Monday, 13 July 2015

IRELAND DESTROYS ANOTHER €500M - headline missed last week

And so it continues, the Quantitative Squeezing programme as ordained by the ECB.

Today, buried in an obscure report, news emerged that a few weeks ago, June 26th 2015, very quietly, Ireland's NTMA bought a Promissory Note bond from the Irish Central Bank with €500m of borrowed money, money on which we are paying interest and money which we'll have to repay at some future date; the report noted that the NTMA then destroyed/cancelled that bond.

What you're not told is that the Irish Central Bank in turn then destroyed that €500m, 'extinguished it', to quote Governor Patrick Honahan, took it out of circulation per the demands of the ECB.

Yes, you read that right; 
June 26th 2015


You won't read it in any headline, not in those stark terms anyway, that's for sure; it's a truth this government wants buried, a truth we in the 'Ballyhea Says No' campaign are trying to expose.

It's the legacy of the Promissory Notes €31bn created in 2010 to bail out the creditors of Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Irish Permanent.

It is also the legacy of Finance Minister Michael Noonan and this government to your children, and to your children's children, debt slavery for the next 40 yrs to bail out the creditors of three zombie non-systemic banks, breaking the clear rule of the ECB on the use of ELA, Emergency Liquidity Assistance.

The ultimate cost? For the full €31bn, upwards of €80bn but could be a lot more, depending on market conditions when the sales occur. For a debt that is not ours, was never ours, will never justly BE ours.


For those who aren't aware, here is the full schedule of destruction:


2014                Two bonds, €500m each, sold/destroyed            €1.0bn

2015                Bond of €500m sold, money destroyed               €0.5bn


2016-2018       Three years @ €500m/yr                                      €1.5bn

2019-2023       Five years @ €1,000m/yr                                      €5.0bn

2024-2031       Eight years @ €2,000m/yr                                   €16.0bn


2011                 Per original Promissory Notes, destroyed          €3.1bn

2012                Bond issued to cover P Note, €500m sold          €3.46bn

Thursday, 9 July 2015





JULY 1st 2015

The Ballyhea protest began on March 6th 2011 and has been maintained ever since with a weekly march that now alternates between the village of Ballyhea and the town of Charleville, every Sunday morning.

During those four years and four months of weekly marches the group morphed from simply protesting to actively campaigning, very quickly realising that neither our government nor our media were going to be of any assistance to us.

This was the group's fourth trip to Europe to meet with the various institutions but the first visit by invitation and the first also specifically to meet MEPs.

The invitation came from the GUE/NGL parliamentary group via Luke 'Ming' Flanagan MEP and involved making two presentations. The first of those was in the morning, to the regular meeting of the GUE/NGL Group; the second was at noon and was open to all other MEPs.

Fiona and Rob Fitzpatrick; Cathleen Quealey and Pat Moloney; Frances and Pat O'Brien; Trish and Derek O'Dwyer; Sadhbh O'Flynn; Ellen O'Regan; Phil Ryan; Darragh Ryan; Joan Collins TD; Peter Mathews TD; Dr Constantin Gurdgiev (economist).

First off it should be noted that even in the weeks leading up to our visit to Brussels, events in Greece were dominating  all else in the Parliament (understandably so) and in the GUE/NGL Group especially, of which Syriza is a member, with several high-profile MEPs. This then was always going to overshadow our presentation but so be it; our hearts are with the Greek people as much as our own, their struggle is our struggle and that was a point we would try to make.

We had 45 minutes to get our message across and so decided to focus on the most odious element of the bank-debt that has been forced on the Irish people, the Promissory Note bonds.

Luke introduced us to the gathered MEPs and/or their Parliamentary Assistants, and we were up and running.

I set the scene with a short Powerpoint presentation (Diarmuid O'Flynn by the way, penning this), which was split into three stages.

First, there was an introduction to who we are on the Ballyhea and Charleville campaign, those who had come to Brussels and those who would loved to have come but couldn’t.

