There have been over 170 arrests for “aggressive begging” in the eight weeks since new legislation was introduced in February yet no bankers have been charged with any offence since the implosion of our financial system over two years ago.
It’s all so depressingly Irish – we’re too incompetent to do anything about the gangsters who have ruined the country and mired us in €100 billion of banking debt but we’ll bravely go after the homeless guy who sits near an ATM and asks passersby for a couple of quid.
According to the new bill, an aggressive begger is one who “harrassess, intimidates, assaults or threatens any other person or persons”. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, the legislation only applies to destitute people who harrassess others for money in order to buy food or pay rent. Meanwhile its perfectly acceptable for banks’ top brass to conevene a meeting with the government, put a gun to Ministers’ heads and tell them to enact a blanket guarantee for potential liabilities of over €450bn or else they’ll return the country to the stoneage.
The Irish people have been intimitated, cheated and robbed blind since September 2008 and it is now evident that no one is going to do anything about it. The latest stick-up of Irish citizens occured on Thursday when our new government kowtowed to European demands that we continue paying banks’ ginormous debts.
No matter how astronomical the figure, our tiny populace will pay it – those are the terms, of the hard-nosed renegotiation of the bailout, that the new governmnet has acceded to. Labour and Fine Gael’s u-turn on banking policy has been so fast and so dramatic that the squeal of brakes could be heard reverberating around Leinster House last week.
“Not another cent [for the banks],” said Leo Varadkar during the election campaign while Eamon Gimore was even more forceful. “It’s Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way,” he thundered.
President Kennedy famously said “Ich bin ein Berliner” and, regrettably, it now appears that we’re all Frankfurters. After only three weeks in power, the coalition partners have been convinced of the merits of Fianna Fáil’s banking strategy – roll over and meekly agree to anything the Europeans demand.
The revionism from Fine Gael and Labour members, concerning their about-face on banking policy, is bordering on laughable and their pathetic attempts to gloss over the fact that their new banking strategy is a carbon copy of the last government’s suggests they take the Irish people for fools.
The programme for government, published on March 6, unequivocally stated: “The outgoing Government’s “blank cheques for banks” policy must now be ended. We must step back from the edge of national insolvency.”
So, what did the government do on March 31? Agree to sign over whatever mammoth figure resulted from the stress tests without any compunction about trifling matters like equity or sustainability. And, is it remotely credible that if the banks come knocking on the bailout door for a sixth time that they will find it locked shut? No, we will again hand over whatever they want.
“Both parties to the new Government sought, and secured, a strong mandate from the Irish electorate to renegotiate a more credible package that is better for both Ireland and Europe,” continues the document.
So, while the programme for government promises to renegotiate the terms of the bailout deal, the truth is that the exact same announcement would have been made on Thursday if Fianna Fáil and the Green Party were still in power. In fact, it is now impossible to discern any difference between the banking policies of the three main political parties – all have been convinced of Frankfurt’s way. And you can forget Labour’s promise to create a strategic investment bank, a notion which was quietly buried on Thursday.
Government spokespeople have claimed that a decision to burn junior bondholders amounts to a victory for the new administration but this is, frankly, rubbish. In October last, as Wexford Credit Union learned to its cost, junior bondholders’ investment in Anglo Irish Bank was written down by 80 per cent – so it’s something that would have happened anyway.
In truth, the Irish got absolutely no concessions from Europe last week and the cut in the bailout’s interest rate that will likely be announced in the next week or two was well flagged before the election. In short, we could have 15 moneys sitting around the cabinet table and the pronouncements about the banks would remain the same. We have lost our autonomy and our European partners have morphed into our European overlords.
Ireland was thrown to the wolves and bounced into a bailout in order to save the Euro from further contagion last year but, guess what, it didn’t work and Portugal will soon cede its soverignty like Greece and Ireland. Despite the obvious evidence that its fiscal policy is an unmitigated disaster, and ignoring advice from Nobel Prize winning economists and mult-billion-dollar hedgefund managers, the EU and the ECB refuse to deviate from its current path and are insistent on marching us to our economic death.
It’s up to our government to use diplomacy to convince the Europeans of the error of their ways but it appears that it has no intention of using its only bargaining chip – the threat of default which would see European financial institutions lose tens of billions.
While the government has only been in office for three weeks, and it would be grossly unfair to write them off already, the omens are not good. Following the hammering of the latest nail into our economic coffin on Thursday, what we’re facing now is a soverign debt crisis in 2013 when economists have estimated that, between banking and State debt – which will at that stage be one and the same thing, Ireland Inc will owe an incredible €240 billion.
To put that figure into perspective, it equates to a debt of €200,000 per household and that’s before things like residential mortgage defaults and the enormous levels of personal debt that exist in this country are taken into consideration.
“The Irish State is insolvent and headed for sovereign default,” wrote economist Colm McCarthy, someone who is not prone to making hyperbolic statements, on Sunday. Maybe its time our government started acting like it was cognisant of this fact and began working in our best interests instead of the best interests of our European partners and the Euro.