Sunday, 27 March 2011


Co. Cork

To whom it concerns, and it still concerns us all;
Again today, again after second Mass in Ballyhea, we held our protest march against what was imposed on us by the ECB last November.  A bailout they called it, and bailout it was alright – a bailout of the bondholders.  It wasn’t a loan either; national bondage is what it was, a people made to assume a burden that wasn’t theirs.

We have a sovereign debt which is ours, and ours alone.  We can point the finger as we like for the current crisis in the public purse and there is more than enough blame to go around – the previous government, inept (at least) as it was; the unions who colluded with them in the rise and rise of the public service wage and pension bill; the ineffective opposition who themselves appeared to be unaware of the looming problems and were happy to keep their own snouts in the trough; and of course we the people, who were only too happy to take all that was being handed out.  As we try to balance the books and get our house back in order we’re paying a heavy price, all of us (those at the bottom of the scale a heavier price than most, but that’s another argument), but that is our debt.  As a sovereign nation, as an honourable nation, we should pay that debt, and we will.

There is another debt, however, the bank/bondholder debt that was imposed on us by the bully-boys of the ECB last November, a debt that was imported from outside.  Those who staked their money on the Irish construction industry, who provided the billions to our banks to fuel the flames that now threaten to engulf us all, were at least as greedy as any single one of us here – surely now they too must feel at least the same level of pain? 

There are people here who were unsecured, who have lost everything – the same rules, surely, should apply to unsecured bondholders? 

There are people whose homes are now worth only a fraction of what they were worth, and who must suffer the consequences of that – those bondholders whose bonds are now worth only a fraction of the original should surely suffer the same fate, yes? 

And what of the ECB itself; a currency was launched with great fanfare a few years ago but – we now know – there were serious flaws.  The ‘one-size-fits-all’ interest rate, the low cost of borrowing - that contributed hugely to the inflation of the property bubble here; the fallout now as the euro comes under attack is also a fault of the incomplete thinking when the new currency was launched.   

Is all of that our fault here?  Demanding now – as the ECB did last November – that the Irish people, as a whole, should shoulder the full burden of all the bank/bondholder debt, is wrong.

In this small parish, we protest that wrong.  It is not a political protest, it is a moral protest.  Last November the ECB came in and rode rough-shod over us, and perhaps – with all their sermons on how we should conduct ourselves – they feel that underfoot is where we belong; we don’t.

We are not trying to attack our own government here, trying to undermine them – far from it.  Through our stand, our march, we are offering them our backing, our support, our courage.  We are a small enough group (though growing) but we believe we have the backing of the vast majority in our parish; we are a small enough parish but we believe we have the backing of the vast majority in this country.  The sovereign debt is our debt, an Irish debt, and that we will pay; the bank/bondholder debt is a private debt, is a European debt, is a European problem – that debt, we will not pay, and it should never have been coupled with the sovereign debt.

We demand now that the bank/bondholder debt should be decoupled from the sovereign debt, should be dealt with separately on a European level; those who fuelled the fire here should also taste the flames.  This Sunday again, and every Sunday until we get satisfaction, we will continue our protest; meet in the church car-park, march begins at 11.45am sharp.  Up to the speed-limit sign and back, less than ten minutes, no placards, no sexy slogan; a small march in a small parish, but making a big point.  Join us, please.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

