By John Kelly
The weather is not good in Ireland. Even as we approach summer, temperatures are below normal. A persistently low, gray sky and frequent showers further depress the national mood. Those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder in winter, the result of a deficit of sunlight, are sadder still this spring.
In such adverse conditions the collective national psyche generally focuses on everything else that is wrong. Most of all, it concentrates on politicians and the mess they have created. Tempers become frayed. General elections are always just around the corner.
In the middle of a bad spring, the mood of the Irish people becomes autumnal.
The Ides of March threatened C’sar. Bad summers are often visited on the smarting seats of Irish politicians.
Uneasy lies the head that is Bertie Ahern’s.
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Yet, not all is bad, not all is doom and gloom.
A mention of Charles J. Haughey very often evokes the typical response, "Ah, sure what the hell if he was taking all that money. He was taking it from the rich, wasn’t he? He wasn’t taking it from us!"
Scandals, of course, are common in western democracies. They are capitalistic, and the essence of capitalism is greed. That is not being judgmental. People want to make more money. Companies want to amass more profits. That’s what makes the modern world go round.
All development has a price tag. Think of the great American scandals of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Carnegie and railroads, the Rockefellers and oil are two that come immediately to mind. The problem in the United States is not that it is the home of capitalism but that it is so often hypocritical about it. It tends to make the necessity a virtue.
Giant corporations adopt an almost evangelical attitude to Mammon. Political correctness is self-perpetuating. Yet many of the plain people of Ireland are not so easily deluded. They have rarely regarded their political choices as moral icons.
When Fianna Fail adopted a new approach toward Irish business and enterprise in the 1960s, it tied a knot that has not been broken. Until then, Ireland had been dominated by the economic austerity of Eamon de Valera. He preached a doctrine of frugality and endurance even