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.

Friday, 20 September 2013


(Apologies for the appearance, it was formatted in Word, hasn't copied at it originally appears)

PREFACE:   The objective of this petition is to request the Union to compensate the citizens of Ireland for the damage caused by the negligence of the EU Institutions (including the ECB, the European Commission and the European Council) in the performance of their duties relative to the euro.


The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.


1. The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.

3. The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.
It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.
It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.

3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.


 1. Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the Institutions, bodies and agencies of the Union.

3. Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its Institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the general principle common to the laws of the Member States.

CONTEXT:            Because of the failure of the Eurozone countries to agree on the necessary central controls, the Euro was fundamentally and seriously flawed in its design, should not have been launched without those controls.

The problems that subsequently arose in Ireland were foretold in an article by Belgian economist Paul de Grauwe from the Financial Times in 1998 in which he wrote:
Suppose a country, which we arbitrarily call Spain, experiences a boom which is stronger than in the rest of the euro-area. As a result of the boom, output and prices grow faster in Spain than in the other euro-countries. This also leads to a real estate boom and a general asset inflation in Spain. Since the ECB looks at euro-wide data, it cannot do anything to restrain the booming conditions in Spain. In fact the existence of a monetary union is likely to intensify the asset inflation in Spain. Unhindered by exchange risk vast amounts of capital are attracted from the rest of the euro-area. Spanish banks that still dominate the Spanish markets, are pulled into the game and increase their lending. They are driven by the high rates of return produced by ever increasing Spanish asset prices, and by the fact that in a monetary union, they can borrow funds at the same interest rate as banks in Germany, France etc. After the boom comes the bust. Asset prices collapse, creating a crisis in the Spanish banking system.
Too far-fetched to be realistic? The US monetary union provides many examples of such local booms and busts followed by financial crises that lead to large scale bail-out operations. Scenarios of local booms and bust, as the one just described, will almost certainly happen in the future euro-area. The essential ingredient triggering such crises is the existence of regional differences in rates of return on assets coupled with the fact that in a monetary union banks can borrow at the same interest rates’.

Well, it did happen in Spain, but it also happened in Ireland. Within eight years all that de Grauwe had foretold came to pass and as a result, the Irish people have been burdened with a bank debt of nearly €70bn (per Namawinelake blog July 8th 2012: AIB/EBS €20.7bn; Bank of Ireland €4.7bn; Anglo/INBS €34.7bn; Irish Life & Permanent €4bn; NAMA contribution €5.6bn) - that’s over €15,000 per individual, a totally disproportionate burden loaded on the Irish people.

We have been failed by those who designed and launched the euro; we have been failed by those whose duty it was to oversee that currency, who allowed the hundreds of billions to flow unchecked from one area of Europe to another, who failed to monitor the impact this was having on those economies; we have been failed by those whose duty it was to find a fair and equitable Europe-wide solution to the problem.

FALLOUT:            Due to those institutional failures the Irish people are now faced with austerity measures which have led to emigration levels unseen since the Great Hunger of the 1840s, unemployment levels whose true rates are reduced by the level of emigration and deliberately disguised by the numbers on various government schemes, mortgage arrears which are now at crisis point, increased incidence of suicide, reductions in supports to the most disadvantaged in our society. All this is quantifiable; what can’t be measured is the impact all this is having on the human spirit, the loss of dignity – there is no misery index.

SUMMARY:        In  contravention of Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the imposition of this burden has seen a marked reduction in the levels of human dignity;
                                In contravention of Article 3.1 of the Treaty on European Union the imposition of this burden has promoted a marked reduction in the well-being of the Irish people;

                                In contravention of Article 3.3 of the Treaty on European Union the imposition of this burden has worked against the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth – the devastation caused by the euro has seen a marked imbalance developing (and still growing) in Europe;

Additionally, and again contrary to Article 3.3, there is increased unemployment and reduced social progress, a widening gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’; with the deliberate and repeated targeting of the most vulnerable in Irish society, there is a reduction in social justice and protection;

Far from there being ‘solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child’, the legacy of this crisis in Ireland is debt-slavery to Europe for generations as we are forced into paying a debt that was never ours;

In final contravention of Article 3.3, promoting ‘economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States’, the selfishly ordained actions of the major European so-called ‘core’ countries are promoting a return to the kind of dangerous nationalism the original EU was established to combat, the demonization of Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, the characterisation of those peoples as being somehow lesser beings, feckless, lazy, corrupt, contrasted then against the glorification of those in that so-called ‘core’. As for solidarity, when this crisis struck it became every man for himself, the bigger and stronger countries dictating everything, Ireland bullied and coerced into accepting a Memorandum of Understanding that in truth amounted to a bailout only for the euro and for the major European banks at the expense of the Irish people, who in fact got a bail-in – not a cent of debt writeoff but actually the opposite, debt piled on debt;

                                In  contravention of Article 10 of the Treaty on European Union, from the outset of this crisis major decision after major decision has been taken without any consultation with the Irish people; we have been burdened with this bank debt without ever a vote, without ever a choice;

                                In contravention of its own rules which stipulate that Emergency Liquid Assistance (ELA) can only be used temporarily, be provided against adequate collateral, and be issued to illiquid but solvent institutions, on the back of PromissoryNotes which were never presented to the Irish Parliament for approval, the ECB allowed the Central Bank of Ireland to issue €30.7bn to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society at a time when both were zombie banks, were not systemic to the Irish banking system.

