Last night’s Week in Politics Show on RTE provided a fascinating illustration of how bizarre the debate over the National Asset Management Agency has become.
Presenter Sean O’Rourke introduced a report on the Dublin Economics Workshop in Kenmare (18 minutes in) by quoting Denis O’Brien’s comments about academic economists spending all of their time twittering and taking out ads in the newspaper. The report itself showed Morgan Kelly criticising NAMA on the grounds that it relied on extreme upper tail optimistic assumptions and that it would still leave them undercapitalised.
The report then showed Pat McArdle, former economist with Ulster Bank, responding to Morgan Kelly as follows (22 minutes in):
Freedom of speech is fine and we’re all in favour of it. But there are sometimes when you have to temper things in the greater interest.
Following the report, presenter Sean O’Rourke effectively endorsed this line of reasoning, immediately putting the following question to Pat Rabbitte: (24 minutes in)
Is there something to be said, and this is a theme that Garret FitzGerald has touched on in the last couple of weeks in his column, that there may be a case for people to pull on the green jersey as it were, set aside some of their more extreme doubts about NAMA and just see it through and give it a fair wind?
So this is what it’s come to. People can object to the government’s policies on the budget or health or education or whatever but objections to NAMA—an initiative that involves spending up to €54 billion of public money—must be condemned as unpatriotic.
In a supposedly open and democratic republic, this idea—that you should refrain from objecting to a government’s economic policies because this criticism runs counter to the national interest—would normally be considered morally repugnant. It says a lot about this country that this opinion is now being regularly aired by mainstream commentators in our print and broadcast media.
The programme had plenty of other stomach-churning stuff such as McArdle’s claims that Kelly had just dreamt up his criticisms of NAMA in the last week, junior Minister Dick Roche’s claims that Morgan was being “brittle” in response to McCardle, followed up by bizarre stuff about how this put him in mind of the need for more one-armed economists. And best of all, when Pat Rabbitte failed to agree to pull on the green jersey, O’Rourke told him:
But coming back to NAMA, they’re operating on the best available advice from say the head of the Department of Finance, from experts in Europe, from the European Central Bank, from the new Governor of the Central Bank.