Richard Boyd Barrett TD speaking on motion on Promissory Notes, 25th January 2012
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Transcript of Richard Boyd Barrett’s speech:
“To swap metaphors with the previous speaker, the Government side in this debate reminds me of the captain of the Italian ship that sank recently because he was so busy trying to impress his friends onshore that he could not face the fact of a massive gaping hole in the side of his ship or that it was going down. The reality is that the Government is keeping the country on an unsustainable path, namely, paying off the gambling debts of bankers and speculators by crucifying our society and economy while trying to convince us it is somehow a good thing and the situation will right itself in the end.
Lest there be a mistake, the suggestion is that we in the United Left Alliance are afraid of the word “default”. Let me say it – default, default, default. Contrary to Deputy Walsh’s suggestion, these are not our debts. They are not the debts of pensioners, low and middle income families, the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs, the schoolchildren who have lost guidance counsellors, learning support teachers and language support teachers or the disadvantaged in our society. They are the debts of bankers, speculators and people who are driven by nothing but greed and profit. The Government is saying that the interests of speculators come before the interests of schoolchildren, families whose loved ones are getting on boats and aeroplanes to leave the country, people who are rotting on the dole and pensioners who are shivering with the cold this winter because of cuts in the fuel allowance. I hope the Government will spare a thought for those people as it defends, justifies and spins the paying of €1.2 billion to speculators and bondholders while real human beings, not markets, suffer considerably. Make no mistake. The money paid today and the €3 billion the Government plans on paying at the end of March come directly from the pockets, livelihoods and services of ordinary working people and citizens who have no responsibility for the criminal actions that caused this economy to crash.
What makes all of this worse is the fact that we are not even paying the bondholders who initially bought the bonds. We are paying people who bought the bonds recently on the secondary market at a 30% or 50% discount. The original bondholders burned themselves. We would not, but they did. The speculators and gamblers we paid today will make a profit of between 30% and 50%, some €300 million or €500 million. Once again, the vulnerable, the workers and the people lose, but the speculators win handsomely.
There were also the insurance companies, represented by the United States Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who vetoed proposals to burn bondholders. We did not discover this from the Government but through a leak from the United States Embassy. Mr. Geithner, we learned, knew that people in this country were angry, but he did not deny that he had vetoed the proposals. It is important to stress that it is not just the people of Ireland who are losing out as a consequence of this decision but also the people of Europe. Everybody is suffering because of a decision by the political masters in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere in Europe, together with the political masters in this State, to sacrifice everything – our economic future, fairness and social justice – in order to pay off bankers and speculators. All of this might possibly be justified if there were even a slight glimmer of hope that any of it is working. There is no such glimmer. The Government is not even listening to what Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF is saying. As she warned, loudly and clearly, before Christmas and as was repeated by the IMF yesterday, we are careering towards a 1930s-style depression. All of the austerity measures that have been imposed have only made the situation worse. It is an absolute lie to say the European Central Bank would retaliate to a decision not to repay these bondholders by cutting off liquidity funding to our banks. The only reason it is providing that funding is that a failure to do so would, as well it knows, see the entire European financial system, including its banks, come crashing down. That is the leverage we must use in standing up to these people.
Unfortunately, the Government will not stand up to them because it buys into their agenda and into the dogma of markets which caused the financial crisis. This crisis is being used to ram even more market dogma down the throats of people throughout Europe. It will have the exactly the same result in other markets and other sectors of society as it has had in the financial markets. In other words, it will lead us towards a depression. The only responsible action for elected Deputies in this Chamber to take is to call the bluff of those who are using the politics of fear to intimidate people in this State into accepting austerity. We must encourage people to resist, community by community and workplace by workplace. Otherwise our society will suffer the consequences for generations.”