Thursday, 11 April 2013


Today we heard a former IMF Chief-of-Mission to Ireland, Ashoka Mody, state on RTE's Morning Ireland what we in Ballyhea have been saying for two years, that the bank bondholders should have been burned. Better late than never, and we believe it's still possible to work our way out of this mess.
Here is what we in Ballyhea and in the various 'Ireland says NO!' campaigns propose as a solution to Ireland's current ills:
  • Destroy the €25bn in sovereign bonds currently held by our Central Bank in lieu of the Promissory Notes, Notes/bonds issued 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;
  • Restore to the Irish Exchequer the €6bn already destroyed on the basis of those Promissory Notes;
  • Swap all of Ireland's remaining interests in the various Irish banks for a) the €20.7bn taken from our National Pension Reserve Fund to bail out those banks and b) write off the remaining €13bn or so borrowed from the various emergency funds to bail out the Irish banks.
The first move above will ease the long-term debt burden, making Ireland more attractive to the damned markets; the other two measures will put money back in the national accounts, money that can be used to invest in infrastructure, to kick-start this ailing economy. Do this and Ireland will soar.

We'll be told of course that it can't be done, that it's not in the remit of the ECB/EU. So what?
For years we were told that bondholders couldn't be burned, until it happened, in Greece.
We were told that was a one-off, couldn't be applied anywhere else, til it happened in Cyprus - so much for that one-off.
In Cyprus you had the initial proposal to burn all depositors including those under €100,000, a proposal agreed to by the Eurozone finance ministers despite a supposed EU-wide guarantee to the contrary and (shamefully) welcomed immediately afterwards by our own government; when the proverbial hit the fan those same Finance Ministers (including our own Michael Noonan) all did a Pontius Pilate, washed their hands of a decision they had approved when they should never even have allowed it be debated; it took an outpouring of popular protest for the proposal to be overturned - another one-off, though this one was stymied by the people.

In the second Cyprus proposal we did see depositors burned, another first (albeit above the €100,000 guarantee threshold) but again, according to the ECB/EU, a 'one-off'.
So, how many 'one-offs' is that? Where, we ask, is Ireland's 'one-off' deal? So many times we've been told we're 'special' - let's see the money. Our government may not be fighting for it; we are, the ordinary people of Ireland.
In Ballyhea, in Charleville, in Tralee, Killarney, Skibereen, Fermoy, Clonmel, Nenagh, Tulla, Galway, Dublin, in mighty Ratoath, in a growing number of villages/town/cities across the country, every week we're marching, every week we're fighting. Don't offer us legal arguments as to why we have to pay this odious debt; when immorality is made legal, good people have a duty not just to refuse to be bound by such law, we have a duty to overturn it.

Follow us: 
TWITTER @ballyhea14; 
Facebook: Ballyhea bondholder bailout protest, also Ireland says NO! to BANK DEBT; 

Thank you,
Diarmuid O'Flynn

Tuesday, 9 April 2013



Dear Sharon,

We are a family of five – a mother, a father and three young children under school-going age.

Both I and my husband put ourselves through college at night, while working during the day.

I have worked consistently since 1992 and my husband has worked consistently since 1991.

My husband was self-employed up until 2009.

My husband has a mortgage and I have a mortgage; both were taken out when we were single people and before marriage.

When my husband’s business started failing, we were down to a single-income family, as opposed to two. Overnight I pretty much knew that we were in trouble.

In 2009, when I knew that we were going to be in trouble, I phoned my mortgage provider and asked if they could look at my file – literally to look at my file on an individual basis and my history with them; they point-blank told me ‘No!’. I told them that we would be in trouble soon if they didn’t – they still refused and said it was not their ‘policy’ to look at files on an individual basis.

Things started slowly initially but gradually the spiralling just got out of control. Simple things, like our little man has at times a terrible time being an undiagnosed asthmatic, or the time the engine broke down in our 12-year-old car – these types of things happened and had to be paid for.

