Here’s a question for you. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, is a former prime minister of what badly-run European country?
Simple. The answer is Portugal, a country that, until 40 years ago, was not a democracy. A country with an ancient tradition of colonialism and slavery that saw its empire spread across the entire world from the Americas to South-East Asia.
Portugal, or to be more precise, Portugal’s controlling elites, amassed a vast fortune over the centuries, which found expression in its magnificent cities. As happens everywhere else, that’s how the unspeakably rich proclaim their wealth and even though Portugal was one of the infamous PIGGS group, such concerns are outside the experience of the privileged elite that controls such places. People like Jose Manuel Barroso.
Ireland has been a democracy of sorts for about forty years, which is not vastly greater than the period of Portugal’s freedom from dictatorship, and in any case, dictatorship comes in many forms. It doesn’t always appear at the point of as gun or riding on a tank. Besides, there is one huge difference between Portugal and Ireland: this country did not amass a vast infrastructure by stealing from and oppressing people across the world. We didn’t establish a domestic aristocracy, otherwise known as armed thieves and we didn’t acquire a sense of international entitlement, although some of us did, inevitably, ape the manners of our English aristocratic masters. Just as many English, Welsh and Scottish members of the underclass did when oppressed by the same intertwined wealthy families.
Sometimes dictatorship emerges in the form of emotional blackmail: we all partied, as Brian Lenihan notoriously remarked. Sometimes it manifests itself when a government decides to beggar its people in order to protect the mega-wealthy who made a bad investment, as happened here in Ireland. In this democracy which we call Ireland, it would have made no difference whether we lived under a ruling junta
In the absence of further information, Jose Manuel’s peremptory dismissal of retrospective recapitalisation of Ireland’s banks carries many overtones of the old Portuguese aristocracyadmonishing a distant colony for having the temerity to speak out. It was Irelands’s fault and Ireland needs to carry the consequences.
In a disturbed, bizarre way, JMB is right. It is our fault, or to be more precise, it’s the fault of successive governments who rolled over and allowed their bellies to be tickled instead of doing precisely the thing that is now at the heart of European policy when dealing with failed banks. Burning the bondholders. Forcing them to take responsibility for their investment in failed ventures.
Ireland was strong-armed by the ECB into supporting every last one of the investors in Anglo-Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide when we should have been threatening to collapse the entire European banking system if they didn’t do something to help us.
Our thanks for taking that hit? To be patronised by the former prime minister of country that is among the worst basket-cases in Europe.
Why? Because Barroso has the bearing, the manner and the demeanour of gravitas, while our politicians are a bunch of forelock-tugging serfs who did precisely what they were instructed to do because that’s how they’ve been programmed to behave.
Ireland has been abandoned to carry the burden for the entire European banking collapse thanks to the lack of vision on the part of our governments, both Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael. But of course, as I’ve always said, there’s no difference between those two outmoded parties anyway. We are a one-party state, otherwise known as a dictatorship.