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Archive for May 1st, 2011

Writing a blog which depends to a large extent on reading source material, interpreting and cross-referencing it, and then writing an analysis, pushes you to examine language and the meaning of words.  You get used to collocations – sequences of words that often go together – and whenever new ones crop up, your curiosity is piqued. Take for example the commonly used Irish collocation “appalling vistas”, frequently used by politicians and economists. As far as I can see, this collocation comes from the despicable judgment of Lord Denning in 1980 when he was denying an appeal to the Birmingham Six; for the Birmingham Six to have been innocent he concluded, would have meant corruption and malfeasance on such a massive scale in the policing and judiciary system that allowing an appeal would have opened up that “appalling vista”. It’s a strange source for a collocation which has been widely adopted inIreland.

So when new combinations of words appear, there is probably more attention than usual paid on here to what the new words mean. So yesterday around lunchtime, we had the story that NAMA had “stood down” the receivers it had appointed to the Ray and Danny Grehan group on Wednesday last. As far as I can see, it was the former business editor of the Sunday Tribune, Neil Callanan that broke the news on Twitter but it was RTE and the Irish Times that first used the term “stood down”. And if you do a search on Google for the term “stood down” and receiver, as far as I can see you won’t find any results apart from this present incidence in relation to the Grehans. Yet the mainstream media latched onto the term, using it as if it were an old friend. So what does it mean?

I don’t exactly know. It seems to mean that control of the Grehan companies has been returned to the same people that controlled the businesses before the appointment of Grant Thornton as receivers on Wednesday. My dictionary defines “stand down” as a relaxation from a state of readiness or alert and presumably “stood down” is the past tense version of that verb. The source of the term “stood down” is not clear but reporting suggests it came from NAMA. We all knew NAMA was pathfinding its way through its difficult mission and has had to create new ways of doing things – developing a property receivership model for Ireland which is different to the traditional corporate receivership model, lending money to potential buyers, for examples – but now NAMA, it seems is creating new language expressions, to boot.

What does it really mean? From this distance it seems to me that NAMA may have cocked up the procedural niceties of serving notices on the Grehans last Wednesday. It seems to be accepted that a court will only permit the appointment of a receiver once the creditor has issued a final demand to the debtor (or in this case, that NAMA has issued a final demand to the Grehans). And it seems to be accepted that issuing the demand is not enough, it must also be received. And there are suggestions that Ray Grehan did not receive the demand before NAMA turned up in court seeking the appointment of a receiver. NAMA is reported as claiming that “the decision to withdraw the receiver was based on legal advice and made in response to a request from the Grehan brothers for additional time to negotiate the repayment of their loans.” This doesn’t seem to preclude other reasons for NAMA’s apparent volte-face and the claim that the extension of time will run out on Tuesday evening next, 3rd May, 2011 would seem to gainsay any suggestion that NAMA has had a change of heart.

If it is the case that the curious U-turn in the Grehan case is a result of procedural deficiencies, then it won’t have been the first time that NAMA cocked up the legal aspects of its operation. NAMA failed to make a valid decision to absorb Paddy McKillen’s loans for example, and had sought to rely on a decision made before the agency legally came into being. We have yet to establish the financial cost of that cock-up as the issue of costs in the McKillen case will be addressed by the Supreme Court in May 2011.

As for the Grehans, they will apparently have another working day’s grace to raise a reported €660m to repay loans to NAMA. Sounds like the plot of aHollywoodblockbuster and seems just plain incredible. From this perspective, it seems that NAMA will have reversed the “standing down” of the receiver by Wednesday 4th, May. Somehow I don’t see this new collocation catching on.

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