MONDAY: the scene is the White House, Washington. The financial world is facing its worst crisis since World War Two. It is also St Patrick’s Day.
Today, you would have to feel a twinge of sympathy for a besieged George Bush.
Imagine the pandemonium in the Oval Office: President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen are locked in crisis talks; the world’s financial markets are tanking; the dollar is imploding; Bear Stearns, one of the biggest investment houses in the US, has just gone belly up; a massive rescue operation has been launched; Gordon Brown is on the blower; the Bush family fortune is on the line.
There is a knock on the door. “Come in” bellows the President, hopefully anticipating the arrival of the cavalry. Maybe it is Fed boss Ben Bernanke, or possibly the old master Alan Greenspan, even Warren Buffett riding to the rescue of the
The door opens: Enter a well-known Drumcondra “accountant”.
There is a gasp of disbelief.
Not quite the man for the moment.
I guess the last figure George Bush wanted to see knocking at his door in the middle of the market meltdown was that of Bertie Ahern bearing a bowl of shamrock.
Bush probably recognises Bertie these days because he turns up like a bad penny at the same time every year, but Bertie hardly rates at the top of the White House crisis- management list.
Still, the shamrock opens a few doors in the
Fortunately (and it was only by good fortune), the
Last Monday was hardly a time for shamrocks and shillelaghs.
No doubt the 13 ministers who swamped the
There was a skeleton cabinet left here, as 34 ministers departed for the diaspora. The skeletons were Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea, grounded to ensure that
These Fianna Fail twins — of small physique — would hardly make a fearsome brace of bouncers at a nightclub, let alone defenders of the national territory.
Willie and Seamus must have watched in wonder as
The dramatic events in the
For nearly 15 years
Last week, the downside of the same global coin surfaced in spades.
As Bear Stearns sank, we suddenly realised that we too had a branch of the same bank in our IFSC. As worrying rumours spread about giant
Later in the week, the assault on HBOS shares in London was also an assault on HBOS Dublin, one of our most aggressive retail banks; similarly the highly influential Lex column in the Financial Times fingered global minnow (but fallen Irish icon) Anglo Irish Banks as vulnerable to a commercial property slide; its shares tumbled by 15 per cent.
The collapse in the mighty dollar and the fall in sterling means
Elsewhere, the spike in global oil prices was fuelling Irish inflation. Worse still, it put a dampener on
And we are even catching the same contagion as everyone else. As the
On Thursday, Irish bank shares rocketed in response to an apparent move to end market manipulation. The suspicion was growing: the global market rogues were operating here in the land of the shamrock.
We are uncomfortably exposed as a pretty powerless economy. The
The volatile events in the
Back in Leinster House as ministers jetted around the world, there was hardly a government member in sight to explain the global crisis to a bewildered Irish people.
Where was the accountant, Bertie Ahern? Finance Minister Brian Cowen, was in far-off
RTE’s Prime Time, the News and Morning Ireland were reduced to economists and- worse still — the squeaky bleating of the eunuchs from IBEC. The crisis provided a field day for the old malcontents and moaners like the Irish Exporters Association, demanding government action. The government is impotent on currency movements.
It was left to George Lee, Pat Kenny, John Murray and a few other calm commentators to offer enlightenment.
The Dail was in recess. No help from there. In the Seanad, Environment Minister John Gormley (who was available as he had only travelled as far as
At a time when the economy demanded a guiding hand, economic ministers were missing.
Presumably they were still overseas promoting the