€1,000 for a new engine; €500 for a special inhaler plus drugs and three doctor visits, plus one visit to Accident & Emergency - to someone with nothing, €1,500 is a lot of money. I tried to renegotiate with my husband’s lender. We were told a few things by officials in Bank of Ireland, some of these being:

  • My husband should get his wife (me) to get a loan to pay his debt;
  • One of the representatives from Bank of Ireland told him that she could not understand why either my husband or I was worried about his debt as his loans at the time were ‘performing’ – this made no sense to us as we could not pay the debt fully, only the interest;
  • Another representative from Bank of Ireland told me that I should stop paying my mortgage and pay his instead;
  • Another representative asked my husband to sell his house, and pay the shortfall back to the bank. This would be a figure of approx €100,000 – how can one pay their mortgage/anything when they have no income, not even a social welfare payment as he was self employed?
I could go on with the different things we have been told but I won’t – I have not got the energy for it and I do not want to bring up old wounds. I’m trying to conserve my energy for our relationship and our children, as they are the most important things – not banks, not houses, not money, not bonds. My life, my quality of life, my children’s lives and their happiness, my husband’s life and his happiness – they are my number one priority, and they always will be.

I used to be worried before, I used to be stressed, so stressed I wasn’t able to sleep for days. I was so bad that my doctor put me on anti-depressants but I now see the wood from the trees. This is my life – this is our life; no bank is going to bully-boy me or my family and kill us. Oh no – no way will that happen. I will not let it. The banks are running people out of this country – approximately 1,000 people every week. I will not let them do that to us.

For a short while, only because we had a small amount of savings combined with my salary, I was able to pay something to my husband’s mortgage, pay part to my mortgage (I had to cover the shortfall on my mortgage repayment as the rental market has lowered the prices of rental properties).

It couldn’t go on. I couldn’t keep the house together, the car filled with petrol to get me to work, the kids ok – I just couldn’t keep doing it.

Gradually, my own mortgage fell into arrears. I can’t sell it – the bank won’t accept the offers I have got. Even if I did sell it there would be another shortfall on this mortgage, of approx €180,000.

For own health we are at the stage where we actually want the banks to take it all – just take it all. We are talking about negative equity debt of €280,000 between the two of us. I am on social welfare – how on earth can I pay this back?? I was hoping that the new Insolvency Bill might help us – in short, it doesn’t. Not one iota.

In effect, I have given up. Now, today, I find myself unemployed, the first time in my working life of 20 years where. I am an unproductive member of society and I don’t want to be living a life like this.

When one applies for a mortgage one completes a statement of Income & Expenditure. I did this based upon my lifestyle at the time, as did my husband. Not ever, ever, ever, could we possibly have included a loan of €64,100,000,000,000 into that equation, Ireland’s bank bailout bill, or water charges, or property charges, or children’s allowance reductions, or increased VAT, or increased car-taxes, or increased cost of living, or other ‘tax’ increases or wage reductions. It just wasn’t possible to include those 10 years ago.

It is very easy, nearly too easy, to forget that there are people involved here, people’s lives, their children’s lives; it’s very easy to forget all that with the hard and cold business of bonds and of money and of figures.

But this is our reality.
This is our life.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.

Kind regards,
The Byrne Family


Dear Sharon,

Our story is but a small snapshot of how the decisions of the past and present are affecting real people in our country. I had been self-employed in the education and training sector of the economy until the demand ceased and I ran out of financial road. Once that occurred all semblance of normal everyday life ceased for us as a family. We have had to fire-sale any possession to keep the mortgage paid. We have other loans that we cannot service yet pay minimal sums to date; I have offered settlement figures all to no avail and now the banks are not prepared to allow us any more time and we face judgement orders. The banks have been bailed out by the taxpayer, they have won, but their behaviour is not as Winston Churchill stated - “In Victory, Magnanimity”.

We are trying to self-start again on a cost-neutral basis from where we stand at present. To say the least, this is very stressful and laced with anxiety. In 35 years of employment we have never run out of work and never failed to pay either our business loans or any other loans, yet now our credit-rating is shot to pieces with no chance of loan funding in the foreseeable future.

