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A shorter version of this article appeared today on the Journal.ie

On Wednesday 27th of November the Ballyhea Says No movement achieved an incredible step along the journey to rid the Irish people of the odious bank debt imposed since 2008. Their motion was put to the Dail calling on the Irish government to ask the ECB to have the Anglo bonds written off. Outside the Dail, last Wednesday night I, along with hundreds of other protestors from across the country, watched the Government TDs vote against that motion. But it is clear that this is far from the end of the campaign against one of the biggest injustices in the European crisis. I have been deeply moved and inspired by the way in which they have marched, every single week, in their small rural town in Co. Cork, since March 2011, in such a determined and dignified manner. Unfortunately, due to a form of media censorship, too few people have heard of the Ballyhea debt group. Even worse, many people have been convinced by government and media mistruths that the Anglo Promissory Notes were done away with in a ‘deal’ in February this year. This article is an attempt to contribute to the spreading of the Ballyhea campaign and provides some thoughts on how we can move forward together to end Ireland’s debt slavery and achieve an Ireland of equality and solidarity.

They were just a small group of residents who got together in the rural town of Ballyhea in Co Cork, in March 2011, and began a weekly march declaring, “Ballyhea says No! to bond-holder bailout” against the imposition of private bank-debt on the Irish people. They started after the newly elected Fine Gael-Labour government reneged on one of their most fundamental election promises, that there would be burden-sharing with the bank bondholders. The key organiser, Diarmuid O’Flynn, a local sports journalist, explained that he was inspired by the Arab Spring “to fight to have returned to us, by the ECB, the money they have forced us to pay out in pursuance of their failed policy…which has resulted in mass unemployment, emigration, misery for the Irish people…Until such time as that has happened…we will continue to march, every Sunday.” The group has brought their campaign to the national and European scale, submitting a petition for bank-debt write-off to the European Parliament Petitions Committee.

Significantly, the Ballyhea Says No! group encouraged other communities to march as well. There are now groups of people marching in Tralee, Killarney, Charleville, Listowel, Rathoath, Clonmel, and elsewhere. While in Dublin, the Anglo Not Our Debt campaign has organised protests in solidarity. A marcher from one of the groups explained to me on the protest on Wednesday night, how he had never been interested in politics before but was so angered by the bank bailouts and austerity that he felt he had to something. He has marched every single week and describes how it has changed him: “I have been reading up on economics and politics and trying to understand what is happening to us. All the political parties are the same. They don’t represent the people. We have been sold out. I was at one of the marches and one of the people said to me to say a few words. I had never spoken before in public and I said a few words about why I was there. Then I went off and read more and spoke again the next time about the debt and austerity. We are tired but we are going to keep on going.” Some also spoke of how they had linked up with anti-eviction protests. They feel completely alienated, abandoned and disillusioned with the government political parties, the state and its institutions.

The interesting thing is that these are the so-called ‘ordinary’ people of Ireland. They are not seasoned left wing activists and have not been involved in politics before. They are the voiceless people of Ireland. The excluded and ignored. Many of them are working full time and trying to do this in their spare time. Others are unemployed and doing it out of frustration and anger. They are doing it because they care about their family, their friends, their community and the people of this country. It is this that gives them their legitimacy, their power and potential.

It is worth reiterating that the Irish people have paid 42% of the cost of the bailing out the entire European banking system. The bailout of the private banking sector has cost us €64bn. We also gave €17bn of our National Pension Reserve and cash reserves to our own bailout by the Troika! The impact of this bailout, the debt interest repayments and austerity policies can be seen in rising poverty in Ireland with the deprivation rate rising from 11% in 2007 to 25% in 2011. Unemployment has risen from 5% in 2007 to 13% in 2013, while Ireland has gone from having the highest net immigration rate in 2006 to having the highest net emigration rate in 2013.

