Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Catholic Church opposed to Irish Civil Partnership Bill

The Catholic bishops have raised their periscope to mobilise a letter-writing campaign to force TD’s to revolt against the Civil Partnership Bill.  Their views were echoed by Fr Vincent Twomey, in The Irish Times on June 29th.  Twomey is a former professor of moral theology at NUI Maynooth. He argues that the Bill should include a conscience clause so that registrars, photographers and those responsible for parish halls can opt out of duties that make their conscience skittish.

This Bill was published a year ago, in June 2009 and it is intended to allow couples in same-sex relationships, whether a relationship is sexual, or non-sexual, register that partnership and, for the first time, to have rights and privileges recognised by statute for the first time.

A stranger perusing Twomey’s article could be forgiven for presuming that Ireland is in the thrall of an immutable, secular dictatorship that is indifferent to the wishes of citizens and which disregards the primacy of the Constitution. The article would suggest that help is at hand in the form of an alternative ecclesiastical, but sacrosanct, dictatorship that is seeking to rescue the citizens from the consequences of their own whims, thoughtlessness and random impulses.

No legislation is capable of forcing any Irish citizen to collude in anything that they believe to be morally wrong. But ‘belief’ and 'conscience' are not one-size-fits-all concepts and they are influenced and characterised by moral authority as well as personal experience.

The ‘outrage’ directed at the Civil Partnership Bill is based on a misleading presumption that it will confer on same-sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage and that apart from a right to adopt children, that same-sex, civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage. This equality argument is false. The features contained in the Bill maybe equivalent to those attaching to marriage - but that does not make a civil partnership equal to marriage. A marriage between a man and a woman is a fundamentally exclusive institution whose uniqueness will always prevail, despite any legislative changes in any jurisdiction. To suggest that both are equal is to imply that a delivery van is equal to a family car on the grounds that each has some common features, equal standing on the highway and total integrity among users.

The bishops' makes much of significance in changes in terminology - that 'marital status' will be replaced by 'civil status'. So what? Those who hitherto formally witnessed the exchange of marriage vows at are now known as solemnisers, rather than celebrants – and happy, stable, enduring, fulfilled marriages continue to be consummated.

Legislators are elected to conduct the people's business and to represent all the people with fidelity.   That alone is what ought to define he primacy of conscience in Leinster House.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Funding the Irish community and voluntary sector

The report that the HSE is to cut €80 million in direct State support from community and voluntary organisations is disturbing because it potentially impacts those who are most economically vulnerable and threatens employment in those entities threatened with cutbacks. The State spends a lot of money in the community and voluntary sector but how adequate is the value obtained for this money?

The HSE provided a total of €3.91 billion in revenue grants to approximately 630 community-based entities in 2009. These had a combination of very far-reaching objectives, some of which seem similar to each other. The sum provided in 2009 is €1 billion more than was provided in 2005 – a 33% increase during a period when the population of the country increased by 8%. The current health budget of the country accounts for a quarter of the national budget and almost half of all taxation so the argument to achieve greater economies and reassessed priorities is urgent, compelling and unavoidable.

Are the vulnerable or needy genuinely best served by all of the organisations that receive HSE grants? Does the proposal to cut back overall funding not present an important opportunity to begin to streamline the community and voluntary sector; to eliminate the provision of State funds where there is avoidable duplication of effort; to weed out support of organisations that are wasteful, ineffective, or who fail to account adequately for funds provided?

