Economic bright spot
It hasn’t been all gloom this week with Fitch, the ratings agency raising its outlook for Ireland from “negative” to “stable” and commenting that we are ahead of the other PIIGS in tackling our economic problems. The Department of Finance produced its Medium Term Fiscal Statement in which it set out new forecasts for the economy for the next four years. In summary, the Department has downgraded its forecasts for 2013-2015 but upped its forecast for 2012. Of course forecasts, schmorecasts, meaning forecasts come and go, but the one figure that stood out in this forecast was the real GNP growth forecast for 2012 of 1.4% which contrasts with the Central Bank’s forecast last month of minus 0.4%. Other than retail sales having a very modest fillip in September, it is hard to see why there would be such a turnaround in our domestic economy.
Word of the Week
“Escheated” – yes it’s a real word and was used by Minister Noonan this week in a sentence as follows: “However net amounts totalling €0.28million have been paid into the Intestate Estates Fund Deposit Account, representing the monetary value of estates which were escheated to the State under Section 73” It’s a verb which means transfer of property to the government when someone dies without a will or “intestate”
The announcement of Budget 2013 is now less than three weeks away on 5th December 2012 and “Escheating” might be an apt description of a minister announcing a budget set to inflict pain on practically all segments of society whilst seemingly leaving pensions and pay of bankers intact.
Quote of the Week
In the Oireachtas this week, they debated the merits of banning smoking on the entire Leinster House “campus”. The campaign was led by oncologist Senator Professor John Crown but was defeated amid lukewarm support and outright opposition. But some of the reasons for the lack of support might amuse you.
“It could be dangerous to some member’s health to go outside the gates and have a cigarette because they’d have people outside there waiting for them at particular times when governments inevitably get unpopular” Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Deputy Billy Kelleher
“If people are afraid to go out in the street and have a cigarette because they will face the wrath of an inflamed electorate, stop smoking” Senator Professor John Crown in response
Elsewhere, we learned of an interesting new IBRC policy
“It is the bank’s policy not to continue relations with organisations that attempt to apply pressure by threatening to make communications public” Mike Aynsley, chief executive officer of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation reportedly responding to questions as to why IBRC didn’t sell Sean Quinn assets to a Swiss asset management company
And elsewhere in the Oireachtas,
“I have not seen “Anglo: The Musical” but I always think that satire, unless handled lightly, is just above pie-throwing as theatrical entertainment” Minister for Finance Michael Noonan responding to a report on the first night of Anglo:The Musical at the Bord Gais Energy theatre in south Dublin Docklands which includes a scene featuring Angela Merkel, along with Enda Kenny in a leash and collar on all fours reassuring that Ireland would pay back every last cent of Anglo’s debt.
“The Government shares the outrage of the public concerning these levels of remuneration. It must be acknowledged that without the assistance of citizens, such levels of remuneration at these institutions would only be aspirational. There are constitutional and legal issues to be considered when dealing with these pay and pension issues, but the Government will explore any avenues and options to address this, subject to the necessary legal constraints and our obligation to protect taxpayers’ interests in the banking sector.” Minister for Finance Michael Noonan defending bankers’ pay and pensions.
Punishment of the Week
In Ireland we have the seemingly benign punishment meted out in our courts whereby convicts have to pay sums of money into the “Court Poor Box” which is then divvied up amongst good causes. Last year a total of €1.7m was “donated” and €1.5m of that was allocated by the presiding judge in the specific case. It is a controversial system with allegations that some people deserving criminal records are getting away lightly. In Ohio state in the United States, judges have other options – the Washington Post reports that a woman who was judged to have driven on a pavement to overtake a school bus was sentenced to an hour on two successive days standing outside the courthouse with the sign shown above. But the fabulously-named judge, Pinkey Carr still wasn’t happy when he heard reports on the Tuesday that the woman was sending texts and smoking fags. So Judge Pinkey said she’d personally supervise the punishment on the Wednesday and stamp out any malarkey. Might such punishment be adopted here instead of donations to the poor box.
Pyrrhic victory of the Week
Yes, NAMA Top 10 developer Michael O’Flynn might be said to have won his defamation case against junior minister, Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton but on here, I am scratching my head to see how the outcome on Thursday was different to what Lucinda was offering in advance of the trial. On Newstalk yesterday, Shane Coleman is understood to have claimed that Lucinda will be paying €100,000 towards Michael’s legal costs plus a €50,000 donation to Crumlin hospital. I don’t know if these claims are correct, but if they are, alongside Lucinda’s own legal costs, this would be an extremely expensive penalty for comments which on here at least, seemed innocuous. In fact the claim about Fine Gael engaging in “cute hoor politics” was more abusive of Fine Gael than it was of Michael O’Flynn.
So Michael himself will pick up part of his own costs, and although he got a clarification in court and a standard “sorry” for the effect of the comments, there wasn’t any apparent retraction of anything originally said by Lucinda. And on here and elsewhere, a four –year old assault case involving Michael and his brother got a renewed airing which won’t have done anything to bolster Michael’s “upstanding” reputation.
And because it is so hilarious, and was offered in connection with a comment on the story, even though it is has no relevance to the story at all, here is a wind-up broadcast on Cork’s 96FM to cheer up your Saturdays.
Photograph of the Week
It hasn’t been a great week for Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn who publicly apologized to third level students whose grant applications haven’t yet been processed, and indeed it seems that many of the 66,000 applicants might be waiting until Easter 2013 to receive grants applied for in 2012. Poor Ruairi received an angry reception when he went to open the Centre for Applied Science for Health in Tallaght during the week, and whilst attending the opening niceties, outside, students were venting their feelings. Above is a segment of the photograph credited to Joe McCartney and was published in the (Tallaght) Echo. You have to admire the Minister’s insouciance towards the hordes pressed up against the windows behind him!
Surname of the Week
It might have overtones of “Halpin”, “Hannafin” or “Halligan” but by the end of this week, we had learned to pronounce what will be a new name for many “Halappanavar”, the family name of the woman who died in Galway in October. The precise circumstances of the woman’s death are being investigated but the public perception seems to be that she died because medical staff at Galway University Hospital would not abort her miscarrying foetus. Claims by her husband that he was told “this is a Catholic country” and the perception that a dying foetus was given priority over the woman’s life have only served to agitate further the demands for changes to this country’s abortion laws. On Wednesday evening, politicians were said to be shocked by the spontaneous vigils in Cork, Limerick, Galway and particularly in Dublin outside Leinster House where a crowd of up to 2,000 gathered to pay their respects to Savita Halappanavar and where people quietly sat on the road in Kildare Street for five minutes in near silence . The ensuing debate is divisive in Irish society, and there was already agitation for the Government to give legislative effect to the two referenda and a Supreme Court decision which, in total, give legal effect to abortion in very limited circumstances. There are marches planned for today in several areas including at 4pm from Parnell Square in Dublin where 10s of thousands are expected.