THE PEOPLE'S PROTEST in a nutshell

Your household has fallen on hard times, the bank sees you as a bad bet and will lend you money only at a penal rate; as parents of a growing family you head for your local friendly Credit Union – the people’s bank – for help.  You explain your case - going to be in deficit for a few years but by dint of hard work and better housekeeping, will then be back in the black.  The Credit Union says ‘fine, no problem, here’s the loan you need to tide you over – oh, by the way, a few reckless friends of yours borrowed a lot of money from some foolish friends of mine and now can’t pay it back; as a condition of the loan you need you're going to have to assume this debt as well, in full - oh, and I'm going to have to charge you additional interest on that because we need to make a few bob on it ourselves also’.
Your local Credit Union would do no such thing, by the way, but if they did, would you sign up to such a deal?  Our twin Brians did, last November.
Take the above scenario and multiply it a million-fold; as a nation we ran into hard times, spent 15 billion euro more than we earned in 2010, for example.  The financial markets were beginning to charge us penal interest rates for our borrowings so in came the IMF and ECB, our friendly European Community bank.  And the ECB demanded of our Brians that as a condition of getting the loan to carry the nation across these next few difficult years, we – the Irish people – would also have to assume the private debts accumulated by our banks to the bondholders, many of whom are friends of our ECB (political investigative blogger Guido Fawkes obtained a list of the Anglo Irish foreign bondholders: German banks, French banks, German investment funds, Goldman Sachs.)
It was a disastrous decision by the previous government, taken at a time when their mandate to govern had long run out, and it was a move vehemently opposed by the opposition of the day.  Two of the major parties of that opposition are now in government, but already they have accepted the principle of this debt, are squabbling now with the ECB only over the interest rate – useless, ‘like giving an aspirin to a heart-attack patient’ is how TCD economist Constantin Gurdgiev describes it.
This additional debt is a millstone around the neck of the Irish people, will surely sink us, force us into a national default.  If that happens, then the cuts we’ve seen to date will pale into insignificance – we’re looking at pensions slashed, social welfare payments slashed, public sector pay slashed.  Don’t believe it?  Check out what happened in Latvia, in Argentina.
We MUST protest what happened last November; as a first step to rehabilitation, the sovereign debt and that private bank/bondholder debt MUST be decoupled, and that private debt dealt with separately.  This Sunday again in Ballyhea, 11.45, gather in the church car-park after second Mass, ten-minute march to the speed-limit sign and back; wherever you're from, please join us, because this concerns you – it should concern us all.

Monday, 21 March 2011


Co. Cork
March 21st 2011

WE, the Irish people, are willing to pay in full our accumulating sovereign debt, a debt for which we  - whatever we may feel about how we’ve gotten to this situation - are collectively responsible.  We will NOT pay, as part of that sovereign debt, either in whole or in part, the private bank/bondholder debt, and we call on our government to decouple those two wholly different and separate debts NOW. 
The reason is simple.  To quote renowned American economist Michael Lewis, from a recent Vanity Fair article, ‘In retrospect, now that the Irish bank losses are known to be world-historically huge, the decision to cover them appears not merely odd but suicidal.  A handful of Irish bankers incurred debts they could never repay, of something like 100 billion euros.  They may have had no idea what they were doing, but they did it all the same.  Their debts were private—owed by them to investors around the world—and still the Irish people have undertaken to repay them as if they were obligations of the state.’  Wrong, Michael, we the Irish people have made no such undertaking, because we, the Irish people, have never been asked.
In that article, Michael also states: ‘These private bondholders didn’t have any right to be made whole by the Irish government.  The bondholders didn’t even expect to be made whole by the Irish government.  Not long ago I spoke with a former senior Merrill Lynch bond trader who, on September 29, 2008 (the night of our infamous blanket bank guarantee – DO’F), owned a pile of bonds in one of the Irish banks.  He’d already tried to sell them back to the bank for 50 cents on the dollar — that is, he’d offered to take a huge loss, just to get out of them.  On the morning of September 30 he awakened to find his bonds worth 100 cents on the dollar.  The Irish government had guaranteed them! He couldn’t believe his luck.  Across the financial markets this episode repeated itself.  People who had made a private bet that went bad, and didn’t expect to be repaid in full, were handed their money back—from the Irish taxpayer.’
Not any more.  ‘For two years they (that’s us, the Irish people – DO’F) have laboured under this impossible burden with scarcely a peep of protest,’ continues Michael.  Well, no more – time to shout STOP.  Bullied/brow-beaten/blackmailed by the ECB, a discredited and lame-duck government signed us up to this, their mandate long gone; despite pre-election promises to the contrary, our new government has agreed to both the principle and the principal (100%) of this newly-assumed loan, while dickering only over the penal interest rate – rearranging the deck-chairs as the good ship Ireland goes rapidly underwater.
Enough.  In Ballyhea, we are in our fourth week of protest; every Sunday, 11.45am (after second Mass), a short and silent march from the church carpark to the limit of the village and back.  No placards, no catchy slogan, as little disruption to life as possible, no destruction of property public or private; just, slow, simmering anger.  Our numbers are increasing by the week, and we call now on anyone who is of like mind to join us in our protest; we call on those who can’t make it to Ballyhea to organise their own protest, on the same weekly basis at the same time on the same day – 11.45am every Sunday – until such time as our new government hears our voices.  Enough, surely.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Co. Cork