These are the reasons that have motivated the Ballyhea group. Their persistent work resulted in a significant achievement of getting the Technical group in the Dail to put forward the motion last Wednesday night which called on the Government to

“immediately lobby the European Central Bank for a one-off exemption from the rules of monetary financing, to allow the Central Bank of Ireland to destroy the €25 billion in sovereign bonds issued in February of this year, in lieu of the remaining Promissory Notes, plus the €3.06 billion bond also being held by the Central Bank of Ireland in payment for the 2012 Promissory Note; and
— to cease any and all interest payments currently being made on those bonds.”

The Ballyhea, Anglo Not Our Debt and the other Says No! groups, through this motion, and their ongoing work, have shattered the myth that Ireland achieved debt forgiveness on the Anglo promissory notes in February this year. The reality is that one of the biggest injustices of this crisis, the forcing of private banking debt onto the backs of the Irish people, was continued in that so-called ‘deal’. The Anglo Promissory notes were converted into sovereign (Government) debt, of which every cent of the €28 billion is due to be paid back by the Irish people, with interest, through the issuing of government bonds in the coming years.

The acceptance by the establishment organisations like the Labour Party and some of the larger trade unions that we should prioritise the requirements of the financial institutions in Ireland and Europe over society’s needs, and implement savage austerity and debt repayment policies, was made clear in their attitude to this campaign. Unfortunately, Unite were the only trade union present at the protest on Wednesday. It is a sad reflection of the Irish trade union movement that they have not given more support to this campaign. It casts a shadow of tragedy and farce over the commemorations of the 1913 Lockout.

Derek Nolan, a young Labour Party TD spoke in the Dail debate, where he showed a dismissive attitude toward the Ballyhea campaign stating: “I have lost count of the number of times slogans and empty rhetoric have been bombasted as the quick-fix solutions to all our country’s very real ills. Populist, easy to chant slogans included “Austerity isn’t working”, “Default, default, default”, “Bailout the worker” and so on. Those slogans are devoid of meaning and are not grounded in economics, finance or political reality.”

So the Government believes it is unrealistic to expect debt forgivenes or debt write-downs from the European Central Bank but it is realistic to expect the Irish people to accept the destruction of social and economic recovery, push thousands more people into poverty, destroy jobs, force emigration and fuel mortgage distress in order to pay back this illegitimate debt? It is economically ridiculous to think that Ireland’s debt is sustainable. It is morally wrong and unjust that this odious debt is expected to be repaid.

The continued imposition of this debt also makes a nonsense of the ‘celebrations’ of Ireland’s bailout exit. It will trap us in austerity for decades. It is an enforced debt slavery for us and our children.

The United Left TD, Clare Daly’s statement to the Dail on the debate is worth restating as it captures many of the issues that Ballyhea are raising:

“In a Chamber (i.e. the Dail) noted for its brass necks, tonight’s performance almost beat all. To have to listen to Deputy Spring (Aurthur Spring, Labour TD), who is a former Anglo Irish Bank employee and who contested an election on a programme of Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way, ridicule this motion takes some beating. This individual bragged about the Greek economy being on its knees and somehow thought that was something to crow about to his friends in PASOK but I can tell him there is nobody in Ireland who takes comfort from the situation in the Greek economy. We stand in solidarity with the ordinary people of Europe, whether in Greece or in Iceland, when they stand up and say “enough”……Last night, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy O’Dowd, when speaking against the motion said we follow through on our commitments and that this is the message we want to deliver to the international community. What commitments and to whom? What message do we want to deliver to the international community? Is it that it can hit us with whatever it likes and we will bend even lower and take it? That is not a message I want to deliver. That is not our commitment nor is it that of the people of Ballyhay, the student nurses, the 100,000 young people who are now in Australia, the 400,000 people who are still out of work, the secondary school teachers, the children with special needs, the survivors symphysiotomy and all of the other people who have been shafted by this debt deal. It is not a message people want to deliver”.

