Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The election at the weekend of the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece is a significant development not only for Greece and the Greek people, but also for all of Europe, and particularly for the programme countries including Ireland, Spain and Portugal. I heartily welcome the victory. The Greek people have supported all those in Europe suffering from unjust austerity imposed by the troika.
They have opened the door for the long-suffering Irish people. We must grasp this opportunity with both hands immediately. If Ireland does not join Syriza in supporting and preparing for a European debt conference to write down debt of all programme countries, it will face another 20 years of austerity. The 1952-53 European debt conference, which halved the German debt, gave a moratorium on repayments and extended the repayment period when it started to 50 years, offers a precedent. Another initiative of that nature is absolutely necessary for Ireland, Greece and the other programme countries.
It is regrettable that the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have said in recent days that Ireland does not want a debt write-down. I assure them that the 1.4 million Irish people who are affected by deprivation and the 376,000 families that are living in consistent poverty in this State – both figures are taken from last week’s CSO statistics – want a debt write-down. The same thing can be said of the 211,000 children who live in consistent poverty in this country, the 90,000 families on housing waiting lists, the 350,000 people who are unemployed, the 83,000 people who are on schemes and the almost 100,000 people who have emigrated.
If we do not get the debt write-down we seriously need, we will continue in austerity for the next 20 years. That is due to the fiscal treaty, about which we are hearing nothing now. When the fiscal treaty clicks in after the next election, it will impose ongoing austerity for 20 years. The structural deficit will cost us €4.5 billion. After that, the reduction to 60% of GDP will cost approximately €3 billion a year for 20 years. This country needs and wants a write-down. The Government, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste should support Syriza and the other programme countries in calling for a European debt conference.