Is Anglo ‘systemic’ to the Irish economy?

March 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is no doubt that Anglo Irish Bank has poisoned the well of this country’s banking sector and also its economy. What happened at that bank led to the making of the decisions that were announced yesterday in the Dáil. I do not accept, however, that this issue can be reduced to alleging wrongdoing on the part of certain named individuals. I agree with people who state that in so far as wrongdoing is found to have occurred, those involved should be brought to book. I would be as strong as anyone in advocating that this should happen.

It is part of an emerging narrative, particularly on the part of the Government, to seek to reduce this problem to the proverbial small number of bad apples. I do not accept that when considering what occurred in the past ten to 12 years, it is possible to reduce the wrong that has been done to the people as something which resulted from the actions of three, four or even half a dozen wealthy, or formerly wealthy, individuals. We would be doing a real disservice to the people and this country’s history if we insisted, even for one minute, that this was the case.

There is a great word which continues to be bandied about in respect of the banks, particularly Anglo Irish Bank, namely “systemic”. I am extremely interested in the use and abuse of this word. Like everyone else, I have a reasonable understanding of what it means in the English language. However, it has been employed by the Government, particularly in the context of Anglo Irish Bank, in the same way that Americans use the phrase “Too important to fail”. As I understand it, if a bank is of systemic importance this means its tentacles and those of its business reach so far into the heart of the economy that if it got into difficulty it would, by necessity, have to be saved.

I am intrigued by the statements made in the past 24 hours to the effect that the contents of the balance sheet of Anglo Irish Bank constitute half of the value of the Irish economy. I had not previously come across such statements. In fairness to the Government, if what is being stated is true then this would point to the importance of Anglo Irish Bank being somewhat systemic in character. Is it truly the case that the contents of one relatively young bank could constitute half the value of the country’s economy? If the answer is yes, how was this allowed to occur? In a country where people were previously informed that competition and the plurality of banking services were extremely important, how was such a position allowed to develop? There is a need for someone to clarify the position, particularly in the context of the absence of regulation for such a long period. How did the contents of Anglo Irish Bank’s balance sheet come to constitute such an enormous part of the economy? « Read the rest of this entry »

Alex on Today FM

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last weekend, I appeared on The Sunday Supplement on Today FM.  The other panellists on the show were Mary O’Rourke TD, Minister Eamon Ryan and Senator Joe O’Toole.

You can hear the show in full by clicking here.

Public need to know how DDDA cut so many legal corners

March 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Why have the documents relating to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority not been published? Senator Dan Boyle indicated he believed they should be published quickly when the former Senator Deirdre de Búrca explosion occurred some weeks ago. Will Senator Boyle indicate to the Seanad when they will be published and, if he cannot do so, can he indicate the reason for the delay? We are informed by RTE that the Minister and the Attorney General have the reports. The Attorney General has seen them. The Minister received them last month. Apparently, the process is ongoing. What is the nature of this process?

If such reports are in existence I am not prepared to absolve in advance the Fianna Fáil party and its leadership in respect of what has taken place. In fairness, I may do so when I read the reports but I wish to see the reports first to make up my own mind.

Planning permissions apparently given by the DDDA were considered ‘non-compliant’. That is the phrase RTE has used. RTE did not inform us with what the agency was not compliant. I presume it meant the agency was not compliant with the planning code as we understand it.

It is an extraordinary situation whereby an agency, set up for a very good reason to foster development in a particular area, could end up being used as a conduit to circumvent the planning code and to cut corners. We have seen so many corners cut in recent years by persons in the private sector. We hope we will not find out now that this public body was set up to facilitate private persons and institutions circumventing the law.

Govt needs less wishful thinking in dealing with the economy

March 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Finance Bill began in the Seanad this morning. Following a speech by the Minister, I rose with my own contribution. You can read it below.

Particularly in this area of discussing the economy and our future, I am all in favour of hope. We all want to have a debate that is characterised by hope so that we can be genuinely positive and face the future in that vein. That is the basis upon which any of us would come to this debate. Certainly, there is need for a restoration of hope and confidence in the economy.

However, my problem with this debate is that while a number of speakers stated they hope that things will happen, it has been characterised by a significant degree of what I can only describe as wishful thinking, not entirely – in some cases, not at all – based on the facts.

