An otter runs out of a lake and up the main street of the village of Tulla, County Clare, Ireland (52 degrees North, 8 degrees West). Locals give chase amidst much excitement and hilarity and eventually the otter returns to the lake, not before causing mild mayhem and nipping one or two of the chasing locals. This is exactly the sort of story beloved of broadcasters who's voices take on a smarmy smirk as they preface it with ' ......and finally.'
BBC Northern Ireland, broadcast out of Belfast (54 degrees North, 5 degrees West), speaks gleefully with a Tulla man who got the otter into his jeep and then speaks with an official from an English conservation agency who says that Irish otters are 'particularly feisty, known to be more feisty than otters on the mainland.' Such language from an official is startling. Edward Said called it Orientalism, referring to the east, but given that Ireland is an independent country on another island to the west of England, should this be called Occidentalism? Or simply colonialism?
Even allowing for a poor experience of geography teaching at school, it is unlikely that the official would have used the term 'mainland' about an otter in France, another sovereign European state like the Republic of Ireland, though smirking asides about frogs and eating snails might have arisen. With Ireland, it's always the off-shore island, where quirkiness abounds, wee laughs and oddities are the order of the day. And the recent bail-out of the Irish economy by various bodies, including The British Government, copper-fastens the image that Ireland is not serious; that it is best kept in the '.... and finally' section of the news, delivered by broadcasters, smiling wryly and looking put-upon.
Irish political and financial elites are to blame for the crisis leading to the bail-out, but you wouldn't know that reading the report of the Nyberg Commission of Investigation into the Causes of the Irish Banking Crisis. It's heavy on psychology, light on blame. No naming and shaming, asserting that all Irish people are to blame as they engaged in 'group think' and a 'herd instinct.'
Nyberg, formerly a ministry of finance official in Finland, says they engaged in 'national speculative mania', selling property to each other on credit. Given his previous place of work, it's not surprising that he protects the political and financial elites in a Report – number three in a series of no-namers and no-shamers - that cost 1.32 million euros. For instance, where is his criticism of the role of external auditors (See also Complacency, Auditors and The Road to Tripoli, 1/4/2011). No where. They, along with the bankers, the politicians and the regulators have experienced a soft landing as this crisis unfolds, while the rest of the population suffer a hard, hard landing from which many of them will only survive by emigrating. Nyberg needs to get his hands on Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine and read it on his yachting holiday up the Finnish fjiords, paid for by the Irish tax-payer.
Meanwhile, the new Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, barely a wet day in office, visits The British Prime Minister in Downing Street, London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees West), in a de facto gesture of 'touching the forelock'. It's hardly any wonder then that the English conservation official thinks Ireland is an off-shore island of mainland Britain. The people are great gas. Their Prime Minister rushes to visit ours. And finally ....... the otters are more feisty.