It appears that the current Irish government have not pushed for any debt write down for Ireland. Just like many wealthy nationalists did the bidding of the British empire when Ireland was colonised before, so now their contemporaries in the Dail are bending over backwards to show that they are the good obedient children (or perhaps more accurately, colonial whipping boys and girls) of our new imperial powers, Germany, France, the European Central Bank etc. The Government TDs continue to act as if the European Central Bank has been a friend of Ireland. Let us not forget it was the ECB that refused us permission to burn the bondholders in 2010 which forced us into the bailout. It is the ECB who continue to impose on us unsustainable debt levels which, no doubt, the markets will begin speculating on again in the future and we will see our bond yields rise again and be forced out of the markets and into another bailout. The ECB are clearly not an ‘independent’ institution but a tool of the big European powers. They want us to pay back our debt, not because of some principle of debt repayment, but because it is going to French and German banks.

It was highlighted again and again by speakers at the protest that it is no accident that the politicians are not standing up to the ECB. They, and the wealthy and highly paid classes in Ireland, are doing just fine, and have no idea of the impact of this crisis. They have their well-paid, secure, jobs and do not want large scale protests or alternative politics or approaches that could jeopardise that cosy consensus.

The Ballyhea campaign also raises the question of what is the end game, the purpose, of all this austerity and debt repayments? Our economy is unsustainable and inequitable, dominated by an over-reliance on foreign multinationals who are here because it is one of the most profitable countries in Europe. A majority of people are affected by low wages, insecure employment, poverty, unemployment, and various forms of exclusion as a result of discrimination on class, gender, or disability. Austerity has hit the poorest the hardest. The European Central Bank, private markets and bondholders are insisting we live in penury and debt slavery for decades to come. Despite the demands for reform from the Irish public in the 2011 general election the political and state institutions remain as before the crisis began. We have been failed over and over by our political and state institutions and our model of economic development.

Our youth are emigrating, giving up on this country, turning to drugs and suicide. Notably, there wasn’t many young people on the protest. Emigration is clearly a useful political pressure valve for the elite. Then there is our health system which is becoming an apartheid system where access depends on ability to pay. We are not ‘turning a corner’ we are becoming a social wasteland.

The impact of Celtic Tiger neoliberalism has, as John Bissett, the community worker and organiser of the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope, has accurately described, turned us into individuals trying to fight each other to survive, rather than collectively responding as a community. As we ‘exit’ the bailout and enter a supposed ‘recovery’ the key question is what sort of society and economy are we now aiming to develop? It appears that it is business as usual for the elite who want the Irish people to suck it up and have austerity for decades in order to get us back to the days of unsustainable and inequitable Celtic Tiger growth.

The danger we face as a nation is the return of our dark history of division, silence, and acceptance of oppression. In more recent years the process of social partnership has resulted in civil society becoming part of the establishment, no longer challenging the system and offering radical alternatives.

But there is hope in what is going on at present and the action of the past provides some inspiration to keep us going.

Irish civil society has a long history of struggle from the land league, to trade union struggle, to the tax marches of the 1980s, the civil rights movement, stopping nuclear energy, the massive anti-war marches, co-operatives and community work. In particular, it seems strange and tragic timing that we are only a few years away from the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Connolly, Pearse and other leaders read the proclamation of the Irish Republic at the steps of the GPO in Easter 1916 declaring an Irish Republic which read: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible…The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…”. Despite their small numbers they challenged one of the largest empires in the world at that time.

We are constantly being told that the system would collapse if we didn’t pay back our debt, or if we left the Euro, or if we left some banks go bust, or if we taxed multinationals properly. But the truth is our society is collapsing. Isn’t it time to ask why we are destroying ourselves to save a system that has failed us and offers only further suffering into the future? Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of this system and rebuild it again in the interests of ordinary people, in the interests of the planet and based on the values of equality, environmental sustainability, participation, accountability and solidarity which were identified by the Claiming Our Future assembly of 1000 people in the RDS in 2010?

People claim that the Irish haven’t protested and that we are conservative and apathetic. Yet the ordinary people of Ireland have resisted the crisis, from the Ballyhea Bondholder protests, to local hospital campaigns, the hundreds of thousands who have marched against austerity and the majority who refused to pay the household charge.  We also have retained a strong sense of community, social justice, alternative value systems and our experience of colonialism provides an understanding and memory of oppression and resistance. But we have not done what the Icelandic or Cypriot or Greek people have done in mobilizing opposition in ways that forced the system to stop, even momentarily, and make the government and elite change direction.

