Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reporting the Lenihan diagnosis

THE Sunday newspapers report a widespread adverse reaction by the public to the broadcasting of details of a medical diagnosis of an individual by TV3 News - a reaction that is not at all surprising.  If any of your readers are particularly infuriated about the reporting of this matter, or even distressed by the principle of such news reporting to the extent that they believe that it constitutes an infringement of the privacy of an individual, there is a potential remedy.  Members of the public may register a written complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) under S48(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 2009.  This section covers the broadcasting of matters that contravenes the privacy of an individual.  It would be an appalling development were this type of voyeuristic news reporting to become a recurring feature of what would inevitably become a diminished standard of news dissemination in this country. 

Complaints must be made to the Authority in writing within 30 days of the date of broadcast in question and include a summary of the basis of the the complainant.  Full details of the appropriate procedure and the complaint form are available on the BAI web site at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Irish mortgage arrears biting

2009 11 28_1147_edited-1 I estimated that the retail value of residential property sales during the economic bubble (2003 – 2007) was in the region of €130 billion.  The vested interests speak of a 40% drop in value since 2007 and which would imply negative equity in the region of €52 billion, with those bearing 100% mortgages being really severely hit.

But the escalating scale of the issue does not reflect the full impact of negative equity.  Some consider this a reflection of the forbearance of lenders while others see it as banks not wanting to record bad debts because they would have to raise additional core capital to comply with liquidity requirements.


Status of mortgage market 
– September 2009


  € Million Share
Principal dwellings   78,615 71.6%
Buy-to-let residences   30,045 27.4%
Second homes     1,104   1.0%
Adjusted for securitisation 147,983  
Number of loan accounts 791,634  


Mortgage arrears at 30 Sep 2009

  Number of accounts Balance
€ Million
€ Million
91 – 180 days   8,504 1,589.27   47.68
Over 180 days 17,767 3,238.39 306.73
Formal demand issued   4,565   957.53    57,82
Court proceedings issued to enforce debt/security on a mortgage   3,617   699.49    84.17
Legal proceedings issued to enforce debt/ security during Q3 2009      491    118.44     9.95
Cases concluded during Q3 2009, of which:      218     39.22     4.29


28 properties were voluntarily surrendered and 10 were concluded by abandonment.  The mortgages in respect of 60 others were renegotiated and those in respect of 10 others were dealt with by new arrangements – struck out, settled, adjourned, dismissed or judgement entered in favour of the lender.


Residential loan volumes Q3 2009

There were 12,189 loans drawn down in the third quarter of 2009 - this represents 3.9% fewer loans than in the previous quarter, and 56.4% fewer than in Q3 2008.

The breakdown of these was:

  Share Number Value € M
First-time buyers 29.8%   3,633    764
Mover purchase 20.3%   2,472    611
Top-up 31.0%   3,783    283
Re-mortgage 13.2%   1,602    304
Buy-to-let 5.7%      699    183
TOTAL   12,189 2,145


The amount drawn down in Q3 2009, €2,145 million, compares to €3,539 million in Q3 2008 and €8,282 million in Q3 2007.

The temperature of the residential property sector is as arctic as the prevailing weather!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Judge bishops by what they do, not by what they say

2009 11 29_2589_edited-1 THE posturing continues.  The bruised egos are being paraded on the catwalk of public opinion.  The imperial pride is wounded but there is no appetite to place the common good ahead of personal vanity.  As the moral authority of bishops’ ebbs away they need to be judged on what they do rather than what they say.

It is now 23 days since the release into the public domain of The Murphy Report which portrays decades of the most devastating sex abuse by 46 priests that was shielded from civil process by the secrecy and antics of generations of archbishops and bishops of Dublin.  These are merely specimen cases within the time frame 1975 – 2004.  The bishops have had access to this report for several months but their response has been, at best, lacklustre and at worst, devious (“I dun nothin’)

Donal Murray former auxiliary bishop of Dublin resigned as Bishop of Limerick on December 17th  on the grounds that “my presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors who must have first place in our thoughts and prayers”.

Bishops are in a fish bowl – no term limits, no process of accountability and no established means of revalidating their mandate.

Open Terms

Five serving bishops served as auxiliary bishops of Dublin during the period covered by The Murphy Report.  All were ordained by the disgraced Cardinal Connell and between them have in excess of 90 years tenure as bishop.

Name Ordained bishop Years service as bishop
Martin Drennan (65) 28 May 1997 12.24
Raymond Field (65) 28 May 1997 12.24
James Moriarty (73) 26 Jun 1991 18.24
Donal Murray (69) 4  Mar 1982 27.67
Eamonn Walsh (65) 7  Mar 1990 19.66


Response to article in The Irish Times

It is interesting to compare the response to The Murphy Report with the response to an article published in The Irish Times on 27 July 2002.

