Archive for January, 2012

  • Denying citizens a referendum on the Fiscal Treaty is utterly undemocratic and weakens our bargaining position vis a vis Europe on debt relief
  • Talk of job creation without relief on debt or austerity is akin to smothering a patient with a pillow while pretending to offer a cure

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett, TD for the People Before Profit Alliance and Finance spokesperson for the United Left Alliance, has said that European Leaders’ are blackmailing EU member states into ratifying a Fiscal Treaty that would do nothing to help remedy the economic crisis either in Ireland or across Europe but would in fact make the situation worse.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said the blackmail was directed at states currently involved in the European Financial Stability Facility – pressurizing them to ratify the treaty in order to continue getting loans. Deputy Boyd Barrett said the various initiatives – heralded by Enda Kenny- for promoting jobs and growth and being announced around the edges of the EU summit, “were smokescreens with no real substance, designed to sugar the pill of a treaty that would institutionalize austerity and undermine democracy.”

Deputy Boyd Barrett said that the Irish people have unequivocally expressed their desire to have a referendum on the new Treaty – which would impose financial penalties on struggling economies and give huge powers of intrusion to the EU into the national budgetary process – but the government was trying to avoid that referendum. He said that this was not only highly undemocratic, but also sent a message to Europe that Ireland can be bullied and blackmailed.

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  • Strong case set out for debt relief by Finance Committee in Berlin, undermined by Taoiseach’s comments in Davos
  • Refusal to hold referendum further undermines Ireland’s negotiating position in seeking debt relief

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett, TD for the People Before Profit Alliance and Finance spokesperson for the United Left Alliance, has said that Taoiseach, Enda Kenny’s comments at last weeks Davos World Economic Forum and the government’s attempts to avoid a referendum on the proposed Eurocompac Treaty, had completely undermined the robust case for debt relief made by a cross-party delegation from the Dail Finance Committee during their visit to the German Bundestag in the same week.

Deputy Boyd Barrett, along with representatives of all the other party groups on the Dail Finance Committee, met with the Budgetary Committee of the Bundestag – the most powerful parliamentary committee in the German Parliament. The Bundestag Budgetary Committee has significant oversight over the German budget. It is also the body that had seen parts of the Irish budget before the Irish parliament saw it, and is the body which is currently involved in scrutinizing drafts of the proposed Eurocompac Treaty on behalf of the Bundestag. The Finance Committee delegation made a strong case to the Bundestag that austerity was unjustly punishing ordinary Irish citizens, who bore no responsibility for the economic crisis, and was crippling the Irish economy. Deputy Boyd Barrett said also that the Bundestag committee members were particularly interested in the question of whether there would be a referendum on the Eurocompac Treaty in Ireland and that it was clear from this that such a possibility strengthened Ireland’s hand in seeking debt relief.

Richard Boyd Barrett said: “The Taoiseach’s comments in Davos presented a perspective on the Irish economic crisis almost diametrically the opposite of that presented by an all-party delegation from the Dail’s finance committee to the German parliament, and completely undermined the strong case that we made for debt relief. All of us, regardless of our political differences, put strong arguments to the Bundestag budgetary committee about the injustice of ordinary Irish citizens paying for the illegitimate debts of the financial institutions, and on that basis called for debt relief. The Taoiseach’s comments were, therefore, not simply insulting to ordinary Irish citizens, they did a grave disservice to the efforts, even members of his own coalition were making in Berlin, to seek debt relief for Ireland.

Despite the major political differences that exist between us, a cross section of the parties in the Dail made the case that in Ireland there is a huge sense of justified anger about having to pay debts generated by the irresponsible gambling of financial institutions across Europe and the incompetence of political leaders. We explained that the austerity policies that resulted from this intolerable debt burden were causing immense suffering across Irish society and were seriously detrimental to efforts to restore growth and create jobs. Even government spokespeople were quite robust about the need to for relief or write-down of banking debt. The social democrats and leftist groups in the Bundestag were extremely sympathetic to the case we were making, but even the governing Christian Democrats were willing to acknowledge that the austerity was unfairly hitting citizens who had no responsibility for the financial and economic crash. The message across the board of the delegation was that it wasn’t ordinary citizens that caused the mess, it was the financial and political elites both at home and in Europe that had caused the crisis, and that steps should be taken to relieve people from an unjust debt burden and the resulting austerity.”

