The first meeting of the Celtic Bishops which I attended took place in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan. Parts of Cavan and Monaghan have been among the more depressed parts of Ireland. But Sean Quinn brought economic regeneration and employment to that part of Ireland – and the Slieve Russell was part of that empire. Sean Quinn was good news. Indeed the meeting took place to the accompanying clatter of his helicopter constantly coming and going. It’s grounded now and so is Sean Quinn
There is a huge shortfall in the assets of his insurance company. Today’s Irish Edition of the Sunday Times has a picture of him emerging from Mountjoy Prison where he had been visiting his son. And all of this links in some way to the story of the failure of Anglo-Irish Bank and the wider financial crisis of 2008
In Ireland all is this is sort of direct and personal. In a relatively classless society, people like Sean Quinn are seen as ‘people like us’ who achieved unimaginable wealth and brought prosperity to others. And then the whole political and financial edifice came crashing down. In Scotland it has felt very different – more distant somehow – and the only moment at which it became personal was the stripping of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood.
I think that the consequences will be long term and unknowable. The Irish electorate took a fearsome revenge on the political class at the last election – but between the lines it feels like a revolution which is incomplete. The new government appears competent, honest and lucky. But rumbling in the background is the feeling that the Irish electorate and Irish politicians know that they were complicit in sustaining something which they knew was unsustainable – and the consequences of that are unknowable.
Just as unknowable are the political consequences in Scotland, But here is one suggestion. With the failure of RBS, etc., came damage to Scottish trust in the probity and prudence of the Scottish banking and financial sector. That leaves in its wake a nervousness about the future – concern about the ‘lender of last resort’ question. And that in turn plays in the background of the independence debate. Unknowable.