Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Creeping cuts - letter to papers

TWITTER:          @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:    Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 28th 2011
Dear Sir/Madam:
Crumlin Children’s Hospital announces a €4m budget shortfall (and growing), umpteen other hospitals also in the same predicament; all are told in no uncertain terms by Health Minister Reilly that they must balance the books by the end of the year, nothing in the coffers to pay them even another euro.  Almost inevitably this will result in a reduction in services, and additional suffering for the ill, the young, the elderly.
At the same time, and with no public announcement, schools across the country are informed of the cuts in the Special Needs Teachers, the result of the Education budget cuts – another reduction in services for those most needy.
Wednesday, June 29th 2011 (courtesy of Namawinelake blog): ‘Anglo repays a €12m senior unsecured unguaranteed bond at par – i.e without any haircut or discount. The bonds (ISIN ref: XS0306086157, SEDOL ref: B1ZBPV0) were issued in June 2007 – Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty yesterday described the bonds as “unguaranteed unsecured” and there is no reason to doubt him.’  A few weeks ago another €200m was paid in bonds; in November this year, another € €700m falls due in Anglo (bond ISIN ref: XS0273602622).  What would that money do for our hospitals, our schools?
IT HAPPENED IN 1846/47/48
Even as the Irish died from starvation in their hundreds of thousands, emigrated in their millions, vast quantities of Irish food left Irish harbours in ships bound for England.
At what stage are we going to wake up to what’s happening around us?  ‘No increase in income tax, no cuts in social welfare payments’; no, and that’s all designed to keep people subdued.  It’s working, working beautifully, and even as these insidious cuts are introduced, affecting in the main only the weakest in our society, the majority still sit back and stay quiet.  What will it take for us to stand up to the massive injustice visited on us by the ECB?
BALLYHEA BONDHOLDER BAILOUT PROTEST – 18th march this Sunday, 10.30pm

Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Ballyhea 17th protest, Charleville 2nd

TWITTER:    @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:    Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 26th 2011

BALLYHEA BONDHOLDER BAILOUT PROTEST – 18th march this Sunday, 10.30pm

We’re not rocking the world, our protest is getting barely an inch of recognition, but on Sunday June 26th and for the 17th week in succession, we marched in Ballyhea in protest against the continuing bondholder bailout.  This week also, and for the second successive week, Charleville took up the baton.
The Ballyhea march, two young Mackessey brothers in front, flanked by their grandmother Eileen and Michael O'Sullivan

The Charleville Brigade
As should be obvious from the photos we’re not a radical group, we are - quite literally - your average man/woman/child on the street. Don’t underestimate our protest on that account, however; we feel strongly about this massive and unjust burden that’s been placed on our shoulders, very strongly.  It’s not a case of whether or not we can afford to pay this odious debt, it’s not a case of trying to get a reduction in the penal interest rate charged by our new masters in the ECB, nor is it a case of getting a time extension; this is a simple question of right and wrong.  Is what’s being done to us right, forcing under threat (and we now know for certain that threat is there – ‘A nod is as good as a wink…’) billions of private bank/bondholder debt on to the balance sheet of a sovereign people?  Compounding that injustice, is it right to do so without even giving those same people a choice?
We say NO!, emphatically no, and so every Sunday in Ballyhea and now in Charleville we march; eventually – hopefully, as the cuts bite ever deeper so the bondholder billions can be paid – we will be joined by our friends and neighbours in every adjoining parish/village/town.  We would like to see this government refuse point-blank to pay another cent of the bondholder debt; failing that, and at a minimum, we demand a referendum.
Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Letter to Mr. Trichet