“Our arguments – which were gaining a sympathetic hearing from across the German political spectrum – were totally undermined by Enda Kenny’s comments that the Irish people were to blame for the crisis in Ireland. His comments have done a major disservice to the Irish public and even to members of his own coalition. It was also clear from our meetings in Berlin that the German government is very concerned about the possibility of a referendum in Ireland on the Eurocompac treaty. It was obvious from this, that we have leverage in Europe when we call for debt relief. But again, Enda Kenny’s insistence that he won’t hold a referendum unless he is legally forced to amounts to giving away all our bargaining chips when it comes to seeking debt relief and better deal from Europe. Enda Kenny simply could not be doing a worse job in representing the interests of ordinary Irish citizens than he has done over the last number of weeks. It gives a real insight into the disastrous bankruptcy of this government’s entire strategy when it comes to dealing with an unprecedented economic crisis.”

Packed meeting in Dalkey demands public enquiry into Providence Resources Plc’s foreshore application to drill in Dublin Bay; further meetings planned and major campaign underway

In a statement today, after a packed meeting in Dalkey last night, Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before TD, urged the public to make submissions to the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, calling for a public enquiry on the issue of granting a foreshore licence to Providence Resources Plc. The meeting of 300 people and a further 100 turned away, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the call for a public enquiry into the issue. Deputy Boyd Barrett, addressing the meeting, commented that with the current licencing and tax arrangements the Irish people will not benefit whatsoever from any oil or gas find. He also called on Labour and Fine Gael, including Eamon Gilmore, who also attended the meeting, to clearly state their position on the issue. This licence would allow Providence to carry out a seismic survey and to drill an oil well only 6km from Dalkey Island. The local tidal currents mean that any oil spill would wash straight into Dublin Bay and contaminate the water and beaches from Bray to Howth

At the meeting the People Before Profit outlined his concerns with regard to the licence (details below). Some of those involved in organising last night’s meeting have now agreed to organise further meetings to spread awareness and generate further debate in other parts of Dublin Bay. Invitations to concerned groups and individuals will be sent out as widely as possible. The next meeting is co-organised by Save Our Seafront and Protect Our Coast and will be held in the Kingsotn Hotel on Tues 31 Jan at 7.30pm. Richard Boyd Barrett said: “I am extremely concerned about the plan to drill for oil in Dublin Bay. The only possible case for drilling this close to shore might be if there were sizable benefits for the country. The current licencing and tax arrangements in Ireland for oil and gas finds are such that the only beneficiaries will be Providence Resources and their partners. Neither does any find guarantee a supply of oil for the country. In this context drilling so close to the most populated part of the country and adjacent to an area of special conservation is an extremely high risk strategy. Providence and its partners get all the gain and we take all the risk. The application for this licence is also being rushed through with alarming speed. Considering there has never been a drilling this close to shore in the country there should, at a minimum, be more time given to consider the application.

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Bondholder payout equivalent to a third of all 2012 Budget cuts and austerity measures

ULA Finance spokesperson to challenge Bundestag budgetary committee over European narrative on Irish crisis.

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett, TD and Finance spokesperson for the United Left Alliance, condemned the handover of €1.25 billion to the ECB today which will go to wealthy speculators who had capitalised on the demise of Anglo and bought up discounted bonds in the secondary market. Most of the trading on those bonds took place in closed, proprietary bond-trading systems by professional stockbrokers. Mr. Boyd Barrett pointed out that the final recipients of today’s payment are investors who bought Irish bonds in the secondary markets at vastly reduced cost. The ULA TD emphasized that the money to make these payments is coming straight out of public services, to the detriment of the ordinary citizens.

Deputy Boyd Barrett will be speaking at 8.10pm in the Dail tonight during the debate on the United Left Alliance motion calling on the government not to pay over the €1.25 billion Anglo-Irish bond due for payment today, and the Anglo-Irish promissory note due to be paid in March.

After the debate Deputy Boyd Barrett will be travelling to Berlin to join the Dail Finance Committee delegation, which is due to meet the German Bundestag Budgetary Committee tomorrow morning.

Richard Boyd Barrett said: “Although we do not know who the bondholders are – because transparency provisions are lacking at EU level – we do know that many of the bonds which this payment is going to service are with investors who snatched up bank bonds at steep discounts after Anglo Irish went down. This means that the new bondholders, which in the secondary market tend to be predatory investment firms, are going to make massive profits on their investment at the expense of the Irish taxpayer.”

