A 77 year old man takes the Luas to St Stephens Green, walks to the Dail gates and, in what his daughter would later describe as his final political act, commits a very public suicide. It could, but didn't happen in Dublin but, it did happen in Athens. Dimitris Christoulos suicide has lifted the lid on the excruciating disillusionment and hopelessness of extend and pretend policies that have failed to tackle the personal insolvency crisis. A week after Mr Christoulos finally ended his debt burden in front of the Greek parliament, the IMF singled out excessive personal debt as the brake preventing economic recovery.
Mr Christoulos, a retired pharmacist and anti-drugs activist is an anathema to the let-them-burn brigade, who’d prefer rigid adherence to the failed financial dogma of moral hazard, the policy of avoiding debt restructure and relief at all costs - especially costs to them. But by taking his own life Mr Christoulos has helped to strip away the detachment between those lightly bruised by this economic depression and those overwhelmed by it.
Rage and there has been much of it, has been focused on bankers, developers, bailout rescuers and better off neighbours but, strip away the rhetoric, look past the dumb decision to bail out banks with daft promissory notes and, Ireland ninety six years after The Easter Rising is a failed State, measured harshly by our savage annual deficit. Perhaps it is because of low self- esteem that we think don’t deserve higher standards or perhaps it is a hangover from colonisation where pulling strokes on authorities made some kind of sense but, whatever the cause, we accepted crony capitalism, cheered political corruption, voted Ahern back a third time chuckling at his Tribunal evidence, accepted zero accountability from a vastly expanded and grossly overpaid public service establishment, ignored cartels in the professions and impunity for political leaders - until we were burst. Then it became personal.
Broach this subject and even today, despite everything that has happened, many of us still don't want to consider that the enemy is within. Ireland is unreformed. We are still a society run for the benefit of cosseted insiders. Just look at the Croke Park Agreement and its political support. Look at the Household Charge, money collected to feed into an unreformed and bloated local services network where sickies run at multiples of what would be tolerated elsewhere.
This week we hear from teacher unions who, despite cuts, enjoy among the highest rates of pay and pensions in Europe, openly threatening us if their privileges are reduced. All these, report to a political elite whose own pay and pensions are vastly in excess of what we can afford as a broken State, summed up by the obscene fiction that we can pay over a hundred billion in pensions from an asset pot that's gone down the crapper into failed banks.
Meanwhile at least a quarter of a million Irish people, just like Dimitris Christolous, are behind on utilities and mortgages, practically all of them from the private sector, some from the low paid public sector and all excluded from the economy while the squeezed middle is bled for more money - rather than face the truth.
The truth is that even if we regain a foothold in bond markets next year, we continue to feed an economy that is run, primarily, to maintain the lifestyles to which the insiders have become accustomed in a democracy that maintains the delusion that its centre of power is its parliament.
You want to learn how this broken State operates, seek out the untouchables, those who get paid most for the least effort and decide the fate of the rest of us. That is real power. The rest is mere window dressing. When the Brits left we merely swapped an oppressive foreign occupier for an internal one and when the Trioka leaves, we will remain colonised.
- Eddie Hobbs