                                In light of all the above, and citing Article 41.3 of the European Charter as quoted on page 1, that ‘Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its Institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties,’  we now petition this body to have this burden lifted, then shared fairly across the entire Eurozone but also, shared fairly with those whose billions helped fuel the crisis.

PROPOSALS:      These are our three proposals:

1.       To the ECB: Write off the €28.1bn in sovereign bonds currently held by our Central Bank in lieu of the Promissory Notes (€25bn + €3.1bn for the 2012 note), Notes that were issued in 2010 to cover a flagrant abuse of the Emergency Liquidity Assistance fund when €31bn was pumped in to two already insolvent institutions, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, abuse the ECB itself approved;

2.       To the EU: Through the ESM, restore to the Irish Exchequer a) the €3.1bn already destroyed on the basis of those Promissory Notes, b) the €20.7bn taken from our National Pension Reserve Fund to bail out those banks and c) the remaining €12.2bn or so borrowed from the various emergency funds to bail out the Irish banks.

3.       To the EC: Propose a measure to impose a levy on the finance industry that will see the billions their recklessness has cost the peoples of Europe restored to those balance sheets, perhaps that levy going directly to the ESM for redistribution to those countries affected.

The first proposal will ease the long-term bank-debt burden and help end the debt-slavery of future generations to Europe;

 the second will ease the current situation, give us money to invest in job-creation and thus enable us grow our way out of this recession;

the third will force retribution from those whose recklessness caused the crisis.

We thank you in advance for your forbearance, this petition has been prepared without expert advice; we thank you in advance also for considering this petition and trust that it will get due consideration and receive a favourable verdict.

We have attached to this petition a series ofletters from a representative selection of those who march with us, letters that represent more eloquently than any set of statistics the effect the euro-launch and the subsequent consequent series of events has had on the people of this country.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


On Monday evening last I ended up in a hostelry called (very aptly) The Local, on the square in Dungarvan. It was an uplifting, energising, hugely positive experience.

On the previous day, Sunday September 8th, Waterford had won its first All-Ireland minor hurling championship since 1948 and earlier that Monday evening in Waterford city I had been on official Irish Examiner duty, covering the first leg of their homecoming. Job done and story filed by 9.30pm, I headed west for Dungarvan, check in there for an hour or so to see how the reception for the team had gone, before heading on home.

And this was it, this was where it was all brought home to me yet again why I so love the GAA, why I so love this country.

The Local was jam-packed, hopping. Hosted by the amiable Helena and Donnchadh Gough (of Danú trad group fame), many of the players and management from the west-Waterford-dominated team were in attendance. 

In one corner a four-piece band, but not just any four-piece. Fronted by former county board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan, they play for charity and only for charity, fund-raising for anyone and everyone but themselves. On this night, they were there to honour the All-Ireland-winning minor team.

Current county board chairman Tom Cunningham joins the band

There was music, song, conversation and laughter, always the laughter. And it struck me.

For 132 weeks now (and counting) we've been marching in Ballyhea and Charleville in protest against the imposition of private bank debt on the Irish people. I'm not going into the details here; for a taste of what we're campaigning against, see this 6-minute video

Many times in that two and a half years we've been asked why it is that our campaign hasn't caught on, why the Irish people aren't all out marching with us. Sheeple, some have called us, a tame subservient people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The likes of Austin Gleeson, Shane and Stephen Bennett, DJ Foran, goals-scoring hero Patrick Curran, Gavin Power, William Hahessey, team captain Kevin Daly – everyone from 1 to 15 and on into the subs who won that All-Ireland title for Waterford, though under-18, are already strong individuals, progressive high-achievers.

 The victorious minors given a guard-of-honour by the seniors

Those like Sean Power, Kevin O'Gorman, Wayne Power, John Treacy, everyone else in the extended management team, they are the most selfless of people, individuals who willingly and without recompense volunteer their spare time for the good of others.

Those others I met in The Local that night, people such as Waterford PRO Emer Barry and her friend Vanessa Celisse, or Michael Kearney from the Nire, they too are all giving freely of their time and it was because of people like those that all of Waterford county, and every Waterford person in exile, could enjoy a night like last Monday night.

The victorious squad salute the fans

They came from the far east of the county, Michael 'Spud' Murphy and Damien Tiernan (his RTE duties complete) from Passage, guys like Óisín Langan of Newstalk from the west (like the Quaid brothers next door to us here in Effin, or the likes of Gavin O’Mahony, Paudie O’Brien and Graeme Mulcahy from nearby Kilmallock, Óisín had the misfortune to be born just the wrong side of the Cork border but is making the best of it…). 

Young and old, male and female, from teams and clubs that would often tear strips off each other, there they were in The Local and as is normal with any hurling or gaelic football club, none of your usual societal divisions of class/education/wealth, all united under that one roof and under that one banner in celebration.

