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Archive for January 15th, 2011

Much of the research on here is undertaken via the internet and you get used to a degree of inaccuracy in details and grammar and you tend to accept that, with a medium that is rapidly updated, the age-old practice of proof-reading is sacrificed at the altar of the new God of internet journalism. Perhaps it is a personal gripe but I still expect higher standards from traditional media organizations and in the Irish context these are principally RTE, the Irish Times and Independent. Most of the time it amuses the pedant within me when I see terms like “baited breath” rather than “bated” (derived from (a)bated) or  the venerable Vincent Browne mixing up “apprised” and “appraised”. At other times it is more annoying like RTE seemingly unable to spell Gayle Killilea Dunne’s name correctly (it’s annoying because when you search for “Killilea” it won’t return stories with “Killelea”). But a feature article in today’s Independent must take the biscuit for both poor writing and just shabby journalism. The article’s writer is not revealed but for poor and confused writing on an important subject, it is difficult to find a better example. The article is reproduced in full, though with comments interspersed, for the purposes of analysis and criticism.

Shabby journalism is one thing, a piece as confused as what follows is damaging to the national debate. And there seem to be valid questions to be asked of the Taoiseach in terms of his contacts with Anglo and any contacts, mediated or otherwise, with the NTMA.

Shabby episode an example of all that’s wrong in sorry State

Brian Cowen’s troubles are deepening by the hour. The consultation process is little more than theatre. His survival is on a thread [“hangs by a thread” or “is on a knife-edge”] as more and more of the facts emerge. The greatest step forward in this process of slow revelation of the truth I will shortly examine [we never find out “the greatest step forward” in the article]. First, however, there is [are?] Mr Cowen’s statements about himself.

He concealed more than he conceded in his lengthy statements to the Dail on Thursday [you mean Wednesday 12th, 2011 during Leaders Questions, no?]. He failed to answer crucial questions [any hints about what “crucial question”]. He concealed details of significant conversations about Anglo Irish Bank held with senior bank staff, board members and other politicians [what “details of significant conversations”?]. He denied exchanges that have been clearly claimed by others [what exchanges?]. He has since continued to prevaricate. This is what mr [Mr] Cowen has been doing, with little respect for the truth, over the last three years in respect of the banks, and notably, Anglo Irish Bank.

‘The Fitzpatrick Tapes’, the book which gives Sean FitzPatrick’s version of events and which led to this week’s confrontation in the Dail by opposition party leaders, had all the appearances of a tailor-made script for the Taoiseach, giving him three events that he could easily answer [just what does that mean, how could he “easily answer” revelations of hitherto undisclosed meetings/conversations] (though nothing was easy about the answers he gave): the St Patrick’s Day phonecall; the game of golf; and the Anglo Irish Bank board dinner [which dinner? the one at Heritage House in April 2008?]. Whatever one may think about the truthfulness or otherwise of the Taoiseach’s account, it cannot be challenged further without forensic investigation and testimony under oath. [really so posing what many might consider common sense questions at the next Leader’s Questions wouldn’t challenge it further?]

Many people in Ireland today would like to see that kind of investigation replacing the shambles in the Dail as Mr Cowen, more or less successfully, indulged in political rhetoric, insults, jibes and managed to put over the claim that, on all occasions summarised above, nothing was said about the crisis facing Anglo Irish Bank [“all occasions” – well this is just plain wrong, the Taoiseach has admitted that the St Patrick’s Day phonecall concerned the Anglo share price and Sean Quinn’s shareholding – surely that was about the “crisis facing Anglo”?]

Two months ago, at the beginning of November, 2010, I published here a different script for Mr Cowen to answer. This claimed that Mr Cowen knew that the fiscal roof was falling in on the bank when he was Minister for Finance in late 2007. I claimed then [in November 2010 or late 2007?] that he involved himself in the Anglo Irish Bank crisis at that time, setting up a kitchen cabinet to advise him [a hugely important revelation – who were the members of the “kitchen cabinet”?] and provide information about the bank’s circumstances. These were already becoming perilous.

At that point, last November and before, Mr Cowen’s claim was that he first heard of the problems in Anglo Irish prior to March 2008 [this sentence doesn’t even make sense – does the writer mean that Mr Cowen claimed that he only first heard of problems in Anglo in March 2008?]. He sought to rubbish the story on grounds of the anonymity of the source. t[T]oday, the source is known to be David Drumm, and his words ring as true as they did then, with the added advantage of his name being behind them.

In that November 6 [should the Independent not have a house style for representing dates and if so shouldn’t the style be “November 6th”?] article, I said that Mr Cowen was at an Anglo Irish board dinner in April of that year [2008 presumably?] where the discussion was exclusively about the problems faced by the bank.

I outlined the role played by Sean Quinn, of Quinn Insurance. Quite openly and deliberately, in Mr Cowen’s presence, the discussion [at the dinner in April 2008?] was focused on these financial difficulties. These were seriously aggravated by heavy gambling at the time with “Contracts For Difference”, which ultimately came to represent a quarter of Anglo Irish Bank shares.

