Here’s how this game is played. The Government flies kites (“we’re gonna thump the pensioners”), then reels them in (“musha, sure, we wouldn’t touch a hair on their precious heads”). They leak this cut and that cut to compliant hacks, who dutifully discuss the whys and wherefores. The Government denies the accuracy of each leak. After a while, the issue is not whether we should pay the bill for the speculators’ party — it’s which of us pay and how much.

Here’s an example of how Mr Cowen rigged the deck. In his long-winded speech, he had to show he was not alone in misreading the economy, as Minister for Finance. He quotes at length from the incompetent fools who misled him.

These include the bloody eejits at the IMF and the stupid gobshites at the OECD who fooled him by heaping praise on his pre-collapse policies.

Then, a few pages later, he sets out to prove that his current ‘feed-the-banks-and-starve-the-economy’ strategy is the right one. So, he quotes at length from those insightful masterminds at the IMF and the absolute geniuses at the OECD, as they heap praise on his current policies.

He must wrap the past in words and bury it, so he can convince us to keep paying for other people’s greed — and impress us by showing that his fellow travellers abroad agree with him.

Above all, Mr Cowen’s media blitz manages to throw a smokescreen over the battlefield. It’s allegedly all about the precise moment he realised there had been “stunning failures of corporate governance” at the banks.

In truth, what Mr Cowen knew and when he knew it is damn all use to anyone.

The smokescreen disguises the reality of Ireland then and Ireland now. Not a word about the land hoarders who pushed prices over the top.

The speculators, big and small, who were encouraged by tax breaks to buy a dozen houses or a thousand, for “investment”, pushing up prices for people who needed houses as homes.

Or the professionals — led by the lawyers and accountants — who jacked up prices. Or the “auditors”, and the “regulators” if you’ll pardon the expression.

Or the developers and the estate agents for whom a fair profit wasn’t enough — they had to juice the market.

Remember when estate agents took to systematically lying about prices to the property supplement of The Irish Times? How exactly was that not a fraud on the market? Or the bankers who bankrolled all this by borrowing money from gamblers abroad. Or the gamblers who didn’t care how mad this all was — the mugs would pick up the tab if anything went wrong.

Somehow, all the above remain in place — prosperous by our standards — while the rest of us are told there’s no alternative but to do as we’re told. These, of course, are the people our politicians wine with and dine with. They’re the people they go to the races with, the people from whom they take advice. They’re the people who fund their parties.

The infamous bank guarantee has, we’re told, removed any choice from the Government — they must pump in whatever amount of billions is required to animate the dead Anglo. And the guarantee must be renewed in September. There is no alternative.

Meanwhile, we must continue to deflate the economy by whipping the low-paid, by withholding benefits from people who worked for decades to pay for them.

Fine Gael whinges that Mr Cowen owes the Irish people an apology. To hell with that. We can’t spend an apology; we can’t go to work in an act of contrition. This isn’t about flaws in an individual, it’s about politics.

The economy was captured by ignorant politicians in thrall to a right-wing fantasy. They could run an economy on borrowed money, because if we all kept selling houses to one another at ever-increasing prices, we’d get ever richer. The media used the truly awful economists employed by banks to tell us this was true.

Now, the people who brought us the “then and there” are positioning themselves to dig deeper into our pockets in the here and now.

Mr Cowen has a verbal tic. He seldom says anything without prefacing it with the term, “in all fairness”. Fairness, old son, has bugger all to do with it.

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