Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Nama, Lenihan, and Fianna Fail play "fast and loose" with the economy.

“The detailed information that has emerged from the banks in the course of the NAMA process is truly shocking. At every hand’s turn our worst fears have been surpassed.

Some institutions were worse than others. But the fact is that our banking system, to a greater or lesser extent, engaged in reckless property development lending. In too many cases there were also shoddy banking practices. The banks played fast and loose with the economic interests of this country.

Yes, our previous regulatory system failed abysmally and it is right that the role of the regulator, the Central Bank and the Government is now the subject of independent inquiry. But the fact remains that senior figures in Irish banking made appalling lending decisions that will cost the taxpayer dearly for years to come…”

Brian Lenihan, 30th March 2010. Statement to Dail on the first transfer of banks’ bad loans the National Asset Mangement Agency

Here is our finance minister, Brian Lenihan, sounding as though his party, Fianna Fail, had nothing to do with the country’s economic collapse. But then again, you’re always more likely to get a “cupla focal” from our political masters than a “mea culpa”. 

See below excerpts from a feature on Government property-based tax breaks that appeared in the Sunday Business Post of May 8th, 2005, one year before the peak of the “boom”.  They demonstrate how Fianna Fail played "fast and loose with the economic interests of the country".  It would be interesting to have accurate and complete figures showing the number of ministers and their friends who availed of the schemes.  Exclamation marks in brackets are mine, and need no clarification.

The most popular scheme - and generally the most successful - is Section 23.   With Section 23, you get tax relief on the capital used to construct, refurbish or convert rented residential accommodation in a tax-designated area. The price paid for the site does not qualify for tax relief. However, as the site usually represents between 5 and 20 per cent of the cost of the property, investors can write off between 80 and 95 per cent of the property purchase price against rental income earned from property within the state.

For example, if an apartment costs €200,000 and the site cost €20,000, the Section 23 allowance would apply to capital of €180,000.   One of the advantages of the allowances is that they are not restricted to property bought under the Section 23 scheme. It can be written off against an investor's rental income from all properties located within the state. (!!!!!!!!)

Section 23 relief is only available if the property is first let by an individual under a qualifying lease (!!!!!!!!). It must continue to be let for ten years from the date of the first letting…. Section 23 relief is currently available for rural renewal, town renewal, living over the shop, integrated urban renewal, student accommodation and park and ride schemes.

Section 50 operates in the same way as Section 23 but relates to qualifying student accommodation. “There's very strong demand for Section 23 schemes,” said Marie Hunt, director of research with CB Richard Ellis Gunne (!!!!!!!!). “Section 50 is not seeing the same demand because there's a bit of caution there as to whether it's a good or bad scheme.”

Typical investors in tax-designated properties will borrow 90 per cent of the property price and pay a 10 per cent deposit. In some cases, a smaller deposit may only be required. Interest-only mortgages are generally considered as the most efficient way of financing an investment under Section 23 or Section 50.

Investors use rent from the property to fund the interest on the loan and can then use their tax break to pay off the loan or make another investment elsewhere. (!!!!!!!!)

“Typically, investors in these schemes have a number of other properties and they're looking to grow their property portfolio,” said Aiden Murphy, a partner with Horwath Bastow Charleton. (!!!!!!!!)  “To allow the rents to materialise for the properties, they go interest only for the first few years and once the rents are flowing through, they pay off the balance of the interest on the loan.” (!!!!!!!!)

Interest-only mortgages are useful for covering the shortfall from the rent on investment properties, according to Michael Dowling, president of the Independent Mortgage Advisers Federation (IMAF). (!!!!!!!!)

According to Dowling, a two-bed apartment in Smithfield will normally yield maximum rent of €1,200 a month. “There's no way this would cover repayments on a €450,000 mortgage,” he said. (!!!!!!!!)  “However, typically, anyone buying under Section 23 has rental income from other investment properties - many of which have little or no outstanding mortgages. Investors can use rent from these properties to offset any shortfall on the new property.” (!!!!!!!!)

