Why Ireland's Political Elite Are Terrified of Syriza
Irish leaders — eager to maintain that compliance with the demands of international creditors after the 2008 crisis was the best choice for Ireland — are concerned that the defiant tactics of Greece’s newly elected Syriza party may expose their program as flawed if Syriza wins concessions from the troika of lenders.
When the Eurozone began to quake in 2008, “it was Ireland and its rogue banks that were feared most as the source of possible contagion,” explains literary editor of The Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole.
“Over time, it suited the narrative of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to shift that stigma onto Greece. The Irish government has been only too happy to play along: Ireland’s image as the success story of bailouts and austerity is good for investment and good for access to international financial markets.”
Assurances last week from the new Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, that Greece would not negotiate with the “troika” threaten to expose this success story as a sham.
“It would seem quite obvious,” O’Toole continues, “that Ireland has an enormous stake in Syriza’s suggestions for a European debt resolution conference. Yet, almost immediately after the Greek election, the Irish finance minister Michael Noonan seemed to dismiss the whole notion when he described a debt conference as ‘not necessary yet’. He also went out of his way to suggest that Ireland did not really have a debt problem: ‘Our debt is in a very good position now; it’s affordable and it’s repayable.’ “
Leaders like Noonan “fear that Syriza might actually succeed. The strategy adopted by both [Irish] governments that have been in office since 2008 has been one of strict obedience to the demands of its lenders. Everything has been sacrificed — up to and including national sovereignty during the so-called bailout by the Troika — in order to place Ireland as the Eurozone’s exemplary pupil.”
“If Syriza succeeds in getting major concessions on debt,” O’Toole concludes, “this whole strategy will be exposed as folly. The Irish political and technocratic elite is deeply invested in an essentially religious narrative: Ireland sinned, Ireland confessed, Ireland did penance, Ireland has been forgiven, Ireland will be rewarded. But if Greece stops doing penance and is nonetheless rewarded, this begins to look like what it almost certainly is — a rather childish view of how power works in the world.”
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.