Enda Kenny, taoiseach, at the weekend speaking in Castlebar, his hometown in Western Ireland, made a gaffe by describing locals who don't share his sunny optimism about the Irish economy as "All-Ireland champion whingers." After 40 years in national politics Kenny knows well how local or parish-pump politics works in an Irish multi-seat constituency. Kenny's County Mayo has not won an All-Ireland Gaelic football championship since 1951 and it irritates him that some locals expected at least to cheer more economic benefits in the past five years from the premiership of a local politician.


Kenny told reporters on Saturday that he was referring to "locals" in his speech not "national politics" and on Sunday he clarified that the whingers were members of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Irish Times reports that in an interview at the weekend with Midwest Radio, Kenny promised a “major announcement” about the local airport, Ireland West Airport Knock — this in addition to parish-pump politics, reflects the legacy of New York's Tammany Hall system in Irish politics, where the governing parties can use public spending as patronage, right up to polling day.

Michael Kinsley, an American journalist, wrote in Time magazine in 2007:

It used to be, there was truth and there was falsehood. Now there is spin and there are gaffes. Spin is often thought to be synonymous with falsehood or lying, but more accurately it is indifference to the truth. A politician engaged in spin is saying what he or she wishes were true, and sometimes, by coincidence, it is. Meanwhile, a gaffe, it has been said, is when a politician tells the truth — or more precisely, when he or she accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head. A gaffe is what happens when the spin breaks down.”

Spin and the Big Lie are not new but spin has earned a toxic reputation for conventional politicians while the candidacy of Donald Trump for the US presidency exploits the Big Lie at the core of the long-term strategies of Fox News and the Republican Party — promoting hate, resentment and grievance.

Adolf Hitler was a practitioner of the Big Lie and in his book 'Mein Kampf' noted:

that in the Big Lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

Dissent should be welcome even though some people are perennial pessimists.

Confidence and expectations are important influencers of economic trends but it should not be perverse to recognise the role of what are seen as Ireland's nattering nabobs of negativism, after the second home-made monumental economic bust in a generation. Dissent should be welcome while acknowledging that no one is infallible nor has any group custody of the legendary philosophers' stone.

William Safire (1929-2009) a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, and later a renowned master of etymology as the 'On Language' columnist of The New York Times Magazine, in 1970 coined the famous alliterative linguistic confection, "nattering nabobs of negativism," for a speech attacking professional pessimists in the mainstream media, which was delivered by Spiro Agnew, the vice president who was more corrupt than his boss.

In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club — the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.

Safire explained later in his book 'Safire's Political Dictionary,' that he had been inspired by the phrase "prophets of doom and gloom" that had been commonly used from the 1954 mid-term congressional election campaign.

When Bertie Ahern, taoiseach, in July 2007 attacked critics of his house of cards who were "sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning" and wondered why they didn't "commit suicide," he was speaking for many gullible citizens.

In September 2007, Ahern said:

But there is no place for negativity. No need for any pessimism. Above all, there is no place for politically motivated attempts to talk down the economy and the achievements of our people across all sectors.

Also in that month, Alan McQuaid, then chief economist of Bloxham Stockbrokers, now with Merrion Stockbrokers, wrote in the Irish Times: "I'm sick to death of people writing off the Irish economy and next year could easily see the 'Celtic Tiger' roaring more loudly than many pessimists think."

These are examples of where confidence or optimism becomes entwined with self-interest.

While short-sellers in stockmarkets bank on share prices falling, few dissenters become rich by advising little emperors on their lack of clothing.

When its party time, economists who are dependent wage slaves, have to play the game of optimism and forecasts tend to revolve around a consensus figure while it can take several adjustments to a more realistic forecast.

In the UK, during the dot-com boom of 1995-2000, Tony Dye, a fund manager who was known as "Dr Doom," was well known for many years as the successful chief investment officer of Phillips and Drew, an investment firm. However, he refused to follow investor fashion by buying shares in dotcom companies, fearing a slump in the markets was imminent. He was fired in February 2000, the month before the bubble popped.

Defying conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom is a term that was coined by the Canadian-American economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) in 'The Affluent Society' (1958). 

The protectors of the status quo will always try to drown out dissent — a fact of life that should be seen as damaging to democracy.

Whether it's a cleric turning a blind eye to colleagues' child abuse or people in public and private organisations going with the flow despite their private misgivings about reckless policies, the case for embracing dissent is made.

However, challenging conventional wisdom often comes at a high price and for example the whistleblower is more often than not the biggest loser. Any amount of legal protection will not change this reality.

Most times, it’s a safe bet to keep the trap shut; black swans are rare and there is also plenty company sailing in the status quo boat.

In Ireland with a culture of limited accountability in governance, a small establishment of insiders given preference on public appointments and procurement, conflict of interest seldom an issue, and common cronyism, the risks of standing apart from the pack are greater than in other countries.

