Tuesday, 29 May 2012


WHERE WILL WE GET THE MONEY IF WE VOTE NO TO THE FISCAL COMPACT ON MAY 31st? Why, from the ESM of course. How? We haven’t yet ratified the ESM Treaty so before we do and in the interests of the people they were elected to represent, the government simply refuses to sign unless the bribery/blackmail clause is removed. 

TOO LATE, YOU SAY, THAT ESM TREATY HAS ALREADY BEEN AGREED? Well, wasn’t it already agreed and signed off BEFORE the addition of that bribery/blackmail clause, hasn’t that precedent been set? Just visit it again, that’s all – simples. 

WHAT’S THAT – THE ESM CAN PROCEED WITHOUT US? Oh no it can’t my friend, not unless we ratify the amendment to TEFU Article 136, the amendment enabling the setting up of the said ESM.

WHAT YEAR, EXACTLY, WILL THE 60% DEBT/GDP REDUCTION CLAUSE KICK IN? We’re told a No vote brings uncertainty, a Yes vote brings stability – right then, when, exactly, will that clause kick in and along with the interest on the national debt (which we won’t then be allowed borrow either as it would in fact increase the national debt), how much per year in cuts/taxes will that entail? To ensure we know for certain what we’re voting for, give us that information now – I reckon it’s well in excess of €10bn/annum.

HOW DO YOU RECONCILE ARTICLES 32 TO 38 OF THE PROPOSED ESM TREATY WITH TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY, FOUNDATIONS STONES OF DEMOCRACY? Here is just a flavour of those articles: Article 32 - Legal status, privileges and immunities, item 4: The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall, wherever located and by whomsoever held, be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.

We have the cards, let’s play them.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


If you've ever been involved in negotiations, consider the following:

July 11th 2011 – THE ESM TREATY: Minister Michael Noonan signs us up to the permanent European bailout fund, the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), from which euro countries in trouble will draw their funds at a rate yet to be determined. In this treaty we agree that:  
  • Every document, every act, every individual, every building of the ESM will now and forever be immune not just to prosecution, but even to investigation. 
  • Ireland will commit €11.145bn to the initial war-chest of €700bn, €1.27bn to be paid up front starting with a payment of €254m in July 2013; the remaining €9.87bn is deemed ‘callable capital’, can be called on for payment with seven days’ notice from the ESM. 
  • The ESM has full discretion to increase the size of the fund to whatever amount it wishes, whenever and as often as it decides; when that happens Ireland has committed ‘irrevocably and unconditionally’ to contribute whatever is asked of us, again within seven days.

January 30th 2012 – THE FISCAL COMPACT: Driven by Germany’s Angela Merkel, after months of negotiations all EU leaders except those from the UK and the Czech Republic but including our own Enda Kenny endorse the version of the Fiscal Compact on which we will be voting on May 31st. It has two major elements, reproduced here in shortened form: 
  • Article 3, Paragraph 1: “The budgetary position... Shall be balanced or in surplus... With a lower limit of a structural deficit of .5% of the Gross domestic product” 
  • Article 4: “When the ratio of... Government debt to gross domestic product exceeds.... 60%.... That” (Country) “shall reduce it at an average rate of one twentieth per year”
Ireland has both a structural deficit (which, by the way, can vary considerably depending on who is doing the calculating, and that is NOT specified in the Compact) and debt:GDP ratio far in excess of those above – if we vote Yes (for Stability and Certainty, you understand) when EXACTLY do these mandated adjustments start, what year, how much per year, and from where will the cuts/taxes come?

February 2nd 2012 – BACK TO THE ESM TREATY (and here is where it becomes really baffling): Only a few weeks after the Fiscal Compact agreement but several months after the wording for the ESM Treaty has been finalised, the Irish Ambassador, on behalf of the Irish government, signs us up to what has become known as the bribery/blackmail clause, a clause to be inserted in the ESM treaty that makes ratification of the Fiscal Compact a condition for access to the ESM funds.