We have invested whatever financial resources we have had into my wife up-skilling over the past 18 months to achieve a qualification in Healthcare. She has thus far managed to gain 1.5 hours per week at a rate of €10 per hour. We are now facing default on our mortgage, we do not have funds to cover any emergencies.

When our washing-machine packed up in the last fortnight, only then did I know what hardship meant – this is now my interpretation: “Is hardship when the washing-machine or similar machine breaks down and your wife is so stressed and in tears because you’ve run out of financial road to deal with such things? No! That’s not hardship; hardship is witnessing it as a breadwinning husband and not being in a position to do anything about it. It assaults the very core of your being, the pit of your stomach; your chest aches all the time. That’s hardship”.

We are now socially and economically isolated. We just subsist from week to week, we keep our negative thoughts in check as best we can, but our time of reckoning is fast approaching; we will not be able to survive unless a glimmer of hope is presented. Our alternative is to emigrate again or lose everything else we possess, namely, our home.

I possess many skill-sets as a tradesperson with third-level qualifications yet since 2011 have had no success in obtaining even part-time employment, despite over 120 applications. We look at the economic devastation taking place in our local town, the shops closing every week; our politicians saying that things are getting less worse does not mean that they are improving. I can sometimes visualize tumbleweed blowing down the main street.

What’s occurring in our country is unprecedented, it is like a low creeping fog that envelops all, consumes all, a silent evil. It cannot easily be seen yet all citizens know that it is there.

I have no sense of hope for the future in this country. We have had terribly weak ‘leadership’ from our politicians – in fact leadership it most certainly is not, appeasement is the correct term and it has echoes of Chamberlain’s efforts at appeasing Hitler in the late 1930s.

However having reached my 50th year I will conclude on a positive note and I again pay homage to Winston Churchill and the great leadership he showed the world when he said “In Defeat, Defiance”.

Kind Regards,


Dear Ms. Bowles,
I hope this finds you well.

I don’t know where to start so I’m just going to start from this particular moment in time; tonight, in the silence of my home, I will try to convey to you the feeling of anguish which is now a permanent feeling in my chest.

I sit here at my kitchen table, my three children asleep in bed. My husband has wearily climbed the stairs but I know he is not asleep. I hear him turning and know that tonight, like every night for the last number of years, he will face another night of anguish, despair and very little rest.

I have often lain awake, pretending to be asleep, to watch him stand in the dark looking out our bedroom window. I know why he is there. I know that even though we are a team and discuss how to keep our heads above water, he wakes at night desperate to try and figure out a way to protect our family from the financial strain we are starting to find ourselves in. Seeing the silhouette of this strong man against the night sky, burdened under this worry and torment, is crushing. I wait until he returns to bed, turn over and place my arm around him. This at least is some comfort to us both.

Ms. Bowles, my husband is self employed. He has always worked very hard. We have always paid our way, never once asking for help. We never wanted to be millionaires. Our goal was always simple; to provide for our kids, rear them to respect themselves and others. We have been very lucky as they are three very good, kind and fair-minded children, well-liked and respected by their peers and adults alike.

When our kids were still babies, we built our own modest three-bedroom house in the village where I was born and reared. We have never lived beyond our means – we never wanted to! Spending time with our kids, spending as much time as we could outdoors, playing traditional music and being together, was enough. We lived very simple but happy lives, happy in the knowledge that our kids loved their home, loved and had the love and support of their extended family that lived close by. They loved their country and had the ease that comes with a sense of place. They thrived in the security of being loved and of us being a unit. However, this is being destroyed.

My children are not stupid. They are fully aware of the strain that we are now finding ourselves in. They see that their father is travelling further and further in search of work, they see us staying up until the late hours pricing jobs, more often than not to no avail. They know that for the self-employed, if you don’t work you don’t eat. We are currently just making the mortgage. They know that we will not be able to pay the home-tax introduced or the water-charges that are currently being discussed. You can feel the unspoken fear that their Dad may possibly have to emigrate to find work, of the possibility of us losing our home and having to leave everything and everyone we know and love behind. The family unit in which they always felt so safe is being ripped apart by emigration. The heartbreak they felt as they had to say goodbye to their cousins, as their aunt and uncle had no choice but to leave for America, never to return. This totals three uncles and kids gone. Their three older cousins – all educated – are gone, with another to go shortly. They live with the fear that they are next.

