I am in no way extraordinary. I have done nothing exemplary, and I have done nothing worthy of infamy. I am a 19 year old university student in Ireland’s second largest city, I live with my parents in a nice house in the city and study law, I like books, films and history. I am, therefore, entirely normal. I am in a majority of totally ordinary people on this island; we’re underrepresented and casually forgotten. We elected (mistakenly and to our detriment) a government that insists upon gambling our chances away, It’s bad enough that Fianna Fail have been embroiled in controversy for the past twenty years or so, bad enough that they have led us poorly and have thrown money around with panache. What’s worse is that now they cannot fix the mess they’ve made.
I am one of 349,000 other students. We do not have a voice in government. Nobody asks us what we think. In a regular time, we mostly elect to ignore that. Foolish, but sadly true. In hard times, we are the ones who face the future unawares, not able to fight against bad decisions that threaten to engulf us. I watched the furore over Barack Obama’s school speech in the news every day and it makes me so angry to think that while people accused him of poisoning children’s minds (by telling them to work hard and be whatever they want to be), our leaders are setting up an agency that will force me and my children and my children’s children, to “contribute” (ie, to pay the debts this country’s elite has incurred through corruption and bad deals, shady business and lies).
I have some of the most amazing questions for our politicians. Why is it that my Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, is paid more than Baraek Obama, President of the United States? Why do they refuse to apologise for destroying the nation, when they are the ones who have been in power, almost exclusively, for the past 15 years? Why don’t they listen to calls. for them to step aside and let somebody else, anybody else, have a go at fixing the country?
It’s a poor democracy that allows a government with no support to stay in power as a result of a few Independents holding the sway of power in parliament. Here’s the true fact: The Irish people do not want Fianna Fail in power. It’s shown in their ridiculously low support ratings- a recent Red C opinion poll shows that only 24% of people would give Fianna Fail their first preference vote in a general election- whereas 33% would vote Fine Gael, the largest opposition party, and 19% would vote Labour. It’s frankly a disgrace that with support at an all time low, Fianna Fail will not step aside to allow someone else a chance to salvage what is left of Ireland. But Fianna Fail won’t do that. I’d like to say that it’s an honour thing; perhaps they feel that they got us into this mess (they did), and so they ought to get us out (they ought- but can’t). But that is clearly not what they feel. They refuse to admit liability for the fact that my country is falling to pieces.
The latest idea for economic recovery is NAMA (National Asset Management Agency)- a state run bank that will buy the toxic assets of our regular banks. The taxpayer will foot the bill for those bad debts, and be forced, in the future, to payoff a bloated national debt. A debt we never made. How is it that most families manage to sort their finances without aid, yet our national bank managers and executives have made a royal mess of their affairs?
Opportunities here are slim and nil. With a state moratorium imposed on the public service, we can have no new civil service jobs. Teacher numbers are falling, though more are desperately needed. Third level students who graduated last year, are doggedly sending out CVs, doggedly forcing themselves out of bed every morning in the hopes of a job offer they know they won’t receive. Eventually, resignedly, they sign on the dole and queue for hours. That is not quite how I had envisioned my future. College placement schemes have fallen off the radar, to be replaced by research projects worth nothing on a cv.
I might only be a college student. It doesn’t mean I’m stupid and it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I do. I vote at election time, I take an interest. I care about what happens. But I can’t blame people who don’t. Watching the news is depressing and trying to figure out what might happen next is even worse. Our entire political system is a shambles, utterly degraded, tired, lost. If NAMA fails, whispers say, the next step is the IMF.
As soon as I hear that, my head bloats with worries. Shortly after Jamaica entered into a borrowing deal with the IMF, the Jamaican dollar was worth more than the US dollar and going strong. By the time Jamaica ended the deal, their Currency was floating at less than 2 cents worth of the US Currency. Needless to say, on the back of a story like that, I’m almost more doubtful of the IMF than I am of Fianna Fail.
For a long time, we thought the government ran the country- hut we were wrong. Money, the economy, runs the country. And though we might have once innocently thought that the government ran the economy, that too is a lie at closer inspection. In Ireland, the money has the power and the leaders are enthralled by it, determined to make it and use it and not think about losing it. Money is the master, the government a dog on a leash, desperately seeking more and more and more, without considering the consequences.
The fact that no young person could buy a house until they won the lotto has led to an upsurge of people living with their parents – parents who made something out of the boom years we had in the late nineties and early noughties. They had to fend for their children, and now are faced with defending them for the foreseeable future. The property boom is over, but now the young people, like me, cannot get jobs to raise money for a house. So an entire generation is living with its parents. Parents who looked forward to an early retirement, parents who must now cling to the jobs they had tentatively considered giving up a few years ago.
TIME magazine have referred to our current situation as “The Hangover”- no other word rings so true with a college student. We as a nation have lost our identity, utterly lost in a web of lies, tribunals of inquiry, more lies, and then lies about lies (for good measure)- and that was just Bertie Ahern answering questions about his finances.
It is easy for the government to take a three month recess in government. They can fly their private Jet (paid for by the taxpayer) to visit state dignitaries and lie about the state of the nation. They can take holidays in the free time they have been given, while the rest of us cry sometimes just because it’s too damn hard to keep going. It’s tiring, trying not to lose control when your entire future is being flung down a drain of incessant stupidity. They can offer pretty reassurances that everything will be alright if we follow their lead. They can tell us that they know what they’re doing, that they understand the issues; that they will bring us from the darkness into the light.
What they fail to mention is that for the past 12 years, we have followed their lead. Never has it led to a brave new world. They have led us into a quagmire and they don’t know how to get out of it. Fianna Fail in essence means “Warriors of Ireland”. The point to be made here is that when a battle is lost, warriors retreat. They can return to fight again another day. But right now, I think I speak for many in saying that the mere discussion of them makes me feel a little ill with trepidation. Honourless, outdated and futile, Ireland’s leaders have failed spectacularly. In ten years, we made it all. And now we have lost it with shocking speed. We deluded ourselves into believing that the Celtic Tiger would live forever. We were wrong.
The average tiger survives between ten to fifteen years in the wild. It seems fitting, doesn’t it, that our beloved Tiger kicked the bucket in just the right amount of time? We tried voting both locally and internationally. We tried walking the streets and protesting. The elderly did it. The youth of the nation did it. Children in buggies did it with their parents. Teachers did it. And the silence of government buildings ought to have convinced us, once and for all, that our government elects to ignore us speaking to them. We gave them their power. What a pity that we cannot so easily take it away