Archive for the ‘Irish population’ Category

This afternoon in Dublin’s High Court, Mr Justice Iarflaith O’Neill ruled in favour of the colourful Johnny Ronan’s landlord company in a case against the tenant, the Irish Medical Council. Johnny’s company, Tanat Limited, co-owned with Kildare developer Peter Conlan had claimed that a lease on a property,  Kingram House  off Fitzwilliam Square pre-dated February 2010 when Upward Only Rent Review clauses were outlawed. Although the lease was technically entered into after February 2010, the judge today ruled that a series of exchanges in 2008 were sufficient to establish the existence of a lease then.

So great news for Johnny who will see the rent maintained at €820,000 even though the evidence shows the current market rent for Kingram House today would be €374,100.

The judgment from today is not yet online.

Elsewhere the Court Service indicates that there has not yet been any appeal by Johnny’s company Ickendel against a High Court ruling which saw Bewleys Oriental Cafe win the right to a current market rent rather than the 2007 rent which had been imposed on it. NAMA might have been called on to fund the appeal, and it might be the Agency decides to let this litigation pass. Last year. Johnny lost control over many of his prized assets when NAMA had receivers appointed to Treasury Holdings companies and subsequent attempts by Johnny to have the receivership overturned were unsuccessful. And more recently the Treasury Opera CMBS is ending up in the hands of investors who bought underlying loan rights.


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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.
A crack.
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.
All dandy.
Hands in air.
Capitalist roller-coaster.
Enter the
ir  surveyor.
A crack.
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
Plus 800.
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.

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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


and gifts.


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.

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The NAMA chairman Frank Daly is just about now commencing his address to the Association of European Journalists at a Dublin venue. NAMA has issued a press release, which despite citing quite a few numbers, is actually largely substance-free.

We “learn”

(1) NAMA is to develop “significant new office accommodation” in Dublin’s docklands as part of its €2bn investment programme announced last May 2012. This is not new of course, and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has been harping on about it for some time. The regular audience on here will be seeking actual addresses for development, development contracts, capital spend. But there is none of this in the update today. Environment minister Phil Hogan has recently designated part of Dublin docklands as a Strategic Development Zone and this might speed up planning applications and minimize objections from the precious souls at An Taisce. Frank says today “The SDZ designation will help to provide clarity on the planning objectives of the local authority and represents a significant step forward in terms of unlocking potential investment through NAMA and other sources, and delivering on the development potential of the area in response to the growth needs of the economy”

(2) NAMA is “evaluating” residential projects in Dublin. No kidding. We already know that NAMA is funding the residential development of the Cosgrave’s Dun Laoghaire Golf Club. There is also some construction work going on at Berndard McNamara’s Elm Park in Ballsbridge. House vacancy levels in some parts of Dublin indicate the need for new construction, though construction costs remain an issue. It seems that NAMA has been listening to the words of Property Industry Ireland and Frank says there may be need for an entity at a national level to take a central, co-ordinating, policy development role in relation to the residential property market, particularly in terms of identifying the areas where future housing shortages are likely to arise and how such shortages might be addressed.

(3) NAMA boasts that it “expects to realise about €750 million by reversing asset transfers by certain debtors and taking charges over previously unencumbered assets – up from a previous estimate of €500 million. Money realised from these sources will be used to pay down debts owed to the taxpayer.” This all sounds wonderful but what NAMA isn’t telling you how much of these transfers come as a condition of advancing more than €1bn to developers, and will these new advances mean developers have first dibs on sales proceeds.

(4) NAMA says it has sold €21m of homes with its 80:20 deferred payment initiative – commonly called the “negative equity mortgage”. NAMA doesn’t tell us now many homes that relates to, but it would be 100 homes at an average of €210,000 for example. NAMA has been slashing asking prices at some of its developments and had a cumulative total of 285 properties on the market with their negative equity product which guards against price declines of up to 20% over five years. NAMA says today that “further properties will be included in this initiative shortly”

(5) NAMA is procuring a “major research programme by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) to produce, for the first time, comprehensive information on the residential property market in Ireland – such as the key factors influencing the availability and cost of housing over the medium and long term. This project will benefit people buying houses, investors and the construction industry.” Remember that NAMA has previously given €24,000 to the University of Ulster for research on landbank and development issues in Northern Ireland.