We have the power to do it. We just need to figure out what will work for us. There will be moments in the coming months and years where the anger that has been internalised by the Irish people into passivity, depression, suicide, and emigration will erupt when the naked injustice of what has happened to us is revealed.

At those times we should be organised to maximise the potential resistance. Such moments include the local elections, the issuing of the first Anglo bonds next year, worker’s strikes, the local elections, water charges, the General election of 2016, the commemorations of 2016 itself. It was great to see the encouragement of the local campaigns to stand as independent election candidates in the local elections by Luke Ming Flanagan TD at the protest on Wednesday. It would be great to see dozens of councillors elected on an anti-debt and anti-austerity basis. The establishment parties cannot be relied upon to bring forward these issues. Another idea would be to try get a co-ordinated day of action before the first Anglo bonds are issued next year. Public buildings could be occupied for the week running up to it like the Spanish Indignados and Greek movements of the squares.

It is time for new approaches in Ireland. It is time for the Irish people to break the silence and rise up to demand the implementation of the values of the 1916 proclamation. We are not alone. We have friends in every community, town and city in Ireland. But we need to come together and realise our strength. To do this we need to unite the various campaigns and movements from Ballyhea, We’re Not Leaving, to the property tax to workers on strike in a broad campaign for a Ireland of equality, social justice, communities and solidarity.

It is important also that we develop our key demands and vision for what type of Ireland we want to see. People will demand that if we want them to take action.  We could start with the Ballyhea demands on ending our debt slavery and add to that the creation of real jobs, for equality, for affordable and social housing, for a quality public health system and for the reversal of cuts to communities, disabilities, and carers. Others I am sure will have other ideas to add. But it’s a start. It is clear that a radical transformation of our political system, economy and society is required if we are to achieve the values of the original Republic. Remember: we are the majority, they are the minority.

As Jim Larkin is quoted as saying “The great appear great because we are on our Knees: Let us Rise.”

Rory Hearne

Why have the Irish not protested the crisis and austerity in Ireland?

People are debating why the Irish have not been more like the Greeks and Spanish protesting against unemployment, the bank bailouts, austerity Budgets and cuts to public services? This article delves into that subject and offers some suggestions as to why this is the case and some indications for progressive social movements in Ireland. Firstly, it provides a short overview of the history of protest in Ireland and how this, along with successful state strategies of control, and the decisions of key political forces of opposition have stopped us from protesting the biggest economic collapse in the history of our state. This article is based on my practical experience and academic research into the politics of protest*.

Austerity Kills

History of Protest in Ireland

Protest and opposition has had varying aims and forms and involved a range of groups and classes in Ireland. This has included the poor, working class, the Catholic Church, middle classes, tenant farmers, factory workers, women, teachers etc. Here is a snap shot of some of most well-known protests in the last three centuries of our history.

1840-1880s: Daniel O Connell and the struggle for catholic emancipation which involved ‘monster meetings’, where it is reported between 100,000 and one million people attended one such meeting on the hill of Tara.  There was also the Fenians, the Young Irelanders and the Land League in this period. The Land League fought for the right of tenant farmers to own their own land and organised resistance to evictions, withheld rent, and held monster meetings of tenant farmers with 15,000 to 20,000 reported to have attended some.

1890s-1920s: There were campaigns/movements/armed insurgency for Independence and alternative structures set up parallel to the colonial state administration including the Gaelic League and community co-operatives. Alongside and within these independence struggles was action by the working class for social rights, against exploitation for a fair distribution of wealth. Through trade unions and the Labour Party workers organised the 1913 Lock Out, a General Strike in 1918 against conscription, workers councils (soviets) in Limerick and Belfast in 1919, and a General Strike in 1920. Many were motivated by Connolly’s argument that an independent republic of Ireland would be worthless unless it was built on freedom from exploitation – a socialist republic.

