Like Martin Luther’s Theses nailed to the door of the Church in Wittenberg almost 500 years ago, the Ballyhea protesters hope their statement will bring about a reformation, too.
The 15 protesters who had flown from Knock came from Mallow, Charleville, and Ballyhea, now known worldwide for its weekly protest march against Irish taxpayers’ money being used to pay bank debts.
The group, all sporting some item of green, were greeted with unexpected civility by the citizens of Frankfurt and the staff of the ECB. Their placards in German and English drew attention from passing citizens, some of whom asked what it meant.
While Martin Luther objected to indulgences being sold to pay for building St Peter’s in Rome, the Irish protesters explained that the country’s future was being sold to pay for bankers who took a bet and lost.
“It’s taking money with menaces, blackmailing the Irish people for 40% of the country’s GDP,” said Diarmuid O’Flynn, one of the protest leaders.
“The ECB is to blame for our soaring bank debt. The ECB has been abusing its financial muscle and forcing a weak Irish government to assume for the Irish people a debt burden that is not ours.
“When the Irish economy went up in flames in 2008 it burned everyone, with one glaring exception — those whose billions had fuelled the flames”, the letter to ECB governor Mario Draghi said.
The group could not believe their luck when they saw Central Bank head Patrick Honohan, on his way into the ECB’s monthly meeting. “We handed it to him and he took it — he said he could not give it to Draghi but he would give it to the bank.”