Sunday, May 31, 2009

Final Phase of Dublin Euro election campaign


Euro Election 2004

General Election 2007

15 May

26 May







Fine Gael










Green Party





Sinn Fein





Socialist Party







including PD's

McKenna 7
Simons 1

McKenna 5
Simons 2

Irish Times TMS MRBI The latest poll data from The Irish Times TNS-MRBI poll shows that Gay Mitchell, the outgoing MEP and Fine Gael candidate has strengthened his position by 2 points and has every prospect of being elected on the first count. The Labour Party candidate, Proinsias De Rossa could also be elected on the first count.

There will be a battle for the 3rd seat and the Socialist Party candidate, Joe Higgins has strengthened his claim at the expense of outgoing MEP and Sinn Féin candidate, Mary Lou McDonald. McDonald’s poll showing has dropped by 3 points and this follows publicity about her poor attendance record at the Parliament – 55%.

While Eoin Ryan’s running mate, Dublin Lord Mayor, Eibhlin Byrne has maintained her 5% share, Ryan’s has dropped by 2 points to 9%, the same as Higgins.  Byrne has served the city well as Lord Mayor although she was quoted in the media last week as advocating a sentence of community service for Frank Dunlop, who was convicted on his own guilty plea of bribing councillors over a protracted period in relation to planning.  The taxpayer funded a €500,000,000 million tribunal of enquiry to investigate these matters and the consequences of them – overpriced development land, appalling planning decisions and more recently, a burst housing bubble – I would have thought that Her Worship might have served her cause better by holding her breath on this matter.  Too many voters are enduring very costly consequences as an outcome of Dunlop’s bribes on behalf of property developers.

Patricia McKenna, who won 10% of the valid poll in the 2004 Euro election is showing at 5% (from 8%) but this has probably put a hole in the chances of Green Party candidate, Deirdre de Burca. de Burca has failed to make much impact in this campaign and the Green Party position with respect to the second referendum on The Lisbon Treaty is as ambiguous and opaque as the response of the Catholic religious congregations to compensating victims of child sex abuse. The Greens have been criticised for choosing deBruca as a candidate because her political base has been in Wicklow (Leinster constituency) but I don’t think that carries much weight.  But her campaign has been lacklustre, lacking either passion, or inspiration. 

I am not surprised that the Libertas candidate, Caroline Simons has failed to make any impact because she is contesting this election without having even introduced herself to her electorate. It is simply not sufficient to campaign on the basis of tittle-tattle shibboleths and overarching criticism of rivals.  The electorate would also seem hesitant about the concept of a Europe-wide political force being launched from Ireland in this election by individuals who have neither a political record of any apparent impact on community wellbeing.

Post-Lisbon Treaty Referendum Sentiment 

When the first referendum on The Lisbon Treaty was held on 12 June 2008, Dublin voted 51 - 49 against. The TNS-MRBI poll the week prior to the referendum showed 30% in favour, 35% against and 35% undecided. Those who campaigned against the Treaty last year (McDonald, Higgins, McKenna) are not achieving much traction from this in the forthcoming contest.  It will be interesting to discern public sentiment on this matter because a second referendum is pending later this year.  The outcome of the first referendum for each Dublin Dáil was as follows:



Valid Poll




Against %








Mid West














North Central







North East







North West














South Central







South East







South West














Dun Laoghaire
















Impact on Fianna Fáil

The other factor that will be interesting to discern is what exactly will happen to the Fianna Fáil vote in Dublin on June 5th.  The party won 40.4% of the vote in the 2007 general election.  It holds seats in every Dublin constituency – two seats in seven constituencies and five others.

The following table illustrates the strength of Fianna Fáil in each of the Dublin Dáil constituencies in the last general election:


Dublin Constituency

FF Share of Valid Poll, 2007

North West






North Central




North East


South West




Dun Laoghaire


Mid West


South East


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Child Abuse Report – Stonewalling, Evasion and Obfuscation by religious congregations

cori Apart from the tragedy itself, I have been closely observing the unfolding events since The Ryan Report was published from the perspective of a crisis management’ process and the associated manoeuvres.

The presumed public relations mouthpiece of the 18 congregations cited in the Report is the umbrella Conference of Religious of Ireland, (CORI), a body on which the leadership of individual congregations are represented. CORI coordinated the €128 million contribution and associated indemnity against further claims in June 2002. The persons acting for CORI were Sr Elizabeth Maxwell, Sr Helena O’Donoghue, both of whom are members of the Sisters of Mercy and Br Kevin Mullen of the Christian Brothers. Maxwell had been secretary-general of CORI at that time. The bill is €1.3 billion so the perpetrators are providing 10% and the taxpayer 90%. A single High Court action could have had more severe consequences.

It also published a an apology on behalf of these congregations at that time., the text of which was

“We accept that some children in residential institutions managed by our members suffered deprivation, physical and sexual abuse. We regret that, we apologise for it. We can never take away the pain experienced at the time by these children nor the shadow left over their adult lives. Today the congregations with the State are giving a concrete expression of their genuine desire to foster healing and reconciliation in the lives of former residents.”

There was an announcement immediately after the conclusion of this deal that CORI was working with the Irish Bishops Conference and the Irish Missionary Union since April 2002 to establish an ‘independent’ Commission on Child Sex Abuse. “The Commission was seen as a further step on the road to healing and reconciliation with people who were sexually abused by some of our members”. CORI agreed to work with the Commission in a desire to establish the truth of the extent of child sexual abuse and how complaints were handled. Maxwell expressed her “profound regret” in 2002 “that even one person had been abused by a religious”.

When the 2002 Redress Fund was set up it was not possible to predict the number of victims that would come forward but the number who actually did – 14,584 victims.

Overcoming Procedural Obfuscation

The first Chairman of the State inaugurated Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (known now as The Ryan Report) was a High Court judge, Ms Justice Laffoy, who resigned as Chair of the Commission on 12 January 2004 because the Commission was not being given the necessary information and support. The Department of Education was to be cited in the Report as being deferential and submissive to the religious congregations. Laffoy was succeeded by Mr Justice Seán Ryan who was mandated to undertake his own independent review. He identified major impediments facing his Commission’s Investigation Committee.

