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I want to argue that Jean Claude Trichet’s ‘secret’ letter to Brian Lenihan and the consistent pressure directed at two governments, and by default every citizen in the Republic, now needs to be brought to the European Court of Human Rights .
While the details of this financial disaster may be factually correct from an economic markets perspective, the climate of fear generated at the time was morally wrong and is now an issue of human and moral rights.
The decision taken was to ask the citizens of Ireland to pay an unfair and unjust price for the recklessness of both an Irish and a European private sector ‘problem’.
This has resulted in the enforced emigration of an entire generation of Irish people and six years of punitive austerity budgets which have rushed through a neoliberal package of austerity measures resulting in the closure of vital public services across rural Ireland.
Two successive Irish governments have tried to use quiet diplomacy and so far all their efforts have failed to bring a reduction in the debt burden.
So in answer to an economic crisis that was both Europe’s making, the citizens of Ireland were left to stand alone and bear the entire cost of this financial burden. When the economic problem was diagnosed the European and global world leaders and politicians quickly framed the ‘problem’ as an issue belonging exclusively to Ireland, and caused exclusively, not by reckless Irish banks, builders and bondholders, but by the fiscal policies of the Irish government.In that crucial moment the project that was Europe became solely an ‘economic’ project.
The moral dilemma of this unjust debt burden and the real costs to the citizens of Ireland is supported in a speech delivered by the renowned German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas to the German social democratic party in February 2014.
In that speech he outlined three problems that currently beset Europe: German domination in terms of austerity policies imposed on small nations, the lack of a political union and the resulting democratic deficit and the legitimacy of the European project.
The deliberate framing of the financial disaster in this way and the consequences of this for ordinary people make it an issue of human rights for the Irish people.
In the words of the political activist Horace Mann in 1848 it is ‘now time to see whether this Union is a rope of sand or a band of steel’.
Dr Geraldine Mooney
Faculty of Education and Health Sciences University of Limerick
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