One in the eye for the Irish people...

BY VICKY DONNELLY

COMPLAINTS and critiques of the government’s handling of the debt crisis are often met with a dismissive, “Well, we voted for them…” or “People get the governments they deserve.”  First up, of course, not all of us voted for the coalition parties, but even if this was the case, we categorically did not get what we voted for when it comes to the debt issue.  Not even close.  

In the run-up to the last general election, people in Ireland were still reeling from shock at the extent of private banking losses to be borne by the public, leaving us as contenders for the most expensive bank bailout in the world, per capita.  Accompanied by Varadkar’s cries of, “not another cent”, Noonan pledged to renegotiate the “obscene” terms of the bank bailout, while Enda promised he would hold “rogue bankers” to account.  Instead the government’s approach to what is arguably the biggest crisis in the history of the State has been a series of disasters.

Once in government Fine Gael and Labour treated us to a continuation of the victim blaming narratives which claimed that the debt crisis was caused by Irish people who “went mad”.  Instead of “not another cent”, government policy was to give every cent to the banks.  

Political stroke

One of Noonan’s first acts on arriving at the Ministry for Finance was to make the scheduled €3.1bn promissory note payments to Anglo.  And a year later, as pressure mounted to challenge the notes, he paid again, albeit by means of a convoluted political stroke.

Democracy took another beating when Irish voters were threatened with ruination if we dared to reject the Fiscal Treaty, claiming that a ‘no’ vote would deny us access to the new European Stability Mechanism.  In reality we have now paid €1.25 billion into the ESM fund and are still waiting for any sign of a retroactive deal on the billions poured into AIB and Bank of Ireland.

Nor did our government show much respect for the democratic process, or debt justice, in Greece.  When Syriza came to power (with a manifesto on debt arguably less radical than Noonan’s pre-election commitments) our government immediately dismissed their call for a European Debt conference, where a collective response might have been discussed, and instead stood by the Troika as they administered a public flogging to the country for daring to say “No” to debt-driven austerity.

Likewise, on the global stage, Ireland’s vote was again cast in favour of bondholders’ profits over citizens’ rights.  Facing a motion at the United Nations to establish a Committee on Sovereign Debt Restructuring, to establish fair and transparent mechanisms for dealing with countries in debt crisis, 124 countries voted in favour of the motion, and just 11 against.   Shamefully, our government voted with the creditors countries – the US, UK, Germany and Canada – rather than in solidarity with other debt-stricken nations, and when the committee held its first meeting in February last year, Ireland failed to attend.

On every measure outlined in the Right2Change debt policy proposals, this government has acted against our collective interests. 

Far from fighting the ‘obscenity’ of the bailout, this government instead decided to fight David Hall, and later TD Joan Collins, when they went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the promissory notes.  

Rather than take a lead on resolving the mortgage debt issue, and the associated homelessness crisis, this government instead opted to turn homes into investment vehicles, holding a fire sale of NAMA properties and leaving thousands of mortgage holders at the mercy of Vulture Funds, and tenants renting from corporate absentee landlords.

Selling off AIB

As opposed to building a public banking system, to act in the interest of our communities, the government is preparing to sell off AIB, the bank we were forced to rescue and resuscitate, apparently so that it can now be picked up by investors.  Meanwhile, instead of supporting community-based Credit Unions, Noonan acted to limit their development.  Oh yes, and burned €15 million to €20 million of their investments, when he wound up IBRC.

Of all these betrayals, it was that emergency liquidation of IBRC, rushed through the Dáil in the early hours of 7th February, 2013, that stands out as particularly contemptuous.  Giving TDs only 75 minutes to read the Bill, the legally-shaky promissory notes were turned into legally-binding sovereign bonds that will hang over us, and our children, for decades to come.

€25 billion in Anglo bonds remain in the Central Bank awaiting sale.  It should be a demand of every candidate standing, that they fight for an immediate freeze on the sale of these bonds, pending their destruction.  

When the canvassers call be sure to ask how they intend to address the sale of the Anglo bonds, set to cost us the equivalent of over 35 National Children’s Hospitals.  We must ensure that our next government gets an electorate it deserves; one that sees through the spin, resists the lies, and refuses to accept the rule and logic of debt.

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Right2Water/Right2Change are hosting a major national demonstration this Saturday, 20th February 2016 where we will be saying "Another Ireland is Possible". Please come to Parnell Square at 2pm and let's demand change. More information here.

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