Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

It will take more than NAMA to quell Irish spirit

I am sick of all this talk of abandoning Ireland like a sinking ship. There's more to living on this wee island than how much change we have in our back pockets

So the place is ruined. It’s on its last legs and it is time to abandon the sinking NAMA ship. Would the last person to leave this island please turn out the lights?

This is the message of doom and gloom being preached by some commentators and so-called opinion makers. One went so far as to suggest this week that the NAMA bailout has turned us from citizens to serfs.

The burden of NAMA means our young people, north and south, are relearning the ways of their ancestors and to tug the forelock as they clean up the mess left by ‘the Master', he argued.

Not true. People need to stay calm and get some perspective and focus on the many positives that still exist. People need to look at constructive ways in which to deal with the horrendous mess.

Yes, it is sickening that taxpayers will be stumping up €2bn a year for the next decade to keep the zombie institutions Anglo Irish and Nationwide afloat. Yes, the social and economic costs of the bailout will be hugely damaging.

Yes, the Celtic Tiger era of excess is over and so many are facing the sort of decisions that would have been thought unimaginable a few years ago. The reality of not being able to pay for the roof over your head is now being experienced by thousands of individuals and families. The loss of jobs is devastating.

But this recession, and the terrible banking crisis, does not make the Republic a basket case or a banana republic that will never recover its reputation. In fact, the more Ireland talks itself down, the more likely it is that potential investors will go elsewhere.

This island is not finished. The citizens of both north and south are renowned for their spirit and resilience and it is time for these qualities to come to the fore.

Remember the taxes collected during the boom — billions of it on the back of inflated property prices — haven't all been wasted.

Look at the motorways. Look at the many towns on both sides of the border that have been transformed beyond recognition over the last 10 years. Look at some of the new facilities in the Irish health service — not perfect by any means, but not deserving of the third world tag that many apply to it.

A healthy bank balance and riches do not make a country. Just because these shored have a reduced standard of living does not make its inhabitants lesser people.

There is some good in the fact that the high-rolling lifestyle has taken a hammering.

In fact, the reality check which has been imposed will make the Irish better in the long run. People may reconnect with some of the values that were sadly lost in the Celtic Tiger years.

We are witnessing the death of an old order and — painful and all as the process is — there are better times ahead.

But keep the faith. Because there are some great things about living in this divided island of ours.

For one, house prices are so low now there are far more opportunities for people here to own their own home.

And the recession we’ve had to go through has spawned a thriving new enterprise culture on both sides of the border, with loads of new businesses started by those who were unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.

It has its flaws but the Republic still has a great education system, with a huge choice of third- level courses for children to opt for.

There is a flourishing Irish culture and this island’s musicians and writers stand amongst the finest in the world. It is a rich heritage that no one can ever take away.

Take a walk this weekend and look at the beautiful countryside near where you live.

No matter what part of it you hail from, and what your politics are, Ireland remains a fine place to be and we shouldn’t forget it.

It will certainly take more than a few greedy bankers and NAMA to do us lot in.

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