Debt campaigners reject 'blackmail' over Treaty

A campaign group calling for the write down of Irish debt has labelled the link being drawn between the debt and the Fiscal Treaty as “obscene and tantamount to blackmail”. Community worker and Anglo: Not Our Debt spokesperson John Bissett said he “utterly rejected any spurious quid pro quo between voting Yes in the forthcoming referendum on the Fiscal Treaty and the suspension or cancellation of the Anglo and Irish Nationwide debt.”

He went on to say that “there has been far too much of this sort of horse-trading in Ireland in recent years and what we need now is for the debt to be dealt with ethically and on its own terms.”

Another campaign spokesperson, UCD lecturer Marie Moran, said that the debts arising from Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society were illegitimate.

“This is not our debt in the first place, and the idea that we should be offered some minor concession on it to vote Yes to the Treaty is obscene - it has all the hallmarks of a ‘stroke’ where one has to pay to receive some of one’s own possessions back after the ignominy of a daylight robbery.”

Andy Storey of Action from Ireland (Afri), which is part of the Debt Justice Action network supporting the campaign, said that the next ‘promissory note’ repayment, due on 31 March, should be suspended regardless of the Treaty referendum.

“To say that a write down of this illegitimate debt might be conditional on a Yes vote is obscene and tantamount to blackmail.”

He went on, “Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that people in Ireland will not be bribed - nor should they be blackmailed.” Mr Storey also labelled the suggestion from Minister Simon Coveney on RTÉ’s Frontline that the government is seeking only to renegotiate interest payments, rather than the promissory note principal, as “derisory and irrelevant”.

Mr Bissett said that deprived communities were already being devastated by cutbacks to repay debt. “The shocking evidence for how communities are being devastated is spelt out very starkly in a report published last week by the ICTU where they estimate that the community sector is being exposed to cuts of up to 35%. This cannot continue. We desperately need the resources that are being spent on the promissory notes to fund our vital public and community infrastructure.”

The Anglo repayments will have reached €47 billion by 2031, the equivalent of 30% of Ireland’s current GDP. However, as Ireland will have to borrow more to make the payments, this could rise to €85 billion when interest charges are added in. The campaigners highlight that the €3.1 billion payments due to be made by the state on behalf of Anglo in March 2012 would fund the cost of running Ireland’s entire primary school system for a year or could fund the putting in place of a next generation broadband network for all of Ireland.

For more information on the Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign see here.