In pre-Abolition America, it was practice for slaves to marry amongst themselves, but not to partners on the same plantation. Spouses didn’t want to live a life where they would see their beloved abused and humiliated . So to avoid the heartbreak, slaves would avoid finding a partner on the same plantation even though it meant that husband and wife would be separated for six out of seven days a week. New welts and bruises might still be obvious on Sundays but would go unprobed.
The last time that analogy from antebellum America was used on here, there was some valid criticism, so this time out, to be clear it is the principle of the matter that is being used.
Having a daily record with video streaming and transcripts of Seanad Eireann is deeply humiliating and heartbreaking in a country which is pinned to the collar. Watching vastly-rewarded ignorant, ill-informed windbags besmirch Irish democracy when the country is on its knees is just heartbreaking.
So don’t watch it, might be the obvious response. But on occasion, the Seanad deals with NAMA issues and it is almost obligatory to peer your head around the door, in case the handful of decent senators in the Seanad actually contributes something new or constructive.
Not so this week when the Fianna Fail Donegal senator Brian Ó Domhnaill (pictured above) had this contribution to gift to democracy.
“Linked to that is the issue of the massive salaries being paid to bankers in this country, including salaries of more than €200,000 per annum being paid to 12 senior officials in the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA. NAMA is an interesting organisation. We tried to bring forward a Bill dealing with transparency in NAMA but it was voted down by Fine Gael and the Labour Party. I hope they will reconsider their position when they hear what I say next and that they will support the Bill when we re-introduce it. Officials are leaving NAMA as well as joining it. Two senior officials that were involved in the HSBC violation, in which that bank repeatedly violated anti-moneylaundering rules and accepted billions of dollars from drug cartels resulting in it having to pay the US Government €2 billion, are now employed by NAMA.
Second, I refer to two senior officials that were previously employed by NAMA. One of them was responsible for handing out a very lucrative contract to a high profile commercial property asset management group. He has now been given a private arrangement with that company and is employed by it. NAMA is acting disgracefully and it is time it was fully investigated. I hope the Fine Gael and Labour Party Senators will support the Bill that Senator Mark Daly brought forward previously and which Fianna Fáil will re-introduce. How can a Government stand over the very questionable practices of an organisation that is the biggest property owner in the world?”
And what was wrong with the above, you might ask?
Where do you start. Firstly it has been established that there are 12 staff at NAMA earning more than €200,000 but inclusive of employer pension contribution which ranges from 11-25% and “other allowances and benefits” but that is not the same as saying 12 are on basic salaries of €200,000. But you might carp at this and say in principle, there are large salaries paid at NAMA which many people would accept.
But then Senator O’Domhnaill goes on to say
“Two senior officials that were involved in the HSBC violation, in which that bank repeatedly violated anti-moneylaundering rules and accepted billions of dollars from drug cartels resulting in it having to pay the US Government €2 billion, are now employed by NAMA”
We know that Michael Geoghegan, former boss worldwide for HSBC has been engaged by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to chair the NAMA advisory board, one of Minister Noonan’s toys that has an overall budget of €40,000 per annum and which also comprises Frank Daly and Denis Rooney. But this is not “in the employ of NAMA”. It is in the employ of Minister Noonan and €40,000 amongst three members is pretty miniscule.
And then, there is Brendan McDonagh – the lad on the right of the image below – who was boss of HSBC in North America and was also cited in the recent US Senate report which concluded HSBC had enabled moneylaundering to the benefit of Mexican drug cartels and the state of Iran. This Brendan McDonagh is employed on an “advisory committee” of the NTMA. Not NAMA. He has been confused in the past with the CEO of NAMA – the lad on the left in the image below, whose name is also Brendan McDonagh, but they are two different people.
And then the Senator says
“Second, I refer to two senior officials that were previously employed by NAMA. One of them was responsible for handing out a very lucrative contract to a high profile commercial property asset management group. He has now been given a private arrangement with that company and is employed by it”
We know that Kevin Nowlan recently left NAMA to return to the family business, WK Nowlan and we also know WK Nowlan is employed by NAMA on its panel of receivers and indeed has received some commissions and was previously employed on NAMA’s valuation panel when it was acquiring loans from the banks. But Kevin Nowlan wasn’t within a ass’s roar of “handing out a very lucrative contract” and in fact we know that there was some agonizing going on at NAMA to ensure that Kevin’s stake in WK Nowlan was placed in trust to avoid even the perception of conflicts.
Alas, Senator Ó Domhnaill didn’t manage to say anything about the second of the “two senior officials”
There was no comment forthcoming from NAMA last Thursday when asked about this episode, but we learn from Friday’s Independent and today’s Sunday Independent that NAMA has sent a stiff letter to the Senator. The Sunday Independent claims to have seen the letter – it hasn’t yet been seen on here but it’s likely to be similar in content to the corrections above. Senator Ó Domhnaill says that the letter is, says the Sunday Independent, “aggressive” and “an attempted gagging order”, but the Senator doesn’t admit his ignorant claims.
This is the second time this year when Seanad proceedings have been covered on here. The first was in June 2012 when serial alleger Senator Mark Daly brought his Bill to promote transparency to the Seanad and although there is a lot to be said for more transparency at NAMA, the Fianna Fail Kerry senator keeps making allegations but even when he enjoys the privilege of the Seanad, he refuses to provide details and the details he provided in June 2012 related to a Bank of Ireland – not NAMA – transaction and the Cork landbank transaction took place months after he turned up breathless on the Pat Kenny show alleging all sorts of shenanigans. The June Seanad debate was the only debate watched live on here, and with practically all senators absent from the chamber and one third of them not even bothering to show up for the vote, with senators from all parties and none mostly contributing nothing of value, you really lose faith in what was supposed to be an independent organ of government that would bring a different class of wisdom to legislation and policy.
It was just over a year ago when An Taoiseach Enda Kenny committed to holding a referendum in 2012 to abolish the Seanad. That slipped as Enda’s ear was bent backwards by vested interests, namely many of the 60 senators and some TDs who might see the Seanad as a soft-landing when they lose their seats at the next election. In recent months, An Taoiseach has reiterated the intention to hold a referendum but it will now be held in 2013.
Then, we will get the opportunity to do what Denmark – one of the contributors to our bailout – did in the 1950s. And then we will get the opportunity to abolish this blot on our democracy, this very expensive forum – take a look here at the pay and perks of senators – and this disgrace where ignorance and windbaggery – above is but a tiny example that just happens to relate to NAMA -prevails over the voices of the handful of senators who might have the capacity to improve life in this State. The abolition referendum can’t come soon enough, and then, we won’t have to put up with this superfluous puffery.