When was Enda right?

When was Enda right?
Some of us are to blame for the crash, some are not, writes David Quinn


When was Enda Kenny correct? Was it when he told us during his State of the Nation address last year that we were not to blame for our current economic woes, or was he correct when he said last week in Switzerland that we went mad during the boom? Actually, he was wrong in both cases and he was right in both cases.

He was certainly wrong last year when he absolved us all of responsibility and he was wrong last week when he said we all went mad.

He’d have been much better off in both cases if he said some of us were to blame and others weren’t, and that some of us went mad and other didn’t.

Certainly what is implausible is to blame all our woes on bankers and property developers and the unsustainable rise in public sector spending that took place during the boom.

It is wrong even to blame it all on the last government. That government wasn’t elected by Martians, it was elected by Irish people, and it is not as though the main opposition parties were cautioning against increased spending. On the contrary, they were trying to outbid the last government with extravagant promises of their own.

Why did they do that? It’s because that’s what we wanted to hear and that’s where we come into the picture.


If you think back to the boom years, how many newspapers or other media outlets were issuing loud warnings that it couldn’t last?

Apart from a commentator here, a commentator there, almost no-one was saying it would all end in tears.

In fact, when business journalist Richard Curran fronted a programme called Future Shock: Property Crash near the end of the boom warning us of what was to come he was denounced on all sides and told, in effect, that he was being unpatriotic. Most newspapers were delighted with the property boom because they were making so much money out of property advertising. They weren’t going to seriously question it.

And remember all the conversations we used to have about how much our houses were going up in value and whether we should dip our own toes in the property market and take out a second mortgage.

A lot of us did exactly that, going so far as to buy second houses in the likes of Bulgaria.

”Eve made me do it,” said Adam to God. Blaming others for our actions is as old as human nature itself.

Either we know that we were to blame for whatever we did wrong and try to blame someone else anyway, or we actually manage to convince ourselves we weren’t to blame at all, that someone else made us do it.

This was Adam’s tactic and it’s often our own. The Old Testament tends to get a bad press but it is every insightful about human nature. All human nature is there, the good and the bad. It spares us nothing.


In the Genesis story, Adam may genuinely have felt at some level that Eve was to blame for him taking a bite of the apple.

She was the one who the serpent tempted in the first place, and then she tempted him. But maybe Eve could have blamed the serpent?

The moral of this story is that the buck stops with us. Adam and Eve were responsible for their actions and it was no excuse that someone had tempted them into what they did. They could have, and should have, said no.

During the economic boom the banks were lending to us wholesale. They were pushing debt on us. They would unilaterally increase our credit card limit or offer us an unsolicited loan for a car.

It is absolutely true that the regulators miserably failed to curtail the banks and that had the banks been reined in our current economic troubles would be much less severe than they are.

But we have to take some of the blame as well. We could have said no, just like in the Genesis story. We could have exercised our own judgement. We could have been more prudent.

But a lot of us got greedy and greed overrides reason. It is in the nature of greed and it is why it is called a vice.


All vices override reason and that is why the Church, and the writers of Antiquity and indeed anyone with a bit of common sense used to warn against vice.

Vice will always get you into trouble and the mere fact that speaking about vice is now considered old fashioned is another reason why we are now in so much trouble.

Of course it’s important to stress that not all of us are responsible for the crash. A lot us of kept our heads, or else were simply too timid to plunge into the property market.

The real injustice of the crash is that the innocent have been caught up in it as well. That is what happens when you live in a community. What other people do affects you for better or worse.

What Enda Kenny should have said in his State of the Nation address, and in Switzerland, is that some of us are to blame for the crash and some of us are not.

That is the truth of it and it is ridiculous for us all to pretend that someone else made us do it. In a lot of cases, we did it. We didn’t have to say yes.