Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - ROLLER-COASTER RIDE -

It shows just how con­fi­dent we were then, that the event which re­ally con­demned to us a ter­ri­ble down­fall was ac­tu­ally greeted as just another Ir­ish mas­ter­stroke when it hap­pened. Se­ri­ously, the pa­pers which came out just af­ter the (shud­der) bank guar­an­tee took the view that this was a stroke of tac­ti­cal ge­nius on the part of Brian Leni­han which would make us (uhoh) the envy of Europe.

But that wasn’t how it turned out, and as the econ­omy went down quicker than an in­tern in Bill Clin­ton’s of­fice, all our con­fi­dence drained away and we be­gan to beat our­selves up with an en­thu­si­asm which would have glad­dened the heart of Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch him­self.

We were cross with the bankers, but mainly we seemed to blame our­selves. Politi­cians went big on aus­ter­ity, not so much be­cause they thought it would work, but be­cause they seemed to think we de­served it af­ter all that un­ac­cus­tomed hap­pi­ness and self-con­fi­dence. Michael Noo­nan even re­vived the old Gar­ret FitzGer­ald line and told us to grin and bear the pain be­cause the Ger­mans would re­ally re­spect us if we did.

Peo­ple who hadn’t com­mit­ted any sin more ter­ri­ble than buy­ing houses with wages from jobs they had no idea would van­ish be­cause of the fi­nan­cial mis­takes of those fur­ther up the lad­der, started to be­wail the fact that we’d “lost the run of our­selves”. I can re­mem­ber one poor lad telling an RTE pre­sen­ter on the ra­dio that he had “bought all kinds of lux­u­ries”. “What kind?” the pre­sen­ter asked. “Like pa­tio fur­ni­ture.” “Pa­tio fur­ni­ture isn’t a lux­ury,” replied the pre­sen­ter, and even if that hap­pens to be the most Celtic Tiger thing any­one ever said, he was right, too. That man could have kept buy­ing pa­tio fur­ni­ture to his heart’s con­tent if the bankers hadn’t screwed up his life.

But now we were back feel­ing guilty about ev­ery­thing. When the ‘ best sup­port­ers in the world’ went to the 2012 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships, they were roundly crit­i­cised at home for hav­ing the poor taste to keep cheer­ing for the team even when Ire­land was los­ing. The good-na­tured band of fans were now crit­i­cised by a Labour Party TD for bring­ing a flag into a pub and for con­sen­su­ally lick­ing the breast of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Croa­t­ian Tourist Board — acts which, back when we liked our­selves, would have passed with­out much ad­verse com­ment.

And just as we’d gone on too much about how great we were, we now be­came bores on the sub­ject of our in­her­ently cor­rupted na­ture. When racist com­ments started to be made about Ir­ish im­mi­grants in Aus­tralia, there was never any short­age of key­board war­riors to chime in with a, “It’s true. We are aw­ful. We are the worst”. You couldn’t move for claims that we have the world’s most ter­ri­ble drink prob­lem, though the last WHO sur­vey showed us at num­ber 22 world­wide — not great, per­haps, but just another ex­am­ple of how we’re rarely done ex­ag­ger­at­ing both our woes and won­ders.

Mean­while, there was a fash­ion for ar­ti­cles by young mid­dle-class em­i­grants say­ing how they were never go­ing to come back be­cause Ire­land had let them down, and dis­play­ing their im­mense so­phis­ti­ca­tion by re­veal­ing that when they were abroad they never hung out with Ir­ish peo­ple at all. Though re­ally, these ar­ti­cles, per­haps, weren’t all that dif­fer­ent from the speeches of the wi­nos who used to stag­ger out of North Lon­don tube sta­tions and shout, “I’m never go­ing back, I’m never go­ing back. I never go to fuggen Mass”.

Gen­er­a­tion Em­i­gra­tion? Gen­er­a­tion Flag­el­la­tion. We couldn’t just be crap, we had to be more crap than any­one else. It was like the whole coun­try had gone out to one enor­mous 1980s night.

Politi­cians went big on aus­ter­ity, not so much be­cause they thought it would work, but be­cause they seemed to think we de­served it — Fi­nance Min­is­ter Brian Leni­han in Septem­ber 2010

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