The Banana Republic and the Bailout


The Banana Republic and the Bailout

Im aktuellen Heft des Rotkielchens (43/1, S. 4) konnten wir einen Gastbeitrag des irischen Genossen Liam Duffy veröffentlichen, in dem er seine Sicht auf Irlands Weg aus der Finanzkrise schildert. Aus Gründen der besseren Lesbarkeit und Verständlichkeit hat sich die Rotkielchenredaktion dazu entschlossen, im Heft selbst eine deutsche Übersetzung zu veröffentlichen. Da jede Übersetzung den Inhalt eines Artikels dabei aber natürlich verändert, stellen wir euch die Originalversion hier gerne zur Verfügung:


The Banana Republik and the Bailout


In the summer of 2013 Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rat’s started touring again and Ireland ’successfully‘ exited it’s bailout. The Boomtown Rat’s had their day in the late 70’s and 80’s. Songs such as “I Don’t Like Mondays” and “Rat Trap” granted them fame climbing the charts world wide. Their last top 10 hit “Banana Republic”, resulted in The Rat’s persistently being denied permission to perform in the Irish Republic. The Banana Republic Geldof sang about was the one he grew up in and the same one he returned to as a rock-star, it was culturally and economically repressed and depressed. It was an Ireland where the term GUBU (Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented) was coined, an acronym that could neatly describe the national scandals that managed to come light. Eventually The Rat’s rented a private estate, the gig was announced and enjoyed by over 30,000 people before the courts had a chance to take action. The song “Banana Republic” was popular in Ireland and did well in West Germany too, the grimness of the lyrics and their claustrophobic tone contrast with a slow reggae bass line- it is an aural expression of stifled counter culture. The chorus sings:


“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Screaming in the suffering sea
It sounds like crying
Everywhere I go yeah
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests “


Though modern Ireland is a different Ireland, it still faces the same problems and those that stand up to them still find themselves being dragged across the coals. The recession has shown many groups in society that the State has placed them below the waterline as the tide of austerity laps at their necks. We all know the sound-bites, Ireland has gone from being greatest receiver of immigrants in the EU to the greatest provider of emigrant, the “bailout” and the Troika deepened inequality and furthered neo-liberalism. The difficult part for the Left in Ireland and globally is that the Irish Labour party has helped entrench inequality, social in-justice and furthered the development of Ireland as a tax haven.


The rationale for the Labour Party entering government was that it could dampen the right-wing policies of Fine Gael the major coalition party (sister party of the CDU). This has been true in some cases Labour have reversed a cut to the minimum wage and have made qualified progress on a number of other issues; maintaining social welfare rates (unless you are young), removing some lower earners from the Universal Social Charge (a tax introduced to fund the bailout), progressing abortion rights so that women may legally receive an abortion when their life is at risk (this was in line with a legal judgement made in 1992 which was legislated over 20 years later after the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar) and there has also been important work done in reforming Primary and Secondary education (along with rising university fees and support cuts). There has also been smaller, but important victories at a local level much of which has been overshadowed by Labours support for water chargers and privatisation as well as a relatively blunt property tax.


Looking forward Ireland will hold local and European elections in May. Labour has lost National and European parliamentarians, Councillors and many ordinary members through resignations since they entered government and are expected to take heavy losses at the ballot box. The Party is expected to bleed votes to Sinn Féin, seen as adopting a credible though populist left-wing stance along with its traditional Republicanism. Labour Councillors and MEP’s are also under threat from a fractured array of smaller left wing groups, whose attempts to form alliances among themselves in the wake of the crisis have unfortunately only led to greater fracture.


As Labour looses its credibility and the rest of the Left fail to foster credibility: Fianna Fáil the party which led Ireland into the crisis is expecting a boost in elected positions. Fianna Fáil, the very party which ensured the wealth the country became awash with would stay within a cabal of landlords, property developers and bankers.


More recent events to shake Ireland politically and raise questions about which direction the republic is going have related to homophobia and same sex marriage, police corruption and the states treatment of asylum seekers. Rory O’Neil aka Panti Bliss rose to international attention after being censored by the state broadcaster for naming a number of homophobic ‚media commentators‘ as homophobes. The backlash against this event has awoken positive momentum in advance of a referendum on same sex marriage set for 2015. Following this, a major political crisis is still unfolding over police corruption, the mass recording of phone lines in police stations and the vilification of journalists and whistle blowers within the force by the recently resigned police Commissioner and the, yet to resign, Minister for Justice. This is the same Minister for Justice who has upheld a punitive indifference to the system known as ‚Direct Provision‘ implemented by his predecessors. Direct Provision requires asylum seekers to live in institutionalised settings, with  no access to work and little to education for up to 7 years in some cases.


These are familiar themes in Ireland’s history; institutionalisation of ‚others‘, cultural and social oppression, a reactionary parliament, a timid media and a political system which quantifies wealth as power and power as the deliberator of justice. With little progress being made by the current government on social and political issues, it is hard to see how the limited economic freedom the state will enjoy, post bailout, will help either the State or even the Labour party to redeem itself. As the final verse of ‚Banana Republic‘ sings:

“The purple and the pinstripe
Mutely shake their heads
A silence shrieking volumes
A violence worse than the condemn
Stab you in the back yeah
Laughing in your face
Glad to see the place again
It’s a pity nothing’s changed “

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