1930s to 50s: The newly independent state was controlled by conservative middle class nationalists and the Catholic Church.

1960s & 1970s: Emergence of civil rights movements; particularly the ‘Free’ Derry (‘Battle of the Bogside’) in relation to housing discrimination against Catholics in 1968, there was the 1971 ‘contraception’ train involving former President, Mary Robinson, and others, then in 1978 over 20,000 people marched against the destruction of Viking Dublin Wood Quay and city council tenant held a series of rent strikes.

Early 1980s: The Dublin Council of Trade Unions organised the massive tax marches and general strikes with150,000 marching in Dublin in 1979. In 1980 350,000 attended in the probably the largest demonstration in the history of the state. There were also the Hunger strike marches in Dublin in 1981 and protests at the British embassy. In 1984 10,000 protested at the visit of US president Ronald Reagan protests. Between 1978 and 1981 anti-nuclear protests and festivals were held at Carnsore Point in Wexford. While in 1984 and 1985 the Dunnes stores worker’s held the anti-apartheid strikes and protest.

Then in 1987 the trade unions entered social partnership agreements with the Government led by Charles Haughey. The unions agreed to ‘industrial peace’ and wage restraint in order to achieve economic development in Ireland and to try avoiding an Irish ‘Thatcherism’ attack on the trade unions.

1990s: There were the on-going Dublin inner city drugs and poverty marches, the anti-water charges campaign from 1994 to 1996 and the X case abortion protests.

2001-2003 There was a significant working class protest against the inequality of the Celtic Tiger through resistance to the imposition of bin charges but social partnership dominated at a national level.

2003: Anti- Iraq war march with 150,000 in Dublin

2004: Anti -globalisation EU summit protests in Dublin & May Day protests with 5000 people attending

2005-present day: Corrib gas, ‘Shell to Sea’ community campaign and protests. The Jailing of the Rossport 5 led to thousands marching in Dublin. Also protests by Ringsend community against a proposed incinerator and similar in Cork.

2005: December. 100,000 people took part in protests and strikes across the country in support of Irish Ferries workers and against outsourcing and exploitation of workers.

2008: First austerity protests: Senior citizens protested against the withdrawal of the medical card

2009: In February 100,000 people protested at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ‘There is a Fairer Way’ protests. A public sector General Strike was held in November and Community, youth and drug projects held a massive 12,000 demonstration in September.

2010: November 40,000 students march and 100,000 attend ICTU protest.

2011: Election of Fine Gael/Labour government. Ballyhea ‘anti-anglo debt’ protests start, Occupy Dame Street commences, Vita Cortex workers organise their ‘sit-in’ occupation, and the Roscommon Hospital Action campaign protests.

2012: Over 50% non-payment of the new household charge. 15,000 protest at pre- Budget march against austerity, teachers protest over cuts and salaries, in Waterford 15,000 march against hospital downsizing.

2013: In February 80,000 protest across the country in the ICTU organised ‘Anglo Not Our Debt’ protest.  Public servants oppose then agree to Croke Park wage agreement, the Wood Land League protest against sale of our Forests, Special Need Assistants, parents and teachers protest education cuts.

Understanding Protest in Ireland

This short snap-shot of protest in Ireland reveals a number of features of the nature of protest in Ireland and helps explain our (lack of) response to the crisis since 2008.

This history demonstrates clear evidence of significant protest and rebellion. For example, Ireland’s population is 4.6 million, France’s 65 million and the UK 63 million. This means that the 100,000 people on the streets of Dublin marching against austerity are equivalent to 1.5 million in Paris or London, so ours are relatively, extremely large.

However, given the extent of oppression and famine as a British colony and then poverty and economic stagnation as an Independent state culminating in austerity and crisis in recent years, it is surprising there hasn’t been a lot more rebellion. This can be explained by the various strategies adopted by both political forces and individuals in Ireland. There is evidence both of strong solidarity and extreme individualism.

