Wednesday, 19 August 2015

BURYING THE TRUTH IN THE NEWS




A headline in today’s Irish Times (Aug 19th 2015):

Central Bank accelerates sell-off of bonds issued after IBRC liquidation

The first two paragraphs of the article (which is anonymous but probably printed verbatim from a Finance Department press release) are as follows:

The first clear sign has emerged that the Central Bank is to sell down the bonds issued as part of the IBRC liquidation at a pace faster than the minimum commitment given to the ECB. The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) announced yesterday that it had cancelled €500 million of one of the bonds which it had bought from the Central Bank.
The Central Bank had already sold another €500 million of this 2038 floating rate bond to the NTMA at the end of June. At the time of the IBRC liquidation in early 2013 it had indicated that it would sell a minimum of €500 million a year of these bonds between 2014 and 2018. So the sale of €1 billion this year – following a €500 million sale at the end of last year of the same 2038 bond which met the 2014 commitment– suggests that the Central Bank is moving to sell down the bonds more quickly than the minimum commitment. 

Further down the article, we have the following:

The Central Bank pointed out in an information note issued with its 2014 results that at a time when the NTMA could refinance the bonds at such low interest rates, selling down the bonds led to increased profits to the Central Bank. The bulk of these profits are then returned to the exchequer via an annual dividend. The December 2014 sale led to a €180 million gain to the Central Bank and each of the two recent transactions will have yielded similar or greater profits.

The writer goes on to note that there is a minor downside to all this: 

However there is also a cost to the State of early disposal, as the interest paid on the bonds by the NTMA is now paid to a third party, and not the Central Bank, as was the case with the special floating rate bonds. The Central Bank argued in its note that this interest rate gain of holding on to the notes and refinancing them at a slow rate could be offset in future if interest rates rise and it cost the NTMA more to raise replacement debt.

So there we have it, another €500m bond ‘cancelled’, resultant ‘profit’ of another €180m (if not more!) for the exchequer, albeit we are now paying interest to a third party for the lifetime of the bond.

MISSING from this report however is the most crucial point of all, the whole raison d'être for this entire exercise – what happened to the €500m that the Central Bank received to enable the ‘cancelation’ of that bond? What happened to the €500m – real money, even if it is all borrowed – that it received in June?

That money was destroyed, every last cent. A broke and broken heavily indebted country borrowing billions, to destroy. An ECB Quantitative Squeezing programme imposed on Ireland, even as that same ECB is engaged on a trillion-euro Quantitative Easing programme for the rest of the Eurozone.

MISSING also from the Irish Times report, the fact that beginning in 2038 and in chunks of billions, future generations of Irish citizens will begin paying off the €28.3bn worth of bonds now being sold and ‘cancelled’ by the Central Bank/NTMA. And for what? To bail out the failed creditors of the failed Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, at the behest of the ECB/European Commission, to prevent a contagion of bank collapse throughout the EU.

The ultimate cost of all this to generations of Irish citizens will run into many tens of billions. When this is presented as a good-news story, what does that say about the ‘Paper of Record’? But sure look, what's a little omission between friends...

For 233 weeks – four and a half years – we in the Ballyhea Says No campaign have been battling to shed a light on the gross injustice that has been done to Ireland vis-à-vis the bank-debt in the name of the EU. This Irish Times article is a perfect example of what we’re up against. 

The best chance we have is that over and over again, people share blogs such as this, where the half-truths are filled out, the full truth is told.

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

IRELAND DESTROYED €500,000,000 OF BORROWED MONEY


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.


FULL SCHEDULE

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


ALREADY DESTROYED

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

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


REMAINING

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


EXTRA

2011                 Per original Promissory Notes, destroyed          €3.1bn

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



Thursday, 9 July 2015

BALLYHEA VISIT TO BRUSSELS JULY 2015



'BALLYHEA SAYS NO' BANK-DEBT CAMPAIGN GROUP

PRESENTATION TO MEPs

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, BRUSSELS

JULY 1st 2015

BACKGROUND
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.

MEMBERS OF THE TRAVELLING CORPS
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).

MEETING WITH GUE/NGL
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.

SYMMETRY IN NUMBERS
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

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
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.

WRITTEN DECLARATION
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.

TASK FORCE - STOP THE SALE OF THE P NOTE BONDS
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.

ELLEN O'REGAN - LETTER FROM AN EMIGRANT'S MOTHER
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.

OPEN MEETING WITH OTHER MEPs
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.

GIVE AND TAKE
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. 

MATHEWS GIVES IT BOTH BARRELS
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.

A LONG AND LONELY ROAD
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.

WHAT COULD HAVE AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN


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.

THE NUTSHELL
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?