20 December 2015
By Tom Collins
Something significant happened in Cork last Sunday.
In the small village of Ballyhea – on the main Cork-Limerick Road – at 10.30am the 250th ‘Ballyhea Says No’ march took place.
Organiser Diarmuid O’Flynn sent us a statement.
Statement from Ballyhea organiser
Last Sunday we marked week 250 of the Ballyhea Says No campaign against the imposition of odious bank-debt on the Irish people. In the days before and after I was asked many times – how have ye kept going? How do ye persevere with a cause that gets so little publicity? My answer, and it’s rhetorical, not a question – having learned what we’ve learned over the last 250 weeks, knowing what we now know, how can we not.
And God, what we’ve learned.
THE ECB COMFORT-BLANKET
The message broadcast is that this is a home-grown problem (our Taoiseach leading that particular chorus), that it all began with the Blanket Bank Guarantee of September 2008.
We know it did not.
- We know it began with the launch of the euro, a currency union which even the European Commission and the ECB admit lacked many of the most crucial structural elements, elements they are now trying to install, pillars such as the Single Resolution Mechanism (for troubled banks), central bank deposit guarantee scheme, full Economic Monetary Union/Banking Union/Fiscal Union.
- We know that the catastrophes that befell the eurozone subsequent to the launch of that flawed euro (five near-bankruptcies, record debt/GDP levels in most other euro area countries) were foreseen, predicted as far back as 1998 by renowned economists such as Paul De Grauwe of the London School of Economics.
- We know this crisis was NOT home-grown, it was an EU-created problem in which yes, we have a share, but ONLY a share.
We read that the ECB were livid with Brian Lenihan and the then Irish government for offering that blanket bank guarantee.
We know this to be nonsense.
- We know that when the then government and the government that succeeded them tried to burn senior unguaranteed unsecured bondholders, they were told in no uncertain terms by the ECB heavyweights – try it and see what happens.
- We know that in 2008 the ECB had no structures in place to deal with bank failure but that, given the massive exposure of German and French big banks to the eurozone periphery, they had a policy – no bank will be allowed fail, no burden-sharing will be allowed. In effect, the ECB’s own policy was also a blanket bank guarantee.
BAILOUT YES, BUT FOR WHO?
It has now become accepted fact that in November 2010 Ireland got a bailout from the Troika.
We know the truth.
- We know Ireland got loans of €67.5bn from the Troika (€22.5bn each from the IMF and two EU funds), loans on which the Troika were making big profits (charging Ireland a few percentage points above what they themselves were borrowing for), loans that didn’t even cover our full bank bailout cost of €69.7bn;
- We know also via a Bloomberg/Bank of International Settlements report that by December 2009, German and French big banks were exposed to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland to the tune of over $1,100bn, that if even the relatively small Irish banks defaulted it could start a process that would end with the fall of the banking system even in Germany and France;
- We know that now, in 2015, those at-risk hundreds of billions have been repatriated and the debt-exposure has instead been transferred from those big German and French banks to the shoulders of the sovereign in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.
- Yes, we know who did the bailing out, we know who got bailed out, and it wasn’t us.
The Irish people are told over and over that Michael Noonan did a fantastic deal for Ireland on the Promissory Note debt, that he saved us tens of billions.
We know different.
- We know that under the old schedule Michael and his government were under enormous pressure to come up with €3.1bn every March, billions the Central Bank of Ireland would then destroy, legacy of the bailout of the failed creditors of two failed banks, Anglo and INBS; we know the destruction of the first €3.1bn sneaked in under the radar in March 2011, the election just over;
- We know the pressure Michael came under in March 2012, the publicity being generated by the proposed destruction of another €3.1bn, the stunt he pulled to get around that, one debt swapped for another;
- We know that what Michael Noonan and this government then did, in February 2013, was betrayal on a scale not seen before in the short history of this state; rather than challenge the ECB on what even he himself admitted on national radio was ‘totally’ illegal debt, to ease the pressure of having to find that €3.1bn every March, and the attendant negative publicity, he borrowed the entire remaining €25bn and created a new schedule of destruction, a schedule that lifted the burden from this government’s shoulders and transferred it to future generations, the final payment due to take place in 2053;
- We know that 100 years after the generation of 1916 sacrificed life and liberty to win freedom and independence, the legacy of this government is decades of debt-slavery to the EU, our freedom and independence surrendered without even an argument, never mind a fight.
