The Japanese have a tendency to produce fictional radiation-inspired monsters; the Germans have, what we might view as, an irrational fear of inflation, the Poles ban police raids in the middle of the night because of their echoes of communism and totalitarianism – amusing to see them before a “bust” peering at their watches to make sure they don’t break the door down before 6am! If you’ve ever been involved in a serious car crash, you might know it can take some time before you’re comfortable back behind the wheel.
Individuals, groups of individuals and nations suffer trauma during national catastrophes and it takes some time for normality to return.
In Ireland, in September 2008, our politicians, whom we trust to manage the country, bankrupted the country over the course of a few hours, a few flicks of a pen with minimal direct oversight by our elected representatives.
Since then, people who had nothing to do with property and banking found themselves the victims of the consequences, with their living standards threatened so as to bail out banks, which to most people are no more than a utility – they keep your cash safe and pay you interest and allow you to make payments from your own cash, and they might give you a loan, a utility.
But, people who knew nothing of bondholders, haircuts, debt sustainability, deficits, the IMF have became passing experts in subjects that they assumed the politicians were keeping on top of.
Just five years later, a politician – and an arch-politician at that – complains about the general denigration of politics. I wonder when the Japanese will stop creating Godzillas or when the Germans will loosen the purse-strings and permit 2%-plus inflation – it’s been about a century since the original catastrophes unfolded.
Why should Pat Rabbitte think the intense and robust analysis of politics and politicians, and challenge to political decisions, will end any time soon?
And when the Government does anything sudden and significant, like selling €1bn of its investment in Bank of Ireland this week, it should expect the most robust questioning. From some of the commentary this week, you might think that the €1bn sale of the so-called “Contingent Capital Notes” in Bank of Ireland was a complete gift horse and that any challenge or questioning of the manner in which the sale took place – the engagement of the “professionals”, their fees, the price achieved and whether it might have been a little better – then somehow, to even ask these questions, is to undermine trust in the Minister for Finance, the Department of Finance, the NTMA, or the group of companies that facilitated the disposal of €1bn of our national wealth.
The Dail resumes this coming Wednesday, and it is to be hoped that our 166 TDs scrutinize the €1bn transaction. It may have been a good or even great deal, there are usually lessons to be learned from large transactions, it is conceivable there might have been failings in the execution of the deal. Regardless, we owe it to ourselves to scrutinize the deal in fine detail.