Friday, 20 December 2013


You know those chilling words, “There’s been a crash…”; the sentence is left hanging, a pause as the unfortunate individual to whom the task of breaking the news has fallen allows those words sink in – just a few moments, but those moments are an eternity. 

We had it in our family 13 years ago; “It’s Tiger…”.

We had it again earlier this year – “Jack has collapsed at work…”; again those few moments, again that jolt in the pit of your guts. Your breath catches in your chest, your mind is in turmoil, your brain resisting, fearing the worst but hoping against hope. On both occasions it was the worst, two brothers gone.

As we come to the end of another year in Ballyhea of campaigning against the bank-debt, I have that same feeling. Forget the lies, the half-truths, the spin of this arrogant and ignorant government; there’s been a crash and this country was in the front seat, no safety-belt, is now in a coma and on life-support.

In the last three years, once the true extent of the damage was known there were real opportunities where we could have been saved, put on an early path to full recovery. One by one those opportunities were missed.

It gives me absolutely no satisfaction in saying this, but so much that we in the various Says No campaigns have been saying is now proving correct. 

We said there could have and should have been burden-sharing with the banks and their bondholders; in the past week the IMF’s Ajai Chopra, centrally involved in the Troika agreement, confirmed that we were correct.

We said that Ireland could have and should have driven a much harder bargain than it did, that our negotiators were poor – that truth too has now emerged, confirmed by Ashoka Mody, a former IMF stalwart.

We said Ireland should have used the Fiscal Compact referendum to send a warning message to Europe, that we should have used it as leverage; instead the government couldn't wait to have it passed, another opportunity lost, trump card after trump card just thrown away. The ‘seismic’ deal trumpeted by Kenny/Gilmore/Noonan after the EU leader’s summit of June 2012? In tatters, as the EU now gives us the proverbial finger, repeatedly tells us it’s all too late, no retrospective payments.

During the last three years we’ve agreed with those who have vehemently and consistently argued against the austerity measures being imposed by this government, who have put forward fairer and better means of making cuts and of raising revenue, who have highlighted that the measures taken by this government were crushing the people, crushing the economy.

Well it’s happening, and it’s happening right in front of our eyes. Insulated by their high salaries and expenses the members of this government live in a parallel universe, a world in which they believe that thanks to their superior vision, everything is on the up.

I don’t see it, I don’t feel it; what I have is this knot in the pit of my stomach, this foreboding. Government debt of over €200bn and rising, against stagnant GNP of €130bn; a growing mortgage crisis as more people stagger under a mountain of private debt; more and more cuts to vital public services; more and more regressive indirect taxation; a banking system which despite all the infusion of public billions is still not functional; depression and suicide rates on the increase; families and communities shattered as hundreds of thousands are forced to emigrate – nay, encouraged to emigrate; shamelessly masked unemployment rates; a fictitious Forbes rating, part of the propaganda spin to encourage outside investment.

Which brings me to a question:

The multinationals, through their practice of tax avoidance internationally, contribute hugely to the growing imbalance in the world’s wealth distribution;

The financial sector, through its greed-driven practices legal and illegal, contributed hugely to this current chaos worldwide;

Yet those are the very two sectors this government to which this government is turning for salvation – why? Where we should be trying to break from their crushing grasp this government is snuggling deeper and ever deeper.

Have we learned nothing? Surely now, rather than exposing ourselves further to the cold and merciless vagaries of global corporatism and finance we should be expending all our efforts, all our energy, in insulating ourselves against those very variations, encouraging native industry, native growth, native energy production?

I am still hoping against hope, there is still time to do the right thing. Our Central Bank is sitting on €28bn of Promissory Note debt bonds – those bonds must not be sold to the markets. That money has already been printed, it went to bail out two zombie banks, those bonds aren’t yet in private hands; given that it would be reducing our long-term debt destroying them now would have only a positive effect on Ireland’s ability to borrow money from the markets.

On the remainder of the bank bailout money what we need is unity, a national approach as we fight for Ireland’s interests in Europe. As Enda continues to run cooing to his new European 'partners' Barroso, Rehn, Van Rompuy, Merkel and co., they continute to impose this full crushing bank-debt burden on us, they continue to demand their full pound of flesh.

We need a cross-party all-party delegation of strong-willed strong-minded people (including from the Technical Group but not confined to politicians) to take those people on, a delegatin dedicated to securing bank-debt writeoff for Ireland. We need it now.

In the meantime, here in Ballyhea and in Charleville, in all the other Says No centres, we’ll keep marching every week, we’ll maintain our campaign. Happy Christmas to you all and thanks to anyone who has supported us during the past 147 weeks.

Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Monday, 16 December 2013


On December 15th 2010 entered the Troika programme; today, December 16th 2013, we enter the fourth year of that bail-in. And make no mistake, a bail-in this was, €17.5bn immediately pillaged from our National Pension Reserve Fund and handed to the banks. To ensure we could meet our repayment ‘obligations’ we’ve had ‘extend and pretend’ arrangements in those three years but we haven’t had a cent of debt write-down, rather we’ve had bank-debt piled on sovereign debt so that now, three years on, we are over €60bn deeper in the red.

In March 2011, having run on a platform that there would be burden-sharing with the banks and their bondholders, that there would be openness, fairness and transparency, this government came to power. In every single facet they have betrayed that mandate, lying and spinning as they instead implemented in full the mandate of the market – socialisation of private debt, then austerity measures introduced to pay for that debt, those measures rammed through a now-redundant Dáil.

That new government did face several tough decisions:

  • Challenge the EU/ECB on the bank-debt, on the Promissory Note debt in particular; 
  • Draw up legislation requiring the multinationals to pay a minimum Corporate Tax rate; 
  • Sign up to the Financial Transaction Tax and thus levy the sector that had caused this problem worldwide in the first instance, the finance industry; 
  • Impose a third rate of tax to get a greater contribution from those who can most afford it, the high-earners; 
  • For those in the public sector, including TDs and Ministers, reduce the top rates of public sector salaries, pensions and expenses (this and the previous measure could have been made temporary, until the country is out of the woods).

They ran from every one of those decisions, instead hit over and over again the soft targets. Theirs has been a fear-driven policy of appeasement – appeasement of the EU/ECB, of Germany, of the markets, all at the expense of its own people.

They have made a litany of false claims, the latest being to take credit for job creation. Do they claim ‘credit’ when jobs are lost? Not likely. Those jobs were created by the enterprise of the Irish people, by self-employed people in particular who – God knows – have been hung out to dry by this government. 

They have been creative though – in the way in which they've masked the true unemployment figure with all the various schemes that are now running, in the way in which they have encouraged people to emigrate, in the way they are destroying employment terms & conditions, in the way they claim to have maintained social welfare rates and income-tax rates while simultaneously dipping deeper and deeper into our pockets, in the way they spin and weave their web of lies and half-truths.

We’ve just been presented with a conveniently timed Forbes rating of ‘best country in which to do business’, the same Forbes who gave us the same rating in 2007, the same year Anglo Irish Bank was ranked World’s Best Bank. Economist Constantin Gurdgiev – a far more reliable source – blew that rating to smithereens in a recent blog.

I'm sorry I can’t join in the celebration of this day. 

Our people are leaving by the hundreds of thousands, depression and suicide is increasing by the year as the government implements its ‘slash & burn’ public service policy, imposes its regressive ever-increasing ‘indirect taxation’ policy of stealth levies and charges.

We’re told that the Troika are leaving – they are not. ONLY the IMF will be gone, and ONLY the IMF showed any hint of moderation in their dealings with us – evidence of that surfaced yet again this week in an interview given by former IMF chief in Ireland, Ashaka Mody. The IMF wanted to burn those bondholders and they have now admitted that the Austerity programme was wrong. 

We will be left with the EU/ECB, the same terrible twins who when they came back in December 2010, bullied and blackmailed Ireland into accepting in its entirety all bank debt as a condition for lending us money. These are the people Enda Kenny and this government now call our partners - classic Stockholm Syndrome. They are his partners, he has worked hand-in-glove with them. They are not ours.

I implore the Irish people; don’t buy the lies, the spin. A classic tactic of an abuser is to make the victim feel guilty; we are the victims here, we are the ones who have been forced into accepting a debt that is not ours, a debt that sees us enslaved to Europe for at least the next four decades, €70bn transferred from our coffers to the accounts of the world’s financial elite.

What exactly are we exiting? Nothing. Rather, we are now firmly in the grip of our would-be European masters.

I am confident this country will recover, I have absolute faith in the Irish people. We will bounce back, not because of the policies of this government, but in spite of them.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


There was a great cartoon doing the rounds a few months ago with the caption: THE WORLD OWES $52 trillion - TO WHOM? For the answer, let's start back a couple of centuries. 

FIRST WORLD (USA/UK and their allies) V THE REST

  • 1800: Three times richer 
  • 1970: 35 times richer 
  • 2013: 80 times richer.

How has this happened? Let’s look at another few numbers, and another question:

Third-World Aid - the stream inward:

  • €130bn annual ‘aid’:

Third-World Raid - the flood outward:

  • €900bn Tax avoidance schemes by large corporations (‘Trade Mispricing’); 
  • €600bn Debt-servicing to rich countries; 
  • €500bn Estimated cost of Trade Rules drawn up and enforced by the first-world.

