Bill Tormey joins Stephen Collins on the EU ramparts

Stephen Collins in the Irish Times warns Fine Gael about a dangerous flirtation with populist rhetoric. I have asked a number of people in Fine Gael about this and they all agreed that Fine Gael should support the Commission in dealing with reckless Eurozone members through a corset on the Stability and Growth pact.

My view is that the Euro will have to be abandoned unless there is greater economic integration in the Zone and the greater the political integration the better. I have discovered that I am a loose Euro-federalist. I have always voted in favour of every European Treaty since the 1972 one and will almost certainly continue to do so with my greatest reservations on the cultural issues attached to Turkey and Islam. (Sharia law – No way)

The politicians will be unable to buck the market in the long term and should recognise that. The Eurozone is hugely interrelated and interdependent because the German and French banks own an enormous amount of debt from the PIIGS and defaults will cause bank capitalisation problems in Germany and France.

In Ireland, no longer will El Berto or successors be able to borrow and waste their way to the next election with the electorate bought and bribed by their own borrowings.

We must have greater EU integration and political union.

Governments in the Eurozone will have to have their overall budget parameters overseen by some part of the Commission to ensure financial and fiscal continence. This is inevitable and must be fairly rigid. However, the whole detail must be simplified and explained to the public across the EU so that popular alienation from the EU is countered. Nationalism is a very strong emotion. Just look at the little Englanders in the Daily Telegraph, the Express and the Daily Mail or listen to the Tory anti-Europeans on Radio 4. The emotional power of nationalism is obvious and deep rooted.

The Commission corset is far preferable to the consequences of the German suggestion of suspension of EU voting rights for bad financial behaviour and a system to orderly state insolvencies which in effect means expulsion from the Euro.

However, it seems clear now that a major attempt to keep Greece inside the Eurozone 16 is happening. I agree with Professor Ray Kinsella (Examiner) when he says that “If the Stability and Growth Pact criteria were applied to the US, both its deficit and its level of indebtedness would be clearly on an unsustainable trajectory.”

As Dan O’Brien of the Economist Intelligence Unit puts it “Losing the power to self-harm is not a bad thing at all”.

There has to be financial discipline so I believe that those with Debt/GDP rations greater than 90% will have to have some sort of debt write-off organised. Otherwise their peoples are condemned to prolonged deflation and stagnation. The easy solution is to issue bonds to the European Central Bank and for the bank to park them in a downstairs vault until found by an archaeologist! Is that quantitative easing? The main objectors will be the German public.

The alternative to the imposition of more centralised economic discipline is the collapse of the Euro and the partial disintegration of the EU with the attendant misery for so many people in Europe and the potential for a renewal of the mad conflicts that blighted the continent for centuries. Ask people from Slovakia, Poland or the Baltics what was life like for them under the Russians. My opinion is that Ireland has gained hugely from Eastern European immigration in terms of culture and people; same applies to the Africans, Chinese, Philippinos and Mauritians. The 40 million Irish around the world should be glad to know that some of us at home are delighted that humanity in its kaleidoscopic diversity has come here to Ireland and has enchanted many of us.

I am not after the racist vote or the illiberal vote. I am not a catch-all.

So Stephen Collins, I hope you are somewhat reassured that there are some people with FG on their shirts who have not and will never bend to naked populism. I always keep my political clothes on. Of course Stephen, it is easy to dismiss me as a voice in the Northwest Frontier – next stop wilderness but I don’t surrender. NEVER.

Conventional politics in Ireland is very conservative and loaded against innovative thinking. Those on the outside are dismissed as loose cannons or “mad”.

Bill supports the Ray Kinsella comment “The commission’s role in monitoring national economies and macroeconomic imbalances will be enormously enhanced” It will approve our budgets, our borrowings, and our bailouts. It will reprove our mistakes.”

Irrespective of what politicians in Ireland say or do, Bill supports this action in Europe as the only game that makes any sense if the EU is to survive because I think that the apocalypse is hovering for the European and Monet ideal. I am a European federalist not an Irish nationalist.

I cite an article by Professor Ray Kinsella in the Examiner of 14th May, a man I rate highly, for your information. I agree with it’s sentiments entirely.

