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Pensions raid robs us at our very heart

They have ruthlessly set about destroying one of the fundamental foundations of civil society in which most people are responsible, self-reliant citizens who work in the here-and-now for themselves and their families, and at the same time try to provide prudently for old age.

The assassination of private pensions has consequences far beyond the sums done in the Department of Finance. It strikes at the heart -- and core philosophy -- of what we think our country should be.

Who in their right mind would invest in a pension in mid-life when they don't have a clue as to whether it will be there at all when they need it?

The broader, long-term result of this pillaging of pensions will be that more and more old people will be looking for social welfare, if there is anything left in that pot when the time comes.

That is why I believe this is a huge strategic and political blunder that is far more profound than is immediately obvious. I am told that politicians' and public pensions escaped because there are no funds to be plundered. They are paid for out of future taxes and borrowing used for day-to-day spending.

True, the intention was good and at least is an attempt to lift morale, but it is once again obvious that our Frankfurt-Brussels bosses are implacable in their lack of 'give', and that to satisfy their obsessive preoccupation that we must cut and tax only to pay back the loan sharks.

David McWilliams, either a visionary who sees the truth more clearly than most, or else plumb crazy (he says himself "I'm probably both!") wrote a passionate piece in last Wednesday's Irish Independent arguing that if we belonged to a truly united Europe, we would be getting some real help in our extremity.

Instead, our hapless politicians have ceded executive power to Frankfurt-Brussels, courtesy of their predecessors and, like them, they prostrate themselves before the powerful German-French alliance.

We will go to our graves singing the anthem 'we are good Europeans' like a nation of Willy Lomans worrying as to whether we are merely liked or are actually 'well-liked'.

Morgan Kelly believes that some of our negotiators are 'displaying strong elements of Stockholm Syndrome'. Irish politicians, he says are 'too used to being rewarded by Brussels to fight against it'.

Why don't we show some real fight? Because the people we are looking to for leadership all belong to the same club, as does much of the media, and are playing their own survival game which is very evidently not in our national self-interest.

I also suspect that many of the people we send to Frankfurt and Brussels are "mammy's boys and daddy's girls" who lack the independence and toughness of a Lemass, an O'Malley or a MacSharry.

Patrick Honohan was speaking from Frankfurt when he made that dramatic intervention during the bailout crisis.

Last Sunday, his response to Morgan Kelly came from Basel. Perhaps, in itself, meaningless, but still a clue?

At least he wasn't coming to us from Zurich which would, as a confirmed conspiracy theorist, have convinced me that the anonymous global financial gnomes were behind both interventions.

I am certain that the 17-member eurozone cannot last. Seventeen different peoples and economies cannot be forced into the bottleneck of a single currency. The split might happen surprisingly quickly or it may be a long, drawn-out, painful separation, but it will inevitably come.

In the meantime, if we really want to rattle the cage, how about a referendum on our EU membership? Are we allowed to even suggest such a thing on our own initiative?

To understand the German-French alliance, we should try not to lose sight of the recent pithy aphorism of a senior eurocrat: "France needs Germany to disguise its weakness, Germany needs France to disguise its strength".

I believe a not dissimilar game is being played by the parties in our Government.

Many honest people are arguing convincingly that the fiscal deficit needs to be tackled resolutely, some say very quickly. Borrowing for day-to-day spending is, with the catastrophic banking black hole, one of the two root causes of our debt disaster.

Labour's Howlin and Burton talk tough on public spending, but it is my conviction that they have no intention of going any further than the 'poacher-turned-gamekeeper' model which is supposed to reform the public sector from within. I believe Burton to be sincere about rooting out social welfare fraud, but fraud is an easy target.

God alone knows where Labour really stands on social welfare levels?

And God alone knows where Fine Gael honestly stands on either public sector costs or social welfare, notwithstanding the aspirations in the Government's programme?

I suspect that both are hoping that eventually the chalice will be taken from them in a traumatic post-default shake-up. Let the blame be then directed at somebody else.

Responsibility? Again it is being abdicated as it was by the previous government.

There are not enough people in Ireland trying to tell us the truth, which is why the David McWilliamses, the Morgan Kellys and the Ed Honohans stir the sluggish blood when they speak out, rather as Churchill, in de Gaulle's words, "stirred the heavy dough of the English" in 1940.

If I meet another person who says; "Just keep the head down. Keep going", I'll reach for my revolver. Because he'll keep going, head down, until he's over the edge of the cliff.

Is it that we really believe the old Christian message 'the meek shall inherit the Earth'?

I'm afraid it doesn't work that way, at least not in the Frankfurt-Brussels corridors.

Power, privilege and money is what really matters in those exalted temples of bureaucracy.

Sunday Independent