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The Council of State, Atheists and Impaired Politicians


Michael D Higgins, our esteemed President, is about to convene a meeting of the Council of State to help him decide whether of not he should refer the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act to the Supreme Court for a test of its constitutionality.  If the court judges that the Act is constitutional, it becomes bullet-proof and can never again be challenged on those grounds.  On the other hand, the court might strike the Act down in its entirety and then we’re all back on the same merry-go-round yet again – the government’s nightmare outcome, and mine too, if I must be honest.  Another six months of listening to the Iona Institute people would just about finish me off.

michael d higgins

The President isn’t obliged to take whatever advice the Council offers him, but he must consult them before he sends an Act to the Supreme Court, so I thought it might be useful to explain how this Council is made up. According to Article 31 of the constitution, it consists of the current Taoiseach and Tánaiste, or, for those unfamiliar with ludicrously pompous feudal Gaelic terms, the prime minister and deputy prime minister.  Likewise, the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, the Chairmen of the Dáil and the Senate (soon to be abolished if Enda gets his way) and the Attorney General. All former prime ministers are automatically members, though they must be willing and able, which brings up a difficulty I’ll come back to in a minute. In addition, the President can appoint seven nominees at his absolute discretion. The current members are as follows.

Enda Kenny Taoiseach
Éamon Gilmore Deputy taoiseach
Sean Barrett Chairman of the Dail
Paddy Burke Chairman of the Senate
Susan Denham Chief Justice
Nicholas Kearns President of the High Court
Maire Whelan Attorney General
Mary Robinson Former President
Mary McAleese Former President
Liam Cosgrave Former Taoiseach
Albert Reynolds Former Taoiseach
John Bruton Former Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern Former Taoiseach
Brian Cowen Former Taoiseach
John Murray Former Chief Justice
Thomas Finlay Former Chief Justice
Ronan Keane Former Chief Justice
Michael Farrell, Presidential Nominee
Deirdre Heenan, Presidential Nominee
Catherine McGuinness, Presidential Nominee
Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Presidential Nominee
Ruairí McKiernan, Presidential Nominee
Sally Mulready, Presidential Nominee
Gerard Quinn Presidential Nominee

The first hurdle occurs with our beloved deputy Prime Minister, Éamon Gilmore.  Éamon, you see, describes himself as an agnostic, but because our constitution is so deeply mired in the confessional swamp that was the Ireland of 1937, every member of the Council must swear an oath, as follows:

In the presence of Almighty God I, Joe Soap, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.

As a non-believer, Éamon found himself conflicted by this and took legal advice, but it seems he’s happy enough to swear in the presence of a deity he doesn’t believe in, and I suppose he’s right.  After all, the wording seems carefully constructed to give atheists a way out, since it doesn’t require him to swear to Almighty God, as happens in the courts, unless a witness chooses the option toaffirm.  It simply requires him to promise and declare in the presence of the non-existent deity.  Look, he’s a politician, well-used to believing two different things at the same time. Besides, the preamble to the Constitution is far worse.  How’s this for inclusivity?

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity,  so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the  unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

Nice.  How does that work with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of no religion who also happen to be Irish citizens?  The most holy trinity from whom all authority derives.  That’s a theocracy, last time I checked. How does our Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, who happens to be a Jew, feel about his constitution acknowledging his obligations to our divine lord, Jesus Christ?

That’s Ireland for you, and Britain too, where the Queen is the head of the established church, lest anyone be too quick to sneer, but let’s get on with the Council of State.

Besides the atheist who’s happy to swear in the presence of a god he doesn’t believe in, we have five former prime ministers, four of whom assiduously dodged the problem of the X Case judgement.  One of them, John Bruton, is already on record as opposing the current Act on religious grounds.  Two others —  Brian Cowen and the man in the cupboard, Bertie Ahern — are responsible for crashing our country into a gigantic brick wall while another, Albert Reynolds, declined to give evidence to a tribunal of inquiry into planning corruption on the grounds of cognitive impairment.  In other words, he couldn’t remember an Irish military helicopter ferrying him to a secret meeting with a property developer and he had no memory of the government Learjet diverting to an unscheduled rendezvous in Bermuda.  Poor man’s mind is gone, sadly.  And yet, here he is, sitting on the Council of State.

Old Liam Cosgrave meanwhile, still hale and hearty at 92 years of age, will go down in history as the Taoiseach who voted against his own government on contraception legislation due to his strong Catholic beliefs.

There isn’t any set procedure laid down for how the meeting will be conducted, however, and Michael D is a wily old guy, so perhaps it will be closely circumscribed.  He might decide simply to ask them a legal question: in your opinion, is this Act constitutional or not?

