Risky business of the Week
At midnight on Thursday, the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee from the Government to Bank of Ireland, AIB/EBS and Permanent TSB expired, which meant that depositors with deposits in excess of €100,000 would no longer be covered with the deposit guarantee on the excess, though they still enjoy a guarantee on deposits of less than €100,000. We learned that just before the ELG expired, Bank of Ireland issued €5bn of bonds and Permanent TSB issued €3.065bn; in both cases, the issues were artificial in that both banks issued bonds to themselves that can be exchanged for cash at the ECB until 2015. AIB didn’t issue anything with its spokesperson Niamh Hennessy saying “AIB’s liquidity position is healthy” and that AIB didn’t want to issue bonds which would incur guarantee fees payable to the Government. As Cyprus remains on the brink of the abyss, withdrawing the ELG this week was risky for the Irish government, though as we saw in Cyprus, guarantees ultimately aren’t worth the paper they’re written on when governments are pinned to the collar.
Carrigsodom and Ballygomorrah of the Week
Some light relief this week when we learned the Department of Health was providing €124,000 annual funding to a charity which supports 16-24 year olds; the range of services provided by SpunOut.ie is impressive, ranging from advice on mental health to drugs to life skills, but all focus this week was on its skinny repertoire of sex advice, and particularly its advice on threesomes. Having been predictably discovered by Sindo sex expert Niamh Horan, no time was wasted in getting offended comment from Fine Gael’s straitlaced Michelle Mulherrin and hey presto! you had a scandal. Liberal champion Colette Browne used her column in the Irish Examiner to defend the charity whilst critically evaluating the advice provided on threesomes. The title of her column? “Threesomes are sleazy, but let’s not get our knickers in a twist” But “knickers”? What knickers? In Carrigsodom and Ballygomorrah, do we even wear knickers anymore?
Crackdown on Cheek of the Week
“Showing disrespect to the minister of the day or to the commissioner of the day is not on, as far as I am concerned and I don’t expect it from either a member of sergeant or garda rank” Commissioner Martin Callinan speaking after criticism of Minister Shatter and of himself by the AGSI this week where four sergeants from Carlow and Kilkenny walked out during both addresses and afterwards provided expressions of “no confidence” in either Minister or Commissioner. The usual form of protest previously was giving the minister “the silent treatment”, criticism of the Garda Commissioner is unprecedented. The Gardai are not happy about cuts in resources and pay, and see the Commissioner as an extension of the political establishment that is now attacking the force. The four officers claimed they had a mandate from their members to mount the protest in the manner exhibited, and the four faced the possibility disciplinary proceedings for their troubles, after the protest.
As the week drew to a close, and after an informal disciplinary hearing in Templemore, the four sergeants claimed that although they stated they hadn’t confidence in the Commissioner, that was not in fact their personal view, but the views of the people they represented. A statement was issued to the effect that both sides now regarded the matter as closed. Except, there is a third side in all of this, the general public which has seen calculated insubordination by Gardai who are genuinely at their wits end with balancing their incomes.
Doublespeak of the Week
The 24/7 Frontline Alliance this week produced what it called an “actuarial report” on pay cuts proposed under Croke Park 2. It indicated that workers earning less than €65,000 faced cuts of up to 11.4% for a staff nurse down to 3% for a firefighter.
On the other hand, when the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin was recently asked in the Dail for the pre- and post- Croke Park 2 gross salaries and allowances, he merely said that those earning less than €65,000 would continue to earn the same. I tend to believe the 24/7 Frontline Alliance in this.
