Schizophrenic of the Week
Sinn Fein and the Quinns. First we had the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew telling her local newspaper, the Impartial Reporter in July 2012 “he [Sean Quinn] has been treated disgracefully by the Irish Government. Had they not tried to strip him off all his assets, including his home, deny him the ability to function in business, and routinely try to humiliate him I believe he would have paid back every penny he owed to the Irish taxpayer…he accepted he had done wrong, but all our attempts to make the government show some common sense were ignored. He is being punished for having the audacity to ‘buy the bank; and for being an ordinary man from Fermanagh who is hugely respected by his community” and then we had the 4000-strong march in Cavan where it was reported Sinn Fein representatives attended, though it seems that claims they appeared on the platform with the Quinn family, Father Brian D’Arcy, Mickey Harte and others were incorrect. And in response, we had the deputy leader of the party, Mary Lou McDonald stamp her authority and issue the party’s official stance -“justice must be done before the courts in the Quinn case” despite whatever loyalties and emotions people might have.
So the matter is settled then.
Until the Sinn Fein-controlled Fermanagh District Council issues a letter of support for the Quinns on 7th August, 2012!
Now in fairness, Sinn Fein is not the only political party to have a seemingly disjointed approach to the Quinns – the prominent backing by Fine Gael MEP, Sean Kelly of the Cavan rally has caused all sorts of ructions in that party – but somehow Sinn Fein is emerging as a party untainted by the jobbery and gombeenism of Irish politics over many decades, and might therefore be expected to be held to a higher standard.
Table of the Week
“Other markets are still in free fall. Property prices in Ireland, at the foot of our table since April 2010, continue to plummet” says the latest annual Economist magazine survey of global house prices, which however concludes that house prices in Ireland are “under-valued” by 5% when compared with income and rent levels. This survey reinforces the conclusion in a recent Central Bank of Ireland report which said our house prices were up to 26% undervalued. Last year, The Economist claimed our property was 10% over-valued by reference to rents and was exactly correctly valued by reference to income.
Economic Time-bomb of the Week
“When anyone asks ‘why would a company come to Northern Ireland instead of the Republic of Ireland?’, there isn’t a persuasive answer. If we don’t devolve corporation tax we will have little to attract industry with. The system of grants we now rely on is being phased out and, apart from corporation tax, there is no Plan B to replace it” Eamonn Donaghy, head of tax at KPMG, Belfast speaking in the Belfast Telegraph
Over the Border in Northern Ireland, they are getting concerned about the withdrawal of financial support from Europe and Westminster, and the consequent effects this will have on the small local economy. And well they might – this week saw the publication of the April to June unemployment figures for the UK which showed Northern Ireland’s rate rising from 6.8% to 7.6%, a pretty worrying 0.8% increase, though according to the Enterprise Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the DUP’s Arlene Foster “while figures show that unemployment has increased over the quarter, the rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland (7.6%) is still below the equivalent rates in the UK (8.0%), European Union (10.3%) and the Republic of Ireland (14.6%) [sic, it’s actually worse at 14.8%]”.
Beyond any atavistic interest in the goings-on in Northern Ireland, this affects us because of the pressure for Northern Ireland to reduce its corporate tax rate from 25% to 12.5%, the same as that of the Republic. However Northern Ireland cannot simply reduce its tax rate, because under the EU’s Azores Principle, any cut in a regional tax rate in a country – and for these purposes, the UK is “a country” – must be matched by a reduction in central funding, which in Northern Ireland’s case means a cut of about €500m in the annual €14bn subsidy from Westminster. Such a cut would be politically difficult to implement, and most commentators see a change to Northern Ireland’s corporate tax rate as coming some years away. I am not so sure, and I wonder how long before we will see decisions like those of Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence which decided to set up shop and create 300 high value jobs in Kerry instead of Derry on tax grounds, reversed.
