Charlie McCreevy

Where are the crew now? The ship is listing, Captain Cowen is on the bridge, his humiliation complete. He waits for the end, a lame duck leader whose career is en route down the Swannee. But where are the rest of the elite? Is that them skulking away on the horizon?

The last week or so has seen much reference to history and how far we have come from 1916. A more appropriate juncture of history might be the fall of communism. Then, as now, the ruling elite offered up a few sacrificial bodies, changed flags and carried on.

Sean FitzPatrick is bankrupt. Bertie 'Lehmans' Ahern is suffering from a severe strain of post-bubble self-delusion disorder and should be sentenced to nothing more than a term in a home for the bewildered. David Drumm is under pressure Stateside and a few developers have had to up sticks and relocate abroad. But everybody else has sailed on, either to enjoy bloated pensions, or to fight another day.

Mary Harney continues to serve in cabinet despite her pivotal role in what has befallen us. Calls for her resignation over the state of the health service are unjustified. She has been no worse at overseeing that department than any of her predecessors. The recession has ensured that her ideological drive to turn health into a business has not succeeded. But she, along with Ahern and Charlie McCreevy, set the ship of state on course to its current point of despair. The philosophy of cutting direct taxes and using the exchequer as an election fighting fund is a central element of our current difficulties. The tax base was destroyed and the speed at which spending was increased led to waste and structural disarray.

Light-touch regulation was a central tenet of Progressive Democrat philosophy, as it allowed entrepreneurs to properly spread their wings. In Harney's own Department of Enterprise at the height of the boom, there were just a handful of labour inspectors employed to police a workforce touching on two million.

The day of the IMF's arrival, Harney was asked if she felt ashamed or embarrassed. "No, I don't actually," she replied. She has not had to suffer a humiliating exit, and is unlikely to give voters the chance of delivering her one at the next election.

McCreevy, her co-religionist, has also gone on to greater things. Remember Charlie spending it as fast as he could? Remember how, when asked about reports of tax evasion in National Irish Bank in 1998, he said it was no big deal in the great scheme of things. Sure, the banks can look after themselves.

He is now a member of the board of Ireland's most successful company, Ryanair. That is the same Ryanair run by Michael O'Leary, who had this to say last year about how the country was run during the bubble.

"There is no doubt that Bertie Ahern was the most useless taoiseach this country has ever had. He squandered the wealth of an entire generation. Divvying it up, buying off every vested interest, establishing quangos left, right and centre, just to keep everyone happy."

Amen to that, and who was Bertie's chief confederate, the man with the real grip on the purse strings? He whom O'Leary appointed to the board of Ryanair. From here on in, when O'Leary abuses politicians, he should be reminded of his love for one of the chief culprits of the destruction of the economy.

On a corporate level, it's business as usual. Take Arthur Cox Solicitors as a shining example. The company played a major role in advising how to tackle the banking crisis. The firm was paid €9.66m by the state in fees during the last two years. Despite the station we have now arrived at, the firm will continue to be paid ludicrous fees for advising Nama and other assorted arms of the state. Arthur Cox is just the leading example of how corporate Ireland has merely moved on.

Then we have the people's champions, members of the elite who are now outraged at the behaviour of the elite.

Yesterday's protest march in Dublin was led by David Begg, the president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. This is the same David Begg who sat on the board of the Central Bank through the bubble. He was a member of the governing body of the entity with ultimate responsibility for banking in the country. Was he asleep all those years?

Crony capitalism involved more than just politicians, bankers and developers. Begg's appointment to the Central Bank was directly linked to social partnership. Despite the lack of any specific skill set, he was deemed fit for a position which should require a detailed knowledge of how banking works.

Instead, it went to a union leader, because, sure, aren't we all in this together and the goodies must be spread around. This is the kind of jobbery that fed into a rotten system which led to thousands taking to the streets yesterday. Is there something missing here?

Another prominent critic of how things were done is Michael Somers. He was the highest-paid employee in the state when he ran the National Treasury Management Agency. At €1m plus per annum, he was pulling in a multiple of what his equivalent office holders in the likes of Germany were getting paid.

Last week, Somers lashed out at how things were done. He wrote in The Irish Times that at the height of the madness he tried to take stock.

"I got out several Central Bank reports one day to try to understand how this credit was being created. Finding what you want in these reports is, at least for me, quite difficult but I finally came to the conclusion that the Irish banks borrowed from abroad between €100bn and €200bn in respect of their Irish business. I was so astonished that I asked one of my colleagues to check this figure and he agreed that it appeared to be correct.

"My successor at the NTMA, when appearing before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee last April and discussing this issue, recalled my saying that "the text books would need to be rewritten or we could have a problem".

Did he scream it from the rooftops? Did his obscene salary not oblige him to do so in the wider national interest? He has said the Department of Finance would have known of his concerns, but surely he might have persisted if his concerns were not being addressed. Surely his status as the biggest brain in the public service might have prompted him to act beyond the narrow confines of the agency over which he presided.

Today, Somers is the oracle, regarded as a man who survived the crazed regime rather than a cog in the machine that was. Unlike many others, he has never expressed an iota of regret about what he might have done differently.

There are many others who have sailed on. A crisis demands that the elite offer up a few sacrificial bodies. That has been done. The forthcoming general election will see a reckoning of sorts. Fianna Fail will rightly pay a price for its crimes. The bigger picture, however, remains. Same as it ever was.