 Murphy [says that], a lot of today's investors are more sophisticated and use interest-only mortgages to manage their rental cashflow more efficiently. (!!!!!!!!)
The interest on variable rate interest-only mortgages can range from between 3 to 4.3 per cent APR for investors, depending on the lender and broker, your relationship with the bank (!!!!!!!!), and the amount being borrowed.

Capital appreciation
Although rental income might not cover the mortgage repayments on a Section 23 property, capital appreciation and tax allowances usually make such investments worthwhile. (!!!!!!!!)
“Investors really have to discipline themselves and put aside the tax break for a moment,” said Ned Gladney, director of OSK Tax. “All of the common sense rules apply regarding location which is one of the things that people often ignore because they get blinded by the tax relief.” (!!!!!!!!)

Holiday homes
If choosing a tax-designated holiday home for investment purposes, it's important to choose a property with good rental potential. “Before investing in a holiday home, you must look at its location and its value as a destination,” said Aiden Murphy from Horwath Bastow Charleton. “For example, examine the amenities and activities on the site and the actual size of the resort. You would normally need a certain minimum number of units in the resort to cover your loans.” (!!!!!!!!)

Footnote:  A lot of these schemes are now ghost estates, or holiday developments blighting the landscape.  GM.
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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sligo driving test rates pass out rest of the country

Having trouble passing your driving test? If you are a serial failure when it comes to (legally) discarding the L-plates, help is at hand in the form of Sligo’s driving test centre which boasts a 67.1% pass rate.

In contrast, Dublin’s Rathgar centre is one to avoid if you want to retain any remaining tatters of positive self-esteem you might still possess. Hard-line examiners in the leafy Dublin suburb pass only 30.6% of candidates, according to a report in last Sunday’s Tribune.

Of course if you live in, say, Dublin and have to drive to Sligo on your provisional licence, it will mean having to take to the motorway with your L-plates on full view. But sure who cares about that? Anyway, you can always just put them in the glove compartment and whip them out when you get to the test centre.

What’s more, if you really are such a disaster that you even manage to FAIL in Sligo, I’m sure nobody there will bat an eyelid when you head back to the car for the long drive home. Just be careful.

And let me know when your test is taking place and the route you’ll be taking on the way home.

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

Irish Blog Awards 2010

The Irish Blog Awards bash takes place this evening in the Radisson Hotel, Galway. It’s a big event, and one that is taking on an increasing relevance even in the eyes of the mainstream media who will be well represented there.

As readers will know, Gombeen Nation was chosen as a finalist at the event, and is up there in the last five vying for the title of “best political blog”, along with the likes of Slugger O’Toole, Jason O’Mahony, Tuppenceworth and Irish Election. That’s accolade enough for me.

So let me say a big “thanks” to all the judges (120 of them) who took the time not only to read the blog, but some of whom gave it their seal of approval. Blogging is a pretty solitary – some would even say sad – activity, so it’s good to know that there are people out there who think it’s a worthwhile one.

The great thing about doing a political blog in Ireland is that there’s always plenty to write about, and while Gombeen Nation is not about party politics, it probably would subscribe to the old punk belief (as expounded by Tom Robinson) that politics is simply about everyday events that affect our lives.

I won’t be there in Galway tonight – not until the day when we can have mysterious, silhouetted, live video links with voice-overs to maintain our anonymity for reasons of health, safety and maybe an overblown sense of our own relevance.

But that day can’t be too far away.

Have a good one.

PS.. thanks to  Digital Revolutionaries, political blog sponsors.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

The BNP and Irish racists – more in common than they’d like to admit.

A reader of the blog sent me a recent report from the Sunday World claiming that the fascist BNP (British National Party) was looking for budding Irish racists who shared its own twisted values - taking localisation into account, of course.

The report asserts that the BNP attempted to make contact with “the recently formed” INP (Irish National Party), with one British fascist spending three “frantic” days searching for it in Dublin.   However, as it appears that the INP currently exists only in the confused mind of its would-be leader, David Barrett, it was a mission that proved impossible.

The article states that an undercover reporter spoke to “BNP activist Paul Ryan” who revealed that the party was interested in getting a group it could work with in Ireland.