Next came an outline of what we’re campaigning on, pointing out the symmetry in numbers between the total Troika loans to Ireland and the total bank bailout cost - €67.7bn and €69.7bn respectively – but more particularly, the symmetry in numbers between the bailout costs for three banks (Anglo mainly, but also INBS and Irish Permanent) and the entire tax take (income, corporate and capital) for the year 2010 - €30.85bn and €30.88bn respectively.
Neither pie very appetising - design Derek O'Dwyer

Finally, the big question – what was the point of making this presentation, where do we go from here?

Because it cannot initiate legislation but can only vote on legislation proposed by others (the Commission or the Council), the European Parliament has been described as the most expensive rubber stamp in history. Nevertheless MEPs do have influence and do have real clout.

In the first instance we asked that MEPs use every opportunity they can to include Ireland when they speak of countries affected by austerity and on this point, countering all the lies and spin about our phoenix-like 'recovery' from the ashes, we gave many current instances of real suffering and hardship in Ireland.

On a more practical level, we asked that they support a Written Declaration on the Promissory Note bonds that we will be preparing over the summer break. The reason for not doing so immediately is that once it's been initiated, you then have just three months to get the required 50% of MEP signatures if you want to bring this to Plenary. Getting it there will be a challenge anyway (there are hundreds of such Written Declarations doing the rounds of MEPs here, all desperately seeking a signature, many of which – despite their worthiness – fail to do so); losing a third of the time allowed before we even start doesn't make any sense.

Separately, we are also in the process of putting a Task Force together which will focus on ending the sale of the Promissory Note bonds, with the aim ultimately of either a) their total destruction of the bonds or b), holding them in the Central Bank until they all die a natural death. It would also be our aim to recover the billions already destroyed in that process, plus the €3.1bn from the 2011 Promissory Note.

Following this, and the couple of minutes that surely made the greatest impact on all those present, Ellen O'Regan read from one of the letters we've received over the years on the effects of the fallout from the economic crash, the bank bailout, the subsequent unequally applied austerity measures. The letter was on emigration or more specifically, the effect of emigration on one particular family, penned by the mother.

Finally, Peter Mathews, Joan Collins and Constantin Gurdgiev spoke in turn, with Peter (a Chartered Accountant and former banker) highlighting how rules were bent and twisted to foist the debt on the people, Joan outlining the history behind the case she has taken on the legitimacy of the Promissory Notes (she is still awaiting a Supreme Court date for a final ruling on that), and Constantin looking ahead, sketching suggestions on what can now be done to stop the sale of those Promissory Note bonds.

Because our own presentation had overrun there was no time for discussion, which was unfortunate. Nevertheless it was a positive meeting, elicited a very positive response.

Our second presentation took place at noon and didn't have the numbers we had at the morning meeting. Nessa Childers (S&D) was there, as was Marian Harkin (ALDE); unfortunately that was it from either of those Groups – disappointing but understandable, given all that was happening with Greece, given also that S&D especially were involved in trying to find compromise wording on ISDS on the TTIP submission to the parliament Plenary session on the following week in Strasbourg.

All four Fine Gael MEPs were there, Sean Kelly, Mairead McGuinness and Brian Hayes staying for the duration of the meeting, Deirdre Clune offering her apologies for not being able to remain for the presentation but offering to meet us at a later date.

Also present were three UKIP MEPs.

The introduction to who and what we're about on this occasion was much shorter, though Ellen's reading of the letter again brought the place to a standstill, a tear again in many an eye.

Constantin went into much greater detail on his proposal on stopping the sale of the Promissory Note bonds, including addressing any and all concerns the ECB, the Commission or the Council might foreseeably have.

With Luke in the chair, the discussion was then thrown open to the floor and first to speak was Brian Hayes. In the sense that he didn't point-blank shoot down what we're about, it was encouraging, and given that he was Junior Minister for Finance for a period in this government before being elected to the European Parliament, most of what he said was predictable, nothing that we haven't heard ten thousand times before, from our media especially.

It kicked off a lively debate in which Lynn Boylan (who had also spoken at the morning meeting) and myself both took issue with a few things Brian Hayes had said. 

Probably the most powerful intervention of all in this session however came from Peter Mathews, who didn't hold back in his assessment of how Fine Gael/Labour coalition has performed on the bank-debt issue, and on the Promissory Note bonds especially. There was a statement in there of how, biologically, men happen to be born with balls and a backbone but that in the case of this government, they have behaved like jellyfish. Doesn't read back as it sounded in Peter's very cultured south Dublin tone but believe me, it was all the more impactful for that!