(6) NAMA leaves the best till last. It has made available a €1bn credit line to IBRC, the broke bank put into liquidation by the Government two weeks ago. Apparently Minister Noonan is going to lay the Directions he gave NAMA in respect of the IBRC liquidation before the Oireachtas this week, and they will be closely scrutinized on here, and we may see what the Minister has been up to this time with using NAMA to bail him out (again). But the donation of €1bn was presumably at the behest of Minister Noonan and is to “meet their [IBRC] ongoing funding requirements” IBRC could have a big impact on NAMA’s operations and remember that in August 2013, all unsold loans will be transferred to NAMA. Frank says today “potentially, depending on the scale of loan transfers, the size of our balance sheet could increase by close to 50%”

There is a €35 fee for the event today and that includes a photo opportunity with Frank and the opportunity to ask him a question. The full press release is likely to be available online from NAMA’s PR people, Gordon MRM, here shortly.

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Quote of the Week

With fallout from Budget 2013 continuing unabated and a high profile act of dissent amid extraordinary acrimony which has taken many aback, this week produced a bumper crop of memorable quotes.

“Well the situation on child benefit Sean is that there has been a debate running for a very long time whether the best off people should be in receipt of child benefit and there is a report under the chairmanship of Ita Mangin completed [yeah but you didn’t go into that detail before the election,you kept it really simple “protect child benefit, vote Labour” ]Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, isn’t that what you tend to do in an election” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE television’s The Week in Politics 9th December 2012 responding to a challenge on the Labour Party’s commitment not to cut child benefit

“I’m very glad you’re giving me the opportunity to deal with the misrepresentation of that. What Sean O’Rourke said to me in respect of the famous ad was “you didn’t explain all of that at the time, you kept it simple, don’t cut child benefit” and I said yes, isn’t that what you tend to do, meaning keeping the ad simple, it’s not possible to present an ad in a general or any other time without keeping it simple, you can’t write an essay of explanation to accompany the ad and that’s all I was referring to and of course it has been grossly and maliciously misrepresented since, to be honest it’s a diversion as are a lot of other things Aine” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland on 14th December 2012

“We can’t afford self indulgence at this time. Any single member of the Labour Party, male or female could have gone pirouetting on the plinth parading their struggle with their conscience and saying “watch me now as I agonise about this decision” and so on, any one of them could have done that, instead they took the hard decision” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland on 14th December 2012

“And I have watched disputes and so on but some of the interventions that I have seen over the last couple of weeks , I have to say I haven’t seen that type of calculated venom before [what do you mean “calculated venom”? from within the Party or outside?] From people aah [pause] now outside” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte on Morning Ireland on Friday 14th December 2012

“Of the issue of the chairmanship, it is a gift of the members of the Labour Party and not of the leader. And I would put myself in front of a conference. If Eamon Gilmore believes that we need an early conference to talk about the chair. I think we need an early conference to talk about the direction of the Labour Party “ Labour Party chairperson (currently) and Labour parliamentary party TD (formerly!) Colm Keaveney talking to Galway FM on Friday 14th December, 2012.

“This budget is difficult, but in the times in which we live, it is a fair budget, and one which in many ways reflects Labour’s core values.” An Tanaiste and leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore after the passage of the controversial Social Welfare Bill

“The Deputy has made a disgraceful comment about Ministers. I assure him that none of them was funded by the assets of Northern Bank… It ill behoves him to talk about the raw emotion of women, in particular, having regard to some of the incidents that occurred in his lifetime and with which he was associated, which resulted not in just raw emotion but which had tragic consequences… Perhaps some day he might tell the truth about the tragedy, the remorse and the compassion that should have been shown to Jean McConville.” An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his stock response to challenges from Sinn Fein during Leaders Questions on 12th December, 2012 which goaded accusations of defamation from the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams and angry exchanges which eventually led to the Dail being suspended. Got it? The official response to any challenge to the Government from Sinn Fein is “Northern Bank..McConville..the Troubles”

“The mess that was left for us to clean up requires difficult decisions that have an impact on people’s lives “ An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his stock response to challenges from Fianna Fail during Leaders Questions on 12th December, 2012. Got it? The official response to any challenge to the Government from Fianna Fail, even 22 months into the new administration is “we’re cleaning up your mess”

“[The word “lie” is not appropriate in any circumstances.] I cannot hear what the Chair is saying. [ I am asking the Deputy to withdraw the word “liar”] I will not withdraw that word or any other word I have used in this Chamber today. A lie is a lie and a liar is a liar. The people at home viewing these proceedings know that full well.[ There are other words that can be used] “Untruth”, perhaps? [ Yes]   Then I shall withdraw the offensive term “lie” and instead use the word “untruth”, “porky pie” or “Pinocchio”. Are those words allowable? “ Sinn Fein TD, spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform and deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald at Leaders Questions on 13th December, 2012 giving the speaker the deaf-ear before eventually withdrawing a proscribed word in the Dail and substituting it with a series of alternatives, with “Pinnochio” accompanied by a sweeping elephant-trunk gesture to an extending nose. She was referring the Labour Party commitment to not cut child benefit

“This State had the smallest number of surgeons per head of population in the western world, with the result that waiting lists had ballooned” Senator John Crown or Professor John Crown, oncologist tweeting during the week and maybe making one of the more substantial contributions to political debate.

