Is Ireland Bullying the ECB ?
February 12, 2013

If there is anything singular in the way the ECB is treating Ireland, why might that be?

Looking at it from an external perspective, Ireland is a tax haven, a money launderer’s paradise through which vast sums of money flow internationally, causing other EU jurisdictions with more restrictive laws a disproportionate number of problems. We know next to nothing about most of this activity and understand even less. What we do know is that it is routinely corrupt and out of control. Our government is even now a ferocious defender of this set-up and of international financier corporatism – among its most extreme adherents in the world. Throughout the crisis, the Irish Government (FF/Lab/FG) has indeed shown implacable steel about maintaining our tax haven status and our anti-EU corporate tax regime – which does nothing for the majority of people here and which is also a big **** off to the ordinary people of the rest of Europe.  Conor McCabe has shown, for example, that FDI accounts for just 7.25% of Irish jobs, despite all the bigged-up claims made for its importance to our economy.

Again and again, our government favours the same small elite, whatever policy is at issue right across the spectrum – health, education etc. It’s as if we are not even deemed human beings unless we are disgustingly rich. There are no concessions to this set up at home or abroad. Who can blame the EU or the ECB, in one sense, from saying ‘OK, if that’s how you want to play it, we’re happy to oblige’. The intransigence on debt write down begins with the Irish government: they refuse even to ask for it because they do not want to negotiate terms at all. The ECB only deals with us on the macro level.

The Irish government, defined by its visceral contempt for ordinary Irish people, only has to rely on sucker-punching us via a by-and-large remarkably stupid and unquestioning media. The worst we are asked to think of our government is that they are merely pathetic in the face of ECB bullying, when in fact they are getting everything they want out of the situation: the destruction of our welfare state, blamed on the Troika even when the IMF is clearly saying that austerity has failed and is being taken too far.   Every choice that is made at micro level on spending (choices which our government completely controls, despite claiming otherwise) protects the rich.

At the same time the Government is using the crisis to copper-fasten the financial elites to the control levers of the Irish economy and to our parliamentary democracy, such as it is. FG are indeed laying the ground work for a future, blue-shirt fascist state. Godwin’s law? Look at the power Noonan has abrogated to Ministers for Finance for the permanent appropriation of private property in this wonderful new deal. This is neo-fascism. Already, Michael D’s signature not even dry on the page, government cheerleaders in the media are wagging fingers at us to say that there will be no let up in austerity just because the massively expanded sovereign debt ‘deal’ is a magnificent success. Austerity is one of the most extreme ideologies ever to be foisted on people. It has nothing to do with fiscal rectitude or ‘prudence’. It is wrecking the economy, but still it is persisted with. Why? Because none of this was ever about doing what is best or what is right – these guys just want things done differently in their own interests and they want us to pay the full cost of that on their behalf.

Is this not, at bottom, the overall situation?.

Mediabite  11 February 2013

Vigil for Savita Halappanavar
November 14, 2012

Vigil for Savita Halappanavar, Dail Eireann, 14. November 2012

C. Flower  14.11.2012

Hitler is Told that Political World has won Best Political Blog at Irish Blog Awards
November 4, 2012

Fixing the Libor Rates – By Far the Greatest Financial Scandal Yet
October 2, 2012


Irish whistle-blowing former banker Jonathan Sugarman speaking recently in Athens.  Τhe function was organized by ATTAC-Hellas in collaboration with the Greek Committee for a Public Debt Audit.  Sugarman spoke on the Libor scandal, the lack of transparency in banking practices, the problematic character of state supervision of the banking system (relevant to his own case for the indictment he issued was ignored/suppressed by the Irish regulatory authority), and the extent to which the recent Draghi measures represent a solution.

We all have to pay interest on our loans, and we all hope to get interest on our deposits.   When we the banks have money lying around idly it means they’re losing money, as it could be gaining interest as a deposit with another bank that needs the money. Part of my job as a banker was to ‘count the money’ towards the end of a trading day and make sure that any un-needed surplus – say 500 million euros – would be to deposited by the dealers. They would typically place this money on overnight deposits with other banks. The benchmark for interest payment on this deposit would be the LIBOR (or Euribor).   The LIBOR was allegedly an un-biased ‘weather report’ of what conditions were in the market that day. Now we have learned that some of the biggest banks in the world have been heavily involved in distorting this ‘neutral’ reading of the market.

Every morning by 11.30 a.m.  in London a panel of international banks including UBS, Societété Generale, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland is asked “OK how much interest are you willing to pay on overnight deposits, one week deposits, one month deposits and so on. ”   This is the price of money today in London at lunchtime.  I cannot overestimate the significance of this interest rate – every interest payment that each one of us makes on the mortgage that you pay, ever car loan – is determined by this rate.