If we exclude Brian Cowen on the arbitrary grounds that he completed the crash started by Ahern, that he’s only a small-town solicitor who never practised much anyway and that I just don’t like him, we still have eight senior lawyers who should be able to advise Michael D dispassionately. What will the others advise him on?  Who knows? I suppose Da Bert could give him a tip on ahorse and Cowen could offer his opinions on nude portraiture.  Bruton could entertain everyone with his famous party laugh and Cosgrave could re-enact his world-renowned Crossing of the Floor, the original Riverdance but with added hypocrisy.

Let’s not forget the ferment of rage that must be taking place in this assembly of the great and the good.  How does the chairman of the Senate feel about the current prime minister who supports this act and yet who wants to abolish the very House he presides over?  I’m only speaking personally here, but I think I’d feel tempted to shaft Enda one last time before being abolished.  Clearly, Mr Burke is a far more professional individual than I am and would never dream of sinking so low, but still, human nature is what it is.  I’d knife him.

I’m fascinated by the process, since it’s not laid down anywhere that I can find.  Where will they hold the meeting?  What time will it happen?  Will Michael D supply the drink or will they all turn up with slabs?  Will they drive or come in taxis?  Will they have a barbecue?  Will someone make a CD mix? The weather is really great at the moment although you can’t be too careful.  Lately there’s been a lot of thunderstorms but that’s to be expected with all the heat, so maybe they should set up a gazebo and everyone could huddle inside it together if there’s a sudden downpour.  It would make for a cheerful atmosphere, and they’ll get along much better after getting to know each other. I’d say they’ll make burgers and maybe put out some nachos with a cheese dip.  What do you think?  Spare ribs?  Red stuff all over your face?  Send Bruton down to the off-licence for more ice. Michael D might even read them some of his poetry before leading them to the overwhelming question: what’ll we do? Ah, I don’t know.  That’s why I’m not the president, the chief justice or even a spiv in a yellow suit hiding in a cupboard.

Thankfully.

 

VIA

http://bocktherobber.com/2013/07/the-council-of-state-atheists-and-impaired-politicians/

Thousands of homes targeted for seizure by banks


images

BANKS have initiated legal action to repossess thousands of houses and apartments, it has emerged.

This is despite a loophole in the law blocking repossessions.

A new report estimates that lenders have issued legal proceedings to take properties off up to 44,000 borrowers.

These are made up of residential and buy-to-let properties, according to calculations contained in a new report by Davy Stockbrokers.

An analysis estimates that what it calls non-cooperative borrowers number between 23,700 and 43,700.

FEARS

Letters threatening legal action have been sent to these borrowers.

And there are fears that large numbers of properties, particularly buy-to-lets, will be repossessed.

Legal action to repossess properties has been taken by both AIB and Bank of Ireland in around one in five of arrears cases, according to the report by Davy‘s Conail Mac Coille.

Ulster Bank said that up to a third of its property owners in arrears were making no payments at all. The bank said it would not hesitate to repossess in these cases.

Strong demand for family-type homes and the presence in the market of large numbers of cash buyers mean that a flood of newly repossessed properties can be absorbed.

A number of banks were also likely to keep repossessed properties on their books, take the rental income and slowly release them on the market, Mr Mac Coille wrote. Changes in the law to restore the right of lenders to repossess properties have been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and are expected to become law soon.

Davy reckons that arrears will keep rising this year, with large numbers of homeowners struggling to repay largely due to income decreases rather than job losses.

Two-thirds of those in arrears are in a job, according to comments by Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan.

For large numbers of borrowers in trouble the mortgage repayments are so high they represent more than half of their income, Davy reported, citing unpublished Central Bank studies.

A separate MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) report found that distressed borrowers had just €777 a month left, after paying for utilities, food and childcare. But the mortgage was around €500 a month.

SPLIT

Banks will have to write down up to €11.5bn of mortgage debt. Most of this will be in the form of split mortgages where part of the mortgage owed is put to one side, and in most cases will probably have to be written off at the end of the mortgage term.

But one-third of borrowers are in such a bad financial position that a debt writedown will not work. These are mainly buy-to-let investors.

Half of investor mortgages are paying interest only. Despite this, almost 30,000 out of 150,000 buy-to-let mortgages are in arrears.

Irish Independent

via Thousands of homes targeted for seizure by banks – Independent.ie.

The Psychology of an Irish Meltdown


By TANA FRENCH

28IRELAND-articleLarge

 

 

DUBLIN — FOR the past month, Ireland has been outraged by tapes of Anglo Irish Bank officials, back in 2008, discussing lying to the government about how big a loan they needed, and how they knew there was no chance that the loan would ever be repaid. That loan was the first domino in a sequence that ended with the whole Irish economy flat on its face.