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We thought it might be useful to share a timeline of online television programmes and videos about the crisis in Ireland which we’ve assembled for a third year undergraduate module we co-teach, Geographies of the Crisis.  We have tried to use official channels where possible, otherwise the links are to uploaded YouTube videos that have been created by others.  Most of the videos relate to the crisis in general and banking, property and migration issues in particular, as well social movements and protest.  They all concern Ireland rather than the wider European and global financial crisis.  Over time we’ll keep adding to the resource.

Documenting and Explaining the Crisis

Prime Time debate.  What an earth is happening to house prices?  David McWilliams versus Austin Hughes, 16 October 2003, Part 1 , Part 2

Futureshock – Property Crash RTE programme on future of housing market, 16th April 2007

Prime Time on property bubble: soft landing or crash?  Morgan Kelly, UCD, and Jim Power, Friends First, debate the state of the property market in April 2007

Bertie Ahern tells naysayers to commit suicide, July 3, 2007

Primetime Investigates – “The Pressure Zone, Planning and land zoning, November 26th 2007

Prime Time on Bank Guarantee, Discussion by Brendan Keenan, Morgan Kelly, Kevin McConnell, 30 Sept 2008

Prime Time, Pat Neary, The Financial Regulator, 18th October 2008

Al Jazeera, Immigrants hit by Irish downturn, 26th November 2008

Primetime Special, RTE.  Banking crisis, 12th February 2009

RTE, How We Blew the Boom, documentary, March 2009 (YouTube version)

ABC Australia, Ireland feels full impact of global financial crisis, 4th March 2009

Prime Time Investigates, RTE. After the Goldrush.  The impact of the recession on ordinary families. 25th May 2009

Prime Time, NAMA 30th April 2009, 13th Aug 2009, 17th Sept 2009 and 3rd November 2009

Joseph Stiglitz on Nama, Nobel Prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz gives damning indictment of NAMA on RTE’s Prime Time, October 7th, 2009.

Prime Time Special, Emigration, 12th November 2009

RTE Primetime Investigates on the banking system: Meet the Bankers, 21st December 2009 (on YouTube, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Primetime, RTE on debt and mortgage arrears, 2nd February 2010 (on YouTube, Part 1 , Part 2)

France 24 report, Leaving home: young Irish find the grass is greener 24th March 2010

Al Jazeera, Irish economy in sharp contraction, 26 Mar 09

RTE, Aftershock, week-long series of programmes seeking to capture the transformation over the previous 18 months, to take stock, and to try to identify ways to recover.

RTE, Ghostland documentary (part of Aftershock), 9th May 2010 (on YouTube, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

BBC News, ghost estate reports, May 2010 (report 1, report 2)

Prime Time, RTE, The property trap.  15th July 2010

Prime Time, RTE, A haunted landscape, 29th July 2010,

Reuters, ghost estates report, 30th July 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Second anniversary retrospective on bank guarantee scheme, 28th September 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Fiscal Flatline.  19th October 2010

TV3 News, Ghost Estates – Riverside Portarlington, Nov 2010

AFP, Ghost estates haunt Irish landscape, 26th November 2010

CNN report, Ireland haunted by ghost estates, 30th Sept 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Troika arrive The European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund have arrived in Dublin, 18 November 2010

Journeyman Pictures, Let Them Eat Cheese, November 2010

BBC News, World Have Your Say, Ireland economic special, 19th November 2010 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Prime Time, RTE, EU/IMF and Anglo Look at the fine print in the EU/IMF deal and how Anglo Irish Bank brought a country to the brink, 30th November 2010

France 24, Irish crisis: the spectre of emigration, 30th November 2010

ABC Australia, Journeyman Pictures, Irish Despair, 6th December 2010

Fintan O Toole, Fintan O’Toole on Ireland – SpunOut.ie Interviews 13th December, 2010,

Euronews, Ireland’s ghost estates, 10th December 2010

Prime Time Investigates.  Carry on Regardless, 21 Dec 2010.  How developers lives have been affected or not by the crash. (YouTube, Part 1, Part 2)