If the work of the Investigation Committee were to continue unchanged, there would be no prospect of its work being completed within a reasonable time and at an acceptable cost. He suggested a number of changes that were needed to overcome the problems:

  1. Amendments to the 2000 Act so as to focus the Investigation Committee on its core function, which was to inquire into abuse of children in institutions.
  2. Changes to procedures which would enable allegations to be heard in logical units for hearings (Modules).
  3. Publication of interim reports as the work proceeded.
  4. Establishment of ‘trust’ between the parties as to the fairness of the hearings.

The work of the Investigation Committee was suspended from September 2003 until March 2004. Judgment was awaited in a High Court action brought by the Christian Brothers. This case sought judicial determination, inter alia, of the constitutionality of the Investigation Committee’s approach to making findings of abuse against elderly or deceased Brothers or those who could not properly answer the allegations

At a public meeting held in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, on 7th May 2004, the Investigation Committee announced its intention to make significant changes to deal with the obstacles to its work. The chairperson set out proposals for hearing selected witnesses in the investigation of institutions that had the largest number of complaints made against them; however, the larger institutions had far more complainants wishing to give evidence.

At that point in May 2004, the length and form that the hearings would take was difficult to assess. It was not known what, if any, objections were going to be raised. These uncertainties gave rise to some concern in the Investigation Committee, particularly in relation to larger institutions, and whether all hearings could be completed within a reasonable time. This would leave other potential witnesses out of the investigative process.

For most of the smaller institutions ( those against whom a small number of complaints had been made), the Investigation Committee believed it could hear all those who had notified the Committee of their intention to give evidence and who had then followed up with statements.

At the meeting on 7th May 2004, the Committee published and circulated a position paper on the question of ‘naming and shaming’ abusers, which stated that the Inquiry was not going to be able to complete its work if it proceeded on the basis of naming abusers. The document suggested that, because of difficulties of proof, there would probably be many abusers in respect of whom the evidence fell short. There were risks that people not guilty of abuse could be named. A further point was the disparity that would exist between people who were named – necessarily, a limited number – and the larger cohort of people who had indeed committed abuse (as a matter of probability) but who were not named. These and other points were made in proposing the policy that the Investigation Committee would not name abusers in the report, and would proceed with the investigation on that basis.

Time was allowed for submissions to be made, and all parties were asked to assist the Investigation Committee with suggestions that would allow the process to move forward. No substantial submissions were received in respect of the policies outlined above.

At a further meeting in June 2004, the Committee announced its decision to proceed on the basis of selection of witnesses for the hearings. This applied only to the larger institutions, which were Artane, Letterfrack, Ferryhouse, Upton and Daingean. The policy of not naming abusers was applied generally.

The Commission sought amendments to the legislation to incorporate these changes, and these were set down in the Act of 2005.

The Investigation Committee at this time wrote to all complainants/solicitors to ascertain the number of complainants who wished to proceed with their application to be heard. As a result of this, 143 complainants withdrew their request to give evidence to the Investigation Committee, while 174 other complainants transferred to the Confidential Committee.

The Investigation Committee then proceeded with the work of the Inquiry.

Obfuscation following publication of The Ryan Report

CORI stated on 22 May 2009 that it was not aware of any plans for the 18 congregations to reconsider their contribution to the Redress Fund. The Irish Government gave them succour by stating the the deal was watertight from a legal standpoint.

Public opinion pickup pace in the aftermath of the publication of the Report and there was a deep unease both with respect to the burden-sharing of compensation and the sundering of public trust. The Bishop of Down and Connor, in a robust interview stated that an inter-disciplinary review of the Report’s findings was in order and the compensation issue needed to be reviewed. The Bishops Conference concurred with this on Monday, May 25 but there had been no interviews with CORI on radio or television news by that stage.

Marianne O’Connor, the current director-general of CORI participated in a 17-minute interview on RTE Radio 1 on Tuesday, May 26. O’Connor stated in her interview that “CORI has no executive role” with the congregations, notwithstanding the 2002 deal and apology it issued on behalf of the congregations. She “acknowledged the awful horror of the Report” but that CORI was not a direct party to the deal and the congregations did not wish to revisit the deal and that she was not a spokesperson for the congregations. The congregations expressed a wish to engage directly with survivors of abuse but did not elaborate on the nature of any new resources. She did not want any additional resources to threaten existing services provided by the congregations. Her moral argument for not reopening the deal was that Redress was “not the best vehicle” to deal with the Report’s consequences because it could end in a legal quagmire. Atonement and restitutions was to be the basis of their response.

The previous evening Michael O’Brien, a former Mayor of Clonmel participated in the current affairs television programme ‘Questions & Answers’ on Monday, May 25th and his graphic description of being raped and buggered by the Rosminians in Ferryhouse, Co Tipperary. He was one of a family of 8 who was committed to this industrial school. He described being raped and buggered by several Rosminian priests who gave him Holy Communion the morning after such episodes.

They caved on the principle of further compensation on Wednesday, May 27th. The Government, recognising that public sentiment was outraged, were now adamant that additional compensation must be forthcoming from the congregations and that the State would administer it.

This morning, Saturday May 30, is a bright sunny day and the main news headline is a report from Maxwell that the religious congregations do not see a role for the broader Irish Church in examining their failures in their duty of care to children because they are autonomous – so much for transparency and ggod faith. The wheel has therefore turned full circle since 27 June 2002 when all of these elements of the Catholic Church were sharing the same bath in there relentless search for cleanliness and their journey along the pathway of healing and reconciliation. We are not seeing, once again, wagons circling and ranks closing even though the abuse and cover-ups revealed in the Report was much greater and the sex abuse much more endemic than ever suspected.

Friday, May 29, 2009

“Suffering of the abused must not be prolonged”

Pope Fr Sean Healy, the ubiquitous spokesman on justice matters, wrote an opinion article in The Irish Times yesterday, Thursday 28 May. He states that he uses Gospel based principles to validate what he has to say. His stated posture is typically one seeking to alleviate the distress of ‘the vulnerable’, but I think, at this stage, there is nobody more vulnerable than the author. But we also discovered that the organisation he represents, CORI, has no executive function so that begs the question his speaking platform is a mere badge of convenience for him to describe the elusive ‘desirable future’, almost a decade into the future. But who is bothered if in fact he says absolutely nothing?