Hoax of the Week

After a budget which will be amongst the draconian ever for lower paid citizens with children, it might seem plausible that some good news should be forthcoming from the Department of Finance. And it seems that some people have been receiving bogus telephone calls pretending to be from the Department of Finance offering tax refunds of €2,000 in return for an upfront payment of €250 and personal details. It is a scam, but you can imagine how the calls might go “Hello, Michael here” Most workers in the State will be paying €264 in extra income tax/PRSI in 2013 so the upfront payment has a ring of familiarity to it.

The Department of Finance wrote on its website.

“The Department of Finance has today (13/12/2012) warned of fraudulent phone call purporting to come from the Department of Finance  seeking personal information from taxpayers in connection with a refund of up to €2,000. The caller tells the recipient that they are due a €2,000 refund but will need to deposit €250 in lieu of tax into a bank account to receive the refund. The caller also asks the recipient to submit personal details including date of birth and bank account details. These calls are not coming from the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance never contacts members of the public in relation to payments or refunds.  Anyone who provided bank information in response to these calls should contact their bank or credit card company immediately”

Table of the Week

The religious denomination analyses from the UK’s Census in March 2011 were published this week, and in the case of Northern Ireland, they made for stark reading, with evidence of a par being reached between the numbers of Catholics and Protestants. The forecast, using the experience of the last intercensal period is that by 2016, the number of Catholics will equal Protestants, which given the historical association of Catholicism with Nationalism and Protestantism with Unionism, might prompt some sober reality-checking in Ireland and Britain.

Man of the Week

This week global bank HSBC agreed to pay USD 1.92bn (€1.5bn) in fines in the US following revelations earlier this year in a Senate report that the company had enabled money laundering to the benefit of Mexican drug cartels and Iran. Two people cited in the Senate report are now sucking at this State’s teat – namely Brendan McDonagh and Michael Geoghegan. It should be stressed that the Brendan McDonagh referred to is on the NTMA board but is a separate Brendan McDonagh to the CEO of NAMA – just coincidence that you have two senior people with the same name in the NTMA (under whose imbrella, NAMA falls). There has been a trend in recent times for folks to adopt a second initial like John C Corrigan or John A Moran, maybe the NAMA CEO should consider such an unfamiliar affection himself so that people like the business editor of the Independent don’t confuse them. Here Maeve, spot the difference:

[the NAMA CEO is on the left]

The UK’s Guardian carried better than average coverage of the fine during the week and had this to say about our man of the week, Michael Geoghegan who is now, at Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s instigation, the chair of the NAMA board having produced a lackluster report on the Agency last year. Michael provides his time free of charge though the Board has an annual budget of €40,000 for just four meetings, so his intake from the State’s teat is limited.

“3. Michael Geoghegan

Left HSBC as a result of Green’s decision to enter government. He was chief executive from 2006 and hoped to step up to chairman. But he lost out in an internal battle and quit after 37 years. In 2010, amid a row about bankers’ bonuses, Geoghegan diverted his £4m bonus to charity – one run by his wife Jania. He has since advised the Irish government on its “bad bank” Nama.”

Forgotten what Michael looks like, Japlandic might help

[Graphic above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here]

Evidence of The Gathering being a Shakedown of the Week


Remember the Global Irish Forum at Dublin Castle in October 2011 when a group of the Diapora offered to serve on state boards free of charge? With the intention of providing a different perspective which would hopefully lead to a cross-pollination of ideas and strengthen the governance and efficiency of quangos and state agencies? 14 months later, how many state boards have taken up the offer of free expertise from giants of global industry? It is understood the answer is zero, but when the Labour TD Tommy Broughan (pictured above) asked the ranine enterprise minister, Richard Bruton, the response was that no track was kept of such appointments! So Diaspora, be sure to visit Ireland in 2013, spend a few bucks on services and amenities that will be temporarily over-inflated just for you, but be sure to leave afterwards, we wouldn’t want you upending the local ecology long since built on world-class gombeenism.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation   the number of executives of multinational companies that have offered to serve on State boards; the members of the Irish diaspora that have been appointed to State boards under the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55800/12]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton:   In line with Government Policy, the process for making appointments to State Boards has, since mid-2011, been administered through the Public Appointments Service (PAS). PAS publicly invites Expressions of Interest from all interested parties, including those of the type referred to in the question. These applications are not categorised by reference to the occupational background of the applicants within their own organisation or on whether they form part of the Irish diaspora.

