30 March 2012

You've got your NAMA in my Anglo...

"NAMA are doing what with €3.1 Billion?" Conor McCabe and Michael Taft discuss the Promissory Note fiasco
UnlockNAMA Public Meeting, Dublin, Thursday 29th March
As a child I lived for a few years in the US, and I remember clearly an ad for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that seemed to play continuously, where somebody carrying an open jar of peanut butter (don't ask) bumps into someone walking with a large bar of chocolate, and hilarity ensues, "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!", "No, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!", followed presumably by cheap and tawdry sex that happened in a sleazy motel somewhere off-camera shortly thereafter, this was the 80's after all.

That is what the last twenty-four hours have felt like thanks to the Government's decision to pay the €3.1 Billion Anglo Irish Bank Promissory Note with monies borrowed from NAMA.

"So the Pope and Fidel Castro walk into a bar..." Mark Hoskins keeps the mood light
UnlockNAMA Public Meeting, Dublin, Thursday 29th March
It looks as if the Government tried to negotiate a deal with the ECB for some form of debt deferral and were shot down, so have been forced to issue their own bond to cover the payment, to be backed eventually by Bank of Ireland, but in the meantime the money will be stumped up by NAMA and the Promissory Note will be paid on time, all of which might actually be illegal as NAMA has no remit to function as a lending bank.

To get the full explanation of what has happened and how the Government spin on this genuinely approaches outright falsehoods, take a look at NAMAWineLake's analysis this morning.

"Whatever we do with NAMA it must serve the productive economy. We should not be afraid to use socialisation as an instrument. There should be no houses without people, no people without houses" - Michael Taft
UnlockNAMA Public Meeting, Dublin, Thursday 29th March
The universe, it seems, loves coincidences, so just as the Government decided to merge the delicious chocolatey goodness of Anglo with the peanut butter stickiness of NAMA, so too was my social calendar filled to the brim with meetings opposing both entities.

Last night saw the second public meeting of UnlockNAMA, the group responsible for repurposing a building on Great Strand Street back in January (technically its first public meeting, rudely interrupted by members of An Garda Síochána), and this morning saw a press conference by the Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign followed by a special delivery to the Department of Finance.

"What is corrupt is not what is killing us, it's what is legal that is killing us. It's not about you trying to make the other side happy, it's about you fighting your corner, for your rights" - Conor McCabe
UnlockNAMA Public Meeting, Dublin, Thursday 29th March
The UnlockNAMA meeting saw up to a hundred people gather in Wynn's Hotel (standing room only by the end) to hear Michael Taft, economist with the trade union Unite, and Conor McCabe, author of Sins of the Father give a good overview of NAMA, how it benefits only the developers, not the citizenry, what it was doing to continue to fuel property speculation, and hear the folks from UnlockNAMA give an overview of what their campaign is about.

Michael Taft argued that NAMA has failed in its only two remits, to keep banks in private hands and to allow banks to start lending again by removing bad assets. He said that we need to democratise the portfolio of NAMA because there are no structural reason for NAMA properties not to be opened up to use by public concerns. Conor McCabe further elaborated on his talk from the first UnlockNAMA event, highlighting how NAMA continues to fuel rampant speculation in the Irish property market and that the bubble was essentially caused by the top 190 debtors in NAMA who were all chasing the same assets, leading to a huge inflation of asset value. When asked about underhanded or illegal practices he countered that "What is corrupt is not what is killing us, it's what is legal that is killing us", that everything NAMA is doing is legal (except perhaps paying the €3.1 Billion Anglo Promissory Loan) because that is the way the legislation was written, and that is the entire problem in a nutshell.

The oversize novelty cheque, a recession-proof business in any recession. Andy Storey, Professor Kathleen Lynch and Cathleen O'Neill at the Anglo: Not Our Debt press conference
Central Hotel, Dublin, Friday 30th March
This morning's Anglo: Not Our Debt press conference was quite similar to the last one I was at, which was depressing not because of the event itself but because it shows how little has changed in the last three months, the main change being that we are now talking about the theft of not €1.25 Billion but €3.1 Billion to pay private gambling debts that have been socialised on to the public purse.

Andy Storey, Kathleen Lynch and Cathleen O'Neill were all on hand to give an overview of the injustice that is the socialised Anglo debt and the ongoing burden of the Promissory Notes, now with the added complication of the bridging loan from NAMA. They then moved to the steps of the Department of Finance to hand in almost 7,000 signatures calling for an immediate cessation of Anglo-related payments with a view to entering into negotiations for a full write-down of Anglo related debt.

"In our communities people are dying from unemployment, dying from poverty. We are feeding a beast that can never be satiated, and we are feeding it with public money" - Cathleen O'Neill
Central Hotel, Dublin, Friday 30th March
While the focus of the country is squarely on the upcoming deadline for paying the €100 Household Charge (with barely 24 hours to go we are looking at just under 37% of eligible households having registered to pay, making this clearly, as Joe Higgins said last week, the biggest grassroots movement of political defiance in Ireland since the days of the Land League) €3.1 Billion of tax-payer money will literally disappear later today at the touch of a button, making a mockery of the €50.5 million that has been raised from those few who have paid the Household Tax. As NAMAWinelake said today:
"There is no “putting off” or “deferral” of the payment today of the €3.1bn to IBRC. The money is being taken from NAMA and will pay back the loan from the Central Bank of Ireland today. The Central Bank of Ireland will take the €3.1bn, bring it outside, douse it in lighter fluid and set it alight, or whatever the electronic equivalent is of destroying money which was created when the ELA loans to Anglo were originally made."
Anglo: Not Our Debt take a stand at the steps of the Department of Finance
Merrion Street, Dublin, Friday 30th March
It is one of the enduring mysteries for me of this, our Winter of Discontent, that the spectre of a €100 charge can bring out thousands to pack the National Stadium in protest but the reality of a €3.1 billion theft can barely muster a dozen or so activists. Even as I was Tweetcasting (it's a word, look it up) this morning's Anglo: Not Our Debt event people following online asked me to raise the issue of the Household Charge with the panel, to ask if any of them were paying, which I dutifully did (the campaign has no official position on this charge, but some of those involved urged people not to register or to pay, but did so in a purely personal capacity). It did, however, depress me that the only question coming from the wider online world was not on the macro causes of this crisis but the micro effects of it on their own purse.

Both protests are equally valid and necessary, I just wish more people would look at the bigger picture, and react accordingly. Both NAMA and Anglo might be more complicated than the simple disappearance of €100 from your wallet, but they are the reason why that €100 is disappearing in the first place.

For more information on UnlockNAMA, check out their website here.
For more information on Anglo: Not Our Debt, check out their website here.

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At 10:47 am, Blogger henry said...

I think there is a deep connection between the bailout crisis and the household charge. After all it keeps the conception of a home as a speculative 'asset' (exchange value as marxists put it) over the concept of housing as a social need (use value). On a more political note I think people are behind the campaign/action because they can. There are less gatekeepers involved blocking action compared to others such as trade unions or parties. It is an opportunity to give a bloody nose that are few and far between.


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