The developments over the weekend at the Franco-German summit have raised the possibility of changes to the treaty and a consequential referendum here. I would like to put on record my disappointment with the Taoiseach’s comments over the weekend that such a referendum would not be welcomed. I can fully understand that it would not be welcomed from his perspective because if there was such a referendum there is absolutely no doubt it would be defeated. It would give a chance to the Irish people to voice their opinions on an agenda of selling off State assets and the prospect of cuts of a billion euro to social welfare, which was announced today.
I like the Taoiseach’s diversionary tactics, but the reality is — that people in this country are entitled to a referendum should changes be proposed to the treaty.
I also note the Taoiseach said he would not like to see a two-tier Europe. It is a bit late for that. He may aspire to sit there as an equal, and his chair might be the same size, but he is definitely not a member of the top table. The real divide in the eurozone is not between the big countries and the small countries, although that exists, but between the big transnational business interests and the ordinary people, no matter where they are, who are paying the price through austerity. What we really have here is a crisis of the economic system and a crisis of neoliberalism.
In July, the Taoiseach and the other eurozone leaders told us they had a package that would stabilise the Greek debt crisis and avert a default. Now the Council meeting has been delayed because the troika report is not ready; they have not decided what verdict will come from their visit. Incidentally, it is an important lesson for Irish people to consider what has been foisted on the Greek population through the additional austerity measures: a property tax, more public sector job losses on top of the plan to sack around 150,000 civil servants, draconian wage cuts and so on. These policies can only result in economic and social catastrophe. The Greek economy is contracting. The question the Taoiseach needs to ask is when will the lunacy stop. Austerity is not working in Greece. How will it yield different results in Portugal, Ireland or indeed Belgium, where the newspaper headlines this morning are about the Dexia bank crisis?
The only solution the eurozone leaders are putting forward is more of the same. The six-pack measures are an anti-democratic attempt to ram through, over citizens’ heads, more vicious austerity. As other speakers observed, this approach ignores the reality that Greek debt is unsustainable and a default inevitable. Strategists close to the investment banks and other financial interests are clear on that point. The solution is not a recapitalisation which protects bondholders and speculators but rather genuine, democratic accountability and public ownership of the banks which gives citizens a proper say in how resources are invested. They must be invested in people, not profits and speculation. Full debate.
Responding to the news of Etihad Airways interest in buying the state’s 25% stake in Aer Lingus Dublin North TD and Aer Lingus SIPTU Shop Steward Clare Daly said:
“The proceeds of any sale like the sale of other state assets are intended purely to clear the private debt the state has taken on. The final sums the 25% stake in Aer Lingus might fetch at this juncture would barely make a dent in that colossal debt.
“The rationale behind the government maintaining a stake in Aer Lingus, we were told, was that regardless of the fact it has become an essentially private interest it was of strategic importance to our island economy. If that was the case at the time of the previous sell off of shares I ask the government what has change?
“It is clear to me and to anybody else familiar with the airline industry the Etihad’s interest in Aer Lingus lies not with maintaining and expanding routes between Ireland and the rest of the world but rather Aer Lingus’s 23 Heathrow slots which they would like for trans Atlantic routes.
“Such an outcome would come at the cost of jobs. My colleagues in Aer Lingus will have to ready themselves for further battles in the months and years ahead. The sell off of the government’s stake in Aer Lingus is a final chapter in a story of economic treason which workers in other commercial semi states should draw lessons from when the government comes after them .”