Friday, 3 June 2011

Run/walk/cycle to the Dáil day four

TWITTER:         @ballyhea14
FACEBOOK PAGE:   Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest
June 3rd 2011
Well, we did it, marched down the main street of the final ‘town’ on our trip from Ballyhea to the Dáil, handed in our petition.  A small group of us, about ten from Ballyhea, another dozen or more from Dublin and surrounds; a small march and a small petition (perhaps 800 hand-written signatures that we collected at all the various villages and towns en-route, another 500+ from the online petition) but that isn't the point – it was done.
We met at noon at the Garden of Remembrance, brilliant sunshine all over the country on this Bank Holiday weekend.  The funeral of a very popular parishioner, Pakie Mortell (great Ballyhea-man all his days and I should have been there - may he laugh long with the gods), meant we lost several who would otherwise have been with us, and the fact that Ballyhea were playing in the first round of the Cork Premier Intermediate championship in the evening (lost to Newcestown, and I missed that too, laid up), further depleted the numbers from the home parish.  Still, we had a few - young and old, male and female - and we were joined by a stout group who had been following online our journey up through the country.
Set off down Parnell Square following the same format as for our regular weekly marches in Ballyhea (which, by the way, will continue this Sunday, 10.30am), our ‘BALLYHEA SAYS NO! TO BONDHOLDER BAILOUT’ signs front and back, the REPUDIATE THE DEBT group banner in the middle (we hooked up with them in Limerick, their protest very much along the same lines as ours), headed then down O'Connell Street to the bemusement of the throngs on the footpaths, across O'Connell Bridge, heading for College Green.  There we were joined by a double Garda presence, two motorbike cops.
‘Who’s in charge here?’, asked the lead cop;
‘Sure no-one,’ sez I, ‘we’re all together in it.’
‘Where’s Ballyhea?’, reading the sign;
‘A little parish in North Cork.’
‘Ye never notified us of this.’
‘Yerra we know nothing about stuff like that, we’ve never done anything like this before – we set off on foot four days ago in Ballyhea, we’ve marched down the main street of every town we met along the way, and we’re finishing off here now.’
‘Four days!  Sure we’ll have to let ye carry on so!’
And from there to the Dáil they guided us along, protected our rear, held up traffic up front to allow us proceed without hindrance.  At the entrance to Government Buildings met a smiling young Garda who politely informed us that only one of the group would be allowed inside to hand in the petition, and Frances O’Brien, an outstanding ever-present, did the honours on our behalf.
Odd, isn't it, that where we can march here with the protection of our police while those in places like Tunisia and Libya and Egypt risk being killed by theirs, we don’t bother.  I won’t pretend that it wasn’t all, ultimately, a huge disappointment.  Of course it was badly planned, badly organised, badly managed, and as chief planner, organiser and manager I take full responsibility for that, but the overall reaction was what really disappointed – a lot of anger out there, but not enough that people are ready to act.  Not yet anyway.
The temptation now is to wash my hands completely of this, but no, the original reason for starting this campaign is still there; it’s not whether or not we can afford to pay this massive private debt, it’s the fact that it’s there at all.  The thought that the ECB might get away with this obscenity, that parents of special-needs kids suffer cuts so that some of the biggest banks in the world can be paid billions they had lost in a bad investment, that really grates.  There is no deduction in your wage slip or your bank statement that states ‘Bondholder subsidy’, but believe me, you're paying it, and you'll pay more.  Under the terms of the ECB decree of last November (let’s net even pretend it was any kind of ‘deal’, and the only people bailed out were the bondholders), profitable state assets will HAVE to be sold, more cuts will HAVE to be made, more taxes/levies/stealth taxes will HAVE to be imposed, to meet our mounting debt, a huge chunk of which goes to the bondholders.
We’ve already paid out about €70bn; according to a March 2011 Central Bank report as quoted by respected blogger namawinelake, (given great credit recently by Professor Morgan Kelly in his scathing article in The Irish Times), there is a lot more still outstanding -‘some €7bn of the €73bn (remaining bondholder debt) falls due in 2011, €20bn in 2012, €17bn in 2013 and €29bn in 2014 onwards.’ Are those sums not worth fighting for?  (For the full article, hit this link:
When did it become acceptable for banks – even a bank as powerful as the ECB - to dictate to sovereign governments?  I'm not into stocks and bonds, have neither the money for it nor the inclination, but I do know that in that cut-throat market one of the immutable laws was that when you made a bad investment (and it’s inevitable that you will), you cut your losses and moved on.  That was until the ECB decided that in the case of the Irish banks and their bondholders, the Irish people should instead cover all losing bets, paying not just the original bonds with the original interest that was supposed to accrue, paying not just in addition the interest at which the ECB was borrowing the money to loan to us to pay those bonds (stay with me!), but paying also an additional three percent.  I ask anyone – please justify this for me. 
The very weakest in our society, those most vulnerable, have been hit hard in the last couple of years to subsidise these billionaire banks – someone please justify that.  Even the IMF, dammit, would like to see those bondholders take a short-back-and-sides; and still the ECB dictate.
All over the world the same thing is happening, banks and major financial institutions being bailed out to the tune of billions by the people; it has to stop, someone, somewhere, has to take a stand.  Well, that’s us, that’s the Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest.  We gave it a run this week and we met the wall – oh, so many walls, not least the wall of silence from our national media.  But we will persist.  As noted above, this Sunday again - our 14th protest - we march in Ballyhea, 10.30am.  We are peaceful, non-party, non-professional when it comes to this sort of stuff, but we will keep going.  This is not about making people take notice of Ballyhea, it’s about making people wake up to what’s been done to them and to their own potential to stop it.
‘Whatever you do, do nothing,’ that was a common theme we met on our journey of the last week, as in ‘sure why would you bother protesting, there’s nothing we can do about it’.  ‘Whatever you do, do SOMETHING!’, that’s our approach.
Charleville, Banogue, Croom, Patrickswell, Limerick, Birdhill, Nenagh, Toomevara, Moneygall, Roscrea, Borris-in-Ossory, Mountrath, Portlaoise, Monasterevin, Kildare, Newbridge, Naas, Dublin, whether you know it or not this week you've all had your first protest march; to ye, to every other town in the country, we say – get up, get marching, every Sunday at the same time down your main drag, 15 minutes or thereabouts.  Get these blood-suckers out of our system and with the quality of the next generation, their confidence, their education, their native intelligence, this country will soar.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.