Possibly thinking of the days when BNP members were as likely to beat up Irish people living in the UK as any other minority – and probably still are  - Ryan admitted that his organisation “had a problem with Irish people in the past” but was now “open to the idea of a similar party in Ireland…  regardless of whether we are of Celtic or Anglo Saxon stock, we face the same basic threats to our heritage, culture, identity and ultimately our future.”

Funny. During my nine years working in the London of the 80s and 90s, I was struck – not literally, mind  – by the number of BNP members with distinctly Irish names.  And that’s just in the BNP...  never mind the waves of human settlement over the generations that resulted in your present-day Londoner.  So the idea of an “Anglo Saxon” or a “Celtic” race is every bit as fallacious as an “Aryan” race.  

So, as well as peddling their exclusive, insular definitions of "culture" and "nationality", the fact is that British and Irish fascists have a lot more in common than they would really like to admit.

Social Darwinists, eh.  When will they ever evolve?

See also:

An anti-fascist day out in London, Part One

An anti-fascist day out in London, Part Two

The Metro, the Poles, and Irish racism

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Limerick publicans challenge (sort of) Good Friday drinks ban

I had Morning Ireland on earlier while gulping down a few coffees in readiness for the rigours of the day ahead. 

 One feature concerned attempts by Limerick publicans to lift the Good Friday drinks ban in time for the Munster v Leinster rugby match taking place that day, arguing that the game constituted a “special occasion”, and was therefore exempt. 

The case is up at Limerick District Court today, where vintners' representative David Hickey hopes to secure a six-hour exemption for 60 of the city’s publicans.

It seems stunning, to me, that the powerful publicans’ lobby has not taken a case before on the grounds that the drinks ban is unconstitutional, full stop  -  representing, as it does, the values of one particular brand of religion in a modern Ireland of many (and no) religions.  Perhaps the many publicans who sit on local parish-pump cumanns are eager not to compromise their patriotic, traditionalist, Catholic credentials by making such a challenge?

To further illustrate the continuing interference of the religious in secular affairs in Ireland, the monks of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will hold a vigil outside Thomand Park on the day concerned, arguing that Catholics attending the match are compromising their faith.

 You’d think, in the current climate, they might consider it prudent to keep their heads down, wouldn’t you?

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Saturday, 20 March 2010

Pope Benedict's Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics

This weekend, in every Catholic church throughout the land, Pope Benedict’s “Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father to Catholics in Ireland” will be read from the pulpit. Those of us who won’t be present can, however, rely on the miraculous intercession of the World Wide Web.


The letter contains 4,674 words, but says nothing of any note. There is an apology, but El Popo could hardly say he wasn’t sorry for his organisation's cover-up of child abuse and its active role in moving the perpetrators to fresh pastures where they could find new victims to abuse.

There is a lot of talk about “forgiveness” in the letter. Thing is, I – and many of you, I imagine – grew up in an Ireland where there was very little Christian forgiveness, and even less tolerance. An Ireland in which the Church’s values and mores were inflicted on everyone, believers or not. An Ireland in which people were even denied contraception and divorce.

The Catholic Church inflicted its vision of official morality on all of us, and denied us basic rights - even as its representatives were engaged in, and were covering up, the worst kind of sins (to use its terminology).  They even ran/run the majority of our schools.  And since when was it ever a good idea to entrust vulnerable children to the care of sexually frustrated priests, nuns and brothers sworn to an unnatural life of chasity?

Then again, none of that is surprising in a so-called "republic" based on a constitution beginning with “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority . . .”   And no prizes for guessing which organisation was charged with dispensing that authority?

I couldn’t care less what the Pope, Ian Paisley, the Ayatollah or Reverend Moon says - but I did read Benedict's mealy-mouthed apology out of a fascinated curiousity.  From what I can see, the Church seems to blame “growing secularisation” in Ireland as being at the root of its problems.   Now that depends, I suppose, on what it sees the problem as. The actual abuse itself or the fact that it was found out.  See extract below: 

“4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings."

"Canonically irregular situations"?  The fact is, it is only due to "increasing secularisation" that the scandal of clerical abuse was ever uncovered at all.  It is only through "increasing secularisation" that  the scandals of Ireland's Magdalene Laundries and industrial schools were officially exposed and  retrospectively condemned.  

