Ireland's politicians should take cue from Obama: less blaming, more recovery
With elections approaching, Ireland’s leaders need to put the blame-game for the Celtic Tiger's downfall in the attic for now, and get on with the business of recovery. A debt-laden Ireland – and the European countries that bailed it out – require it.
In a 1973 commentary piece entitled “The Great Forgetting,” New York Times columnist Russell Baker made a startling suggestion. “What the country needs now at the end of the Vietnam War is not amnesty,” he wrote, “but amnesia. It is time to put the whole thing up in the attic.” Mr. Baker went on to say: “Nobody knows what to make of Vietnam right now, and it is in our way…Politicians keep shoving it into our shins. People with axes to grind keep using it to win this argument or clinch that.”Skip to next paragraph
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Baker’s words might well apply here in Ireland to the bickering and point-scoring that ensues whenever the property frenzy of the Celtic Tiger era is discussed. The talk can get downright demoralizing. Opposition lawmakers insist their policies would have minimized the subsequent meltdown, while those in power at the time cast themselves as unwitting victims of the global economy. Ordinary citizens, meanwhile, say they were bamboozled by it all.
All the finger pointing isn’t just unpleasant; it stymies real progress. And this moving forward is essential not just for debt-laden Ireland’s economic future. Ireland’s recovery also matters deeply to the European countries that bailed it out with over $85 billion in loans last year.
So, with an Irish general election set for Feb. 25, it’s time to put that contentious Celtic Tiger up in the attic.
Irish politicians need a fresh perspective
Of course, forgetting an entire decade of unprecedented prosperity won’t be easy – especially when it contrasts so strikingly with the current period of 13 percent unemployment and an emigration rate that sees more than 1,000 people per week leaving the country.
But like an amnesia patient waking to a vivid new world, Irish politicians – and their supporters – need to see the country from a fresh perspective, one not dictated by the official party line or past personal grievance. As important, candidates need to speak not to each other, but to the people – and the nation – they aspire to serve.
During the 2008 United States presidential election, those in Ireland who care about such things lamented that a leader of President Barack Obama’s caliber could never emerge here. The rigid party system and the dynastic nature of Irish politics would thwart such a spontaneous candidacy. Perhaps that’s true, but the man’s message might speak to this country still.