Monday, 21 March 2011


Co. Cork
March 21st 2011

WE, the Irish people, are willing to pay in full our accumulating sovereign debt, a debt for which we  - whatever we may feel about how we’ve gotten to this situation - are collectively responsible.  We will NOT pay, as part of that sovereign debt, either in whole or in part, the private bank/bondholder debt, and we call on our government to decouple those two wholly different and separate debts NOW. 
The reason is simple.  To quote renowned American economist Michael Lewis, from a recent Vanity Fair article, ‘In retrospect, now that the Irish bank losses are known to be world-historically huge, the decision to cover them appears not merely odd but suicidal.  A handful of Irish bankers incurred debts they could never repay, of something like 100 billion euros.  They may have had no idea what they were doing, but they did it all the same.  Their debts were private—owed by them to investors around the world—and still the Irish people have undertaken to repay them as if they were obligations of the state.’  Wrong, Michael, we the Irish people have made no such undertaking, because we, the Irish people, have never been asked.
In that article, Michael also states: ‘These private bondholders didn’t have any right to be made whole by the Irish government.  The bondholders didn’t even expect to be made whole by the Irish government.  Not long ago I spoke with a former senior Merrill Lynch bond trader who, on September 29, 2008 (the night of our infamous blanket bank guarantee – DO’F), owned a pile of bonds in one of the Irish banks.  He’d already tried to sell them back to the bank for 50 cents on the dollar — that is, he’d offered to take a huge loss, just to get out of them.  On the morning of September 30 he awakened to find his bonds worth 100 cents on the dollar.  The Irish government had guaranteed them! He couldn’t believe his luck.  Across the financial markets this episode repeated itself.  People who had made a private bet that went bad, and didn’t expect to be repaid in full, were handed their money back—from the Irish taxpayer.’
Not any more.  ‘For two years they (that’s us, the Irish people – DO’F) have laboured under this impossible burden with scarcely a peep of protest,’ continues Michael.  Well, no more – time to shout STOP.  Bullied/brow-beaten/blackmailed by the ECB, a discredited and lame-duck government signed us up to this, their mandate long gone; despite pre-election promises to the contrary, our new government has agreed to both the principle and the principal (100%) of this newly-assumed loan, while dickering only over the penal interest rate – rearranging the deck-chairs as the good ship Ireland goes rapidly underwater.
Enough.  In Ballyhea, we are in our fourth week of protest; every Sunday, 11.45am (after second Mass), a short and silent march from the church carpark to the limit of the village and back.  No placards, no catchy slogan, as little disruption to life as possible, no destruction of property public or private; just, slow, simmering anger.  Our numbers are increasing by the week, and we call now on anyone who is of like mind to join us in our protest; we call on those who can’t make it to Ballyhea to organise their own protest, on the same weekly basis at the same time on the same day – 11.45am every Sunday – until such time as our new government hears our voices.  Enough, surely.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.