Photograph of the Week
Tomorrow at 11.30am in Charleville in Cork, the Ballyhea/Charleville bank bailout protesters will be taking to the streets for the 77th time – yes 77 weeks of protest supplemented by fasting, sit-down protests on the main Cork-Limerick road, taking the campaign to the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, a cycle/run/walk/crawl from Ballyhea to Leinster House to hand in a petition and an online campaign to raise awareness. One of the protest leaders, sports journalist with the Irish Examiner, Diarmuid O’Flynn won’t be able to partake in the Charleville march tomorrow because of work commitments covering the All-Ireland semi between Kilkenny and Tipperary in Croke Park, but he will be marching himself from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square in Dublin to Croke Park at 11.30am. It’s about a 20 minute march and the Corkman would appreciate company along the way! Diarmuid is on Twitter at @Ballyhea14
Pi**-up in Brewery of the Week
It was simple really, five Irish athletes – four boxers and a show-jumper – had won medals at the 2012 Olympics in London, a 50-minute flight away from Dublin. Two of the four boxers, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes, are from Northern Ireland but had opted to compete under the Team Ireland banner. Overall, this medal tally of five was Team Ireland’s joint-best Olympics ever, equaling the results in 1956, when coincidentally we also won five medals with three bronzes, a silver and a gold. In total in the modern Olympics we’ve won just 28 medals in 116 years, so five medals in one fortnight is a very big deal indeed.
The whole nation lost its heart to Katie Taylor who won a gold, there were tears when Mullingar’s John Joe Nevin was narrowly defeated to win a silver and we were just puffed-out-chested proud at the performance of them all. And we wanted to give them a memorable welcome home and show them how proud they had made us. How difficult could that be?
Really the home-coming should have been at the Guinness Brewery, such was the cack-handed, uncoordinated and comical farce that it turned out to be. Cash-strapped Dublin City Council originally refused a city homecoming on cost grounds and sought a financial contribution from the Olympic Council of Ireland, which sniffily told it to “get lost”. The athletes were said to be unhappy with the row over arrangements and said they just wanted to go home and rest with their families, which set against a 50-minute journey from London and a fortnight’s absence, didn’t sound all that convincing. The public was asked not to go to Dublin airport on the Monday when the five medal winners flew home on the Team Ireland flight. In Northern Ireland, the two local boxers had a formal “welcome home” at the Titanic complex in Belfast on the Monday, but the only home-coming involving all athletes from Northern Ireland was behind the closed doors of the sports minister at Stormont, Carál Ní Chuilín. Katie Taylor went her own way for a home-coming in Bray and it was only on the Wednesday that we had a rain-sodden homecoming on Dawson Street in Dublin.
To compound the farce, boxer John Joe Nevin risked going from hero to zero in a week, with complaints about how his family had been treated in Mullingar pubs on the day of his semi-final bouts and then calling for pubs to be closed for his local homecoming so as to deprive them of any financial benefit from his feats, and then complains about how athletes had been treated on their homecoming from Beijing in 2008 when only the medal winners exited from the front of the plane and the rest were kicked off the rear. And to cap off a great week, John Joe’s mobile phone with irreplaceable pictures of the Olympics featuring John Joe with other athletes, was apparently stolen in a Dublin night spot, though if it had happened in a brewery it would have been just perfect.
Economic bright-spot of the Week
We might be on our uppers, with the economy still contracting in the first quarter of 2012, with unemployment at a record 14.8% in the current crisis and a swingeing budget in prospect in less than four months, but there were still queues around the corner this week, lining up outside the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street to buy newly-minted commemorative coins featuring War of Independence hero, Michael Collins. In fact within two days, the Bank had sold out of the 6,000 double coin presentation packs with a €20 gold “proof” and €10 silver “proof” coin. At €30 a pop, that was €180,000 of sales in two days and although the coins might be used as currency, the more likely use will be forming part of a collection.
Although the Bank has sold out of the double coin packs, it still has a “limited” number of single €20 and €10 coins – of which 12,000 and 8,000 respectively were originally minted – for sale, but presumably it’s too much effort to stick one of each in a bag and call it a double!
Twitt-error of the Week
Undoubtedly must go to former Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews after he was unmasked as the person behind the @brianformerff Twitter account which, for months, had bad-mouthed former colleagues and current rivals – and their wives. Chris has gone to ground, but not before telling the Sunday Independent that the account “was set up by him and a “small group of like-minded individuals” who were supporters of Fianna Fail disenchanted with the party.” and today in the Irish Times, a journalist mischievously writes “how Andrews allowed himself to be persuaded into setting up a bogus Twitter account to further his political ambitions beggars belief” – or in other words, if you’re thinking of suing Chris for defamation, he may seek to hide behind others!
Runner-up must go to DUP member of the Belfast Assembly, Jim Wells, who last weekend re-tweeted a tweet about Ireland’s Olympic success “the Irish had taken the gold, the lead from the roofs and the copper piping from the changing rooms” The BBC reported “Mr Wells said the message should have been deleted and not forwarded and that he has now deleted the post and blocked the sender”