Should more resources not be provided to those entities that really make the greatest credible impact on alleviating distress throughout the country, if it can be clearly demonstrated that effective use could be made of incremental resources?  If so, are they not the most deserving of State support and ought they not have an unchallenged priority above the half billion euro that is now spent annually, but funded by costly national debt, on development aid across the globe? That expenditure delivers no direct local benefit to Ireland.  Charity begins at home and when the national income of the country starts to grow wider priorities can be considered. But in the meantime the funding of the economy is not sustainable on dollops of enormous national debt that will crucify future generations of modestly paid Irish taxpayers, if they are lucky enough to be in employment, or to operate a business or a farm that is not starved of bank credit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

€1 million slashed from the cost of operating the Government jet

The Irish Government jet comprises two aircraft and is operated by Ministerial Air Transport Squadron, part of the the 850-string Air Corps.  The cost of operating these dropped from €3.42 million in 2005 to €2.44 million in 2009.

gulfstream1 The original aircraft, a Gulfstream IV, was acquired in 1991.  It can accommodate up to 14 passengers and requires a crew of two pilots, an engineer and a flight attendant.  The G IV has a range of 3,800 nautical miles, offering intercontinental transportation.

The cost of operating it since 2005 are as follows:



Operating Hours

Overall Cost €
















Gulfstream IV TOTAL COST




lear jet The second jet, a Bombardier Lear Jet 45, was acquired in 2004 prior to Ireland assuming the presidency of the EU.  It can accommodate up to 7 passengers and requires a crew of two pilots and a flight attendant.  It has a range of up to 2,000 nautical miles and serves as an air ambulance from time to time.



Operating Hours

Overall Cost €
















Lear Jet 45  TOTAL COST



Thursday, June 17, 2010

€1.25 million to pay for secretarial support for former Taoisigh

Former Taoisigh have, since August 2001, been entitled to the services of a dedicated secretary paid for by the State.  These are paid up to the maximum of the scale for Higher Executive Officers.

A former Taoiseach, in the first five years since leaving office can avail of the services of two support staff.

The breakdown of the cost is:



C Haughey

G FitzGerald

A Reynolds

Aug 2001












































J Bruton

B Ahern

Aug 2001




























Saturday, June 12, 2010

Over 80 individuals in Irish public sector paid more than the Taoiseach

Brian Cowen is paid a salary of €228,446.  His counterpart, David Cameron, is paid €237,475, including his MP’s salary of €77,700.

The following are paid more than the Taoiseach

Sector Function Number of persons
JUDICIARY Chief Justice 1
  Supreme Court Justice 7
  President of the Circuit Court 1
  Judge of the High Court 35
EDUCATION President of UCC 1
COMMERCIAL STATE BODIES CEO of Coillte, ESB, Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis, An Post, RTE, VHI. Dublin Bus, CIE, Dublin Airport Authority, Iarnród Éiresann, Irish Aviation Authority 12
NON-COMMERCIAL STATE BODIES CEO National Roads Authority, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland 2
FINANCE EBS, Executive Directors
Anglo Irish Bank
Irish Nationwide, Executive Directors
Irish Nationwide, Management

Master Consultant
Academic Consultant
Clinical Directors

The HSE are unable to provide details of how many are paid more than €228,446.

Remuneration at the Central Bank and Financial Regulator are not included in the foregoing.  Remuneration at NAMA and NTMA are also excluded from this list.

A total of 39 individuals in the entire British public sector are paid more than €228,446.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Senator Callely’s defence of expenses lacks substance

Senator Ivor Callely, (Ivor the Driver) must think the public are a gullible posse of morons, as illiterate as himself but with a screw loose.  He announced that the trauma of rejection following his defeat in the last general election prompted him to move to West Cork – hence the justification for dipping his hand in the public purse and taking over €81,000 from it.  Callely’s fall fro grace in 2007 was cushioned by severance payments of €31,754 in 2007 and €17,465 in 2008.  These were based on 75% of his ministerial salary.  He also received a pension of €677 in 2007 and €8,986 in 2008.

Callely’s flaccid statement to Seanad Éireann on 2 June, indicated that the politicians’ expense regime is complex and there are anomalies in the system. If an expenses regime is so lacking in transparency how can the public have a scintilla of confidence in it?  If it is difficult to explain an expenses regime, designed by politicians for the benefit of themselves, in terms that the general public would regard as fair, reasonable and appropriate, that alone is a powerful argument against such a system.