“It beggars belief that not only are we going to pay unsecured bondholders but we are also going to lavish them with profits that are rumoured to be anywhere between 30 and 50% – a profit they made over the course of just one year.” “After this €1.25 billion payment, the government is dead set on making another payment of €3.1 billion in March. These figures may seem too vast to conceptualise, but imagine if, for example, we spent these billions to invest in renewable energy, job creation measures or in our health system, how much better off we would be. The €3.1 billion promissory note payment on March 31 2012 would be sufficient to fund the total cost of running Ireland’s entire primary school system for a whole year.” “The Irish government should repudiate these debts because, quite simply, they are not our debts and the ordinary citizens of this country, and our economy cannot afford to pay them. This is a point I will also be making strongly to the Bundestag budgetary committee, who seem to be accepting a narrative that suggests, somehow, ordinary Irish, Greek or Portugese citizens are responsible for the economic crisis in this country and across the Eurozone. The reality is that this crisis results from the greed and speculation of German, French and British banks, as well as the failings of a greedy financial elite in this country.

“The scaremongering about the ECB cutting off funding to our pillar banks if we refuse to pay the bondholders is fallacious. The ECB has been desperately protecting the European banking system and therefore would not take such retaliation.” “The other scare tactic that the government consistently peddles, is that the markets would lose confidence in Irish bonds. But since we are not in the international market, and are instead heading in a direction that will make the markets lose more confidence in this country, that justification is also bogus.” “There is absolutely no reason why the government cannot repudiate this bond repayment instead of merrily handing out massive profits to speculators.”

Richard Boyd Barrett also said: “The proposed payment is equivalent to one third of the cuts introduced in the 2012 Budget. If the money were kept in the country instead of being sprinkled away like confetti, we could reverse all the cuts on the child benefit, the job seeker’s benefit, the single parent family payment, the rent supplement, the mortgage interest supplement, the fuel allowance, the Back to Education schemes, the state pension, the reductions to staff in the Health service, the cuts to disability, the cuts to Community Training and the capitation grants to primary schools. We could reverse all those cuts and still have a few million euros left to spend on other essential services.” “We believe that all debts run-up by private banks and financial institutions should be repudiated, but at the very least, the government should suspend the current payment to the bondholders of a defunct bank that seems to exist solely to enrich investors who bought them at greatly reduced cost.”

ULA TD calls for Government to immediately bring forward whistleblowers legislation and to ensure adequate resources for mental health patients

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD has welcomed the decision of the Irish Advocacy Network to re-instate whistleblower, Louise Bayliss.

Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke again on the issue in the Dáil today during the topical issues debate at approximately 5.05pm. Deputy Boyd Barrett was the first to raise the issue of Ms Bayliss’s sacking last week in the Dáil, after he received a call from her detailing her predicament and asking for his help. Deputy Boyd Barrett called for her re-instatement, an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her sacking, and for the government to urgently bring forward promised legislation to protect whistle-blowers. After Deputy Boyd Barrett raised Ms Bayliss’s plight in the Dáil – the story quickly became a national issue and generated considerable political reaction.

Today Deputy Boyd Barrett praised Louise Bayliss for her “tremendous courage and dignity” in the way she had spoken out on behalf of mental health patients both before Christmas and again following her sacking.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “ Louise Bayliss’s bravery, commitment and honesty has done a huge service to mental health patients and to the public generally. By speaking out about the unacceptable conditions in St Brendan’s and by now speaking-out against attempts to silence and punish her for doing so, she will give confidence to others like her who might want to blow the whistle about unacceptable practices in public services or in other sectors of society. There is no doubt in my mind that Louise Bayliss’s sacking was clearly a retaliatory move following Ms Bayliss’s public highlighting of conditions for mental health patients in St Brendan’s Grangegorman. The fact that she refused to take that lying down and has now won her re-instatement is tremendously important. However, the government now need to match Louise Bayliss’s commitment and bravery by rapidly bringing forward legislation to protect and encourage whistleblowers. They also need to ensure that the resources necessary to ensure dignified treatment for mental health patients and other patients in the health services are provided, and that the most vulnerable in our society are not made victims of austerity cuts.”