His response to The Ryan Report is almost like the all-purpose approach that a technician might have towards any technical blip, such as clearing a blocked drain. The prescription, or pathway forward, he tells us is to be based on additional compensation or restitution, adequate apologies, and a period of refection of humiliation and everybody is back in business - ‘two of sand, one of cement’. But will this prescription cure the patient or kill it?

It very noticeable how public sentiment has so briskly outpaced Government opinion with respect to this issue. The dignified radio interviews with many victims were really most compelling. Some succeeded in enjoying stability and security but were unable to fully reveal the circumstances of their background, their shattered lives and that awful sense of shame and guilt by attribution that was inflicted on them by those who maintain that their core principles, as stated by Fr Healy, are based on “justice, human dignity and compassion”.

Money is only an element of the response to this debacle. It is convenient because it is tangible and finite. It is transactional in nature and recordable for posterity. But in this instance, it will never adequately reciprocate the fatal damage done to public trust. No amount of blarney, bluster or acceptability through association with nice ideas and aspirations will turn the clock back to the time that religious congregations were trusted and respected.

This Report only deals with a subset of a much more pervasive crisis on confidence in religious personnel. Child sex abuse has been proven in so many dimensions over the past 25 years, or so. Unfortunately, there are more reports of abuse pending.

It has been interesting from the perspective of due process unfolding to observe the Church reaction to the many crises that have occurred in Ireland and elsewhere. The typically begin with apologies, regrets and sympathy before inertia sets in. The second phase is a closing of ranks and is frequently characterised by differences of opinion among Church leaders. But the wagons circle and the ranks close until the next controversy and the inevitable humiliation that ensues.

I have the impression that society, rather than Church or Government are now in pole position and their patience and tolerance is past breaking point.

The congregations currently cited and others were inaugurated in another era, to meet quite different circumstances. But, like the former manager of the Cork hurling team, they have ‘lost the dressing room’ and many now question whether the humility that Fr Healy refers to is actually their disbandment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Irish Catholic Church Abuse – second thoughts, at last, on more compensation

cori The Ryan Report was published on Wednesday, May 20th and the silence that ensued from the religious congregations for days afterwards was deafening, given their typical passion for public profile when the issue involves spending somebody else’s money on their pet objectives e.g. ‘the vulnerable’, ‘the isolated’ etc. Sadly, too many of ‘the vulnerable’ are by-products of their own gulags.

When they eventually emerged from their closet on Wednesday, May 27th, their message was ‘no money’, but we wish to interface privately and directly with victims of decades of abuse to provide a form of assistance that was neither ascertained, or possibly ascertainable. Their spokesman sounded like someone from the car park clampers advising that the clamps on the victims would be removed forthwith! I should emphasize that money alone will not recreate the public trust and esteem that these congregations have lost.

The Government had been hiding resolutely behind what were supposed to be the legal impediments to changing the 2002 deal – a contribution of €127 million and an absolute indemnity against further claims.

However, public opinion and sentiment moved briskly ahead of Government statements and the sense of outrage amongst the public was, and is, incandescent. There is a deep sense of public trust being grossly violated.

The religious congregations say they will now provide more resources which the Government, quite rightly, insist will be allocated by the State. An assistant commissioner of the Garda Siochána (police) has been mandated to look into the possibility of bringing forward criminal charges.

Pres McAleese The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has been on a 1-week visit to Massachusetts and, given the worldwide publicity attaching to derring-do of the cited religious congregations, she must have been clearly embarrassed, humiliated as horrified as the rest of us. I’ve lived in Boston for 5 years and I can intimately empathise with the social predicament she faced as a consequence of this Report’s findings.

She is a president that the nation is truly and deeply proud of, an incumbent who has the measure of the office she holds and is always tempered in her public remarks and very adept at reaching a diversified audience. But she also stated clearly that if there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing perpetrators must answer. The President is usually closer to public opinion that the Government. She has been in office for 12 years and sustains an approval rating in the mid 90’s.

A Reputation in Shreds

Most adults in Ireland were aware of the harshness and austerity of the religious controlled gulags but the evidence of The Ryan Report brought everything into focus and exposed the unabated horror that was perpetuated in the name of Christ. Several of the victims were interviewed on radio this week and it was heart-rending to hear their stories. Thankfully, some of those who spoke enjoyed some stability in their lives and the security of a happy family. But all of them had to conceal their true background and identity from spouses that whose love, loyalty and friendship they have enjoyed for decades. There is not a single individual who has been abused that does not feel an enduring sense of shame that can be so deep rooted that it is actually hard to recognise for what it is.

The reputation of religious congregations has sunk so low that people now ask what possible function in society can untrustworthy organizations have? Their advocates, over the years, would remind people about the ‘good works’ and selfless priest, brothers and nuns’ whose basis sense of vocation and goodness should not be tarnished. But the reality is that all congregations have been holed beneath the water line.

The Report only dealt with a segment of the institutions they controlled – industrial schools and reformatories. But there are considerable number of religious personnel who held positions of trust in schools and boarding schools, such as the Franciscan-run Gormanston College and the Dominican-run Newbridge College who have been convicted of child sex abuse. We have reached the stage in Ireland, sadly, where the absence of this type of abuse is the exception rather than the rule.

The 2002 deal involved a contribution by the 18 religious congregations of €128 million that was capped and an indemnity against further claims was agreed with the Irish Government. The devious, duplicitous nature of these people is marked by the report that they have not even fulfilled their obligation under the terms of the 2002 agreement. They're are ripe with an abundance of fatuous excuses.

The efforts of the Conference of Religious of Ireland CORI in response to this Report will provide scholarly material on how not to respond to a major crisis for decades to come. Their initial response was to stonewall; to circle the wagons and to close ranks. But if they are now deciding to provide additional resources it is not motivated by spontaneous generosity. It is a consequence of them being publicly humiliated and seen as hypocrites and parasites. I don’t use these terms lightly. A hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, or principles that he, or she, does not actually posses, or a person who feigns some desirable, or publicly approved attitude? A parasite is a person that derives support or advantage through association from another person or institution, without giving any useful or proper return.

Their statement issued on May 25th, refers to the “vast scale” of the abuse they perpetrated as being “horrendous” – not the abuse, merely the scale. Their initial reluctance to provide more money for compensation was stated to be based on any additional money “would only go to the Government!