Fine Gael’s dangerous flirtation with populist rhetoric


INSIDE POLITICS: Abandoning its pro-EU stance at the drop of a hat to try to embarrass the Government for a day reflects badly on FG

FINE GAEL has done itself no favours by attempting to turn a European Commission proposal on budget co-ordination across the EU into a scare about the erosion of Irish sovereignty. In their scramble to score points against the Government, Enda Kenny and Richard Bruton have only done damage to their own credibility as potential leaders of an alternative government.

One of the guiding principles of Fine Gael for the past 40 years has been an unwavering commitment to the European project. That is what makes such an ill-judged reaction from the party leadership to a modest proposal from the commission to protect the euro zone all the more astonishing.

Kenny and Bruton must have squirmed in their padded Dáil seats on Thursday morning when the Sinn Féin leader in the House, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said he wanted to echo their concerns and politely told them he had forecast just such a development when he campaigned for a No vote in the two referendums on the Lisbon Treaty.

Outside the Dáil another inveterate anti-EU campaigner, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins, bluntly said that either Enda Kenny did not know what he was talking about during the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaigns, when he asked the Irish people to vote Yes, or he was deceiving them now. Higgins pointed out that the treaty had strengthened the hand of the commission to co-ordinate a common approach by finance ministers across the EU.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan also made the point that greater co-ordination of economic policies was envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty. “All 16 euro zone members are deeply intertwined through the common currency. As we have seen over the past few weeks, a speculative attack on one member state affects us all. For that reason, we have a shared interest in enhanced economic co-ordination throughout the zone,” he said.

Any move at EU level that might put a brake on the kind of Fianna Fáil profligacy that led to a deep economic crisis in Ireland, not once but twice in the past 40 years, should surely be welcomed by Fine Gael and other Dáil parties.

For anyone who genuinely supports the EU, the commission proposal represents a logical pooling of sovereignty to try and prevent future speculative attacks on the euro. For those who have campaigned against EU treaties it represents a further diminution of sovereignty, but so has every step along the road to closer co-operation, beginning with our accession in 1973.

The fact that Fine Gael has put itself on the same side of the argument as the anti-EU forces that campaigned for a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendums raises questions about whether the party has any idea of what it stands for or where it is going. What is really worrying is that the latest gaffe appears to be part of a pattern.

The remarkable thing about the party’s performance in the 30th Dáil is that it began courageously spelling out economic and political realities at a time when that approach was not particularly popular and when the Government was still in denial about the problems facing the country.

Leo Varadkar identified the need for a cull of quangos long before Colm McCarthy was brought on the scene, while Kenny and Bruton raised the ire of public servants by calling for control of the public pay bill before the Government realised it was a problem. The party also supported the introduction of the bank guarantee as the only viable option in the circumstances of September 2008.

However, Fine Gael has also moved steadily towards a more populist and unsustainable stance on a range of issues from the public finances to the banking crisis. It is no accident that a number of former Fine Gael luminaries such as Garret FitzGerald and Alan Dukes have distanced themselves from the party’s approach. There is a danger that some of its core supporters will soon despair.

While some degree of populism in response to austerity measures was only to be expected, particularly since Fianna Fáil was largely responsible for the creation of the mess in the first place, it has got to a dangerous stage if Fine Gael is capable of abandoning its pro-EU stance at the drop of a hat to try to embarrass the Government for a day.

There is a suspicion that the party is relying on focus groups to assess the public mood and simply churning out views designed to capture it. While that is precisely what Fianna Fáil did during the Ahern years, it is a dangerous game. Our current difficulties stem in large part from the abdication of leadership that occurred over a decade as government tried to give the public want it wanted without concern for the cost.

That failure of leadership had put Fine Gael in a strong position to become the biggest party in the Dáil for the first time in its history, but its behaviour over the past week indicates that it is quite capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The only card left in Fianna Fáil’s hands at this stage is that, whatever its own past sins, the Opposition would be incapable of dealing with the crisis. Fine Gael and Labour as well have done a good job in recent months of giving credence to this claim.

Brian Cowen squandered an opportunity to ram the point home in his lengthy address at DCU on Thursday night. Instead of focusing solely on what his Government is doing to rescue the economy, he persisted in denying responsibility for his role in its downfall. That approach will only antagonise voters who are simply not prepared to forgive him and his colleagues for blithely leading the country to the edge of the cliff.

It looks as if voters at the next election will face the unenviable choice of supporting the party that shares a large amount of responsibility for the crash, but seems to have a coherent plan to deal with it, and parties who are innocent of responsibility but either don’t know or won’t say what has to be done.