Sunday, 29 August 2010

Take Two (or Three) in Carton House, Maynooth.

Remember during the housing boom-mirage, the Irish Times property people did a "Take Five for €xxxxxx" feature?  It might still be running for all I know, but they usually picked out 5 properties, one in Ireland and the others abroad, for a given amount of money.

So, just supposing the figure was €700,000, the Irish offering was a bog-standard, three-bed semi-D in Dundrum, and the foreign equivalents were normally a rambling chateau in France, a mountain-top Schloss in Germany, a crib-style pad with swimming pool and quadruple garage in Florida, and half an apartment block in Budapest.

Most readers will know I often drive to Maynooth for my beer and other less essential foodstuffs, and the odd time I might stop off at Carton House for a ramble around the demesne.   Sometimes I wear very dark glasses to protect my eyes from the garish Argyle jumpers of the golfers as I pass the course there.  I don't want my good walk spoiled.

There are some lovely houses there too, and if you were self-employed - a drug-dealer for instance - it would be an idyllic place to live.  For wage slaves like most of us, though, it would be out of bounds as the hike out of the grounds and the further trek into Maynooth for public transport would be too arduous.  Then there is the price.

But just supposing you found yourself a lucrative sideline based around mainlining - or you won the Lotto -  you might be presented with a dilemma in choosing between the two properties featured in Gombeen Nation's very own Take Two in Carton House.

The asking price for one is €1,010,000.  It boasts four bedrooms and measures 1,897 square feet, according to MyHome.  The other four-bedroom house has a tag of €735,000 and measures 2,700 square feet, with 400 of those in the basement.  The smaller one looks bigger in the pictures, but I assume that is due to the design being over three levels rather than two.

I suppose it depends on how important a condescending, bird's-eye view of the golfing hoi polloi from your bedroom window is for you?  Or maybe you want to see the police coming earlier and have more time to flush your stash down one of the toilets?

Then again, you could make it a Take Three and simply go for yet another one that is identical to the "cheaper" offering above, with an asking price of €1,775,000 - over one million more!.

I assume the decor must be considerably better.  Or the vendors don't have a calendar.

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Friday, 27 August 2010

Commercial vehicle clampdown in Ireland - no escape from Vehicle Rip-off Tax.

There has been much in the news  recently on the Government’s suspected intentions to “clamp down” on people who use commercial vehicles for private and social purposes.

It seems that buyers of such machines may, in future, be required not only to sign a declaration at the local police station that they will use their vehicles for commerical purposes only, but will have to produce a “Revenue registration identity number” to prove their business credentials.  My oh my.  If only our Government was as stringent on all matters tax-related, as J.P. McManus, Dermot Desmond, Bono and the rest could testify.

And why is this, you may ask?   Well, it is because our Government continues to make Irish-based motorists pay more for their vehicles than residents of most other EU states through the continuing application of excise duty, or VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax).

Here is an example of why some people here choose to buy cars with the back seats and windows taken out, in order to lessen the effects of the Irish Government’s anti-EU tax, which is contrary to the spirit of free movement of goods within the European Union.  For the anti-SUVers, I'd add that I've even seen Volkswagen Golfs in Ireland that have undergone the "van" treatment:

Nissan X-Trail, 2-litre diesel, 150 bhp, passenger car.
Price: €40,535. Road tax: €1,050.

Nissan X-Trail, 2-litre diesel, 150 bhp, commercial “van”.
Price: €25,790. Road tax: €288.

And would you blame them? Or should they gladly hand over an extra €14,745 – plus an additional €762 in annual road tax - for our imbecile Government to pump into Anglo Irish Bank, Nama, and all the rest?

In the extensive coverage of this matter the obvious point has not been raised.  Namely, it should not be why commercial vehicles are cheaper in Ireland than private ones.  It should be why Irish residents must pay up to 40% more for their private cars than residents of other EU states.

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Note: Lots more on this on the blog.  Just tap "VRT" into the search box at the very top-left of the page..

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hansfield: the Dublin-Dunboyne station that isn't.

Look at the picture above.  It is from Manor Park Homes’ glossy brochure for the Barnwell, Hansfield, housing development in Ongar, north-west Dublin.  You will notice they boast about a rail service offering a peak-time frequency of every 15 minutes?

All well and good, you might think.  However, assuming such a service does transpire on September 2nd (Irish Rail’s promised introduction of the Docklands-Dunboyne rail link) if you live in Hansfield you will have to be content with watching the shiny new trains whizz past, as they will not be stopping at the newly built station.

Why? Well, it seems Manor Park Homes and Menolly Homes have not provided a planned access road to Hansfield Station, meaning the trains will pass through like it is not there.

First we have ghost estates, now ghost train stations.

We’ve more ghosts than a Doris Stokes séance.

