IN 1984, GEORGE Orwell gave us a perfect description of the rhetoric of the Irish government, the European Commission and their hangers-on when promoting Ireland’s bailout exit. He defined doublethink:
“To tell deliberate lies, while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient…”.
The entire “success story” rhetoric is based on empty spin, hyperbole and untruths. It is a story with a purpose – a pat on the back for the Irish government, and a useful stick to beat the peoples of southern Europe for the Commission.
The inconvenient facts illustrating that it has been a success only for the bondholders and the rich are innumerable. They include the increase in profits by 21 per cent since 2007, the payment of €26 billion to bondholders this year by bailed out banks and the state, while Ireland has the highest net emigration rate in all of the EU, with youth unemployment at nearly 30 per cent and an unsustainable debt to GDP ratio of 125 per cent.
The repeated references to the return of economic sovereignty of Ireland are particularly galling. This is a self-serving lie designed to allow Fine Gael and Labour to present themselves as our saviours for the five months until the next elections. The reality is that the right of people to decide on economic and other policy will not be returned on 16 December.
To the limited extent that right exists in a world dominated by financial markets, it has been given away indefinitely by this government and the previous government. The rule of the Troika institutions will continue through a huge array of different mechanisms – at the expense of people’s democratic rights and economic interests. I have published a paper which sets out in detail the rules which make up this neo-liberal austerity straitjacket.
The Troika itself is not going anywhere. The visits of the men in suits passing homeless people in the streets while dictating increased austerity will continue for years to come. The IMF will have a process called ‘Post-Programme Monitoring’, involving two reports a year, until nearly all of the debt to the IMF is repaid. They have already said that they will be maintaining their office. The European Commission will exercise a similar ‘Post-Programme surveillance’.
The Irish state is also now subject to a huge number of undemocratic new EU economic rules. These institutionalise the imposition of austerity, through the transfer of significant powers from elected governments to the unelected European Commission.
They mean that the state can be subject to a fine of hundreds of millions of euros if it fails to follow ‘recommendations’ from the European Commission to impose yet more cuts and extra taxes. They bind future governments to meet a measurement of a balanced budget which has been described by Davy Stockbrokers as “an abstract economic concept that cannot be observed with certainty.”
They mean budgetary plans have to be presented in advance to the European Commission and Council for recommendations before any discussion in the Dail.
The power to decide on economic policies will remain out of the democratic control of the majority. Ireland post-bailout will still be under rigorous ‘surveillance’, it will be subject to austerity diktats and will be liable to fines if the government chooses not to obey. This is not economic sovereignty.
The European Commission presents these measures as a way of avoiding future crises. This is a rewriting of history. The crisis was not caused by too high public spending or debt – in fact Ireland in 2007 had one of the lowest levels of public debt in all of Europe. Public debt has only ballooned since banks across Europe were bailed out.
Instead, these measures are a way of undemocratically locking in a continuation of austerity all across Europe. They are only the start of a plan of the Commission that will see binding “contractual arrangements” for austerity introduced in the next months as part of a drive for “Troika for all” across Europe.
Six years of these policies have resulted in the highest rate of unemployment in Europe since the introduction of the euro and continuing economic crisis.
More will make it worse for the 99 per cent and better for the 1 per cent – big business which has benefited from labour costs being pushed down and bondholders who continue to get repaid.
Of course, these new rules could be broken – but it would take a genuinely Left government and a mobilised population to sweep them aside. While the establishment wraps itself in the tricolour, we should revisit James Connolly’s writings:
If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain…. England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed.
The ‘hypocritical homage’ could have been written especially for Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore et al. The rest of the quote is equally as relevant and the lesson is clear. It is not enough for the Troika to leave through the front door only to come back in again through the backdoor. Their austerity, their undemocratic measures and their system should go with them.
Paul Murphy is the Socialist Party MEP for Dublin.