LIBOR  ( the London Inter Bank Offered Rate)  has been in the headlines far less that it should be.  The Libor fixing scandal is by far the biggest and most far reaching scandal to have occurred in the world of finance. Why is it not getting the attention it deserves in the name of public interest?!? simply because the companies involved in fixing this price are the most respectable and distinguished of the banking world – HSBC & Barclays of the UK, Deutsche Bank of Germany, UBS of Switzerland.

LIBOR rates form the basis for the determination of amounts to be received and paid on contracts amounting to hundreds of trillions of dollars. Just to put this figure into perspective – Ireland’s bailout was ‘only’ 85 billion Euro. So while Christine Lagarde of the IMF keeps reminding the Greeks that they should pay their taxes, she is remaining very silent about the fact the bankers whom she wines & dines with at Davos are being accused of breaking the law at a much larger scale.

Barclays has ‘agreed’ to pay a fine of 290 million pounds for its role in fixing the LIBOR. RBS, now 82% owned by the British public has also been negotiating how much is feels like paying the British public for being caught red handed. We now have a state-owned body negotiating with with a state authority about how much it feels like paying for breaking the law. Try negotiating your legally-declared tax bill with the Revenue office and see how far you get…

Some choice quotes from the press on the Libor rate-fixing scandal….

Libor Manipulation Well Known in London by 1991 – Naked capitalism

A comment in today’s Financial Times is by a former Morgan Stanley trader, Douglas Keenan, confirms a passing comment in the Economist, that Libor manipulation goes back for more than 15 years. In fact, this piece makes it clear that is the time frame exceeds 20 years. From the Financial Times:

In 1991, I had live trading screens that showed the Libor rates. In September of that year, on the third Wednesday, at 11 o’clock, I watched those screens to see where the futures contract [on three month Libor] should settle. Shortly afterwards, Liffe announced the contract settlement rate. Its rate was different from what had been shown on my screens, by a few hundredths of a per cent.

As a result, I lost money. The amount was insignificant for me, but I believed that I had been defrauded and I complained to Liffe [ London International Financial Futures Exchange, which is where the contract traded]. Liffe explained that the settlement rate was not determined by what rates were actually in the market. Instead, the British Banker’s Association polled banks, asking them what the rates were. The highest and lowest quoted rates were discarded and the rest were averaged, giving the settlement rate. Liffe explained that, in doing this, they were adhering to the terms of the contract.

I talked with some of my more experienced colleagues about this. They told me banks misreported the Libor rates in a way that would generally bring them profits. I had been unaware of that, as I was relatively new to financial trading. My naivety seemed to be humorous to my colleagues.

So consider what this tells us:

1. Libor manipulation was already recognized by market participants in 1991 as a common phenomenon. That implies it had been going on at least a few years before that

2. The manipulation appears to have more than occasionally been more than a single basis point (Keenan says here the effect was “several” basis points, which I take to be three or more)

Oh, an an additional tidbit: Bob Diamond was in Morgan Stanley London as of then, in charge of interest rate trading, which means his claim that he had found out about Libor manipulation at Barclays mere weeks before his Treasury Select testimony was bollocks.

External trader to a Barclay’s trader, asking for a lower Libor submission: “If it comes in unchanged I’m a dead man.”
Barclay’s trader promises to “have a chat”.
External trader to Barclay’s
trader later that day: “Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of Bollinger.”

As in the case of the Irish Financial Regulator’s window-dressing exercise in introducing more laws & regulations for the banks, this means absolutely nothing if the appetite to enforce the law is nil. As a banker of many years I can safely say that the problem has never been the lack of legislation, but rather the complete lack of proper law enforcement when it comes to the conduct of banks. Fred the Shred of RBS (owners of Ulster Banks) lost his knighthood, but is he in jail? Can the FSA say that RBS never broke any laws & regulations while Fred drove it into the ground and onto the lap of the British tax payer?

Five years ago I resigned from my position at the risk manager of UniCredit Bank Ireland – the Irish subsidiary of Italy’s biggest bank. I had officially notified the regulator’s office  that we were ‘cooking the books’ by BILLIONS of Euros. Brian Hillery, the chairman of UniCredit Ireland at the time, now sits on the board of directors of the Central Bank of Ireland.  The Irish bank guarantee and the subsequent bail out were a result of Ireland’s banks running completely dry of liquidity. The Financial Regulator’s own documents stipulate a possible prison sentence of up to 5 years for breaching liquidity requirements.  I resigned from UniCredit Bank Ireland specifically over this issue. How many Irish bank executives are in prison for running their banks into the ground?

