Debt group calls for halt to Anglo Irish Bank payments

By staff writers
January 18, 2012

A new campaigning network has today launched in Ireland calling on the Irish government to stop paying the debts of the former Anglo Irish Bank / Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS).

A new network, Debt Justice Action, argues that the debts of this now state-owned institution are not the responsibility of ordinary people in Ireland. They say a halt in payments - the next one of which is due to take place on 25 January - must be the first step towards a more general renegotiation and write debt of the country’s unsustainable and unjust debt.

Anglo Irish collapsed due to its high exposure to Ireland’s property boom. The Irish Government initially paid €4 billion to prop up Anglo in 2009 and later guaranteed its debts. The government is currently obliged to pay down €30.6 billion worth of promissory notes over the next 20 years. In 2012, Anglo Irish will be paying back €6.3 billion to its creditors – of which €2.6 billion is unsecured.

The campaigners say that the suspension of Anglo payments would not spread contagion through the European financial system as most of the Anglo debt is owed to central banks and Anglo is an isolated problem from the so-called ‘pillar’ Irish banks.

Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary of the UNITE trade union, said: “This debt can be written off. All that is needed is the political will to make it happen. That depends on our government negotiating proactively and responsibly on behalf of its people. This action would draw a line in the sand against reckless lending practices, save billions of euro belonging to people in Ireland, and have no negative repercussions for ordinary people in Ireland or elsewhere. Our demand is feasible and winnable."

Nessa Ní Chasaide of global justice organisation Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI) said: “The unanimous message of campaigners in Africa, Asia and Latin America is that ruining whole societies to repay illegitimate debts is wrong and unworkable – a solution must be based on cancellation of illegitimate debts that ensure lenders are held accountable for their mistakes, rather than sacrificing people’s rights to fear of financial markets."

Nick Dearden of Jubilee Debt Campaign (UK) said: “It is unjust to make Ireland’s people - especially the poorest in that country - pay for the crimes of speculators and the banking elite. The austerity being visited on the Irish people is deeply unjust. Across Europe and the world, the only way to build a sustainable and just economy is large-scale debt cancellation and a crack down on speculation. Campaigns for debt audits are springing up across Europe to call for this.”

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