Fifteen months ago, the community of Ballyhea just south of Charleville in county Corkstarted a weekly protest march against the payment of bondholders in bust Irish banks, using citizens’ wealth to fund the payments. Since then they have been joined by Charleville and each week there are alternating marches in Charleville and Ballyhea. In addition, there have been protests online and offline that included a cycle/run/walk/crawl from Ballyhea to the Dail in Leinster House to hand in a petition, a fast, a sit-down protest on the main Cork-Charleville road as well as Facebook campaigns, the Bondwatch Ireland website which lists all bonds payable in Irish banks and a blog.
Who are these people? Meet them and it will take you about half a minute to recognise that they are “ordinary” people from an “ordinary” community who are standing up against the sucking out of money from our society to pay the debts of banks. No ego, no vanity, no hedge funds shorting the Irish economy, just ordinary people whose protest has made them extraordinary.
The original focus of the campaign was against the payment of bondholders in bust Irish banks, but that war is to an extent lost with the banks having now repaid much of their bonds. There are still considerable sums outstanding, including €640m in unsecured, unguaranteed senior bonds at what was Michael Fingleton’s Irish Nationwide Building Society, which will be paid in full on 26th June, 2012. INBS has thus far received a €5.4bn bailout from Irish citizens and taxpayers. The main focus of future protest though is likely to be on the extant €28bn of promissory notes. Anyone with a sense of ethics can see the injustice.
Yesterday a group of the protestors flew from Knock in county Mayo to Frankfurt-Am-Main in Germany, home city of the European Central Bank (ECB). Last night at midnight, they attached a proclamation – available here – to the doors of the bank, in a manner reminiscent of Luther’s nailing of his proclamation to the doors of Wittenburg. It might sound elaborate but the point being made is simple – citizens should not have to foot the bill for failed banks, it’s just plain wrong. As plain wrong as it was to sell Indulgences in the 16th century.
This morning, the group handed their proclamation to Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Professor Patrick Honohan as he made his way to the monthly ECB meeting to set interest rates. Professor Honohan, friendly and receptive as always, took the document which it is hoped will be shared in this morning’s meeting.
Will the protest make any difference? Will the be-suited executives at the ECB in their glass-and-steel skyscraper take a blind bit of notice of a small community from a place they’ve never heard of? Maybe not, but then again, Martin Luther made his point across a continent. And he didn’t have the Internet.
The extraordinary group in Frankfurt today comprises Diarmuid O’Flynn Fiona Buckley-Fitzpatrick Rob Fitzpatrick Cathleen Queally-Moloney Pat Moloney Phil Ryan Frances O’Brien Pat O’Brien Diarmaid O Cadhla Donncha O Briain Vicky Donnelly Richard Chapman Damian Moylan Hugh Mellerick Lynette O’Farrell. You can keep abreast of the group’s activities today and see photographs by following @ballyhea14 on Twitter.