ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN
Since March 6th 2011, for 143 weeks at the time of writing and with the sole exception of Christmas Day 2011 (fell on a Sunday), every week and sometimes several times a week we in the Ballyhea Says No group have marched in protest at the imposition of private bank-debt on the Irish people, all €69.7bn of it.
It's been a long road, going on three years now, but this week we can say this - we have turned a corner.
FROM PROTEST TO CAMPAIGN
What began as a protest morphed into a campaign and so it was that we took the fight ourselves to Europe, first to the ECB HQ in Frankfurt, later to the EU, the European Council and the European Commission in Brussels, also again to the ECB itself but this time in Dublin, during one of their regular visits.
In our discussions with the officials from those various organisations we learned that while there is serious resistance to giving Ireland any kind of debt writeoff, there is also an acknowledgement that as a country, as a nation, we have been hard hit, disproportionately hit.
THE INDEFENSIBLE PROMISSORY NOTES
The most odious element of all the bank-debt, the area where we meet least resistance in Europe, is the Promissory Note debt, the €31bn printed in 2010 to bail out the two even then zombie banks, Anglo (€25.3bn) and INBS (€5.3bn).
THE DÁIL MOTION
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, November 26th/27th, giving up one of their own very valuable Private Member's Bill slots, the Technical Group introduced a Motion to the Dáil on our behalf, which reflected the first of the three Proposals we have developed to lift the bank-debt burden from the Irish people.
It was a modest proposal, a deliberately mild proposal, simply stated that the Irish government should ask - merely ask - that the ECB give our Central Bank permission to destroy the remaining €28.1bn Promissory Note bonds it is about to sell onto the international money market.
This is a debt that the ECB was complicit in imposing on the Irish people, it is debt that was never used for the benefit of the Irish people, it is debt that was assumed to protect European banks, perhaps even the Euro itself. We don’t just have a right to repudiate this odious debt, on behalf of future generations on whose shoulders it has been placed we have a duty to do. It was created by the Central Bank with the push of a button, its destruction can similarly take place with the push of a button.
BEARING WITNESS TO HISTORY
Watching that debate take place, seeing and hearing in the flesh the disdain in which we are held by this government, the sneering derision of a succession of government speakers, that was a real eye-opener.
- They didn't insult just us in Ballyhea and Charleville who have been campaigning for so long on this issue;
- They didn't just insult those in all the other Says No groups who have joined us in our weekly protest and campaign, reinforced by all those from various other organisations who joined us at the Dáil;
- They didn't just insult the 16 TDs in the Technical Group, every one of whom supported this Motion;
- They didn't just insult the six other Independent TDs who added their names to proposal, nor the 14 TDs from the Sinn Féin Party who also signed up to it;
- They insulted all those tens of thousands who voted for all those TDs.
As they spoke, as they deliberately ignored what the Motion was proposing and focused on what it was not; as they one by one parroted their scripted lines on all the great things this government is 'achieving', on all the great 'progress' the country is making under the boot of this government, how all the numbers are improving, I couldn't help but call to mind some very pertinent passages from what has become a very pertinent book, George Orwell's remarkably prescient Animal Farm:
'Throughout the year the animals worked even harder than they had worked in the previous year. To rebuild the windmill, with walls twice as thick as before, and to finish it by the appointed date, together with the regular work of the farm, was a tremendous labour. There were times when it seemed to the animals that they worked longer hours and were fed no better than they had done in Jones's day. On Sunday mornings Squealer, holding down a long strip of paper with his trotter, would read out to them lists of figures proving that the production of every class of foodstuff had increased by two hundred per cent, three hundred per cent, or five hundred per cent, as the case might be. The animals saw no reason to disbelieve him, especially as they could no longer remember very clearly what conditions had been like before the Rebellion. All the same, there were days when they felt that they would sooner have had less figures and more food.'
That's in Chapter 8 - ye all know how the rest of that book goes.
DOBSON AND DAVIN-POWER
We got a couple of very up-close-and-personal insights into what our hugely expensive national broadcaster thinks of us. Up first was Bryan Dobson on RTE's Six-One News. Holding up a sign that read BURN THE BONDS, NOT THE BILLIONS, as Bryan was interviewing a new cheerleader for what they seem to hope is a new property bubble, one of our number spotted an opportunity to let the viewers know there was a protest going on at the Dáil. 'Idiots', that's how Bryan dismissed us but that's just Bryan, isn't it?
At around the same time another of our number, Fiona Fitzpatrick, spotted another RTE heavyweight, one David Davin-Power. As he waited at the lights to cross Kildare Street she went up to him and politely (that's Fiona) asked if he'd have any interest in covering our protest - 'No interest in the world', that was his dismissive reply as he stalked away. But that's just David, isn't it?
EDITORIALISED OUT OF EXISTENCE
Of much wider significance, and the reason our doughty protester felt compelled to hold up that sign, is this; despite being made well aware of what was a pretty historic event RTE made an editorial decision to give absolutely no coverage to either the Motion or to the protest.