It started out this afternoon with the Minister’s speech. The Minister treated us to an account of what he describes as “tentative signs that the economy is beginning to stabilise on a number of fronts.” He spoke of unspecified key macro-economic and fiscal data releases being generally in line with expectations. He repeated that growth is likely to return in the second half of the year and re-establish itself on a full-year basis in 2011. He also repeated his famous phrase from his Budget Statement that the economy is now turning the corner. On today’s lunchtime news, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, was somewhat less positive than this, couching his remarks along the lines that he felt we have come close to a situation where we might turn the corner, which is somewhat different.

I long for the day, as many people do, that the economy genuinely turns the corner. However, I vehemently disagree with politicians, particularly those in positions of power, seeking to persuade people on the basis of assertion that a new state of affairs has come about because, as of yet, it simply has not.

The second example of wishful thinking came from my colleague Senator Boyle. Earlier, he indicated he was initially sceptical when last summer the Minister for Finance, with little discussion, changed the configuration between cuts and revenue measures that would make up the €4 billion to be taken out of the economy this year. However, Senator Boyle came around to the view that the Minister got the balance about right. No one has explained to me, or could if they were being honest, how they believe the Minister got that balance right. « Read the rest of this entry »

Labour Bill to bring law in line with reality

March 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Speaking at the Launch of Labour’s ‘Guardianship of Children Bill 2010’

The Bill we are publishing today will bring our law and practice into line with the reality of life for many thousands of families in Ireland.

Largely because of the peculiarly strong Family provisions in Article 41 of the Constitution, we have failed to recognise that very many people nowadays live in stable and loving relationships and families which are not families in the traditional sense.

The emphasis in the Bill is not on competing or conflicting rights of parents, but rather on the rights of the child to the care and responsibility of both parents – married or not.

It will bring Ireland into line with important provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and also the European Convention on Human Rights.

Taken together with the significant potential for enhancing children’s rights represented by the proposed Children’s Rights amendment to the Constitution, this Labour Bill would bring a very real advance for children. It would also confer legal recognition in a more equitable fashion on the responsibilities of both parents for the care and upbringing of their children.

More :: Guardianship of Children Bill 2010

Lack of debate on HSE means answers to Tallaght Hospital Scandal scarce

March 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that the Minister should be held responsible for not opening particular letters or envelopes in Tallaght hospital. It is nonsensical to suggest it and to the extent that it has been suggested I do not agree with it. However, there is a real issue for political representatives.

Because of all the changes that have occurred and the arrival of the HSE on the scene – many on the Government side have made this point – politicians and political representatives generally have been deprived of an opportunity to raise any serious issue or have serious debate, such as that which has been called for in the Seanad or in the Dáil. The Dáil is a Chamber to which the Government is accountable and responsible under the Constitution although it is not as directly responsible to this Chamber. However not even Deputies can get answers on these issues because Ministers habitually refuse to answer them, often because they are a matter for the HSE. However, when one approaches the HSE there is no serious procedure, basis or opportunity for public representatives to raise these issues and have them debated.

I do not blame people for mistakenly thinking that every issue must be laid directly at the feet of the Minister for Health and Children because the system has been changed in such a way as to render it impossible to get any answers other than calling for the Minister to come to the House. If the Leader of the Seanad has an alternative to propose to us on how we can have a serious and adult debate on this issue I would like to hear it. Otherwise, there is no alternative to people coming here day after day to call for the Minister for Health and Children to answer questions on issues which, in a normal democracy, she would not have to address in the same detail.

It was a complete spectacle to have the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, state that something should be done about Tallaght Hospital. Is there a democracy in the world in which a Minister of State would state that something should be done? We are told that health spending is one of the biggest areas of public expenditure over which the Government and the Oireachtas presides. It beggars belief that there is not a serious basis upon which issues such as what went wrong at Tallaght hospital can be properly debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Embassy marriages debacle has serious implications

March 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

What is proposed to be done about the reports in the newspapers today that thousands of marriages conducted at embassies in Dublin have apparently been declared invalid? Will the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, or the relevant Minister, respond to this extraordinary state of affairs, whereby hundreds of people who have lived in this country, many of whom have worked here, and got married in embassies in Dublin have been told that their marriages are, in fact, invalid?

If the shoe was on the other foot and this was occurring to so many Irish people living abroad, one can imagine the level of justified indignation and high dudgeon there would be both here and elsewhere. It is an extraordinary state of affairs, whereby people are finding, in some cases three, four or five years after they were married in Dublin, that their marriages are invalid. This will have very serious implications for them in terms of the recognition of their marriages in their home countries.

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