People knew about these things at the time but they were too stupid, too cowed, and too in awe of the Catholic Church and Official Ireland orthodoxy to do anything about them.   Just as when instances of clerical abuse were reported to gardai on rare occasions, they chose not to act. In the cases of the laundries and the industrial schools gardai (police) actively condemned young lives to them.

And can we really be expected to believe - those of us who base our beliefs on rationality - that the people sitting in Leinster House and on local councils thoughout  the land at the time had no idea what was going with regard to all or any of  these scandals either?

So let us not "forgive", and let us not forget, the role of the State and its agents in all of this.

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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Sean Fitzpatrick arrested on suspicion of Anglo Irish Bank “financial irregularities”.

I don’t know if any of you look at Father Ted? I think people from outside Ireland labour under the misapprehension that it is a comedy, rather than a faithful portrayal of Irish life. There’s a running joke in the series, where Ted has embezzled money intended for a Lourdes trip for sick children. Any time the issue is brought up he tries to defend himself by claiming that the money was “just resting” in his bank account.

In real life, the Irish authorities are remarkably tolerant of political and financial corruption, and the great Irish public usually increase their votes for politicians found guilty of it. To be honest, I don’t think that would even have happened on Craggy Island.

I was watching the 9 O’clock news this evening, and the phrase “financial irregularities” cropped up several times. But when you think about it, Ireland is run on financial irregularities. Question is, how many perpetrators have ever been brought to justice? I can only think of Lawlor and Burke… both on foot of the tribunals.

Now it seems that Sean Fitzpatrick was arrested this morning on suspicion of “financial irregularities” at Anglo Irish Bank, and has had his detention extended by 12 hours for further questioning.

Fitzpatrick was chief executive of the basket-case bank from 1986 until 2005, when news of secret loans taken by him from the bank emerged. Loans totalling more than €87 million, which remained hidden from the auditors for over 8 years.

The taxpayers have already (involuntarily) put €4 billion of their money into Anglo, which was nationalised in January 2009. It is expected to post the largest-ever losses in Irish corporate history later this month, so that figure might as well be one of Bertie’s blank cheques. Commentator Fintan O’Toole says it could be as much as €30 billion.

Given that the bankers, politicians and developers have restored us to our proper place as the basket case of Europe, the Irish ruling class should really have no option but to make examples of members of the elite who engaged in corrupt practice and helped bring the country to its knees.

That’s not to say more arrests and investigations will take place because of any new-found sense of indignation and disgust among our rulers at the low standards in Irish public life, but simply because international investors and bankers will expect it.

But that’s only being logical. Let’s see what really happens.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Paddy’s Day is great, isn’t it?

Had the day off, and the roads were relatively quiet on account of so many going to the parade in town. Bliss.

But that’s not such a patriotic blog entry for the day that’s in it. So let me do my bit for the Paddy’s Day Industry and bring your attention to that symbol of real Irishness, the National Leprechaun Museum.

Last Tuesday’s MetroHerald had a 60 second interview with Tom O’Rahilly, a director of said concern, and he had some insights on the subject of Irishness.

It seems that the museum is the “first-ever visitor attraction dedicated to the world of Irish myth and opens up a magical world of fascination folklore and enchanting stories. The 45 minute experience will take visitors to the heart of Irish cultural identity and imagination.”

So there you have it. Leprechauns are at the heart of our cultural identity, along with Riverdance and those annoying pipe things that people in Aran sweaters play. And bodhrans.  And the GAA.  And the Catholic Church. And "De Language". And all the shysters in the Dail.

And it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

I’m off to the fridge.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Monsignor Maurice Dooley with Colm O'Gorman on clerical child abuse

I’m always amazed how “the faithful” can keep on keeping “the faith”, even now,  when confronted with the Catholic hierarchy’s failure to deal with its clergy's child abuse over the decades.

How anyone can set foot inside a church and actually genuflect in front of  these people is a genuine mystery – in the secular sense – to me.  But maybe that is why the term “flock” is used in relation to the church's followers?

