Ah yes, the financial crisis. There I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I ‘owed’ 80,000 euro to mega-rich bondholders. Now I’m constantly being woken in the middle of the night by my wallet sobbing that it feels empty and that it’s fed up of being upended and desperately shaken. I long to know the identity of these Bondholders so that I might saunter up to one of them in the Ritz or wherever they hang out and say:
“Excuse me. Stop eating that lobster and caviar for a moment. My wallet is very upset. There are many wallets like mine in Ireland that seem to owe 80,000 euro each to prop up banks for some dodgy speculation you were involved in. How’s about emptying your wallet – yes that ebullient leather monster that seems to have an insatiable appetite for Irish taxpayer’s money – so that we can all go back to having jobs and public services. And if that means you wind up eating jam sandwiches in a transport caff, well…” Alas, this won’t happen, because no bondholder would currently dare to pop up from behind their chaise-longue and say yoo-hoo – over here. But it set me thinking: two can play at hiding behind the sofa.
Now obviously, any sensible person faced with large debts they are reluctant to dig deep into the pockets for, will lie low. Change their identity. Disguise themselves with a straw boater, facial hair and pretend to smoke a pipe. But might it not be possible to do this on a National scale? I hear you hoot: What? Disguise all of Ireland? Go nationally incognito? Bear with me. Don’t laugh and log off braying ‘the man’s mad!’ Remember it’s this or 80,000 a household. My modest and practical suggestion is that we should pretend to be Iceland.
You see, adopting ‘Iceland’ as a non-de-plume would involve no great effort, no vast Soviet-like five year plan? We merely scratch out the R in Ireland and replace it with a C. Many a creditor can be shown the door because they have a bill addressed to the wrong name.
Pretending to be Iceland would also be cool. Well, alright, cold. Not existing on the edge of the arctic circle, we might have to turn off the central heating in winter to get our teeth authentically chattering and introduce a few polar bears into the wild. Sure, where’s the harm? We could rechristen
‘ Dublin ’, scribble ‘Krona’ over our euro
notes in felt pen and all bleach our hair blonde, no problem. There wouldn’t be
a lot of cultural changes as we’re already listening to Bjork and digesting interminable
sagas – the economic crisis saga being already harder to swallow than The
Passion Hymns of Hallgrimur Pètursson. It might help to learn a few Icelandic
words. Just eight really. Something like: “Nei Við höfum engar peningar fyrir þér
kveðja” (No, we don’t have
any money for you. Goodbye.) The very worst that could happen is we might have
to eat Hakari – beheaded shark that’s been buried underground for a couple of
I don’t deny we’d need changes in the landscape. But how much would it cost to bore some big holes in the Wicklow mountains and conceal smoke machines at the bottom to make the country seem a bit more volcanically and geologically active? Not 80,000 per household. Catapult a few tons of cinders from the holes now and then and talk up an ash-cloud to ground planes across the entirety of European airspace and we’d be halfway there. With the winters we’ve been having, we wouldn’t even have to paint the fields white. As an added precaution we could build a large trans-Ireland moustache: blonde, dropped-handlebar lip whiskers, unmistakably Nordic in appearance. This would extend from Dublin to Galway and droop down to the ring of Kerry on one side and the Wicklow mountains on the other. Being 150 miles wide, 5 miles deep and constructed from millions of straw bales shaped to look like a shaggy moustache, the project would provide massive employment opportunities. Satellites looking down (because the EU are wondering where we’ve got to) or IMF henchmen arriving by air, would be completely flummoxed by the nation’s impenetrable disguise.
Just imagine those IMF or EU heavies landing in Dublin’s Reykjavik airport. They step off the plane to see a man dressed as Viking Chief Ingōlfur Arnason, one of the first Icelandic settlers, sinking a double-headed axe very deep into a negotiating table and bawling: “Nei Við höfum engar peningar fyrir þér kveðja.” Because Icelanders don’t take any crap, you see. They voted in a referendum to let their bondholders burn. Which means - and here’s the big payoff - if we pretend to be them, we can do the same!
As a practical solution to the nation’s woes I really can’t see where objections would come from. My solution is cheap and more craic than the alternatives. It’s the kind of practical action that ordinary people want: something that doesn’t involve marching - which causes blisters and fatigued legs - and spreads a little happiness. Not least, to our wallets.