When the Vikings pillaged the British coastline they were often looking for monasteries to plunder. Many of these monasteries contained both monks and nuns. The nuns were said to be married to God and the idea of a Viking defiling a nun was of grave concern during and the nuns, it was said, went to extreme lengths protect their chastity.
Famously in 867 AD, Saint Ebba, the Mother Superior of the Coldingham Priory, upon hearing of a Viking raid gathered her nuns together and showed them how to disfigure themselves by cutting off her nose and upper lip.
When the Vikings arrived every nun had done the same. Disgusted, the Vikings burned the priory to the ground with the nuns inside. They all died with, but their chastity intact.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Leo Varadkar, nose-picker-commander-in-chief, is leader of the government with arguably the worst nose for economics Fine Gael has ever had. We know he’s a great communicator, we know he’s intelligent and we know he has a very good sense of gauging a large part of the public.
But as leader of the government he has a duty to all of the citizens, not just those who might vote for him. He also favours style over substance and has yet to deliver on any of his key responsibilities.
Three of our major banks are in the process of currently selling-off mortgages to vulture funds. AIB, Ulster Bank and PTSB are outsourcing repossessions to companies like Pepper and Capita.
The government are standing idly by while thousands of people are to be forced into (at least) temporary homelessness. Mel Reynolds told me that the best case scenario, allowing for minimal displacement of tenants and owner occupiers, will result in a trebling of the current homelessness levels.
The cost of this to the state is potentially colossal. For those families forced into the emergency accommodation the cost to the state will be €69,000 per year. For those lucky enough to get alternative rental accommodation they will on average cost the state €825 per month in the Housing Assistance Payment.
The cost of the state stepping in and purchasing these loans is estimated to be about €5 billion. The cost to the state of not buying them is estimated at €11 billion.
Why is this economic lunacy taking place? They call it moral hazard. I call it the politics of spite. The narrative espoused again by Brendan Burgess only two weeks ago was that to interfere in this process was to give people a house for free.
The Central Bank (the most tepid of Bank regulators) issued a report that said after the ruling that put a 2 year moratorium on repossessions the level of non-payment increased. This was splashed across the papers and seized upon by the moral hazard zealots as proof that the “won’t-pay-brigade” took advantage of a system.
Undoubtedly, some did. Systems are made to be gamed. That’s why banks were able to transfer money between one another to plug gaps in balance sheets, pass audits and bankrupt the country.
But no, when they do it at huge economy crashing levels it’s not moral hazard. It’s we all partied. When a lad, who has lost his job, has a choice between the mortgage and feeding his kids he’s a drain on the taxpayers.
I have not even mentioned the societal impact a trebling of homelessness will cause. Opinion poll after opinion poll has made it clear that enough people don’t care about, or don’t understand the serious calamity facing of this country; a country that had 1,572 homeless people in 2007 and today is (the report is due out later this week) probably over the 10,000 mark.
If we can accept this as morally okay, can we at least accept that the cost of our spite will billions more to the taxpayer than necessary? If we are comfortable knowing that a historically bad crisis is about to get much worse, are we willing to write the cheque just to feel better about our position in the socioeconomic pecking order?
I think, and fear, that we are. People like Leo, and I admit there is much to like about him. But like Saint Ebba he is the leader of our Priory, and like Saint Ebba he is asking us to cut off our noses to spite our face. I for one don’t want to be inside the monastery when the fire starts. Do you?