It’s not the bankers’ actions that have outraged people — pretty much everyone had a fair idea that this was what had gone down. It’s the overpowering sense of amorality revealed on the recordings, which were released by the Irish Independent newspaper. The bankers have a great laugh about the situation. It genuinely never seems to mean anything to them that the taxpayer is going to be forced to pay their bills, to the tune of tens of billions. More than that: it never seems to occur to them that their actions might harm people.

I write psychological crime, so I spend a fair amount of time thinking about morality and amorality and what underlies them. And it seems to me that this amorality could be a symptom of something deeper: a total disconnect between action and consequence.

Ireland’s population is just over half that of New York City’s. Our ruling class — including many of the politicians, bankers and property developers who wrecked the economy — is a tiny community, interwoven by friendship, marriages, education, sports and financial transactions to a degree that would be unimaginable in a bigger country. That interweaving has created a safety net that won’t let any of the ruling elite fall. If you’re a banker and your golf buddy’s kid wants to be a banker, then it doesn’t matter if the kid is an idiot, or if he kills cats for kicks: you’ll take him on, and you’ll keep him on.

For many of these people, action and consequence don’t apply; their lives are mapped out from birth, and nothing they do will alter that map. It seems to me that that would be intensely disempowering, even terrifying. Instead of being a series of interlinked actions, life is made up of a scattering of events that have no discernible relationship to one another and that you don’t influence in any real way. In that climate, it would be difficult to develop the sense that your actions make any difference, that you have any responsibility for the consequences. Without cause and effect, there’s no foundation for morality.

I’m not saying this is an excuse. It isn’t. But, like everyone in Ireland, I want answers — for the taxes piled on taxes, for the enormous cuts to essential services, for the dole queues and the flood of emigration, for the desperation in the voices of people who are trapped in ghost estates and don’t have the money to buy their kids shoes. And I wonder if this could be one small facet of one of the answers.

Another question, maybe a more interesting one, is how people who weren’t part of that powerful elite got sucked into the property pyramid scheme that fueled the boom. Some commentators have implied that the answer is basically the same: people got deep into credit-card debt, or took out mortgages for 10 times their income, because they were temporarily sucked into the psychosis of the powerful and it didn’t occur to them that there might be consequences.

But I wonder if, for these people, the truth might actually be the opposite.

Throughout the economic boom, the politicians and bankers and property developers, along with the news media, were telling all of us that cause and effect were perfectly, inextricably linked: “If you buy a vastly overpriced and shoddily built house in the middle of nowhere, the economy will keep growing, and in a few years your house’s value will have doubled, and you can sell it to some other sucker and buy something you actually want and live happily ever after and UTOPIA!!!” It was as simple and certain as sticking a coin into a vending machine: insert Action X, and the life machine will inevitably whir and beep and spit out Future Y.

THE Irish are notoriously cynical, but the Utopia myth hit at exactly the moment when we were most open to unquestioning belief. The majority of Irish people were so desperately poor, for most of the country’s history, that when suddenly we weren’t broke any longer, the cynicism was washed away by the flood of prosperity. We needed to believe that the Celtic Tiger hadn’t simply wandered in, because that would mean it could wander out again. We needed to believe that we had somehow made it happen, and that therefore there were things we could do, like buying overpriced houses, to make it keep happening. We needed, basically, to believe in that chain of action and consequence.

And so the Irish tendency to raise an eyebrow at anything that’s presented as certain paradise dissolved just at the moment when it was needed most.

A lot of my generation believed that chain was unbreakable. When it shattered, so did they — not just financially (although that too), but also psychologically. Their whole sense of a world governed by coherent cause and effect, of their ability to have any agency in their own lives, came under attack.

Those people, the ones who trusted too deeply in action and consequence, were the ones who got utterly, shamelessly destroyed by the people who had no such belief. I’m pretty sure the effects of that betrayal, for Ireland, will take decades to fully unfurl.

Tana French is the author, most recently, of the novel “Broken Harbor.”

via The Psychology of an Irish Meltdown – NYTimes.com.

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly says current republic a ‘perversion’ of 1916 ideals


 

“The republic that was created from the ashes of the rising was a perversion of the human rights ideals of 1916,” the outgoing Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has said.

Addressing the first evening of the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal, she said people were not yet fully aware of what a real republic looked like. Delivering the 13th annual John Hume lecture, Ms O’Reilly said it was particularly appropriate that the lecture was named after the Nobel peace prize winner as he was a “pre-eminent human rights defender”.

She criticised the successors of the 1916 leaders, accusing them of franchising the State “to a private organisation called the Catholic Church, shedding in particular its responsibility for the education and health systems, and thereby allowing little actual space for the elected leaders of this republic to play their role in pursuing the happiness and prosperity of the nation”.

It was difficult for citizens to remind themselves that “we are actually the ones in charge”.

