Back on the 23rd June 2006 when Ireland was the richest country on the planet Berty Ahern, Taoiseach, had this to say in the Dail.
“You would love to bring us back to the pathetic poverty when de Valera and Lemass built social houses, when no other houses were being built.” That was the “great tradition you and your merry warriors want to bring back too”.
“You have a failed ideology and the most hopeless policy pursued by any nitwit.
You’re a failed person who was rejected, and whose political philosophy has been rejected. You will not pull people back into the failed old policies you dreamed up in south Kerry when you were a young fellow. Now, go away.”
Berty was replying to Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins (now MEP) who had earlier remarked.
“In March 1996, the average price of a home in Dublin was €82,000. This year, 10 years later, it is €384,000, an increase of €300,000. That represents a shocking €30,000 increase per year, the equivalent of the current average industrial wage each year for 10 years. Prices outside Dublin have increased pro rata.
Is there any appreciation by the Government of the dire situation facing young people who earn the average industrial wage and need a home, or any recognition of the hardship of young parents who are saddled with 30- and 40-year mortgages?
Are members of the Government so cosseted by their massive salaries that they are oblivious to the suffering, hardship and desperation?”
Joe added that speculators were buying houses in working class communities left, right and centre.
“A frightening percentage of homes in hitherto stables communities are now rented. Stable communities are being replaced by transient communities, by people who are forced into the laps of landlords, such as migrant workers and those on rent supplement.”
The Irish Times dutifully reported this exchange in their Dail Sketch (as recorded here in the Socialist World) but were not moved to opinion that the boul Joe had a point – with the venerable paper itself, back in those heady days, containing the essential advice on how to safely pick up its burgeoning property section without damaging your back.
Today, as the death rattles of FF reverberate around the country and the Irish political scene descends into near farce, the Plain People of Ireland, who repeatedly elected FF (in spite of a mountain of evidence in tribunals of scurrilous trousering from the leader down to councillor level) are now understandably keen to disassociate themselves from the incumbent government.
But the Plain People should remember that Joe’s apposite words which should have set the economic alarm bells ringing, were drowned out, not just by the disgraceful personal abuse from Berty, but also by the appalling silence from the FG benches as the country careered hopelessly out of control on a bandwagon with destination economic catastrope writ clearly on its side .
They also need to reflect carefully before they spin the old-civil-war-wheel-of-fortune once again and replace one old political adversary with another. Surely its time the Plain People of Ireland looked to the alternatives?