They were also quick to advise that “the recommendations and conclusions of the Ryan Report are imperative (that is, unavoidable) for all those involved in the care of vulnerable people” . But their gulags’ closed some years ago so this statement so this admonishment does not refer to themselves but to third parties.

They were also scared at the prospect of a civil court action as the explanations below for their stated reason in 2002 for contributing to the Redress Fund reveals. Now, it is likely that the criminal courts may intruded into their tranquil lives either on indictment or as witnesses.

Finally, I found it interesting to reflect on where and why did these religious congregations become established. Nine of the 18 have a French origin and the French Revolution was a catalyst in some of them being established. All, but one, was established before the middle of the nineteenth century. The following milestones impacted on Irish society in their formative years:

1800: Act of Union, which shuttered the Anglo-Irish parliament in College Green, Dublin

1829: Catholic Emancipation: but the right to vote was restricted to holders of freehold property worth £10, not £2 as had been the case. This meant that the Catholics were emancipated and could become and MP, but the right to vote was not so widespread.

1845-1850: Irish potato Famine, which saw the population drop from 8 million to 6 million, of which one million starved to death and one million emigrated.

1868: Industrial Schools Act – which created the gulags that are the subject of The Ryan report

1869: Irish Church Act, which meant that the Anglican Church was no longer the official church of the Kingdom of Britain and Ireland, as it was then known.

This self-explanatory table lists the congregations cited, the year and place of their founding; whether they proffered a public apology; the number of schools they were in charge of which are pertinent to the Report and why the contributed to the Redress Fund set up in 2002. It is important to bear in mind that even though this Fund was to provide €128 million, that the religious congregations concerned have not even met that obligation. When ranks close and wagons circle – inertia is never far away!

Name of Congregation


Apology / Operations / Reason for contributing to Redress Fund

Rosminian Institute of Charity


1999: Deep regrets

Operated two industrial schools in Upton, Co Cork and Ferryhouse, Co Tipperary

Contributed to Redress Fund because ‘it was the right thing to do’ and that the litigation route would be disastrous for all concerned.

The Dominican Order


No apology

Operated one orphanage in Dublin until 1993

Contributed to Redress Fund

The Sisters of Mercy


1996: Apology, following broadcast of ‘Dear Daughter’

2004: Second apology

Operated 26 industrial schools

Contributed to Redress Fund to avoid litigation and to facilitate closure

Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd


No Apology

Operated 4 industrial schools in Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Wexford

Contributed to Redress Fund for pastoral and practical considerations – e.g. financial restraints, to avoid the huge cost of litigation and to avoid confrontation with ex residents.

The Presentation Brothers


No apology

Operated industrial school at Greenmount, Cork

Contributed to Redress Fund to avoid being sued

The Religious Sisters of Charity


No general apology, but concerned and sad about children in Madonna House; that the conviction of a male childcare worker for sex abuse made the issue ‘real’ for them and when another childcare worker was convicted they were appalled and the abuse by the accused caused ‘untold misery’, which they ‘regret’.

Operated five industrial schools in Dublin and Kilkenny; 19 primary schools and eight post-primary schools

Three staff convicted for child sex abuse for which apologies were tendered

Contributed to Redress Fund for strong pastoral reasons and to avoid the rigour of litigation. Definition of abuse considered ‘so broad’.

The Christian Brothers


Deep regrets

Operated six industrial schools and one residential school for deaf boys and numerous post-primary schools

Contributed to Redress Fund because the Fund would not ‘make a judgement’ on complaints and to avoid protracted litigation.

The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul


No apology

Operated one industrial school, four orphanages, five centres for people with intellectual disability, an orthopaedic residential children’s hospital

Contributed to Redress Fund – without hesitation

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge


Associated with CORI apology

Operated industrial school in Drumcondra and a reformatory in Kilmacud, Dublin

Contributed to Redress Fund because 5 litigation cases were pending and that there could be others. To also avail of indemnity against litigation and to achieve closure

The Brothers of Charity


1995: Public apology

Operated two schools for children with learning difficulties at Lota, Cork and Renmore, Galway; an adult psychiatric hospital in Waterford and a service for adults with learning difficulties at Clarenbridge, Galway and Limerick.

Contributed to Redress Fund followed 50 civil claims. Fund enabled them elude protracted litigation process and consequences, trauma and confrontation. Redress also did not focus on particular episodes of abuse.

The Daughters of the Heart of Mary


No apology

Operated orphanage in Dun Laoghaire that cared for over 2,000 children; visiting priest convicted of sex abuse in 1997

Contributed to Redress Fund after one set of allegations was cited. Two other allegations ensured and Redress was deemed the best way to compensate. It would also avoid adversarial or conflict and it would avoid the putting of claims individually

The De La Salle Brothers


No apology

Operated industrial school in Finglas, Dublin between 1972 and 1994

Contributed to Redress Fund after eight compensation claims emerged and to achieve some certainty with respect to future litigation.

The Sisters of St Claire
(Poor Claires)


No apology

Operated an industrial school in Cavan and orphanage in Harold’s Cross Dublin. 35 children died in a fire in Cavan on 23 February 1943

Contributed to Redress Fund to assist former internees who maybe experiencing difficulties in their lives and to avoid confrontation at all costs and that the attribution of blame would be avoided.

The Presentation Sisters


Operated industrial schools in Dundrum and Cashel, Co Tipperary

Contributed to Redress Fund to avoid protracted litigation “which isn’t in anybody’s interest”

The Sisters of St Louis


No apology

Operates an industrial school at Bundoran, Co Donegal

Contributed to Redress Fund to prevent the ordeal of past residents and the nuns having to go through the courts and long drawn out cases. They would also be indemnified against future claims.

The Hospitaller Order of St John of God


No apology

Operated a day and residential school at Blackrock, Co Dublin and other institutions.

Contributed to Redress Fund to avoid litigation and indemnity was an attractive proposition

The Sisters of Nazareth


No apology

Operated a residential home for boys and girls in Sligo

Contributed to Redress Fund as it offered a non-adversarial and speedy avenue and that Sisters would not have to attend hearings.

The Obates of Mary Immaculate


1999: Deep Regrets

Operated Daingean Reformatory, Co Offaly and a detention centre at Lusk, Co Dublin

Contributed to Redress Fund because it was better that money would get to claimants than on legal expenses and their contribution facilitated a ‘pastoral action’; also anxious to act in solidarity with other cited congregations. Surviving Oblates would avoid trauma of litigious lawsuits

These congregations set out to support the poor, vulnerable and isolated. But to understand their origins I have summarised the mission of the order of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.