This was a difficulty, she added, that the executive and judiciary also struggled with. Referring to former attorney general Peter Sutherland, she said his core assertion made in a speech earlier this year, that the courts were “inappropriately forced to decide not alone what our values in this republic are or should be, but also to divine what the elected representatives of the people think about those values”.

She said that while the courts had too much unwanted power, parliament spent “much of its time ducking and diving and pretending it has no power whatsoever”. She accused the executive of “planting its boot far too firmly on the neck of the parliament and wielding power in a manner never envisaged by the Constitution.”

Quoting President Michael D Higgins, she said: “There is a deep-seated anti-intellectualism prevalent in Irish life,” and that our political and cultural life was marked by the false notion that one person’s ignorance was as good as another’s knowledge. She turned to the Constitution, quoting article 28.4.1 which states that the Government “shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”.

“Quite clearly this is not the case. The nub of the problem is that parliament does not take itself seriously,” she said. “Our failures are essentially human rights failures and we should be particularly alive to the fact that, never more so than at a time of recession and austerity, are bodies such as a Human Rights Commission and an Equality Authority needed to make sure that in a decade’s time we won’t be weeping our way through another pitiful cataloguing of State-inflicted abuse, albeit with a modern twist.”

In his opening address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he looked to 2016 and the centenary of the Easter Rising. “To be a real republic, Ireland has to be a sovereign republic,” he said. “We will strive . . . and work even harder so that we will become the best small country in the world for business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect. This will be the republic of 2016.”

via Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly says current republic a ‘perversion’ of 1916 ideals – Social Affairs & News from Ireland & Abroad | The Irish Times – Mon, Jul 29, 2013.

Irish Economy:- Hold Your Breath – We’ll be Underwater for a Very Long Time –


Kevin O’Rourke links to an interesting paper by Jeff Frankel which discusses different ways recessions are measured.  The standard European measurement says that when an economy falls two quarters in a row it is officially in recession (we know all about that given our official double-dip).  This measurement has the advantage of being statistically clear and simple.  This, though, can lead to false readings.  For instance, over two years the economy declines in half of the eight quarters – leaving it much lower.  If, though, none of those quarters were consecutive, then according to the European measurement, there was no recession even though output has fallen.  This may be an extreme case but it shows how quirky this measurement can be.

The US has a different way of measuring recessions.  According to Frankel:

‘In the United States, the arbiter of when recessions begin and end is the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).    The NBER Committee does not use that rule of thumb (Europe’s two consecutive quarters of decline), nor any other quantifiable rule . . . When it makes its judgments it looks beyond the most recently reported GDP numbers to include also employment and a variety other indicators, in part because output measures are subject to errors and revisions.   The Committee sees nothing special in the criterion of two consecutive quarters.’

The problem with this approach is that there is no single definitive measurement so disputes easily arise.

I’d like to introduce another way to measure a recession.  It is based on the sinking-ship metaphor.  A ship starts sinking.  It eventually stops and starts to rise again.  While it’s rising back to the surface we can say that it is in recovery mode.  However, it will remain below water until it gets back to the surface.

Similarly with an economy:  an economy goes into decline, eventually stops falling and starts rising.  However, it remains metaphorically below water until it returns to the point at which it had started sinking.  If an economy is below its pre-recession levels it remains ‘recessed’.

Take, for instance, the US Great Depression in the 1930s.  The economy tanked big time in 1929.  However, by 1935 the economy had experienced nearly three years of rising GDP, employment, consumer spending and investment.  However, no one then (or now) would have said that the Great Depression was over by 1935 – it was still well below its 1929 level.

Let’s apply the sinking-ship measurement to the Irish economy, using the IMF projections out to 2018.

GDPperC

In 2007, the economy was generating a little over €43,000 for every woman, man and child. As seen, according to the IMF projections, even by 2018 the economy will not have returned to the 2007 level.  It won’t happen until 2019.  In other words, the economy will remain under-water for 11 years – in other words, ‘recessed’.

Of course, this is GDP – which is flattered by multi-national accounting practices (profit-tourism, etc.).  What does it look like when we measure GNP per capita?  Here we use the Government’s own assumptions in their end-of-the-decade scenario.

GNPperC

When looking at this domestic measurement (with all its faults) we find that the economy will be underwater for 14 years.  14 years.  We won’t find ourselves above pre-recession levels until 2022.  And if that’s not depressing enough, the ESRI’s John Fitzgerald estimates that even our GNP figures are over-stated given the presence of re-domiciled multi-nationals.  The real GNP figures are substantially lower which suggests that a return to the surface could take even longer based on projected trends.