- The fact that for the first time ever the 16 TDs of the Technical Group, from right across the political spectrum, could agree and unite behind a Motion of this nature - RTE deemed this was not news;
- The fact that a Motion calling for debt writeoff had never before been debated in the Dáil - RTE deemed this was not news;
- The fact that a small group which has been protesting for nearly three years, every week, that itself has been face-to-face with senior officials in the various layers of the European political institutions, could end up with one of its proposals being debated in the Dáil, being backed by 36 TDs - RTE deemed this was not news;
- The fact that people had travelled mid-week from points north, south and east and west, also from Dublin itself, to be at the gates in Kildare Street - RTE deemed this was not news.
It wasn't just RTE of course. None of this got any mention in any national broadcaster, nor a headline in any national newspaper.
SO, WHAT CORNER HAVE WE TURNED?
what have we learned this week, where do we go now?
We've turned the corner:
- From asking anyone in our own governing parties to do anything for us anymore - we know now they won't;
- From trying to persuade Fianna Fáil to support our cause because this week, on this Motion, they showed their true colours yet again, undermined our Motion with an Amendment of their own, a Motion which very deliberately took the spotlight away from the Promissory Note bonds;
- From trying to persuade our national media to be what they're supposed to be, the voice of the people, the questioners, the truth-revealers;
- Finally, we know now a hard truth - we know we'll have to achieve this ourselves.
BUILDING FROM WITHIN
Note that I don't say we'll have to do this on our own. Why? Because we have also learned - we are not on our own.
In our campaign to have this odious debt written off,
- We now have 36 elected TDs on our side - that's nearly 25% of the membership of the Dáil. Not just any old TDs either. Those speeches in favour of the Motion - the fire in the eyes, the passion in the voices, the heartfelt honesty in their words. Those TDs are the cream of the Dáil, and they are with us.
- We have each other, all the new friends we've made over the last few weeks in building to that evening in the Dáil, all the old friends with whom we've been working for the past months and years.
- We have our friends abroad, not just our fellow Irish who have been forced to emigrate in the past four and forty years but also our fellow citizens in EVERY country across Europe, on whom all our new masters in the banking and in the finance world would have THEIR rotten debts imposed. No, we are not on our own.
- We have our courage, we have our commitment, we have our determination that this fight ends when we decide it ends, and it ends only when we have had satisfaction on this odious bank-debt.
- And we have our own news network. We have Twitter, we have Facebook, we have YouTube. We can create our own lines of communication, we can spread our own word.
In his speech to us on Wednesday evening, referencing the government's baffling refusal to ever even ask for bank-debt writeoff, Luke Ming Flanagan said it was like being at a dance, fancying someone across the hall, yet never having the courage to ask if they'd like to take the floor with you.
Well, we HAVE asked RTE to cover this issue, we've asked TV3, Newstalk, Today FM, we've asked every national new outlet in the country. And time after time we've been rebuffed. Isn't it time we got the message, that they have decided that any popular dissent will not be covered? Isn't it time that instead of relying on them to spread our message, we do it ourselves?
Let's not waste our valuable time anymore on the traditional media. Boycott them, ignore them;
- If you follow any of them on Twitter, unfollow;
- If you are on their Facebook page, blank it;
- If you had been in the habit of tuning into their programmes on radio or TV, tune out;
- If you had been buying their newspapers, either weekly or daily, stop.
- They have decided to turn their backs on us, let’s do the same to them and just move on.
Even if they themselves seem to have forgotten it, we elected our TDs to be our servants, not our masters; even if they themselves seem to have forgotten, the media depends on us for their survival - we don't depend on them.
TIME TO EVALUATE
I propose now that we pause a few weeks and take stock; that we start that building from within.
Don't feel in the least intimidated. We can do this, individually and in groups. We need neither a single gospel nor a single leader.
I've never been into hero-worship, never been into deification of any individual but neither have I ever been into the collective, into an entire nation speaking, thinking and acting along the same pre-determined lines. I long ago rejected religion for this very reason, embraced spiritualism and nature in its stead.
We don't need dogma, we don't need doctrine, we don't need anyone telling us how or what to think, when and why to act. We each have our own instincts and our own intelligence.
We can do this as independently minded independently thinking individuals; we can form groups of like-minded thinkers and act along common lines as we've done in Ballyhea but even there, the individual must not just be heard, the individual must be heeded.
Always, however, we've got to keep in mind the good of the community, that has to be our foundation, that has to be our focus. We’re in this as individuals but we’re not in it just for ourselves.
There IS a silent majority out there but we know - they are on our side. Our challenge over the coming months is to convert them to the vocal majority. Let's get to it.
Let's take that time now to build. The battle lines are long drawn in what is now a long war. On the one side are the few who command the world's finances and who would impose their debts and their demands on the many; we are the many, we are all together on the other side of that line.
Let's have no more divisive talk of left and right; we speak only of right and wrong. No talk of sheeple, no negativity, no internal combustion, no tearing each other apart. Time to close ranks, come together; time to plan, to reorganise.
Then we'll see who has the last word on this.