You may recall the criticism levelled by UCD lecturer Dr Julian Mercille at Marc Coleman (and others) for hyping the property bubble.
In a lengthy essay that touches on everything from immigration to the French Indian War of 1754–1763, Mr Coleman defends his record, monsters his critics and talks about a little thing called ‘hope’.
Get yourself some tay.
Mr Coleman writes:
Julien Mercille’s article about my record is, as I’ll show beyond doubt, wrong and selective. In truth it is a travesty. With one exception he has quoted without context and commented without understanding.
Using facts and figures – rather than hype – I did more than most to warn of the crisis to come between 2004 and 2007. Others lamented the crisis. I called for policies to deal with it. Constructive realistic ones. Some claim to have “called the recession in 2007”, in an RTÉ documentary on the property crash. I began calling it in 2004. And I didn’t stop until it had come and when it did come I shifted focus to offering hope and solutions. All of this, I will prove beyond doubt in this response.
Compared to the official forecasters – Department of Finance, OECD, IMF and others – I was more accurate and cautious.
Julien Mercille could have prepared a balanced assessment of how all commentators dealt with the crisis. Instead he focuses on me. Fine. I have challenged him to open debate at a time and place of his choosing and with a neutral chair. So far, pas de response. So in the meantime, let me respond in writing.
In fact, let me say en Francais “Merci Mercille” for giving me the opportunity to comprehensively write what I’ve been meaning to write for some time now.
But before that, picture the following: Imagine you have a loved one facing a severe illness and with a 50/50 chance of survival. You are visiting them in hospital. Sure, you’ll make small talk. But inevitably the will turn to their condition. So what are you going to talk about? The 50% chance they will die? Or the 50% they will live? And which of these options do you think will maximise their chance of survival.
Unless you’re an idiot, you know the answer to these questions.
In the grown-up world of responsibility, confidence matters. So does handling news responsibility and in a balanced way. In Mercille’s world of academia, confidence is less important. You don’t have to worry about customers being afraid to spend money on your product or service. Or about your boss firing you because she’s worried about the firm going bust.
Or about losing your pension: Thanks to a sweetheart deal – which, like the Anglo bailout, was conducted behind our backs – academics like Julien got a €2billion bailout of their pension deficit. A bailout we in the private sector, and our children, will pay for too.
Lecturers in UCD earn up to €100,000. And they don’t need to worry about confidence in the economy collapsing because their union – on threat of strike action – can bully Government to keep paying at our expense. And just like Anglo Irish Bank executives pressured Government to bail themselves out, so universities were able to pressure the last government in 2009 to bailout a combined pension deficit of €2billion to cover universities and other institutions like FÁS.
We, and our children, will bear that burden. And whether confidence in our economy’s future exists will have a huge impact on our ability to to do. Meanwhile Mercille’s colleagues enjoy the comfort of living in safety and on high incomes and pensions while hurling from the ditch.
And from several hurlers on the ditch – who won’t meet in open, honest debate – I’m being accused of trying to shore up confidence in our economy’s long term. I plead guilty. Some tell us the long run doesn’t matter – that in the long run we’re all dead.
They usually make that argument to justify us borrowing to shore up their State salary or pension. But there is a long run. Our children live it and so will we one day.
And protecting confidence in it is vital. Absolutely vital. But protecting confidence doesn’t mean covering up. Far from it. Confidence means that if you say something negative – and I’ve been more negative than positive to date – you observe three rules.
Firstly, do it in the right way. Secondly, you do it for the right reasons. And thirdly, you do it at the right time. Doing it in the right way means using facts and figures.
Doing it for the right reasons means doing it in the public interest and not to promote your academic profile or profits from your book. And doing it at the right time means calling the crisis early enough to call for corrective action. Not jumping on the commentary bandwagon after it’s too late (and then claiming to have “called it” before others).
Yes, I attacked “doom merchants”, as Mercille suggests. And I would do so again. What Mercille doesn’t understand is that I gave constant and repeated negative comment where it was needed. And to the responsible comment of others.
Yes, I stressed recovery would happen soon in this century. I stand by that. Current growth data and all forecasts – IMF, OECD and EU – show Ireland outperforming the eurozone and is set to continuing to do so. Belief in the near future and future does not mean denying the truth about the present. And that is the central dishonesty of Mercille’s article.