Jonathan Sugarman  2 October 2012

Its A Political World – Finalists in the 2012 Irish Blog Awards
September 30, 2012

Happy that “Its A Political World” is a finalist in this year’s Irish Blog Awards in the Best Political Blog category.  Hi and congrats too to The Mire and the East Belfast Diary – the other finalists.
Thanks to the organisers and  judges and to all who have contributed and commented on the 100 + blog posts posted here.

Is Ireland bound by right to integrate fully into a political union motivated by interests entirely counter to ours?
September 23, 2012

There is a new political concept in recent times. It’s called being pro-European. In France and Germany (having lived in France for a year and spent a few weeks in Germany and much time among many German friends and learning the German language even whilst in France ), this seems to be pro-integration with regards to European political union. To be against such a concept, for whatever reason, is to risk being called a nationalist or anti-European.

The word nationalism means different things in different European countries. In Irish history it tends to be associated with a United Ireland, Republicanism and in some instances, to have left wing sympathies is to be either Nationalist or Republican. Irish nationalism, or republicanism for the two are oft linked, are concepts that arose out of a suppressed colonised history. 7 centuries of oppression led to the concept of an Irish Republic, first touted by Wolfe Tone in 1798.

Its roots essentially stem in part to French republican ideals, as many Irish revolutionaries in the late 18th century such as Tone and Emmet had dealings with the French Revolutionary Republic in a bid to liberate themselves from English rule and establish an Irish Republic. One modern day equivalent might be found in Scotland where nationalism in the form of the Scottish Nationalist Party has led to an independence referendum in late 2014 ( ). One thing bearing in mind is Scottish First Minister’s Alex Salmond’s desire to follow the Nordic energy fund model of Norway, and any implication that might have on Irish affairs (the status of Ulster, possible Irish reunification, possible withdrawal from the EU along with Scotland, who have been told by Jose Barroso, an unelected well paid technocrat that they will need to leave the EU if they declare independence which the Scots might look on as an opportunity) but more on that later.

In German history, nationalism has shown itself to mean something different altogether. In fact it would seem that the German establishment has developed a phobia of the word. As anyone knows, such a concept in Germany is a right wing concept due to obvious historic reasons. The fact that the two terms are intertwined in countries like Ireland, and possibly Scotland, and that they signify left wing and inclusive ideals, must only make matters more confusing for those who might be for whatever reason incapable of (or unwilling to) differentiating the concepts of self determination (the right to a people’s sovereignty, freedom and exaltation among the nations of the World) and nazism (superior nationalism or xenophobic nationalism). Fear fits a fine pair of blinkers.

In Ireland we have 3 main political parties, which are all pan European vessels. They operate on the basis that they are pro-european and anyone who opposes them must therefore be anti-european, dangerous radicals, or else extremist.

It is a little reported fact in our media that since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, we have been the victims of a creeping coup on our semi-democratic but nonetheless sovereign Irish institutions. It is funny how the Brussels accounts have not been signed off on in nearly 2 decades which shows that Europe’s elite has been investing untold sums and time in full political and economic union.

Take the European Commission for instance. Nobody elects these people, yet they represent Ireland, a constitutionally neutral country on the U.N. Security council. They would potentially have the right to decide in the not so distant future whether to send Irish people, and other people across the continent in different E.U. member states, to fight a war for economic or vested interests. Given that we live in the 1930’s this is not an altogether unrealistic prospect.

European Law now accounts for most modern Irish laws. Ireland may no longer have the right to military neutrality since the passing of the EU Treaty. A very good legal paper by Karen Devine which she composed after the first Lisbon Treaty campaign (…bon_Treaty.pdf ) states the following: In the Lisbon Treaty referendum, neutrality emerged as the most divisive issue in referendum debates (IMS/DFA, 2008: 25) and was the second most important reason why people voted ‘no’ (IMS/DFA, 2008: 14). Evidently, many Irish people have consistently demonstrated a belief through their voting behaviour that further integration in the area of EU foreign, security and defence policy is incompatible with the concept of neutrality they support.’

