Partying about Ireland’s Poverty

Added 16 Jan 2014

By Nessa Ní Chasaide, from Eurodad’s member The Debt and Development Coalition Ireland

People in Ireland could have been forgiven for thinking that the largest debt crisis in the history of the Irish state had been solved last week. News headlines blared “market confidence in Ireland”, “bumper sale” of Irish debt, “positive market sentiment” toward Ireland.

These headlines were ‘reporting’ on Ireland’s first entry into the markets since last March, selling 10 year bonds worth € 3.75 Billion at a yield of 3.543%. The Irish Minister for Finance commented ‘that the successful bond sale “illustrates the strength of Ireland’s international reputation“.’

Yet, the people of Ireland have not joined in the celebrations. This is because nothing has changed – that is, for most people.

Winners and Losers

The reality is that some people have gained from Ireland’s crisis. Investors that have bought up Irish assets at knock down prices. Powerful individuals that have been given personal debt write downs at the taxpayer’s expense. The bankers in charge of Ireland’s failed banks - some paid salaries of close to one million euros per year. 

But the cost of the crisis is devastating for the majority of people. Ireland is paying about €14,000 per person in private bank debt. Ireland has lost one in every seven jobs. Twenty-five per cent of people in Ireland suffer multiple forms of poverty. One in 10 people are hungry. 

Why? Because we are funding the debts of six Irish banks that became insolvent. The people of Ireland are paying €64 billion in socialised banking debt. That is 40 per cent of Ireland’s GDP. It’s probably the largest bank bailout per capita since World War II. Thirty-five billion euros or so of this € 64 billion has already been paid – given by the Irish government from public funds to the banks to keep them open and to enable them to pay their debts to bondholders. The balance remains in the Irish Central Bank – the hangover debt of our most odious and illegitimate bank – Anglo Irish Bank. This has yet to be paid and should not be. It should be written off.

The celebratory headlines pay no heed to this more fundamental story. Instead we see a deeply misleading discourse that serves an elite and covers up the real suffering of ordinary people.

So we will hold off on the celebrations.

Instead, we will celebrate the continuing resistance of justice campaign groups in Ireland, like Debt Justice Action, Ballyhea Says No! Campaign and the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope which draw attention to the injustice being done to the majority of people in Ireland.

We call for non-payment of the remaining socialised banking debt and compensation to the people for the amount already given blithely to bondholders who…guess what…still like investing in Ireland.