To whom it concerns, and if you're Irish this concerns you:
The third protest march against the terms of the IMF/ECB agreement was held in Ballyhea today and again there was an increase in numbers over the previous week, nearly 70 of us on this occasion.  Not exactly the ‘million-man march’, granted, but in our little community here in rural north Cork it represents a significant turnout.  Even in that small number very element of our community was strongly represented – man, woman, child, from under nine months old to over 90, employed and unemployed, employer and employee, farmer, blue-collar worker, white-collar. 

Our grievance is simple – last November, a discredited government with about as much mandate as Colonel Ghadafi now enjoys in Libya, was bullied/brow-beaten/blackmailed by the ECB (we excuse the IMF on this) into accepting a bailout agreement which coupled private bank/bondholder debt with national sovereign debt, all of which we – the Irish people – are now expected to pay.

On so many levels, that ‘agreement’ was wrong; it was unjust, immoral, probably illegal - to be binding, isn't an agreement meant to be entered into freely, willingly, voluntarily?  According to Brian Lenihan subsequently, they were threatened with national bankruptcy if they didn’t agree to accept the private debt as a condition of the loan.  On a purely practical level, however, it was unsustainable – our sovereign debt we can manage but with this millstone added, we will surely sink.  The ECB knew this; they know also that when it happens, far from throwing us a life-line, they will be keeping us under, and our Corporate Tax rate, our level of pensions and social welfare payments that so annoy them, will all then be under their control.

In theory, we are members of a community, the EC – European Community.  Community suggests to me a place where the strong take care of the weak; well, the EC took care of us alright.  They gifted us this massive private loan, with interest, then with additional interest on top of that again.  ‘Moral hazard’ was the reason quoted, the danger that if they didn’t punish us for our national recklessness we’d just go off and do it all again.  Now, where we did hear that before?

When Lord Trevelyan allowed millions to die and/or emigrate in the late 1840s, ‘moral hazard’ was his reasoning – this was God visiting his displeasure on the reckless Irish, who had families too large and farms too small, and had become too dependent on the potato for life (there was no Famine, by the way, a misnomer always – this was genocide), and why would the British intervene?  Let the Irish learn their lesson.

Well, have we?  Let’s examine that ‘moral hazard’ as applied in the current circumstances.  Where I live, up here in the hills in Ballyhea, none of my neighbours to left or right – the Nunans, Brownes, O’Regans, O’Briens, Duanes, McCarthys, O’Keeffes, Lanes – bought a single investment property between them, either in Ireland or abroad; there are no massive gas-guzzling 4x4 monsters on our mountain roads, no-one spending over the last few years other than as they have spent forever – prudently, carefully.  There are those in this country who have been reckless in their individual spending, and they are now paying a price – no bailout for them.  There are also those who have bought houses, many of them first-time buyers who were panicked into buying by all the blaring advertising (‘Get on the property ladder NOW, next month prices will have gone up again!’) before they wanted to buy, and certainly for more than they ever wanted to pay.  They too are now caught; they may get relief, but they too WILL pay their debt, in full.