Voters expect politicians to be personally responsible and accountable for the expenses they claim. They expect claims to be based only on the reimbursement of costs which are wholly, exclusively and unavoidably necessary in the performance of parliamentary duties. They also expect a level of integrity and verification that is characterised by high a standard of honesty and probity.

Voters will not tolerate politicians being personally enriched at public expense. Why, for example, should politicians be able to claim travel expenses in respect of journeys when they do not use their own vehicles, or are eligible for free travel on public transport? The concept of claiming travel expenses from a variety of widely dispersed personal addresses is indefensible and unacceptable.

If the Select Committee on Members’ Interests investigation determines that payments have been made on foot of expense claims which ought not to have been admissible they must  insist on the immediate reimbursement of such monies, plus interest, before considering other sanctions. By the end of May the cost of interest on the national debt was equivalent to 44% of all income tax revenues collected to date in 2010. If the Government intend to further penalise taxpayers is it not reasonable that issues, such as inadmissible politicians expenses, are fully and promptly resolved at no burden to the taxpayer?

Update on the Irish economy

Economic forecasts are emerging that suggest that Ireland has moved slightly from recession.  The number on the Live Register, 437,922, is at a record high as is the national debt.  Interest payments are eating up a much greater proportion of income taxes.

Current Revenue and Expenditure

Exchequer revenue for the first five months of 2010, at €12,293,887, is 10.4% les than for the first five months of 2009

Current expenditure for the first five months of 2010, at €19,535,867, is 3.1% less than for the first five months of 2009.

The current account deficit at the end of May 2010 equated to 59.8% of tax revenue and in the corresponding period it was 47.6% of tax revenue.

Current spending is reducing but tax revenue is reducing even more.

Capital Revenue and Expenditure

The deficit on capital account, at the end of May 2010, €624,759, compares to a deficit of €4,141,336 in May 2009.

Some €3 billion of this change is accounted for by the front loading of a payment of this sum to the National Pension Reserve Fund in 2009.  Job creation is dependent on a combination of advanced technology, reliable infrastructure backed by the investment to sustain its reliability as well as adequate flows of investment capital over a prolonged period.

Exchequer Deficit

The exchequer deficit at the end of May 2010 was €7,866,739, representing an improvement on May 2009 when it was €10,587,645.

National Debt

Our national debt has doubled from €44 billion at the beginning of 2009 to approximately €90 billion at the end of May 2010.

Year National Debt € Million Interest €Million % Income Taxes
2005 38,182 1,720.39 15.2%
2006 35,917 1,859.88 15.0%
2007 37,560 1,618.28 11.9%
2008 50,398 1,543.88 11.7%
2009 75,152 2,547.16 21.5%
2010/5 82,000 1,856.03 43.9%

Interest on National Debt

The interest on our national debt for the first five months of 2010 was €1,856,063 – 15.3% of tax revenue and 23.6% of the exchequer deficit.

Interest on the national debt for all of 2008 was €1,543,383. That represented 3.8% of 2008 tax revenue and 12.1% of the 2008 exchequer deficit.


There is some evidence that we are treading water insofar as some expenditure cuts are taking effect. Tax revenues are still declining compared to the prior comparable period but the rate of decline has moderated from 19% when 2009 as a whole is compared to 2008 to 10.4%.

Welfare spending is 13% higher and the social insurance fund is reportedly seriously insolvent.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

EBS @ 75 facing extinction as a mutual society

2010 06 02_4394_edited-1 If Alec McCabe, the founder of the EBS Building Society what would he make of it as it celebrates the 75th anniversary of its foundation with the threat of State control pending?

There had been over 20 building societies in the country when McCabe embarked on his venture which was intended to enable civil servants and teachers buy houses because there were no other sources of finance available to them in the early 1930’s. The EBS was to grow its membership to the current level of approximately 440,000.

