Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Bleeding Country

I have had the great Patrick Kavanagh’s words floating in my mind this past few months.

I have taken the liberty of rewriting his poem '
O Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan' to represent our current state of thinking.

Our Bleeding Country

O Soldiers of Destiny

The laugh from my soul you thieved

You took the gay child of my passion

And gave me your clod conceived

You clogged the feet of our children

We believed in your strut and tumble

Having the poise and stride of Bertie

And his voice the thick tongued mumble

You told me the Celtic Tiger was immortal

Our futures were safe and secure

Your country now bankrupt your citizens blunted

A banking and political system impure

You sang on steaming dunhills

A song of coward’s brood

You drained the public purse,

With your nose in the taxpayers trough

You have flung this countries future

A future once bright and strong.

O Soldiers of Density

You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the joys of employment and pleasure

All the young men and women that leave

O can we still stroke the monster’s back

Or write with unpoisoned pen

Your name in these lonely verses

Or mention the dark future where

The first gay light of our youths future

Got caught in a bankers prayer.

From West Cork to Dublin City

Now there’s four hundred and fifty thousand

In a welfare state that shows no pity

And a population bludgeoned.

Declan Waugh courtesy of Patrick Kavaghan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Economic Crisis and a Failed Democracy

This is the most dangerous Government in the history of this State which has preceded over the destruction of our economy and left my generation bankrupt, unemployed and without effective leadership

Our system of governance is a sham, power is supposed to belong with the people. In the view of this Irish man who actually gives a damn, the democratic system we have in this country has utterly failed its citizens. Its not just Fianna Fail fault, the strength of a government can only be judged by the strength of its opposition and it is fair to say that the opposition has failed abysmally.

The majority of issues started from 1987 when Fianna Fáil got into power, they preceded over deregulation of the financial system, lack of corporate governance, massive overspend in public infrastructure projects, inept planning policy and total lack of enforcement regulation, HSE mismanagement, public sector benchmarking, the property bubble, FAS, decentralisation, the universal bank guarantee, Anglo Irish Bank and NAMA. We were told unequivocally by this Government that the bank guarantee would be cost neutral for the exchequer and may even bring a profit, at this moment it appears our country is insolvent as a result of the bank guarantee.

The Irish banking system is looking as credible these days as the Afghanistan Kabul Bank assuring the world that it absolutely, positively had enough capitol to available meet all its obligations (ie. About five days before it went bust last week). Unlike Anglo Irish Bank it was not guaranteed by the State, what we have witnessed in Ireland is the transformation of private debt into public debt on an unprecedented scale. We are now in unchartered territory, with no compass, no leadership, no map and a rapidly sinking boat.

National debt now stands at 67% GDP up from a surplus of 3% in 2006. On top of this the bill for paying our public sector is soaring, unemployment is approaching near half a million and we need to borrow €30 billion a year just to pay our public sector.

We were in no uncertain terms betrayed by Government, by the unions, by ourselves. We appear unanimously to be furious about this Government, it has the lowest approval rating of any government in the history of the state, yet nothing has changed.

We continue to hear about innumerable indications (and no conviction) of perjury, bribery, corruption, embezzlement, favouritism, self service, abuse of power, etc, and we all know that this is not even the tip of the iceberg.

I am sick to death of this dysfunctional Government (and its opposition) and their perverse attempts to make the ordinary citizen of this county carry the can for the incompetence of a tiny number of wealthy elite.

In a true democracy the state does not command us, we command the state, democracy means government by the people. Right now more than ever we need to change the political system; out with the old failed civil war politics and in with a new form of government for this century and future generations. Democracy in this county has been Government for the highest bidder and in the past twelve years Fianna Fáil and the PD’s greased the system, the unions and public service to ensure three electoral successes and we let them.

Irish citizens have and always should have the right to choose who represents them. Irish citizens should also be given their right to choose who represents them in the middle of an Economic crisis. I believed last year when I spoke against the banking guarantee and Anglo Irish Bank at the Green Party convention on NAMA that an Election was the only answer to this problem. Ireland belongs to its citizens and not political parties who choose power over democracy. When the Green Party voted for NAMA, I along with many other members resigned. We were told that the bank guarantee would be cost neutral for this country and may even make a profit, I did not believe it then and the results are clearly in; it has bankrupt our state.

The failure of this Government to hold the three outstanding by- elections further illustrates their contempt of democracy. Yet the Government remains in power while the opposition dithers and bickers.

Irelands gross external debt increased by 262% under Fianna Fáil and the PD’s from around €521 billion in 2002, to over €1.36 trillion as of 30 June 2007. In March 2010 the Central Statistic Office (CSO) stated that the gross external debt of all residents sectors in Ireland amounted to €1.67 trillion. The bulk of this debt lies with failed banking institutions and we the taxpayer are being left to carry the can. In a population of 4.5 million that’s €370,000 per citizen on top of their negative equity mortgages and reduced income.

In the words of the soldiers of density, a lot done more to do!

So how much more is left to be done?

It is easy to identify who is responsible; they remain sitting in government and on the opposition benches, failed politicians for a failed generation. Our entire political system is corrupt. Something is rotten in the state of Ireland and we need to realise that only we can change it. The longer we dither, the more we lose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Times Passing, Shinagh House, SWS Co Operative, Bandon

It is with a sense of sadness that I visited Shinagh House on the 10th September last to meet with some of my past colleagues on their last day in Bandon prior to their move to Cork city. I relocated home to West Cork to work with SWS Group in Jaunuary 2000, starting the new millenium with a new career and fresh hopes for the future.