Now, look to the other side of this coin – from where did all this money come?  Why, from Europe, from the Middle East, the Far East, from the USA, from all the usual high-finance high-octane sources, those very exclusive arenas where odds are calculated and risks taken, bonuses counted in billions.  But where is the ‘moral hazard’ as applied to them?  If you pour oil on an already over-heating economy, do you not risk becoming engulfed in the flames yourself, when it all explodes?  I've been told here that blaming those who gave our banks the money is like blaming the bartender for your hangover, but in this instance the bartender kept feeding liquor to a crowd of arrogant yobs who were already well tanked, knowing full well they were then going to mount their massive 4x4s and cause carnage on the roads – that bartender you DO call to account.

So, our protest.  How any government could agree to terms that so enslaved their own people defies logic – the bailout here is of the bondholders, and no-one else.  Despite pre-election promises to the contrary our new government has agreed both in principle and principal (100%, no ‘haircut’) to the deal, arguing only over the interest rate – rearranging the deck-chairs as the good ship Ireland sinks beneath the waves.  Here in this little parish, we say no – enough. 

Our case is simple: the ‘agreement’ that was foisted on us, the Irish people, last November, is wrong.  We can use any additional descriptive adjective we like – shameful, unjust, unjustifiable, immoral, etc. etc. – but that is the one word above all others to describe it; it’s wrong.  The national debt - the money needed to run the country while we try to close the current deficit - is our debt, a debt we should pay, a debt we must pay; the private debt run up by our banks to the bond-holders, is NOT our debt.  That debt must be decoupled from the sovereign debt, must be treated separately, and that must be done now.

Our march is short, from the church car-park to the speed-limit sign on the outskirts of the village.  Disruption of traffic is kept to a minimum, no destruction of property private or public, all of which is counter-productive.  We have one sign, out front, which proclaims what we’re doing, but there are no banners, no sexy slogans, no chants – it’s short, it’s silent, but it is seething with a suppressed anger.  We’re a small parish, a small voice, and we’re still on our own, getting very little coverage over here.  But through this voice, an Irish voice calling home if you will, we ask now that other parishes, other villages, towns and cities, join us; we ask that more of our own families in our own parish join us.  As a returned exile, I know what it’s like to be thousands of miles from home, but in this modern age I know also how easy it is to stay in touch.  I ask ye now – get in touch with your own friends and relations at home, ask them to join us.  Ye might even start yere own protest over there, with the exiled Irish in yere own communities, and send that message back home.  After all, it affects us all, doesn’t it?

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Co. Cork

The second protest march against the terms of the IMF/ECB agreement was held in Ballyhea today and while the numbers were still small (around 45 of us), it represented a significant increase over the attendance at the first march, which was held last Sunday week.  Next Sunday, starting at 11.45pm (after second Mass), and every Sunday until such time as we get satisfaction, we will again be meeting in the church car-park, and we will again be marching in protest.  It’s a short march and deliberately so, from the car-park to the village speed-limit sign and back – we don’t want to impinge on people’s valuable time, nor unduly disrupt traffic through the village.  It is, however, nonetheless serious because of that.
Our case is simple: the ‘agreement’ that was foisted on us, the Irish people, last November, is wrong.  We can use any additional descriptive adjective we like – shameful, unjust, unjustifiable, immoral, etc. etc. – but that is the one word above all others to describe it; it’s wrong.  The national debt, the money needed to run the country while we try to close the current deficit, is our debt, a debt we should pay, a debt we must pay; the private debt run up by our banks to the bond-holders, is NOT our debt.  That debt must be decoupled from the sovereign debt, must be treated separately, and that must be done now.
We are members of the EC, the European Community, and ‘Community’ suggests a place where the strong look after the weak; some ‘community’ this is.  The exact opposite occurred, and our twin Brians were bullied/browbeaten/blackmailed into acceptance of this ‘agreement’.  Leave aside the fact that some of the most respected economists on this island have said that this extra debt is unsustainable, will break us within a couple of years - it’s wrong, plain wrong.
So, here we are in this small parish, with our small voices, in weekly protest.  As a parish we’re still on our own, and we’re also small enough in number, but we’re growing.  We ask now that other parishes, other villages, towns and cities, join us; we ask that more of our own families in our own parish join us.  Our previous government signed us up to this, our new government has accepted it, neither of them have asked us what WE thought.  Renegotiating the interest rate?  That’s simply rearranging the deck-chairs – we’ve got to change course, avoid this ice-berg.
Join us, say NO!  The final say in any democracy rests with the people - let your voice be heard, march.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Co. Cork