Overall, and given the circumstances, we were satisfied with the visit, have come away with a lot of new contacts, new plans, very specific ideas.

There is a sad note though, a persistently disappointing note. Four years and four months now we've been fighting this battle, 228 weeks marching, every week. And a few staunch allies apart on the political, economic and media front, and in Ratoath and Dublin on the regular weekly protest-march front, we're still more or less on our own.

We have seen this week what might have been achieved if our government had done what they promised in the elections they would do, and stood up to the ECB and the others in the Troika.

We know now that in the IMF, when it came to burning bondholders we even had an ally within that Troika.


Tsipras and Varoufakis and his new government in Greece were in a much weaker position when they were elected five months ago than Kenny, Noonan, Gilmore, Burton and their new government – with its massive majority and massive mandate – was when they were elected in late Feb 2011; additionally, the Troika itself was in a much, much weaker position, as was the euro and eurozone.

Yet, judging that freedom, independence and dignity trumped the threats made by the Troika, Tsipras and Varoufakis choose to stand and fight for their people, while our government buckled, agreed to the debt slavery of generations.

Look, it's this simple:

  • In 2010, Anglo, INBS and Irish Permanent were already insolvent; 
  • The Promissory Notes were a workaround by all three of 1) the Irish Central Bank, 2) the then Irish government and 3) the ECB, of the ECB's own rule prohibiting use of ELA (Emergency Liquidity Assistance) for insolvent institutions; 
  • If the same thing were to happen today, a bank with solvency problems, there are structures in place at a European level to deal with it; 
  • It was the fault of the EU institutions, not Ireland's fault, that in the third year of the crisis there were still no such structures in place in 2010; 
  • Bailing out its creditors and saving those three banks – none of which was systemic in Ireland – was done to save the euro, the eurozone and even the EU itself; 
  • Halting the sale of the Promissory Note bonds would not impact negatively on anyone, anywhere, in the EU; those billions are already in circulation and forcing Ireland to borrow billions (which is what NTMA is doing, selling other bonds to buy out the Promissory Note bonds – have I lost ye yet???) to take those Promissory Note billions back out of circulation is simply a punitive exercise by the EU institutions at this stage; 
  • This can be done, easily and simply, and it would save future generations tens of billions in payments for debt that could hardly be more odious.

So why are we still so alone in this battle?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Last week, just as with Eamon Gilmore before the election of 2011, we had the spectacle of Labour leader Joan Burton back on the burning bondholders trail, announcing her conviction that the remaining junior bondholders in IBRC, the vulture funds, should be scorched in their bid to be paid €270m from what remains of that rotting corpse.

We had Patrick Honahan joining in the chorus, the recently resigned Central Bank Governor adding his two cents worth and advising those now dealing with what’s left of IBRC to tell those junior bondholders where to go.

And of course shouting loudest, giving both the kind of publicity of which those of us in Ballyhea who have been campaigning relentlessly against the unjust bank-debt burden for more than four years can only fantasise, our mainstream media.

Those junior bondholders shouldn't get a red cent, no question about that. But do those commentators and opinion formers in our mainstream media – any of them – not know that last year, our Central Bank destroyed €1,000m, nearly four times the amount being talked about above? Do they not know that under the terms of the Michael Noonan Promissory Note ‘deal’ of Feb 2013, our Central Bank will destroy another €500m this year, that over the coming years this annual destruction will accelerate until we have destroyed the entire €31bn legacy from that self-same IBRC?

Has Joan Burton buried somewhere in the dark recesses of her brain the fact that she and her party, without even challenge to the ECB, supported Michael Noonan and Fine Gael when he transformed that IBRC highly-debatable debt ('totally' illegal, as described by Michael himself after he had done that deal) into sovereign debt, and thus transferred the burden from their own shoulders to the shoulders of the next generation and the generation after?

Does Patrick Honahan not see the supreme irony in him now playing tough with these junior bondholders when he – without even a whimper of protest to the ECB – was the one who ultimately destroyed that €1,000m of borrowed money last year?

