Economist Morgan Kelly is one of the leaders of the boys and he’s been on the rampage again, warning the University College Dublin Economics Society that the economic crisis is barely out of its starting blocks and will streak down the track when the European Central Bank puts a stop to our “sweet” credit line.
Kelly thinks the ECB is poised to clean out bad debts in European banks and will call in loans to Ireland, because Ireland is small and matters very little. Kelly says our small-to-medium businesses, which provide a huge percentage of our employment, owe €58bn, of which €33bn is for property. The Irish Examiner has estimated the figure for bad debts in that part of the SME sector at €24.5bn, so Kelly will have to justify his figures if he accepts Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s invitation to talk
Kelly doesn’t explain why the ECB, having pumped billions into our banks, would pull the rug out from under us. Doesn’t the ECB want a success story? Or should we refuse to be the ECB’s success story, because it is demeaning and has entailed a loss of ‘sovereignty’?
I don’t give a hoot about sovereignty. It’s blindingly obvious that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and not Taoiseach Enda Kenny, has been responsible for the recent calming of the economic storm. I celebrated when Draghi said he would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. That’s international solidarity, and if it’s aimed at saving the skin of the EU and the euro, well that’s good, because we are part of both.
If the ECB has money to lend and we need it, I want it. I want life to look normal and seem normal.
I think it is a huge relief that, as Kelly says, “the economic collapse....was a lot smaller than expected,” and that outside the building industry, there was “surprisingly little contraction.”
It doesn’t matter to me that was largely down to an Italian, not an Irishman. I’m still glad we didn’t attempt to default on our debt, because then we would have been beyond saving when Jean Claude Trichet gave way to Draghi.
Maybe it doesn’t play to the boy’s own view of the world that we can’t illustrate this national victory with a big boy going over the top waving a Tricolour. But I don’t give a stuff. Give me conservatism, if it means protecting as much as possible of the social fabric of this country for as long as possible. Give me careful, tiresome negotiation; give me slow, painful paring down of expenses, endless negotiation of further loans, endless negotiation of interest rates.
Give me them all, and more, if it means my autistic son gets a place in new school.
‘What the hell,’ you’re saying? ‘You’d swap default, the drama of sudden cuts to social services, the self-righteousness of not paying back the people who foolishly lent us money, the glory of wrapping the Tricolour round you... for a school place for your son?’
I sure would. And we got the letter last week. My son, Tom, will be going to a special secondary school for autistic children in September.
Tom will be picked up and dropped off every day by a special school bus, staffed by a special needs assistant. He will be in a class of five or six children, with a teacher and at least one SNA.
He will do art therapy and music therapy, as well as academic subjects and practical skills leading to FETAC qualifications. He will get his lunch.
The school is in a dilapidated building, but there’s a planning application out front. The management plans to move the school out this year, while a spanking new school is built on site.
‘How did you get that place,’ you’re asking? ‘Did you know someone? Don’t you know there are no services for autistic children?’
There are services for autistic children. There have continued to be, right through the economic crisis. There are certainly not enough and they are not organised half as well as they should be. But right through the crisis, my son was picked up every day by his special school bus, and brought to his special school, where there are six in his class.
Funding for special-needs education has not only remained in place during the biggest bank bust in recent Western history, it has increased, and we can be as proud of this as we can be of largely maintaining our commitment to overseas aid.
During the bust, ABA schools for autistic children were funded by the State for the first time, though one ABA place costs €40,000 a year.
But you will never hear anything about these schools, and the triumph of each child as he or she manages something as small as holding a pencil or sitting down for three minutes, unless one of the schools closes.
Then you’ll hear about them. It will all be because we lost our ‘sovereignty’. One of our national newspapers cut out the middle man recently and did a half-page spread, claiming all the ABA schools had closed due to “cut-backs”.
They didn’t even ring any of the schools to ask the leading question, “are you still open?”
Morgan Kelly was right when he said, in 2006, that property prices might go down by 50%. It would have made very little difference if we had listened to him, though, because by that point nearly all the damage was done.
But, so far, his 2010 evaluation of how much this society would unravel within five years would put him in a dodgy position if he were knocking on the door of a mud hut looking for a job as a seer.
It’s true, we still have a year to go before his prediction, in a national newspaper, that the mortgage crisis would mean “social conflict on the scale of the Land War” is supposed to come true.
And we have a year to discard the Civil War parties in favour of a “hard-right, anti-Europe, anti-Traveller” movement “on the lines of the Tea Party.”
Kelly’s not giving up yet. “Just you wait”, he seems to say. “I’ll be right in the end. You’ll see.”
Maybe he will. But I don’t believe so. Maybe that’s just because I’m a hopeful person who actually believes in Europe, believes in our democracy, and believes in the decency and resourcefulness of the Irish people.
But maybe I just hope because I’m a mammy and I don’t have the luxury of despair. Kelly’s dystopian Ireland has no place for my autistic boy and if our failure to go there, so far, is a “sweet” trip, I want it to last as long as possible.