The first protest march against the terms of the recent IMF/ECB agreement was held in Ballyhea today, March 6th.  It wasn’t a huge event, just 18 locals who came together at short notice and the march itself lasted for less than ten minutes, from the church car-park to the outer limit of the village and back, but it was nevertheless a major event, the first steps taken in what will become a weekly event, until such time as someone takes note.
We are asking two simple questions: 1) Is it right to combine the private debt owed to the bond-holders with sovereign debt?  2) Is it right that those bond-holders who gambled on the Irish economy, who poured billions into an already over-heated construction sector, fuelling the flames, and the debt to whom has now been placed on the shoulders of the Irish people, should themselves suffer no losses?   To those two simple but primary questions, we in Ballyhea say a resounding NO.
We’re told we have no choice – well, when you haven't been asked, when you're not going to be asked, then certainly that is one way of making sure we have no choice.   But of course we have a choice; as a nation, we can either accept this grossly unjust burden without protest, or we can take to the streets.  That process started last Sunday, in Ballyhea; it will continue.
We’re told now that the ECB is relenting, that they are prepared to make concessions on the terms of the deal – is everyone taking us all for fools?  If you want to continue to torture someone, you don’t kill them off early – you keep them alive, barely, but alive enough to feel the pain.  The ECB have recognised what all the top economists recognised as soon as this obscene deal was struck – it wasn’t sustainable.  What would it profit the ECB if we defaulted?  Nothing.  So, they’ve changed the terms, but not to facilitate us, the Irish nation – to facilitate themselves, to facilitate the bond-holders, to ensure that they get their full pound of flesh and then some, with that penal interest.
On this massive issue, an issue that affects every man, woman and child in this country, the incoming government is already proving as weak and inept as those who got us into this mess in the first place.  We need strong personalities to take the above simple message back to the ECB – we say NO to the above two questions, we say NO to this deal.  Instead, we have more of the spineless, gutless bleating that we heard from the inglorious fianna failures.
People, it’s time to walk.
Diarmuid O'Flynn.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest

The basic problem for the Irish economy is the coupling of the private bank/bondholder debt to our sovereign national debt and the resultant 100% payoff of that debt to those bondholders. 

Where I live - and doubtless the same applies in your area - most of us didn't go off and buy second homes, nor did we buy the big 4x4 60-grand gas-guzzlers; we lived life as always, within our means.  However, the property crash and the bank crash have impacted severely on us, cuts in salaries made worse by the haircut budgets introduced in the last few years, and many more to come. 

Where is the suffering for the bondholders?  Where is their haircut?  Why is it that they have to be paid in full and why is it that we should have to be the ones to pay?  Those bondholders negotiated those loans with probably 100 people - at most - at the top of the Irish banking sector; they didn't negotiate them with us, those are not our loans, those are not our debts.  

That deal last November was a bailout for the bondholders, NOT a bailout for Ireland. The ECB's insistance that, as a condition of giving us a loan to take care of our sovereign debt we would have to assume - in full - the private bank/bondholder debt, was an act of enslavement. 

Ultimately, remember, most wars are about coinage, about land, about hard cash; for many years, and on the back of that diabolical deal we will be paying 'tribute' for decades to Berlin, to Brussels, to Frankfurt.

It's wrong, period.  Whether you know it or not, if you're now living in Ireland or if you're one of the Irish forced abroad because of these changed circumstances, you are in a war.  Fight; walk with us, this Sunday and every Sunday, 11.45am in Ballyhea, or in your own local community; fight, or again become a nation trampled underfoot.

Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.