The austerity measures that have been introduced are not only crippling and stagnating us financially, it is the sinister way that without permission, it has invaded our home and is destroying our very souls. We have always been a productive and positive family. We have always taught our kids to do the right thing. It is becoming difficult to justify to the children today why it is important to do the right thing. All they have seen is that those who have done the right thing are being forced into debt, while those who driven by greed and power have walked away, free to continue with the same policies of ‘too big to fail’. They are seeing that people are no longer a priority to those who were trusted to govern.

Ms. Bowles, I could delve a lot deeper into the profound effect that austerity is having on my family and families like ours all over Ireland and Europe. Sometimes when looking at a massive task, the human consequences of decisions are far removed. I will finish this letter and after I climb the stairs to bed and close my eyes, I will once again agonise over what the future holds for my children.

Yours sincerely,



Dear Ms. Bowles,

August 2012 was my first head-on experience with the cuts in funding to the health service; cuts that were made in order to furnish the bank-debt had filtered through to the front-line directly affecting people like me.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999 but it was not until 2002 that the most disabling symptom of my disease appeared - I had developed chronic nerve-pain. I was referred to the pain clinic and we began, together, a journey to find a way to control the pain while avoiding the side effects of most conventional forms of pain control such as addiction, drowsiness and an altered state of mind.

I was and always have been employed; to stay this way it was necessary to avoid opioids completely.

My pain consultant is very dedicated and tried to find a way to give me as much relief as possible. In 2008 I took part in a trial where lignocane (a local anesthetic) was infused to my spinal fluid through an intravenous drip; not only was this treatment inexpensive (€34 per infusion), within 24 hours I was completely pain-free and for the first time in six years I no longer required painkillers. It was and is life-changing. For the following four years I received lignocane infusions every six weeks and lived an almost normal productive life.

In August 2012 the Pain Clinic I attend lost three-quarters of its resources as a direct result of funding cuts. I was due to receive a lignocane infusion the same week, an appointment that was cancelled. I was to wait three months and endure unending chronic nerve pain. I was reduced to my bed for a period of eight weeks, no longer a productive member of society, wife or mother. I received my infusion in December but due to the delay, it was not as effective and the relief was only partial and short-lived. There are no words to adequately explain what chronic pain feels like. What I can say is the volume of medication required to have a short break reduced me to a state akin to a living death; I was either sleeping or taking more pills to induce sleep.

I am one of many thousands of people in Ireland whose life has been turned upside-down as a direct result of cuts to vital health services. The decision to make such drastic cuts to the resources at the Pain Clinic have proven to be uneconomical as I now engage with extra services such as out-of-hours GP visits (on average eight home visits per month at a cost to the health service of €100/visit). The lignocaine infusion costs €34 and provides total pain relief for an average of four weeks. Then there are all the extra medications I use to treat the pain or the side effects caused by the pain meds…

It is a battle I am having to fight unnecessarily to pay the debts of banks; why?



Dear Sharon,

I decided to write to you as if I know you, as a Woman, a Daughter, a Sister, an Aunt, a Mother and Grandmother – I am all of the above. I also used to be a wife but the financial crisis took its toll on my marriage too.

My name is Claire and I will be 54 on the 30th March this year. I got married in 1979 and have three grown children, two boys and a girl, aged 34, 32, and 30; I also have three grandchildren, two girls aged seven and eight and a baby boy one month old. My life should be blissfully happy as all these beautiful people are healthy, but in reality my life is like Groundhog Day.

I lived through the recession in the 80’s and nearly lost our first home but it didn’t come to that. Worked hard all my life as did my husband. Sent our children to good schools and to college, moved up the property ladder, gained equity, etc etc.

We had our own business in the 90s. My husband is an electrician, he had 35 men working for him at one stage, we trained 15 apprentices. In 1999 we bought a site and he built the house with direct labour; it was our dream home and it is beautiful.

