On Wednesday I left Shannon for New York for a few weeks. I left with mixed emotions and even now, a full day to think about it, I can't get my head around what's happening to us.
After the introduction of the euro at the turn of the last century, countries such as Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, which heretofore had had their own vulnerable currencies and thus had paid a premium to borrow in the international money markets, suddenly found themselves with access to hundreds of billions of cheap money. They could borrow at the same rate as Germany and France, and they went to town.
In all those countries named above it was their governments went wild, borrowed and spent with reckless abandon; in Ireland it was our banks. Over €100bn they borrowed, billions which then went to fuel the property bubble which, when it burst, engulfed the entire economy, a massive inferno.
Faced with loans they now couldn't pay, one by one the major Irish banks foundered. In the normal course of commerce those who had given those loans to those Irish banks, those we have now come to know as the bank bondholders, would have taken a hit - in fact they expected to take a hit.
But here is where my confusion begins. For over three years now, and counting, those of us who live and work in Ireland have been bailing out those bank bondholders. Over €70bn is the bank bonds debt total, money we don't have so will have to borrow at high interest, so that when the final bill is settled we won't be seeing any change from €100bn.
This is not our debt, was never our debt, but we're told that if we don't pay it the ECB - the European Central Bank - will pull the 100bn loan it's providing to our Central Banks to enable it to keep our banks solvent. Solvent for what - to pay off those bonds? Because even as they gouge their existing mortgage-holders for every cent they can, they certainly aren't loaning to business or to house-buyers. Take on a debt that isn't yours of €100bn, to enable you to borrow €100bn to pay off that same debt - this makes sense?
I'm not a jingoistic nationalist, I accept fully that I am who and what I am only by circumstance of birth. But it was a happy circumstance; I've always been proud of Ireland, always been proud of Irishness and what it means worldwide - humour, wit, intelligence, honour, strength, courage.
Why, then, are we allowing this to happen? Why is our political leadership, the successors of Collins and Connolly, so weak as to allow themselves be bullied by the ECB, by Germany and France? How are the rest of our politicians so lacking in their own principles and convictions as to allow themselves be whipped like curs into submission by the party leadership, not even a whimper of defiance?
Biggest puzzle of all, however, how are we, the people, allowing all of this to take place? Since our War of Independence every generation has handed on a better country to the next generation - what will we say to our kids?
Last Sunday in Ballyhea we had our 42nd consecutive weekly protest against this perversion of all that is fair, of all that is just. We've been joined by a few from our neighbouring parishes, but only a few. Where is the Irish Voice?
Diarmuid O’Flynn is a journalist with the Cork Examiner
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