Ictu questions bailout terms


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said that the country cannot afford to pay the terms of the proposed €85 billion EU/IMF bailout package.

Addressing the large-scale rally against the Government’s planed austerity measures in Dublin today, the general secretary of Congress David Begg said that Dáil must not accede to the terms on offer under the proposed agreement – with which he drew parallels to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

“Does anybody in this country or in Dáil Éireann think that we can as a people afford to pay 6.7 per cent on money that we did not ask for in the first place and that is being forced upon us to bail out the banking system in Europe which is in hock to this country for €509 billion”.

“We can’t pay that money and we won’t pay that money”.

Speaking in front of the GPO in O’Connell Street, Mr Begg said that the 1916 proclamation, which was read initially from the same spot, had spoken of help “from our gallant allies in Europe”.

“Well our gallant allies in Europe have arrived 95 years too late and uninvited and instead of guns to help the revolution they have brought economic weapons of mass destruction”

Mr Begg said that gardaí had officially estimated the attendance at today’s march and rally at more than 100,000. However the Garda Press Office put the figure at up to 50,000.

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole, who was the master of ceremonies at the rally, led the crowd in a minute’s chant of “Out” to the Government.

He said that the Government’s economic recovery plan was not about saving Ireland but rather represented “a plan to save the Irish elite”.

Mr O’Toole said that a Government with no mandate would do a deal with people nobody had ever elected

“We know what this deal is. On the one side we will borrow yet more billions to bail out the bankers and the other side of this deal is that this society is supposed to declare war on the poor and vulnerable”.

He said that it would involve a savage assault on the minimum wage, cuts in welfare which would further impoverish those who were already struggling to survive as well as attacks on basic services.

Mr O’Toole said that while this was happening “the elite which caused this catastrophe will protect its own interest”.

“We will still have people driving around in black cars on over €200,000 per year claiming to be the representatives of this democracy”.

“Under the Government’s four-year plan a single person earning €40,000 per year will pay exactly the same amount of extra tax as someone earning €300,000 per year”.

He said that working people in Ireland did not mind making sacrifices. He said that they made sacrifices every day for their children, for their families and for their communities. However he said that they did not want to be the sacrifice

“We are here today to say that we are not economic units whose only function is to behave ourselves and to pay off the gambling debts of our masters, we are not children who must take our medicine or be sent to bed without our supper, we are not subjects, we are citizens and we want our republic back”.

Congress President Jack O’Connor said the aim of the rally was “to object to the arrogance of our Government which no longer retains anything like a majority support of the people”.

“We are here to object to their insistence of going ahead without a mandate to draw up a plan and sign an agreement in our name which will decide the future of one or two generations of our people in flagrant contempt of the will of the people”.

He said that the European Stability Fund was being marketed as a rescue mission for the beleaguered countries on the periphery of Europe. However he said it was a rescue mission in the same way that the invasion of Iraq had been about finding weapons of mass destruction.

Mr O’Connor said that it was about rescuing people at the top of the banks in France and Germany.

He said that the Government intended to impose a traditional old-fashioned right-wing plan that was devoid of the slightest modicum of imagination.

He said that the measures which the poor would have to accept were described in scalpel-like precision but the measures others would have to take were hardly mentioned at all.

Mr O’Connor said that the Government’s plan was neither credible nor fair.

“It seems that the profligacy of the rich can only be redeemed by the crucifixion of the poor”.

Mr O’Connor said that the Government was trying to blame the European Commission for the decision to cut the minimum wage.

However said that the Government had displayed remarkable foresight given that a year and a half ago the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan had spoken about adopting such a measure in an address to the Magill Summer School.

“We are here to insist that all together we can overcome the problems created by the wealthy elite in this country”.

“We are here to insist on the right to oppose this plan and by standing together we shall oppose it and we shall overcome”.