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So, what's the view from Dublin?

By Brendan Keenan

Published 24/11/2015

FILE - In this April 2, 2009 file photo former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt makes a gesture during a discussion hosted by the ECB in Frankfurt, central Germany. Helmut Schmidt died Nov. 10, 2015. He was 96. (AP Photo/Daniel Roland, file)
FILE - In this April 2, 2009 file photo former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt makes a gesture during a discussion hosted by the ECB in Frankfurt, central Germany. Helmut Schmidt died Nov. 10, 2015. He was 96. (AP Photo/Daniel Roland, file)

The former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who died recently, once delivered the greatest stop-em-dead line I ever came across in a broadcast interview.

"What makes you think I care?" replied the Chancellor. There is no answer to that. It stunned the German interviewer into silence; it might have silenced an Irish one for ever. We might, however, want to ponder why it is so shocking as we look at the damage the opposite attitude has done, and the mess it has left behind.

The need to win elections is part and parcel of politics everywhere, of course, but in some countries it reaches such a scale that serious damage results. Ireland is clearly a candidate for such a description. The mess can be seen in the scale of the challenge in achieving any significant part of the 10-year jobs plan launched by the government last week.

Whatever its ambition, one cannot find serious fault with the basic analysis in the plan. It identifies that a key to success in the economy of the future, where machines will increasingly do today's work, is competitive conditions for the humans who will do the tasks the machines cannot, and the new tasks we have not yet imagined which will become possible with the freeing up of labour.

Or so we must hope. In which case, it will be necessary to provide good living conditions, education and health services, efficient administration and effective legal systems. Oh dear. Not only is Ireland uncompetitive with respect to its peers in all of these, but it has lost ground in the past ten or more years. The crash will be blamed, for the housing crisis, the lack of public investment, the stressed health and education services and it certainly made things worse. But what caused the crash?

As we all know, a large part was a reckless, overweening desire to win elections at all costs.

This is a form of corruption. Not all corruption involves taking money, although that happened too and, on the cockroach principle, almost certainly more than we ever got to see. But corruption is also doing things, not because they are thought to be correct, but to gain an advantage.

The consequences of doing something for electoral gain can be just as damaging as doing it for a stuffed envelope.

Belfast Telegraph

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