Our negotiators in Europe agreed:
  • To contribute unlimited funding to a new body – the ESM – which will have complete immunity to do anything it ever wants to do without fear even of investigation; 
  • To a Compact on which we will vote on May 31st (though they absolutely DID NOT WANT us to have that vote), the terms of which will bind us irrevocably, subject to automatic penalty, to reducing our debt:GDP ratio to 60% over 20 years. Do the math, as the fella said: debt at end of 2013, c.€200bn; GDP c.€160bn; adjustment per annum, €200bn less 60% of €160bn, divided by 20, i.e. (€200bn - €96bn)/20= €5.2bn/annum. Add that to the 5% average interest on the €200bn national debt, that’s €10bn + €5.2bn = €15.2bn/annum on debt and interest payments alone; apply the new limited structural deficit, and stand back. Stand well back.
  • Not happy with having ‘negotiated’ all the above, our doughty men and women then went back to the table, agreed to revisit the original ESM agreement and insert the bribery/blackmail clause whereby if we vote No on May 31st we bar ourselves from access to a fund to which we have already committed to contributing €11.1bn and which over time can cost us much more. 

The ECB-mandated bank bondholder bailout cut the legs from under us, now what’s left of us is being torn to pieces, but not to worry, our own negotiators have dug three new graves for us. Who did our negotiating? Who sat at that table behind the label marked ‘Ireland’? They were supposed to negotiate in our national interest – is that bribery/blackmail clause in our national interest? Most certainly not; in truth it’s the opposite, it’s a betrayal of our national interest.

Now – without a hint of either shame or irony – the same government that agreed to the late insertion of that clause is using it as the stick with which to beat us into voting ‘Yes’ for the Fiscal Compact. Take away that stick and with it all those who are voting in favour purely on the basis of that bribery/blackmail clause – how many are left, how many believe that long-term, this compact is a good idea for Ireland? Makes one wonder as to why the clause was added, doesn’t it?

Last week Richard Bruton said the government had a plan B if there was a No vote in this referendum, they would simply hold another  – then he retracted, said he was incorrect in what he said; Pat Rabbitte was quoted by several people who attended a business meeting with him as saying the government didn’t in fact even have a plan A in how to deal with this current crisis, which Pat then denied ever saying. 

In the lead-up to the March 31st Promissory Notes deadline Michael Noonan and his various spokespeople assured us they were in heavy negotiations with the ECB on securing a deal, that those negotiations were delicately balanced but close to fruition; a few weeks ago the Irish Examiner made its own enquiries as to the nature of all those ‘negotiations’ in March and under the ‘right of access’ to documents enshrined in EU treaties requested copies of any requests by the Government and any negotiating documents submitted to the ECB – the findings? The director general of the Secretariat and Languages Services in the ECB, Pierre van der Haegen, said: "Having duly looked into this matter, we would like to inform you that the ECB did not receive any documents from the Irish Government on the renegotiation of the terms of the promissory notes."

With just days to go to that March 31st deadline Michael Noonan triumphantly trumpeted his ‘deal’; what had been an arguable debt was now locked in solid, a sovereign bond to be paid not by us – whose crisis this is – but paid instead by the next generation. It was an exercise in internal ‘financial engineering’ and just days later the ECB itself came out and stated, categorically and unequivocally, that there was no ‘deal’ done with the Irish government or anyone else, the €3.1bn Promissory Note had been paid on time and in full, and they expected that all future notes would likewise be paid. 

We were bounced into the bank bondholder bailout, fear of being denied access to cheap money the excuse; we’re being bounced now again into voting for a compact that will tie the hands of our own governments in the event of any future crisis, fear of being denied access to cheap money again the excuse. Have we learned nothing? How ‘cheap’ was that bank bailout money? €63bn we’ve so far thrown away on our banks, and counting, the interest on that now mounting; how much debt write-down have we got? Not a cent. Living in fear, governed by fear, what has that got us but debt piled on debt.

Lies, half-lies, spin, threat, bribery, blackmail, saying and doing whatever is convenient – I don’t trust this government, I don’t believe this government. They are as inept and as incompetent as those they replaced. They betrayed their mandate on the bank bondholder bailout, they betrayed their mandate in the negotiations of the ESM and of the Fiscal Compact. Just as I say ‘NO’ to that bank bailout, refuse to be bullied/bribed/blackmailed into submission, for the same simple straight-forward reason I say ‘NO’ to this Fiscal Compact – long-term, this is a bad deal for Ireland.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Monday, 21 May 2012


May 21st 2012

There is much discussion lately on the Fiscal Compact and the upcoming referendum, the pivotal argument being access to the ESM fund. What of that body itself, however, what of the ESM, how much do we know about that, how much debate has there been on it? This is at least as important a Treaty as the Fiscal Compact yet we know little or nothing of it, won’t be given any opportunity to vote on it – why not?