Its mission of one of this congregation was to provide “shelter for girls and women of dissolute habits, who wish to do penance for their inequities and lead a truly Christian life. Not only voluntary penitents, but also those consigned by civil and parental authority are admitted. Many of these penitents desire to remain for life; they are admitted to take vows and form the class of ‘magdalens’ under the direction of Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Many of these magdalens frequently rise to an eminent degree of sanctity. Beside girls and women of this class, the order also admits children who have been secured from danger, before they have fallen or stained by serious crime. They are instructed i habits of industry and self-respect and in all the duties they owe to themselves and society. The penitents, magdalens and preservates form perfectly distinct classes, completely segregated from one another.”

This congregation founded Ruhama, in 1989 to intervene with prostitutes in Dublin prostitution. Their trustees and board of directors includes the Governor of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Child Abuse Report, a chilling profile of violated trust

brian-boru-celtic-harp Almost every metropolitan newspaper across the world published a story on Thursday, May 21st about the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland.

The Commission was established on 23 May 2000 and heard evidence of childhood abuse from attendees of industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages, and a hospital or in a child’s own home since 1940. Industrial schools were established under law in 1868 Ireland to cater for neglected, orphaned or abandoned children.

Public awareness of extensive childhood abuse in these schools was heightened by a television documentary, States of Fear in 1999 that lead to a public apology in the Dáil (Parliament) by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD. This coincided with the exposure of widespread clerical child sex abuse in Ireland, United States and elsewhere.

The types of abuse investigated included:

  • Physical abuse - infliction of injury or failure to prevent injury
  • Sexual abuse – use of a child for sexual gratification or arousal
  • Neglect – failure to care properly
  • Emotional abuse

Examples of abuse included, for example, being caned on bare buttocks, being invited to ‘search’ for a coin in the pant pocket of a cleric, being obliged to spend overnight in the open air, often during inclement weather, sharing a bed with an alcoholic nun, being stripped and beaten in front of other people and inflicting bruising and black eyes.

Approximately 170,000 children attended these institutions between 1936 and 1970. The issue of compensation was determined by a Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) and a total of 14,584 applications were received by 15 December 2005.

The position in May 2009 is that RIRB has completed 13,190 cases and has made awards totalling €787.45 million and the average value of the 12,436 awards made to date has been €63,320. A total of 1,892 awards were for sums in excess of €100,000 and 27 were in the €200,000 - €300,000 range.

A total of €138.5 million was paid in legal costs to 817 firms of solicitors.

The Irish Government entered into a contractually binding agreement in 2002 with the 18 religious congregations implicated in the Report which capped their liability at €127 million. It was anticipated that this would represent a 50-50 burden share between the State and the religious congregations. But this has not been the case in practice and the religious congregations will not increase their contribution.

The publication of the Report was spurred debate and discussion about:

    • The issue of compensation and burden sharing with many advocating a greater contribution by the religious congregations in the light of the evidence contained in the Report
    • The violation of public trust and the future relationship of citizens with the religious congregations and their representative organization the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI)
    • The appropriateness of a memorial to commemorate victims.

Response of Religious Congregations

There are 80 active religious congregations in Ireland and of these 18 are cited in the Child Abuse Report.
When this report was published last week it would have been interesting to discover the response of their representation, the Congregation of Religious of Ireland (CORI), especially from a justice perspective. But there has been no comment whatsoever.

The nation has, however, heard CORI, at its most passive, is not aware of any plans to revisit the terms of the compensation deal concluded in 2002” . This has been reconfirmed on Monday, May 25th. The counterparty to this agreement, the Irish Government, advise that it is inviolable from a legal perspective, while other politicians seem content to exploit the revulsion of the electorate for the purpose of aggrandizing, grand-standing and posturing within days of a set of elections.

Three compelling issues arise as a consequence of this Report and the forensic detail contained therein:

  1. The first and most obvious relates to the compensation of victims and on whom the burden for this falls. The timing of the compensation agreement reached 7 years ago was two years after the Commission was established on 23 May 2000 and 17 months before the resignation of Ms Justice Laffoy as Chairman of the Commissioners on 12 December 2003 on grounds of dissatisfaction with the level of government cooperation being given the Commission at that time.
    archbishop martin The evidence that is now in the public domain combined, with the very large number of victims whose claims has been accepted, put the matter of compensation and burden-sharing into a completely different context than that which prevailed in the summer of 2002 and this perspective was supported by Most Rev Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin.

    This agreement maybe watertight and it may define the finite element of burden-sharing from a legal perspective. But it is not an agreement on faith, hope, charity or justice. It is an agreement that is essentially based on low peasant-cunning.

    The diminishing cohort of Irish taxpayers, at a time of chronic economic recession and whose own livelihoods are under constant threat, are to bear a burden for the criminality of your members’ which will absorb all of the customs, all of the capital gains tax and all of the capital acquisition tax revenue that that State will receive in 2009.
  2. The second issue concerns the violation of public trust. Public trust is not something that is created from money, or by a photo-opportunity on the plinth of Leinster House with an ageing government minister and a soon to retire secretary-general of the Department of Education & Science, or over a glass of port, or cup of coffee in Buswells Hotel. It is certainly not a commodity that is a function of the amount paid in respect of victim compensation, however adequate or inadequate, the burden-sharing of that might be.

    Trust is precious. It is hard-earned but the pantheons’ of upon which it exists collapse to powder and rubble when the basis for it has been fatally undermined. The18 religious congregations concerned with these episodes of grotesque abuse have lost public confidence and respect. The genesis of the social and justice objectives that CORI seek to alleviate – homelessness, binge drinking, social isolation, destitution of body and spirit, can be attributed directly to the abuse cited in the Report which covers 170,000 poor, wretched, vulnerable minors, many of whom now have issue and lineage.

    This rupture of public trust means that the heirs, successors and lineal descendants of those who demanded that a child lick faeces off the boot, or was regularly raped and sodomised by a members’ of up to 18 religious congregations’ now have as much authenticity in the forum of public esteem as those of a ventriloquist representing the interests in Ireland, of the successors, issue and lineal descendants of Oliver Cromwell, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.
  3. The third issue concerns whether a memorial of some sort is appropriate to commemorate the legacy of what has been revealed in the Report. I can think of no more appropriate memorial than the immediate disbandment of each of those congregations’ cited in the Report.