In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD has expressed his shock and outrage, after receiving a call this morning from Mental Health Patient advocate and whistleblower, Lousie Baliff, where she informed him that she had been sacked this week by the HSE, in what appears to be a clear act of retaliation against her following her public highlighting of appalling treatment and conditions of mental health patients in St Brendan’s Grangegorman, shortly before Christmas.

Poor conditions and the mistreatment of patients resulting from a Christmas ward closure at St Brendan’s were highlighted by Ms Baliff in early December and received widespread media and news coverage, and were discussed at length in the Dail – prompting promises of action and visits to St Brendan’s by Government representatives.

At the time that Ms Baliff blew the whistle on the impact of a Christmas ward closure on mental health patients in St Brendan’s, politicians on all sides, mental health professionals and commentators all acknowledged the problems highlighted, and the more general need to address major deficiencies and problems in mental health services.

Against this background, Ms Baliff is absolutely appalled that the response of the HSE has been to sack her in what is clearly an act of retaliation for her action in highlighting the conditions of mental health patients.

Ms Baliff has reported to Deputy Boyd Barrett that as soon as she highlighted the issues in St Brendan’s before Christmas she was removed from all wards and not allowed back onto them since. She was told she required further training before she could attend wards – despite the fact that she has an MA qualification in UCD in equality studies, specialising in mental health patient advocacy.

She was initially recruited on a six month contact, but explicitly on the basis of her being employed to go and work in the National Mental Health Forensic Service, in Dundrum. Ms Baliff was therefore absolutely shocked this week to be called to a meeting this week and told that she was being sacked even though her contract had another three months to run, and when it was understood and that the six month contract would be a prelude to further employment in the Central Mental Health Service.

Deputy Boyd Barrett raised the issue at order of business in the Dail this morning in the context of demanding that promised whistle-blower legislation would be urgently brought forward and that the government would take immediate action in relation to the sacking of Ms Baliff.

Deputy Boyd Barrett was extremely disappointed at the non-response and disinterest shown by the Tainiste, Eamon Gilmore, to the news of Ms Baliff’s sacking, particularly given the government’s often stated commitment to encouraging and protecting whistle-blowers.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “This an absolutely outrageous and brazen retaliation by the HSE against someone who was doing precisely what she was employed and educated to do – advocate on behalf of vulnerable mental health patients.

Louise Baliff did a huge service to the patients in St Brendan’s, and mental health patients generally, by highlighting their plight and conditions, resulting from a ward closure and cut-backs. It is simply unbelievable that the response of the HSE would be to remove her from hospital wards immediately and then subsequently sack her. It is equally shocking that the government and Tainiste, Eamon Gilmore, should react with such complete indifference to this disgraceful retaliation against a whistle-blower, particularly, when that attempt to punish a whistle-blower is being done by the HSE – government agency.

The government should act immediately to investigate this disgraceful sacking and ensure the re-instatement of Louise Baliff. They must also immediately bring forward whistle-blowers legislation to ensure protection for brave people like Louise who are simply doing their job.”

Richard Boyd Barrett TD participated in the schools protests today.

In a statement Deputy Boyd Barrett United Left Alliance Spokesperson on Education said, that Minister Quinn must now, having admitted his terrible mistake, follow through with a full and immediate reversal of all DEIS cuts. The case for a full reversal of all the announced cuts to affect DEIS schools is abundantly clear. The proposals by Minister Quinn will hit the most vulnerable in the Education system.

The publication of a report published by the Education Research Centre on the first phase of the DEIS programme in primary schools, covering the years 2007 to 2010 shows significantly higher scores in reading and mathematics. Minister Quinn has made much of his intention to improve literacy and numeracy in schools, yet the proposed cuts will take away the very resources which have been shown to work.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD, ULA Finance and Education spokesperson welcomed the demonstration today, Jan 19th at the Department of Education by schools and school communities against these cynical cuts. The Minister’s indication that he will revisit the planned cuts to the DEIS schools has been entirely a victory for people power and the protests mounted by parents, pupils and teachers from disadvantaged areas around the country.

Deputy Boyd Barrett also be questioned Minister Quinn in the Dail today where he sought clarification from the Minister that the cuts to DEIS schools have been abandoned and to clarification where else in the sector he intends to make cuts.