Staying with the metaphor, when the ship returns to the surface what kind of shape will it be in?  Even though the economy has returned to the surface, many people will still be underwater.   The Government’s end-of-the-decade scenario projects double-digit unemployment by 2019.  Average real wages may not return to pre-recession levels until 2020 and even later.  How many will still be living in deprivation, how many in poverty, how many will have emigrated?  The ship may be back on the surface, hundreds of thousands won’t be.

To give another idea of what we’re facing into, let’s use the Government’s assumptions to track the ‘jobs recession’.

NumbersAtwork

We won’t return to pre-crisis levels of employment until 2024.  That’s 16 years under-water.

So when we start growing again – GDP, domestic demand, employment – just remember:  we will have to grow for a long-time just to get back to where everything started collapsing.  In other words, the ship may start rising soon but we will be underwater for a very long time.

Hopefully, you can hold your breath.

By Michael Taft,

– See more at: http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/07/26/hold-breath-underwater-long-time/#sthash.RO78Qpia.dpuf

VIA

http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/07/26/hold-breath-underwater-long-time/

Politics and Money Irish Style


25

Lowry Tapes led to raid by Revenue

THE Revenue Commissioners‘ raid on the home of independent TD Michael Lowry was a “direct result” of his statement in the Lowry Tapes that he “never declared” a sum read full article

Note

 The number of complaints received by the ethics watchdog last year which related directly to Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry is 388

19

Not a bad old life for skint Quinlan on the Riviera, n’est-ce pas?

IF one were to liken the boom and the bust that followed to a game of musical chairs, former King Midas to Ireland’s great and good Derek Quinlan didn’t just grab a chair when the music read full article

independent.ie

22

Varadkar bid to prevent TDs abusing travel privileges fails

AN oIreachtas committee chaired by the Ceann Com-hairle Sean Barrett has rebuffed attempts by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to draw up guidelines to prevent TDs from abusing their tra read full article

independent.ie

11

With €2.5m debts plus tax arrears, what’s keeping Minister Perry?

PRESSURE mounted on junior minister John Perry to resign last night after it emerged that he will be highly unlikely to be able to pay off his €2.5m debts – even if he sold all of his a read full article

independent.ie

24

Jailings for not paying tiny fines up 25 per cent

THE number of people being sent to jail for failing to pay paltry court fines has soared by 25 per cent in just two years. read full article

2

Budget will be tough, Gilmore warns householders

HARD-pressed householders have been warned not to expect any respite from the forthcoming Budget.read full article

independent.ie

16

Court clears way for people to sue individual bankers

A HIGH Court judge has cleared the way for aggrieved customers to initiate private criminal prosecutions against bank staff. read full article

independent.ie

4

Childers: Labour figures bullied me

INDEPENDENT MEP Nessa Childers, who resigned from the Labour Party last week, has sensationally claimed that she was subjected to a campaign of “overt bullying” by senior part read full article

independent.ie

 

 

Meetings of the council take place behind closed doors and no detailed record kept read full article

irishtimes.com

Former Anglo Irish Bank bosses claim media lynch mob ahead of trial


Lawyers for disgraced Anglo Irish Bank chief Sean Fitzpatrick fear a media witch hunt when he finally goes to trial next year.

They have also claimed the Irish media are fuelling a ‘lynch mob’ mentality against Fitzpatrick and other Anglo bosses.

The comments were made as Fitzpatrick’s lawyers sought the early appointment of a trial judge to deal with disclosure.

They claim the appointment is necessary to prevent ‘a media frenzy whipping up a lynch mob mentality’ in relation to the upcoming trial of former Anglo Irish Bank executives according to the Irish Times.

The report says the trial of the bank’s former chairman Seán Fitzpatrick and two former directors was before Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in order to check on the progress of the case.

Fitzpatrick, William McAteer and Pat Whelan have been charged with 16 counts of allegedly providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals to buy shares in the bank.

Judge Nolan said the case would be dealt with in the usual manner.

The Irish Times says that lawyers for the men and for the State all stressed that that they felt it was necessary for the smooth running of the case to appoint a judge now to deal with the large volume of material and issues which may arise leading up to the trial on January 14th next.

Whelan’s lawyer Brendan Grehan said “I don’t think this case can be progressed to trial without a judge taking charge of it now.”

“Applications are going to arise, apart from issues of relevance and privilege in relation to disclosure in the case.

“It would also be appropriate to appoint someone to take charge of the trial now who can give directions not just to the parties but also to the media.

“In the six months leading up to the trial it is vital that an air of calm be restored to the public from which a jury will be drawn.

“We simply cannot have a fair trial take place where a media frenzy is whipping up a lynch mob mentality.”

State lawyer Uná Ní Raifeartaigh admitted: “The issue of publicity is of concern to the DPP. It is important that in the last six months the media would be mindful in matters that may ultimately lead to the postponement of the trial.”

via Former Anglo Irish Bank bosses claim media lynch mob ahead of trial | Irish News | IrishCentral.

