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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 26 October, 2014

Column: The Troika created a social experiment – and Ireland was the unlucky lab rat

Today MEPs voted to endorse the findings of a report into the Troika – but ultimately there will be no sanctions. Ireland is not yet free from economic shackles, writes Nessa Childers MEP.

Nessa Childers

This January the tables were turned on the Troika; the committee that had so closely scrutinised the budgetary reforms of countries like Ireland, Cyprus, Greece and Portugal was examined itself.

The resulting report acknowledges the challenges the Troika faced in critical situations, but it also highlights the problems that the EU-ECB-IMF consortium has now created. Although there will ultimately be no sanctions, today in Strasbourg MEPs voted to endorse the report’s findings.

Here, independent MEP Nessa Childers, running for re-election in Dublin, argues that the report proves Ireland was at the receiving end of a disastrous social experiment …

THE HIGH-PROFILE report into the workings of the Troika has now concluded and today was approved by MEPs in Strasbourg. Sadly, however, the people of this country will not find it so easy to draw a line under austerity.

When Irish voters went to the polls in October 2009, for a second time, a lot had changed since the first Lisbon Treaty outing 16 months earlier.

The nation had officially entered recession and was experiencing a catastrophic financial meltdown. Jobs were toppling, mortgage arrears were spiralling and forced emigration was once again an everyday feature of everyday Irish life. Meanwhile, we were tragically familiar with the likes of Nama and bank guarantee schemes.

In two years, the country around us had transformed and the electorate, understandably, was scared. We were threatened with the onset of further grief should the constitutional amendment to accommodate the Treaty be denied for a second time.

But we didn’t have to be told twice, and within two weeks of voting, Mary McAleese had made Lisbon law, allowing for the Treaty to be gifted to grateful European Union officials on 1 December, 2009.

Perhaps, when lo and behold three-and-a-half years ago the Troika arrived on Irish soil because we said that was OK via Article 143 of the Lisbon Treaty, the politicians-of-the-day expected contribution and friendly assistance – a resulting collaborative effort to help the struggling people of this nation. How wrong that assumption would have been, however. The Troika was never ‘involved’ in Irish financial affairs – it has only dominated them in the same way a schoolyard bully always dictates how the game is played.

Long-standing social problems

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see the serious, long-standing social problems that have emerged because of the actions of the EU-ECB-IMF triumvirate.

Indeed, we need only look around us: poverty; sub-standard educational and health services; an inefficient social welfare system; mass negative equity, and emigration – all a lasting legacy of poor banking regulation and the austerity agenda implemented by the Troika.

And let’s not forget the real faces of austerity: the elderly lady who, once again, won’t be turning on her heating; the young mother going without dinner so that her children can eat; the 25-year-old graduate who finished top of his class but can’t find a job in a bar or restaurant.

Certainly, the consortium’s focus never considered the lives of these ordinary, hard-working people striving to provide a decent living for their families. Cost-cutting achieved by any means, that’s what the Troika wanted – and it is what it got.

At least now, there are some quiet mutterings of regret among the European Union ascendancy.

The Employment And Social Affairs Committee report, which I have followed closely from its inception, was voted through today in Strasbourg. It shows the impact of adjustment programmes and examines how austerity was implemented in Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.

Overseen by Othmar Karas of Austria and France’s Liem Hoang Ngoc, the words ‘too little too late’ will undoubtedly spring to mind for the millions of people in those four countries. For them, this retroactive move cannot undo the unaccountable Troika’s dealings with their bailed-out governments.

This was an experiment

Don’t be fooled by governmental spin either; we are not yet free from our economic shackles. Though the markets may agree that Ireland is looking gradually more stable, the lingering Troika insists on hanging around, this time assuming the shady role of ‘observer’. Then there is the further €2 bn of cuts to come out of Budget ‘15 in October. Indeed, we will only exit the bailout programme when the likes of spiralling youth unemployment and the gap between rich and poor finally comes to a halt. In short, Ireland is facing years more of austerity to come.

Admittedly, I am bitterly disappointed that the report did not clearly state these enforced measures were a breach of the EU’s Charter Of Fundamental Rights – because that’s what they were – but at least the findings prove that the Troika was undemocratic and totally lacking in transparency.

I believe that Ireland’s future is so much more uncertain because we allowed a foreign grouping, and one that had no understanding of this nation and its people, to meddle in Irish affairs.

This was a social experiment – and Ireland was the unlucky lab rat. And so we are branded by bailout … and it may take years for the scars to fade.

Read: Fundamental social rights were violated by Troika programmes says EU committee

Read: Paying unguaranteed bondholders was unfair, admits former IMF chief

Column: This “Ireland as a success story” rhetoric is based on empty spin

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