Journalist Diarmuid O’ Flynn has led a weekly local protest for over a year in Cork against Irish repayments to European banks and bondholder. Here he explains why.
Emerging from cavernous Croke Park at around nine o’clock last Sunday evening, all the All-Ireland hurling semi-final work for the Irish Examiner tucked up and put to bed (that’s ‘tucked’ up!), I was heading to my car when I was hailed by a guy in a car parked along the way. He had been sitting there for a while he told me, waiting for me to emerge, knowing I would have to pass where he was parked because he had noted my car further on with all the ‘Ballyhea Says No To Bondholder Bailout’ stickers.
He was waiting so he could apologise, apologise for something he had said several hours earlier when he was passing our little group as we were getting our picture taken in front of Croke Park, having marched from the Garden of Remembrance.
It wasn’t his true form, he explained, wasn’t his true feeling either; far from disparaging what we were doing he respected us, even supported us in principle. I accepted the apology of course, fully and without reservation.
Truth be told, though I had heard the comments and noted the speaker, it hadn’t bothered me, not in the slightest. Over the last 76 weeks those of us who have been marching every week in protest at the extortion of tens of billions of euro from us by EU/ECB have become used to every kind of criticism, have become inured to every kind of disparaging remark.
This isn’t to say we’ve become pros at this protesting lark – far from it. We’re all so far out of our comfort-zones now that we’re going to need assimilation courses to get back to normality when all this is finally over. Many times over the past 16 months my guts have been in knots as I waited for our next move to unfold – sit-down protests on the main Cork/Limerick road, Run To The Dáil, a week-long bread-and-water fast, the ECB HQ protest in Frankfurt. Last Sunday in Dublin was no exception.
Unable to make the Ballyhea protest because of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final in Croke Park (for those who don’t know, I work for the sport section of the Irish Examiner), I had decided at the last minute to bring a branch of the protest to Dublin, meet at the Garden of Remembrance at 11.30am, the same time they were meeting in Ballyhea, then set off at noon for Croke Park. At that appointed hour, I can tell ye, 11.30am, the Garden of Remembrance was a hell of a lonely place!
A few people did turn up, and I'm so grateful to them – so should be the whole country. We marched, got a lot of bemused looks, a few shouts of support, and yes, some disparaging words. But in spite of it all we march, because we know, now more than ever, that our cause is just.
At the end of June and to much fanfare, our media proclaimed a great deal for Ireland – the Eurozone leaders had met and from that summit was issued a statement which began with these immortal words: ‘We affirm that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns.’ This is an admission that the policy which had been forced on Ireland hadn’t worked, had in fact seen us caught in this ‘vicious circle between banks and sovereigns’.
In the next few weeks, to absolutely no fanfare, that vicious circle continues, a €600,000,000 bond from Anglo on September 3rd, then a billion-euro bond – yes, that’s €1,000,000,000, would fund a lot of gold medals – on October 1st, this one from AIB. We own both those banks, that’s our money, and this scandal is still going on.
That’s why we march, that’s why we risk derision, even from our own friends and neighbours. This is extortion, this is larceny, this is blackmail – it’s a crime being perpetrated by the EU/ECB against one of its smallest member states, at a time when it’s at its most vulnerable.
This Sunday we’ll meet again at the Garden of Remembrance, 11.30am, in solidarity with the march back home in Ballyhea and Charleville, and we’ll march again, at noon, to Croke Park. We wouldn't mind a few extra with us, however, wouldn't mind at all!