National debt: an unsustainable burden

When the latest phase of the global crisis of capitalism manifested itself through the financial markets in 2007–09, the “Celtic Tiger” collapsed. The Irish establishment, under direct pressure from the European Union, took responsibility for 42 per cent of the total of European banking debt.

We bailed out German, French and British banks and other global finance houses. The “national debt” was then used as a pretext for a massive assault on Irish workers’ wages, terms, and conditions.

We have also witnessed a growth in precarious employment and in zero-hour contracts and a massive transfer of wealth from workers upwards to the ruling elite and outwards to global financial institutions. The rich got richer, and continue to do so.

The latest figures from the Department of Finance show that the national debt now stands at more than €206 billion—that’s €42,500 for every single individual in the country. (The average industrial wage is between €35,000 and €40,000 per year.)

The level of state debt makes Ireland one of the most indebted countries in the OECD. It is estimated that it has paid in the region of €7 or 8 billion per year just to service this debt. Until last year’s budget surplus the Irish state was borrowing money from global finance houses to pay the interest; in other words, we were borrowing money to pay the same institutions that hold the national debt. So they are making it on the double.

Each time the state borrows from these international finance houses adds to the growing national debt. Ireland is more at risk than other countries, because 90 per cent of our borrowing comes from foreign capital. This is a strategy to make Irish workers pay more and more to these global vultures, piling up the national debt at the expense of spending on health, housing, education, and culture.

Ireland is now one of the most exposed countries in the world and most vulnerable to external risks. The establishment sold the present generation and future generations of Irish workers into debt slavery, in order to pay off a debt that does not belong to us. These debts are the responsibility of the Irish banks, property speculators, builders, and developers—the Irish capitalist class. They got away scot-free while we pay the price in cuts in health, education, and wages.

The CPI calls, as it did from the beginning, for the repudiation of this debt imposed upon our people.