Ransom Notes


Don’t know about you, but it feels like I’ve heard the word ‘ransom’ more times this last few days than in the last three years.

The context for this revival of the word ‘ransom’ is the ESB dispute between workers and bosses at ESB over a €1.6bn pension shortfall.

The Irish Independent, whose main shareholders are billionaires Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, ran a headline the other day that read ‘Held to ransom as ESB unions get set for strike‘. Today’s Irish Examiner has published a letter headed ‘Country mustn’t be held to ransom by ESB‘. The letter writer ends with the words ‘Go, army go!‘.

Contrast this renewed acquaintance with the word this last few days with the past few years, in which Ireland had to introduce huge cuts to public expenditure, with many vital services withdrawn, subject to rolling conditionalities imposed by the Troika. This was the consequence of the government bailing out Irish banks to the tune of €65 billion in order to protect an economic model based on property speculation.

If the government did not meet with Troika conditionalities, funding for public services would be cut off, and the consequences for the Irish public would have been immediately catastrophic. That was the point of all those quarterly reviews chronicled so solicitously by the Irish Independent, the Irish Times and RTE, in which the Men from the Troika appeared as the stern taskmasters bringing an unruly government to heel (in reality the outlook of the taskmasters and the government was largely the same).

Well, if threatening to pull the plug on public services and welfare payments every three months -unless the government continues to drive down wages and living standards and privatise public services- isn’t holding the country to ransom, what is?

The reason none of Ireland’s media establishment characterised the Troika as holding the country to ransom is quite simple. For all these institutions, the rule of money is proper order. Finance, by their lights, is not there to serve: finance is there to rule. As the Pope -yes, the Pope- puts it: ‘A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.’

So the current revival of ‘holding the country to ransom’ can be explained in quite simple terms, really. Ireland’s newspapers and radio and TV stations are, by and large, the chief messengers of the new tyranny, this system that ‘tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits’. In this case, it is ESB workers, and hence they must be savaged and devoured by Ireland’s media.


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