A tale end of the Celtic tiger… ( Long)

Apart from ‘college stuff’ I’m also writing an article at present on creativity and innovation for another site and didn’t really want to allow it or my own site to get dragged into or polluted by the dark contagious mire of on-going IMF/ECB political/economic debates about sovereignty, bond markets and idiot civil servants. I care little for money and less for capitalism, I’m not an anarchist or left wing looney but I do consider myself to be blessed, fair, open minded and up until recently relatively balanced and very proud indeed to be Irish.

I’ve had my dinner in the Dail on more than one occasion, protest marched a couple of times as a young student, supported various characters and voted at every opportunity, I’ve engaged in community work both seen and unseen, stayed put & paid tax, employed people, raised a family and paid my way and theirs without quibble, I even shopped in the south as Dublin based civil servants passed by on their ‘action day’s and ways to Newry. I feel entirely justified in saying to date I have been a positive net contributor to our society.

Perhaps that’s why when I see ego-driven maniacal, power crazed, millimeter grabbing, pyschogobshite bullies pulling our country apart in the pursuit of personal greed while auctioning our children’s future, in a vain attempt to maintain some cracked illusion of collective competence because of some spurious eighty year old political civil war begrudgery based bollocks; it just utterly enrages me to the point where all those years of sedate reflection on the immutable transient nature of humanity, my ponderous rebellious excavations of language, humble appreciation of the gift of life and the wondrous fortune of relative peace and prosperity in this natural undulating landscape of mystical beauty and illustrious heritage – it all just fu*king explodes into a mess of shit talk from shit for brains, an excremental emanating mass of sheer muck raked ineptitude, trough sucking stupidity and the ignorant condescension of the so called political class.

Can you perceive any class, see any logic, there is no humility, no shame, no blame acceptance, no acknowledgment that as a ‘government’ as experts, as people these specimens have failed, individually and collectively, silent solidarity in their private shame. There have been no accepted failures at policy level and at societal level, paid bedfellows like Jack O Connor the 125,000euro a year trade unionists stuttering bullshitter, David Begg, the professional soundbyte shit stirrer of CWU infamy, the banks, the auctioneers, the advisers, the professional classes and the whole constipated political system of governance and administrative ejittry has spectacularly failed and we simply will not be able to move forward until those failures are fully acknowledged.

Failure needs/requires/ acknowledgment to find closure and rebirth/restart, as long as they sweep it away with more rhetorical bollix, the more damage they continue to do to this country and its people. And still these self same intellectual oafs have the audacity, the sheer brass neck, the effrontery to negotiate on our behalf and on the behalf of our children, to claim a mandate, turned corners, sound fundamentals…without holding up their hands to acknowledge their trail of abject failures…and leave the stage if only to learn personal lessons - they instead have the sickening delusional impudence to tell me whats good for me…!

The usual charge is, oh but we all participated in the Celtic tiger didn’t we. I didn’t – I had plenty of opportunity to but I didn’t – after Taintech went under in Jan 2000 and my Father passed away in Feb 2000, I was up to my proverbials in debt, (when Taxi men in Dublin were getting their 70K plate money back – I had no recourse for any reimbursement) I had a house part hocked to try and get a PS2 game about an Eco Warrior goose off the ground (more about that another time) I found myself in need of a job and quickly – I took the first one that came along – a six month stint in a technical utilities provider, as documentation and media manager in a universe of electrical complexity. Really lovely people but a slog of a job.

At that point I went to my bank manager of over ten years, showed him my new contract worth 28K, I asked him for a loan of 6K for a fiat punto and car insurance – his exact words were: “Sorry Michael I couldn’t take the chance, under five grand and I could”… Some seven years later in 2007, considering returning full time to education, having spent some of those years working within corporations and institutions, I was running my small company while doing a part-time MA – I asked a friend of mine, who incidentally once ran a bank branch but had left at the outset of the boom to set up a financial consultancy – If I wanted to move house, sell mine and take out a mortgage, how much did he think I could get ?… what cost of house should I be looking at ?… When my wife & I first got married in 1989, we tried to buy a three bedroom bungalow in the north end of town, it was only 19K for the house but the bank wouldn’t give us a mortgage because the extension on it’s flat roof hadn’t gotten the appropriate planning permission. So back to 2007, the tale end of the Celtic tiger and how much could I then spend on a house ?

‘Its not the definitive figure’, he told me, “but around five nine” hmm I’ve been in business a couple of times, worked for various millionaires (one of whom has since seen his empire enter receivership) but five nine, was a confusing figure. “Five Nine ?”I noddingly inquired- as if to feign disapproval or at least give the impression of understanding something about how much Five Nine actually was. “Or maybe six to six twenty at max” he offered. “That’s…?” I left hanging in the air so that he might finish it for me. “That’s around the top figure, if we really pushed it you might get six fifty but not really much above seven..” While I nodded another woody Allen like frown appeared on on my poutside… internally I was gobsmacked, He was talking over at least six hundred and fifty thousand euros worth of house and debt…. Not that far from three quarters of a million euro available to me to borrow if ‘we pushed it’.

Let me put the above into a simple relative and truthful perspective, from being on a stable (albeit short-term) income to being on an unstable (pretty much self-employed in digital media research) income with part-time student commitments, my borrowing capacity jumped from under 5 grand to almost three quarters of a million in less than seven years – without me actually drastically increasing my own economic worth or assets. When my (then) wife asked me what I thought about borrowing that kind of money, I simply said “The world’s gone money mad honey”

I also saw so many others around me fall right into that numbers trap, people with two years left to pay on a family car loan of 8-10%, suddenly upgraded models and re-mortgaged their house – including the cost of said new car, maybe some renovations and a deserved holiday or two – what they would have paid off in two years at 10% would now take twenty at 2% – the same really isn’t it – just ‘a lot more affordable’ WHAT ? WHAT ? who’s offering such numbskull advice to these people – well it was obvious, people who generate commission (or personal gain) based on such persuasion.

Which when I begin to frame the current situation in those terms, i.e. who was responsible for the flood of unbelievably cheap credit into our wee country, I must agree, there was a whole echelon of Irish Celtic Tiger people jumping up and down, partying on the persuasive credit train, but the actual terminus, the originating point of those lines of cheap credit were the European banks, banks in Germany, Banks in France, Banks in the UK – pumped up with speculative cash from bondholders.. those international banks couldn’t even wait for the Irish banks to sell on their credit so they themselves rushed to set up here, I think it may have been RBS or Ulster bank who first introduced the 100% mortgage to the Irish Market (which all the Irish banks had to then emulate if they wanted to ‘stay competitive’)

So we are now witnessing an IMF/ECB bailout whereby those banks that gave us the huge unrealistic credit lines in the first instance that part fueled the speculative boom (& Bust) are now again ‘pledging assistance’ offering even more credit, 85 Billion’s worth, to enable them to continue to attribute value to the first tranche of funds they loaned us in the first instance, keep the original bondholders in their counties happy by preserving some worth of their original speculation. We wouldn’t want trust to break down and capital flight to occur….

Now this is obviously an oversimplification – enterprise, commercial activity, capitalism is about generating profits, shareholder value, buying bonds is speculative but not that speculative that they don’t expect to get some money back, Oddly that famous Gordon Brown Bankers dinner Line about Britain being a leader in Financial creativity – doesn’t get trotted out that often anymore... I have written a shorter / dialog version of this rant...