Who's riding the Celtic Tiger?
A scene from an old Irish movie, "The Field", suits the two faces of the new boom in the Republic of Ireland: in a small village, strangers are seeking to buy a field that Richard Harris, “The Bull”, considers his family property and a barman criticizes him for mixing old and new occupants (“The English are gone”). Harris reply, threateningly: “gone, because I drove them out, gone… but not forgotten”. By replacing words as "outsiders" and "English" with "austerity" and "inequality", the bartender and the old Harris would argue just like those that in Ireland celebrate the recovered role of fastest growing EU economy and those that are still enduring its imbalances.
- Thursday, 19 February 2015
Likewise, while news reports are still upholding the "A" returned December 5 by S&P and other promotions (the A- by Fitch) and unemployment falling from fourteen to just over ten percent in two and a half years, the lingering effects of the economic turmoil are exacerbating the knowledge that the public unrecoverable costs of the banking crisis - calculated by Patrick Honohan, governor of the Irish central bank, in forty billion - mean that less resources will be available to heal additional sacrifices that even the recovery is now demanding: in some areas of Dublin property prices have risen up to forty percent in the last eighteen months, budget cuts in the Health service have been introduced and costs of living are rising.
The claim that the water bill introduced by “Fine Gael” (liberals) and “Labour” (center left) Government has had the effect of a last drop is not just a word game: on February 9th, the representative of "Socialist Party" Paul Murphy was arrested, along with three Anti-Austerity Alliance" councilors, they have been questioned about the protests that took place on November 15th, 2014 in the district of Jobstown, where the "Tánaiste" (deputy Prime Minister) Joan Burton was trapped in her car by demonstrators. In several cases, residents have actively resisted the mere installation of water meters: February 13th engineers were almost attacked at "Liberties", a popular district of the capital, local authorities have also reported that, on the same day, about five hundred protesters gathered around the police station in Tallaght, another suburb, protesting against the twenty imprisonment related to the events occurred in Jobstown.
Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party) told to the public television RTE that people do not understand why the speculators who have damaged the economy have not been picked up at six in the morning (on February 9th has been revealed that 350 Irish citizens hold, in Swiss branch of HSBC, accounts for more than three billion euro subtracted to the fiscal system). The decision to make sustainable the water system is more specifically, according to the mass movement "Right2Water", the start of a series of steps directed towards privatization, so the huge wave of discontent awakened by financial bubbles flows against Fine Gael’s Government and submerges its junior partner, the Labour: both parties forced out the Fianna Fáil government in the 2011 national elections, but then they were downsized in the 2014 European elections.
Grassroots movements in defense of public water are bringing all closer together "Sinn Fein" (the republican nationalist left) and the Trotskyites (the "Socialist Party", deeply rooted in Dublin), independents (successful in the European elections ) and groups such as "People Before Profit" (grew up with movements like "Occupy Wall Street"). It is unlikely that these political forces stand all together, this does not prevent many activists to leave the Labour and place close to their own homes placards who recite "no way we won’t pay" (the public company "Irish Water" register remained half empty, despite the insistence to enroll citizens) and Sinn Féin, the Republican Left lined up in the EU with the United Left Gue-NGL, has already doubled its consensus in the European elections, reaching FF and FG and defeating Labour. On the water issue, the government has been flip flopping, having first to ensure that a privatization would never happen and also to ensure a leveling of prices: goodbye then to secured cash incoming in current budgets.
Two contrasting phenomena are strongly emerging, making the Irish society an inaccessible ground for the traditional political parties: on one side foreign direct investment is rising and access to credit is coming back, but, at the same time, the reduction in social budget bites more than ever, a Unicef report has recorded in October a record increase in the poverty rate among children (18-28 per cent between 2008 and 2012, a regression of ten years only exceeded by the backward jump of fourteen years detected in Greece in the same period) and distrust toward a recovery, according to many confined to monitor of the stock market traders, is aggravated by 37,000 families that are unable to repay their mortgage. According to the "Irish Mortgage Holders Association" data, calculations that show a reduction of those ninety days back with the repayments does not take into account those back for more than two years, with an average of 45,000 euro for each mortgage, nearly two billion in debt and 150,000 people at risk of losing the home: if it is true, as the underway investigation on the banking crisis repeats (and as it was also clarified at the hearing before the Oireachtas - the Parliament of the Republic - in which Marco Buti, Director - General for Economic and Financial Affair at the European Commission, and Donal Donovan, former Deputy Director at the International Monetary Fund, spoke on February 18th 2015), that the artificial inflation of the economy between 2002 and 2007 handed out benefits in Ireland, there is no doubt that some segments of the population are paying off the "bubble" more painfully.
What doesn’t come as a surprise is an appetite for a Greek salad that follows the Celtic Tiger’s binge and austerity diet: in recent weeks, in the streets of Dublin it’s frequent to see Alexis Tsipras’ images, posters placed there by activists of the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit, the Anti-austerity Alliance, by trade unions and neighborhood committees, and if the day after the Greek vote Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin) on behalf of the Republican Left congratulated on the phone with the new Greek Prime Minister, one of the most popular candidates without party affiliation, Shane Ross, tweeted "Viva Syriza", fueling the impression that “German austerity" and charges on services do all one in the population’s feeling, now also pushing many civic candidates close to the Republican left and to other Leftist Movements. Even though a broad radical leftist alliance is not currently a likely hypothesis in Ireland, it is however favored by five trade unions, representing more than one hundred thousand workers and who want to make unavoidable - in every possible Center-Left coalition - a clear commitment on public water, housing rights and rights workers: link with the new Euro Critics Leftist movements is made evident by a conference that these unions are organizing, an event planned in Ireland for this next May and where representatives of the Greek and Spanish political parties "Syriza" and "Podemos" have already been invited.