News Editorial

Thursday 2 October 2014

Barroso's comments ignore the reality

Published 21/12/2013 | 02:30

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The comments of the President of the European Commission Jose-Manuel Barroso rejecting any further help for Ireland's enormous bank debt come as a slap in the face to the Irish Government and indeed the Irish people.

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It would be difficult to argue with Mr Barroso's contention that the problem in the Irish banks was "one of the biggest problems in the world in terms of banking stability".

But his comments that Europe did not cause the problems for Ireland, Ireland caused the problems for Europe, is surely wrong on a number of counts.

The euro currency was designed by eurocrats. As we all know, it was a flawed concept in that while it was a European-wide currency with a single interest rate, very different conditions pertained in different countries within the eurozone.

In Ireland, it ushered in an era of low interest rates and cheap money that led directly to excessive bank lending and ultimately the property bubble.

The other major flaw in the euro concept was that regulation was also left in the hands of individual countries. In Ireland's case, we know that 'light touch' was a disaster for which we are all now paying.

When the banking crisis came to a head in 2008 Ireland was left isolated. The government was instructed by the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) Jean Claude Trichet that all the Irish banks -- including basketcases like Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society -- were of systemic importance to the eurozone and had to be saved. The then Finance Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, buckled and the rest is history. It has left the Irish people saddled with a staggering bank debt of €63bn.

It is an unbearable burden that we should not be obliged to carry on our own.

One would have thought Mr Barroso had a duty to treat all European states fairly. His comments can be interpreted as a direct intervention in Irish politics at a time when Enda Kenny and his Government are trying to find some way to resolve the intractable problem of the bank debt and harness the renewed optimism that has come from exiting the bailout.

One would have hoped that after doing everything the country was asked to do, someone of the stature of Mr Barroso would look benevolently on the struggles of the Irish people.

Is this what Mr Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan get for being 'best boy in the class?' If so, we need adopt a much tougher line with our so-called 'friends' in the European Commission.

MARIE LEFT AN INDELIBLE MARK THROUGH HER COURAGE AND CLARITY

Marie Fleming, whose death was announced yesterday, at the age of 59, was a woman of courage and fortitude. As the person who took the first 'right to die' case in this country, Ms Fleming had to lay bare the terrible reality of living for 25 years with the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis.

A year ago she told the High Court how she struggled with severe and sometimes unbearable pain. Although her body was destroyed by the disease, what she had left was what her doctor described as "the forceful clarity" of her mind. "I've come to court today, whilst I still can use my speech, my voice, to ask you to assist me in having a peaceful, dignified death . . . in the arms of Tom and my children," said the former business studies lecturer.

She lost her legal battle in the courts. The right to life, said the Supreme Court, did not "import the right to die".

But Marie Fleming did a most important service in starting a real debate on this issue and on assisted suicide. More important, she left an indelible mark with her courage and clarity.

She did, in the end, have her wish to die in the arms of her partner Tom Curran. We also salute him and Marie's daughter Corrinna and son Simon, whose courage and support must also be recognised.

Irish Independent

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