A political and economic crisis is sweeping across Ireland—and it threatens to engulf several other countries.
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week decided on a multi-billion bank bailout.
And British chancellor George Osborne has offered another £7 billion.
But none of this is going to the Irish people—it is all for bankers who are tied up in the collapse of the Irish economy.
To pay for this, the poor and the vulnerable—already smarting from years of cuts—will be hammered further. That’s why huge protests are planned for this weekend.
The Irish government is in terminal crisis. Ruling party Fianna Fail is determined to push through an austerity budget on 7 December, but is far from guaranteed to be able to do it.
The Greens, their coalition partners, have slavishly promised to prop up the government to get the budget through. But a change of mind by independent and backbench MPs could yet bring down the government.
There is rage and bitterness among ordinary people.
According to Catherine Mooney, a Dublin teacher, “They are saying a lot in the Dail [parliament] but they are doing nothing. The IMF is the latest shot in a very long war against workers.
“We have given and given through ‘partnership’ in the boom and got nothing.
“We have given again with the cuts and now all they want is to run roughshod over workers for the sake of the banks.”
Peter, a pensioner, told Socialist Worker, “They are going to take 10 percent out of my pension and give it to some banker.
“They’re crooks and we know they’re crooks. A small club of people have filled their pockets and we are being made by the same people to pay for it.”
Welfare will be slashed. Public health services will deteriorate. Children, disabled and elderly people will lose already inadequate services.
But the £100 billion that is owed to German banks and the £109 billion owed to British banks will be secured. The Irish bankers will be safe for another six months.
Mass unemployment and emigration will be cemented. Poverty and inequality will increase sharply.
The viciousness is summed up in the IMF’s idea of slashing the minimum wage and welfare payments. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the state of the public finances.
The IMF is simply using the crisis as an opportunistic excuse to punish those at the bottom.
Its plan, due to be published on Wednesday, proposes a “gradual decrease of benefits over time of unemployment and stricter job search requirements”.
And the IMF also wants to slash the minimum wage “to make it consistent with the general fall in wages”.
The government’s four-year plan includes measures to “drive down costs to business in order to increase competitiveness”.
That means keeping taxes on profits low—while eliminating 28,000 public sector jobs and cutting the pay of anybody who is left.
The Irish government’s plans for the economy rely on 100,000 poor people emigrating by 2014.
John is unemployed. He told Socialist Worker, “All my friends are talking about going abroad. Canada is the place most people are talking about.
“There are just no jobs here for all the people who used to work in construction—carpenters, builders. There are even fewer jobs for young people.”
Jimmy Kelly, Unite regional secretary, told Socialist Worker, “Their policy is one of forced emigration. It could be considered ‘generation cleansing’.
“Our government has finally surrendered control after two years of what can only be described as incompetence and lies. Yet still they go around cutting ribbons as if nothing has changed—and profess anger if they are asked whether they are ashamed of their performance.
“We have heard that it is the markets’ fault, that the banks lied to them and that it was somehow our fault for questioning them and undermining confidence.
“They have treated the Irish people like fools and must step down immediately.
“They should be forced to relinquish their fancy cars and crazy expenses and allow the people to decide who should negotiate our way out of the mess they have created.”
That anger is shared by many in the trade union movement. But others in the Labour movement have been more conservative.
For too long the unions have accepted sacrifices and agreed not to strike in order to promote the “national interest”.
But that’s been revealed as a code for the super-rich who profited in the boom and want workers to clear up the mess.
Meanwhile the main opposition parties want an election, but agree with slashing spending.
But the bitterness and anger could spill over into a movement that could stop the cuts.
There are daily protests against the cuts and the government—but the key day is this Saturday, where a huge demonstration has been called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
And after that the Right To Work campaign has called a mass protest for Budget Day on Tuesday 7 December.
These protests must be a launchpad for hard-hitting action.
Mass mobilisations and a huge strike wave can stop the punishment of the poor for the benefit for the rich.
Workers in Portugal, who are next in line as the crisis spreads, were to hold a general strike this week. That’s the kind of resistance we need.
Roots of the crisis
Ireland’s 1990s “Celtic Tiger” boom was fuelled by US multinationals—until the money dried up.
The Irish state then encouraged a property bubble, and turned the country into a hedge fund tax haven where the rich stashed their cash.
After the global recession, this collapsed. The rich’s money went as quickly as it had come.
Terrified the crisis will have a knock-on effect on other banks in Europe, the European Central Bank and IMF are now desperate to prop up the system—and make us pay the price.