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Thursday, 30 September 2010

With the words 'Toxic Bank Anglo' written on its enormous drum, a cement mixer was rammed into the gates outside the Irish Parliament yesterday, reported the Irish Independent. The news disappeared rapidly from Australian websites and failed to make an appearance on the websites of The Guardian - the UK's leading liberal broadsheet - or The New York Times. Which is slightly odd when you think about it for a short time. It's just local Irish news? Well, maybe it is. But it's also a sign from the street that Ireland is balanced finely on the brink of financial collapse, and that's not a good sign so soon after Greek financial vulnerability appeared in the wake of recession-busting measures taken after the Global Financial Crisis. Those measures were supposed to protect the global financial system from falling more. They have mostly, but in some countries problems persist.

Street demonstrations staged in Athens a few months ago caught the attention of the world's media, giving us the opportunity to see second-hand the challenges facing Greece as it starts to come to grips with austerity measures imposed to combat a serious economic crisis.

The Dublin cement truck's neatly-painted slogan, in less dramatic guise, points to ongoing problems with confidence in Ireland's ability to repay sovereign debt, and austerity measures taken by the government to buttress the state's liquidity, which are impacting on society generally (as they have in Greece). This time the public has focused its attention on the Anglo Irish Bank, an entity the government in Ireland nationalised, according to the short Sydney Morning Herald story, in order to save it from total collapse. According to the Independent:
The incident was sparked by controversial plans by the Government to plough more than €20m into State-owned Anglo Irish Bank.
In the same newspaper, there's a story about the cost of securing sovereign finance in Ireland, which has risen to 6.78 percent. There are fears that a situation similar to the one faced by the Greek administration will develop in Ireland. It's a matter of global interest whether a second country needs to be bailed out by Europe's major economies, as Greece was when Germany, France and others stepped in to pump funds into its financial system. Another recessionary dive in Europe would have serious repercussions everywhere, including in Australia. Here, it is common for global financial jitters to result in the stock market falling sharply, and if it happened again it would become a feared 'double dip'. A strong currency will not protect us from large falls in confidence elsewhere in the world.

And it's not the first time that a graffitoed cement truck has been deployed by protesters in Dublin.
In April, a cement mixer truck, with similar wording on it, was abandoned outside a branch of the bank on Forster Street, Galway. The cabin was locked and the engine left running.
The absence of related stories from major world media outlets is puzzling, as though this simple but insistent message were of no consequence at all. Civil action in Greece, certainly, is more imposing - rioting this year led to a death, for instance - but we can now see with our own eyes that the Irish people appear to be getting fed up with a government that seems to be unable to tidy up a mess created by the same financiers who are benefiting from public largesse.

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