Secret of the Week
You might recall the commitment given by This Lot when they came to power to make public administration more transparent? Here is a selection – from the past seven days alone – of matters involving your money that This Lot weren’t referring to when they promised more transparency:
The Black Book which is the Central Bank’s disaster planning manual, first published in 2001, it was updated in 2007 after the run on Northern Rock in the UK. Minister Noonan said “The question of releasing the document is therefore a matter for the Central Bank of Ireland in the first instance. The document was shared with the Department of Finance on the understanding it would be treated in strictest confidence given the nature of the matters treated in the document. I do not therefore propose to provide a copy of the document”
The Collateral Posting Agreement which forces NAMA to hand over €1.15bn of cash to the NTMA as security against derivative contracts. Minister Noonan said it “contains commercially sensitive information and is therefore not suitable for publication”
NAMA & NABCO: The terms under which NAMA is providing social housing – which we have paid for through funding NAMA – to NABCO. Minister Noonan said “I am advised by NAMA that the particulars of the lease agreement, including term length and rental fee, have been negotiated in confidence with NABCO as a commercial counterparty and it would not be appropriate for the Agency to publish such details as it could prejudice the conduct or outcome of NAMA’s negotiations with other commercial counterparties”
AIB debt forgiveness: The debt forgiveness given to two large Irish media groups, Thomas Crosbie Holdings and Independent News and Media by state-owed AIB and 15% state-owned Bank of Ireland. Minister Noonan said due to “data protection rules and customer confidentiality the banks are not in a position to discuss details of individual customer circumstances”
Index of the Week
Yesterday, the consumer sentiment index jointly produced by KBC bank and the ESRI was published. This has to be one of the most volatile monthly indices you’ll ever see – you’ll see its history as far back as 1996, here; its peak was reached in 2000 at 130-odd, and throughout the downturn since 2007, it has been all over the place. It stands at 58.9 in April 2013, down from 60.0 in March but it was as low as 49.8 in December 2012 and 70.0 in August 2012.
Quote of the Week
“As I explained to the cardinal and members of the church, my book is the Constitution and the Constitution is determined by the people. That’s the people’s book and we live in a republic and I have a duty and responsibility, as head of government, to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are. Those wishes have been determined and set out by the Supreme Court, which determines what the Constitution actually means” An Taoiseach Enda Kenny responding to further rumblings in the Catholic hierarchy which has set itself in fierce opposition to proposals to introduce legislation clarifying the position on abortion
“Catholics understand therefore, that a vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for the weakening of the institution of marriage and the right to life for all the unborn” Fermanagh priest and columnist, Fr Owen Gorman writing in the monthly Catholic “Alive” magazine. Aghadrumsee priest Father Owen Gorman was writing in his column in the April 2013 issue of the magazine and suggesting that Catholics have started to support the traditionally-Protestant DUP, on religious grounds.
Yes, the abortion debate still hogs the headlines, and this was the week we found out that anyone involved in procuring or effecting an abortion was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church under Canon law 1398. Actually, we didn’t find this out at all because the old media couldn’t be bothered to develop the excommunication threat – that was mooted (and then dismissed) – to legislators who would vote in favour of the new Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.
Elsewhere, in this week’s noteworthy quotables:
“The traditional barriers of authority and hierarchy are lowered and you need to be able to manage accordingly” Guide issued by Fine Gael to its TDs and senators, helping them deal with the challenges of new media
Scourge of the Week
“When asked what the primary factors would be to motivate them to emigrate, the vast majority of respondents stated that they would emigrate primarily because of a lack of employment opportunities at home or in the expectation that they would have better job prospects abroad” Time to Go? emigration study by National Youth Council
This week, the National Youth Council of Ireland launched what it called a qualitative study of Irish emigrants, focusing on the young up to age 30. The 100-page report is worth a read, it is highly anecdotal in providing original source comments from actual immigrants, but at its launch on Thursday, the NYCI made clear that although there may be pull factors which make emigration attractive, the “determining factor” was lack of employment opportunities here at home. So, emigration may indeed be what finance minister Michael Noonan calls a “lifestyle choice” but this study shows that the “lifestyle choice” hinges on employment, and in a State where there are 430,000 on the Live Register and 295,000 unemployed equating to a standardized unemployment rate of 14.0%, there is really no free choice at all.
Goal-hanging politician of the Week
“You never once contacted our school, Griffeen Valley, in relation to our forthcoming school extension..neither did anybody from our board of management or staff contact you or seek your assistance in relation to the extension. You had absolutely nothing to do with this development, and yet you distribute a leaflet in the Lucan area claiming to have ‘initiated, led and delivered’ this extension..This is nothing but gross cynical opportunism on your behalf, which I find objectionable and depressing” Principal of the Grifeen Valley Educate Together national school, Tomas O’Dulaing speaking to the “Lucan Gazettes” 1st May 2013
Dublin Mid West Fine Gael back bench TD, Derek Keating came in for some criticism from a school principal in Lucan who resented credit being claimed on a political leaflet by Deputy Keating, for an extension to the school. The criticism made front page news of the “Lucan Gazettes” newspaper, which is in fact what they call a “free sheet”, in that it is free to readers and it is advertisers that fund it. Perhaps to spare his boss’s blushes, Deputy Keating’s assistant, Tommy Morris, was caught on camera – pictured here – removing copies of the newspaper from local outlets. It is now reported that some 3,000 copies were taken and the matter has been reported to the Gardai.
On their website, “Lucan Gazettes” which is part of the Dublin Gazettes group say they have 169,000 readers a week. Would that be a week when Tommy Morris isn’t active?
