m suspicious there ain’t nothing going on inside his head.”

Not like the brain-box journalists, none of whom has a job which depends on delivering a black bottom line to keep other people in employment. Let alone making the kind of momentous decisions which our senior politicians make every day. Or knocking on the doors of strangers every few years to ask for their jobs back.

Politicians do tend to “talk to people” too.

The men and women who work in the established media in this country are very well-heeled, very well-connected and some of them are very arrogant. They don’t seem to see themselves in the mirror at all.

Shane Ross and Nick Webb’s latest stocking filler, The Untouchables — the people who helped wreck Ireland — and are still running the show”, contains not a single media name in its directory.

I think I’m angry enough already. I don’t need to spend €25 on a ticket to see the Four Angry Men.

I’m going to scroll down to a show more suitable for a woman suffering from nerves, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Swirling music, a sugar plum fairy and lots of men in tights — but not a testicular challenge in sight.

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