That's the GAA, that's how it pulls us together and in many another hostelry in many another parish/town/county I've enjoyed many a night such as this. All those of us in whom the GAA is ingrained and who equally are ingrained in the GAA, can be grateful for it. From time to time we criticise its many inherent weaknesses but when I hear people who know damnall about the organisation and its ethos pontificate about the Grab-All-Association, I shake my head in wonder - such outright ignorance.

That is also the Irish people. 

The GAA is special; we, the Irish people, are special. I don't mean that in any narrow, exclusive way. The above qualities are not confined to GAA players and supporters, they are also to be found in those who likewise volunteer their time and services in all the other sports organisations big and small throughout the land, in all the other voluntary bodies that help to sustain us, and they are found in other nations. 'The best sporting organisation in the world', 'The best little country in the world' - I don't remember either of those competitions ever being held, let alone being won by us.

I don't mean it either though in the way the EU/EC/ECB mean it - we're 'special' to them alright, special because in helping to preserve the euro and save some of Europe's biggest banks, we have taken on bank debt that is massively disproportionate – per capita no other country comes near (over €15,000 for every man, woman and child).

We're special in that we live life to the full. We don't just cope with hardship, we thrive, we laugh, we take the worst that circumstance can throw at us and make light of it – look at our ‘wakes’ for Godsake! Thus it is that almost anywhere you go in the world, where the Irish are gathered there will be hard work yes, there will be high achievers such as those Waterford youngsters, but there will also be fun, gaiety, song and dance, and laughter.

We know how to party, we know when to party. Monday night in Waterford was such an occasion, Monday night in The Local in Dungarvan. 

To most of us, especially to those of us who had been through the depression of the 80s/early 90s, the Noughties too seemed to be such an occasion. The country appeared to be booming, salaries were on the increase and on radio/television/national newspapers most of the experts were telling us it was here to stay.

‘Get on the property NOW or it will be too late!’, our young singles and newlyweds were told – they did, in their tens of thousands.

‘Invest in that second property NOW and secure your pension!’, those in middle age were advised by expert after expert – they did, again in their tens of thousands.

The warning signs were there and some – such as Morgan Kelly and David McWilliams - tried to alert us; they were advised by our own Taoiseach of the day, Bertie Ahern, to go off somewhere and ‘commit’ suicide. You don’t of course ‘commit’ suicide; people take their own lives with their own hands NOT because they want to die, but because they can no longer take THIS life.

Well Mr Ahern, it’s happening, by the tens of thousands across the country, and many of the victims are of an age with those powerful young lads who won last Sunday’s All-Ireland minor title, of an age with the superb Galway team they beat to do so, of an age with many of the stars of the Clare and Cork teams that then played an exhilarating draw in the senior final that followed.

We, the people, are blamed for the banking tsunami that engulfed Ireland; we, the people, are told that it’s our fault, even our current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, telling Europe as much. It’s nonsense of course. 

The people of this country didn’t cause the property bubble, they are the victims of it. 

The people of this country didn’t cause the world-wide banking crisis, they are the victims of it. 

The people of this country didn’t cause the euro crisis, they are the victims of it.

Those who DID cause it, however, the international bankers and international investment high-risk high-rollers whose billions fuelled the bubble here, in Europe, in the USA, have used our own politicians and our own media to convince us that it was our fault, and thus that we must pay. For their greed, for their mistakes, for their failed gambles, we must pay.

They are using that old Catholic guilt-complex against us – ‘What, you had fun??? You enjoyed yourself? You're Irish and you thought you were entitled to a BMW? For that now you'll have to do penance.’

Though I drank nothing but a glass of water, after several hours of banter, laughter, song and dance I left The Local that night as drunk as I've ever been when leaving any such an establishment, and God knows I've staggered from a few! Exhausted from many weeks of long and stressful days in the lead-up to the All-Ireland final, now into the early hours of the morning, the 90-minute drive home to Ballyhea simply flew, my spirits soaring.

In the fight to shine a light on what's been done to Ireland by Europe, what's still being done, in continuing this campaign so deep into a third year, I didn't need any renewal. We're doing this for our own generation, we're doing it for those youngsters who brought such honour to Waterford last Sunday, we're doing it even for the generation that will follow them, all of whom are now faced with carrying this burden, debt-slaves to Europe.

I already knew they were worth it. Siobhan and myself have two kids of our own, Niall and Sadhbh, both now in college. We have met their friends, we know the talent in that generation. I know too that in time, when they know as much as we in the Ballyhea and Charleville campaign group know about what's been done and how it's been done, the Irish people will take their stand and this bank-debt burden will be shifted back whence it came.

In the meantime, we’ll keep campaigning. We’ll march in Ballyhea next Sunday, week 133, we’ll be in Brussels again next week, our fourth such visit. On Tuesday we’ll be meeting the Petitions committee, on Wednesday meeting with economic advisers from the office Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

For that night, however, for those few thoroughly enjoyable hours in The Local, in Dungarvan, in Waterford, from the bottom of my Ballyhea, Cork, Munster and Irish heart, I thank you.