Quite a debate going on in the Joe Duffy show in relation to Bertie Ahern. If one accepts the fact that Zoe developments were indeed a good company at doing small repetitious building and did contribute something to innovation at that level of the construction industry.
Then if the thesis that Bertie Ahern made too much incentive available to 'small opportunistic players' in the Irish economy is true . . . . then a lot of the spoils and incentives would naturally have flowed into a company such as Zoe developments. Without their even trying very hard. I can assure you, they didn't either. They displayed a considerable economy of effort.
Such a situation can be very dangerous, as Zoe began to believe fairy tales about themselves which were simply not grounded in the real world. I even began to believe some of those fairy tales myself.
Future managers of the [small] Irish economy will have to take care in this aspect. While the Irish economy is never going to be large enough to accomodate really large players, unless we develop the right 'export' models in the way we do business, we need to create some incentive for some large and ambitious ideas to flourish.
If the only objective in management of the Irish economy is to produce a lot of wealthy, small time operators then Bertie Ahern did everything right. He succeeded in achieving that. If that strategy had been even moderately 'sustainable' for Ireland then Ahern would still be our hero today.
However, something about the booming economy that Bertie Ahern attempted to create left us badly exposed on another front, when the likes of Liam Carroll had rivers of money flowing towards them and believed they were better than they were.
That forced them to try to become bigger players than they had originally intended to become. It forced them to throw a sustainable smaller scale business model out of the window, after 20 years in development . . . . to embark on a fool's excursion building tower blocks with no planning permission on North Wall Quay etc. Such was the level of their confidence and bravado. The shell structure on NWQ today stands as a testiment to that.
The notion that Bertie Ahern destroyed Ireland's economy is actually a red herring in a way. It makes us all very satisfied that we now have somebody to blame. I even enjoy that sense of satisfaction myself. I enjoy giving Bertie a good 'whack' in my conversation.
But it doesn't address the fact that most of us really did like having Bertie in power, because we could witness our [small] businesses doing so well for a decade period of time. This is why it is a bit rich for the Irish nation to turn around now, and demand that Bertie be held responsible.
Why did we vote him in? No one yet has established a convincing response to that question, that I know of.
It is unfortunate too, that Bertie wasn't even remotely competent in terms of being a champion for the right kinds of 'large scale' endeavors that the Irish nation tried to undertake during the Celtic Tiger. Those of you more experienced and talented in terms of large scale planning conception can add to this point if you like.
Bertie was good when it came to creating a world in which the small man could thrive. Bertie wasn't a Taoiseach enshrined with talent when it came to doing larger scale planning. The criticism of the national spatial strategy is interesting. It probably demonstrates the requirement for a leader of true vision at the top, when embarking on planning at that level.
Bearing in mind that such a leader with true long term, national vision, may not cater to the needs of small business as well as Bertie Ahern did. Like so much in life, the truth is complex. Never simple and straightforward.
Brian O' Hanlon