TWITTER:    @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:    Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 20th 2011
BALLYHEA BONDHOLDER BAILOUT PROTEST – 17th march this Sunday, 10.30pm
LETTER TO Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank
Dear Mr. Trichet:
You are the President of the European Central Bank, our ECB, one of the most powerful men in the banking world, but I'm baffled – would you please tell me, exactly what part of ‘failed investment’ do you not understand?
I'm not a gambler of any description but I have been known to have the very odd punt in something like the Grand National; I put my money down in the full and certain knowledge that if my horse doesn’t come home I lose my investment.  I don’t play the stock-market but once, a long time ago, when Ireland’s then national phone company was being privatised, I bought my full allowable number of shares; didn’t know what to do with them once I’d bought them, held on to them through pure ignorance until such time as the company changed hands, lost a chunk of money I absolutely could not afford to lose.  But I accepted it - my own gamble, my own ignorance, my own loss.
In the last decade, various banks and finance houses in Europe and the US invested in Ireland, loaned billions to the Irish banks in return for bonds that were to yield them various margins of profit.  Those billions fed a bubble here which, when it burst, took down that Irish banking system, took down the government in passing, but which also decimated the Irish economy.
For our own excesses as a nation during that period, the deficit and national debt built up, we are paying a price.  Encouraged by our own government, by our own banks, many of our people invested in property, investments that failed – they are all now paying a price, we are all paying that price together.
In the normal course of events in the no-mercy cut-throat finance world, the bondholders would also have paid their price, would have taken their ‘haircut’ on their failed investment and moved on to the next target.  Would have, Mr. Trichet, but for your intervention, you and your battalions in the new all-conquering ECB Financial Empire.  You decreed that far from having to take the haircut that was then their due, those bondholders would have to be paid - in full and with all their built-in margins - by us, the Irish people.  We were already in debt, of course, so we’d have to borrow again to pay these multiple billions; to rub salt into our open sores, you also decreed that not alone would we pay the interest rate at which the ECB was getting those funds, we’d have to pay an additional penal 3%, so the ECB itself would also profit from this massive injustice.
I ask you again, Mr. Trichet – what part of ‘failed investment’ do you not understand?  Would you please justify what you did to me, what you have done to every man, woman and child in this nation?  I have heard people from within your bank tell us that this was our fault, that we have to take this medicine; I'm sorry, my friend, but I don’t think so.  I was going about my business, doing my own job as best I could – were you doing yours?
We’re told that Ireland’s regulator wasn’t doing his job properly, allowing the banks’ lending to become reckless in the extreme – who was regulating the lending to those same Irish banks?  Did you and your ECB not have a remit here?  Did those lenders, those bondholders, not themselves have a responsibility to ensure that those in whom they were investing their billions were worthy of the risk?  Even as this economy was starting to overheat, crying out for deflationary measures, for an increase in interest rates to make money more expensive, were you not actually decreasing those same interest rates?  Do you, your ECB, and your bondholders, not have any culpability here?
We put our hands up; we accept that successive governments - governments we elected - made a complete mess of our economy over the last decade; we accept that we can’t pay ourselves more than we earn as a nation so now we have to take the pain as we try to close the deficit in our finances and pay off our accumulated sovereign debt.  What we can’t accept is that, by your decree, we have to bail out those bondholders whose billions fuelled the flames that now engulf us, but who themselves aren't even singed by those same flames.  So, I ask for the final time – exactly what part of ‘failed investment’ do you, the top banker in Europe, not understand?
Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Great Hunger - parallels