    If it can be successfully demonstrated that this would ignore the contribution of many fine contemporary individual members of a congregation, then perhaps alternative proposals might be put forward to capture whatever energy and remnants of integrity are worthy of perpetual continuity. But one thing is abundantly clear – the high minded ideals and mission of their founders’ have been diverted and embedded in the genitals and rectums of too many children for them to continue as the paragons of virtue which they deem themselves to be.

List of Cited Congregations

  1. The Rosminian Institute of Charity
  2. The Dominican Order
  3. The Sisters of Mercy
  4. Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
  5. The Presentation Brothers
  6. The Religious Sisters of Charity
  7. The Christian Brothers
  8. The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul
  9. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge
  10. The Brothers of Charity
  11. The Daughters of the Heart of Mary
  12. The De La Salle Brothers
  13. The Sisters of St Clare
  14. The Presentation Sisters
  15. The Sisters of St Louis
  16. The Hospitaller Order of St John of God
  17. The Sisters of Nazareth
  18. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Burrows to depart Bank of Ireland, but what about Boucher?

bank of ireland The Governor of Bank of Ireland, Richard Burrows, has announced his intention to call it a day after the Bank returned a loss of €7 million in the year ended 31 March 2009. He states that accountability for the losses reported in the Preliminary Statement for the year ended 31 March 2009 accountability for these losses must be taken at the top” and that he will resign from his generously remunerated (€512,000) sinecure following the AGM in July. Dividends have been abandoned and the share price has collapsed and currently trades at €1.55.

Burrows was appointed a non-executive director of Carlsberg A/S, the world’s 4th largest brewery, some weeks ago. Carlsberg returned revenues of €8.05 billion and profit of €430.6 million in 2008. The Carlsberg board of directors split a mere €805,867 in fixed remuneration in both 2007 and 2008 – mere chicken feed when compared to the €1.26 million splashed among the non-executive members of the board of the Bank of Ireland in the year ended 31 March 2008. But Burrow has turned 66 years of age and his free bus pass will enable him to travel, at least as far as Dublin Airport, in a cost effective manner when he is required in the City of the Mermaid. However, he will need spare change if he has to buy a plastic bag at Dublin Airport to transit any liquids and lotions.

But if Burrows walks out of the Bank of Ireland with such elevated standards about accountability does that set a precedent and what will become of the tenure of his recent choice for the position of chief executive at Bank of Ireland, Richie Boucher?

Boucher was recruited to the Bank in 2003 and was the adult-in-charge of the Retail Division. A substantial element of appalling results announced this week is attributable to the Retail Division. The 2009 Retail Division profit of €20 million, is 6% of the much reduced reported group profit of €332 million. An impairment charge of €708 million, 78% of which is attributable to property and construction, arises in the Retail Division.

Boucher also personal advocated with the planning authorities for an enormous commercial and residential development proposed in the Dublin suburb of Ballsbridge. Permission was declined by An Bórd Pleanála, but had the project proceeded, it would have transformed the skyline of Dublin to be somewhat like that of Dubai, overshadowing a dense urban environment.

A compelling lesson from the era of the Irish Celtic Tiger is that it is not possible to sustain a housing sector based on 100% mortgages and residence purchase costs equivalent to 15 times household income, if there is any income. The price for which this site was acquired was equivalent to €50 million per acre, thanks to an abundance of bank funding.

Laurence Crowley, who preceded Burrows as Governor of Bank of Ireland, stated some months after Boucher’s recruitment that “our management are chosen for their ability to deliver outstanding business performance and to inculcate a performance culture in the organization”

bank of ireland college gn That sentiment behind this remark is not evident in 2008/09 performance of Bank of Ireland, nor was it evident when an employee could walk out of the College Green branch last February with €7 million in the boot of his car, as a consequence of a tiger kidnapping, without either human or electronic interception at any stage before the person who took the money reported the matter to the gardaí.

It will be interesting to observe unfolding developments in relation to Bank of Ireland and the restoration of trust with shareholders and the general public.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can Aer Lingus really prosper as low-cost,low fare airline?

I listened with great curiosity to a radio interview last Sunday with the Chairman of Aer Lingus, Colm Barrington, on the RTE Radio 1 programme, This Week. His primary goal was to categorically refute suggestions that Aer Lingus would go bust, or run out of cash, within 18 months. But he also presented a picture of a business in retreat, shedding capacity, coping with dramatically reduced revenue and lower passenger numbers.

A reduction in capacity of 9% ad the return of aircraft to lessors would seem to directly contradict the fundamental purpose of the 2006 IPO. It also raises very basic concerns as to whether Aer Lingus can ever be a leading, profitable, low-fare, low-cost airline on the basis of its cost structure, its business culture and stakeholder sentiment.

He indicated on Sunday that operating losses in 2009 would surpass those of 2008. But it was not clear if you meant that these would exceed €17.65 million reported last year or €96.28 million which was the reversal from the operating profit of 2007.

He also stated in a letter, dated 22 December 2008, to shareholders advocating rejection of the second Ryanair bid ‘that Aer Lingus is and will be profitable and that it had cash resources in excess of €800 million’. Perhaps the operating losses and the reduction in net cash accrue in the last 8 days of December and the remarks in your letter factually correct when it was written, but the defence cost Aer Lingus €5.84 million and shareholders would hope that it had been mounted on a foundation other than delusion and fantasy?

Aer Lingus wishes to be a leading low-cost, low fare airline so it is interesting to compare it with the current leader, Ryanair.

Cost Structure and Scale of Operations

A comparison between Aer Lingus and Ryanair:



Ryanair average fare



Aer Lingus average fare, short-haul



Ryanair – number employed



Aer Lingus – number employed



Ryanair: ratio of employees to passengers



Aer Lingus: ratio of employees to passengers



Aer Lingus: average pay



Ryanair: average pay



Ryanair 2008 revenue (9 months to 31 Dec)


Aer Lingus revenue 2008 (12 months)


Ryanair passenger volume (9 months to 31 Dec)


Aer Lingus passenger volume


Ryanair fleet

183 aircraft – to be increased by 12 Boeing 737-800

Aer Lingus fleet

42 aircraft to be reduced by 9%

He stated in the interview, quoting Morgan Stanley, that Ryanair is likely to return a loss of €76.5 million in the year ended 31 March 2009. But he neglected to mention that if a loss arises it would be after taking account of an impairment charge of €220 million as a consequence of the 71% collapse in the value of its 29.3% shareholding in Aer Lingus since 31 March 2008.