In 2004 the business got into difficulty but our house was growing in equity all the time – the property bubble. We borrowed on the equity of same to try bolster the business and help one son get a house but in 2005 the company went into liquidation. We had an overdraft for the business and we had signed a personal guarantee; the bank was ringing me four times a week to pay this. My husband did manage to get a PAYE job in October of the same year but we were at our wits' end, so borrowed the €70,000 we owed the bank on the strength of the equity again.

My husband had had a heart attack in 2003 and thank God he survived, but everything that was going on was adding to the strain on our lives; I was the one left taking all the phone calls and doing the finances, which I didn’t mind as I was good at it – as I thought.

The bank gave us the loan but reduced the term of the mortgage to 13 years because of health insurance on my husband, having first agreed an 18-year period. This put the repayments to over €3,000 a month. I knew this was going to destroy us. I told the bank we couldn’t afford it but they said we could; my back was against the wall, I felt I had no choice and we would have to sell our home.

My husband lost the plot and he went downhill from then on. The job became unbearable for him and he left it in June of 2006. He became totally withdrawn, we lived in silence for almost two years. It was awful.

He was entitled to nothing from the state, I was working and trying to pay €500 to the mortgage; as you can imagine the arrears were building up rapidly. Eventually, in 2007, I convinced him to put the house up for sale – we didn’t get one offer, the bubble was bursting.

Long story short, in May 2009 we split up after 33 years and he left the country. I didn’t know how I was going to carry on. Financially, emotionally, every other which way, I didn’t know how to live in the world I was now faced with.

I contemplated suicide on more than one occasion, and as a mother that’s a hard thing to admit as it would have had a huge impact on my children and on my elderly parents. They too are victims of the financial crash as they had been living with me in the big new house; we had built on a granny-flat for them and they had contributed to same and sold their own home.

I didn’t go through with the thoughts of ending it all but I didn’t know how to move on. I rented out the house for a while and tried to pay as much as I could. I started learning about the creation of money and loans and fractional reserve banking; I started learning about the law and the legal system; I stopped paying completely in 2010 as no matter what I was giving it was never going to be enough.

I realised also, the bank was going to try repossess my home; it was purely an asset-grab, they needed to balance their books, at my expense. I decided this was not going to happen.

For four years I have been studying and researching. I am now a lay-litigant and in the court system as a defendant for my home and I am doing well; I am asking questions that the bank don’t want to answer, I am asking for the deponents to be brought for cross-examination which they do not want to do either.

The banks are all insolvent and have been for quite some time now. They broke all their own liquidity laws and are guilty of reckless trading. I know they securitised all the loans and made huge profits on same, I know they then acted as agents to collect the payments and got a fee for this. I know that the IFSC in Dublin was the Wild West of banking, I know the Dept. of Finance was warned of the property bubble in 2004 and ignored same on two different occasions. I have been lucky to have been introduced to amazing people who are helping me with the court case; this has become almost a crusade and I am not giving up.

So as you can see, Groundhog day was not a joke as every day is the same, up against a wall of silence and threats, all because of MONEY. Something is radically wrong with this world and I intend to change it as I am not willing to let another generation be destroyed by BANKERS who are only interested in profit.

I actually have palpations in my heart now Sharon so I will stop; thank you for reading this.

Yours sincerely.



23rd March, 2013
Dear Ms. Bowles,

As a mother, I am writing this letter to you to let you know the affect emigration has had on me and on thousands of mothers like me.

In 2012, 75,000 people left the country and my eldest daughter was one of them. Katie left in September 2012 with a third-level qualification. Her leaving was devastating and left a huge void not only in our lives but in the lives of her siblings, her grandparents and her friends. As we drove to the airport she became very upset at the prospect of maybe not seeing her elderly grandparents again.

