Sunday 22 April 2018

President Higgins critical of debt rating agencies

President Michael Higgins addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the council of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday. Photo: Reuters
President Michael Higgins addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the council of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday. Photo: Reuters
John Downing

John Downing

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has delivered a scathing criticism of international debt rating agencies, and questioned why they have been given so much power over citizens' lives.

In a strong speech at the Council of Europe, the President said it was time democratic parliaments, elected by the people, took a bigger say in framing economic policies for the good of everyone.

"Parliaments matter. Centuries of effort have been invested by European citizens in securing the vote. It is to their elected representatives that citizens look for accountability," President Higgins said.

Addressing members of the assembly drawn from the parliaments of the 47 nations which make up the Council of Europe, he praised the organisation's work building democracy and human rights in Europe after the devastation of World War II. He said the Council had again played a pivotal role after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

President Higgins said Ireland was one of the 10 founding Council of Europe countries in 1949, and Ireland had also supported the European Court of Human Rights, which promoted justice across the continent after the horrors of earlier decades.

The President said economic recession had undermined citizens' human rights.

Power

And the international debt agencies - which had no democratic accountability - had been allowed take far too much authority, power and influence.

There was "unquestioned leeching of power and authority from parliaments to the apostles of a narrow version of fiscal orthodoxy".

He added that Ireland must not be held up as an example for other European nations seeking to fix their broken economies.

"It is not appropriate to use Ireland as some kind of example. I don't think the Irish government would want that either," he said.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section