Easter Egg of the Week
Given the weekend that’s in it, you might like to know why you may be seeing A LOT more chocolate bunnies wrapped up in golden foil this weekend. Lindt, the Swiss chocolate maker has just lost a trademark infringement case where it claimed exclusive rights to the familiar Lindt chocolate bunny and it objected to rivals flogging their fattening fare in similar attire. So you’ll be seeing a lot more colonies of golden bunnies, like these ones from rival Italian chocolate company, Ferrero Rocher
Coalition partner of the Week
This was the election leaflet produced by the Labour party in the Meath East by-election which was held this week, and where Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee romped home whilst coalition partners Labour saw a 78% collapse in their vote from 21.04% at General Election 2011 to just 4.57% this week. Labour’s man lost his deposit and must shoulder his expenses. The election leaflet above is said to have rankled amongst coalition partners, but in the end, it just didn’t matter as Labour was wiped out. Poor Aodhan O’Riordain, the Labour TD in Dublin pulled the short straw to appear on the Vincent Browne show on Thursday night – see screengrab below, left – to defend the indefensible. Fine Gael’s Damien English from Meath West who was Helen McEntee’s election manager could hardly contain his mirth, though he eventually composed himself to say with a straight face that he didn’t think Meath East was reflective of attitudes to Labour nationally.
Crime of the Week
This was the week when the Central Statistics Office issued annual crime figures for 2012, together with a comparison with 2011. Overall, crime is down, but as is usual with these annual reports, there were varying results with murders, sexual offence and burglaries up slightly and big declines in assaults, dangerous acts, damage against property, public order offences and offences against the government. Critics of the Gardai will zoom in on burglaries after a spate of well-publicised rural burglaries, many aggravated.
Table of the Week
One of the common reasons cited for the introduction of the local property tax or “family home tax” as Sinn Fein call it or the “bankers bailout tax” as People Before Profit call it, is that the money collected will be used in local areas. This is a load of rubbish. The Government funds local authorities to the tune of €2bn per annum, and what is going to happen is the Government will reduce local authority funding by the amount collected. The only truth in this is the Government needs to collect more in tax to plug a deficit and “expanding the tax base”, “introducing a stable recurring tax”, “funding local services” are hogwash.
Baby boom of the Week
It seems that Ban Gardai are getting more and more pregnant. Figures released by the justice minister, Alan Shatter last week show that in 2011 there was a 20% increase in the number of Gardai that availed of paid maternity compared with 2010. And so far in 2012, we are on track for a 16% increase over 2011. The projected numbers seeking maternity leave in 2013 are 384, up from 330 in 2012 and just 273 in 2011.
We’re open (but) of the Week
Cypriot banks opened for six hours on Thursday for the first time in 12 days. In Cyprus, there was brisk business but the banks weren’t mobbed as feared. We still don’t know the rate at which deposits in Cypriot banks are being depleted, and the last information from the secretive ECB was that it had advanced €9bn in emergency lending, and that was two weeks ago before the banks closed. On Thursday, the above was the message greeting Bank Laiki customers, who it is believed, will see the excess of €100,000 in their deposit accounts wiped out entirely, or if not, they’ll have to wait years to get anything back. Those with less than €100,000 are untouched. Well, except for the capital controls that have been “temporarily” imposed and these are the restrictions that currently apply in Bank Laiki.
TV royalty of the Week
RTE strategically published the salaries of its Top 10 presenters this week. Pat Kenny is top of the heap with €630,000 though he faces an imminent renegotiation of his contract, assuming RTE wants to continue the relationship of course. Oh, and assuming the 65-year old Pat would want to continue with RTE, but then again, where else would he go? When the old media went looking for comment after the revelations, the RTE presenters went to ground as the fog of the Easter holidays moved in to offer temporary respite. What we received this week were the top salaries of presenters, we still don’t know the top salaries for RTE management of course, but we do know that in its last published accounts for 2011, including a €50m charge on its pension fund – that loss is equivalent to €61 for 1.147m households that each paid RTE €160 or €183.6m in total licence fees in 2011. In a crisis-hit Ireland in 2013, these salaries are unforgivable, and both RTE management and the presenters will be held to account when the fog clears after Easter. We still don’t know how much RTE presenters earn in extracurricular activities, like penning memoirs, after communications minister Pat Rabbitte abnegated responsibility for RTE this week, but we finally got the RTE policy for staff which sets out the rules on competing with RTE
So I guess the RTE policy allows you to accept five hardback books one day, five concert tickets the next, a “moderately valued” product or service from a business promoted the next day, five CD albums the next day and at the weekend some promoted business might be good enough to take the kids off your hands with weekend jobs. As long as the gifts don’t come from the same source and are notified to RTE management, then you’re golden.