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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Louis Walsh has a pop at RTE

I don’t know much about Louis Walsh, other than the facts that he is responsible for Boylife or Westzone, and hosts a programme called Britain’s Got X-Factor.

But anyone – all of us, that is –compelled to pay a licence fee to keep the broadcasting apparatus of Official Ireland, RTE, in existence might well concur with the doyen of dubious light entertainment’s views on the ministry for public enlightenment that is Montrose.

Ken Sweeney, the Indo’s entertainment reporter, quoted Walsh as saying that:

“RTE need new faces and new attitude. They launched the new schedule and it was the same old faces, who I’m fed up looking at. RTE is the civil service. It’s a big building with all these people doing nothing. RTE should be sold off and the people running it sacked….

How are TV3 so successful when they have a smaller budget and only one little studio? They call RTE ‘the station of the cross’. God know’s it’s true. We have all been suffering for years. It has to end soon. Please.”

Agreed. There is something more than vaguely disconcerting, in my view, about the whole concept of a State broadcaster. Wochenschau did not have the benefit of being beamed into people’s living rooms but even then Dr Goebbels saw the mind-shaping potential of public broadcasting. OK, that is an extreme example, but you get the idea.

Be it Pravda, Der Stürmer, or RTE (yes, I’m being extreme again) you can’t expect Government-controlled media to be impartial to political influence. Never mind the fact that RTE enjoys an unfair advantage over TV3 by taking in advertising revenue and a TV licence fee, unlike the BBC.

It can’t be a good thing for the media to be controlled by the likes of Murdoch and O’Reilly either, but some kind of monopoly legislation should be capable of preventing this.

In which case, RTE should be kicked off the stage.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Daft property reports and McWilliams herald further falls. And what about the earnings multiples?

We shouldn’t be surprised by recent reports from property website Daft that confirm house prices remain in decline and rents continue their downward slide. One of the reasons lending got so out of hand was the banks were handing out unsustainable multiples of people’s earnings, pre-crash.

There is little doubt that when they lend at all in the foreseeable future, they will be constrained by the strict application of the multiples formula when calculating affordability.  So, let’s say that they now apply 3.5 x times earnings for the primary income and 1 x one the secondary income (a generous multiple) for a couple who are both in full-time, permanent employment, that could work out as follows:

Income one: Average public sector earnings of €50,000
Income two: Average private sector earnings of €38,000*

= The maximum they can borrow is €213,000.

Even if one was on €80,000 and the other on €60,000 (and I don’t know any such couple pulling in that between them, but maybe that's the company I keep) the maximum amount would be €340,000.
Obviously, single people or couples with one earner could borrow correspondingly less.

I invite you to take a look at My Home or Daft, where you will still see asking prices of €750,000 for detached houses in established parts of Dublin 15 (just an example, as it's my own backyard), and see if asking prices tally up with those figures.

Then take David McWilliams piece in the Indo yesterday, where he predicts further price falls based on the following investor model:

"With government bonds yielding more than 5pc, it's fair to suggest that an investor would need to get a yield of at least 7pc from housing. So taking the average house price at €220,000 and the average rent at €863 per month, we see that the investor gets -- with these prices and these rents -- a gross yield of just over 4pc. This is before he takes into account his funding costs. Why would he bother getting into the market just yet?
In order to make a 7pc yield at the present average rent, the average price of houses would have to fall to €135,620. This suggests a huge further drop in average house prices here."

By either criteria, Tom Parlon’s famous bottom looks very far away at the moment.


*both figures sourced from Ronan Lyons, Feb 2009.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Nama Zombie hotels to drive legitimate concerns out of business

One of the best descriptions of Nama I came across was on the blogosphere, namely Bock. He described the government / banker / developer scam thus:

“Whatever they tell you about haircuts, remember that Nama will still be paying the banks more than their loans are worth, through a deft piece of doublethink known as Long-Term Economic Value.

This means that Nama doesn’t buy the assets from the banks at their current value, but at some price which they hope will emerge perhaps ten years from now. It’s like buying an Ikea table and waiting for it to become an antique.”


But it seems that the Irish builder/developer class, their banking payrollers and, by extension, Fianna Fail just cannot see the connection between their cronyism and the country’s subsequent headlong plunge into crisis.

It has been remarked before on the blog how people who badged themselves free-marketeers – clowns like Charlie McCreevy – consistently used State intervention in the form of so-called “stimulus” policies to interfere in the residential and commercial property markets.  Even when the market was overheated Fianna Fail kept these policies going in a bid to keep the billions flowing into their builder buddies' bank accounts. It was like injecting crack/cocaine into someone suffering from an epileptic fit.

