Publication of the Week
This week saw the publication of the 2011 Dail register of members’ interests which is supposed to show what TDs get up to financially, beyond their occupations as public representatives with €93,000 per annum salaries plus gold-plated pensions, plus travel and accommodation, plus expenses, plus party allowances etc. The above is an extract from Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae’s – pictured below at the last General Election in 2011 when Michael won the seat previously occupied by his father, Jackie – register. In Northern Ireland, these registers are updated monthly, not annually. Crucially the Northern Ireland registers show the quantum of other income received. They also show in Northern Ireland if relatives benefit from a representative’s largesse. So although the Register published by the Oireachtas this week is informative, it really just emphasises how opaque the conduct of our public life still is on this side of the Border.
We can’t let this week go by without mentioning a major new book which was launched mid-week, “What if Ireland defaults” which sets out in over 200 pages essays from different corners of Ireland with facts, arguments and opinions on the greatest economic challenge facing this country – the 120% debt:GDP of which 20% has yet to be spent in honouring Anglo’s promissory notes. The latest news is that the book is number one in Amazon’s economic research best-seller list and is available from Amazon here. This probably counts as a plug but the authors have pedigree and the subject is vitally important. Recommended!
Quote of the Week
“I don’t see any of these things as a second bailout. I just think this is unfinished work from the first bailout” Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan on 6th April, 2012
Minister Noonan was talking to the Irish Times this week about the recent Anglo promissory note arrangement, and he also raised the prospect of transferring loss-making tracker mortgages – they’re loss-making because borrowers are paying 2-3% to banks whose cost of funding is more like 4-5% – from AIB and Permanent TSB to the zombiest of zombie banks, IBRC. What is presently being proposed with Anglo’s promissory notes is that Irelandgets an additional – “not a second” – bailout from the EU to pay off the promissory notes because the bond market is still not willing to lend to us at sustainable rates. And with respect to the €34bn of tracker mortgages at AIB and PTSB, Minister Noonan didn’t say how IBRC would pay for these but that money will somehow have to be borrowed as well, and as we own 100% of IBRC and because the market won’t lend, that means the Govt will have to borrow from the Troika. But none of this is a second bailout, the notion of which is, according to Michael previously, “ludicrous”; instead, according to the Minister, it’s just “unfinished work from the first bailout”!
Some might claim Michael was getting Jesuitical with the truth. And speaking of the religious, do you remember this excerpt from the episode of Father Ted when the stolen whistle was found in Ted’s jacket?
”Well, there’s an obvious explanation. – Is there, Father? – Yes, of course there is. What is it, Ted? I have to leave the room for a couple of minutes. When I return, I’ll have a full explanation. – It had better be a good one. – It’ll be perfectly satisfactory. Excuse me for a couple of minutes”
In real life, last week, a priest is reported by the BBC to have been giving a Powerpoint presentation in County Tyrone to a group of parents whose children were about to take their First Communion. The priest stuck his USB stick in the back of the laptop and, lo and behold, what the BBC describes as “16 indecent images of men” popped up. The BBC continues “He [the priest] gave no explanation or apology to the group and bolted out of the room. The co-ordinator and the teachers then continued with the presentation” and best of all “Twenty minutes later he [the priest] returned, he continued with the meeting and wrapped up by saying that the children get lots of money for their Holy Communion and should consider giving some of it to the church”
Which of them has more chutzpah – the Minister for Finance or the priest from Pomeroy?
This is the “town” of Buford in Wyoming which was in the news this week on account of it being auctioned by its owner, the “mayor” of Buford who is the town’s last inhabitant. The town now consists of a petrol station, shop, a house and outbuildings, all on 10 acres of land, and its last resident was selling up to retire. It was auctioned with a starting price of USD 100,000 and in the end was bought for USD 900,000. It did have a population of 2,000 in the 19th century but when the train company closed the station at Buford, the population, eventually to just the one person today. Interestingly the real Butch Cassidy – pictured here with the Sundance Kid – who until this week, I had thought was a Hollywood creation was in fact a real man and is said to have robbed a train in Buford. What has all of this to do with us? I wonder if Ireland again faces the prospect of villages being depopulated as businesses dry up, people emigrate or move to larger towns in search of a livelihood.
Word of the Week
“Sprezzatura”, pronounced spratz-a-toura. Originally an Italian word from the Renaissance to help define how Ladies and courtiers should behave, and now adopted into English. The word was describes the quality of people who put a lot of effort into something but modestly disguised whatever effort was made. So Ladies were expected to look beautiful but never admit to the care and effort that went into their appearance. And courtiers were supposed to accomplish difficult tasks but make it appear as if no effort was required on their part. Sprezzatura was a valued quality because no-one likes bigheadedness but it also bred confidence in your looks or ability.
Over the last week we have seen the exact opposite of sprezzatura here with rotten results which undermine confidence in the abilities of politicians. After the smoke cleared, it turns out the Anglo promissory note arrangement is disowned by the ECB who merely “note” the “completely Irish operation”. The “completely Irish operation” is set to cost us €90m extra this year and the “operation” depends on Bank of Ireland shareholders approving it. Meantime, NAMA is still in shock at being raided and didn’t even issue a press release to mark what is likely to be its largest financial transaction during its 10-year lifetime. And the opposite of sprezzatura also manifested itself in the Household Charge debacle where it seems that there are 2m homes in the State, according to the Census 2011 and 1.8m eligible for the charge and less than half paying. And we have an emerging opposite of sprezzatura with the House Price Database which was supposed to be available by June 2012 but now seems to have slipped to Sep-Dec 2012 despite the fact that this is one of the longest awaited developments in the State’s 90 year history – recommended in the Kenny Report in 1974 and supported by all parties in power since – and the Property Services Regulatory Authority has been established for some time.