Net flow:
That’s €130bn going in, over €2tn (€2,000,000,000,000) flowing out from poor nations to rich, every year. Now, the picture begins to emerge, why it is the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, all of which leads to this:

You've heard of the ripple effect? That growing wave of debt in nations worldwide is resulting in a veritable tsunami of default. From a study by Ugo Panizza for the IMF in 2008, the following figures emerged.

Number of governments who have defaulted on any debts, including any kind of debt restructuring:

  • 1941-1970: 6 
  • 1971-2004: 129

Ireland is not a Third-World country, nor remotely near it, and those of us who live and work here should be both appreciative and grateful for the bounty that surrounds us. But we are now sucked into this debt-spiral, caught in this debt-web. True, the €70bn we've paid to 'bail out' our banks doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in a global sense, not when put against the numbers above, but in Irish terms it is a sizeable amount, over half our annual GNP - our contribution to their coffers.

Where is the money going? For the answer, let's look at a few very startling facts on global wealth distribution (if you could call it that):

  • 1% own 43%; 
  • 50% own 1%.

On an individual basis, the richest 300 have the same wealth as the poorest 3bn (3,000,000,000 - more than the combined populations of India, China, USA & Brazil).

That's where we are now, in this year of our Lord 2013, that's the world we've made for ourselves, that obscene imbalance between the Haves and Have-Nots, an imbalance accelerating by the day never mind by the year.

This is neither incidental nor accidental; it is planned policy, very deliberate, it is those who are gathering all that wealth to themselves now dictating to those who supposedly make the rules and the laws - our governments.

This Sunday Enda Kenny is going on national TV to give his version of The State Of The Nation. He’ll proclaim that we’re ‘EXITING THE BAILOUT!’, that we’re ‘RECLAIMING OUR SOVEREIGNTY!’ and his cheerleaders in the media will begin the spin.

All the people standing by cheered and cried, “Oh, how splendid are the Emperor's new clothes!”

The truth is that we never got a bailout and that we have surrendered our sovereignty indefinitely. 

Banks and bondholders across the globe got the bailout, we were the ones footing that bill. What we got was a bail-in, not a cent of writeoff, debt on debt. We are, in fact, entering the fourth year of that bail-in and for the next four decades (at least) we are debt-enslaved to Europe. 

We will emerge from this but we will do so in spite of this government, not because of them. In fact had they done what they were elected to do nearly three years ago and stood up to the EU/ECB on behalf of the people we would now be very firmly on the path to recovery.

'We daren’t stand up to the markets – they’re so powerful, so threatening!’ that’s the cry of governments everywhere but of ours especially; ‘We've got to appease them, we have no choice but to impose austerity on you!' 

And so they make good the failed investments of bankers, brokers and financiers, they facilitate the tax avoidance schemes of the various multi-nationals, they refuse to put even a minimal tax on some of the dodgier financial transactions, they strip away employee rights, bending and changing the law to whatever shape is required, and all the while forcing that debt burden onto their own people, cutting and slashing services, piling on regressive stealth taxes.

Appeasing the people isn't a priority of this government nor of the EU/ECB. They have made their choice. 

We too have a choice. Do we accept this, or do we fight back.

At 2pm this Saturday, December 14th, at the Opera House in Cork, a few of us from Ballyhea and Charleville who have been campaigning for nearly three years will join others who have started that fight-back. Stand up, be counted - join us.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Saturday, 7 December 2013


Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, had a saying for which he gained some renown – ‘All politics is local’.

Nelson Mandela was a living reminder that in fact all politics is also global – such was his influence. We can all get caught up in our own local affairs but meanwhile, on another level, that which affects one affects all. Take, for example, the current austerity being imposed on Ireland.

We know of its effects - mass emigration, mass unemployment, rising depression and suicide rates, rising numbers caught in the poverty trap, cuts across the board in all the vital public services, gradual erosion of decades of gains in employment conditions, increased regressive stealth tax, privatisation of public assets – the list is endless. 

But this austerity isn’t confined to Ireland; in truth it’s not even confined to Europe, nor is it anything new. It’s the result of deliberate policy and planning, the effect of which sees more and more of the world’s riches and assets being concentrated in the hands of a few.

