What is it about so many of our fellow Irishmen/women that they can’t face the truth? Our esteemed prime minister, Enda Kenny – who makes a shade of grey seem rather exciting – says that “[Irish] people went mad borrowing during the boom”, and it creates a furore.
But Irish people did go mad borrowing during the boom – or bubble, as it might be more accurately termed. Not all Irish people, mind you, but enough to get the country up to its hoxters in debt. People who are now saying – like Kenny in another context – that "it’s not our fault”.
Bloody hell. Years back, a German/Turkish mate of mine came to visit – just as the bubble was puffing up nicely – and he was shocked by the amount of expensive cars on our roads. He was even more shocked when I told him some of them cost nearly twice as much in Ireland as they did in Germany, thanks to Ireland's Vehicle Registration Tax. All bought on the never-never, when Paddy and Mary were happy to take the money from the banks, bondholders or not.
I remember trying to move house during the boom years, and everywhere I went was swarming with investors. One estate agent – a refreshingly honest young lad – told me how a postman had a portfolio of seven properties on the go. How many did your average solicitor have, I wonder? Given how much easier it was to take care of the legal stuff? Portfolios that now translate into loss accounts for all of us.
The same lad related how everyone in the estate agent’s office, where he worked, laughed out loud when a semi-D down the road “made” a million. But back then, Paddy and Mary thought it could go on forever. Bertie Ahern thought the naysayers should commit suicide. The media talked it up, uncritically, and the opposition benches were quiet about the Ponzai scheme on which the Irish economy was built. If you stuck your head above the parapet and said it was “mad” you would most likely have it knocked off.
And now, even in retrospect - with the supposed benefit of hindsight - the story is the same with Kenny's belated admission.
It's a pity the ostrich is not indigenous to these barren shores. It would make a lovely national emblem.
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