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... so what's the view from Dublin?

By Brendan Keenan

Published 01/12/2015

Do the Irish have a special talent for funny football banners? The wit of the terraces worldwide is justly famed but can other countries' supporters include pertinent comments on current affairs in their jokes?

The best-known, of course, is "Angela Merkel thinks we're working". I've read a lot less cogent descriptions of the euro crisis than that in my time. But another famous banner from the past could be applied to the present.

This was unfurled on Hill 16 during one of the legendary GAA clashes between Dublin and Kerry in the 1980s and read, "Come on the taxpayers!" - a reference to the complaint that PAYE workers were carrying an unfair share of the austerity burden of the time.

Now the recrimination is not between urban and rural but workers and bondholders, as well as between the Irish and their creditors in the rest of the eurozone.

We have been ordered about too much, and asked to carry too much of the cost, it goes, although rarely as pithily or amusingly as the banners.

The "austerity" debate may be losing some of its force as the economy rebounds, although the political force may take a bit longer to abate since any rebound in incomes will be slower than that of output.

The feeling grows that the two sides in the debate are retreating to their tents for the next battle, rather than coming to any agreed conclusions from the evidence so far.

That would be a pity. The great thing about financial journalism is that nothing ever repeats itself and something new is always happening.

We do not know what will be next but it would help in dealing with whatever it is if there were more of a consensus about what has already occurred.

One of the big problems with the austerity debate was that a lot of it came off the second-hand shelf and related to countries in a very different position than Ireland. There is certainly no point in looking to American experience - the world's dominant economy with the world's reserve currency. An economy the size of Kansas with no currency at all can learn little from that, although it might learn something from Kansas.

Even so, there is a popular school of thought that the government should simply have borrowed more for longer, thereby deflating the economy less and limiting the fall in jobs and incomes. That conveniently ignores the fact that we had no one to borrow this money from.

Which presumably means it is the fault of the Europeans and IMF for not lending more to us. It would have had to have been an awful lot.

Belfast Telegraph

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