A few startling facts on global wealth distribution (if you could call it that), focusing on population and wealth:

Working from the cream to the crème-de-la-crème

  • 10% own 85%
  • 5% own 71%
  • 2% own 51%
  • 1% own 43%

Looking at the other end of the scale

  • 80% own 6%
  • 50% own 1%

On an individual basis

  • The richest 300 have the same wealth as the poorest 3bn (3,000,000,000, that’s more than the combined populations of India, China, USA and Brazil);

  • 200 years ago the countries of the so-called first world (Europe, North America, Australasia, Japan) were ‘only’ three times richer than the rest 
  • At the end of colonialism in the 1960s they were 35 times richer 
  • Today, they are 80 times richer.
The stream inward:
  • Those ‘rich’ countries ‘give’ €130bn in aid annually to our brothers and sisters in these poorer countries;
The flood outward:
  • Large corporations take over €900bn out of those countries annually (tax avoidance schemes called ‘Trade Mispricing’) 
  • Poor countries are paying €600bn in debt-servicing to rich countries (South Africa, ironically, caught up in that) on loans already paid off many times over 
  • Trade Rules drawn up and enforced by the first-world are estimated to cost these poorer countries over €500bn/annum;
Net flow:
  • That’s €130bn going in, over €2tn (€2,000,000,000,000) flowing out from poor nations to rich, every year.
You've heard of the ripple effect? That growing wave of debt in nations worldwide is resulting in a veritable tsunami of default. From a study by Ugo Panizza for the IMF in 2008, the following figures emerged.
Number of governments who have defaulted on any debts, including any kind of debt restructuring:
  • 1941-1970: 6 
  • 1971-2004: 129
Nelson Mandela died this week. He was 95, a long life but a life in which he lived every moment, cherished every minute, a life fulfilled. Most of those years Mandela gave to the fight against enslavement, the fight against injustice.

In his speech from the dock at the conclusion of his trial in 1964, before being sentenced to life in prison with hard labour, these were his concluding words: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

How we could do with a Nelson Mandela in Europe today, a Europe in which a new apartheid is being enforced, the separation of the Haves from the Have-Nots.

Mandela spent 26 years in prison, 18 of those in remote Robben Island. As part of the effort to suppress his cause the apartheid government of South Africa made it illegal to mention either his name or the name of his Party, the ANC. Didn’t work of course as first his own people, then people from around the world, took up the fight on his behalf.

He himself, meanwhile, had never given up the struggle. Even towards the end, after those years of deprivation, in negotiations with the all-white government he was offered his freedom in return for an unequivocal condemnation of the violent means being used at that stage by the ANC; he refused, telling his people “Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”

We are now prisoners of Europe, debt-slaves for the next 40 years at least.

For 145 weeks in Ballyhea we’ve been marching in protest against the imposition of private bank-debt on the Irish people; that’s two years and nine months, a hell of a lot less than the 26 years Mandela spent in jail, a hell of a lot less personally demanding and by God a hell of a lot less dangerous. If he could persevere in the face of all those dangers and hazards, all that loss of liberty, we can surely persevere with our own particular crusade. 

The €69.7bn that we’ve ploughed into our banks is a very immediate contributory factor to this growing wealth imbalance, our enforced little offering to the coffers of the few, the Promissory Notes debt of €31bn the most glaring element of all. Lifting that debt burden, that is our goal.

In our campaign to date we have met our own problems with suppression of the truth, the latest example being the absolute absence of coverage from our national media of the two-evening debate of a Motion seeking bank-debt writeoff, put down by the Technical Group in the Dáil on behalf of the Says No groups from Ballyhea and elsewhere.

We saw first-hand the attitude of our government to any opposition to its policies, to even this simple request, the jeering, sneering frontmen sent out to speak on their behalf; we also saw the disdainful attitude of two prominent RTE journalists to those of us who were gathered outside the Dáil in support of the 36 TDs who were backing our Motion.

In the pursuance of our goal we don't need to quote the great and the good, the likes of Nobel-prize-winning ecomomists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman who have castigated what's been done to Ireland – a just cause is its own validation. Still, a few words of encouragement never went astray and in the following few lines, Nelson Mandela could have been speaking directly to us:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” 

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” 

“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” 

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” 

“I am the captain of my soul.” 

“It always seems impossible until it's done.” 

And my new favourite -
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

I say now to Enda Kenny, to Michael Noonan, to Eamon Gilmore, to Brendan Howlin, the big four who have taken power unto themselves in this country; all your flowery rhetoric does not - and will never - do honour to the memory of Nelson Mandela. He was a man of action; your current actions do his memory a great dishonour.

One of Mandela’s final causes was the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign. The EU/ECB policy of enforcing austerity on the people while enriching the few, to which our government have shown unbending commitment, flies in the face of that campaign. Far from making poverty history, your policies will make poverty universal for all but yourselves and your fellow elite.

We call on you now to stop fighting your own people on behalf of the EU and the ECB in the cause of the bankers, the financiers, the elite few, and start fighting the EU/ECB in the cause of your own people.