By Philip Pilkington, a writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland
Speaking with a senior figure in Fianna Fail (the party that were kicked out of government last year by the Irish people) earlier this week something dawned on me for perhaps the first time. Namely, that the leaders in Ireland might know exactly what the issues and the problems are in Europe but they remain completely powerless to solve them.
“We’re probably the most pro-European party in Ireland,” said a senior figure within Fianna Fail. “But there are major problems with the way European leaders are handling this crisis.”
Fianna Fail seem to broadly recognise that the cause of the current crisis is that the European Union does not have a properly functioning banking system. Specifically that the European Central Bank does not function in a capacity of being a so-called ‘lender of last resort’.
From what I could tell in saying this the senior figure meant that the ECB is not backstopping the sovereign debt of Eurozone governments. So, even though his terminology is off (as is most of the commentariat today) he is essentially correct.
The senior Fianna Failer also noted that the current attempts to write austerity into the constitution is “madness” and that any serious changes that take place in Europe need to be subject to referendum, otherwise the European leaders seriously risk alienating voters and turning them toward more Eurosceptic parties.
This all sounds very oppositional, but you can’t help but thinking that the rhetoric sounds almost identical to the sort of empowered self-delusions that those who are now in government nursed prior to their being elected. Would Fianna Fail really be able to make good on their sensible analysis if they were in the position that they had to walk into a room full of Eurocrats and expound on their ideas? My guess is: no.
The source took issue with Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s tendency to only meet with French and German officials, saying that we need to reach out to other European countries in order to build a base of solidarity. The source also took issue with the present government using Greece as a scapegoat to avoid dealing with more serious underlying issues.
“When the Taoiseach says “we’re not Greece” its not very helpful,” said the source. “The way the rest of Europe are treating Greece is wrong. What’s essentially happening is that cash transfers are being taken from the periphery (in the form of interest payments etc.) and being moved to the core — that is not what Europe is supposed to be about.”
Again, all this sounds good — when you’re talking off-record and not in power. But it doesn’t really mean much when the real world is considered.
One point that the source constantly danced around was that this might be a power-grab by the Germans pure and simple. He simply wouldn’t listen to that harrowing idea — because it might burst the bubble. You can be as reasonable and well-informed as you like, when you come up against raw force such virtues fly right out the window.
Ireland is in a truly hopeless position. Our leaders know what’s going on… to a point. But, having entered into political maturity with their European compatriots by their sides, they simply cannot see what many see so clearly: namely, that the political and institutional structures are currently breaking down in Europe due to a thirst that certain leaders within the union have for power.