By Joe Higgins TD, Socialist Party
The rage is justified. Of ordinary people that is, upon hearing the Anglo Bank audio tapes from 2008 in which is evident the bankers’callous disregard as their reckless practices had the bank teetering on a precipice and their hands were out to swindle the taxpayers. When the same sentiments are expressed by the establishment media and politicians, however, it leaves me cold. The difference. Ordinary people were victims of these financial sharks. Significant sections of the media and the political establishment, now apoplectic with manufactured fury, were their facilitators as they built the pyramid that spectacularly, and inevitably, crashed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ‘outrage’ over the callous exchanges in the Anglo Irish Bank tapes is as hypocritical as that of the Irish political establishment and significant sections of the media. Big German bankers and bondholders were up to their necks in the profiteering racket that was going on during the property bubble in Ireland. They gambled recklessly but when their gambles crashed, they were bailed out on the backs of the Irish taxpayers on the insistence of the EU political and financial establishment. For the Chancellor then to pretend to champion the plight of taxpayers in Europe is monumental hypocrisy.
Let’s reprise briefly what went on in Ireland, The biggest developers had open doors to the most influential politicians. Rezonings were organised for them by Councillors on the basis of which they could borrow huge sums. No laws were enacted to prevent them profiteering at will. Tax laws were enacted so they could keep those profits. No restraint either on the bankers as they funded these massive ventures and shackled the young to lifelong mortgages for the simple human right to shelter.
Large sections of the media were their cheerleaders. I am waiting for a diligent student to undertake a thesis on ‘Reportage in the media in Ireland on bankers and developers 1997-2007’. To dig out the fawning coverage of the activities of the bankers and developers over that time, the eulogies to their canny ability to make tons of money and to calculate the millions raked in through colourful property supplements advertising homes at extortionate prices. If it existed, my student could also look for one – just one – comprehensive, special investigation by a newspaper, radio or television station exposing the massive profiteering that went on in the housing sector. It doesn’t exist.
As anger over the tapes simmered Fine Gael and Labour dumped with gusto on Fianna Fail the party in power at the time. That is well deserved. Fine Gael and Labour washed their own hands of any responsibility for the racketeering that was going on in the property market and today’s consequences. They cannot do so.
The Dail record will show that Fine Gael never in any assertive way raised its voice against the crucifixion of young working people in the housing profit fest. But most of all Fine Gael andLabour stand condemned for continuing the bailout of the cavalier bankers as soon as they assumed power in April 2011. That meant continuing to transfuse the economic lifeblood of the Irish people to pay for the bondholders’ gambling losses. That means continuing to shackle the Irish people to austerity which is wrecking society, maintaining horrific levels of unemployment and driving young people from their own country.
Probing questions need to be asked about the history of the Anglo phones’ tape recordings. They have been in the possession of the State for several years. The Garda had them. Why did the State keep them from public attention and is it right now that a newspaper – any newspaper – should be able to drip feed them over a week to the weary victims of the bankers to boost circulation and profits?
The political follow on from the publication of the tapes has largely revolved around calls for a public enquiry. The main government and opposition parties have haggled over which mechanism should be employed ‘to find the truth of what caused the banking catastrophe.’ Fine Gael and Labour want a situation where they can have a parade of former Fianna Fail Ministers coming before an enquiry and being grilled about their level of culpability.
The agenda here is cynical from start to finish. The government parties see a way to distract attention from their failed policy of austerity. As they plan another Budget to take further billions from the pockets of ordinary people, and give a further downward twist to the recession that was officially acknowledged yesterday, they hope to divert anger from themselves. They particularly want this in the lead in to the Local and European elections in May of next year. They hope this might save them from impending doom at the hands of an angry electorate. It wont work.
The politicians and media ‘enraged’ by the crude and insulting tone of the Anglo bankers know that similar exchanges happen daily within the currency dealing and bond trading cabals in the financial markets. They talk in this way as they organise their speculation to extort higher bond yields from States which means from taxpayers and the working class generally. Extorting super profits at whatever social cost is the only morality that obtains. Yet the political and media establishments prostrate themselves daily at the feet of this financial dictatorship endorsing the bleeding of society’s resources to satisfy their profit lust.
So, by all means have a forensic look at the details of the banking collapse in Ireland and the events surrounding an Irish government giving them a blanket guarantee. Compel the protagonists to come and tell the truth in plain view. But let’s not be cynically fobbed off with a show trial of a few individuals. We’re not dealing here with a few isolated crimes of individuals. We’re dealing with a rotten system, predicated on greed, which licensed a cavalier elite to callously exploit the majority, aided and abetted by the same establishment politicians and media that now demand their heads. This system needs to be swept away and replaced with one where banks, construction and media are publicly owned, democratically controlled and run for the well being of all.