BBC Panorama, How to blow a fortune (Ireland’s real estate bust), 21st February 2011

ABC Australia, Journeyman Pictures, Goodbye My Ireland, 28th February 2011

Geophiles report, Ghost towns, 30th March 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Home Truths on negative equity, 5th April 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Bank Rupture, Nyberg Report, 19th April 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Regeneration, May 3rd 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Quinn versus Anglo, 14th June 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Namaland.  6th September 2011 (on YouTube)

PressTV, On the Edge, Irish economic crisis, 23rd September 2011

Immanuel Wallerstein, Capitalism Collapse? ‘Cash grab system cannot survive storm’, 9th October 2011

US Debt Crisis – Perfectly Explained

Prime Time, RTE, What lies beneath.  Priory Hall, 18th October 2011

AFP, Ireland considers new law to reposess ghost estates, 24th October 2011

Joseph Stiglitz, Lessons from Iceland’s Economic Crisis, 26th October, 2011

RTWEthepeople, Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy with Conor McCabe, 30th October 2011

INET Economics, Stephen Kinsella – Irish Crisis Demands New Economic Thinking, 29th November 2011

Prime Time Special, One year on the bailout, 28th November 2011

Joseph Stiglitz on Ireland, Stiglitz on Ireland, 6th December 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Troika Time, January 19th 2012

Al Jazeera, Collapse of the Celtic Tiger January 19th 2012

Punk Economics, David McWilliams series, January-July 2012 (Lesson 1: Crisis in Ireland and Europe; Lesson 2: ECB’s massive cash for trash scheme; Lesson 3: Playing games with liquidity; Lesson 4: Irish Referendum Preview; Lesson 5: China Panics, US ‘Recovers’ and Germany Flinches

Prime Time, RTE, New Departures on emigration, March 15th 2012

Prime Time, RTE, The Mahon Report – The Tribunal, March 2012 (on YouTube in general, re. Bertie Ahern)

Robert Skidelsky, The Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Future of International Relations, April 2012

IIEA, Karl Whelan on Ireland’s Bank Debt and What Can be Done About It? – 29 June 2012

Tom Healy, Nevin Economic Research Institute, Claiming Our Future Launch Plan B, 25th June 2012

Longford Leader, First NAMA property demolished, 24th July 2012

Social movement/protest

BBC report on protests, February 21st 2009:

The March – Documenting the march against the IMF bailout, 2nd December, 2010,

PRI: Ireland’s woes through the lens of art, 7th Dec 2010

Pretty Vacant, PrettyvacanT, Permission to LandUnused and Unloved, Shoot the Tiger, April 2011-July 2012

Darragh Byrne Videography, Occupy Dame Street, 22nd October 2011;

Spectacle of Defiance and Hope in Dublin, 3rd December 2011,

Naomi Klein, Fake “Debt Crisis/Bankruptcy”: We are NOT Bankrupt! Tax the Rich! 7th October 2011,

RTWEthepeople, Audit NAMA, 23rd Nov 2011

Irishtimes.com, €1.4bn house is a work of art, 24th January 2012

Irish Times.com ‘Occupy Dame Street’ protesters removed, 8th March 2012

Romantic Ireland, Romantic Ireland from the Streets, 17th March 2012

Dole TV, Unlock NAMA, 4th April 2012

Mandate: Vote No to the Austerity Treaty, 21 May 2012

Irishtimes.com, Claiming our Future, Plan B, 26th June 2012

TASC: Fr Peter McVerry: New economic model must involve a more just sharing of power as well as wealth, June 2012

Rap Nuacht na hEireann, Episode 1, 24th July 2012

Radio Documentaries

BBC Radio 4, Olivia O´Leary on economic crisis and post-crash identity, June 12, 2009 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

BBC Radio 4, Dan O’Brien, Bailout Boys go to Dublin, 24th April 2011

Newstalk, Deserted village Documentary by Jane Ruffino.  24th March 2012

If you have any suggestions for other programmes/clips to include please put in a link in the comments box.