In parallel with the formal system administered through PAS, I occasionally receive expressions of interest directly from individuals for consideration for appointment to State Boards. While the occupational background of these individuals may not be explicit, I am not aware of any multinational executives having expressed interest through this channel. In all cases, however, any such applicants have been referred to formal process administered the Public Appointments Service.

[Graphics above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here]

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Yesterday’s release of detailed Census figures for Northern Ireland makes for fascinating reading. You can find all the analyses here but one analysis which inevitably has attracted much attention is the religious split of the 1,810,863 people in Northern Ireland in March 2011. This is because of the historical association of Catholicism with Nationalism and Protestantism with Unionism. The figures for March 2011 show 817,385 Catholics and 875,717 Protestants and 117,761 “other”. Belfast and (London)Derry are now Catholic-majority cities, though overall, across the six counties of Northern Ireland, there is a Protestant majority of 58,332.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of Catholics in Northern Ireland increased by 79,912 from 737,473 to 817,385. During the same period, the number of Protestants fell by 19,665 from 895,382 to 875,717. These changes took place over a decade. Taking the changes in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, and dividing these in half would indicate that by the end of 2016, there will be 863,333 Catholics and 864,407 Protestants. A month or two later, Catholics would be in a majority, using this extremely crude extrapolation.

All of this assumes trends seen in the 2000s – more emigration and natural mortality with Protestants and more fertility and immigration with Catholics – continue, and although these trends may not continue, the experience of 92 years since Northern Ireland was created would indicate it was a safe bet that they will.

Of course it is raw and possibly very inaccurate to portray all Catholics as Nationalists and all Protestants as Unionists. In recent weeks, Unionist parties in particular have been keen to claim that some, maybe even a lot of, Catholics support the union between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, ahead of reunification. We have heard little from the other side, but commonsense would suggest that some, maybe even a lot of, Protestants might support reunification ahead of the union with Britain. Might instability and insecurity and an inevitable demographic trend actually accelerate reunification?

The figures are particularly interesting on here because of a hobby interest in the history of Ireland in the second two decades of the last century. What would the original stalwarts of Unionism, James Craig and Edward Carson make of a Northern Ireland today in which 45% were Catholics and 48% were Protestants? After all, the only reason that three of the nine counties in the province of Ulster were lopped off in 1920, was to create an artificial territory and subsequently, a country, where there was a significant majority of Protestants.

In 1911, there were 674,264 Catholics in the nine counties of Ulster and 837,509 and 69,923 “other” – Catholics 42.6% and Protestants 53.0% – and in 1920 when the Island was partitioned, this was deemed too significant a Catholic presence to guarantee Unionists a secure grasp on long-term power. And so a six-county Northern Ireland was carved out of Ulster, with those six counties having a population of 1,250,531 comprising 430,621 Catholics and 768,056 Protestants and 52,313 “other” – or 34.4% Catholics and 61.4% Protestants.

So what does this all mean for the future? Sinn Fein is already angling for a referendum on reunification, and the Good Friday Agreement upon which Northern Ireland’s position is today built, allows for reunification based on a majority in referendums on both sides of the Border, that is a majority in Northern Ireland and a majority in the Republic. The Good Friday Agreement binds both the British and Irish governments to implement that choice. It will be Autumn 2014 when Scotland will hold a referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom. Yesterday’s Census results have probably accelerated the prospects here for a referendum on the Border.

[Sources: Most of the religious splits in former Censuses are derived from the University of Ulster/Conflict Archive on the Internet here http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ni/religion.htm

The 1911 Census for Ulster is taken from the 1911 Census held at Ireland’s National Archives – http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie%5D

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Tomorrow, Iris Oifigiuil, the State’s official publication for notices, will publish the official results of the Childrens Referendum held on Saturday and there is then a 7-day window for anyone to challenge the results in the courts. The betting on here is that there will in fact be a challenge following the Supreme Court judgment last Thursday which upheld a challenge to the use of public money by the Government to promote a “Yes” vote. The Supreme Court judgment, which was handed down less than 48 hours before polling started, reversed a High Court judgment the previous week – we still await the full reasons for the judgment at the Supreme Court and these are expected imminently. Pundits have now suggested that any imminent challenge to the Childrens Referendum result will face an uphill battle despite the Supreme Court ruling, this after the failure of the so-called McKenna judgment in 1995 to be held to be sufficient to overturn the results in the referendum on divorce where the “Yes” and “No” sides were very evenly balanced and ultimately just 9,000 votes separated the two sides out of 1.6m votes cast. The McKenna judgment refers to  Patricia McKenna’s victory in the courts forbade governments from spending public money to promote one side in a referendum.

