First post for a while on this blog but it's been a hectic few months on a number of fronts, not least the very welcome distractions of the massive Anti-Water-Charge campaign, and the victory of Syriza in the Greek elections.
On a personal level, I've changed occupations, am no longer with the Irish Examiner but now, as an Accredited Parliamentary Assistant to Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in the European Parliament, work full-time on the bank-debt issue while also paying close attention to TTIP, FTT and a few other issues.
TTIP is a proposed treaty euphemistically titled Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership that would have devastating consequences for working conditions, for food safety, for environmental standards, not to mention the huge potential for job losses across Europe as the race to the bottom continues.
FTT is the proposed Financial Transaction Tax, a relatively tiny tax on only the most toxic dealings in the various financial services centres. It has the potential to raise tens of billions annually and so far 11 EU countries have signed up – Ireland, with Minister Noonan protecting the interests of the IFSC at the cost of the people, has not.
Another priority here is having Ireland's net contribution (sorry!) to the EU central funds adjusted to reflect the value of the fish taken from our waters.
There are other issues but above all is the bank-debt.
BALLYHEA SAYS KNOW
On March 6th 2011 a few of us first took to the road in Ballyhea (there is no street, as such, just the main Cork/Limerick road). Every week since then - and joined by Charleville a few months later - we've marched.
|The originals - Niall O'Flynn also marched, took this picture|
Sunday March 1st we will be entering our fifth year of continuous weekly protest. As with all previous anniversary dates this will not be a celebration. It is, however, a significant day and we would like to mark it as such.
During those last four years we have consistently stated:
- The bank debt is odious debt, should have been repudiated; this week Ashoka Mody, former mission chief of the IMF delegation element of the Troika to Ireland, was on national radio and stated, unequivocally – 'There was a burden of debt that could legitimately be declared as an odious debt.'
- The new FG/Lab coalition government was in a very strong position after their huge mandate of 2011, should have confronted the EU and its various institutions on that bank debt, should have confronted the ECB especially on the €31bn of Promissory Notes, the most odious element of all the bank-debt; in that same radio interview, the same Ashoka Mody confirmed this view, stated – 'Ireland had its opportunity. They came in on a mandate very similar to the current government of Greece, they came in on a promise to do similar things. But as had become customary in Europe – including in Greece (under the old governments) – from the moment the new government was formed it felt an obligation to 'grow up' and 'growing up' in European terminology meant doing what Berlin and Brussels think is the right thing to do. Ireland fell in with that culture. Ireland had its opportunity, not just for itself but for Europe; in accepting the premise that Brussels and Berlin determine economic policy in every country, Ireland perpetuated a culture that this current Greek government is trying to break.'
Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin were both fast out of the box to attack Mr Mody's assertions and both used the same line – why didn't the IMF representative take that line at the time? The answer of course is simple – just as Yanis Varoufakis and his team are doing now on behalf of Greece and its people, it was YOUR job, Mr Noonan, you and your team, to negotiate as hard as was possible for Ireland and YOUR people. Mr Mody – in case it may have slipped your memory – was on the other side of that table. To use a sporting analogy, it would be like Paul O'Connell stating after last week's win that France hadn't maximized their opportunities and French coach Philippe Saint-André complaining that Paul shouldn't have played as hard as he did.
Our own media has largely ignored our protest and for those four years most have indulged in government spin – 'This was the best that could have been achieved, Kenny/Noonan/Gilmore etc did a fine job in difficult circumstances, the bank-debt is a dead issue, it's all done and dusted, Ireland has shown the rest of Europe the way ahead and sure aren't we all grand now again.'
Nonsense, all of it. The 'achievements' of which this government most often likes to boast were all won by others or are due to external circumstances.
- The 'burning' of junior bondholders was already well in train from the previous regime;
- The reduction in interest rate was on the back of the second Greek deal which had NOTHING to do with Ireland or its negotiators, when even the hawks of the EU/ECB could no longer justify the massive profit it was making from the misery of both Greece and Ireland;
- The current low interest rates are because of the statement in late 2012 by ECB President Mario Draghi that he would do 'whatever it takes' to backstop the euro, reinforced by the recent announcement of at least €1.1tn of a Quantitative Easing programme;
- A huge chunk of the reduction in unemployment numbers – apart altogether from the massaging of the numbers with those in government schemes and in part-time/low-grade employment – is due to emigration, the hundreds of thousands who have been forced out of Ireland;
- Ah, there's more,so much more, enough to fill pages, but ye get the drift.
There is though a growing awareness within the media, within the people generally, that we've all been hoodwinked. Even within the government's own ranks, on the Promissory Note bonds now being held by the Central Bank, one TD – Labour's Dominic Hannigan – came out a couple of weeks ago on the Vincent Browne show on TV3 (one of the media heroes of this period) and suggested that rather than selling them into the markets, the Central Bank should hold onto the bonds til they mature, or that perhaps the ECB could just take them over and assume that debt for themselves, thus saving future generations up to €80bn of debt.
Apologies for the long-winded post but the reason for it is this – I want people to see that it is NOT too late, that in fact it is never too late to do the right thing. And the right thing now for you to do is to join us in this campaign. You could start by coming to Charleville on March 1st (10.30am, the Library Plaza in the centre of town) and marching with us on this significant day; you can continue by joining this campaign.
Ireland is still one of the best places in the world in which to live and work (if you're lucky enough to have a job). It has everything going for it – fish-filled rivers, lakes and seas, year-round growth in some of the best land on the planet, natural assets above and below ground, wondrous landscapes that continue to amaze millions of tourists from around the globe. Above all it has its people.
Just as the Greeks will rise when they get their new deal, just as the Spanish will rise, so will we. But first we get this unjust burden off our backs.
Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.