Sunday, 6 November 2011

Blazing Saddles

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November 6th 2011

There’s a scene in the spoof western Blazing Saddles where a town has gathered to welcome its new sheriff, hoping he’s going to be the man to end their troubles; when the dark-skinned Cleavon Little rides up, however, the all-white crowd quickly transforms into a lynch mob, only for the quick-thinking Cleavon to pull a gun, point it to his own head, and threaten – ‘One move and the niggah gets it!’

A hush descends, a woman’s voice rings out – ‘He means it, he means it!’ The crowd slowly parts, Cleavon edges away to safety. His own gun, held to his own head, threatening his own life, to escape a lynch mob. Classic Mel Brooks, classic comedy.

In the matter of the continuing payment of the failed bank bonds, I can’t help thinking of that scene; you see, I believe we’re pulling a Mel Brooks, I believe we’re holding a gun to our own heads, threatening our own financial lives – ‘One move and the Paddy gets it!’.

The argument we hear trotted out over and over again against burning the bank bondholders is that if we do, the big, bad ECB will pull the rug from under us, leave us destitute and unable to pay our ‘nurses, teachers and guards’, the great emotional triumvirate (no mention of being unable to pay the exorbitant salaries and pensions of our politicians, our judges, our mid-to-higher civil servants, but let’s not split hairs here).

Well, I’ve looked and I’ve looked, and nowhere can I find a single word in the agreement with the famous troika of last November stating that if we don’t pay the bank bonds, the ECB will pull all its cheap funding to the Irish Central Bank (by the way, how much of that €100bn is actually in circulation, being loaned to our hard-pressed businesses, and how much is held in reserve so the banks can pay the €62bn in bonds due over the next three years? Just a thought, that’s all). Nowhere either can I find a single word of actual threat along the same lines uttered by any official, high up or low down, from any of the EU, the EC or the ECB.

Oh they’ve stated time and again that they feel the people of Ireland should pay those failed bank bondseu, though we have no responsibility whatsoever for them; they’ve stated time and again that they really WANT us to pay those bonds, have patted us patronisingly on the head as we’ve done so, and why wouldn't they? The Germans and the French - Merkel and Sarkozy specifically - are now running the European show, all pretence at democracy gone; the reason they want us to keep paying these bonds is twofold, a) to help preserve the euro and b) to fend off a run on the German and French banks.

Nowhere, however, do they make any actual threats, no-one in Europe has ever actually put a gun to our heads. We’re doing it to ourselves. Our government politicians (in this regime and in the last) lead the charge, our compliant national media take up the running. ‘A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse,’ the famous Michael Noonan line, but is it?

The reason there has been no word of threat is that the EU/EC/ECB have an eye to history, and as things now stand, in 20 or 50 years when this whole sorry episode is recalled, no-one will be able to point a finger at Europe and say – ‘Ye blackmailed and threatened a small and helpless country into borrowing tens of billions of euro from yourselves, money they absolutely could not afford, to pay off bank bonds to your banks, bonds for which they had no responsibility.’ Not a word of threat uttered or written, not a word.

I'm not a believer in playing Russian Roulette, I do believe in hard, calculated thinking. There comes a time in any negotiations when a bluff is so obvious it MUST be called – this is such a time. The ECB will NOT pull the rug from under Ireland. Proof? Look at Greece; they cooked their own books to get into the euro, they cooked their books for the first bailout, still hadn't things right by the second bailout, were playing hardball as recently as a few days ago, and still the EU/EC/ECB bends over backwards to ensure they remain in the euro, chopping their debt and throwing all kinds of bailout cash at them.

Do you really think that if, after three years of putting its own people through repeated austerity budgets, this government were to finally stand up and say – ‘Enough, we’re now putting our own people first. Time for these bank bonds to be dealt with as they should have been dealt with from the outset and treated as the commercial failures they are.’  You really think that if our government did that, the ECB would pull the plug, start their own domino effect and thus almost guarantee the early failure of the whole euro project?

We’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to the euro and to Europe. We’ve been straight with them from the start, we’ve met every target set. It’s time we took the gun from our own heads and aimed it where it should be aimed. Blazing Saddles was comedy, this is tragedy, and with another €787m in 15 bonds due before the end of this year alone, €62bn due over the next three years, becoming ever more tragic by the day.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.