For those of us in the Ballyhea campaign, this collusion between the Minister, the Governor and the media is mind-boggling, it truly is. They trumpet one message even as they simultaneously bury a similar story of far, far greater significance.

Nobody. And this is probably the most frustrating of all points. That €31bn is already in circulation, a drop in the ocean when one considers the Quantitative Easing programme on which the ECB has just embarked. If those bonds are destroyed, or even held in the Central Bank to die a natural death, no-one gets burned, no bondholder is made to suffer. More critically, however, the Irish people aren't made to suffer for a crime we never committed.

  • They were born in 2010 when, in the absence of any official EU mechanism to deal with insolvent banks, the then government of Fianna Fáil/Greens, the Central Bank of Ireland and the ECB colluded to bail out the failed investors in two failed Irish banks, Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide;
  • The final bill came to nearly €31bn and it has been presented in full for payment by the Irish people;
  • The payment comes in the form of money destruction – the €31bn was created to bail out those creditors; now, because the banks were insolvent (as was well known at the time), the ECB has called in the Promissory Notes and that entire €31bn has to be taken back out of circulation;
  • We don't have that €31bn so we borrow it in the form of bonds (the Noonan Promissory Note 'deal'), which are then sold into the market per a schedule that was drawn up in Feb 2013 – it started last year, two bonds of €500m each;
  • As those bonds are sold, the money raised is destroyed;
  • We begin repaying those bonds in 2038, the final bond maturing in 2053;
  • In the meantime we pay the interest on those bonds;
  • The final cost, taking into account the total original sum of €31bn plus the interest, will depend on money market conditions but we won't see much change from €80bn, an average of around €2bn/yr for the next 40 years.
If we don't act, if we don't protest as a people, as a nation, then this doesn't become just the legacy of this government to future generations of Irish people, it becomes OUR legacy to our children.

Is that what you want? Because in the Ballyhea, in Charleville, in Ratoath, in Dublin, in Tralee, in Killarney, in Fermoy, in Clonmel, in so many other pockets of resistance around the country, we say NO!

On July 1st, to highlight the above injustice and in an attempt to bring it into the spotlight, a delegation from the Ballyhea Says No campaign is heading to the European Parliament in Brussels to meet with MEPs. We have two meetings arranged, the first with the GUE/NGL group of 52 MEPs, the second an open meeting with MEPs from all other groups, including (we hope) the four Fine Gael MEPs.

The crusade continues…

Saturday, 30 May 2015


Many times during the last 222 weeks, since we began the Ballyhea bank-debt repudiation campaign, from inside and outside the country we have heard the Irish people denigrated, described as sheeple, as a cowed and beaten race. Always, it has annoyed me.

If I have any touchstone for Irishness it’s the Nunans and the Ryans, two families with whom my own was hugely intertwined during our formative years in Ballyhea, from childhood, through teens, to adulthood.

I think especially of the Nunans, whose farm adjoined our little quarter-acre plot, and by whom and with whom we were largely raised.

To use the euphemism of the day, ours was a ‘troubled’ home (my mother eventually left, aided in her escape by the three oldest of us, in a family of ten) and Nunans, well, that was our safe haven, a house of hard work and hard workers, yes, but also a house of harmony and gentleness and laughter and love. Unspoken love, as was (and remains, unfortunately) the way in so many Irish homes, but a deep love nevertheless.

There was also a strength about the Nunans, physically, mentally and emotionally, and that too was deep and understated.

David Nunan was the patriarch, in a true union with the woman we always knew only as ‘Mrs Nunan’ (Alice Dillon her maiden name), a partnership which, over the decades, saw the 30 acres they got from the Land Commission parlayed into a farm of over 60 acres through fields claimed from the mountain (ah, picking stones!), through acquisition also of adjoining land.

David had come to Ballyhea from nearby Liscarroll, and it’s there this story starts.

During the War of Independence the Nunan home, at the end of a long passage and well off the road, was what was known as a ‘safe house’, a place where IRA activists (including some of David’s older brothers, he being just a child at the time) could hide out when on the run.

