Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Why we need someone like Ganley in Europe

We all face crisis decisions in our lives. We save and borrow to buy a house. We change houses, if we can afford to, as our families grow or we enjoy success. Sometimes this decision is made to meet a reversal in fortune. We bank our earnings and savings and trust the banks to treat us truthfully and with respect for our custom. We make other important investments -- all of them on some kind of trust. And in all of this, we depend on the law and on the part we can play in the shaping of this through the democracy to which we belong.

Most of us have pride in this system and want it protected by those who govern us. That is the nature of our society and the nature of human response to it. Out of its proper working, in good times and in bad, has been fashioned our love of country and of the places to which we belong. Older people have known bad times more than good ones. The early creation of what we hold dear was not easy; it was fashioned out of emigration, labour abroad, hard times, wartime isolation, and even, in the 1950s, misgivings about our survival as a society.

We passed through that, and the more recent generations have enjoyed national wealth and success, pride in opportunity and achievement, a period of spectacular growth and then a catastrophic reversal in our fortunes. In all of this, the customs and principles outlined above were there to reassure us.

Then they, too, were undermined. The ground under our feet shook and crumbled. The most recent elected governments -- two of them -- have let us down. The first, Fianna Fail, massively from 2007-2011; the second, since then, by departing from normal custom and practice, and departing also from the grave promises it made.

The Fianna Fail-led administration wrecked us. Its annihilation was swift and comprehensive. The new coalition is failing to address the crisis effectively or correctly. Impatience is growing.

Our money, banks, houses, savings, jobs, what we earn, what we pay in taxes, what we save or invest, have been placed in a huge weighing scale that is counter-pointed by the rules and restrictions of Europe. Unlike the laws and codes in this country that we grew to trust, EU regulation is being changed in response to the European crisis. It is not of our making. Its debts are not of our creation.

We have had control over our destiny taken away from us. We voted ourselves into slavery. We are now badly governed as a huge banking empire by men and women who do not know where they are going and regularly change direction in the hope that something will turn up.

Into this territory Declan Ganley stepped with an onslaught on Europe as it is, as well as a declaration on Europe that offers a vision of what democracy would give us, if restored. His values are as they were back in 2008 and 2009.

His strength is that he straddles both economics and politics. Politicians holding power can ignore economists and businessmen most of the time, and politicians who do not threaten their positions. But a combination of all three coinciding was very frightening and provoked a vicious response.

Throughout those two years, Mr Ganley was reviled and vilified. His notable critics were The Irish Times, grossly prejudiced against an enemy of their wrongly favoured, euro-loving EU, which was excessively favoured also by the Department of Foreign Affairs. He was also reviled excessively and libellously by RTE. The politicians of the three main parties joined the throng. He was repeatedly challenged in all he said. His opponents said that all would be recovered and made good again if we voted 'Yes'. Under pressure, the second time, we did. We were wrong, the politicians were wrong and still are, and we are heading for disaster.

Mr Ganley's most recent exercise in outlining a different, democratic future for Europe, is a restatement of the position that inspired him in 2008-9. His federal solution is seen by some as flawed in its analogy with the United States. We cannot do what America did. We will never be united in that way.

And the present way -- autocratic and punitive economic union without democracy -- is totally doomed. But Mr Ganley is entirely correct in what he says about Europe being drained of democracy and this being the cause of impotence, division and future collapse. (How soon is anyone's guess, but it has ceased to creep up on us, it is striding at our heels.)

The rule of bankers and money has given us EU totalitarian government. The self-protecting and self-perpetuating 'leaders' of the EU -- or so we are persuaded to see them -- have lost their way and are governed by the will and the greed of failed banks.

Politically, the timetable is not urgent. There is no immediate route for Mr Ganley or any other like-minded politicians. The earliest opportunity will be the European elections in 2014. This does not mean their words should not be heeded. Well before that date, the crunch for the euro will come and if we continue the way we are going all of us will suffer and neither the banks nor the bankers will survive.

I have outlined the solution: it is to follow natural instincts and disconnect from the disaster facing us. The way forward is increasingly the subject of intelligent guidance as given by Jens Nordvig in the Financial Times last Saturday. Mr Nordvig's article shows us the way to change back from the euro to individual currencies.

He demolishes those who say there is no alternative to euro membership. If we refuse to face up to the problem, the eurozone will fail. If we plan our way, it will be manageable.

With proper preparatory work, the currency or currencies can be changed. About 50 times since 1945, currency unions around the world have been dissolved. So it has happened and can happen again.

He advises that Europe needs a contingency plan for a eurozone break-up. Since fears about a break-up are already present and affecting investors' flows, the cost-benefit analysis of announcing such contingency plans is very different to what it would have been in 1999. At this juncture, contingency plans would help to reduce uncertainty, rather than add to it.

What is flowing here is the fresh air that has inspired Mr Ganley in recent years and should be inspiring more businessmen and professionals, politicians and economists. We need to change our thinking and our targets.