TIGHTEN THOSE BELTS
We’re told that we must live within our means.
We know that under this new debt regime, we will be living well BELOW our means for many decades.
- We know we paid around €9bn in national debt interest last year;
- We know also that around €2.5bn of that is bank-debt-related. Given the record low interest rates prevailing at the moment, we know this will only get worse.
When the Central Bank destroyed two tranches of €500m each last year, three more this year, a total of €2.5bn received from the sale of Promissory Note bonds, our national media was silent, no comment.
But we know.
We also know the Central Bank of Ireland is holding a further €25.5bn of Promissory Note bonds to be sold (including the balance of the 2012 bond), the billions thus raised also destroyed but all those billions eventually to be repaid, along with the interest accrued.
WHEN DOES A WRONG BECOME ALRIGHT?
We’re told that nothing can now be done about any of this, that it’s all too late, water under the bridge, and sure aren’t we out of the woods now, unemployment falling, everything hunky-dory and this government proven right.
Again, we know the truth.
- We know how the unemployment numbers are massaged and manipulated, that the true figure is nearer 20% than 10%, that if it wasn’t for the traditional safety valve of emigration, Ireland would now be destitute;
- We know how we’ve gained from the collapse in value of the euro against the British pound the US dollar, two jurisdictions to which we are major exporters;
- We know that interest rates are at a record low and have been for a record period, which has helped enormously to keep our payments down;
- We know how our recovery is exaggerated by the dark dealings in the IFSC and by the tax-avoiding antics of the multi-nationals.
Over the last several years we too have been adversely affected by all that’s gone on, we too have lost loved ones to emigration, to suicide; we want desperately to see a recovery, a real recovery. But we know, what was done to us from 2008 to 2011, the transfer of all that bank debt, was wrong and that wrong has never been righted; we know that much of the pain that has been inflicted on us is directly related to that odious debt. And we know, lift that burden and Ireland will soar.
Knowing all this, how can we stop?
This is a fight that MUST be won, a fight that will be won. Our first challenge is to shine a light on what has happened, to let people know. When that’s done, when YOU all know what we know, we’re certain – you will be with us on this campaign.
Regards and thanks,
The weekly Ballyhea march is not associated with any of the major political parties.
However, in a statement last weekend Leader of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams TD expressed solidarity with ‘Ballyhea Says No’ group
Deputy Adams said;
“I want to commend you for steadfast campaign against the payment of the toxic debt.
“Sinn Féin stands with you, and we share your view that we had no obligation to honour the debts of financial speculators and gamblers, and it is our children who will bear the cost of the government’s failure to effectively negotiate, at EU level, in the best interests of the Irish people.
“Your 250th week of protest is set against a backdrop in which the establishment is trying to ensure the publication of an incomplete and inadequate final report from the Banking Inquiry.
“As you might know, our Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has refused to sign-off such a report.
“The people have a right to know how the banking crisis happened. We have a right to know who was responsible.
“It has been left to campaign groups such as the Ballyhea Says No, to a handful of Oireachtas members like Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty and our MEPs to do the government’s work.
“I want to assure you that Sinn Féin will continue to work together with all parties and Independents of like mind to ensure we remind Europe that a deal on our legacy bank debt is a necessity rather than an aspiration.
“Congratulations on all that you have achieved to date. Your dedication is a shining example of empowered and principled activism.
“You have not stopped looking for answers.
You have stood your ground.
You have refused to shut up.
“Your perseverance is genuinely appreciated by those who work for social & economic justice and equality.
“It is a pity that you do not have a government worthy of your commitment, one that would truly defend your rights as Irish citizens.
“Hopefully, we can change that in the coming weeks and, in doing so, begin the crucial work of building a real republic.
“Tá muintir na hÉireann fior buioch daoibh. Go raibh mile Maith agaibh
Map of Ballyhea