Last week, making headlines in all our media outlets, it was announced that the HSE was making a cut of around 600,000 hours to home help for the remaining months of 2012, part of the HSE’s efforts to effect savings of €130m. There was outrage, and rightly so, and a few days later the government was forced to change its plans. Now, rather than just cutting the most needy to the bone the HSE will also have to look to shedding some fat. Not a full victory but still, people power prevailing.
On Monday of this week Anglo Irish Bank (as it was, is and ever will be to those of us who refuse to acknowledge it as anything else) paid a bond of €600m – that’s €1,000 for every hour the HSE was so blithely going to cut from home help; on October 1st AIB – another bank we own – will pay a bond of €1bn. That’s €1,600,000,000 in bonds we didn’t issue being paid in just four weeks by two banks we now own, 12 times what the HSE is attempting to save, yet in our national media not a word. Why not? Since March 2011, when we began our protest march in Ballyhea, I’ve been grabbling with that question; €24bn in bank bonds later and I’m grappling no more – I just don’t have an answer.
Turning the corner?
The bank debt burden is a far bigger issue than anything else we face at the moment but where is the outrage, where is the people power? At what stage will we all make the connection between all those cuts and all those bank bond payments? At what stage will people revolt against the €69.6bn additional debt that has been forced on us by the ECB in cooperation with this government, our national media (with just a few brave and honourable exceptions) colluding through its silence? That’s a debt of over €15,000 for every single person in this state – is that not worth protesting, is that not worth highlighting?
‘These are tough times,’ they repeatedly tell us, as if we don’t know, ‘We are taking the tough decisions.’ Lies. How tough is it to take from the weakest and most vulnerable? Because that is exactly what this coward and craven government is doing. But take on the ECB? Take on Angela Merkel? Take on their own, the overpaid overpensioned political class; take on our own vested interests in this country; take on the high-earners; take on the ludicrous Croke Park Agreement and the fat and overpaid upper Civil Service area; take on those like the multinationals who are paying less than their fair share into the public coffers; take on any or all of those, even if only for the few years we would then need to clean up this mess? No my friends, this government is NOT taking the tough decisions.
What we have in Ireland of 2012 is a government whose priorities are perverse. The good of the people, the will of the people? It’s good to pay out tens of billions in failed bonds to failed large-scale financial gamblers while cutting from the old (home help), the young (education), the most vulnerable (the likes of St Joseph's)? This is the will of the people?
Is this where we want to be? Are these the values you want for Ireland 2012? Is this the way you want your country governed? I don’t.
For 79 weeks now in Ballyhea a group of us have been protesting all this injustice, joined after a few months by a group from nearby Charleville. Every Sunday morning we meet, 11.30am, alternating between the two parishes, and take to the street. No slogans, no chants, just a short, dignified march by a small but fiercely determined group of very ordinary people.
We are non-party-political, we don’t espouse any –ism, we simply object to this enslavement of people to bail out failed banks and their failed bondholders. Our original intention was that every parish, village, town and city in Ireland could duplicate what we’re doing and hold their own march every Sunday, at around the same time. That can still be done. A few phone-calls among like-minded people, a banner proclaiming who ye are and what ye’re doing (BALLYHEA SAYS NO TO BONDHOLDER BAILOUT is ours), take your courage in your hands, and off you go.
Direct action, as taken against the home-help cuts, that is what is needed now. If you object to what’s happening, then protest with us, march with us. If you can’t make it on your own then join us in Ballyhea this Sunday, or at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin where we’ll be holding a march to Croke Park, meeting at 11.30am at both venues. You've been silent long enough.
Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.