I live in a small fishing village on the south-west coast of Ireland. I cannot describe to you the affects emigration is having. A whole generation have gone, the life and soul of our community, and our community is just one. Thousands have emigrated from every village, town and city in Ireland. Our niece has already gone to England, our nephew too gone to Australia since June. Máiréid my second-eldest daughter who graduated last October, is emigrating to Australia in July. Although excited at the prospect of seeing her sister, she is already lonesome and dreading leaving her two younger brothers.

Emigration has always been a significant part of Ireland’s history but what makes this exodus different is that our country is bankrupt and will be for generations to come, leaving those who have left and those who have been left behind with no hope. When all hope is gone all you are left with is despair.

I will finish my letter to you by just telling you of my last thoughts as I lay in bed at night. Before I close my eyes Katie is in my thoughts but so too is Máiréid and her imminent departure. I think of our two sons and a wave of sadness envelopes me. I know someday chances are their Dad and I will be left sitting in our family home, a home that was full of life and happiness, staring into a computer while we Skype the most important people in our lives, our children.

Yours sincerely,
Co. Kerry.

Monday, 1 April 2013


Last Wednesday, March 27th, at the EU Parliament building in Brussels, a group of us (Fiona & Rob Fitzpatrick, Frances & Pat O’Brien, Diarmuid O’Flynn, Phil Ryan and Cathleen Quealey) from the ‘Ballyhea & Charleville says NO! to bank debt’ campaign met with Sharon Bowles MEP, Chair of ECON. 

The meeting had been facilitated through the good offices of Brian Crowley MEP, who unfortunately could not make the meeting himself. In attendance were two of our Irish MEPs, Marian Harkin and Pat Gallagher, and immediately subsequent to the meeting we met by arrangement with three other of our MEPs, Nessa Childers, Phil Prendergast and Seán Kelly.

On Thursday we returned to Dublin and by arrangement with Luke Ming Flanagan TD, who has marched with us in Ballyhea and Charleville on a couple of occasions, met at the Dáil with several members of the Technical Group, along with Aonghus Ó Snodaigh TD (Sinn Féin) and Michael McGrath (Fianna Fáil).

This is a summary of events.


To open proceedings a prepared statement addressing Sharon Bowles was read, in which we outlined who we are in the Ballyhea & Charleville group, why we’re campaigning, how the campaign has grown, what we now want to see done – essentially, we repudiate the bank debt that has been imposed on the Irish people.

As Ireland suffers this debt piled on debt there is a human face to the austerity measures being forced on the people through the measures agreed between the Troika and a beaten government. To illustrate this suffering we presented Sharon with a series of six letters from people not just in Ballyhea but from farther afield, people who have been deeply affected by what has happened over the last terrible decade. 

One letter spoke of the pain of emigration, now at its highest in Ireland since the black years of the Great Hunger of the 1840s, families again being torn apart. There was a letter that spoke of the strain on relationships, of a marriage break-up after 33 years; a letter that told of the heartbreak of losing a family home; a letter that spoke of a man’s feeling of helplessness as a bread-winner in a climate of no jobs; a letter outlining a wife’s concern for a strong husband now being drained of self-esteem; perhaps most telling of all in the way austerity has been delivered in Ireland, a letter on the breakdown of the health services and its devastating effect on one sorely and seriously affected.

Six letters from ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges; they could have been sixty, six hundred, six hundred thousand, not just from our little campaign group but from right across Ireland, from right across Europe. As Fiona read there wasn’t another sound, everyone riveted on the words. We became as one; there was no MEP, there was no ECON Chair, there were only people, all feeling and sharing this pain.

We had no idea what to expect from this meeting, what to expect from Sharon Bowles. We had looked her up on Wikipedia and other information sources, knew she is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party in the UK, knew also that in 2012 she had been on the short-list for Governor of the Bank of England, knew she had been a Patent Attorney in a previous life but was now an MEP and the Chair of ECON, the EU Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs to which the ECB is accountable. As such then Sharon is a powerful dual-role figure, a European parliamentarian but also in direct contact with the ECB. 

And here we were, a small group from a small parish, looking for her assistance as we challenge that same ECB on what they’ve done to Ireland.