Before taking it apart, however, let me mention one irony. On the day I wrote this rebuttal I was preparing for a radio show on the threat of anti-immigrant sentiment.
Now [Quebec, Canada-born] Julien Mercille is an immigrant. One of a quarter of a million who have been welcomed into this country to work here. Had they read “The Best is Yet to Come” they would have realised that chapter 12 was a call to action against the threat of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Ironically, on the week that Mercille attacked me, ESRI research showed that what I warned about was coming true: In its latest Annual Monitoring Report on Immigration, the ESRI shows an alarming rise in antiimmigrant sentiment.How ironic that on the day I am preparing for a show to counter this scourge I am defending myself from attack by two people who have been welcomed into this country.
The irony becomes clearer below when I explain why Peter Sutherland launched my first book.
As an esteemed guest of the nation, Mercille might want to spend some time learning more about his new home before running it down by attacking those who point out that future, and by confusing confidence in the future – which I have – with a denial of the present situation – which I definitely don’t.
Further to Dr Julien Mercille’s paper on the Irish media’s complicity in the property bubble.
Newstalk’s Marc Coleman (above), singled out by Dr Mercille in the report as a bubble blower-upper extraordinaire while economics editor of the Irish Times, has sent us the following.
[It’s a letter to the Sunday Tribune in 2010 wherein he defends his record and correctly if cruelly predicts the paper’s demise]
Earlier: Calling It
Sent last night.
Probably out of context.
In a personal capacity and in my own time – my views don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer – I’m writing to you on the matter of liberty and freedom of expression which I believe is under grave threat and where I believe the public need to be more informed. I would ask you to take time to read this email and, if you think appropriate, forward it for consideration to others. The deadline for action is this coming Wednesday. As a broadcaster from time to time I exercise my constitutional freedom of speech to give my view on current affairs topics. I do this because I believe that for too long a perspective of many Irish people – a majority on many issues – has been underrepresented, ignored or vilified and this must be balanced by more fairness.But if draft proposals of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland are implemented, I may lose that right. Also citizens will lose the right to choose to listen to presenters they want and broadcasters like me could lose their livelihood.
Without reading it all – noting the wording of “Rule 2” (p 12) the reference to the European Convention of Human Rights (p 5) and scanning the last 4 pages will suffice (pdf here), There are good proposals in this draft; disclosure of interests, for example. Indeed most of the proposals make sense. But presenters should in my view be free to give their opinions provided they do so transparently and fairly and Rule 2 – which requires that “current affairs” broadcasters should refrain from “any expression of the broadcaster’s own views” – will stop this and return us to the days of monopoly viewpoints determined by faceless producers.
This would be unfair on many levels:
Firstly, in my case and the case of private broadcasters taxpayers are not forced to a 400k RTE style salary. So why has the state any right to censor us? Secondly, while the code applies to all broadcasters it will put private broadcasters at a grave disadvantage to the hugely funded and privileged RTE which has far greater resources with which to implement onerous regulations and restrictions. Thirdly, the proposal gives print media and advantage over radio. John Cooney – religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Independent and Patsy McGarry – religious affairs correspondent of the Irish Times – are free to give their opinions in what they write. Fourthly, given how views of all sorts are now broadcastable on blogsites, facebook and twitter, it is unfair to single out radio for muzzling. But there’s more:
The reference in the Draft Code (page 5) to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) is very ominous: This convention regardsabortion and euthanasia as fundamental human rights (based on the privacy of the person). Regardless of one’s views on the merits and demerits of these controversial issues it is entirely unsuitable for any proposed code of conduct – even if constrained to matters of broadcasting policy – to refer to them or use them as this may be seen to reflect a tacit acceptance of that Convention’s totality on the part of the BAI. Note that I am not here alleging that the BAI or its staff support the ECHR in its totality. Rather I am saying that using this document could lead to the perception of bias which would be unhealthy. Given perceptions by many of a liberal bias in the media of late, this is unhealthy and extremely unwise..Whether you agree or disagree with the points made above I ask you to engage as a citizen and make your views know in a brief submission to the BAI. It doesn’t have to be a tome: Even a few short paragraphs in an email to get across your core views would be a valuable contribution to the debate, whatever side in it you take. You’ll find details of whom to contact to do that here. The deadline for action is this coming Wednesday
Thank you for your kind attention on this very important topic.