I’m not just talking about what the priests, nuns, brothers and bishops did - thanks to their stranglehold on Irish education guaranteeing a ready supply of young victims - but their arrogance in dealing with the outrage now.  Don't they see that their discredited organisation is on its last legs here?   Have they never heard of the term “damage limitation”?

Have a listen to this guy, Monsignor Maurice Dooley, defending the cover-up on Today FM to Colm O’Gorman.

You really have to  hear it to appreciate the petulance.

Today FM - Colm O'Gorman interviews Monsignor Maurice Dooley on child abuse cover-ups

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

David Barrett's Irish National Party: Newstalk debacle ends name-change dilemma

It was a nice dilemma while it lasted for Ireland’s most recent budding, openly-racist, mass party.   Or so he/they liked to think.

The problem with naming your fantasy organisation the “Irish National Party” (INP) is that it sounds as though it might have quite a lot in common with the “British National Party” (BNP).  Most people might have spotted that one coming, but not our master race of white Irish nationalists.

Of course, being associated with a party that peddles racism, promotes bigotry, tells lies, conducts racist attacks, and blames immigrants for all of society’s ills, might not be a problem.  But one having the word “British” in the title definitely is. 

So a name change was needed.  And like any good fascist party, based on good dictatorial principles, the INP put it to a poll.   Now I can’t imagine Hitler ever doing that – smacking as it does of indecision and weakness! See below:

I’d go for   “Sciath na hEireann” (“Shield of Ireland”) myself.   It’s relatively short, and might just about fit on an armband.  What’s more, it has a nice mythical ring to it.  You could almost imagine Cuchulainn himself roaring it out as he charged into battle with old Erin’s foes.  Or Odin, even.

But what’s this?  It seems that the INP’s website has disappeared from the web since its prime mover David Barrett’s (pic right) fateful slot on Newstalk last week. 

On the programme, Barrett tried to tone down the overtly racist “values” of his putative party in much the same way that the BNP try to present an air of respectability to the public nowadays.   Sadly for him, he was caught out when the presenter repeated a couple of things he’d posted on Facebook.

Gems like:    “the dirty Jew that lives next door to the parents was in her garden today with a hose washing the patio, there’s a f*cking water shortage! And people wonder what Herr Hitler had an issue with.”   

And:   “Wier mussen die juden austrautten!” (sic)  -  Presumably a very bad Babel Fish translation of   “We must exterminate the jews!” 

So much for respectability then.   And one other thing: despite the proposed name changes to the tongue of the Gael – presumably for what he sees as added Irish authenticity - he doesn’t speak it.  

Ooops!                     Big thanks to    CutbladeBambi

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Friday, 12 March 2010

Did I ever tell you I once met Miss World's legs?

I once met Miss World’s legs. Rosanna Davidson’s. Her knees to be exact.  It was a surreal day, a few years back, when I took a jaunt down to a nearby car dealership. Lotus had just started selling its sports cars in Ireland and I thought it would be nice to have a look at its new Elise, and maybe get a test drive.

When I got there, the very nice saleswoman told me that Rosanna Davidson (who had been crowned Miss World a year or two before) was arriving for a photoshoot, but yes, a test drive would be no problem.

As it happened, I had just managed to shoehorn myself into the driver's seat of the tiny Elise R-111 (they are about the height of a pedal car) when she came along. Well, her knees at least, because that is all I could see from where I was sitting, peeking out of the car’s little slit of a side window. 

I went out for the test drive with the saleswoman in the passenger seat and we passed Miss World on the way back as she was walking towards town after finishing the shoot. She noticed, waved, and gave us a  big smile as we drove past. Not every blogger can say they’ve been waved at by Miss World now, can they? That's about as glamorous as it gets in the world of blogging, I’m afraid.  The reports in the showroom, by the way, were that she was very nice and pleasant.

But what about all the stuff in the gossip pages? A €60,000 trip on a private jet to somewhere or other with a developer, whose company owns the very building that Nama is based in. It seems the same developer once had Pavarotti sing to him and his friends on one of his birthdays.  Ah yes, the Irish elite – such class and taste!

