THE MOST eye-catching placard on a 120,000-strong march in Dublin last Saturday against the Irish government’s austerity response to the tottering of the capitalist system was held aloft by a scrawny teenager, with the look of a music-lover about him, reading “Make Bono Pay Tax.”
The march, organized by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, was protesting against measures, including a pay freeze plus a 1 percent wage levy on all public sector workers, education cutbacks that will mean, for example, the closure of special needs classes in primary schools, and much else along the same screw-the-workers, neoliberal lines.
The cutbacks and attacks on public-sector workers come against the background of a banking scandal which, proportionately, dwarfs the crimes of the bankster class in the U.S.
Rummaging through the rubble of Anglo Irish Bank, which collapsed at the end of 2008 and was nationalized in January, investigators discovered that founder and boss Sean Fitzpatrick was secretly in hock to his own bank to the tune of $110 million, which he had shifted into Irish Life and Permanent on the day before the annual audit and shifted back again the day afterwards.
Fitzpatrick–“Seanie” to both Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowan and his predecessor Bertie Ahern–had performed this maneuver with sums of around $101 million every year for the past seven years.
It emerged, too, that the bank had last year given loans worth $571 million to 10 customers buying shares in the bank, the loans being secured on the same shares. As well, 15 individuals owed the bank at least $633 million each, much of it secured on property holdings which may now be worth as little as shares in Anglo Irish ($21 in mid-2007, 12 cents at the time of nationalization).
The bailout burden of all this falls on the taxpayers. Hence, the mass fury expressed on the Dublin march and the dismay of many at the nervous pusillanimity of union leaders on the platform, whose main call was not to march on another couple hundred yards to Anglo Irish headquarters and burn it down, but to “exert pressure” on the government to agree to reopen talks on a “package of measures.” Hence, too, a new focus on tax avoiders, who live high off the hog in Dublin while basing their businesses in Euro-zone tax shelters. Like U2.
*a play on the U2 song “Where the Streets Have no Name”