We found neither politician nor academic, we found a person, someone with whom we could instantly identify and one who could identify with us. She spoke frankly and openly, neither vague political-speak nor confusing economic jargon. Her first words shook us, words to the effect that she had been surprised at how easily the previous Irish government had given in to the ECB, how she was then equally surprised when the current Irish government did the same. She also said, quite evenly but also quite categorically, that she felt Ireland had got a poor deal from Europe.

All these weeks, all these years, we’ve been saying exactly the same thing. We are unwavering in that belief and we have growing support, but the apologists are still out there – in our media and in our general population – for the bank bailout in Ireland, the imposition of nearly €70bn of private debt on public shoulders and all the pain that it has brought. We’ve had that conviction affirmed many times from many different powerful and expert sources but to hear it said now so bluntly by one so obviously expert and so close to the coal-face, that gave us a massive lift.

An initial half-hour meeting turned into an hour, then an hour-and-a-half. What we had confirmed is this: the ECB are the ones running the show in Europe, not the EU, not the EC.

Power rests with the bankers, with the financiers, with the money-machine, and when the ECB is doing its calculations, people simply do not come into the equation. Pain, suffering, poverty, deprivation, these are not factors in ECB HQ in Frankfurt; banks, bonds, pensions, interest rates, inflation, keeping the markets sweet and the euro strong, those are their guiding influences.

We spoke to our five MEPs named above and the impression gained from all five was that they are fine and decent people but they feel helpless, powerless to do anything to stop the ECB from doing whatever it feels like doing; and so they throw themselves into other activities, into other committees whose work also impacts on Ireland. But the bank debt imposed on the people? Nothing. In fact probably the most impassioned speech on behalf of the Irish people against what has been imposed on us and on the other so-called peripheral peoples of Europe has been made not by one of our own but by another British MEP, one Nigel Farage, though Paul Murphy (whom we didn’t meet) has done his best.

On what was recently initially agreed on the Cyprus crisis, even Sharon Bowles herself seemed shaken, physically shaken. Often in our own campaign we have had the argument thrown at us that the ECB can’t do anything about our so-called ‘legacy debt’, that they are bound by rule. Even at this meeting in Brussels we met it from our MEPs. When we spoke of repudiating the bank element of Ireland’s ever-increasing debt, of demanding debt write-down, they threw their hands in the air (figuratively speaking of course) and said ‘No, can’t be done, ECB’s own rules prevents it.’ Every time, we respond to that argument by pointing out that where the ECB is concerned, rule applies only as they themselves decide, and so they twist and bend their own rules into whatever shape they see fit, to suit whatever new course they are now taking.

Now, Sharon Bowles was confirming our argument. “What else will be blown apart when convenient?” she herself asked last week, as the Cyprus crisis took hold and the proposal to burn even the smallest depositors was accepted at a meeting of the EZ finance ministers chaired by our own Michael Noonan.

People-power subsequently put a stop to that particular element of that proposal.

We are battling to expose in Europe (and at home) the injustice of what has been done to Ireland; in Sharon Bowles we found what we hope is a kindred spirit. By what logic can the gambling losses of reckless, profiteering, private international banks be imposed on a sovereign people? That is a one of a number of questions we would like to put directly to the all-powerful ECB and to facilitate that, Sharon Bowles has agreed to work towards setting up a meeting. Perhaps, even, she may accompany us – we would certainly appreciate her expertise.

As noted, we met Marian Harkin and Pat Gallagher at the Bowles meeting, then afterwards we met Nessa Childers, Phil Prendergast and Seán Kelly in the Mickey Mouse café in the EU building. The acoustics and traffic in the café made group conversation impossible but the impressions gained from the various conversations were that a) despite the fact that the Labour Party are part of the coalition government at home, Nessa Childers and Phil Prendergast are very much in tune with what we’re tying to do, and b) Seán Kelly is a very strong representative of his own party, Fine Gael, defended to the hilt everything that Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan have done since taking over the reins of power. 

