Marching for a sustainable future
Opinion:Someone, somewhere in the upper reaches of European officialdom has got their sums badly wrong.
Either that, or they’ve got us confused with some more prosperous and populous state, one that might just have the capacity to shoulder one of the largest public bailouts of a broken and bankrupt private banking system ever experienced.
Or could it be that inside the upper echelons of this new European project, they just don’t care? When set against the preservation of the “integrity” of the European financial system, it does appear that Ireland matters not a damn – patronising speeches to one side.
How else to explain the blithe assumption that underpins our “bailout”: namely, that a country with a workforce of just 1.8 million can be saddled with a private bank debt of €64 billion and still manage to recover its economic sovereignty?
Even the promissory note deal announced yesterday relies on the same flawed logic and the fact remains that 1.8 million people cannot sustain a bank debt of this magnitude, even over an extended period.
It is complete nonsense and represents nothing less than a wholesale fraud on the Irish people.
Remember that this debt originates from a buccaneering and corrupted euro zone banking system that was rigged to deliver the highest rewards to the most reckless senior lenders.
The simple fact is that this enormous private bank debt burden cannot be borne without causing significant, long-term social and economic hardship.
There is already ample evidence of this in communities across the country, in the 360,000 jobs haemorrhaged since 2009 and the families broken by emigration.
That is why the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has organised the series of demonstrations in six locations around the country for tomorrow in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Sligo.
We hope that the widest cross-section of Irish society attends, if only because it is in everyone’s interest – and the interest of their children – to do so.
This is an issue that transcends all others. There is no more critical issue confronting Irish society now. If there were any doubt about this, it was quickly dispelled by the recent report from Eurostat, the EU Commission’s own data collection and analysis agency.
It confirmed that Ireland has already paid more than any other state to “rescue” the banks – more than Germany, the UK, Portugal or Spain.
So far, the banks have cost this country some €41 billion – and this figure does not even include the €20.7 billion looted from the National Pension Reserve Fund to prop up the failed financial institutions.
This is the equivalent of more than a quarter of our annual economic output (GDP).
By contrast, Germany’s €40 billion bill represents just 1.5 per cent of GDP. If theirs was to be a bill of Irish proportions, it would be closer to €700 billion.
To date, the banking collapse that toppled our economy has cost every person in Ireland close to €9,000.
Across Europe, the per capita cost of the banking crisis is a mere €191. It is quite extraordinary to realise that we have already paid almost 50 times more than anyone else.
In a newly published paper on the banking crisis, the Nevin Economic Research Institute confirms that Ireland has already repaid a staggering 42 per cent of the total EU bank debt bill.
Overall, this represents a huge transfer of wealth from one of the smallest economies in Europe.
None of this is to excuse or absolve from blame those responsible for the September 2008 act of madness that was the original bank guarantee.
But it became impossible to unwind or reverse that decision once the then president of the European Central Bank, Jean Claude Trichet, decreed that no bank should fail. Not even Anglo Irish.
No bondholder left behind in this brave new Europe.
In doing so the ECB broke its own rules. But more seriously, it also gave official and retrospective EU sanction to the single worst decision in modern Irish political history. And then they sent us the bill.
That’s why we’ll be marching tomorrow – to secure a sustainable future for the people of this country. Join us.
* David Begg is general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions