Sunday 15 December 2019

Unions plan mass demonstrations over ‘last chance’ for a debt deal

Lyndsey Telford

UP TO 100,000 demonstrators are expected to hit streets across the country next month in a last-ditch appeal to Europe to ease Ireland's debt burden.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has warned of "dire consequences" for future generations, saying they will be forced to shoulder the country's €64bn debt burden if action is not taken.

General secretary David Begg said European institutions must honour a pledge made last June to separate bank and sovereign debt, and restructure the controversial promissory note repayments.

"This is our last chance to make a real difference to our future," Mr Begg said.

"I have six grandchildren and I look at them and say these children are going to be carrying this burden. So if you care about them, about future generations, you have to stand up and say something."

Ireland is due to pay €3.1bn of its outstanding €28bn promissory note debt on March 31.

It is just one lump of a total €31bn secured from Europe by the last Government and used to recapitalise the failed former Anglo Irish Bank - now called the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

Mr Begg said he was not suggesting Ireland default on its repayments, but insisted an agreement should be reached on its restructuring - through a write-down on its absolute value, altering the duration of the loan, or reducing the interest rate.

He added that a pledge from the European Council on June 29 to separate bank debt and sovereign debt with a view to making Ireland's debt repayments more sustainable needed to be honoured.

"Goodwill we have in plenty, according to all the reports," Mr Begg said.

"But goodwill doesn't butter any parsnips."

He said the decision to organise mass demonstrations across the country on Saturday, February 9, was made to take advantage of Ireland's current presidency of the European Union.

Ireland is almost two months into its six-month term and Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore have already hosted meetings with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.

Mr Begg said all eyes in Europe were now on Ireland, making this an opportune time to get its attention and appeal for real action.

"In the absence of any deal, say the failure of the European Stability Mechanism to recapitalise the Irish banks, we the Irish people are left with an enormous burden, which I don't think is capable of being handled by a workforce of less than two million.

"It's the most dire consequences for us for generations."

The marches will take place in Dublin, Cork, Sligo, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

The capital is expected to see the largest turnout, when protesters will march past Dublin Castle - used as the headquarters for the European presidency.

Ictu insisted the events would be as accessible and family-friendly as possible.

Further details of the individual marches will be announced early next week.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News