In the early hours of last Sunday morning, on my way back from the Gaelic Writers Association annual get-together and headed for the haven of Ballyhea for week 85 of our protest against the bank bailout, I was listening to playback on Newstalk. A segment came up from Friday morning's programme with Shane Coleman and Chris Donoghue, discussing current affairs with three eminent guests, focusing in particular on Budget 2013 and the likely cuts and taxes.
Among the five there was a general frustration at the way things are going, surprise at the lack of focused protest. Eventually someone suggesting that what the people needed was a rallying cause, something that affects us all and against which we could all vent our outrage.
A discussion then ensued on that point, the upcoming budget itself suggested as one such rallying cause. At this stage, and as is far too often the case lately, I found myself shouting at the radio. 'The bonds lads, the bloody bonds, the bloody bank bailout and the billions it has cost us and is STILL costing us!'
What is it about this bank debt? Why is it that even the most 'expert' commentators can ignore it when discussing Ireland's current dire situation? On my way up to Dublin the previous day I had listened to another such 'expert' proclaiming that the problem we have in Ireland is the budget deficit, that all this mess is our own fault and that we should stop complaining because no-one is going to give us money for nothing. It took an interjection from a Greek journalist who was also on the programme, on the end of a phone from Athens, to point out to this expert AND to the presenter (who was saying nothing) that the bank debt burden which had been imposed on Ireland was also a massive problem.
Why have we, as a people, so meekly accepted the imposition of this bank debt burden? According to the respected Namawinelake blog, €69.6bn is what we have so far sunk into the banks; that's over €15,000 for every resident - young and old, female and male, citizen and otherwise - of this state. All other impositions/cuts pale by comparison yet a protest against the cut of a local ambulance service, or the closure of a local A&E ward, will bring thousands to the streets, while we in Ballyhea and Charleville protest this odious burden almost on our own (kudos to the Anglo Not Our Debt group here).
No other nation would tolerate this, none. Stephen Donnelly TD recently produced a flyer in which he points out that per capita, the Irish bank bailout is costing us four times what the Greeks have been forced to pay, ten times what the Spanish have paid, 23 times the Portugese bailout and 198 times the Italian per capita figure, and Stephen was working off the old €13,956/capita figure for Ireland. In all those countries you have mass protests - here?
On Saturday week, October 27th, we're again taking the Ballyhea/Charleville protest on tour, up the west this time. Ennis, Galway, Castlebar, Sligo, Donegal town, then home again for our own regular Sunday morning march, in Charleville this Sunday. A long trek for us, a costly trek too with the bus-hire/leaflets etc. all coming from our own pockets. But we're going. Hopefully a few of you will join us along the way.