We need a citizens' petition on debt deal
Something crucial is missing from the most important negotiations this State has engaged in since the Belfast Agreement. Those negotiations are about the payment of the extortionate promissory notes for the dead financial institutions, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
What’s missing is us. Irish citizens collectively are entirely absent from this critical moment in our history. At stake is our money, our future, our chance of living in a republic with some semblance of self-respect. But we have no voice. We wait to hear our fate from on high and keep our fingers crossed.
And this is our fault. We can blame the Government or the European Central Bank or Angela Merkel – but none of them has forced us to be passive. None of them has prevented the people of Ballyhea from engaging in their wonderfully dignified protest for 101 weeks now. None of them has made us watch the protesters in vague admiration and then turn away. None of them has forced us to be so easily persuaded there is nothing we can do.
And our absence makes an enormous difference. Imagine that you are Dr Merkel or Mario Draghi. Ireland is a tiny little fly on your windscreen. It’s barely in your peripheral vision. Dealing with the promissory notes is a pain in the neck you don’t need. The €31 billion involved is small in the context of the euro crisis, but it’s awkward. There are tricky legal issues involved in scrapping it and doing so might set a bad example.
And, on the other side of the equation, there’s what? The Irish good news story – everything is coming up roses and the happy little Irish people are being charmingly stoical. It’s a simple calculation – is it more hassle to undo the promissory notes than to leave them in place, or to fob off the Irish with a complex and meaningless deal that leaves them lumbered with these private debts? So long as Irish citizens are being good as gold, the answer is entirely obvious.
So what do we do? How do we make ourselves visible? Let’s stop talking about it and do something – before it’s too late. That something is simple, relatively undemanding, dignified and peaceful – a citizens’ petition. I talked about this with a lot of people who came to various gatherings over the past few months and everyone seemed to think it would at least give ordinary citizens a chance to give voice to their absolute opposition to any further payments of the promissory notes.