An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

13 February 2003 Edition

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Beware of "dangerous facts"

BY ROBBIE SMYTH


What could be worse than a broken Fianna Fáil election promise? Well it could be Fianna Fáil's fear of facts. Hold tight, Finance minister Charlie McCreevy is breaking new ground not just in political spin but also in the politics of blaming the victim.

This week in the 'Zen of McCreevy' we have been told that "the danger always in dealing with the facts is that some people take the totally pessimistic side of things and that runs the danger of destroying confidence".

So there we have it; after more than a year of economic 'slowdown', we could use the word 'crisis' but fear violating the McCreevy karma, but after months of inaction from the coalition we finally have a response to the economic problems afflicting the Irish and international economy.

Forget tax incentives, inward investment, biotechnology or new broadband infrastructure; if we all think a little more positively it will help the Irish economy. So what were the "dangerous facts" that were troubling minister McCreevy?

Could they include any of the following? Figures released last week showed that the 26 Counties has a growing unemployment rate, now nearly 5%, with 10,741 more people signing on in January 2003 than in 2002. Exports to non-EU countries fell by 3% in 2002. Industrial production fell by 6.6% in 2002, with little prospect of any increase in the coming year.

In the Six Counties, new data has shown that the economy is slowing, with 10% of manufacturing and service companies cutting staff. Six-County inflation is also rising.

Other dangerous facts over the last week include 230 jobs lost in Cork, 180 jobs in Derry, 41 jobs in Ennis and another 80 jobs under threat in Connemara.

None of these facts are issues that the Dublin government wants to discuss; they have a longer-term agenda, and the problem is that it is the long term past.

One measure of how bad things are in the Irish economy is found when a government doesn't want to talk about the present, about what's happening this year, or what is likely to happen next year and instead clings to the past.

Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are a perfect example of a government in denial. For them, it's all about the last five years and endless glory tales of the Celtic Tiger.

The months since the election are not a topic for discussion. And when they are, the analysis of the government is astounding. For example, in the 26 Counties we have the most open economy in the industrialised world. The downturn in the international economy, especially since 9/11, has been a critical factor in the situation here, so the government's understanding of what is at issue is crucial.

McCreevy's understanding of the global economic situation bears repeating. This week he said that there are many "imponderables out there and the Iraqi war is just another negative standing in the way of recovery".

So in case you were under the illusion that there was a safe pair of hands at the wheel of the 26-County economy, think again. Minister McCreevy is depending solely on the power of positive thought.

Having sent a millennium candle to every house in the 26 Counties, it won't be long before we all get our meditation mats and instructions on how best to think positively. You have been warned. The truth is dangerous and lurking out there!

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