Public Inquiry · It is practically impossible to challenge the power of state corruption


The following editorial in today’s Irish Examiner is worth reproducing in full.

The header asks: Why are we pathetically complacent?

I don’t’ think the Irish people are complacent. I think rather they have, over the decades, being rendered totally powerless by the sheer weight of corruption within the political/administrative system.

Irish citizens can see the corruption, they are extremely angry about it, particularly since September 2008, but because the governing system is so infected with the disease it is, short of a revolution, almost impossible to make any serious challenge to the power of state corruption.

Challenging corruption – Why are we pathetically complacent?

Friday, July 26, 2013

It is not an exaggeration to say that the country was convulsed in the run up to the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill through the Oireachtas.

Tens of thousands of people marched, every media platform was dominated by debate on the issue. Croziers were dusted off and swung like broadswords in a way that once commanded obedience. Taoiseach Enda Kenny showed an unexpected ruthlessness to get the legislation passed.

We had, in Irish terms at least, a spectacular and almost unheard of form of protest — politicians risking careers on a point of principle.

It was, whichever side of the debate you stood on, a matter of right or wrong. A position had to be taken, remaining neutral was not an option.

Yet, and though the ink is barely dry on the abortion legislation, another manifestation of this society’s justice system’s dysfunction and ongoing failures, our seeming indifference to allegations of corruption — or the innocence and good name of those accused of it — presents itself and there’s hardly a game-changing ripple across the public consciousness.

There is certainly no prospect of 40,000 people marching through the streets of our capital to protest at yet another Irish outcome to an Irish problem.

Is it that we don’t care? Is it that five years after our banking collapse and not a single conviction to show for society-breaking years of Wild West banking that we are a beaten, abject people who have come to accept that for some people accountability is as remote and unlikely a prospect as levitation?

The collapse of the planning and corruption trial earlier this week because a witness is too ill to give evidence has served nobody well, not even the businessman, the councillor and the two former councillors in the dock. Though the principle of innocent until proven otherwise must always apply, too many important questions remain unanswered.

This one case may put the issue into a sharp, if fleeting, focus but there are myriad examples of our failure to adequately deal with the whiff of corruption.

Speaking to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, former financial regulator Matthew Elderfield put it in the gentlest terms when he chided that we do not have a system capable of holding individuals to account or tackling white-collar crime.

How could it be otherwise? A report from that committee suggests that fewer than 60 state employees are focussed on white-collar crime. This figure includes all relevant gardaí, Central Bank officials and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement staff assigned to the problem. We probably have more dog wardens.

It is surely, despite the occasional protest from cornered politicians, naive to imagine this is accidental. If it is, like our tribunals, it is profoundly under-whelming and utterly unequal to the challenge. More likely it is another example of our enthusiasm for rules but our fatal distaste for implementing them.

There is great, chest-filling talk about political reform, about a new political party even and changing the culture of how a citizen interacts with the state. Sadly, all of that will stand for nothing more than a cynical diversion unless we have a policing, regulatory and justice system capable of, and most importantly, enthusiastic about, investigating allegations of corruption.

It is said that a society gets the politicians it deserves and that may well be true, but it is absolutely certain that a society must suffer the consequences of the behaviours it tolerates. The evidence is all around us.

via Public Inquiry · It is practically impossible to challenge the power of state corruption.

Women from Ireland face ‘enormous additional burdens’ in going to UK for abortions


“This is not a good situation to force women into when what they need is care. It is deeply wrong,” says Ann Furedi, of PBAS, the British Pregnancy Advice Service

Women from Ireland having abortions in Britain face “enormous additional burdens” compared to British women, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advice Service, said yesterday.

The service is a registered charity and the largest abortion services provider in Britain.

Ann Furedi said she could not comment on the specifics of the case reported in yesterday’s Irish Times.

“The Irish women we see are absolutely the same as the British women we see, apart from the fact the Irish women have these enormous additional burdens,” she said.

“They have travel, transport, accommodation costs and the additional stress of having to travel to a different legal jurisdiction to get the care that they need at a time when they are feeling, frankly, pretty awful. I think people forget that.

Lowest emotional ebb

“To be imposing on women, at a time when they must be feeling at their lowest physical and emotional ebb, the need to organise travel, bundling themselves on to Ryanair flights, shleping about Britain, taking time off work, having to leave their families.

“This is not a good situation to force women into when what they need is care. It is deeply wrong,” she said.

More than 95 per cent of the service’s work is funded by the National Health Service in the UK. Women from outside Britain must pay to avail of its services privately. An abortion costs between £400 (€465) and £1,500 (€1,750) depending on how far the pregnancy has progressed.