Business Culture

Chief Executive’s emoluments

The immediate beneficiaries of the IPO were the professional advisors who pocketed €30 million, the chief executive whose emoluments increased from €530,000 paid to Willie Walsh (now Chief Executive at BA) in 2005 to €982,000 paid to Dermot Mannion in 2006 when the business made a loss of €69.926 million and the fees paid non-executive directors.

Mannion’s total remuneration during his tenure at Aer Lingus was €2.9 million and the cumulative loss in that period was €72 million. The emoluments of Michael O’Leary in 2007 and 2008 were €2.21 million but Ryanair earned a profit of €1,008.8 million.

Non-executive directors

Annual fees paid to non-executive directors increased from €18,000 to €45,000 immediately after the IPO to attend up to 20 board and committee meetings in a year. It would appear that quite a few of the non-executive directors did not bring any personal experience of the aviation industry to Aer Lingus.

Barrington refers to Seán FitzPatrick, the former senior independent director in glowing superlatives. He advise that “served Aer Lingus extremely well and had a significant and positive influence on the company both before and after the IPO” The public may not share his Barrington’s exuberance given that FitzPatrick’s abrupt departure from the boardroom at Aer Lingus coincided with an unprecedented violation of public trust that the Garda Fraud Squad and the Director of Corporate Affairs are investigating. The economic blight that has descended on Ireland is at least partially attributable to the downfall and nationalisation of FitzPatrick’s Anglo Irish Bank a consequence of which is a 16% drop in revenue this year at Aer Lingus.

aer lingus iolar Annual Report

The annual reports of Aer Lingus are as colourful and elaborate as the cosmetic counter in Harrod’s. The 2008 issue is adorned with elaborate graphics, photographs of the great and the good and superlatives about Aer Lingus and corporate social responsibility. There are comments by anonymous customers in full-page settings. Aer Lingus, very nice staff. On time. Classy. They are very clean…” reminded me of an excerpt I would expect from the script of an edition of the television sitcom Are Your Being Served?

But does a publication of such supreme artistic merit really define Aer Lingus as being leading, low-cost and offering low-fares?

The annual report of Ryanair is plain vanilla, with no photographs, no clichés, and no personal comments from strangers’ about staff hygiene but plenty of data.

Stakeholder Sentiment

Colm Barrington became a director of Aer Lingus on 19th September 2008 and Chairman on 3rd October and have been acting chief executive since 6 April 2009 following the departure of Dermot Mannion. The performance of Aer Lingus shares since he took over, compared to that of several other airlines is summarised below:


3 Oct

18 May 2009


% Change



















Air France-KLM












Aer Lingus






The market capitalisation of Aer Lingus is now €320 million despite the net cash of €600 million.

The market capitalisation of Ryanair is €4.86 billion Its passenger throughout in 2001, a relatively short 8 years ago, was similar to that of Aer Lingus currently.

Michael O’Leary

Ryanair logo He has impish tendency of Michael as a self-publicist and his bluster can be tiresome at times. However, nobody can accuse him of lack of business focus.

He joined 3-year old Ryanair as a director in 1988 when he was 26 years of age. Ryanair flew 592,000 passengers and employed 379 persons that year.

When Michael became Chief Executive in 1994 Ryanair flew 1,666,000 passengers and employed 523 persons.

When Ryanair achieved the same passenger throughput in 2001 that Aer Lingus currently has, it employed 1,467 persons.

He owned 65,000,016 shares in Ryanair on 30 June 2008.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair share one feature in common. Neither has declared a dividend. Ryanair uses its retained earnings of close to €2 billion to develop and resource the business which is now flying 51 million passengers. The equity of Aer Lingus is being eroded by losses and the resources provided by the IPO are not being used from now on to augment capacity and expand the business.

Excellent parliamentary service has a high price tag

Leinster House The recent news that The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is to recommend that the Minister for Finance reduce untaxed allowances payable to Members and this initiative could achieve potential annual savings of up to €4 million is interesting, especially in the context of the Minister being unable to achieve the savings in the cost of operating the Oireachtas that he announced in the preamble to his April Budget. However, the current proposal is merely a financial pedicure in the context of our prevailing and anticipated fiscal circumstances. The last time Ireland financed itself on total tax revenues of €34 billion was in 2003 and the annual cost of running the Oireachtas then was €81.79 million. The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is estimated to cost €137.15 million, 67% more, in 2009. The typical annual output of our parliamentary enterprise is 42 Acts of the Oireachtas that require 96 sitting days each year. The output does not vary much from year to year, except when a general election takes place. This means that the average cost of creating a new piece of legislation is now €3.26 million and the average cost per sitting day has increased from €850,000 to €1.42 million since 2003. The largest component of this increase is Administration – which has increased by €34 million in this period.

New Zealand Parliament If the Oireachtas is to confidently lead the nation in living within its means nothing less than root and branch reform of the Oireachtas is necessary and those who have to achieve this maybe inspired by examining some comparable, sustainable external examples. New Zealand, for example, has not had an upper House since 1950. There are 120 members of the New Zealand Parliament. They govern what is now a modern, prosperous society with a population of a size comparable to our own - 4.2 million and which has increased recently at the same pace as the Irish population.

The annual salary of a member of parliament is €57,000. A cabinet minister earns €120,000 and their prime minister earns €171,000. No member of parliament maybe paid more than one salary at any one time. If a member holds two, or more offices, the salary payable to that member is that payable for the office which the highest salary is payable.

The National Party is the largest political party in the New Zealand Parliament with 58 MP's and its leader is paid an allowance of €15,130 per year in respect of his party. The leaders of the political parties in the Oireachtas were paid a total of €7.5 million in 2007. The sum paid to the Leader of the National Party of New Zealand this year is 0.62% of the €2.45 million paid in 2007 to Enda Kenny, Leader of Fine Gael which currently has 51 TD’s.