Perhaps this is part of the reason; here, unedited and in its entirity, is just one part of that ESM Treaty.

Article 32 - Legal status, privileges and immunities

1. To enable the ESM to fulfil its purpose, the legal status and the privileges and immunities set out in this Article shall be accorded to the ESM in the territory of each ESM Member. The ESM shall endeavour to obtain recognition of its legal status and of its privileges and immunities in other territories in which it performs functions or holds assets.

2. The ESM shall have full legal personality; it shall have full legal capacity to:
(a) acquire and dispose of movable and immovable property;
(b) contract;
(c) be a party to legal proceedings; and
(d) enter into a headquarter agreement and/or protocols as necessary for ensuring that its legal status and its privileges and immunities are recognised and enforced.

3. The ESM, its property, funding and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process except to the extent that the ESM expressly waives its immunity for the purpose of any proceedings or by the terms of any contract, including the documentation of the funding instruments.

4. The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall, wherever located and by whomsoever held, be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.

5. The archives of the ESM and all documents belonging to the ESM or held by it, shall be inviolable.

6. The premises of the ESM shall be inviolable.

7. The official communications of the ESM shall be accorded by each ESM Member and by each state which has recognised the legal status and the privileges and immunities of the ESM, the same treatment as it accords to the official communications of an ESM Member.

8. To the extent necessary to carry out the activities provided for in this Treaty, all property, funding and assets of the ESM shall be free from restrictions, regulations, controls and moratoria of any nature.

9. The ESM shall be exempted from any requirement to be authorised or licensed as a credit institution, investment services provider or other authorised licensed or regulated entity under the laws of each ESM Member.

Is anyone else concerned about this? And it continues through the next six Articles in similar vein, demanding immunity not just from prosecution but even from investigation for itself and all its employees. Whatever happened to openness, to public accountability, to Enda’s statement, ‘Paddy likes to know’? Why would any official body want or need all this immunity, unless it was planning something pretty drastic? This stinks, stinks to the highest heavens, and I for one want no part of it.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Saturday, 19 May 2012


May 19th 2012

We lost a good man this week, a very good man. Tom McNamara had just delivered a load of stone to Charleville from the Concrete, Sand & Gravel business in Ballyhea he and his brother Denis had developed over the decades (latterly also with his son, Tommy), had returned to pick up another load when he got a phone call. He was down in the pit at the time, the call was breaking up, he climbed up onto the road for better reception and dropped, dead before he hit the ground.

There was no sign, no warning. He was 66 and drawing the old-age pension (the first time in his life he ever got something for nothing and boy, was he a little bemused about that!) but Tom was never a day sick in his life, still immensely strong and able, a powerhouse of a man. He died as he had lived, in harness, working hard. He had seen good times and bad but his attitude had remained constant – keep the chin up, look life in the eye, endure whatever it throws at you but above all embrace it, enjoy it.

He was a positive man. His life was defined by ethics, by morality. He had the courage to take the hard decisions, to work his way through whatever hardship then followed. A devoted family-man, non-drinker all his life, many years ago he lost his wife Catherine after she had suffered (with great stoicism, humour and courage) a long and debilitating illness. It was a huge blow but – as with every other blow throughout his life – it was absorbed and controlled, no self-pity ever displayed.

Along with Denis, Tom McNamara was a pillar of our community, hugely respected by all who knew him. And yet – as with Denis – he was neither shy nor slow about being seen marching with us in our protest against the bank bondholder bailout. And he WAS seen, a striking figure, standing out from the crowd with his shock of white hair.

The most surprising thing about his presence, however – both Tom and Denis McNamara are from a staunch Fine Gael family, blue to the marrow. He was grassroots Fine Gael, had never forgotten nor neglected the original ethic of that party. Likewise there are grassroots Labour and grassroots Fianna Fáil out there who have never forgotten nor neglected the original ethic of their own political party. In their personal lives courage is what governs their decision-making; fear is a factor but the governing factor; it is over-ruled by courage, by ethics, by morality, doing what’s right as opposed to doing what is expedient.