She said that in the vast majority of cases her organisation’s abortion services are free to women resident in Britain.

Mara Clarke, the founder of the Abortion Support Network in London which provides support to women from Ireland seeking to access abortion, said the women the organisation helped were in “dire financial straits, making huge sacrifices to get the services they need”.

“Recently we helped a mother who fed her three children toast and sandwiches for a month to save the money to pay for an abortion for her raped 17-year-old daughter.

“We helped a woman who needed her car but sold it and cut off her landline to raise the money.

“These are not women with credit cards or overdrafts. These are women who already have nothing, who are going to loan sharks, who are not eating trying to get the money together.”

‘Well over 400’

Since the network was founded in 2008, she said the number of women seeking its help had grown constantly, from 66 the first year to about 200 the second, and she expected the number this year to be “well over 400”.

While nationally in Britain about 2 per cent of abortions were carried out later than 20 weeks’ gestation, about 8 per cent of the women supported by the network had late-term abortions.

“This is because they are raising the money and, of course, the later they have it the more expensive it is and more traumatic.”

labortionsupport.org.uk

via Women from Ireland face ‘enormous additional burdens’ in going to UK for abortions – Social Affairs & News from Ireland & Abroad | The Irish Times – Tue, Jul 23, 2013.

The Irish bail-out programme: The meaning of exit


WHEN tapes of conversations between senior executives at the failed Anglo Irish Bank at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 were leaked in June, Irish credibility as a true penitent among the five bailed-out euro-zone countries took a knock. At last month’s European summit Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who calls the shots in the 17-state currency block, expressed her contempt for the bankers’ conduct, which included crass anti-German sentiment.

But any fears that this unwelcome reminder of past sins and sinners might upset Ireland’s path to exit from the rescue programme have been short-lived. This week’s review by the troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF – concluded that Ireland should be able to leave on schedule by the end of 2013. That’s precisely three years after fiscal and banking woes forced the Irish to go cap in hand for €67 billion ($87 billion) of official loans from Europe and the IMF.

A punctual Irish exit has seemed likely for some time if only to show that the German-inspired programmes of austerity and structural reform can work. The worse things get in other bailed-out countries – Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Spain (for its banks) – the more that Ireland is favoured. Thus Portugal’s recent political ructions, which has caused the planned inspection by the troika on July 15th to be postponed, have strengthened Ireland’s hand.

Moreover, Irish debt managers have deftly exploited chances to raise funds as Ireland’s fiscal credibility improved and its bond yields subsided. They have benefited along with the other crisis countries from the ECB’s commitment last September to make unlimited purchases of bonds in secondary markets under strict conditions – its “Outright Monetary Transactions” (OMT) programme, which has proved so successful a deterrent that it has not yet been used. Helped by the debt-management agency’s forays into the markets, the Irish government is now fully funded into early 2015.

That’s handy because on the economic front things haven’t been going so smoothly. Irish cheerleaders can no longer brag about their country being a bright spot in the recessionary gloom on the euro-zone southern and western periphery. In fact, GDP has shrunk for three consecutive quarters (the second half of last year and the first quarter of 2013) as exports have been hit first by a slowdown in global trade and secondly by the lapsing of patents on blockbuster drugs that have hurt pharmaceutical exports. The budget deficit remains high at 7.5% of GDP and public debt will reach 124% this year, a figure that underestimates the effective burden because a big chunk of Irish GDP is profits made by foreign multinationals which are lightly taxed.

The Irish government thus has good reasons to be nervous about having to fend for itself. That’s why Michael Noonan, the finance minister, is angling for a backstop to be available after the bail-out ends. But it is not just a credit line that the Irish are seeking: they want to be eligible for the ECB’s OMT programme.

That will be possible, however, only if the Irish apply to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone’s bail-out fund, for an “enhanced conditions” credit line. The Irish argue that there would be no need to comply with extra conditions, but whether the other euro-zone finance ministers who are on the board of the ESM will concur remains to be seen. Ireland may find that the best it can secure is a deal where it is still subject to intrusive monitoring.

If all goes to plan the Irish exit from its ignominious bail-out at the end of this year will be hailed as a big success. But the reality will be fuzzier. The official funding may end but the price of support remaining available if necessary is that Ireland will not secure full independence.

via The Irish bail-out programme: The meaning of exit | The Economist.

Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over? « The Secular Society


Here are some interesting twists in the abortion debate in the Republic. As Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic newspaper noted yesterday Armagh’s new-boy-to-be Eamonn Martin has been clear in ways his soon-to-be predecessor Sean Brady never was. As he also added, Rome will be pleased.And as Kelly rightly observes, polls can be wrong, especially if there is a referendum coming up: Nevertheless, the latest MRBI/IPOSOS poll on whether there should be legislation as opposed to guidelines is still pretty overwhelmingly in favour…Asked if they were for or against the heads of the Bill to legislate for the Supreme Court X judgment of 1992 permitting abortion where a mother’s life is in danger, 75 per cent said Yes, 14 per cent said No and 11 per cent had no opinion.Supporters of both Coalition parties were the strongest backers of the legislation with 79 per cent of Fine Gael voters favour; 78 per cent of Labour; 77 per cent of Sinn Féin and 74 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters.People over 65 were the least enthusiastic about the legislation with 60 per cent in favour and 26 per cent against. The 25 to 34 age group was the most strongly in favour but there were large majorities across all age cohorts.The best-off social categories were strongest in support of legislation while farmers and the poorest DE social group were the least enthusiastic. The thing is that there won’t be a referendum on this issue. The referendum will be in the chamber, and this is where the church’s rather intemperate (not to mention very general) threat of ex communication was aimed. And it has caused a lot of difficulty. Micheal Martin had intended to march his party through on a whip, but was the first to relax and for the first time in his party’s history allowed his TDs have a free vote. We’ll see later on whether there are consequences to letting ‘soldiers of destiny’ have such a free hand. Meanwhile Enda Kenny, posing as the most unlikely secular hero in the history of the state is choosing the book of statute over the book of church law and in the process denying a party a free vote that’s been accustomed to having one in times past. The world turned upside down? Political insiders argue that the church could have chosen a more conciliatory line on the X case legislation. And that in alienating the political classes they may stand in future to have fewer allies when it comes to defending the real bulwark against abortion in the constitution if the current drift towards secularism continues: Article 40. 3. 3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. That, the Church may calculate, may a price worth paying in order to save its own spiritual soul. There appears to be two way commerce going on here. In taking a much harder, fundamentalist line the Church is finding more coherence in its own moral arguments, whilst accepting, perhaps that its influence on matters of state in Ireland are long since over. With Thanks to Mick Fealty, via Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over? « The Secular Society.

Anglo Irish Bank- Drumm didn’t want any ‘b*ll*xology’ from Central Bank ‘clowns’


Anglo: Central bank boss Honohan says people ‘energised’ by tapes

Irish Independent
Ganley shown minutes from Anglo Irish meeting on ‘overcharging’. Businessman Declan Ganley was shown minutes from a meeting at Anglo Irish Bank that raise serious questions about how interest was applied to loans.
See all stories on this topic »

Tapes show Anglo executives discussed run on deposits

Irish Times
Discussing how they might encourage the Central Bank to provide “fallback” funds Mr Drumm is heard to say it may be time for Anglo Irish to have a “conversation with our friends on Dame Street [the Central Bank],” due to the volume cash withdrawals.
See all stories on this topic »

David Drumm: ‘I’ll no longer be made a scapegoat for banking crisis’

Irish Independent
It is now about October 2008. Ireland has taken the disastrous decision to blanket guarantee Anglo Irish Bank as well as its other failed financial institutions. Con Horan, the man in charge of supervising Anglo for the Financial Regulator, is on the 
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‘I’m beat, I am totally beat at this stage’ – ‘Oh, join the gang, ha, ha, ha!’

Irish Independent
The State has sleepwalked into guaranteeing the liabilities of Anglo Irish Bank. Ireland is on its way toward economic collapse and the humiliation of enduring a European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout that would lead to drastic cuts in 
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Drumm didn’t want any ‘b*ll*xology’ from Central Bank ‘clowns’

Anglo executives discussed breach of liquidity rules in 2008

read full article

irishtimes.com

David Drumm attacked the ‘drip, drip, drip’ release of the tapes
RTE.ie
Former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm has said he will no longer allow himself to be a scapegoat for the banking crisis. Mr Drumm issued his statement to RTÉ news, as the transcripts of more recordings he had with another former Anglo 
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‘The market is drunk!’
Irish Independent
S&P, the bank credit rating agency, has just issued a new note warning investors to be wary ofAnglo Irish Bank. David Drumm, the bank’s chief executive, calls up John Bowe, head of treasury, to discuss what it all means for Anglo. The conversation 
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Anglo: New tapes reveal meekness of State’s watchdogs
Irish Independent
I just was not asked about tapes, says Dukes. THE former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank did not reveal the existence of the Anglo Tapes to major inquiries into the collapse of the banking system because he was “not asked about” them.
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Ganley shown minutes from Anglo Irish meeting on ‘overcharging’
Irish Independent
Businessman Declan Ganley was shown minutes from a meeting at Anglo Irish Bank that raise serious questions about how interest was applied to loans. Also in this section. Super-rich duped in €30m US land scheme · Beer could be the answer to all our 
See all stories on this topic »

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