Ah go on, admit it, you missed him, didn’t you?
Charlie McCreevy came out of the shadows and into the limelight for a little while in the banking inquiry.
And it was vintage Charlie, with great one liners around every corner.
McCreevy, and his supporters have their own narrative about where he fits into the Celtic Tiger and recession years.
That is to say, he believes he played a role in the boom, but none in the bust.
The story goes like this – Charlie was the PD wolf in FF sheep’s clothing. He was the sensible, pro-business wing of the soldiers of destiny.
He liberated business up and down the country, lowered taxes strategically, got the whole boom rolling.
A bit of light touch regulation never hurt anybody.
Bertie was Taoiseach at the time, and while the money was rolling in and the “boom was getting boomier” (what jackass said that?) Bertie was happy to leave McCreevy alone – although it’s well known that the pair weren’t all that close.
Then, so the story goes, McCreevy got an inkling that caution was required to prevent over heating, so he started to pull in the reins a little, aiming for a soft landing.
Bertie, ever more interested in the state of Fianna Fail than the state of the nation, didn’t like that. McCreevy had to go – and so he was banished to Europe where he was the Commissioner for Foggy Weather (actually it was Internal Markets and Services, blah, blah, blah) .
Brian Cowen was brought in to do Bertie’s bidding and, as the story goes, he gave away enough in his budgets to make sure Fianna Fail got elected again.
Shane Coleman, writing recently in the Independent, claimed that if McCreevy was allowed to stay in Finance, Fianna Fail would have lost the next election and the country would have been all the better for it.
In other words, if poor oul Charlie wasn’t banished to Europe, Brian Cowen and Bertie wouldn’t have made a bags of it, and we’d all be better off.
There is, lest you think I’m suggesting otherwise, an element of truth in this version of events. And greater minds than mine have confirmed that.
It is likely that the two people who don’t come out of it as well, Cowen and Bertie Ahern, may have a slightly different version.
In fairness, McCreevy has steadfastly refused to comment on what happened after he left, out of respect and loyalty to his party collegues.
He even refused an interview with the Leinster Leader – shock horror – and had to be threatened with legal action at the inquriy to get him to even admit that a bubble had occurred.
Hindsight is useful, but it only serves to dilute the purity of his thought. At the time that he left office, McCreevy believed he had done nothing wrong, believed he had been prudent, believed, as he said, that he was part of the “most responsible Government ever” (a little hyperbole never hurt anyone) and believed he had not created a property bubble.
Well, hmmm, yeah. It’s hard to put a precise date on the moment a property bubble is created. Was it in the late 1990s when house prices began to rise, or was it years later in 2005/2006 when they really went bonkers?
Could it be said that if he didn’t cause the bubble he, at the very least, contributed to the conditions which gave rise to it?
Then again who’s to know if his reining adjustments would have nipped the bubble in the bud, had he been given a chance?
We’ll never know – which is why the certainty that he displayed at the inquiry (“I’ve nothing to apologise for”) grated on the ears of some.
- Conor McHugh
- First published in Leinster Leader edition dated July 7, 2015