Since the passing of the Lisbon Treaty at the second go, largely due to ‘vote yes for jobs’, it has emerged that the Treaty, which no member of the government or opposition (the current shower) who supported it at the time publicly stated they had read, fears have emerged over article 42.7 which states a need for ‘mutual defence’ in the case of EU member states. Thus it appears, that after the Lisbon Treaty passed in 2009, Ireland had, under undemocratic threats of economic chaos from both home and abroad (‘yes for jobs’, and Sarkozy’s visit to Dublin being but small examples), ceded its right to assert neutrality which has been a key factor in determining our sovereignty throughout the history of the state, most notably during World War Two when despite threats of invasion from Churchill’s British government (who along with America occupied our Nordic neighbour Iceland during the war), from Hitler’s Germany and even from America, southern Ireland stayed neutral for the duration of the war. As Devine rightly states in her paper, many Irish people quite reasonably oppose and have opposed on many an occasion since the Single European Act of 1987 full EU integration on the grounds of neutrality alone.

Another way in which the EU has creepingly come to control our affairs was the establishment of the Euro. In 2002 we adopted the common currency, which flooded a booming Irish economy with cheap credit, something we have been paying for the last 5 years, as we are constantly told we all partied and need to clean up our own mess and to front Europe’s banking bill 100% on our own shoulders (despite the fact that the cheap credit which could not have been made available had we still had the Punt was lent by central European Banks and most notably, the ECB, at rates of below 1%). The question then arises, who sought to lend this much money to an Irish economy which did not need such credit as it was already booming ? The answer in the main, is Germany(by which I mean German businesses, German investors, the ECB which is based in Frankfurt and which has an uncanny reputation for following German Monetary policy and German banks).

This excellent article by Laura Noonan not someone given to criticising bigger European economies, states the following:

As of early 2011, it was known that German Banks were exposed to Irish banks for over 21 Billion euros, which explains why ‘Germany, along with other European countries, has been vigorously opposing Ireland’s efforts to enforce losses on certain categories of bank bondholders. German banks were owed another €64.7bn by Irish enterprises, suggesting that the banks have an interest in making sure Ireland survives the economic crisis. The final sum owed by Ireland to German banks was €2.3bn, attributed to “general government” debts. Germany’s exposure to Ireland significantly exceeds the country’s €25bn exposure to stricken Greece and its €27.5bn exposure to crisis-ridden Portugal.’

When understanding why Ireland has, under considerable duress from fellow European states, forsaken its’ economic sovereignty entirely, it is worth bearing in mind that the governments of some fellow European states, especially that of Germany, have stated that as our banks borrowed from their banks, all Irish people must pay back these banking debts to ensure no European bank closes, thus the reason for Ireland’s so called bailout in 2010. Germany was far more exposed to Irish banks and businesses than it was to those of any other EU Member State.

Considering the German media’s castigation of a Greek society and a Greek government whose banks and businesses owe(or rather owed as we, and most likely the Greeks as well have paid much of the European bondholders back, having being told by the ECB to do so) far less than our banks and businesses do (not forgetting the Spiegel’s recent headline on why Athens must leave the Euro) to Germany, it is worth remembering the type of people who lent this money ridiculously.

Essentially we are being told the Banks are Irish, you’re Irish, so you’re all guilty.

A European political union would seem to many within this society to be tyrannical, undemocratic, imperialistic, and against our sovereign wishes, economic and political interests and our wish to retain neutrality in the normal event of war which often follows economic depressions. Perhaps it is time to look to other countries, most notably our Nordic neighbours Norway, Iceland and Greenland, (as well as a potentially independent Scotland), outside the immediate union with vast energy, and fisheries reserves and small populations like ours, ideal for trade and in our own case, mass food production.

A political union, particularly one which fails to address the understandable and perhaps healthily cynical Irish suspicion of external powers wishing to control our affairs, is looking increasingly incompatible with Irish economic and political interests.

Arguably, it was always incompatible with our desire to maintain political and economic sovereignty, which was once stated by a small group of brave men as ‘indefeasible’ and which has now become a supposedly dangerous and radical concept.

Apjp September 2012

Photo: EU Commission  EUFOR

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Irish Citizenship Test: Political World Questionnaire
September 8, 2012

Should there be a qualifying test of knowledge of Irish society and culture for new Irish citizens? Should Irish-born citizens have to do refresher courses in order to keep their passports ? Members of the Political World forum in the main thought not, but recently attempted to draft a questionnaire on how to be Irish :

Irish Citizenship Qualification / Retention Certificate – Questionnaire

1. What would you expect to be offered if you were invited into Daniel O’Donnell’s Donegal home ?

2. Who, or what, would you kick with the left foot ?

3. When a Irish person tells you “Don’t worry, shure it’ll be grand”, should you feel reassured ?

4. You receive £6 for a fourteen hour day digging tunnels for the London Underground ? What is least you can survive on in order to feed and maybe educate your family back home ?

5. Who should obey the law? should the law be followed: – always, – never, – only when it suits, – only when there is no chance of not getting away with breaking it ?