On that occasion, according to Mr Drumm, Mr Cowen promised intervention with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) in order to get them to put deposits with Anglo. However, the then head of the NTMA, Michael Somers, has said [yesterday?] that no such request was made [by Brian Cowen, what about by others?]. The NTMA did not intervene [is this true, isn’t it the case that the NTMA did in fact recommence placing deposits with Anglo – Brendan McDonagh at the Cantillon School in September 2010]. There would have been even greater [even greater than what?] impropriety for the Finance Minister — knowing what he knew then of the perilous state Anglo Irish Bank faced — in taking the unprecedented step (which is now denied) of applying [what do you mean by “apply”?] to the NTMA. The full truth on this [aah, so we don’t have the “full truth” – what are we missing? Isn’t all we have at this stage suspicion?] would clarify the hopelessly compromised way in which we do business in this country.

I made clear in that article, based on Mr Drumm’s testimony, that the Financial Regulator, who has been generally, if inaccurately, characterised in the media as having been asleep at the wheel, was in fact in close contact with the bank. His hand was stayed, however, by sustained protection of Mr Quinn. Fianna Fail, including Mr Cowen [this is an amazing revelation, where’s the evidence?], were lobbying for Mr Quinn. The Financial Regulator knew that Mr Quinn was taking money from his insurance company and that this was illegal on two counts [again this is amazing, why has Sean Quinn not been arrested or charged with something which is being stated without qualification to be “illegal”?]. However, Mr Quinn was “untouchable”. Yet what he was doing represented death for Anglo Irish Bank.

The Financial Regulator should have come down heavily with regulatory decisions but failed to do so [what decisions?]. Mr Quinn was allowed to take money from his insurance company and gamble it through the bank. Anglo Irish Bank facilitated the placing of the Quinn stake and then part-funded it [part-funded? it seemed from Paddy McKillen’s testimony at the High Court last October 2010 that Anglo had not only fully- funded the purchase of shares but the funding was on a full non-recourse basis to boot].

To demonstrate how up to their necks the Financial Regulator’s office were before the placing, at one meeting Pat Neary told a member of the bank’s board that Sean Fitzpatrick was talking too openly about the Quinn stake [how credible is this? Sean Fitzpatrick was the chairman of the board and was presumably at the banks’ board meetings. Why did Pat Neary not say this directly to Sean Fitzpatrick’s face? Are there minutes to these board meetings which would evidence this?] . This member was told to tell him to “shut his mouth”. It was alleged that if it got out “there could be run on the system”.

Mr Cowen refused to answer these and other significant points at the time [last November 2010 presumably] on the dubious basis that they were ‘anonymous’. This anonymity was required at the time by my source. However, it is quite ludicrous to suppose that Mr Cowen did not know the source.

The anonymous source was David Drumm. In contrast with Thursday’s [Wednesday’s] Dail performance by the Taoiseach, the Drumm information rings true in its general detail and in the specifics on what Mr Cowen knew and when he knew it.

The full text [what does the writer mean by the full text? Does he mean the interview with David Drumm last November 2010? If so ultimately these are claims which are theoretically capable of being refuted] on the part played by Mr Drumm confirms [confirms? confirms what other version of events?]the closely-knit ‘kitchen cabinet’ set up for Mr Cowen, who needed close and frequent contact with Sean FitzPatrick, who was — according to Mr Drumm — sharp, able and well-advised. Their meetings [whose meetings, Brian Cowen’s and Sean Fitzpatrick’s? I thought they had just met twice in April and July 2008? This is an amazing claim but if the writer means the kitchen cabinet and Sean Fitzpatrick then the members of the kitchen cabinet become relevant – who were they?] were roughly on a weekly basis. The report [what report?] also confirms Mr Drumm’s claim that he asked Mr Cowen to put pressure on the NTMA to deposit money in Anglo.

Mr Drumm says he subsequently [subsequent to when? April 2008? If so then that would mean there was another undisclosed contact between Anglo and Brian Cowen] asked Mr Cowen whether he had done anything about this essential deposit. “We had a long conversation about our funding worries and that not only would we like the money, that that would help, that it would send out the right signal to the market.

“So when I asked him had anything happened with it, he got annoyed and said that he had — quote — ‘I told those f***ers’.” He did not say he told Michael Somers.

Finally, on the much-noted dinner that Anglo-Irish Bank directors had with Mr Cowen in Heritage House, Mr Drumm stated: “The dinner was for Brian Cowen. It would be really unusual to bring somebody with him [how many dinners had David Drumm with Brian Cowen that David Drumm was able to comment on the usualness of whether or not Brian Cowen brought company]. Brian sat there, one of the gang, right beside me.”

What I publish here, much of it the substance of an article on November 6, is in my not inexperienced political judgment as close as we can get to the truth at this time [really, how about a few well placed questions? Who paid for the dinner at Druids Glen?]. And I express concern [what does the writer mean by this? Concern?] for Mr Drumm, prepared and “happy to join everybody on the one stage — Mr Cowen and all the rest. I’d be happy to admit all my mistakes. But the problem is they want me to do it all on my own”.

I repeat the view I had in November that this shabby episode — still not fully explored or explained — is a most blatant and damaging example of the State’s interests being subjected to misdoings [what do you mean by misdoings?] of a frightening kind that have now led us into massive and improperly imposed debt.

Changing Mr Cowen will not change the culture that bred [is “bred” the most appropriate verb for the noun “carbuncle”?] this puss-filled [this should probably be pus-filled, the last “puss” I knew was our pet family tabby] carbuncle of iniquity. Even changing the Government will leave us with a huge burden of reparation. [true but it might change the culture that “bred the carbuncle”]

We must reinvest [inappropriate verb] the State with men and women who speak the truth and act exclusively in the interests of the people.

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