SEAN MONCRIEFF: Chickens may come home to roost for Government

BY the time you read this you may well have some idea how tough the next year will be.

No doubt, the budget will leave you with less cash: which could mean that you have to re-think the holiday plans. Or cut out whatever few remaining luxuries you enjoyed this year. Or contact your bank to tell them that you can’t keep up the mortgage payments. Or you may have finally reached the point where you have no idea how, or if, you can feed your family.

Up until now, the Irish have been largely passive in the face of austerity, for a number of reasons: a certain Irish fatalism about our political system; the fact that those with the least — and the least political clout — have been hardest hit; and a genuine understanding of the awful choices facing our government: (A) Ireland can obey the strictures from the troika in the hope that our good behaviour will be rewarded with more favourable terms, or (B) we can engage in a massive game of chicken: refuse to pay any more, and hope that they don’t turn off the money tap which is keeping the country afloat.

Obviously, the coalition feels that Option A is the less risky of the two. No one wants a scenario where suddenly there is no money to pay guards or nurses; and no politician wants to be remembered as the person who took a bad gamble and set our economy back a hundred years.

But that’s not to say that what we have now isn’t risky either. With each year, the cuts are affecting a larger group of people, to the extent that even the relatively well paid are starting to find it tough. This year anyone who owns a property will find themselves having to pay a tax on it which is at least double what was demanded last year; next year that figure will probably double again. And even though the Irish public might understand why the Government is doing this, we will, I suspect, reach a point where there is no rational response to the cuts other than widespread defiance.

Not just because of the gross unfairness of what has been happening, but also because many families will have reached the tipping point where there’s simply no money left.

And with such a dramatic change in circumstances is bound to come a change of attitude. So far, the Government has failed to achieve any major debt relief. Next March it will pay out €3.1bn under the promissory note arrangement for Anglo Irish Bank while trying to screw money out of its own citizens which they simply don’t have.

Option A isn’t working.

And with so many citizens now in such desperate economic circumstances, what have we got to lose by trying option B? But it remains to be seen how aware the Government is of this growing desperation; and whether there will be riots on the streets before they get the message.


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