Now I wouldn’t be one for celebrity tittle-tattle. I’ll admit my life is boring enough, but it’s enough to keep me occupied all the same.  But you really have to marvel, that even when the developers’ loans are being taken on by the taxpayers – who are being hit from all angles, assuming they still have jobs at all - that this elite does not even have the grace or PR sense to tone it down a bit. Do they still think it’s 2006?

Sure, due to the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding Nama, it is not currently possible to comment on the state of each developer’s relationship with the bank's loan book - sensitive information, you see.  But you’d have to wonder if any developer has possibly been unscathed, given the scale of the collapse. And you’d have to wonder if any of them will really have to change their lifestyles, even when it is all done and dusted.

Probably not. It’s Ireland after all.

PS. Didn't get the Lotus in the end  -  not with the waiting times for orthopaedic consultants.  And VRT.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

HSE informed of unchecked X-rays at Tallaght Hospital

Our hospital consultants are possibly the most highly paid in Europe, and there seem (my perception) to be rather of a lot of them – yet if you need to see one you can be waiting months.  So long, in fact, that you can die before you get to see one.

Now it seems that 58,000 X-rays taken in Tallaght hospital were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist, and two patients – so far – received a delayed diagnosis as a result. One has since died and the other is now being treated for cancer.

Tens of thousands of X-rays taken during the period between 2005 and the end of 2009 were affected due to “systemic and process failures” according to hospital chief executive designate Professor Kevin Conlon, quoted in today’s media reports.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Joan Burton: will Gannon use profits to pay off Nama debts?


The following links concern a property developer, who is being bailed out by Nama, but was awarded a lucrative storage contract by the State only two months after the Nama legislation was finalised.  The first link is to an article which appeared in the Daily Mirror, by Aine Hegarty, and the second is from Labour TD Joan Burton's webite.

The contract will make €8 million in profit for the developer, and Burton – not unreasonably –  asks if any of this money will go towards paying off the debts?

Will he use EUR20m to pay off his 'toxic' loan to Nama? GANNON'S PAYDAY - Daily Mirror article.

Joan Burton Dail question

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Monday, 8 March 2010

Brian Lenihan and Nama don't impress the dragon, then.

Did you ever see that programme, “The Dragons’ Den”? The Irish one?  It’s awful.

Four follically challenged males, all with faces displaying varying degrees of po, and one very stern looking looking female – all considered successful entrepreneurs – sit in chairs and judge the business ideas of masochistic hopefuls who stand quivering before them.

The programme starts with the five strutting purposefully – or pompously – along the docks, I think. All look very satisfied with themselves, in a grim, po-faced way. I think people who look at RTE think of them as celebrities.

One – I can’t remember his name – just sits there with a permanent scowl on his face and once had a pop at a guy who was trying to flog locks of ginger “leprechaun hair” in sachets, on the basis that he was making a laughing stock out of Ireland, or some such. Obviously, this dragon has never been inside a Carroll’s souvenir shop. Or the Dail.

Another one, Bobby Kerr, is co-owner of a coffee shop chain and is probably the least po-faced.  He even seems capable of smiling and saying something nice now and again.  Mind you, I did only look at the show twice (the second time to confirm it was as bad as I thought it was the first time), but that’s the impression I got with that brief exposure.

Anyway, it seems that Bobby would send Brian Lenihan packing if the finance minister were to appear in front of the dragons trying to flout his Nama project.    “It’s too complicated”, he is on record as saying in a Newstalk 106-108 FM interview with presenter Claire Byrne, “it’s costing the taxpayer millions. It was forced on us as a kind of ‘the only alternative’… I personally don’t think there as enough debate around the alternatives”.

Quite.  I certainly do not remember that we, the taxpayers, were ever given the opportunity to collectively say “I’m out!” to Nama.

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Friday, 5 March 2010

UCD report on Irish property market - uncomfortable reading for real estate dinosaurs

There’s been a property crash, right?  So you'd think that Irish estate agents would be snapping at each other in a life-or-death struggle to get what little business is out there, wouldn’t you?

As regular readers will know, I’ve been looking to trade up to a somewhat grander manor – or as grand as you can get out this way, anyway  – for some time now.  Prices are falling, and that little pile of Ansbacher cash under the mattress is becoming more valuable by the minute.