Rob Kitchin and Rory Hearne

This is the first in a series of guest blogs from geographers around Europe. Edward Huijbens is a geographer based at the University of Akureyri in Iceland.

On the Friday before the big weekend in October 2008, when the whole finance sector in Iceland came tumbling down, there was tension in the air. During lunch time news a revered economist at the University of Iceland had stated that the banks were bankrupt with unforeseeable consequences for the nation at large. The was obvious panic in his voice and I rushed back to the office, where we gathered round the computer and listened to a replay on the internet of the news. We had not much to say – we were just numb and awestruck. On the Monday after the weekend big news were afoot and the PM was to address the nation on TV at 4pm. The nation came to a stand-still and we watched as the PM announced that the finance sector had capsized and might suck the whole nation in. He ended with the famous Bushian “God bless Iceland”.

Immediately it was clear that this collapse manifested regional disparities within the country. Around the small villages and towns around the cost people shrugged and said; we have had recession here for 30 years, this will not change much. Whilst in the capital region Reykjavík and bigger towns namely Akureyri and Reykjanesbær, the effect was felt more, but also the need to invest all the bubble capital accumulating was mainly manifest there, in highrises, roadworks, big building projects and new boroughs. Now these are all half-done and on hold.

Mostly people were at first numb, did not know what had happened and how. In August 2008 the nation was on the top of the world, with a booming economy and just having won a silver medal in the Olympics in handball. When the handball team returned home tens of thousands filled the streets in Reykjavík as they received a royal welcome – national pride was rampant and all of a sudden it was all gone. Overnight we became equated with Zimbabwe and the likes in international media.

Then it began to dawn on some that the system we had built was fundamentally corrupt, through nepotism, and the ideological dogma of neo-liberalism was flawed. This was of course obvious to many beforehand, but the debate could never be sustained in the face of the amazing wealth that seemed to be pouring into the country. The only political party (the left green) that raised concern was absolutely ridiculed. As one left green parliamentarian suggested that the banks should just leave the country and set up HQ in London, the media uproar was immense.

As it dawned on the general public, various groups started to emerge and talk on various issues: general mis-trust at the political establishment was rampant so new ones formed. The most prominent one started the first Saturday after the collapse in October to rally people at 3 pm on the centre square in Reykjavík in front of the parliament house. There for 30 minutes 3-4 people would give short speeches on their take on the situation and the organiser, the well known civil liberties activist Hörður Torfason, would talk to people reminding them to come next Saturday. His aim was simple, to come every Saturday until three of his demands would be met: 1) That the director of the Central Bank would be ousted, 2) the government resigns and 3) that a general elections will be called.

The firm use of public space to voice simple clear demands became the platform for the change that would in the end occur. People held on to these meetings, and the media made more and more of them as people started coming in their thousands. What at first was a handful of people had by January 2009 become at least 10,000 people (bear in mind in Iceland the population is 320,000 in total). This mass of people simply could not be ignored and when the parliament reconvened after Christmas mid-January, Hörður urged all to come to the square and bring anything that could make noise – this time they will listen. People grabbed pots and pans mostly and filled the central square banging them along with percussionists and blaring horns. Inside the parliament people needed to shout to be heard, but still the parliament members and PM pretended as if nothing was going on. This so infuriated people that they came back the next day and the day thereafter and what unfolded was what later was called the “Kitchenware” Revolution and the government resigned. An interim government took over and general elections were called. There was change and a left government gained clear majority – but now, almost a year on, we are in the interesting situation that this new government seems to be doing all it can to resurrect the former system that collapsed in all its nepotistic and corrupt glory. We are a bit confused up here now and what next we do not know, except it seems clear that it is the tax-payer who will pay.

The lesson in this for me is that clear demands have to be set, with a clear structure and platform for the voicing of these demands: where come hell or high water, the demands will be voiced, and if not heard accompanied by pots and pans. For me the pivotal role that public space plays in the strategic locations, such as ours in Reykjavík, cannot be underestimated.

A hammer and a thick steel frying pan  can sever eardrums!

Eddie from Iceland