Despite being the most unpopular Taoiseach in the history of the state, at the head of the most unpopular government in the history of the state, Brian Cowen has been ranked as the fifth best global leader of the year by the American Newsweek magazine.
In an act of brazen stupidity worthy of the Sunday Independent, the magazine chose to honour Cowen as the “fiscal taskmaster” who took the tough decisions and tackled public spending.
Either Newsweek haven’t been paying much attention to reality or they’re just being willfully ignorant, as Cowen has overseen the biggest banking bailout in Europe by some distance, with Irish intervention into the banking sector at a massive 231.8% of GDP, compared to an EU average of 31.2%. (The second highest public intervention in the EU was Belgium’s at 92% of GDP.)
Maybe in Newsweek’s alternate universe throwing billions of euro of public money into banks to cover their losses doesn’t count as spending or, more probably, to the likes of Newsweek, bailing out banks is the right way to spend money, maintaining public services and jobs is the wrong way, and so Cowen remains a hero to them.
Aside from the bank bailouts, Cowen has helped saddle ordinary Irish people with levels of unemployment that ICTU put at a minimum of 17.5%, the biggest drop in GNP in the EU during the first year of the recession, the return of mass emigration, a gigantic and ever increasing debt/GDP level, the second highest cost of borrowing on the market for any EU country, 300,000 empty houses…and on and on.
For someone that has so slavishly attempted to please the markets by plundering public services, one might have expected better results -some “Fiscal taskmaster”.
One (ex-) Fianna Fáiler who won’t be winning any awards is Senator Ivor Callely. Following in a long Fianna Fáil tradition of corruption, it was revealed that Callely had fiddled his Senate expenses, claiming €81,015 since 2007 for travel from his second home in Cork while actually living in Clontarf, and this has been followed by the recent revelation that he had claimed over €2,000 from 2002 to 2005 for mobile phone handsets bought from a company that had actually ceased trading in 1994.
Callely, fresh from briefly fleeing the country and clearly disgruntled that Fianna Fáil had bothered to investigate one of their members over corruption allegations, has refused so far to resign from the Senate.
Cowen and Callely represent the two sides of Fianna Fáil – craven acceptance of the capitalist agenda and blatant corruption. The sooner that working-class people in Ireland see the back of Cowen, Callely and their ilk and replace them with a real alternative the better.