Bluster, flannel and smokescreen, said the politician…

I think they do it on purpose, politicians. I really do. Especially when they’re dealing with questions about the economy. We’ll leave aside the Pat Kenny penchant for asking Gerry Adams if he was ever in the IRA, which clearly is the thought on the minds of voters in Louth every morning as soon as their eyelids part: “Never mind is my job safe – was Adams in the IRA?” I’m talking about normal questioning patterns, when someone like Michael Noonan, considered to be a wise man in the economics area, is asked what Fine Gael’s intentions are if they get elected to office. What will they do or say in terms of Ireland’s debt?

Cue Michael looking very wise and soft-spoken, murmuring about drawing down funds and last year the percentage points and this year 0.15 that interest really joint decision Fianna Fáil people of this country the ATMs recipe social disaster economic illiterates creditors EU Olli Rehn three per cent six per cent €37 billion and as I say the position of Fine Gael has always been clear on this.

Noonan is the worst offender, probably, but the others aren’t far behind. So it was totally refreshing to listen to David McWilliams address the matter last night on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

First, he said, distinguish between the EU and the ECB. The EU is made up of politicians, who like ourselves are democrats and respect the democratic will of the people, including the will of the Irish people. The ECB – the European Central Bank – have no interest in democracy and are motivated only by how much they can get out of people, including and especially the Irish people. McWilliams knows about the ECB – he used to work for them. So with that distinction in mind, the solution is for the Irish people to call a referendum, as to whether they should be expected to carry all the weight of the debt which Irish banks incurred via reckless loans from the ECB. When the Irish people answer such a referendum with “No, we refuse to carry all the financial weight for a joint cock-up” – and that’s what they’ll do, as sure as Eamon Gilmore’s face is red – then Ireland should go to the EU and say “Here is the democratically-expressed will of the Irish people regarding this debt – support us in this stand”. Being democrats, McWilliams believes, they will. And Ireland will then have a debt burden that’s bearable, unlike a debt burden that’s impossible, and that will get more impossible except there’s a radical change. Tinkering with percentage points is a total waste of time.

How come McWilliams can present the problem and a credible remedy inside approximately two minutes, and politicians like Noonan have had weeks, nay months to do so, and have failed? Two reasons. One, Noonan like many of the other politicians, isn’t clear about what is wrong, much less about how to make it right. Two, Noonan and others like him don’t want people to understand what the problem is and how it might be fixed, because that’d be committing themselves to making a stand, and if they take a stand omigod er um the Europeans might get annoyed with us and then what would we do?

Pardon me if I repeat: McWilliams presented a clear picture of the problem and a clearly-articulated possible solution. If our politicians can’t or won’t explain the crisis in equally unambiguous, no-pissing-about language, do they really deserve to get a job paying €100,000 so they can lead us even further into the mire? Answers on a P45, please.

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