by Gabriel Donohoe
When a national police association accuses its government of what amounts to treason it is time to sit up and pay attention.
Michael O’Boyce, President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), said at its annual conference in Limerick, at the end of April, 2010, that the Irish Government had been ‘corrupted’ and had been ‘bought’ by developers and bankers. (A garda is an Irish policeman, gardaí in the plural.)
Mr. O’Boyce, speaking on behalf of the country’s 11,000 gardaí, charged government ministers with sacrificing the country to protect ‘wealthy cronies’ who had bankrolled the leading government party, Fianna Fáil. Such criticism of a serving government by its police force is unprecedented in Irish history and extremely rare in any western democracy.
Smarting from recent government disparagement of the gardaí a rankled Mr. O’Boyce pointed to an aggravating Fianna Fáil gaffe. While the government referred to the gardaí as ‘self-serving, overpaid, underworked and dishonest people’, it at the same time praised the ‘entrepreneurial skill’ and ‘business acumen’ of failed banksters like Sean Fitzpatrick (Anglo Irish Bank) and Michael Fingleton (Irish Nationwide Building Society), two people who played a huge part in bringing the Irish economy to its knees.
Clearly infuriated by collapsing living standards and the abject state of the economy, Mr. O’Boyce intended to deliver his speech directly to the Minister of Justice, Dermot Ahern, who was scheduled to attend the annual conference of the GRA. However, Mr. Ahern was sent a copy of the speech in advance and hastily declined to attend.
Mr. O’Boyce would have castigated the Justice Minister directly by saying, “The Government of which you are a long-serving member has mismanaged the wealth of this country for more than a decade by allowing our assets to be plundered and robbed by bankers and speculators, and you are making generations of Irish workers pay the price for this treachery…
“…You did this because bankers and speculators have bought your party, and in return you have sacrificed the greater good and prosperity of the Irish nation for the benefit of the few – the few who have now taken their ill-gotten gains and secured them in tax havens around the world. Truly, a government of national sabotage.”
Gardaí present at the meeting gave Mr. O’Boyce a standing ovation for the speech of which they were aware but which was never actually made. Nonetheless, the speech was angrily criticised by politicians and others who said that a police force should not intervene in politics. Justice Minister Ahern said that he utterly refuted the allegations made in the speech and that such remarks “besmirch the reputation of the force and have no place in a modern democracy.”
Government backbencher Niall Collins said, “…[F]or me to hear a member of An Garda Síochána accuse a sovereign Government of robbery, corruption and treason, and this coming from a member of An Garda Síochána who are the agents of the State to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes, it’s just clearly not sustainable.”
This is an amazing attack on a modern democratic government described by the country’s own police association as “a government of national sabotage.” What prompted such wrath and fury from the GRA and does the Association have any basis for charging the Irish Government with treachery or treason?
The underlying cause of garda frustration and anger is the state of the Irish economy. The gardaí, like most Irish citizens, blame government incompetence and collusion with banksters and speculators for economic collapse. The government itself points to global recession and international bank failures as the cause of Irish woes but the reality goes much deeper than that.
The economic depression in Ireland is much more severe than anywhere else in the world. The fallout from global recession was seriously exacerbated by shortcomings of Irish Government Ministers, i.e., flagrant failures of governance through incompetence, self-interest, and criminal recklessness. These failures were further amplified by the cronyism and cosy intimacy of Fianna Fáil politicians with bankers and developers, by the utter ineptitude of government regulators, and by the laissez-faire attitude of the then Finance Minister, Brian Cowen, towards an alarmingly inflating construction bubble. (Cowen is now the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach and is stubbornly clinging onto power even though his personal rating is a paltry 18% in opinion polls.)