They did the same in the hotel industry with their tax breaks, and now many of these hotels that came into being on the back of such largesse are being taken over by Nama, effectively becoming “zombie” operations that, despite unsustainable borrowings and debt levels, have been allowed to stay open and operate at below cost price.

The result? Viable businesses will go bust as they can’t compete against such artificial, unfair competition. The Irish Hotels Federation expects 80-90 long-established, legitimate hotels to go into receivership this autumn.

What are the "free-marketeers" saying now?

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Tescos Maynooth Stella Artois scandal.

Frivolous Sunday post alert.

What the hell is going on? In any other country the indignant masses would be out on the streets storming the place, but not here.

Despite assurances that prices have dropped 14% in the past year, and despite the fact that the Government has reduced VAT on alcohol, Tescos has seen fit to increase its price for a crate of Stella Artois by 33%.

How can a major supermarket chain justify this increase on such an essential foodstuff, when real costs have actually fallen?   Sounds like blatant profiteering.  Then there’s the fact that Tescos Maynooth petrol and diesel prices are actually higher than the local pump here in Blanch.

What’s that about economies of scale and all the rest?

Maybe it's time for a Lidl diversion.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Rapist Larry Murphy released today.

A young woman was abducted from a Carlow car park by 36 year-old Larry Murphy in February 2000. He punched her and forced her into the boot of his car before driving to a dirt road nine miles away where he raped her.

Murphy then forced the woman back into the boot of the car and drove to an even more isolated spot in the Wicklow Mountains where he again raped her, and was in the process of strangling her when two men hunting foxes arrived on the scene. The rapist fled and the young woman escaped with her life.  Murphy later told gardai "she was lucky".

Murphy was only apprehended because one of the huntsmen recognised him.  He was subsequently found guilty of rape and attempted murder. The woman was too traumatised by her ordeal to even give evidence in court. Murphy’s sentence was 15 years.

That was back in 2001, and Larry Murphy walks free from Arbour Hill prison today, having attained early release for "good behaviour".

During his time in custody, the rapist/attempted murderer refused to take part in any rehabilitation programmes. As a result, there is intense media and public interest around the subject of his early release back into society, and not unreasonable fears that he still poses a danger to women.

Murphy was convicted before the Sex Offenders’ Act of 2001 came into force, so he cannot be made subject to any form of compulsory supervision by the State and any community into which he moves will not officially be made aware of his past.

While this site is hardly a “hang-'em, flog-'em” one, the question has to be asked as to how the perpetrator of such a vile crime can be released back into society without having undergone any kind of rehabilitation?

There is a danger – given the high profile and nature of the case – that when the law is seen to be an ass, some might seek their own kind of justice.

This is in nobody’s interest. Certainly not Larry Murphy’s.

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Social welfare fraud, public-office fraud, and tax evasion. The differing Irish attitudes towards each.

An article in last weekend’s Sunday Times offered food for thought on the authorities’ contrasting attitudes towards social welfare fraud and tax evasion, and the resources dedicated to tackle the respective abuses.

It seems that measures introduced in 2005, giving the State powers to data-match information held on individuals, have resulted in €484 million in welfare savings for the exchequer. The operation is run by 600 civil servants who monitor information on births, deaths and marriages from the General Register Office. I imagine such practices have been standard in other countries for decades.  What is more interesting, however, is the following.

In the last 10 years, according to the same feature, there were 3,183 prosecutions for social welfare fraud in Ireland, resulting in 48 people being jailed for 12 years and fines of €43 million being imposed.   In the same period, only 39 prosecutions for tax evasion resulted in a clawback for the State of €2,250,000 million. 

That is: 3,183 prosecutions = €43 million, against 39 prosecutions = €2.25 billion.   Surprisingly, only 6 tax fraudsters were jailed. 

Then again, given the nature of our rotten little republic it is not surprising at all, is it?  Given that tax “avoidance” by the very wealthy is lauded by much of the general public, who rush to pay homage to the likes of Bono, J.P. McManus, Denis O’Brien, and all the rest of them.  “Ah sure he gives a lot to charity, isn’t he great?”  is the mindset of these ragged-trousered, knuckle-headed, philanthropists.   Evasion is only the next, illegal, step.

And then we have Official Ireland agonising over whether corrupt politicians, who painstakingly plundered the public purse through fraudulent expenses claims, should be prosecuted – or even barred from public office.

We are a nation of no-hopers, and that is the truth. We need to be invaded again.

And this time the  “oppressors” should not leave until the civilisation process is complete.

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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Irishman, Michael Keogh, saved Hitler's life.

Thanks to F for sending in the following clip from the Belfast Telegraph, concerning an Irishman who did the world the disservice of saving Hitler's life.

The long-lost memoirs of an Irish soldier who saved a young Adolf Hitler and fought on both sides during World War I have been published after being missing for over 40 years.

