Fintan O'Toole, author of Ship of fools, historian, biographer, critic and journalist with the Irish Times, has written a brilliant study of Ireland's problems.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG had audited Ireland's banks every year, and never spotted anything wrong. Proportionately, Ireland's bank bailout is history's most costly - Standard & Poor estimated the cost at 90 billion euros, 30 per cent of GDP, and twice the government estimate. And the bailout has been the most complete failure - nationalising debts has not released credit, it has brought only cuts, unemployment, and a record public sector deficit of 32 per cent of GDP.
O'Toole exposes five key myths. The first is the myth of the Republic. Ireland needs not the old bourgeois nation combined with institutional Catholicism, but a new republic for 2016, the centenary of the Declaration of Independence. It needs to be a nation based on the common public interest, not on rule by private interests.
The second is the myth of representation. The Dáil's members do not represent their constituents; they do not represent people's views, nor do they represent them in terms of class, age or gender.
The third is the myth of parliamentary democracy. He shows how the Dáil doesn't work - it fails to hold governments to account, it does not create laws, it cannot conduct serious investigations and it is in thrall to the EU.
The fourth is the myth of charity. Some still see education not as a right but as a blessing conferred by the Roman Catholic Church, which controls 92 per cent of Ireland's schools. The Church also prevented the setting up of an Irish NHS - a visit to the GP costs 50-70 euros.
The fifth is the myth of wealth - economically unproductive assets (chiefly housing) grew at the expense of productive assets (manufacturing industry, roads, rail, water, schools, hospitals, communications and energy). Irish banks owe German banks 174 billion euros; Greek banks owe them 32 billion, Spanish banks 165 billion.
The government privatised Keynesianism: individuals took on debt to stimulate the economy. O'Toole sums up, "Taken together, the exaggerations of GDP, the poverty of fixed assets, the personal costs of weak public services, the illusory nature of property values and the swamp of debt undermine the idea that Ireland, even in the boom years, was seriously rich."
Instead of the myths, he proposes five decencies. The first is security. He points out that between 1995 and 2007 social housing was just 6 per cent of the total, 3,500 homes built a year. The state gives landlords 1.3 billion euros a year in tax breaks and rent allowances, money that should go to provide social housing. O'Toole denounces the move from social security to personal insecurity. 30 per cent of pensioners are poor; he calls for an increase in the state pension.
The second is health. Ireland spends more on health care per head than Britain, Germany, France, Belgium or Spain, yet its system is unfair, inefficient and ineffective; the country needs universal health care, free at the point of contact.
The third is education. In Britain the annual cost of pupils leaving school with low literacy is £2.5 billion a year. Ireland too needs to spend more on schools, and end its 100 million euros a year subsidies to private schools. A smart economy needs a smart society and Ireland's National Skills Strategy aims for three-quarters of young people to achieve higher education, yet all too many families have incomes too low to allow participation in higher education. There is a need to improve take-up of adult education and lifelong learning and a need to double the student grant to cover the £7,000 a year costs.
The fourth decency is equality - high-quality universal public services are essential to economic equality. Thousands who get more than 100,000 euros a year pay no income tax.
The fifth is citizenship. Ireland needs a new sense of national pride, a belief in Ireland's collective capacity to create a country to be proud of, its people must take responsibility for the public realm, with a sense of mutual obligation, where the common good outweighs the claims of private property.
O'Toole should have added a sixth decency - national independence and sovereignty. Ireland needs to leave the euro and leave the European Union.