One evening a couple of lorry-loads of Black-and-Tans came trundling up their long passage in search of one of the most prominent of those activists, Paddy O’Brien, a cousin of the Nunans. Failing to find Paddy, they turned instead on David’s older brother Paddy, then 19, took him outside, and shot him. 13 times. According to contemporary written testimony from his father, he was first to reach Paddy after the Tans had left, asked him if he was badly hurt, to which – he swore – Paddy replied “’Tis nothing, give me a mouthful of water.” Stoic? Courageous? You could say that.

Fearing his son was near death Paddy’s father immediately called for both doctor and priest but despite all his wounds, Paddy survived, lived to the age of 73. A miracle? Yes, of sorts, and decades later he was still able to show us the scars from the exit wounds, though some of the bullets remained lodged in his body.

There was no massive fanfare at Paddy’s funeral, no 21-gun salute, yet it was Paddy Nunan, and families like his, who helped sustain that War of Independence, whose sacrifices enabled those who were doing the fighting to keep going.

David Nunan’s oldest son was also called Paddy, after both his uncle and his grandfather. This week, we buried Paddy and again, there was no massive fanfare but again, we buried a hero, a quiet hero.

For the last 25 years, while working his small hill farm and doing shift-work in the Kerrygold factory in Charleville, Paddy cared for his wife Margaret. He did so with a smile on his face, willingly, lovingly, ably. Late last year however he could no longer manage and very reluctantly, he allowed Margaret be taken from him and into a Nursing Home.

What we didn’t know, however, what Paddy himself didn’t know, was that he too was ill. On St Stephen’s Day last year, December 26th, he was finally persuaded to go to Cork University Hospital for tests. Motor Neurone disease. Not just a death sentence, a truly horrific death sentence.

He bore it with true strength, a strength of which most of us can only dream. In those final months, and just as he had done for his wife all those years, Paddy was supported and cared for by his own family, by his sons David (who moved back into the family home) and Micheál (who came back from France for his final days), by his daughter Helen and her husband Antonio; also by his sisters Ellen and Mary and their husbands Pat and Ray, who lived nearby, and by his brother Davy and Davy's wife Mary.
Paddy and Margaret with (left to right) David, Helen, Micheál

Paddy Nunan never marched with us on the Ballyhea Says No campaign. He couldn’t, because his Sunday mornings were tied up. But he was with us in spirit, gave me words of encouragement (and were they needed!) every time I met him at Ballyhea shop. His sons and daughter march with us, his brother and sister march with us, and even their young kids likewise – the Nunan connection has been there from the first week.

Likewise the Ryan connection, and so many other families like the Nunans and the Ryans in the weeks between that first march, back on March 6th 2011, and this Sunday’s march in Ballyhea, week 222. Some are ever-presents, some dip in and out, some can simply no longer afford the time, and some have – understandably – simply lost hope.

I haven’t.

The heart and soul of this country, generation after generation, is represented by people like Paddy Nunan. The likes of Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and Joan Burton of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition, the likes of Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil before them, can sell off for a song national assets like Aer Lingus, like Irish Water, like our gas and mineral reserves; guys like Denis O’Brien can wheel and deal and revel in their millions and billions, use them to spin and dictate as they will. But the Kennys and Noonans of this world can never sell that heart or steal that soul, the O’Briens of this world can never have it. Why? Because it’s not theirs to buy, to sell or even to steal.

We will win this war. I believe in the Irish people, the old Irish people from the traditional families, the new Irish people who have embraced us and made this country their home. I believe in their strength, in their goodness, in their courage. We see it in people like Catherine Murphy in the last few weeks as she disdains all threats in her efforts to shine a light on a lot of shady happenings over the past decade and more – a true representative of the people. But we see it also in the growing numbers who are facing down this government on issues like the water charges, on the silencing of an already largely subjugated media by powerful interests.

A century ago, just below the surface, an eruption was brewing. History does repeat and now, we are again on the cusp. 

We are strong, stronger than most of us realise, stronger than most of THEM realise. We must act.

There is no longer even a pretence of democracy in this country; there is only dictatorship, legislation being rammed through the Dáil and rammed down the throats of the people, while a cowed and captured media sits silently by.

The people, though, are rising.

Tomorrow, Sunday May 31st, Ballyhea church car-park at 10.30am, week 222 of our campaign and as it was for the last four years plus, the spirit of Paddy Nunan will be with us. You're welcome to join us.