The amazing wartime tale of Dubliner Michael Keogh began when he joined the British Army in 1914 and won the George's Cross for bravery before being captured by the Germans in 1916.

While in captivity he was persuaded by members of the Roger Casement Brigade, a group formed to recruit Irish soldiers to fight against the British as a display of Irish republicanism, to join them.   The detailed accounts of Mr Keogh's life, written after his experiences, mysteriously disappeared while he was on his deathbed in James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown in 1964.

According to his son Kevin (84), who lives in Swords, north Co Dublin, a man "dressed as a priest" took them from under his pillow two days before he died. The files were eventually found in the UCD archives and given back to the family in 2004.  The memoirs report a chance encounter with a young Adolf Hitler that changed the course of history.

Shortly after the Great War, while Mr Keogh was staying in Munich to fight against the Communist rulers who had declared a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in April 1919, he recalls how he led a military operation to save the life of the future German tyrant.  He had earlier met Hitler in September 1918 near Ligny on the French Border, where the pair were in the same Bavarian Regiment.

In his memoirs he describes how, as the officer on duty during the anti-Communist revolution, he received an urgent call about a riot involving 200 men and two "political agents", one of them being Hitler, in a nearby gym.

"I ordered out a sergeant and six men and, with fixed bayonets, led them off on the double."

Mr Keogh explained that two political agents, who had been lecturing from a table top, had been dragged to the floor and were being beaten.

"The two on the floor were in danger of being kicked to death. I ordered the guard to fire one round over the heads of the rioters. It stopped the commotion."  The group of soldiers managed to haul out the two injured politicians.... "The fellow with the moustache gave his name promptly: 'Adolf Hitler'.  They had come to the barracks as political agents for the new National Socialist German Workers' Party."

Keogh, who died in 1964, went on to become a founding member of the Roger Casement Repatriation Committee and a leading figure at ceremonies in Casement's honour.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Noel Dempsey takes Government jet to Donegal MacGill conference.

You might think with the ongoing Callely revelations, burgeoning dole queues, and a growing budget deficit, that our politicians would make some effort to at least be seen to moderate their innate piss-taking propensities.  Not so.

Transport minister Noel Dempsey is the latest to hog the spotlight for wasting public money and racking up needless expense.  He took the government Gulfstream IV jet on a short hop to give a speech last July at the MacGill Summer School – a pointless talking shop that takes place each year to “debate issues of national importance”.  The jet costs €7,890 an hour and is capable of flying across the Atlantic, according to a report in the Indo.

As if that was not bad enough, his Garda driver travelled the 274KM from Dublin to pick him up at Derry Airport, before chauffeuring him the remaining 94km to Glenties, Donegal, where MacGill is held.

And what was the topic of discussion at the conference?

"Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability".

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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

If you're drivin', come into the parlour. Car crashes into Clare house - again.

Monday’s papers reported the case of an elderly man in Clare who was lucky to escape death when a car crashed through his front wall and into his house the previous day.

Incredibly, it is not the first time 80-year-old Martin McGuane has had such an experience – this was the seventh time a motorist gatecrashed his home.

The situation has become so perilous that the retired farmer shuns using his front door and opts to use the back one instead.  It seems there have been at least 20 accidents on the road outside his dwelling and he has asked the council to erect safety barriers, but to no avail.

Indeed, according to McGuane the local council insists he must build his own barriers, due to “liability issues” - an option he refuses to take as he “would then be liable if someone hit it and was hurt”.   Road safety, Irish style.

So, let's see. We have an 80-year-old man afraid to sit in his living room for fear of being mown down by an errant driver because:

1) The council can't be bothered to put up safety barriers on an obviously dangerous section of road.

2) The elderly house occupant is afraid of being sued.

Only in...?

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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Water skiing (or wakeboarding) the canal in Tullamore.

I had never heard of wakeboarding until someone sent me this You Tube clip. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, it is:

“a surface water sport which involves riding a wakeboard over the surface of a body of water. It was developed from a combination of water skiing, snow boarding and surfing techniques.

The rider is usually towed behind a motorboat; typically at speeds of 18–24 miles per hour depending on the water conditions, board size, rider's weight, and rider's comfort speed. But wakeboarding can also be performed with a variety of media including closed-course cables, winches, PWCs, and ATVs.”

Unless you live in Ireland, of course, where you simply find a nearby canal, hitch a rope onto the back of a friend’s car, and off you go.  It must be something to do with the (unofficial) recession, where inflatable banana rides off the Torremolinos coast and the like are not as attainable as they were in the past.  At least it is some kind of indication of a “can-do” spirit, I suppose.

I love the dialogue at the start of the video. “It won’t start off in second gear!!!”.

Erm, how about putting it into first?

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