We cannot afford €85bn bailout, unions insist


SPEECHES:THE IRISH Congress of Trade Unions has said the country cannot afford to pay the terms of the proposed €85-billion EU-IMF bailout package.

Addressing the rally against the Government’s planned austerity measures in Dublin city centre on Saturday, the general secretary of congress, David Begg, said that Dáil Éireann must not accede to the terms on offer under the proposed agreement.

He drew parallels between the proposed bailout deal and the Treaty of Versailles after the first World War. “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,” he asked. “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 the 1916 Proclamation, which was read initially from the same spot and which was re-read at Saturday’s rally, 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,” he said.

Irish Timescolumnist Fintan O’Toole, who was the master of ceremonies at the rally, led the crowd in a minute’s chant of “Out, 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,” he said.

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

Ictu 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.

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.