Ireland’s governing Fianna Fáil (FF) party and its Green Party coalition partner were massacred in a general election revolt on February 26. The most successful establishment party in Western Europe for the past 80 years, FF was demolished – reduced from 77 to only 20 seats on the back of public outrage over austerity measures and social spending cuts. In Dublin, FF was reduced from 19 seats to one. The Greens — its partners in political crime — were wiped out entirely, failing to win a single seat in Dáil Éireann (Ireland’s parliament) and winning less than 2% of the vote.
Irish Taosiech (prime minister) Brian Cowen resigned as leader of the government Fianna Fail party on January 22. The move came in the midst of a political crisis caused by the Cowen government accepting an 85 billion euro bailout package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The package will be accompanied by savage spending cuts that will drastically deepen the austerity imposed on the Irish people in response to the financial crisis that hit the southern Irish state in 2008.
For a decade, Ireland was heralded by the most ardent partisans of neoliberal capitalism as a model to be imitated. The “Celtic Tiger” had a higher growth rate than the European average. Tax rates on companies had been reduced to 12.5% and the rate actually paid by the transnational corporations that had set up business there was between 3 and 4% — a CEO’s dream! By comparison, the company tax rate is 39.5% in Japan, 39.2% in Britain, 34.4% in France and 28% in the US. Ireland’s budget deficit was nil in 2007. In this earthly paradise, everybody seemed to benefit.
The Republic of Ireland’s financial crisis, which has caused unemployment to rise from 4.3% in 2006 to 14.1% in October, has deep roots. The conditions of the European Central Bank (ECB)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) “bailout” package for the Irish government will total €85 billion — at a higher interest rate than that tied to the Greek bailout in May. It is tied to the Irish government carrying out huge government spending cuts, tax rises for workers and wage cuts for public sector employees. Irish workers are being told to pay for a crisis they did not cause.
About 100,000 people took over the streets of Dublin on November 27 to protest the Irish government’s “bailout package” from the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, and the savage austerity accompanying the loans, the Morning Star said on November 28. The government formalised the loans, worth €85 billion, on November 29. Loan conditions include the government spending cuts over four years to reduce its deficit. The 2011 budget will contain €4.7 billion in cuts and €1.5 billion in new taxes, the Morning Star said.
Irish election officials said on November 26 that Sinn Fein candidate Pearse Doherty had won a long-awaited by-election in Donegal with an overwhelming 40% of the vote. The election was blocked for months before it was forced on Prime Minister Brian Cowen by the Irish courts. Cowen faces a struggle to win votes on raising taxes and cutting spending when the 2011 budget is unveiled in parliament on December 7.
Irish socialist republican party eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson has labelled the Dublin government’s four-year fiscal adjustment plan “a criminal charter for the wrecking of working class communities”. Among the measures contained within the plan are: • A €2.8 billion cut in the social welfare budget. • The gradual increase of the pension age to 68 by 2028 and the reduction of the pension rate for retired public sector workers. • The reduction of the minimum wage to €7.65 an hour. • The raising of university registration fees to €2000.
The public finances of Ireland will, for the next three years at least, be subject to “regular reviews” by external monitors working on behalf of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the British and Swedish governments. On November 21, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen and minister for finance Brian Lenihan, after a week of shocking lies and deceit, said they would accept the IMF/EU bailout. It later emerged that the G7, made up of the seven most powerful countries in the world, had met to give its approval to the deal.
An “army” of European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials arrived in Dublin on November 18 “seeking to foist a large loan on Ireland in a bid to prop up the country’s embattled banking sector and save the European currency”, the Morning Star said that day. Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan told MPs that Ireland, the EU and the IMF were exploring the prospect of forming “a contingency capital fund that would stand behind the banks”, the article said.
The Irish Republic’s government said on November 4 that it wants to slash 6 billion euros from its 2011 deficit, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said the following day. The cuts were announced despite the government admitting it would lead to lower economic growth. Ireland’s deficit is set to reach an astronomical 32%, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said, mainly because the government’s bailout of the banks with public funds cost 31 billion euros. The country has already endured two years of recession driven by the bail-out costs and a doubling of unemployment to 13.6%.
About 25,000 students took to the streets of Dublin on November 3 in protest at plans to increase college registration fees, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said. Many protesters wore T-shirts calling for “Education, not emigration”, referring to a recent surge of young people leaving Ireland with its double-digit unemployment for opportunities abroad, from Canada to Australia.
During UN Disarmament Week (October 24-31), a bill to enact the UN Convention banning Cluster Munitions is to be tabled in the House of Representatives. However, it is unlikely to contain a provision prohibiting financial institutions from funding manufacturers of cluster bombs. It has been found that the ANZ bank has provided loans of $136.5 million to producers of cluster bombs.
Last month, I stood in the Guildhall Square in Derry and watched as the relatives of the 14 innocent victims of the British Parachute Regiment expressed their delight at the Saville report’s conclusion that the 14 were innocent victims. At the time of the killings the dead were labelled as terrorists by the British government. The British system and, to its shame, much of the British media, accused those who had been shot of being “gunmen” and “bombers”.
Thousands of republicans from across Ireland gathered on July 20 in Sallins, County Kildare, to honour Theobald Wolfe Tone, known as “the father of Irish republicanism”. Tone led an uprising against British rule and for an Irish republic in 1798. When it was defeated, Tone was sentenced to death.
The proposal for a visit to the 26 Irish counties that make up the southern state by the British head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, has drawn condemnation from Irish republicans. Irish Taoiseach (head of government) Brian Cowan announced in June plans for a royal visit, believed to be for sometime in 2011. It would be the first visit by the British head of state to the southern Irish state since it was founded in 1921.
On June 15, something amazing happened: British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the British army shooting Irish people. “It was wrong”, said Cameron, after a government inquiry found the British army was responsible for the killing of 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators, seven of them teenagers, in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. On January 30, 1972, up to 30,000 people marched in Derry, in the six Irish counties occupied by Britain, to demand an end to internment, a policy that allowed for the jailing of people without trial.