Thursday 29 September 2016

Sinn Féin and parties of the left talked up Greek tragedy

Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30

Former Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Pat Moore
Former Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photo: Pat Moore

You don't hear too much about Yanis Varoufakis in Ireland these days. The handsome economics professor, turned Greek Finance Minister, talked a great show during his term in office from February 2015 to July 2015. He resigned a day after the referendum on July 5 last, after Greek voters rejected the terms of the country's third bailout since 2010.

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As he exited on a motorcycle, his blonde wife's locks wafting Godiva-like from the pillion, he blasted the EU creditors' decision to ignore the referendum vote outcome. His boss, the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, went back to Brussels and effectively took what terms he could. Political humiliation was added to the ongoing horror of a country with an economy on the brink.

It is a deeply sad thing to have to say, but looking at the decent Greek people suffer is a lesson to the average Irish citizen, or indeed people in any small country facing tough economic circumstances.

The current Greek government is unable to deliver on its extraordinary election promises of January 2015. It cannot reverse the downward spiral of recession, get jobs for the 26pc of people unemployed; stabilise the one in four businesses on the brink of going bust; rescue the 30pc of Greek people living below the poverty line. They are living on "extend and pretend" debt terms from creditors - and the issue is due to boil over again in a matter of weeks.

Yet Sinn Féin and some left-wing politicians seeking support in this election campaign hold up the Greek approach as the way to handle Ireland's debt difficulties.

In Monday's RTÉ debate, Gerry Adams pumped up the rhetoric of the Irish Government "on its knees" in Brussels. Funnily enough he did not, however, lay too much emphasis on the Greek experience, much less mention how donning a Stetson hat and thumping tables in dealing with your lender-of-last-resort actually ends. In this case, it ended in a modern Greek tragedy.

Deputy Paul Murphy of the Anti-Austerity Alliance is unrepentant about continuing support for the Varoufakis approach. Yesterday he told this writer that his primary regret was that Tsipras's party, Syriza, leading the government, did not utterly defy the European Union.

"Yes, the Greek people are suffering. But they are suffering from the effects of needless policies of austerity which should always be opposed," Deputy Murphy said. His distinction is a matter for interesting debate - but given the economic reality it is hard to see it bettering the plight of the stricken Greek people in any way.

Another great advocate for the Varoufakis approach was Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit. He could not be reached yesterday for an update of his views.

But the broader "Right to Change" political platform, to which his party is allied, invited Mr Varoufakis to participate by video link in a conference on the economy they organised in Dublin earlier this month.

All reports from Greece these days suggest that Mr Varoufakis was a man who gave the country false hope and did not advance their cause in Brussels and the other EU capitals. He was in Berlin last week launching a new pan-European movement advocating a different kind of economics.

Meanwhile, the outgoing coalition government are quite right to draw voters' attention to the modern Greek tragedy. They are entitled to ask if we should have taken Sinn Féin's advice and that of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit.

A glance at Greece's economic figures tells all.

Irish Independent

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