Friday 19 December 2014

Time for Ireland to stand up to EU's illegal actions

Published 02/04/2011 | 05:00

The stress tests told us how bad our situation was and how weak we are in dealing with the crisis. The Government told us we are not masters in our own house.

They have consigned us to the EU, the ECB and the IMF and with needless haste have conflated stress test with twin-pillar banks.

We should have learnt to distrust Europe and confront their involvement in our affairs but have put ourselves more in their power.

We have failed to force senior bondholders to share the burden. Enda Kenny's reasons are weak, his position a betrayal. Nationalising the banks, when we don't know how to run banks, does not help confidence and we have little in ourselves.

We have obtained no EU concessions. Jean-Claude Trichet has rebuffed Kenny whose intended diplomatic onslaught on Europe means nothing. The world knows we are either mad or pathetic. We are back where Lenihan started out in 2008.

The EU involvement in our crisis was illegal. The EU invaded us, in November, backed by the ECB and the IMF, telling Cowen and Lenihan what to do. This plunged us into greater crisis. This was to avoid a bigger crisis for Europe.

The EU illegalities are of huge significance. They should have offered Ireland a way out. Instead, they have been ignored. Colm McCarthy said we should look into what happened.

What the EU did put us in a powerful position, able to indict them for illegal interference contrary to the Lisbon Treaty. We did nothing.

I said last week that Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty, used as the basis for the ECB, EU and IMF 'invasion' of Ireland last November, did not cover EU intervention on economic crisis grounds. Article 122 was misused. Its purpose is to help a member state "threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control". It requires the Commission to propose action to the Council of Ministers. It requires also that the president of the council inform the European Parliament. None of this was done.

It was wrongly and illegally used for the banking crisis. What had occurred was not beyond Ireland's control, but the result of Irish stupidity in failing to control or regulate the banks. We did not invite the EU to intervene. The EU invited itself and Jean-Claude Trichet was its instrument.

The Irish Government did not act constitutionally in accepting the 'invasion'. Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan were covert and deceitful. They said nothing was being done. Other government ministers were in complete ignorance. The decisions were in the hands of two incompetent men. Later, the grubby truths were laid bare.

The ECB, after benignly presiding over our lethal improvidence, suddenly placed us under duress, forcing on us overwhelming debts with impossible conditions.

We never questioned this. We needed the matter raised in the Dail. We should have forestalled illegality. We did nothing.

In Britain they did our work for us. Their powerful European Scrutiny Committee saw that Article 122 was illegal in the uses to which it was being put and raised this with the chancellor of the exchequer last year. He sent in a more junior minister, Mark Hoban.

Bill Cash, chairman of the committee, told parliament of the legal appeal against it in Germany, by Thomas Ax. The minister claimed the case had been "struck out". Under questioning he later admitted it was "pending". He was forced to withdraw. Under an urgent question procedure in the House of Commons -- the most powerful means available -- the chairman also asked the minister on March 24 whether the decision underpinning the European Financial Stability Mechanism was under review. The debate related to Britain's exposure to that eurozone bailout mechanism given developments in Portugal but with implications for Ireland. The point was a lesson for us on the ongoing seriousness with which the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee works, a seriousness absent here.

Scrutiny Committee members have expressed astonishment that no such questioning has been pursued in Ireland. Why not? Our position on this issue is a matter of collective life-and-death. Yet our new Government, like the old one, is not confronting the EU with its illegality. Why not?

Part of the trouble is our unquestioning love for Europe. Secondly, we do not talk to other EU countries. We ask the Department of Foreign Affairs what to do and they ask the EU. We are too distant from the PIIGS countries, which share our economic crisis situation.

Europe is moving away, hoping to hide what it did. Its summit conclusions offered "a new start" and structured future aid for future bailouts. We have one bailout and we need desperately to be bailed out from it. The EU summit conclusions are a pathetic list of pious fiscal strategy: 'to make work more attractive; to help the unemployed get back to work; to combat poverty and promote social inclusion; to invest in education and training; to balance security and flexibility; to reform pension systems; to attract private capital to finance growth; to boost research and innovation; to allow cost-effective access to energy and step up energy efficiency policies". Does anyone here believe in that?

Does Ireland believe it after Europe's failed-solution crisis? By laying out its 2013-2020 strategy the EU is trying to move us on from the iniquitous use of Article 122 to destroy us. We should have examined this before and after the stress tests, changing to an attitude of scepticism and confrontation because of our awareness that the Irish taxpayer is on the hook and has gone forfeit for European banking.

Rescue was possible if Kenny and Noonan had used the stress testing to terminate the comfortable, covert relationship between the ECB and our Central Bank. But they obviously prefer punishment, complying with these institutions and dealing with things in accordance with the latest EU post-summit document. They are in Europe's thrall.

Ireland in its biggest crisis was abused by misuse of the Lisbon Treaty. Our new political leaders, who once so blindly favoured that incomprehensible document, had the responsibility to challenge its use last November. They failed to do this.

They could still change the bailout; they could render it a deliberate and unforgivable mistake by the EU, using inappropriate measures to achieve ends not seen primarily for Ireland but for Europe. We should re-enter the shabby process and turn it into a proper rescue for Ireland.

This crisis is not for central banks. It is far too political for them and goes far beyond their functions. These are to save European banking.

The EU wants to hide the November 2010 illegality and make themselves legally 'safe'. We and the other PIIGS states are suffering because of this.

We are still faced with a hard choice between a safe and orderly default and a disorderly one. We don't have to be passive, allowing others to order what we do.

A better, braver way is to confront the EU with its illegality in invading our fiscal territory on the wrong grounds, uninvited by our Government. The mishandled Irish banking crisis must be exposed and replaced by something better.

Irish Independent

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