6. D’Unbelievables are

a) A technical grouping in the Dáil

b) The banking sector

c) A comedic duo

7. If a family is said to have ‘taken the soup’ what did they do?

8. Dublin 4 refers to

a) Developers wrongfully imprisoned

b) a postal code

c) the intellectual headquarters of Ireland?

Photo: Daíl Eireann (PW Images)

9. What is a BIFFO?

10. When is ” the Bishops’s Ring” kissed ?

11. True or False:

A Troika is how Santa delivers the prezzies at Christmas in Ireland

11. Who’s taking the horse to France ?

12. Joseph Kony leads

(a) the Tribe of Gaels

(b) the Soldiers of Destiny

(c) the Lord’s Resistance Army

13. An cúpla focal are

a) all the Irish you need to know for citizenship

b) the first Official Language of Dáil Éireann

c) a requirement for speeches in the Gaelic Athletic Association

14. Toll road charges for vans increase by 50c every

A. 6 minutes

B. 6 hours

C. 6 days

15. Fianna Fail is

(a) a political party

(b) a mafia organisation loosely disguised as (a)

(c) An expensive collection of desserts served in the finest restaurants in South Dublin

16. You have one potato. Someone gives you another potato. How long will it take before you are subject to the new chips tax ? Do we assume that “you” is not of sufficient means to influence the Government of the day to introduce a tax exemption perfectly tailored to his particular situation?

17. The correct description of the Irish climate is

a) Temperate

b) Continental

c) Total ***te

18. Bertie Ahern is

(a) an honest, salt of the Earth working class politician (retired)

(b) a wild plant found in alleys in North Dublin, which thrives in areas of high urine deposits

(c) a thief

19. Irish productivity rates are

a) Higher than Greece

b) Higher than Germany

c) Downright amazin’ in the circumstances

20. How many generations of your children must you commit to debt slavery, before you can become an Irish citizen ?

a) More than 2.

b) It’s a trick question as each generation will have the sameness of everything and their owners will ensure their future possessions.

c) Ah sure, don’t worry about it. We’re turnin’ the corner.

21. The Irish Legal System is written in

(a) accordance with the principles of common law

(b) crayon

(c) rapidly dissolving Guinness extract.

Which brings us to the essay-type question:

22. Outline the cultural significance of Márla to the ruling classes in Ireland between the years 1929 to 1967.

3,000 words max. Pass/Fail

23. It is proposed to build a piece of necessary national infrastructure near your home. Do you,

(a) Welcome this positive development.

(b) Round up a bunch of idiots to try to prevent it.

24. Fill in the blanks:

Corruption, Cronyism, _________, Nepotism, _________!

25. What is Ireland’s most common garden flower?

A. The Rose

B. The Petunia

C. The Trampoline

26. Ireland is a member state of the European Union. So is Germany. Germany is

(a) where the woman who is doing ALL the damage to the Irish economy lives

(b) the place where most of the major decisions affecting the Irish economy are taken

(c) home of Europe’s biggest economy

(d) a place where they don’t even speak English

(e) all of the above.

27. If you admit tax fraud, will your punishment

(a) be quick and severe.

(b) be just and fair

(c) depend on who you are

28. If you have a Learner Permit you are obliged by law to be accompanied by a qualified driver while you’re driving. Should you,

(a) Only drive if accompanied.

(b) Drive however you want cause it’s your effin car!

If caught doing (b) do you

(a) accept the punishment. You broke the law after all

(b) ask your neighbour/cousin/friend who is a Garda to “get you off”

(c) have your Ma contact the local TD

29. Which is the best way to get to the match ?

a) the Red Cow

b) Horse and Jockey

c) the Jack Lynch tunnel

30. Which Northern Ireland* county is closest to Dublin?

A. Belfast

B. Manchester United

C. Donegal

*Illegally occupied 6 county, gerrymandered, partial statelet.

31. An Irish Passport can be of use for which of the following…

a) Travelling within the European Union

b) A form of ID

c) All of the above and assassinating Palestinians in Dubai

32. Skeoughvosteen, Skeheenarinky and Oulart the Ballagh are

a) Expletives

b) Forms of potato blight

c) Scenic villages

33. Does a ‘Sanity Clause’ have any standing in Irish law?

A. No

B. Only on December 25th

C. Yes but not as high a standing as Patrick and Brigid.

Contributors: Spectabilis, Dr. FIVE, 5intheface, C. Flower, Slim Buddha, DCon, PaddyJoe, Baron von Biffo, Captain Con O’Sullivan, Seán Ryan, fluffybiscuits

6 Sept. 2012

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