Campaigners call for debt audit

Press Release, 3 March 2011

A number of prominent Irish academics, writers and activists have backed a campaign to audit Greece’s public debt, amid suggestions that such an audit might also be required in Ireland.  Greek campaigners are calling for an independent and international Audit Commission to find out why the debt was incurred and the uses to which borrowed funds were put.  There is a widespread belief that much Greek debt was used for wasteful or corrupt purposes and that the cost of repayment should not be borne by the Greek people.   Among the Irish figures supporting the Greek debt audit campaign are writer Fintan O’Toole and former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday.  International supporters of the campaign include renowned linguistics professor and writer Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Ken Loach.

The campaign is also backed by the Irish justice group Action from Ireland (Afri).  Denis Halliday, who is a patron of Afri, said “In Greece, as elsewhere, ordinary people are being made to pay for the recklessness and greed of the banks through harsh austerity measures. The banks have been allowed to gamble with the lives and livelihoods of the poor for too long. It is time people stood up against the power of finance and put themselves back in charge of their own economies. In Greece, as throughout the world, a debt audit commission is a vital step towards a more just financial system.”

Afri chairperson Andy Storey says that the call for a debt audit might well be extended to Ireland: “as in Greece, there is a lot of confusion about who owes what to whom, and why, especially when it comes to the bank debts guaranteed by the Irish government”.  Mr Storey pointed to a repayment of €750 million made by state-owned Anglo Irish Bank in January this year to a creditor who was not covered by the guarantee – “who was that creditor, and why did they have to be repaid from the public purse?”, Mr Storey asked, adding that an Irish debt audit would allow us answer such questions.

Øygunn Brynildsen of the European Network on Debt and Development, which backs the call, said, “failing to hold lenders to account for reckless behavior, combined with a lack of transparency, encourages bad lending and, ultimately, chronic and unjust debt.”



Notes to editors:

Debt audits have been used across the world to allow civil society to hold to account those responsible for the damage caused by their countries’ indebtedness. An audit in Ecuador in 2008 encouraged President Correa to default on some of Ecuador’s most unjust debt, leading to a write-down by borrowers. Two former Ecuadorian ministers have signed the call to support an audit in Greece, alongside Members of the European Parliament, international economists and academics and civil society representatives.

The full list of Irish signatories to the Greek debt audit campaign is:

Professor Sean O’Riain, Head of Department of Sociology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth;

Cathleen O’Neill, Community Activist, Kilbarrack Community Development Programme, Dublin;

Frank Keoghan, General President, Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU);

Des Derwin, executive member, Dublin Council of Trade Unions;

Professor Peadar Kirby, Director, Institute for the Study of Knowledge in Society (ISKS); Professor of International Politics and Public Policy, Department of Politics and Public Administration; Member, Governing Authority, University of Limerick;

Professor Cormac O’Grada, School of Economics, University College Dublin;

Dr Iain Atack, International Peace Studies, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin;

John Baker, Associate Professor of Equality Studies and Head of School of Social Justice, University College Dublin;

Fintan O’Toole, author and journalist;

Kathleen Lynch, Professor of Equality Studies, University College Dublin;

Denis J. Halliday, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General;

Kevin O’Rourke, Professor of Economics, Trinity College Dublin;

John Maguire, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, National University of Ireland, Cork.

Jimmy Kelly, Irish Regional Secretary, UNITE Trade Union

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