But for now we have the results of the Childrens Referendum which were as follows (with the results of the Fiscal Compact referendum in May 2012 and the Divorce Referendum in November 1995 for comparison)

I think it would be fair to say that many people have been shocked by the results of the Childrens Referendum where opinion polls and betting odds suggested it would be a landslide victory for the “Yes” side, where there was nary a poster to be seen across the land for the “No” side, with the “Yes” side supported by 164 of the 166 members of the Dail – Mattie McGrath was the only true opposer, we are not supposed to know what An Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett thinks. Billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney was understood to be financially supporting the “Yes” side as was, in spirit, the Church (mostly), the media and as far as I could see, most professionals involved with children. The most prominent proponent of the “No”  campaign, John Waters can hardly be regarded as a totemic figure with national influence.

So what on earth went wrong?

The view on here is the surprisingly large “No” vote is down to complacency about the result PLUS a general turn-off with politics.

The complacency about the result might be attributable to those, including on here for what little it’s worth, who feel that the pre-existing Constitution did provide for the adequate care of children and that it was new legislation, application of existing legislation and funding that was needed to better the lot of children, not an amendment to the Constitution. So even if the Amendment was voted down, the feeling, perhaps, was that it wouldn’t mean a great deal. There were also the opinion polls which suggested the “Yes” side would win 85:15 and Paddy Power offered odds of 1/33 for a “Yes” win, that is, a €33 bet would win you €1.

The results of the most recent opinion poll to measure party support suggested that a large number of people couldn’t or wouldn’t identify any political party or grouping deserving of their vote. Satisfaction with all party leaders is down. That’s understandable, we’re still in an economic mess and Fine Gael and more surprisingly Labour have continued the policies of Fianna Fail, and there doesn’t seem to be any widespread confidence that Sinn Fein would do any better.  Of those who do express a preference for a political grouping, Fine Gael, the main party in power, remains tops with 30-35% of the vote.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad this year – in his address to the nation last December 4th, 2011 he stated “next year, we will hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad” and it is remarkable that after Saturday’s surprise, some have been quick to suggest we should delay future referenda until we figure out what happened. Nice try, senators and aspirants to being senators, or those who see the Seanad as a political safety net or source of party funding! It is hilarious to hear those suggesting a delay to the Seanad’s abolishment referendum until such time as we’ve established if the result was down to the referendum being held on a Saturday.  Whilst the country faces into this present level of crisis and distress and whilst we are reliant on bailout funding from Denmark which abolished its own Seanad in the 1950s, your days are numbered Senators!

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The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin city centre has the builders in at the moment and as a result of the ongoing refurbishment, the best, or most well-known, of the Irish-painted works have been thrown together in one room. Each painting has a little placard giving a little information about the artist and the work. And each artist’s birth and death year is shown, as is the place of birth and place of death. What is remarkable is the number of Irish artists who died overseas. Yes, some died in Rome or in France, traditional homes of great art, but most died in London, or Exeter or the Isle of Wight. Or Poughkeepsie in New York state – hardly world-renowned for its artistic attractions. With the intense Irish weather, the brilliant skies and preponderance of rain, you might have expected more of our artists to stay, and even to attract artists from elsewhere. But this one great room in the National Gallery shows us as much about our history of emigration as it does about our art.

Actor, Gabriel Byrne – star of “Bracken” where he was Dinny and Miley’s neighbour, and “The Usual Suspects” – hit the headlines this week for criticising An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech launching The Gathering 2013, a speech which Gabriel claims rubbed Americans up the wrong way and which he also found hollow in light of his own experiences with the famous Irish Diaspora – emigrants and their descendants. The Gathering 2013 is primarily a tourism drive promoting Ireland to the Diaspora and inviting the Diaspora to visit the country in 2013 where a number of special events will be held, and where there will be individual “gatherings” of those with the same family surname.

What seems to have gotten Gabriel’s goat is the overt commercialisation of The Gathering, the key performance indicator of which will be the hoped-for 325,000 extra tourists and their contribution to the revival of the Irish economy.  And as a worker himself in the US, Gabriel has encountered that painful aspect of illegal Irish emigration – the Irish emigrant working illegally in the US, unable to return to Ireland for a funeral, christening or wedding because they would be unable to re-gain admission to the US afterwards. So Gabriel attacked The Gathering 2013 as a “scam” claiming we don’t care about our emigrants except to shake them down for a few quid.