I spent seven years working in Shinagh house at a time of tremendous change within the organisation and established a new department and created new jobs based in West Cork. I remember the enormous pride combined with some trepidation that I personally felt in providing employment to recent graduates while also giving summer experience to students from across West Cork and throughout Munster.

Shinagh House was a melting pot of incredible people; men and women working together in a co-operative in areas as diverse as marketing, IT, agriculatural services, forestry, environmental services, farm relief, accounting, corporate services, auctioneering, recruitment and rural development. It was truly a unique work environment, one that it is unlikely we will ever see again in West Cork.

In the early part of the last decade there were in excess of 120 people working under the one roof in Shinagh House in addition to the considerable numbers employed in the call centre, which was also located on the estate providing much needed trade and business to Bandon town and beyound. Its closing will be a huge loss to the community, one that I deeply regret and wish otherwise.

In memory of my time in Shinagh House I would like to wish all the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with during my time there the very best.

I was truly fortunate to have met so many incredible people and hope that this will not be the end of days for such a remarkable building and work environment, overlooking the wonderful Bandon river valley with its majestic woodland, green fields and the morning mist rising from the river.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

If ECB wants Anglo to survive, let it bear the cost

This article deserves to be circulated so here it is as reported in the Irish Times by Fintan O Toole this week.

The only reason left for saving Anglo is the EU and ECB must have decided no European bank can fail. We can’t afford to do it, so Mr Trichet will have to, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE

IN LITTLE Britain, Vicky Pollard is a delinquent teenager who begins every answer to an awkward question with “yeah but no” before plunging into a stream of incomprehensible drivel.

In Little Ireland, Vicky Pollard is a member of a delinquent government who begins sentences with “yeah but no” before plunging into a stream of incomprehensible drivel. Here is Eamon “Vicky” Ryan on Morning Ireland last Thursday, attempting not to answer a straight question from Aoife Kavanagh.

Aoife: “Does that mean you favour a faster winding down of Anglo Irish Bank than had originally been proposed, ’cause that’s exactly what Senator Dan Boyle said and he was very clear about that?” Vicky: “Yeah but no, he wasn’t, yes of course, you would, would want, we want, to move on quickly from the mistakes that were made . . . ”

He may or may not have added, “Oh my God! I so can’t believe you said that.” I’m not sure, because at that point, his voice was drowned out by the screams in my head.

Eamon Ryan is one of the brightest people in Irish politics. If he can’t articulate Government policy on Anglo without going adrift on a sea of verbal slurry, it is safe to assume that no one can. It cannot be articulated because it is irretrievably mired in nonsense.

Propping up Anglo is one of the most momentous decisions an Irish government has ever made and it can no longer say why it is doing it. Yet, by a process of elimination, we are at last getting to the truth at the core of this policy. We have been given, in all, five different explanations by the Government of why we must continue to pour money into Anglo and, lest we forget, its mini-me Irish Nationwide.

The first was that these institutions were basically sound but needed temporary rescue from a liquidity crisis. No one needs to be told how stupid that was.
The second was that we needed to give them the money to get credit flowing into the economy again. This was always a cynical line spun for the supposedly gullible masses – Anglo and Nationwide never lent significantly into the real economy and will never do so in the future.

The third reason we’ve been given is that it was vital to avoid having zombie banks. This actually has been achieved – as the Financial Times pointed out last week, Anglo is nothing as lively as a zombie. It’s a “rotting corpse”.

The fourth proposition was that saving Anglo and Nationwide was necessary to maintain Ireland’s “credibility” with the international financial markets. In fact, watching a State borrow endless billions at high interest rates to shovel them into a grave has merely enhanced our incredibility.

Which leaves us with the fifth reason for the strategy, and the only one that makes any sense: that the European Union, and more specifically the European Central Bank, have decided that no European bank should be allowed to fail.
Strip away the drivel and the spinning and this is the one truth left standing. At least if we clarify this much, we can also clarify the nature of the decision that now faces us.

The choice is now stark: do we go on being “good Europeans” at the cost of destroying our own society or do we become “bad Europeans”, lose the trust of some of our European partners, but save ourselves?

There are costs to be paid whichever choice we make, but we know which side we have to pick. In the appalling state we’re in, there is just one rational course of action: tell the ECB that if it wants Anglo to survive, it can save it.
Otherwise, we are calling in the bondholders and negotiating a debt-for-equity swap in which this brat becomes their baby.

And yes, this will be most unpleasant. We’ll be accused of causing a new crisis for the euro, German magazines will run cartoons of greedy Irish piglets sucking on the teats of the German taxpayer, German politicians will issue statements telling us to sell off the Cliffs of Moher and Skellig Michael.

Brian Cowen won’t get ego- boosting profiles in Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal will rip down its posters of Brian Lenihan. The initial market reaction will be terrible. Everyone will hate us – until they find someone else to hate.

But we have to do it anyway. Whatever the ECB’s Jean Claude Trichet says, Anglo is not merely an Irish problem – it was European banks that fed its frenzy for cash and the ECB is now its biggest debtor – and Ireland has done its best. We’ve tried the “good Europeans” track and it has led ever further into the wilderness.

There comes a point of existential crisis when even the meekest of countries has to put its vital national interests before its international obligations. We are at that point now.

If Trichet is determined that Anglo should not fail, the message from Government must be: “La clé est dans la porte. Voici le numéro de téléphone de Monsieur Dukes.”
© 2010 The Irish Times