I had a fairly robust debate with Seán (to put it mildly!) but no harm there, one of us as tough-skinned as the other and Seán can give and take with the best. Finally, however, he did relent, if only a little. When it was suggested to him that as a man who had proven his own worth as a tough and skilled negotiator time and again during his GAA days with Kerry, Munster and as President of the GAA itself, he himself would surely have got a better deal for Ireland, he smiled, agreed. He also promised to work towards getting us a meeting with Michael Noonan to enable us discuss our grievances directly with our Minister for Finance.

Through Luke Ming Flanagan TD we met many of the Dáil Technical Group, as they’re known, a collection of independent-minded TDs from right across the political spectrum who have gotten together simply for the convenience of being allowed speaking-time in the Dáil chamber – tells us a lot all on its own about the setup of that system. Also in attendance were Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Sinn Féin) and Michael McGrath TD (Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson).

I don’t have a complete list of all those who attended so won’t even attempt to number them here. Shane Ross was not there, which was disappointing, we’d like to have engaged with someone we see as being an ally; neither were Joe Higgins nor Clare Daly, but it was still a sizeable representation of the group, for which we’re grateful.

As with our representatives in Europe what we found was a feeling of helplessness, of powerlessness, not just in the face of the ECB but in the face of our own media which in general – as we’re only too aware ourselves – promote almost undiluted the spin of the government. Helpless, we were thinking, powerless? And each of them with thousands of supporters behind them, while we have a few hundred in Ballyhea?

They’ve met the Troika, as a group, have made their case for Ireland but were met with the rebuttal – ‘Where are the protests? Where is your support for what you're saying? The people are accepting of what their government is doing.’

Aengus Ó Snodaigh explained that Sinn Féin are working as hard as they can for bank debt repudiation. I'm afraid I gave Michael McGrath a bit of a hard time, though not to the same extent as with Seán Kelly in Brussels, with whom I was more or less one-on-one. The recent Promissory Notes/Sovereign Bonds conversion is something I see as an absolute sell-out of the Irish people, and how Fianna Fáil could have supported that is beyond me. Even they themselves now seem to accept that they are the political party most responsible for getting us into this mess; it’s time, Michael was told, for Fianna Fáil to start acting as a real opposition party and give up on the grand gestures.

We went to Brussels and to the Dáil last week and with our letters, with our presence, we hoped to put a human face on what’s happening in Ireland, the personal devastation being caused by the imposition of this bank debt, the subsequent austerity policies; hopefully we managed that. Yes, we were facing difficult times anyway but the €21bn taken from the Pension Reserve Fund, how might that be invested now, what jobs created? How much interest is being lost on those billions? The interest being paid to the ECB on the bank debt borrowings, how might those hundreds of millions be spent? The Promissory Notes, how much easier to get back to the vaunted markets if we had done what we should have done with those, and simply burned them? How much of this pain and suffering, how much of this human misery, could be avoided?

The odd thing though, in Brussels and in the Dáil we also found a human face, discovered that our politicians (those we met, at least) are also good and decent people, feel as helpless as most. We disagree with them, however, disagree strongly; we are not helpless, neither the people nor our politicians.

  The ECB has the whip-hand now; we must take it from them. The power to do this rests with us, the people, and through us it rests with our representatives, our politicians. We must further empower those politicians. How?  

  1. We take to the streets, as we do in Ballyhea every week, and march, now under the ‘Ireland says NO! to bank debt’ banner; 
  2. We contact our local and European representatives and make our feelings known;  
  3. We contact our media, local and national, and do likewise; 
  4. We get active locally, leafleting, educating, recruiting;
  5. We show that we care.

If after all that our politicians still aren’t working on our behalf, if they’re not showing the kind of courage we’re looking for in facing down those who would debt-enslave us, then we replace them.

It can be done. From those couple of days last week our small group is now working very positively towards a) a meeting with the ECB top brass, b) a meeting with Minister Noonan, c) a meeting with the Troika; we are also in the process of setting up a meeting for our opposition parties with the ECON committee in Brussels and we have asked each of the Technical Group and opposition party TDs to support the ‘Ireland says NO! to bank debt’ campaign. 

Let no-one tell you we’re voiceless or helpless or powerless. We have the voice, we have the power, we must simply choose to use it.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.