Yes some of us might be braving the after-Christmas sales, or venturing out for brisk walks and fresh air, but the rest of us are struggling with over-indulgence and the remote control. So here’s a review of 2011 in pictures which hopefully won’t distract too much from holiday relaxation.
First up, during the year the blog has received the very kind assistance of Japlandic.com in illustrating some of the year’s events (Japlandic.com, with examples of artwork available here). Here’s a reminder of those images together with some words, in inverted commas below, from Japlandic describing the approach taken in producing those images.
July 2011: IBRC formed through the merger of zombified Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.
“The IBRC brief immediately inspired thoughts of Dali’s “Christ of St. John of the Cross” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross). Its feeling of sacrifice, surrealism and vast emptiness were apt. Removing, the John figure, superimposing the image of the country on the cross and adjusting the aspect wasn’t effective. So, an homage to the original was ditched and the alternative was a simple cross on a black background – maintaining the imagery of sacrifice surrealism and emptiness whilst also imparting the message “You’ve nailed the country to the cross, you Gobshites!””
October 2011: After eight years at the helm of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, who in recent times had become a bugbear for Ireland, retired and was replaced by Italian, Mario Draghi.
“The Trichet Retirement brief inspired thoughts of Trichet missing the wood for the trees – worrying about inflation whilst the continent sank into depression. Hence the superimposing of his image seeking to measure the “price” of something whilst the “value” of his efforts are revealed in the background. The background image is an iconic image of a bombed out Brandenburg Gate – also echoing the “values” supposedly inspiring the German and French approaches to the Euro and the whole European project – but the imagery also seeks to remind people how foolish politicians and technocrats can be and what the results can be when they are blinded by ideology.”
October 2011: Despite promising in front of former USpresident Bill Clinton to implement the Keane Report proposals within two weeks, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny was ultimately left red-faced at a report which did nothing in the short term to address the mortgage arrears crisis. It is to be hoped that any future commissions, expert groups etc have clear terms of reference, suitable membership, timescales and allocated support with both manpower and finance.
“The Keane Report brief needed to be representative of a report into which the highest effort and thought went into to ensure it looked spiffing as it collected dust on the shelves.”
December 2011: It fell to Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Brian Hayes to defend Budget 2012 on the Vincent Browne show on 6th December 2011. When asked about the unpalatable adjustments, the junior minister turned the question back at his challengers.
“The Brian Hayes Challenge brief was very straight forward – unfortunately poor Brian is not that easily recognized - so the initial effort at showing him in his patriotic pomp (http://i828.photobucket.com/albums/zz209/What_Goes_Up_/Japlandic/DoYourDutyTweaked.jpg) had to be dialed back. The final version has less of theAmericanaand more of the Gombeen.”
NAMA before Oireachtas committees
January 2011: Even if NAMA becomes subject to Freedom of Information in 2012, it’s unlikely to reveal very much about the Agency which will still be able to use “commercial confidentiality” as a defence when rejecting requests. So for the time being, the best means of getting answers from the Agency is through Oireachtas committees. NAMA appeared in January, September and October 2011 – all created headlines.
Paddy McKillen and Maybourne
February 2011: Property investor Paddy McKillen was partly successful with his appeal to Ireland’s Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision to approve NAMA’s acquisition of his loans. September 2011: NAMA scores a bulls-eye when it sells loans it controls in the Maybourne Hotel group to David and Frederick Barclay. The sales tag of €800m meant NAMA recouped the original face value of the loans.
February 2011: NAMA sees the refinancing of €300m loans secured on 20 Grosvenor Squarein London– exclusively reported on here. It took another few months for the deal to complete but it showed there’s plenty of life in the primeLondon residential market.
February 2011: a landmark sale by a Treasury Holdings company under NAMA’s auspices – exclusively reported on here. A €100m price tag was not at all shabby considering the national challenges.
Enda in Europe
June 2011: He didn’t get off to the best start in March 2011, when he was accused of upsetting our European partners, he has often looked befuddled as he tried to explain the Irish negotiating position but the general consensus seems to be that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried very hard to build brides at European summits where he had few cards to play. As to his strategy and tactics, there is much debate..
NAMA reports €1bn loss
July 2011: NAMA unveils its annual report for 2010, its first full year of operation. Given that the Agency started with clean sheet when it was created in December 2009 and that it had the theoretical ability to change its valuation date, it was indeed spectacular that it published such a huge loss. Minister Noonan’s Budget 2012 announcements may prevent such a large loss in 2011, but the Agency is still some way from generating a profit.
Ghost Estate demolition
September 2011: according to the most recent survey by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government we now have “only” 2,066 ghost estates in the country . In August/September, Westmeath County Council became the first council in the country to send in the bulldozers.
September 2011: NAMA’s first staple finance offering – that’s where the Agency lends up to 70% of the purchase price to the purchaser – exclusively reported on here. The architecturally interesting office building which houses Bord Gais is located in south Dublin Docklands.Suggestions that it sold before Christmas to Prudential for €28.4m.
Occupy Dame Street
October 2011: It was 8th October 2011 when the protesters first gathered in front of the Central Bank ofIreland onDame Street in centralDublin. They’re still there. There have been other Occupy protests inCork andGalway, for example. Having met the protesters onDame Street and outside The Four Courts, I’d have to say these are well-meaning people, but it seems the protest is a drop in the ocean to turn the tide.
The Ballyhea/Charleville bondholder protesters
November 2011: In April, May, June 2011, bonds were being repaid from the zombified remains of Anglo and Irish Nationwide Building Society without hardly a whisper in the mainstream media. In March 2011, the community of Ballyhea in county Cork began a weekly march to protest at the repayment of these bonds from the State’s coffers – 28 weeks later, a walking/running and cycling odyssey to the Dail to hand in a petition, a fast and the attention of domestic and international media (not to mention some guest marchers, Declan Ganley and the mammy, and Dr Constantin Gurdgiev and family). On 2nd November, 2011 when the €730m Anglo unsecured unguaranteed senior bond was repaid, the payment was front page news, there were walkouts in the Dail where the subject dominated Leaders’ Questions. The weekly protest is now organised with neighbouring Charleville. Diarmuid O’Flynn has been a driving force for the protest throughout the year organising marches, Facebook campaigns and bondwatch Ireland which sets out all the bonds payable at Irish banks.
December 2011: The issue of Upward Only Rent Review clauses in pre-February 2010 commercial leases became very vexed this year. Both Labour and Fine Gael gave commitments to allow tenants with such leases to have reviews to allow market rents instead of rents which might have been set at the peak of the Celtic Tiger. In December 2011, in a codicil to Budget 2012, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan announced there would be no changes, and the election commitment was thus abandoned. The angry response from the retail trade, in particular, was to be expected.
December 2011: With a suggested price tag of only €5m, this former Liam Carroll project is hardly the most valuable jewel in NAMA’s crown but because it stands as a carbuncle on an otherwise redeveloped north Dublin Docklands quayside, it has come to symbolise the Celtic Tiger crash. It seems as if it will be sold to the Central Bank ofIrelandand be completed to house the Central Bank’s staff in one site.
Battersea Power Station
December 2011: It’s almost as if the 38-acre site on the south bank of the Thames in Londonis cursed. Defunct as a power station for three decades, it received approval for a redevelopment at the start of 2011. But in December, NAMA and Lloyds put the companies controlling the site into administration. It’s now back to step one as the administrators seek a new buyer.
March 2011: Okay it was hardly the most exciting episode of the year, but the post-election talks between Labour and Fine Gael to form a new government provided some light relief on here.
A happy St Stephen’s Day to you all.