If this crisis is not our fault, then whose is it?

Enda Kenny's assertion last week that Irish people are not responsible for the crisis was a bogus one. By Vincent Browne.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in his television address to the Irish people last Sunday: "You are not responsible for the crisis." If no Irish person is responsible for the crisis, then who is?

Was it outsiders who insisted that we devastate our tax base from 1997 onwards? Was it outsiders who criticised this, on the grounds that it did not devastate the tax base more? Was it just outsiders who cheered on the excesses of the Celtic Tiger? Was it only outsiders who wanted even more excess? Was it outsiders who inflated the property bubble? And was it only outsiders who wanted to inflate it further by stamp duty reliefs?

Who was it that gave the blanket guarantee to the banks in September 2008, and who was it that supported that bank guarantee? If it was outsiders, why were outsiders very annoyed with us over the scale of that guarantee and the problems that it caused them?

Who capitulated to the EU, ECB and IMF a year ago and agreed on the memorandum of understanding, and who was it that promised to renegotiate this "unsustainable" agreement and then abandoned any comprehensive renegotiation at the first rejection? Even if it was outsiders who catapulted us into that "unsustainable" agreement and insisted we pay billions to unguaranteed bondholders, were we really so helpless that we gave in so easily?

Did the EU force us to splurge on cheap money? Was it the IMF that caused us to create one of the most unequal societies in the developed world?

It was not outsiders who insisted that we cut disability allowance for many profoundly disabled people by 40% in the budget last week; nor that we ravage the back-to-school footwear and clothing allowance; nor that we target large families - a large proportion of them disadvantaged families, including Traveller families - for deep cuts in child benefits; nor that we avoid taxing rich people, and instead raise the upper VAT rate, which will disadvantage the disadvantaged even more.

Nor was it outsiders who insisted that we target single mothers for devastating cuts in their welfare; nor that we target people involved in community enterprise schemes which, for many, are the only respite from the misery of austerity; nor was it outsiders who caused the ruination of the community development and youth programmes.

All of these decisions were taken by Irish people.

It was Bertie Ahern - aided and abetted by Charlie McCreevy, Brian Cowen, Mary Harney and Michael McDowell, and supported by a phalanx of backbench TDs - who devastated the tax base.

It was Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Gilmore who complained Fianna Fáil didn't devastate the tax base enough. It was the Fianna Fáil and PD crowd who cheered on the excesses of the Celtic Tiger and the property bubble, and it was Kenny, Rabbitte and Gilmore who wanted more.

It was Cowen and Brian Lenihan who gave the blanket bank guarantee.

It was sleeping Fianna Fáil and Green ministers who approved it, and it was Fianna Fáil, the Greens and Fine Gael who sanctioned it. So did Labour, although they voted against.

It was Fianna Fáil and the Greens who capitulated to the EU, ECB and IMF on the Memorandum of Understanding. And it was Fine Gael and Labour who solemnly promised they would renegotiate what they said was "unsustainable", and then didn't.

It was Fine Gael and Labour who decided to pay unsecured bondholders billions of euros desperately needed for the relief of disadvantage at home, and it was they who promised to do everything to protect the vulnerable people in our society and then devised a budget that specifically targeted those vulnerable people.

But it's not just Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour who are to blame for all this.

More than 1.2 million voters gave their votes to Fine Gael and Labour last February, even though there was every reason to believe they would do precisely as they have done, even though they promised differently. We knew the promise of fairness was bogus; we knew the talk of a new politics and more accountability was also bogus.

Since 1997, huge numbers have voted for Fianna Fáil again and again, knowing that the party would favour the big shots and other cowboys; knowing that - in a choice between creating a fair and equitable society, and one which was a haven for financial sharks and fast bucks - they would go for the sharks and the bucks every time.

This is our political culture. We can see no alternative, or, at least, we cannot believe any alternative is credible.

We now regret the excesses of the recently-passed era, and would do things differently if we could do it all over again.

But only slightly differently, for we are trapped in the mindset that the purpose of public policy is to create an environment where business and entrepreneurship can flourish, from which will come the wealth to deal later with social problems.

But later never comes, and the business and entrepreneurship environment has a momentum of its own that will crush everything else, as it has done.

The left here bears a large responsibility for that culture by offering only windbag posturing as an alternative.

Image top: Tom Szustek.