Merriman and Moran Legacy

While close to 89% of its lending has been in the form of residential mortgages for owner-occupiers, EBS had a €2.4 billion commercial loan book that is a lending catastrophe. Its commercial lending activity began in 1991 but when it recruited a Alan Merriman, a 38-year old former partner and 17-year veteran at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in July 2005, its commercial lending activity intensified and included €500 million lent for land development.

Merriman had executive responsibility for commercial lending. Commercial lending and this was focused on 500 high net-worth individuals and was based on what they describe as ‘property relationship banking’ with many of the transactions in United Kingdom and continental Europe, especially Germany.

The EBS was also burnt badly by the shenanigans of some of Ireland’s many, many rogue solicitors.

By 2008 EBS lending to the commercial sector ceased. The €500 million development land loan book had incurred a loss of €38 million after impairment charges of €110 million. There was also a €95 million bad debt, of which €69 million related to development finance. Furthermore, there was a €15 million impairment charge in respect of a €16 million loan to the then recently nationalised Icelandic bank, Kaupthing.

By 2009, EBS lost a further €78.8 million. It set aside €913 million of its loans for sale to NAMA. The first €144 million tranche of these attracted a 37% discount implying that the discount on the total shipped to NAMA could be €340 million.  The cumulative profit earned by the Society during the tenure of Moran as Chairman and Merriman as Financial Director was €35.7 million.  The cumulative profit in the preceding four years, 2001-05, was €196.7 million.

The Financial Regulator also mandated that Tier 1 Capital was to be 8% and the impact of this is that EBS needs €875 million in additional capital before the end of 2010. Private sources have been unwilling to provide this which means the State is once again the purse of last resort and the State will control the building society.

Alan Merriman and Mark Moran, resigned in 2009. While Moran pocketed €45,400 for his five months service to 29 May 2009, Merriman scooped the jackpot.

Merriman resigned on 10 March 2009. The Department of Finance published the recommendations of the Covered Institutions Remuneration Oversight Committee on 27 February. The CIROC was set up after the Government guaranteed bank deposits and began providing massive public resources to shore up their inadequate capital bases.

The CIROC recommendation for EBS was the chairman would be paid €144,000; the chief executive would be paid €360,000; an ordinary board member would be paid €29,000 and a board member chairing a major sub-committee of the board would be paid €36,000. The salaries of individuals’ reporting to the chief executive were to have been adjusted downwards to reflect these changes.

Merriman, on his departure in March 2009, was paid €629,700 that included an additional a contractual 12-month notice period payment and he was also paid €851,400 as a contractual termination payment. His base annual salary in 2008 was €479.700. Merriman’s pension was also adjusted to include additional service for pension purposes. The foregoing would seem to completely and totally ignore the CIROC recommendations on executive salaries mandated by the Department of Finance.

Fergus Murphy

Fergus Murphy has been the chief executive of EBS since early 2008. Despite the calamitous debacle that he inherited, Murphy was paid €505,800 including a base salary of €465,000 in 2009 – not the €360,000 recommended by CIROC. The Annual Report states that he took a 22% voluntary reduction in base pay effective 1 October 2009. Like the speed limit on Burlington Road, where EBS headquarters is located, the CIROC recommendations are supposedly mandatory, not voluntary!

Cathal Magee

Cathal Magee, the person nominated to be the next chief executive of the HSE has been a director of EBS since 2002. He became a member of the Risk Committee in 2003 and has been chairman of that Committee since 2003 and Chairman since 2005. His cumulative fees amount to €314,500 and, significantly, were €10,500 in excess of Department of Finance guidelines in the case of his 2009 fee.

Alec McCabe would see little to celebrate on the 75th anniversary of the founding of EBS. He would see its slogan ‘where family counts’ certainly find expression when it comes to the executives of EBS taking care of themselves, notwithstanding the carnage their decisions caused to hundreds of thousands of others.