While politics sometimes gives some leeway to the dissenter, business and religious organisations, show zero tolerance. The brand and the leadership cannot be endangered at all costs and even people of probity turn against the whistleblower, as he or she is seen as endangering the livelihoods of everyone else.

Family may also provide no comfort, viewing the trade-off of high principle for future income, as unacceptable.

The US Government Accountability Project has warned anyone thinking of exposing an employer’s wrongdoing: think hard before you do because you are going to suffer. In a book called 'Courage Without Martyrdom,' it warns that whistleblowers “pay an enormous professional and personal price for their actions — often a price they did not anticipate.”

The effects will not disappear. “Long after the public has forgotten your courageous actions, your superiors will remember what you did to them,” the book says.

In February 2009, Paul Moore, head of Group Regulatory Risk at Britain’s biggest mortgage lender HBOS, between 2002 and 2005, who was a barrister by profession and a former partner in KPMG’s Financial Sector Practice in London specialising in regulatory services, told the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee in a written submission, that he and his team experienced threatening behaviours by executives when carrying out its legitimate role.

“I was strongly reprimanded by the CFO for tabling at a Group Audit Committee meeting the full version of a critical report by my department making it clear that the systems and controls, risk management and compliance were inadequate in the Halifax to control its ‘over-eager’ sales culture,” Moore said.

He was fired in 2005 by HBOS and was subsequently paid a substantial sum, in return for signing a “gagging” order. Moore’s replacement as risk manager was a sales manager who had no experience in risk. The appointment was made personally by the CEO and against the wishes of the other directors.

As for life since, Moore commented to the House of Commons committee: “I am still toxic waste now for having spoken out all those years ago!”

In 2004, Michael Soden, the then Bank of Ireland chief executive, was swiftly fired for accessing an escort site from his office computer. However, his successor could risk bringing the venerable bank to the brink of ruin as the board of directors sat idly by.

“Rocking the boat and swimming against the tide of public opinion would have required a particularly strong sense of the independent role of a central bank in being prepared to ‘spoil the party’ and withstand possible strong adverse public reaction,” Prof Patrick Honohan, then governor of the Central Bank said in his report on the banking collapse, which was published in 2010.

Kenny, election, Jobs, IDA Ireland

Enda Kenny at an IDA Sod Turning & eNet launch in Castlebar, County Mayo, 20 Feb, 2016. IDA Ireland, the foreign
direct investment agency, has to provide Kenny with photo opportunities, even during a general election campaign

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Dissent is also needed in response to the Government's propaganda machine.

George Orwell, language politicsPublic statements and ad hoc claims from the Irish Government are a mix of the genuine, distortions and often economies with the truth — or simple lies: "Ireland is 'not a brass-plate location'"; "...we don’t have any brass plate companies like others do have. The tax rate in Ireland is what it says on the tin," Brendan Howlin, spending minister, said in February 2014 — the statement reflected ignorance or was a lie.

Last year King Digital Entertainment Plc, an Irish firm with 1,600 employees but with just an address at the offices of a Dublin law firm and no Irish employees, was sold for $5.9bn to an American firm.

The maker of the Candy Crush Saga smartphone game is of Swedish origin, with operational headquarters in London and became Irish for tax purposes in 2013.

Irish export data is massively distorted but ministers, public agencies, and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) have often treated the distorted data as fact, as does the media.

The Government's publicity machine is also used for party political purposes while Dáil Éireann as a legislature is dominated by the executive.

The evidence from elsewhere is that when dissent is drowned out, it manifests itself in extremist parties and street protests.

It's good that whingers irritate Enda Kenny — maybe listening to some of them may be more productive than his official advisers in the amen corner in Government Buildings.

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What if Enda Kenny told the truth? — it could have been a winning strategy!

Germany's record trade surplus in 2015; US, UK, France in deficit

Irish standard of living below EU28, Euro Area and Italian averages

Living in unique economic/ financial times; Interest rates at lowest in 5000 years

Sean Flanagan, Mayo, politician, minister1950 All-Ireland Final - Seán Flanagan, captain of the Mayo Gaelic football team receiving the Sam Maguire Cup Photo: Mayo GAA >>>>

Seán Flanagan was both a star footballer and national politician like Enda Kenny's father Henry, who had been a member of the Mayo All-Ireland winning football team in 1936.

The plain-talking Mayoman was unique in Irish politics

At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis in 1970, Seán Flanagan (1922–1993), then Minister for Lands, who had been captain of the Mayo All-Ireland football winning teams in 1950 and 1951 and was honoured in 2000 by the GAA as a member of their Gaelic Football Team of the Millennium, was accorded a standing ovation when he proposed that his own department should be abolished.

In early 1977 the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government announced the transfer of Department of Lands functions to the Department of Agriculture.