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Don't pillage private pensions for jobs 'budget'

"This is a letter of hate. It is for you my countrymen, I mean those men who have defiled it. The men with manic fingers leading the sightless, feeble, betrayed body of my country to its death"

-- John Osborne

Last Thursday, speaking in Helsinki, Ireland's "friend" Jean-Claude Trichet refuted former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's claims that Ireland was bounced into the bailout by the European Central Bank.

He claimed that he and his organisation have "sided" with Ireland by offering extraordinary lending of about €180bn to our banks since the 2008 crash.

Trichet, (salary of €340,000 a year) and his ECB's relationship toward Ireland since 2008 has been highly questionable and the lending given to us is not to save Ireland, but to protect German and French banks.

With the benefit of hindsight, there is no question that between 2008 and when they were kicked out of office, Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan presided over (however unintentionally) the greatest swindle of taxpayers in the history in this State. And all to bail out Europe and the banks.

Trichet's friendship, and that of his EU cohorts is destroying the life and blood of Ireland, which is quickly becoming a desolate wasteland. New York-based economics Professor Nouriel Roubini last Friday warned that Trichet and his motley crew of Euro fat cats are choking the life out of the weaker economies in Europe, including Ireland, which could as a result be forced into a double-dip recession.

"There is a risk they [eurozone economies] are going to double dip," he said. (In our case it is more of a continuous dip, since there is no sign of us rising to dip again.)

Roubini, who earned the moniker Dr Doom after correctly predicting the global recession and house price crash in America in 2005, said the strengthening euro was a grave concern for Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.

"A weaker euro would help them to grow out of their recessions and the rise in interest rates by the ECB is going to choke any possibility of recovery or economic growth because borrowing costs of the private sector are going to be rising. My view of the ECB is [it's] tightening too much, too fast, and too soon," he said. Because of Trichet's September 2008 insistence that no bank be allowed fail, the €100bn odd debt racked up by a small number of criminal bankers has become the sovereign debt of every man, woman and child in Ireland.

At every point, at every turn, in every instance, the people of Ireland have been screwed. The colossal bailout bill, the refusal to allow us default, no credit for small businesses, the lack of prosecutions (even within Anglo and Irish Nationwide), the continuous contempt shown by bankers even since the guarantee, combined with the slavish and feckless ineptitude of the previous government in seeking justice, are truly galling.

After being bounced into the €85bn penal loan arrangement by the ECB, Ireland last November lost its sovereignty to our new outside foreign masters.

Those masters are now shamelessly profiting from this country's plight (the 5.8 per cent interest rate compared to the 5 per cent charged to the other bailout boys Portugal and Greece).

According to former Department of Finance official Robert Pye in the Irish Times last Friday, those European masters are also ransacking and plundering this country for their own benefit.

He wrote: "The self-appointed and well-concealed elite who run Brussels will continue to siphon off the wealth and sovereignty of the Irish people until they awake, throw off the appalling shroud of apathy that envelopes them and shout, "Enough! We owe nothing to the international bankers. They call us PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) because that is what you do with a pig: tie him upside down, slit his throat and drain him dry."

He added: "I also reject utterly the despicable arrogance with which this country is being treated, and the servile ineptitude of those who pose as our leaders. Unless we take a stand and defend our sovereignty, our integrity and our children, we will be destroyed as a nation."

I cannot disagree with his assessment of our European "friends". I would, however, be harsher in my views.

Ireland hasn't just been ransacked, it is being raped and pillaged by those who claim to be our friends and they are doing it with the dim-witted complicity of our elected leaders.

Given we have already raided the kitty for the bank bailout, our EU/ECB/IMF masters are now looking for us to sell off the family silver.

Some €70bn of taxpayers' money has so far been committed to bailing out or recapitalising the banks, much of which has been used to pay off bondholders in Germany and France.

Another €30bn or so has been committed to Nama, so they can use bonds to buy the bad loans off the books of the crooked banks.

Further pain has been inflicted by way of €21bn of current spending cuts, hitting many frontline services while protecting the pay of the public sector fat cats.

There is another €5bn or so to come this year, given the recent reduction in the Department of Finance's growth forecasts.

But incredibly, even three years into the worst recession in Ireland's history, and having to borrow €19bn a year to keep the lights on, current day-to-day spending actually went up by €1bn in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period last year. Officially the department said this was because of social welfare increases, but no doubt the €250m a year on incremental pay increases to public-sector workers has played some part.

It is enough to make you give up hope altogether.

But, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, aged 67, has a wonderful opportunity to rescue Ireland.

A decent man, who has enjoyed a political rebirth, Noonan is now tasked with leading Ireland out of the doldrums and into recovery.

Unlikely to run for office again, he is free to take hard decisions without worrying about political popularity. He can afford to be bold, daring and single-minded to save this country from utter ruin.

This is why I supported his candidacy for the big job in finance.

He has been criticised for allowing senior bondholders off the hook in AIB and Bank of Ireland, a deal done to secure funding from the ECB.

He cannot afford another concession to Europe's bully boys and must now secure a better interest rate on the bailout deal to maintain some form of credibility.

What he can do is end the disgraceful culture of excess at the top of the public service, he can rescue the private sector from the ravages of the depression and he could reverse his intention to hammer private pensions on Tuesday in his mini-budget.

Have no doubt, because of the need for this budget to be "fiscally neutral", Noonan will have to cut somewhere else to pay for whatever incentive to work he is going to announce. Ergo, more pain. Tuesday's mini-budget will no doubt fail to ignite this stagnant country and we will limp on as before.

I hope it doesn't turn out to be a pointless PR exercise, which this Government has been very good at.

Michael, the country needs more than optics. It needs real leadership, mettle and the ability to instill confidence in our economy.

The abusing of Ireland by its "friends" must stop, the bullying of Ireland must stop. Otherwise as Pye warned, we will be "destroyed as a nation".

Sunday Independent