Irish Republican News · April 18, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IMF, EU join in Dublin fudge exercise

The Fine Gael/Labour government in Dublin declared last week it had "passed" a review of its economic progress by its International Monetary Fund and European Union creditors without any penalty.

The government moved against a number of high-profile developers of the "Celtic Tiger" boom and announced plans to impose losses on a small number of bank bondholders in an attempt to assuage public anger over new austerity measures.

Well-known Fermanagh businessman Sean Quinn fell victim to the move after he was ousted from his position in the giant Quinn Group by the state-owned Anglo Irish Bank, who appointed share receivers.

Another headline was grabbed by the government in scrapping a controversial cut to the minimum wage, a move which was offset by the ending of Sunday and holiday pay rates for certain groups of minimum-wage workers. Employer's contributions to social insurance (PRSI) were also cut as part of the change.

The new policies had to first be cleared by the 'troika' of representatives from the IMF, EU, and ECB (European Central Bank). But there was no announcement on any changes to the interest rate on the 85 billion euro rescue package, with all of the public statements geared towards improving the optics of the austerity process.

"The troika have informally signed off on the first quarter and they have said you have met all your targets and can continue to draw down the money. Everything is moving along fine," Finance Minister Michael Noonan told state television.

"We are not suggesting any further corrective measures for 2011," he added.


Howver, Noonan's 'softly-softly' approach to the 26-County state's banking and fiscal crises received a blow on Monday when, despite receiving a further 30 billion euros in capitalisation this month, bonds in three of Ireland's banks were downgraded to 'junk' status by international ratings agency Moody's. It followed a further downgrade for the state's sovereign debt last week amid a growing belief in capital markets that Dublin could yet be forced into a default alongside Greece.

Most of the discussions with the 'troika' were not released into the public domain and the government gave no details on new austerity measures.


Speaking on the minimum wage decision, Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald said she welcomed that fact that "the government's U-turn has come the full 360 degrees", pointing out that almost 240,000 workers, such as cleaners, workers in the security industry, agriculture and so on, were being punished to pay for it.

"It seems obvious that this was the price demanded by the IMF to reverse the cut in the minimum wage," Ms McDonald added.

Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the proposed cut in the lower rate of employer's PRSI would act as a massive incentive for employers to drive down wages.

"This proposal will create a new poverty trap and hit workers hard," he said. "It will have a negative effect on the economy as people will have less money to spend while the state will also bring in less from this charge."

Mr Doherty also said the EU and IMF announcements so far were "scant on detail but clear on intention" and "a far cry from the calls of Fine Gael and Labour that they would not be bound" by the terms of te last government's agreement.

"By the end of this year the government under this programme is committed to increasing employee's taxes by lowering their personal income bands and credits, introducing a property tax, increasing carbon taxes, as well as reducing social expenditure.

"Although some of these measures are in total contradiction to the Programme for Government, they have failed to have these conditions scrapped. They have passed the EU/IMF test but failed the Irish test.

"The Government of Ireland has defaulted on its mandate - its mandate to the people of this State who elected them. It is a sad day when our economic future is being decided by unelected figures outside of the State.

"The fact that the details of what is in the new Programme will be discussed in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington before they are presented to the people of this State on the 15th May is an affront to Irish democracy."


Meanwhile, four of the eirigi activists who were arrested for their part in a protest at the headquarters of the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank in Dublin in May last year were cleared of all charges on Thursday after the Garda case against them collapsed.

Ursula Ni Shionnain, Daithi O Riain, Robbie Fox and Eoin O Se occupied the roof of the bank last year to raise a banner imploring "People of Ireland, Rise Up".

The four were subsequently arrested, along with three other activists, assaulted by Gardai and charged with trespass.

Last week, a Dublin court found that there was insufficient evidence to convict the four activists.

Ursula Ni Shionnain said: "Our protest was a legitimate act of civil disobedience at a time of economic and political crisis. We should never have been arrested and dragged through the courts but, today, we were vindicated.

"The people who should be in front of courts are the bankers and politicians who led Ireland to economic ruin. They should be tried and convicted of destroying people's livelihoods, leaving tens of thousands on the dole and looting the public purse."

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© 2011 Irish Republican News