Politics Member States

Eurozone crisis: An Irish village says no to the banks

22 November 2011
Irish Independent Dublin

Just another Sunday for the Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest.

Just another Sunday for the Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest.

As Ireland looks back one year after the EU/IMF bailout, every Sunday the inhabitants of Ballyhea stage a silent protest, against those who plunged the country into recession.

The invitation to the first march came on an A4 sheet, eight months ago, and it was the essence of civility. "Short, sharp, silent," it said, "No placard, no chant." Those who felt angry about what was happening should gather in the church car park and march to the speed limit sign on the edge of the village. No speech-making. "Bring only your anger."

And, last Sunday in the north Cork village of Ballyhea, after the second Mass, the 38th weekly march was scheduled to take place. A 10-minute walk from St Mary's car park to the speed limit sign on the edge of the village, and back. Over the months, the march has acquired a banner: "Ballyhea Says No! To Bond-Holder Bail-Out." A small upsurge of spirit in a frightened, diffident country.

It began with a local man, Diarmuid O'Flynn, a sports journalist with the Irish Examiner. He wrote to TDs, protesting about the bailout of bondholders, and got form letters in reply. Last March, O'Flynn rang around friends and relatives. A dozen people turned up in the church car park, and they had their quiet, dignified march, and the rest of us didn't notice.

ECB instructs the citizens to pay

O'Flynn saw the bailout of bondholders as central to what has been done to the country. Tens of billions of private business debts, transferred to the citizens, breaking the State's ability to borrow at sustainable levels of interest. He reckons the total cost of bailing out the bondholders, with interest over the years to come, will be a hundred billion. "The ECB is allowing us borrow a hundred billion, so we can spend a hundred billion paying off bondholders."

Over the months, the march through the tiny village grew to around 70, sometimes slipping back. It's a strong GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] village, quiet, conservative, unused to standing out from the crowd. If the under-14s need a lift to a match, and a cheer from the sidelines, if farmers are especially busy, the ranks of the march become thinner. But month after month, the village has continued to bear witness to the madness.

Hopes that the protest would spread were unfulfilled. There was activity in Fermoy for a while, but it petered out. A march to Dublin was met with indifference. O'Flynn sees the sense in protests on specific issues -- the closing down of emergency wards throughout the countries, reintroduction of university tuition fees -- or in the Occupy movement. But, in talking to individual protesters, aware of the huge transfer of wealth, and what that does to the State's finances, he has been moved to ruminate. "Lads, can you not make the connection? Read full article in the Irish Independent...