The week before last, we viewed a prospective abode with extra-large shoe storage for the Lady of the Manor, and she phoned the estate agent back on Tuesday to ask a few questions:  “No, Mr Blah-blah is not availabe right now. He will phone you back this afternoon”.  No phone call.      Yesterday, same thing: “I'm very sorry.  Mr Blah-blah will phone you back straightaway. ”   No phone call.

Either Irish estate agents are the canniest business people in the world, or they are the dumbest, slowest-to-adapt-to-new-circumstances, smallest-brain-as-a-percentage-of-body-mass creatures since the brontosaurus. I’d go for the latter.

I wonder what they thought when they turned on the radio and heard the UCD/DIT report, led by Dr Brendan McWilliams, on the housing market?

    UCD/DIT report main points

  •  345,000 homes and apartments currently vacant – 17% of all housing stock in the country.
  •  Excluding holiday homes (and I would say there are people in trouble with these), derelict properties and the like, there are still 170,000 more houses and apartments than required.
  •  One-in-five homes empty outside Dublin, one-in-twelve empty in the capital itself.
  •  Vendors “unwilling” to reduce prices, but study finds further price drops are “inevitable” due to over-supply.
  •  Nama, and other market interventions which attempt to “prevent downward price corrections” likely to “delay rather than prevent market recovery”.
  •  House prices still at “very high” multiples of average incomes.
"Duuhh...  what's that big, fiery, red thing flying towards us from the sky?"

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dublin Council motor tax form or Mr Chan's spam. Which to ignore?

Usually when you get something through the letter box “as Gaeilge” it is best not to ignore it, even if you can’t make head nor tail of it.  It will be a demand for money or a summons of some sort.

I recently got a tax renewal form from my friends in Dublin City Council – purely in Gaelic.  Thankfully, my young days of being traumatised by big, ignorant, bullying oafs whose educational speciality (or only-ality) was attempting to beat a lifelong love of The Tongue of the True Gael into their charges stood me in good stead - I could make out the odd word (like "hatchback", "salun", "jip" and "bus").  Enough anyway, to bin the form and renew my tax online in the vernacular of the country.

So all those shit-scared, humiliating years under their cultural nationalist tutelage was not wasted in the end. And let’s face it – it d-d-d-d-didn’t d-do me any h-harm.  Apart from the odd unsolved murder here and there of course.    Mister O'Muireadhaigh, you’re next, you child-bullying piece of… what’s the Gaelic for "shit"?

But anyway, I digress. I don’t know if Dublin City Council’s extortionate tax demand in Official Irish was part of their Gaelicisation drive Dublin City Council to ban English-language placenames... if you let them, or they were just trying to get rid of all those forms they had printed up.   But I’d like to know what any citizen from beyond our screwed-up land, and trying to get to grips with our language – English - would have made of it.  “Tough”, I imagine DCC might respond.

But what about this? A reader of the blog sent me in details of a spam e-mail in the following gobbledeegook emanating from China:

Tб mй an tUasal Patrick KW Chan an Stiъrthуir Feidhmiъchбin agus Prнomh-Oifigeach airgeadais Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Hong Cong.     Tб mй togra gnу brabъsaн leasa choitinn a roinnt le leat; Baineann sй leis an aistriъ suim mhуr airgid.    Fuair mй do tagairt i mo cuardach a dhйanamh ar dhuine a oireann mo chaidreamh gnу molta.   m Mб tб suim agat i obair liom teagmhбil a dhйanamh liom mo trн r-phost prнobhбideach ( le haghaidh tuilleadh sonraн

Which I am told is some kind of automated tranlsation from the Chinese (hence the - even more - inexplicable cyrillic characters) meaning:

I am Mr. Patrick KW Chan Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Hong Kong.   I have a business proposal of common interest to share with you;  It concerns the transfer of a large sum of money.  I found your reference in my search for someone who suits my proposed business relationship.  If you are interested in working to contact me through my private email  for further details.

Mr Patrick Chan

Full Boards thread:   Mr Chan's extra spammy spam

Nice try, Mr Chan, but no claymore pipe.   Perhaps, as sender Mike1972 suggests,  you should apply to the Irish Government for a grant?   Or Dublin City Council.

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