The evidence suggests Gabriel is correct. We have senior members of this Government hoping that emigration will lessen the burden on the social welfare budget and help make the unemployment figures look cosmetically better. We have Minister Noonan dismissing concerns about emigration – 87,000 in the year to April 2012 according to the Central Statistics Office or an average of 240 for each of the 365 days last year – and suggesting it is a lifestyle choice. And maybe for some it is a lifestyle choice, but it seems that lifestyle choices have altered radically since the onset of the financial and property crisis in 2007/8 when only an estimated 45,300 emigrated in the 12 months to April 2008.

Irish has a painful history of emigration.

And do we care about our emigrants? Officially we seem glad to see the back of them. Unless of course the nation’s finances get so dire and the local well of gombeenism runs dry, and then we have to resort to appealing to their patriotism and sense of roots. As long as they bring their cheque-books with them.

Perhaps one day in the future, we might get a leader that will stand outside Dublin airport on St Stephen’s Day and apologise to those taking the planes to London, Boston and Sydney for the failure of this country to provide a space to grow up, be educated, work, have a family and a career and to grow old. And perhaps one day, we might frame a series of events that go beyond the fleecing of a few dollars by those who stayed from those who didn’t.

(Graphics above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here)

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Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, but thankfully those delicious creatures have no say in the matter. Likewise, politicians are unlikely to vote for measures which will curtail or eliminate their power or privileges. So how do you get political reform when no political party is offering the realistic prospect of delivering such reform once they get their hands on the levers of power? There is no simple answer but the media, the IMF and possibly the creation of a lobby group like the UK’s Tax Payers Alliance might have a role to play. Because, left to their own devices, it seems no political party will address the following no matter how fulsomely they promise to.

(1) Abolish Seanad Eireann

Last December 2011, An Taoiseach (pictured above) delivered an address to the nation on the eve of the budget, and he looked us straight in the eye and said “50 quangos will be abolished or merged, and the public sector will be downsized by 23,000 people by 2015. Next year, we will hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad. But these steps are just a start”. There will be no Seanad abolition referendum this year, the commitment has gone the same way as the patronising proposal for An Taoiseach to prepare report cards on his ministers and to deal with underperformance – if Ministers Hogan, Reilly, Shatter, Howlin, Noonan and Bruton are all performing well, then the standards are such that any report card review is a waste of time. Our benefactors in Denmark who are advancing us €400m as part of the so-called bailout got rid of the Seanad in the 1950s, it hasn’t done them any harm. And although decision-making in the Oireachtas would suffer from the absence of some of our 60 senators, we just can’t afford a quasi-undemocratic organ of government, many of whose members seem to be regularly absent from voting.

(2) Cut political pay and perks
Just over a week ago, we witnessed the spectacle of our €200,000-a-year Taoiseach flying to Rome to meet with the €0-a-year Italian prime minister Mario Monti, with the objective of building support for debt relief for Ireland. The rumour that Mario asked Enda for the loan of a tenner for a week is probably aprocryphal, and of course Mario is an exceptional leader who hasn’t been elected but who has nonetheless waived his entire salary in solidarity with the Italian nation which is facing austerity to rein in a small deficit and to reduce a colossal debt mountain. But Enda is better paid than his counterparts in the UK, Denmark and Sweden – the three non-euro countries providing bilateral loans as part of the so-called bailout. An Taoiseach is at the top of the pile and the relative extravagance of his salary is mirrored all the way down until you get to lowest of civil servants who are seemingly paid less than their European peers. If you feel like raising your blood pressure without going for a jog on this dreary Sunday, you can read the full list of rewards on offers to our TDs and senators here.

(3) All expenses incurred by politicians to be vouched
Unless you’re one of the Quinn family who doesn’t know how much their wedding cake was but know that the tab was definitely picked up at Daddy’s company, anyone working in the private sector knows that when you claim expenses you provide receipts or other evidence of the sum claimed. Not so, if you are a TD or senator, entitled to the following unvouched payments – “unvouched” means they don’t need offer receipts to get the allowance

(a) Travel and accommodation: TDs get €12,000-€37,850 each per annum depending on distance from the Leinster House. Senators get paid €7,000-€32,850 per annum and so-called “office holders” get paid €8,400-€36,150 per annum, the lower limit is unvouched.
(b) Public Representation Allowance: TDs get €15,000-€25,700; Ministers €12,000- €20,000; Senators €9,250-€15,000, the lower limits are unvouched
(c) Dual Abode Allowance for ministers which includes €6,500 unvouched for maintaining property

(4) No hiring of family or friends to political positions funded from the public purse
Unlucky Labour party chairman Colm Keaveney recently hit the headlines when it was revealed that he was paying his wife €52,000 from the public purse to be his parliamentary assistant. There was a minor murmur of discontent but he is not the only one employing relatives. Here’s the list.

