I’m feeling like I am living in a banana republic lately. This heat wave, which, I should explain, in Ireland means temperatures over 25 Celsius lasting more than three days (this one has lasted about ten days so far), helps create that feeling, of course, but that isn’t the whole reason.
In my last post here I wrote about the banking collapse and the latest chapter in this ongoing disaster story, the Anglo-Irish Bank tapes. To summarise briefly, the Irish Independent newspaper have been publishing transcripts of a series of phone conversations between the senior board members of the now defunct, notorious, scandalous and it seems, criminal Anglo Irish Bank, the one that set the bank bailout rolling and has so far cost the Irish taxpayers, which includes me, damn it, in excess of thirty billion Euros, almost half of the debt arising from the banking collapse, now standing, I believe, at about sixty-eight billion. The Irish National Debt now amounts to more than a hundred and forty billion, or over 125% of the GNP. And rising.
In the tapes, these arrogant men talk lightly of how they will deceive the government into lending them seven billion, thus trapping them into the rest of the bailout, which they all know is far in excess of that amount (though I don’t say even they knew how bad it would get). They are scathingly dismissive of the Financial Regulator Patrick Neary, a man who looks like a caricature of a feeble bureaucrat and so he was.
They laugh at the cost of their financial collapse (“Another day, another billion” says David Drumm). They mock the minsters they have to deal with. They knew full well that the Government of the day and the one we have now go in fear of the banks, and they did not hesitate to use their power.
It’s all there on the tapes, and it turns out An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s National Police Service, have had these tapes since 2010! When the tapes were first released there was uproar. The media fell about in expressions of consternation. How could this have happened? Why have we not heard these tapes before? Whose heads will roll now? The usual thing basically.
Well, innocent souls like me thought that at last we would see the present government take action, the implicated executives would be brought to trial, justice would be done. Ah but this is Ireland, land of the nod and the wink, or, as Christie More once sang, Everyone knows but no-one says. Authority goes unchallenged. I have heard it said by a psychologist that it is deep in the Irish psyche to see themselves as helpless. There were no public protests, there was no action taken (though I suppose in theory it may yet be).
The government and in particular the Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Taioseach Enda Kenny (seen chuckling together above), made their decision and they made their thoughts public. “Let’s find the person who leaked these tapes” was their response. And silence has fallen. Now we’re back to talking about the weather, apparently the top topic of conversation among the Irish. Not hard to see why. Who’d bother talking about the failures of this and previous governments, or the corruption in high places, or the total immunity of the rich and powerful?
So I sit in the sun and contemplate the life of an ordinary citizen in a banana republic. A vegan friend tells me bananas are good for me, and I guess that’s just as well.