What angers the GRA, apart from hair shirt budgets, welfare cuts, and cuts in public sector pay, are the huge amounts of money given to renegade banks. These astronomical sums, cavalierly tossed into the laps of fraudulent bankers, are underwritten by the ever-suffering Irish taxpayer. A massive 22 billion euro has gone into the corrupt Anglo Irish Bank which has the dubious distinction of being the worst bank in the world. It is the biggest loss-maker of any bank on the planet and the Irish bank bailout is the most expensive bailout anywhere on the globe.
The Irish people are now learning that they will never see a penny of their 22 billion euro again – it has disappeared into a black hole of bankster-generated debt. The new chief executive of Anglo has admitted that the money would never be seen again and Prime Minister Cowen grudgingly confirmed, only after four attempts by opposition leaders to get a straight answer, that the 22 billion euro is gone forever. This is a heartbreaking loss for a small country of less than 5 million people, many of whom are calling the bailing out of Anglo an act of criminal recklessness.
Responding to a recent government decision to extend the bank guarantee to Anglo Irish Bank, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said, “I believe that the decision was made to save the skins of a number of individuals, some of whom are connected to Fianna Fail. If my belief is correct, and I have not been convinced to the contrary, then that decision was an act of economic treason.”
Strong words indeed from Mr. Gilmore which echo the sentiments of Michael O’Boyce and the GRA.
Even worse than the Anglo Irish Bank fiasco is the government bank bailout programme called NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) which covers 5 Irish banks including Anglo Irish. The government says that NAMA will clean up the banking system by paying the banks 54 billion euro of taxpayer money to purchase toxic loans from their balance sheets. This is a huge risk which could blow up spectacularly and put several generations of Irish people into excessive debt.
Already we are seeing evidence that the banks lied about the quality of the loans on their books. At the time of agreeing values on their toxic property portfolios the banks assured the government that 40% of their loans were income producing. Now we find out that the real figure is only 25%. What the percentage will be in a year’s time is anyone’s guess.
Apart from NAMA and the Anglo Irish Bank bailout, the Irish Government has already recapitalized other Irish banks and financial institutions to the amount of some 13.5 billion euro. This was supposed to release funds and provide much needed credit to Small Business and to mortgage seekers. But the banks which were bailed out by the people of Ireland are not responding in kind to the people of Ireland. They are holding onto their funds while businesses are failing in unprecedented numbers for want of working capital. Much of the bailout money is being used by the banks to strengthen their balance sheets or to make safe investments elsewhere.
(In the United States, banks find it more profitable and free of risk to borrow from the Federal Reserve at .25% interest and buy 5-year Treasury bonds at 2.5% return rather than lend money to cash starved businesses. They can make enormous profits while thousands of businesses go to the wall.)
When one adds up the amount of money committed to recapitalization and bailout of Irish banks one arrives at a figure of some 90 billion euro.
If the Irish Government had invested this 90 billion in a state owned bank they could have implemented that sleight of hand practice so beloved of banksters called “Fractional Reserve Lending” whereby they could create and lend some 12 times the amount of capital invested. This would exceed 1,000 billion euro!
Ireland would be awash with cash and with prudent management the economy would have been turned around very quickly. Small businesses would have adequate working capital, home seekers could buy homes, public projects and infrastructure could be easily financed, and Ireland would return very swiftly to full employment.
But the government did not take that option. Instead, they pledged a colossal amount of money to private banksters to save them and their investors from losses incurred by their own criminal recklessness. In doing so, they have mortgaged the future of Ireland and the Irish people for generations to come and crippled the economy to levels often seen in the Third World.
By giving billions of public money to maintain the fortunes of its former cronies in banking and property development the Irish Government has created a living hell for its struggling citizens: almost 500,000 people out of work, 200,000 emigrating in search of jobs, tens of thousands of mortgages falling into arrears, hundreds of small businesses going to the wall, and suicides alarmingly on the rise. The land is filled with misery and despair when it could so easily have been triumph and prosperity.
Is Michael O’Boyce and the GRA correct when they charge the Irish Government with treason?
This article first appeared on articlesbase.com on July 21, 2010.