(5) Compulsory acquisition of land capped at 125% current value
Back in 1973/4 Judge Kenny produced his famous Kenny Report which primarily examined the cost of private land acquired using the public purse to develop public infrastructure – roads, schools, hospitals etc. And yet in 2012, it remains the case that farmers get paid €100,000-plus per acre for agricultural land worth about €10,000-an-acre, when that land is compulsorily acquired for the common good. The essence of Judge Kenny’s recommendation 40 years ago was that landowners would be paid a premium of no more than 25% of the land’s value when that land was compulsorily acquired, so a farmer would get no more than €12,500-an-acre for land worth €10,000-an-acre. All political parties embraced this recommendation, and yet somehow when they got into office, they – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Democratic Left, Progressive Democrats, Greens – never managed to give effect to the recommendation. Cynics might suggest that political parties didn’t want to offend donors or the wealthy with reform. So we have ended up with the flagitious position in 2012 that property millionaires are being created by the Government which is at the same time demanding €100 from every household regardless of means.

(6) Reduce the number of county and city councils
Remember this brilliant report by the Irish Examiner, extract shown here?

Yes, Ireland, a country with a population of just under 4.6m people has 34 city and county councils and the head of each one of them earns nearly twice that of the Spanish prime minister. Of course merging councils may mean a local backlash from grass roots, and the Croke Park Agreement seemingly prevents any adjustment of salary.

(7) A comprehensive property price register
Last weekend with the introduction of the Property Price Register, we finally saw the partial realisation of the proposal in Judge Kenny’s 1973/74 Kenny Report for such a public register. And oh how we have embraced this new transparency, less than a week after the website was launched it is the 488th most visited website in Ireland, and the betting on here is that it will be in the Top 20 by the end of October 2012. We can see that (current Minister) Paul Kehoe paid (current Minister) Phil Hogan €355,000 for 17 Heddington Square in Dublin in 2010, we can see that NAMA has some questions to answer about its deferred mortgage initiative but most of all, we can see how much property really costs in this country. But this is only for residential property which is transferred from one person to another. It excludes residential property transferred via shares in limited companies or alterations to trust deeds. But more importantly, it excludes other types of property, commercial and land. We found out during the week that (then Minister) Mary Coughlan created two property millionaires in 2010 through acquiring two plots of land for schools. But Minister Ruairi Quinn refuses to tell us how many millionaires he created in 2011. We are also in the dark on commercial and residential rents. Knowing the value of land transactions including those involving our money improves transparency and competitiveness, and reduces the scope for corruption and stroke politics.

(8) Streamline and reduce quangos
Remember last year – July 5th 2011, in fact – when Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton announced the merger of Ann Fitzgerald’s National Consumer Agency with the Competition Authority? You have? Well it seems it has slipped Minister Bruton’s mind. In fact Enda Kenny promised last December to merge or abolish 50 quangos and nearly a year later, there is precious little evidence of the promised Bonfire of the Quangos. Of course there is a need for some quangos and some perform a decent service, but we all know that quangos act as a receptacle for political patronage, and if there is downsizing, the incumbent ministers lose power.

(9) Reform competition in the legal, medical and accounting professions
This one might confuse you, because you might have thought that these so-called sheltered professions were being reformed as part of the IMF programme. But nearly two years since the IMF came to town on official business, there has been no obvious reduction in the cost of our professions. Indeed it’s gotten so bad that even the second best paid judges in Europe are criticising the fees being run up by receivers. But political parties depend on the patronage of these professions for support, so how do politicians reform these professions which will have the effect of cutting pay, and at the same time hope to keep much-needed practical support.

(10) Open recruitment for positions funded by the public purse
Remember the advertising for vacancies on the NAMA advisory board earlier this year? They received 25 applications with the closing date for receipt of applications, 6th March 2012. And less than 24 hours later, with what looked like indecent haste, they had appointed John Mulcahy. Remember the appointments to the Fiscal Advisory Council in July last year? And it seems from the recent Oireachtas hearing that the Council has itself engaged a so-called secretariat of economists. Did you see any advertising for these roles?

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Website of the Week

Right now, practically none of you has heard of propertypriceregister.ie but by the end of tomorrow it is set to become one of the most visited websites in Ireland. Tom Lynch, the CEO of the Property Services Regulatory Authority says that the new register of residential property sales prices, which will include sales as far back as January 2010, is set to go live tomorrow, 30th September 2012. The above is what the website looks like on Saturday morning. It might be worth pausing for a moment to consider how it was back in 1973/74 that Judge Kenny in his Kenny Report, recommended the introduction of a public property price register, something which was warmly embraced in public by all political parties – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Democratic Left, Greens, Progressive Democrats – and yet, somehow, when they got into power it never happened. You can thank the IMF that it is happening tomorrow, and I have no doubt were it not for the IMF, this Government would have created some excuse to delay the introduction of a tool which will immeasurably improve transparency in this country. Along with a fiscal council, bankruptcy reform, a central credit register, reform of the medical and legal sectors, it’s another innovation brought to us by the IMF.

