Our Island, our Reality, by James Mahon
We are the “Bebo generation” and we are the “Italia 90 Babies” but more importantly we were also “Celtic Tiger Cubs” and now we are Celtic Tiger Flops.
This country according to figures from the trustworthy and honest Bank of Ireland has gone from being the second wealthiest nation on the face of our little planet on July 10th 2006 just behind Japan and ahead of USA, Italy, France and Germany to a financial and social mess. We sit today in coffee shops, bars and restaurants and on IKEA couches that more than likely wont be there this time twelve months. We walk the corridors of a University we may not attend next semester never mind next year. We are the generation that are left behind that wont get a J1 Summer, that might not get to graduate and might never get a job on leaving college, that is if we can even afford to graduate.
Where did it all go wrong? how come we either face into bailing out banks that hold our communion money not our SSIA’S or end up saying “Im Irish, Get me Outta Here”. We were born into prosperity, Santa always came, Disneyland was a holiday resort not Dingle, Boarding schools were an option, mobile phones and Xboxs, plasmas and camcorders, clubbing and cars, lavish 16th birthdays, extravagant 18th birthdays, Oxygen and Electric Picnics, soft summer jobs, foreign holidays after the leaving cert, now what do we have? Memories, photos, face book albums of times gone by.
No more part time jobs, no more trips to Ibiza, we face into dole queues and protests. Our society is sick, very very sick, and the EU medics are worried they may not be able to bring us back to life. This time in the words of American writer Dennis Lehan its “Gone Baby Gone“. Like all human beings we are greedy, we got what we wanted in the past and we asked for more and got it, encouraged by a government and a media circus that lasted years. Banks handed out money as if it were packets of crisps and we borrowed and we borrowed, and we were given grants that we didn’t need and what do we have to show for it? The Spire in Dublin, a few hospital wards and a motorway or two.
In 2007 German Chancellor Christopher Pauls gave out about our brand new “06 and 07 cars”, remarking we had too much money and no sense to which Dept of Foreign Affairs Secretary General Dermot Gallagher responded by saying that his abusive remarks were “misinformed and inaccurate”. Was Mr Paul a modern day Nostradamus, no! he was seeing what we couldn’t behind our Gucci sunglasses. Today we face the reality that Germany might have to bail us out, Russia has shaken its head, we are no longer the prosperous craic mad Ireland, we now sit in relegation territory looking sadly at Iceland above us, Portugal below us and Greece suffering beside us.
How bad is it? We don’t actually know! Are we better being ignorant of the fate of our isle of saints and scholars or rather bankers and Blagards, one often wonders. We will never know how deep the mud we are sinking in is until we hit rock bottom wherever that is or whenever it will happen. According to OECD figures our income is 15 percent less than output, the second largest gap in the OECD. Only 6 months ago we were told “We were out of recession”, this nonsense was blanketing the reality which was that although there was an increase in the opening quarter of 2010 it was still offset by “a 2.7 percent decline posted this time last year in 2009” these are the words of Bloxham chief economist Alan Mc Quaid in the Irish Independent.
Do we see signs of being out of recession around us now, the answer is an emphatic no! we see longer dole queues, shops closing, people emigrating and we are left with one of the most terrifying budgets in the history of our nation. Is there a solution? Are we the ones who have to come up with it? Should we just leave on the next Ryan air flight? These are questions we have to face over the next six months, we were often told, being in college acted as a shield, now with college fees being upped, grants being cut, we no longer can wait for the country to mend itself. Do we need change of government, the logical answer is yes, but it must also be a change for the good with a solution to this nations woes. We have a chain around both our legs and hands as citizens of this country and that is that we have to meet a 2014 target of savings of 15billion euro set by the EU. This works out according to ESRI figures at about 10million euro a day! In other words, we are Leeds United in the form of a nation! We have to borrow money to run the country while using whatever money can be scrounged through cuts and taxes to bail out or banks and pay bank loans. Its like having a college house with a rent of 350 a month, earning 50 a week from working in a pub and then having to get a loan to pay the rent because u fall short and also need to borrow money to live off. In Irish this is called a “fainne Fi”, we are borrowing to stay afloat as a nation but also borrowing to pay back what we have already borrowed. Will we drink our way out of the recession! No, because we cant afford to this time! Economist Alan Barrent said that “very few people in the world actually believe we are going to make a 3per cent of GDP by 2014” so why should we believe we can make it, we have to accept that we can longer turn out backs on the future and must either face it head on or head off. This little island of ours is a dying phoenix and is yet to be seen if we can rise from the ashes of a recession that has made us the laughing stock of Europe and leaves us as young adults of this nation facing the bleak reality that not only will the tiger never roar again it wont even whimper.