Saturday 21 September 2013


On Sunday March 6th 2011 our campaign began, a protest march in Ballyhea with just 18 people, against the imposition of private bank-debt on the public purse, the Irish people forced into generations of debt slavery to Europe. Every week since then we have marched, sometimes twice and three times in the same week. This Sunday, September 22nd 2013, will be week 134.

    On March 27th of this year we met Sharon Bowles MEP, Chair of ECON, the EU Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee, the body to which the ECB reports every three months. That meeting has set off a chain of events which (hopefully!) hasn’t yet peaked but which has resulted in us having meetings since then with:  
  1.  Patrick Honahan, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland; 
  2. Two senior officials of the ECB Troika delegation in Dublin; 
  3. Istvan Szekely, Director Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission;
  4. Shahin Vallée, Economic advisor, Cabinet of Herman Van Rompuy, President European Council;
  5. David Harmon, European Commission, Member of the cabinet of Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

In the meantime we have also (and with great assistance from Paul Murphy MEP) submitted a petition for bank-debt write-off on behalf of Ballyhea, Charleville and all the other various Says No groups around Ireland, to the Europe Parliament Petitions Committee.

Handing over the Petition to MEPs (left to right): Nessa Childers, Marian Harkin, Paul Murphy, with Fiona Fitzpatrick and Cathleen Quealey

It’s been an eventful few months, an eventful few years, certainly not what any of us thought we’d be doing when we took those first steps onto the road in Ballyhea. The original intention was to alert our media and our people to what was being done to us, have the whole country out in protest, force this government to do what they had said they’d do –  what we elected them to do –  and take our fight to Europe. Instead that government has taken Europe’s fight to us, Enda Kenny and his officer corps duly rewarded with slaps on the back by our new masters.

So we are forced to do this for ourselves, forced to make our own contacts in the various layers of the European administration, forced to go Europe at our own expense to meet with and talk to those contacts, presenting to them our own proposals on how the bank-debt write-down can be achieved.

We do it with a heart and a half, but a heavy heart-and-a-half. Through the two-and-a-half years of this campaign, through those same two-and-a-half years of this administration, our Taoiseach Enda Kenny and our Finance Minister Michael Noonan have both proclaimed, even boasted, that they have never asked for debt write-down. Always however people were holding out the hope that this was merely a front, that behind the scenes they were playing hardball.

They weren’t. Patrick Honahan, who as Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland and as a member of the ECB Governing Council has a foot in both camps, confirmed this himself to us. We have also had this confirmed in our far more frank and far more up-front meetings with the Europeans. 

Those meetings have at times been hot and heavy but always, they’ve been educational. What we’ve learned above all else is this:  even in the highest echelons of the various European layers of administration the Ballyhea protest is known, our grievances acknowledged, the Promissory Notes element especially. There is a recognition that Ireland has taken a big hit in this euro-crisis, a recognition also that this hit has been disproportional. We have been told that ‘debt relief’ for Ireland is inevitable; however, debt write-down will not happen unless our government actually asks for it – we were encouraged to go back to Ireland and work on this.

So why hasn’t our government asked? One possible explanation that was offered to us – Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and the rest have been going around the world promoting themselves as the poster-boys of Europe, the miracle-workers of Ireland, turning this economy around all on their own. Were they now to ask for debt write-down it would give the lie to all those claims. Ego, that’s what it all seems to boil down to, our government still trying to fool the world (and largely succeeding) even as they slowly crush their own people.

‘Unemployment is down!’ they scream, ‘GDP is up, we’re out of recession!’ The numbers they do not broadcast, however, what they don’t tell the world – the record emigration figures, highest since the catastrophic years of the Great Hunger in the 1840s; the increase in suicides as people choose death over the life being imposed on them by this government. Families and entire communities are being ripped apart and with the proposed cuts/taxes of another €5.1bn in the next two Budgets, the full Home Tax due in January, worse is still to come. Out of recession? As economist Constantin Gurdgiev so succinctly puts it – no, this patient isn’t in recovery, we’re in an induced coma.

·       Acting on the advice received in Europe, we are now
  • working with a number of opposition TDs and in the process of putting direct pressure on our government to demand debt write-off – we will keep everyone posted on this;
  • Working with a number of MEPs (not necessarily all Irish either) we are also going to put direct pressure on the European Parliament – likewise, we will keep ye posted;
  • We will be following up on our Petition submission by asking every Irish MEP to sign up in support, but we will also extend that invitation to all other MEPs; 
  • On Saturday November 9th 2013 we will be co-hosting with Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI) an all-day event in the Charleville Park Hotel – more details later.
We are not for stopping, we are not for giving up. The backbone of all these efforts is the weekly march, not just in Ballyhea/Charleville but now in various other centres around the country – this is our campaign, all of us. Regardless of our numbers, however, regardless of the number of weeks we’ve been marching or the number of centres, the cause has never changed, remains as just as ever. As long as this burden is imposed, we will protest, we will campaign.

Diarmuid O'Flynn.