They, and not the puny, phoney and false people now leading Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour (along with the Uncle Tom union leadership), are the real representatives of those parties. The near one million households representing nearly two million voters who did NOT register before the deadline for that recent Household Charge and were thus criminalised by this government, you think they didn’t include grassroots Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour? Yet their objections, Tom’s objections, are dismissed by the likes of Enda, Eamon, Michael, Brendan, Leo, Pat and the rest.

Recently on this blog there was a piece which made some headlines on our meeting with a local TD; if that now becomes a witch-hunt against one TD it misses the point – they are all out of touch with the grassroots of all society. With their exorbitant salaries and expenses they have insulated themselves from the decisions they are taking that so affect most of us; with those decisions they have isolated themselves from their own people, aligned themselves instead with those who are doing us down.

Like the rest of us who march in protest Tom was utterly opposed to the bank bondholder bailout, he was also utterly opposed to the many hardship measures now being imposed on us by the troika to facilitate that bailout. He didn’t march as often with us as does Denis – the last time I spoke to him was at the massive anti-Household Charge protest at the Fine Gael Árd-Fheis in Dublin. But he was strong, and very strong, in his objections, and he was supportive. Phil Ryan recalls an incident at one of our sit-down protests when Tom – as gentle a man as you could imagine – went to have a word with an impatient truck-driver who was tooting his horn, invited him in very certain terms to desist; he did.

He was a joy to know, he will be missed. His life, his death, won’t be marked in the major media but we in this little warrior band will do what we can; this Sunday in Ballyhea, our 64th weekly protest, we will march also in honour of the memory of Tom McNamara. We invite those of you who feel as he did and who feel as we do about the immorality of the bank bondholder bailout, to join us. 11.30am outside Ballyhea church, this Sunday morning.

Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Monday, 14 May 2012


May 15th 2012

Dear Sir or Madam;

The forthcoming Fiscal Compact referendum isn’t nearly as complex as many would have you believe. Taken entirely on its own (as we’re told it should be taken) there are five main elements to the compact:

1.       Debt will have to be maintained at 60% of GDP or less
2.       Budget general government deficits will have to be maintained at 3% of GDP or less
3.       Budget structural deficit will have to be maintained at 0.5% or less
4.       If any government steps outside the above parameters, automatic penalties will kick in
5.       The only exception to those penalties is if a country manages to get a ‘qualified majority’ to overrule the  Commission’s recommendations on how they get back into line

The first two conditions are already enshrined in EU law with accompanying penalties. The third condition contains the term ‘structural deficit’ and here my problem begins. According to the Referendum booklet, structural deficit is what the general government deficit would be if economic conditions were normal and if one-off spending or income were not taken into account. And there’s the rub –two undefined variables in that one little clause; according to David McWilliams, if you locked ten economists into a room with a set of figures for an individual country they would come up with 40 different numbers as to what that structural deficit might be. In this compact the EU’s version of how they would arrive at this critical number is NOT defined  - pig in a poke comes to mind. A compact of this significance between nations should be defined in absolute terms, no grey areas to be fudged afterwards.

Then we come to the last two items. According to every economist I've read, in times of crisis a government needs flexibility in fixing its budget. If we sign up to this Compact and do happen to find ourselves in trouble again in the future, the EU, through the Commission, will fix our targets – they will, in effect, write our budgets for us, the government of the day will NOT have that flexibility.

Unless, of course, we happen to be Germany or France or one of the major European powers, in which case if we manage to get a ‘qualified majority’ we’ll be off the hook. Little Ireland’s chances of getting that majority?

I will not succumb to the immorality of either bribery or blackmail; that’s the kind of fear-driven decision-making that has us where we are now, the crushing bank debt burden forced on us by the ECB. Neither on the other hand will I be frightened by talk of decades of austerity.

Ignore all the chaff, all the short-termism, before you vote ask yourself this single simple question – yes or no, and bearing in mind all of the above, is it right for this generation and for every future generation that an article enabling legislation for a Compact over which there is so much expert disagreement, an article specifically over-ruling any other existing articles with which it might clash (which the clause does),should be enshrined in our Constitution?

I have reached my own conclusion – No. Come to your own decision but don’t be bounced into anything; be ruled by courage and vision, not by fear or short-term gain.

Yours sincerely,
Diarmuid O'Flynn.