The unwelcome intervention by Jurgen Stark, departing member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, in Ireland’s budget debate, calling on the Government to cut public-sector pay and social welfare, displayed an extraordinary arrogance on the part of an unelected German official. His intervention met with an uncharacteristic rebuff from Éamon Gilmore that underlined the anger felt even in pandering Government circles. “Our agreement is with the institution,” Gilmore told reporters. “It’s not with individuals within it.”
Since the beginning of the year Ireland’s sponsors in Europe and the IMF have approved the release of loans totalling €30½ billion. Tens of billions more are to come. Stark warned that sentiment could suddenly turn against Ireland all over again. To guard against that, he said the Government should quicken its austerity drive and tackle no-go topics such as public and private-sector pay and welfare entitlements.
In doing so may simply have been a stalking horse for the EU and IMF—an influential man about to hand in his notice.
Nevertheless, this should be a timely warning for workers, welfare recipients, and their families, who must begin to resist the accelerating rounds of austerity that threaten to reverse the meagre gains of the last couple of decades and land us back in 70s-style poverty once again.