Speaking at the protest, Deputy Boyd Barrett said; “The Minister has put any decision to reverse the cuts on the long finger with the announcement of a review over 4 weeks. However, Minister Quinn already has in his possession several reports from his own inspectorate and from the Education Research Centre which show the very real impact DEIS is having on the attainment levels of pupils in these schools. In addition to a review the Minister has indicated examining a school by school review and individual back bench Labour TDs appear to be lining up to ‘deliver for their constituents’. This is not on. There needs to be an end to this clientelist approach. Schools need to hear an immediate statement by the Minister, indicating a complete reversal of all the proposed cuts to all DEIS schools, whether DEIS Band 1 or Band 2. There are alternatives to cutting vital budgets in areas such as Education. A small increase in tax on the wealth in this country would cover the needs of the Education sector.”

Richard Boyd Barrett said “Parents, teachers and children have to keep up their campaign and keep the pressure on Minister Quinn. There is a growing anger at this government in targeting school children to pay bondholders. “I salute the schools communities who are getting organised against these cuts whether in areas of disadvantage or the school communities such as in Dunmanway in Cork who are fighting cuts to small rural schools” “The back pedalling by Minister Quinn on DEIS has shown people power can force the government’s hand. There should be no question of any other cuts in Education. We have to insist that this government puts children come first and not the dictats of the Troika”.

Payment of unsecured bondholders and threatened sell off of state assets raised

Today United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly and Richard Boyd Barrett’s had an hour long meeting with the EU/ECB/IMF troika along with a delegation of Independent TDs. At the meeting Deputies Boyd Barrett and Daly challenged the troika on their doomed austerity policy and focused particularly on the drive for the privatisation of state assets and other austerity policies that have facilitated the ongoing payments to senior unsecured bondholders.

Richard Boyd Barrett said: “Both the IMF and ECB among others have predicted in their forecasts that growth will return to the Irish economy in 2013 and had previously predicted a return to growth for 2012. IMF policies are failing and failing disastrously as can be seen from the down-grading of European and Irish growth projections, rating down-grades of major European economies and the EFSF, and the possibility of a second bail-out. “‘We challenged the Troika on their disastrous failure to resolve the deepening economic crisis in both Ireland and the wider European economy. “I questioned the Troika on precisely what role it had it terms of requiring the full repayment of senior bondholders and the Anglo-Irish promissory note and the more general policy of bank-bail-outs and austerity. “We need to break from the failing policies of IMF-EU austerity. The ULA proposals taxes on wealth and assets, rather than the regressive or socially unjust taxes and cuts being imposed on low and middle income families. There is still lots ofmoney in Ireland, we need to use that wealth to rebuild our society not to pay greedy bondholders and speculators”.

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ULA spokesperson on Finance, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, will challenge the Troika on what he believes is their disastrous failure to resolve the deepening economic crisis in both Ireland and the wider European economy when he meets them later today as part of a Dáil technical group delegation. Deputy Boyd Barrett will also be informing the Troika of a protest that will take place on Thursday outside their lunch-time press conference.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said that while “the Irish government bore massive responsibility for the deepening economic crisis in Ireland by submitting to the bank bail-out and austerity agenda dictated by the Troika, it was utterly ludicrous for the Troika to distance themselves from the disastrous social and economic consequences of that agenda.” Deputy Boyd Barrett pointed out that the “historic record of the both the IMF and the EU-ECB makes it clear that their policies were precisely those that had created the current global and European crises, and that their recent prescriptions for dealing with that crisis, as applied to Ireland Greece or the wider European economy, were failing and failing disastrously.”

Deputy Boyd Barrett will ask a series of questions to the Troika to challenge them on their failed record in terms of the current Irish and European crisis, and will also focus on specific areas such as: The down-grading of European and Irish growth projections, rating down-grades of major European economies and the EFSF, ECB policy, Ireland’s debt burden and the possibility of a second bail-out, the repayment of senior bondholders, privatisation and the sale of state assets, Labour market re-structuring, jobs and investment, EU state aid rules in the context of the current crisis, and dictating austerity from the luxury of a five star hotel.

Among the questions Deputy Boyd Barrett will ask are the following:

  • Will the Troika confirm that they are insisting that the Irish state and its citizens re-pay senior bond-holders in the Irish banking system?
  • How does the Troika justify its insistence – either morally or financially – in countries such as Ireland that ordinary citizens and workers take responsibility for the gambling of private financial institutions and bondholders? Continue reading

Richard Boyd Barrett TD on Vincent Browne on TV3 on January 12th, discussing the Troika visit to Ireland; new regime for Europe and what it might involve for us.