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After Bailout, Irish Confront ‘Loss of Sovereignty’ to EU

November 22, 2010 at 5:26 PM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to those worries about Europe centered right now on the nation of Ireland.

Yesterday, the Irish government accepted a multibillion-dollar bailout from its European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund. Late today, Brian Cowen, or taoiseach in Gaelic, relented to pressure to call new national elections early next year.

We begin our look at all this with a report from Dublin. The correspondent is Faisal Islam of Independent Television News.

FAISAL ISLAM: Economic collapse and now seeming political collapse too, Ireland a nation looking for someone to blame, the natural justice tonight, and not just the protesters from Sinn Fein who broke through police lines into the courtyard of the government’s buildings.

Across Dublin, locals were beginning to sense that their fate was no longer entirely in its nation’s hands, but also in that of the E.U., the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

MAN: They have lost their sovereignty. The government are now powerless, and we’re being led by Europe.

FAISAL ISLAM: Taoiseach Brian Cowen came under fire last night, announcing the rescue.

VINCENT BROWNE, journalist: The reality is — and everybody, bar you, seems to know this — you’re a liability, not just to your party, not just to your government, but to the country, because nobody believes you. And, also, people know you’re the guy most responsible for the chaos that has been caused. Don’t you owe us, as an act of patriotism to the Irish country, to the Irish people, to get out now?

BRIAN COWEN, Irish Prime Minister: Sorry, Vincent, I don’t accept the premise of what you’re saying.

FAISAL ISLAM: The Irish leader has been meeting his ministers today. In order for the IMF and E.U. rescue to pass, he will have to muster the votes for controversial budget policies, including a 10 percent cut to welfare, a one-euro cut in the minimum wage, tens of thousands of public sector job cuts.

But this isn’t just about Ireland. Stock markets across Europe were down today, as fears spread beyond the Emerald Isle.

So, here it is, the cause of all the trouble perhaps, the euro. And when this was created just over a decade ago, there was one concession offered to the member countries, including Ireland. So, all the tails are the same, but, if you turn it around, the heads are different. That’s Italy’s. And here’s Spain’s. And this is the Germans’, and this famous harp of Ireland.

And, for so long, many people just assumed that the euro was this, a reincarnation of the deutsche mark. This year, we realized it also had element of punt, peseta, and lira, and that it was backed by some countries with very high deficits and debt.

And the question, now that the Irish have been saved, is that, will this crisis really just stop, and not spread to Portugal, Italy or even Spain?

In the birthplace of the Irish Republic, a new monument, not to Ireland’s independence, but seemingly the size of its financial mismanagement — and it’s everybody’s problem.