Bad but it could be worse of the week


With the spate of six killings in the past eight days, you could be forgiven for thinking that we are truly on our way to Hell in a handcart with a breakdown in law and order, but annual recorded crime statistics from the CSO this week revealed that in most categories of crime, including killings or homicide, the numbers for the year ended June 2012 are down on the previous year. Homicides were down by 19 to 62 in the year. Burglary was one of the few categories to show an increase of 10% to 28,623 incidences in the most recent statistics. Still though, the perception of deteriorating law and order is there, but those perceptions of society being better in the old days, though common, aren’t always borne out by the facts.

Table of the Week


The Comptroller and Auditor General published its annual report this week where it set out the work undertaken on the nation’s finances. Jaw-dropping errors were uncovered and the 300-page report is worth a read, but its overview of the national debt is particularly enlightening and the above very simple table shows just how much our finances have deteriorated since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007/8.

This was the week we learned that 87,100 were estimated to have emigrated in the 12 months to April 2012, a daily average of 240 putting our emigration rate at an absolute record since 1987 and just behind 1989 in terms of rate of emigration per 1,000.

Foreign News story of the Week

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, see above, that a country in financial distress is set to have its state owned bank – 99.8% state-owned AIB, which has thus far received at least €20.7bn of a bailout – pay €1bn to bondholders on Monday next 1st October. The world-renowned WSJ seems to be in wonderment at such generous behaviour, considering how the country in question is verging on being an economic basket case (14.8% unemployment, debt:GDP set to rise to 120% in 2013 or 150% of GNP, €13bn or 8.4% deficit with difficult budget adjustments ahead, close to zero economic growth, 87,000 emigrants per year, subject to an IMF bailout)

Domestic News story of the Week

Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of the above country and its €1bn bond payment in the domestic media. Mind you, when AIB paid out €1.5bn to senior unsecured unguaranteed bondholders in April 2012, there was nary a mention of the matter in our national broadcaster, save to report an incident when an AIB branch in Dublin was briefly occupied by protesters. Some people claim that RTE is a government mouthpiece trying to stultify us into thinking it will all be good and we have turned the corner. That seems to be unfair on the organisation and the individuals working there, and a more realistic reason might be that they’re just not very good at reporting, or basic arithmetic judging by their percentage calculations below

Parade of the Week

There are 48 parades taking place in Northern Ireland today, many commemorating the signing of the Ulster Covenant 100 years ago when over 400,000 men and women signed petitions seeking to promote the union with Britain. About two hours ago, the main parade in Belfast got underway with 209 bands and over 20,000 parade participants plus an unknown number of spectators. As with a small number of parades each year in Northern Ireland, there will be a protest in the Carrick Hill area of Belfast, a protest limited to 150 participants – this particular area has been the scene of serious public order disturbances this year with a band filmed playing sectarian music outside a church, Orange Order parades breaking the terms under which licence to march had been granted and rioting which left scores of policemen and women wounded. The parade today and the protest have been the subjects of determinations by the Parades Commission with which all parades – be they a Maxda MX5 rally or a charitable demonstration – must be approved. An extract from the determination for today’s main march in Belfast is shown above and is here. The terms governing the protest are here. People on this side of the Border may be bewildered at this state of affairs – tomorrow at 11.30am, the Ballyhea bondholder protesters will meet at the Garden of Remembrance at the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin at 11.30am from whence they will march at noon to Croke Park. There will be a march at 11.30am in Charleville also. They’re protesting the payment of bonds in state-owned banks – which are in receipt of €64bn of our cash/promissory notes so far plus €6bn of state-aid from NAMA – repaying 100% of sums owed to bondholders. There is less than €190m of the most contentious bonds left at IBRC but there are still billions in AIB, PTSB and Bank of Ireland – AIB is 99.8% state-owned, PTSB is 99% state-owned, BofI is 15% state-owned though given the state-ownership of preference shares, arguably BofI is de facto state-owned also. Details of the march and of the €1bn bond being paid on Monday 1st October are here.

Stoke the Rage of the Week

Yesterday the Department of Finance published its own accounts for 2011 and gave us detailed information on pension payments made to former (and current) politicians. You probably won’t be pleased at the sums paid to former politicians given some of their records in office…

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