The Corporate Plan 2008 – 2009 of The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is based on the slogan ‘excellence in parliamentary service’ which is a laudable, if a costly objective but our economic reality today is that we can only afford ‘adequacy in parliamentary service’ unless major savings are achieved through the restructuring our parliamentary enterprise through the possible elimination of the Senate and a reduction in the number of Teachtaí Dalá (MP’s)

If the Oireachtas is to successfully lead the nation in matching expenditure with income the voters will, naturally, expect the leadership of the Oireachtas to be stellar in embracing whatever sacrifices are deemed necessary for society as a whole.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dublin Euro election outcome taking shape

Irish Times TMS MRBI The TNS/MRBI poll published in The Irish Times on 15th and 16th May indicates that Fianna Fáil, with an 16% share of the poll (Eoin Ryan 11%, Eibhlin Byrne 5%) in Dublin, is faced with a real struggle to maintain its European Parliament seat in Dublin on June 5th . The party achieved a 23% share of the valid poll in the 2004 Euro election in Dublin. An 11% share of an opinion poll now is 14 percentage points short of quota. Where will transfers come from to fill this deficit?

The satisfaction rating of the Government at 10% is at an all-time historic low, and compares to 14% last February, 18% last November and 46% last June. How will the incandesence of voters find expression on June 5th among those now without a job, or the prospect of a job, or among those who have just seen at the end of May a further chink of their income confiscated in taxation? This government has allowed the Irish economy to behave since 2003 like a high-speed vehicle that had no brakes, no anti-roll bar, an engine with no coolant and no spare wheel. This posture was to suckle the vanity and delusion of a cluster of red-neck property developers, dinasour bankers and other sundry carpetbaggers. This government presided over an economy where citizens were paying up to 15 times their annual income for a very basic home, often in a very remote location. That is the direct consequence of politicians corrupting the planning process - when ten's of thousands of pounds and euro are transmitted in brief cases and brown envelopes. The chickens are coming home to roost. The voters will deliver their brown envelope at the end of a red-hot poker on June 5th and in subsequent elections. The cronies, the brothers', the sons' and daughters', the spouses' and the lovers' have will learn if inbreeding, nepotism and stroke politics is still attracting voter support.

The average satisfaction rating for the government previously in each of the past six years highlights the depth of the collapse in public support of the Government.

Average Annual Satisfaction with Government














Fine Gael, who have a achieved a 6% gain in its share in indicative first preference support nationally in hypothetical general election have also improved their position in Dublin, no doubt partially attributable to the attraction of George Lee as their candidate in the Dublin South by-election. Gay Mitchell is achieving 26% support in a hypothetical Euro poll - 4% more than accomplished in the 2004 Euro election. Mitchell is considered to have been the most capable of the Irish MEP's

The Labour Party dropped 4 percentage points nationally and it Dublin stand at 21%, which is a 2% gain on 2004.

While Fianna Fáil is more convulsed by nepotism and inbreeding and the consequences from this, the Labour Party have a real challenge with respect to the age profile of their Dáil team. The average age of their current 20 members, today, May 15th 2009, is 57 years+ and this average will be well north of 60 years by the next scheduled date for a general election – May 2012. A colleague commented to me earlier that “all of their people are the same age as my father, or older” and younger voters will not identify with ‘daddy-clones’! Twelve of the curerent 20 deputies will be over 60 years old and the youngest will be 40. Many of the current cohort enjoy considerable personal support but this would not automatically transfer to a successor candidate as has been shown in places such as Cork South-West and Tipperary. de Rossa is 69 years old so he will be like an ancient cardinal if he were to remain an MEP until 2014.

Given the collapse of public confidence in this government, it is likely that that turnout in the European and local elections will be high as voters register their preferences directly. This will mean a quota in the region of 105,000 votes in the Dublin Euro constituency - 21,000 more than the 2004 quota.

Fine Gael support is particularly strong among those aged 50 and over but, reassuringly for FG, it has even support across the demographic spectrum. Fianna Fáil support is especially weak among the 35-49 age cohort – people with young families, but it is also weak among the 18-35 year olds. Fine Gael is strong among the AB social cohort while Fianna Fáil does worst among the ABC1 cohort.

The Green Party is attracting 6% support in Dublin and its support base is strongest among the 18-24 year olds and the ABC1 social cohort but is weakening since the 2007 general election. Their candidate, de Burca, has neither said anything, or done anything, to make a strong enough impact so far to put her into contention. It would be helpful if voters were to know what the party's stance with respect to the next referendum on The Lisbon Treaty before they cast their vote on June 5th. After all, this is an election to populate the European Parliament and the outcome of this referendum will define Ireland's relationship to the EU.

Sinn Fein is attracting 14% support. Its support is lowest among the AB social cohort but rises to 13% nationally among the C1working class category. This level of support is comparable to the share of the 2004 valid poll but is 11% short of quota. McDonald and deRossa were elected on the 6th count.

The Independent candidate, Patricia McKenna, achieved 8% in the TNS/MRBI poll while Joe Higgins, the Socialist achieved 7%. Higgins secured 23,000 votes in the 2004 election but he and his counterparts only obtained 11,500 votes in Dublin in the 2007 general election.

The Libertas candidate, at 1%, does not feature on the voters' radar. This is not surprising as she has said nothing to indicate what her potential competencies as an MEP would be. Her literature makes out of context comments about what she would like the electorate to believe are the vanalities of her rivals but cloaks her own identity in an absolutely opaque shroud. A wise electorate do not throw their support behind ghost candidates or vacuous slogans.

National Trends

Election Result

17 May 2002

General Election Result

24 May 2007

Euro Election
May 2004


Feb 2009


May 2009

Fianna Fáil






Fine Gael


















Sinn Féin












This ought to be a fascinating set of elections because the voters will be mobilised and they are greatly distressed by turmoil so much of which is a local political creation. Yesterday, for example, the Fianna Fáil candidate in the Dublin South by-election spoke on radio about the National Management Assets Agency, Ireland’s ‘bad bank’ being “up and running”. This is the entity that is supposed to stabilise the nation’s zombie banks. Hours later, Michael Somers, the Chief Executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, spoke at the Public Accounts Committee and spoke of his concern about staffing and operational issues relating to NAMA. That is the type of stunted political thinking that inbreeding brings about – an absolute inability not just to see the wood from the trees, but to distinguish between a copse and a field of buttercups!