TWITTER:           @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:     Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 14th 2011
BALLYHEA BONDHOLDER BAILOUT PROTEST – 16th march this Sunday, 10.30pm
The Great Hunger of 1845 - 1849
I want to give ye a few excerpts from a piece I read lately on The Great Hunger of 1845-1849, the greatest catastrophe in the history of Ireland, a period when millions were allowed die from starvation.  Allowed?  Yes, allowed to die, by a cynical government in London, because a famine this was not.
We all know about the potato crop failure that began in 1845, continued in 1846, then into black 47, and finally, in 48, but how about this: In the 50 years preceding the famine (sic) up to 200 commissions and special committees were instructed to report on the State of Ireland, and without exception their findings prophesied disaster.  Ireland was on the verge of starvation, her population rapidly increasing, three-quarters of her labourers unemployed, housing conditions appalling, and the standard of living unbelievably low.  The Governments ignored all these reports.
Does any of that seem familiar in the current circumstances?  All the articles by so many leading economists warning of the property crash, the bank crash, the warnings now from many of those same economists of sovereign default if we continue down our current route?  Let’s look at another headline from that era.
Evictions were not confined to populations of paupers and squatters living in mud huts.  The most notorious instance was the eviction of 300 tenants by Mrs.  Gerrard from the village of Ballinglass, Co Galway, on March 13, 1846.  A population reasonably prosperous, according to Irish standards, was evicted with the assistance of police and troops, in order that the holdings might be turned into a grazing farm.  On the morning of the eviction a large detachment of the 49th Infantry commanded by Captain Brown and numerous police appeared with the Sheriff and his men.  The people were officially called on to give up possession and the houses were then demolished - roofs torn off, walls thrown down.  The scene was frightful; women running wailing with pieces of their property and clinging to door posts from which they had to be forcibly torn; men cursing, children screaming with fright.  That night the people slept in the ruins; next day they were driven out, the foundations of the houses were torn up and razed, and no neighbour was allowed to take them in. 
Starvation was everywhere, the general feeling was despair.  Fear of famine was in the Irish peoples’ blood.  Only too clearly they realised that they were helpless before the fate overtaking them, and turned blindly to those in authority for salvation, but nothing was done. 
Again, sound familiar?  Potato failure then, bank failure now, and because those banks are still not functioning properly thousands of healthy companies are being forced out of business and hundreds of thousands of workers are thrown into unemployment, while those in authority do nothing.
The grain harvest in Ireland in September was excellent, but it was all exported to England.  The people were forced to hand over the corn to pay rent to the landlord.  It was notorious that, for the Irish peasant, failure to pay his rent meant eviction. 
To people desperate with hunger the sight of food streaming out of the country was once more unbearable.  Government food depots and sub-depots were guarded by police and troops.  60,000 tons would have left the country. 
Again, parallels; already we have paid billions (perhaps as much as €60bn) to foreign bondholders who placed a losing bet on our banks, and over the next few years – according to our own Central Bank, decreed by the ECB and agreed to by our own government – we will pay another €64.3bn, all borrowed at penal rates from the ECB, while here in Ireland more and more mortgage-holders are in trouble, more and more levies/taxes/cuts are imposed on an already suffering people, the threat now of national assets being sold off to pay these billions.
Black '47
As we enter Black '47, as the year 1847 was called, the paradox of Ireland continued.  The people were dying of starvation, whilst shiploads of food were leaving the country under military escort, and merchants were making a small fortune with massive prices. 
Which of these years, I wonder, will be our ‘black 47’?  Starting two years ago with the blanket bank guarantee, year on year we are being squeezed, the weakest suffering most, while the money-marketeers make massive profits.
Trevelyan thought that famine was the will of God and he hoped that the Catholic priests would explain this to the people.  They had no strength left and they believed that is was the will of God that they should die. 
Our friends in the ECB speak of ‘moral hazard’, how we as a people must suffer and pay the price for the recklessness of our banks (conveniently ignoring the application of the same principle of ‘moral hazard’ to the bondholders, who make their full profit from their losing bet), and relying on our own government ministers to explain all this to us.  We also have our own ‘castle Irish’ still telling us this is our own fault, we all partied, etc. etc.  Are we really swallowing all this?
As the famine and fever intensified the minds of the Irish people turned to emigration.  In a great mass movement they made their way to America and England.  They left their country with hatred in their hearts for the British Government.  Historians estimate that more than a million emigrated from Ireland to North America, and about the same amount emigrated to Great Britain.  Many emigrated to Canada because the fares were low or the landlords paid their way.  They crossed the border into America at the first opportunity. 
And yet again, bitter parallels, so many of our youth now following the same trail.
Many letters of appeal from officials and the most responsible people in Ireland were received in London, all pointing out the desperate situation, but Charles Wood, Trevelyan and Lord John Russell were not to be moved. 
Has Trichet budged, Merkel, Sarkozy?
The unfortunate masses of destitute were crushed by hunger, and the more prosperous were an inert mass of middle-class Catholic respectability. 
I swear, the parallels are more and more frightening. 
The visit of Queen Victoria in the first week of August 1849 gave the people a temporary boost but it brought no result. 
My God almighty, was this really over 160 years ago?  Could I not write almost exactly the same words today, just substitute QE2 for Queen Vic?
Political power remained in the hands of the cabinet, and above all with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury.  The poverty of the Irish people continued, dependence on the potato continued.  The treatment of the Irish people by the British Government during the famine has been described as genocide, and of wishing to exterminate a race of people. 
The cabinet spoken of above is the British cabinet, its equivalent today the EU Council and Commission, the Chancellor is Trichet, and for British Government substitute EU.
It will never be known how many people died during the famine, and historians often come up with different figures.  Before the famine the unofficial population was almost 10 million.  But in 1851 after the famine it had dropped to 6.5 million.  It is safe to say that one million died of starvation and two million emigrated to America and England.  The greatest loss of population was in Connaught at 28.6%. 
How many will we lose before this is all over?  Are we going to sit back again, watch our friends and neighbours suffer, see our children emigrate, or do we fight?  Do we learn from history, or do we repeat it?
Ballyhea again this Sunday morning, and every Sunday morning, 10.30am; if you're from Ballyhea, this is your march; if you're from Charleville, from Kilmallock, from Newtown, from Kilfinane, from Milford, from Bruree – wherever else you are from, organise and hold your own march.  There was one attempt at revolution during the Great Hunger, in 1848; it died a miserable death in a cabbage patch in Ballingarry, Co.  Limerick; don’t let this protest die. 
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

If you're in a hole, stop digging

TWITTER:           @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:     Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 8th 2011
BALLYHEA BONDHOLDER BAILOUT PROTEST – 15th march this Sunday, 10.30pm
When you're in a hole, stop digging – wise advice.  Even Taoiseach Kenny and Minister Noonan would both surely accept now, we’re in a hole, a deep hole.  But hark – coming fast down the track, another €64.3bn of bonds.  Due for redemption over the next few years (according to the Central Bank’s own figures issued a few months ago, March 2011), €7.5bn in bonds this year, €19.8bn in 2012, €17.4 in 2013, €20+bn thereafter.  Does anyone out there, in government or out, still believe that along with our current level of debt we can afford to redeem those losing bets?
Surely, surely, it is time to call a halt to this madness.  The EU doesn’t appear keen to engage in meaningful negotiations; well, time then for leadership here, time to make hard decisions.  The FIRST of those decisions should be – no more bondholder bailout by the Irish people, not another cent.  The second should be the declaration of a State of Emergency (our current situation defines emergency), followed immediately by emergency legislation, which should include a temporary cap on public salaries and pensions, a temporary deal for those mortgage-holders who need relief, and the use of our remaining Pension Fund billions to enable the economy to begin real recovery.
We have been marching in this parish now since the first Sunday in March, every weekend.  It’s a short, peaceful, non-party-political protest, with a single aim – to undo the deal done in our name last November, when the ECB decreed that we had to accept bondholder bailout as part of the loan package to get the nation back on its feet.  That bank debt is what is actually sinking us.  Join us, please; you're welcome in Ballyhea, but more welcome to start your own protest in your own community, no matter how big or small.  This is still a fight worth engaging in; eventually, those in power will hear us.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.