It's easy to be positive - If you ignore the facts

We have the resources to deal with all our problems. All we need is the political will to use them. By Vincent Browne.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has started the season on a positive note, which we all might try to emulate in 2013.

He said at the turn of the new year that 2013 would be the "year of recovery" and that the Irish presidency of the EU would bring "new hope" to people in the midst of the economic crisis.

To celebrate these positive tidings, schoolchildren - corralled in the yard of Dublin Castle - released 40 blue balloons to mark the 40th anniversary of Ireland joining the European Economic Community.

The children didn't really release the balloons - or, rather, most of them didn't. Extra-long strings had been attached to the balloons, and the children were asked to hold onto the strings, but some of the children forgot, in their excitement for Kenny's promise of "new hope" for the people of Europe, and the biodegradable balloons floated off into the stratosphere.

But Kenny didn't tell the 40 children with the balloons why they should have "new hope" in 2013. Employment here continues to fall, and the Department of Finance says "conditions in the labour market remain poor. The most likely outcome is that the level of employment will effectively be flat [in 2013]."

Kenny and Michael Noonan had been so positive throughout 2012, celebrating it as the year of return to economic growth. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) was less positive, recording negative growth in 2012, as measured by gross national product (GNP), the more reliable growth measurement.

Not very positive either has been the statistic of the number of people leaving Ireland. In the 12 months to April 2012, the CSO estimates that 87,100 people left Ireland, while the number of immigrants is estimated at 52,700, a net outward migration of 34,400 in the year.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore's positivity has been a bit disappointing. On New Year's Day, the best he could come up with was that a "post-recession" republic would become apparent by the end of 2013, a whole year away - not that, in a year's time, there would be an end to this misery, but merely the prospect of an end to it.

But, in an interview with the Irish Times, he again was very positive about the "courage" of those Labour Party TDs and senators who voted to break Labour's election promises.

Agriculture minister Simon Coveney was fairly positive about what he would like to see in 2013. He told the Irish Examiner: "I'd love to see bankers in prison [and] I'd love to see senior politicians from the previous governments losing their pensions, I'd love to see people in the dock." He also said he thought Ireland needed "forward-thinking" solutions, which is indeed very positive.

The populist bit, about wanting to see bankers in prison and those politicians responsible for the economic collapse losing their ministerial pensions, might turn out not so positive though.

When a few bankers come before the criminal courts later this year - or, more probably, some time in 2014 - their legal representatives might have something to say about how their trials have been prejudiced by a government minister saying how he'd love to see bankers being imprisoned, the implication being that this would be his wish whether there is evidence that they committed a criminal offence or not.

As for politicians who bear responsibility for the economic collapse losing their pension entitlements, there's nothing very positive about that, since Kenny was foremost among those politicians on the opposition benches who urged even more reckless policies during the Celtic tiger era than the former government was prepared to enact.

Labour's Pat Rabbitte kicked off the silly season in mid-December with a great burst of positivity. He claimed the government would certainly not pay the €3.1 billion promissory note bill in March. But then it turned out he had no idea whether this was so or not.

When it comes to his own bailiwick, however, Rabbitte is depressingly lacking in positivity. He says he will oppose any attempt to legislate for privacy, just as he seems determined to do nothing to challenge the media control enjoyed by Denis O'Brien, both because of the extent of O'Brien's media control and the findings against him by a tribunal of inquiry, instituted by the parliament of this state. But then this is positive news for O'Brien.

But isn't it strange that they all failed to cite the most positive feature by far of the Irish condition: far from being broke, Ireland remains one of the richest countries in the world.

Ignoring the oil sheikdoms and the more brazen tax havens, Ireland is the 17th richest country in the world, according to the World Bank, on a per capita national income basis. We are just behind France and Japan, and ahead of most of our European partners, including Italy and Spain.

We have the resources to deal with all our problems. All we need is the political will to use those resources. Now there's positivity for you.

Image top: Fine Gael.