Job interview of the Week
Okay, this interview took place on 23rd April 2013, when 74-year old sports commentator and noted Fine Gael supporter, Bill Herlihy was “grilled” by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht about what he could bring to the role he recently won as chairman of the Irish Film Board. You will find the full transcript of the hearing here from page 19 but it will depress you; the hearing commenced with Bill read out an impressive pre-prepared statement. A Laois-Offaly FG TD asked what the IFB was going to do for Laois-Offaly, ditto for a Laois-Offaly FF TD, a Roscommon Independent TD asked about the decline in cinemas to the point there is only one cinema in county Roscommon, an Independent senator and a Labour TD promoted their own artistic endeavours and who knows, might be asking the IFB for a handout imminently and SF didn’t even ask a single question. After what appears to have been about five minutes of exchanges, the FG deputy chair of the committee concluded by saying “That concludes our consideration of the topic and I thank Mr. O’Herlihy for coming before us and giving us the benefit of his wisdom. I propose we notify the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, that we have completed our discussion with the chairperson designate of the Irish Film Board, Mr. Bill O’Herlihy. Is this agreed? Agreed.I will conclude with the words of a well known-television sports commentator, “Okey do-key””
Dontcha just love this country.
Poem of the Week
In a week.
Was selling the gaffe.
Not quite breaking even.
A big improvement.
On borrowing to bail.
Then last week.
A bidding war.
It’s war. Baby.
Suddenly up 70.000.
Hands in air.
Crack fluency required.
Enter my surveyor.
We’re looking at 10,000.
But crack ‘s now a sobering force,
The purveyor of madness and rage?
So into equity’s duplicity.
Rode my 70,000
The cost of.
My lesson in crack.
With Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney lying doggo during these historical times, it has fallen to others to chronicle economic challenges through poetry. We’ve had contributions on here before from sf ca writer. This week, the PoliticalWorld blog has launched its first foray into traditional publishing when it published a real-paper-book anthology of poems by Kevin Barrington entitled “I love the Internet” available for download here. Poems deal with the usual agonies of the human spirit but set against the unusual reality of current economic times such as the boom in property prices and then negative equity in the above piece “Crack”. Richly illustrated, worth a look.
Auctioneer marketing tip of the Week
Whatever about prices, there appears to be some consensus amongst estate agents that the commercial property market is humming with a reasonable flow of transactions at present, though residential property transactions have fallen off after the rush to meet the deadline of 31st December last when mortgage relief for first time buyers was curtailed. Corporate advertising by Irish estate agents and property companies seems to have intensified, but can any of them compete with the above Californian estate agent who has adopted a novel approach to self promotion.
What next? Maybe Messrs Hollis, FitzGerald, Nugent, Moran, Potterton, Meagher, O’Reilly and Hillyer might produce a barbershop chorus.
Baby pipeline of the Week
We found out this week the countries from which we are adopting children. In 2012, a total of 117 children were adopted from overseas. Russia has replaced Vietnam at the top spot of source countries for children adopted into Ireland, though that position was placed in jeopardy earlier this year when the Oireachtas joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade threatened to create a so-called “Magnitsky List” for Russia which would impose sanctions on those people suspected of being involved in the death of Moscow lawyer and accountant, Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison after his arrest when he was investigating state-level tax fraud. The Russians responded with their ambassador to Ireland threatening to close down the Russian baby pipelines if Ireland pressed ahead with sanctions. Just over a week ago, our fearless committee backed down and merely called for an investigation into the horrible death of Sergei. Elsewhere on the list, Ethiopia is number two, but you had better get in quick there before Madonna snaps them all up. On a serious note, adoption in Ireland is just so difficult that only 200 Irish children are adopted a year despite some 6,000 being in care. Last year’s Childrens Referendum may herald an increase by removing obstacles to adopting children of married couples, but for the time being, the foreign baby pipeline just serves to highlight our domestic failure to facilitate adoption.
Graphic of the Week
This was the week when the Central Bank of Ireland’s Fiona Muldoon – front-runner to take over Matthew Elderfield’s role following his resignation – unveiled what is a described as a “Pilot Scheme for Consumer Multi-Debt Restructuring”. It seems like a solo-run by the Central Bank, uncoordinated with the new personal insolvency schemes that are supposed to be available from the end of June 2013. And to cynics, it appears like a last-ditch attempt to minimize mortgage impairment losses at the Irish banks to the greatest possible extent. The Central Bank scheme envisages there being an independent “service provider” to manage whatever agreement is sought or entered into by borrowers, and feathers were ruffled when it was suggested the Central Bank might seek to engage a UK company, rather than one of the burgeoning bodies in Ireland providing debt management services.
A feature of the pilot brochure was a decision waterfall which illustrated how the indebted might deal with their debts. Lengthening terms and lowering interest rates are explored to the greatest degree feasible before there is any hint of a debt write-down.
Book of the Week
Quite a number of people have asked when we should finally find out the names and dealings of the 60-70 people whose offshore account details were recently leaked, as part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation. The 60-70 Irish had companies created in the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction which hides company control and dealings from prying eyes. In the UK, the BBC and the Guardian newspaper apparently received the master-file of the leaked details, and the BBC is nudged every so often to see when it will make available the Irish details.
Meanwhile the ICIJ has published an e-book (it’s free!) which brings together reports from various countries showing the impact of the leaked details. It is a fascinating read and although there’s practically no Irish revelation, the compendium of reports show how people have hidden their wealth and dealings, have suddenly become unstuck.