Political Notebook: Here we go again with negativity and self-destruction

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

Do we ever learn in this country? Does our capacity for negativity and self-destruction know any bounds?

A big criticism of governments is frequently that they fail to govern at critical times in a country’s history.

And so this Government has rightly said that it will seek the advice of the Attorney General, Maire Whelan, to determine if a referendum on the new EU fiscal pact is necessary. Yet there are those who say there should be a referendum anyway.

An expensive, time-wasting referendum at a time when the focus should be, all day, every day, on saving the country economically? Are we crazy?

EU leaders struck a deal on Monday night on a new pact with the objective of reinforcing the single currency by strengthening Europe’s budget rules.

It seemed like a good day’s work at the end of a long process. There was a strong measure of consensus. And that is what most people have been looking for.

It was blindingly obvious that some kind of fiscal treaty was long overdue.

What was agreed in Brussels establishes legal limits on national debt and budget deficits. Such a level of fiscal responsibility is long overdue in Ireland.

Those who argue that we could lose our sovereignty because of the new treaty have surely missed something very basic. That ship has sailed.

We have already lost our sovereignty because of the recklessness, greed and incompetence of some politicians, bankers and developers in the past.

A constitutional challenge is likely if the Attorney recommends to the Government that a referendum is not necessary. And those who would launch such a challenge are entitled to do so. That’s democracy.

But we cannot have it every way. It is the job of the Government to govern.

A constitutional referendum is only required when what is being done needs to be enshrined in the Constitution.

At this time of grave crisis, can we not all grasp that?

Does the country’s survival not take precedence over ego, opportunism and recklessness

Monday night’s deal includes a package to promote employment.

That is long overdue. Killing an economy stone dead with unrelenting austerity is a bad road to follow.

The hope must now be that the debate on the deal will be constructive and devoid of political point scoring.

That might be a wish too far. But let all those involved be aware that the very future of the country is at stake.

Meanwhile, what is it about some politicians that expressions of regret for what they said, or might not have said, are so few?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny put his foot in it when he said last week in Switzerland that Ireland’s economic woes were due to people going mad borrowing in a system that spawned greed, went out of control and crashed.

This was no deliberate attempt by Mr Kenny to insult the Irish people, or blame Sean and Mary Citizen for the economic crisis in front of the great and good at an economic forum in snow-bound Davos.

It was no more than a sloppy use of language.

A reference to “some people’’ would have underpinned what he had said earlier in a lucid and impressive interview with Miriam O’Callaghan for RTE’s “Prime Time’’ programme.

In that interview, he made it clear that it was the State’s new elite, bankers, developers and politicians who caused our grief.

The garbled words he later used at an open forum were human error. But Mr Kenny was abroad, wearing the green jersey, and he should have been more careful with his language.

The fact is that the vast majority of Irish people lived ordinary lives during the swashbuckling Celtic Tiger era.

Some bought houses at hugely inflated prices because they needed somewhere to live and, in some cases, rear families. If they are in negative equity today, or unable to pay the mortgage because of unemployment, as many are, they are no more than the victims of market forces not caused by themselves. Inevitably, the Opposition parties seized on Mr Kenny’s ill-judged remarks. That was to be expected.

Mr Kenny could have ended the controversy pretty quickly by immediately saying he was sorry if his comments were misinterpreted But no. A sullen defensiveness set in on the part of Mr Kenny and his Cabinet colleagues.

What is so hard about a politician saying “sorry’’ if he or she feels they have said something out of turn which insulted people at a difficult time in the State’s history.

Politicians should realise that sometimes putting your hands up defuses a row inspired by a gaffe much faster than the Ostrich-like digging in to insist on innocence.