This article was concerned  a group of seminarians in the ‘senior division’ of St Patrick’s Seminary Maynooth, Co Kildare, who in 1984 had expressed serious concerns to the senior dean regarding the strange and worrying behavioural patterns of a senior staff member towards younger students.  That staff member was Michael Ledwith vice president of the College. .

The article reported that the senior dean transmitted those concerns to some bishops.  Senior students who had conveyed their concerns directly to certain bishops and whose reports were responded to with reactions of incredulity, began to fear (especially when their actions became known) that their interventions might result in disciplinary action, such as a denial of ordination, being taken against them.  The article indicated that the bishops ignored the allegations. 

The senior dean was promptly sent on a 1-year leave of absence to Rome after which his resignation from Maynooth was demanded by the Primate Cardinal O’Fiaich, on the rounds that “the bishops are gunning for you”. 

Four days later on 31 July 2002, The Irish Times published a letter from four of the surviving nine bishops named rebuking the paper for publishing to original letter without any prior reference to them.  These four categorically stated in that letter that “such an allegation was never made to any of us at any time”.  None of the other bishops named ever mentioned such an allegation to any of us” 

The signatories of this letter were Cardinal Cahal Daly (aged 92),  a bishop since 26 May 1967 who retired on 1 October 1996; the retired Archbishop of Tuam Joseph Cassidy (aged 76), a bishop since 24 August 1979 who retired on 28 June 1994; retired bishop of Derry Edward Daly (aged 76), a bishop since 31 January 1974 who retired on 26 October 1993 and serving bishop Colm O’Reilly (aged 75 on 11 Jan 2010) a bishop ordained by O’Fiaich on 24 February 1983 and who has served for almost 27 years as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise in succession to Cahal B Daly.


Investigation by senior counsel

Mr Denis McCullough SC was retained by the bishops in June 2002 to investigate the allegations reported in The Irish Times that complaints were made alleging sexual harassment of seminarians at Maynooth College in the early 1980’s and that those complaints did not receive a proper response.  Specifically it was alleged that complaints had been made by seminarians to the bishops and Trustees of Maynooth College that Monsignor Michael Ledwith who was then Vice President of the College had sexually harassed seminarians.

McCullough’s investigation did not require him to inquire into the behaviour of Ledwith either in the early 1980’s or at other times but simply to investigate whether complaints about him were made by seminarians to bishops or trustees of the College.


Ledwith Promoted

Ledwith was appointed Presdient of Maynooth College in 1985, a post he held until 1994.  The Ferns Report cited him for sexually abusing a boy aged between 13 and 15 years.  Ledwith is now a teacher at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, in the United States.


McCullough’s Conclusions

McCullough completed his report in March 2005 and it was published by the bishops who commissioned it on 16 June 2005, less than three months before the publication of The Ferns Report.

Those he interviewed agreed that there were no complaints made by the seminarians themselves to bishops about sexual abuse by Ledwith of seminarians in Maynooth College.  But McCullough confirmed that “concerns of apparent propensities rather than accusations of actual crime or specific offences” had been communicated to a number of bishops by the senior dean of the college – the whistleblower who had been ostracised by O’Fiaich.  McCullough concluded “that to have rejected the senior dean’s concerns so completely and so abruptly without any adequate investigation may have been too precipitate, although, of course, to investigate in any very full or substantial manner, a generic complaint regarding a person’s apparent propensities would have been difficult”.

So the decided to promote him as the principal figurehead in charge the education of future priests rather than turn him over to the police.

Response to McCullough

Cardinal Brady stated when the report was published “we accept the findings of the report.  A complaints and disciplinary procedure is included in the revised College Statutes.  These procedures are kept under constant review in the light of best practice in that area.  We regret any hurt felt by those involved and that the investigation in 1984 was not more thorough”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Death of Russian leader with an Irish twist

Marshal ZhukovTHE former acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation in the early stages of the Yeltsin era took place on December 15th and it had an Irish twist.  Yegor Gaidar was only 53 years old when he succumbed to the blood clot that killed him last Tuesday.  He was the inaugural Minister of Economy and Finance from 11 November 1991 until 19 February 1992, shortly after Boris Yeltsin assumed power.  He became acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation  from June to December 1992.

Gaidar’s task was to transform the former communist state to a free market economy which he set about doing by deploying economic ‘shock therapy’.  This was based on the abrupt elimination of price and currency controls, the withdrawal of subsidies and the liberalization of trade within the Russian Federation as well as the large scale privatisation of state owned assets.

Several American economists backed this approach including Jeffrey Sachs then a Harvard professor but not of Columbia University New York.

The consequence of this approach was chaos and the looting of assets by individuals who were to become known as oligarchs.  Industrial output collapsed and unemployment soared.  Famine and scarcity was rampant.


Visit to Ireland


Gaidar came to Ireland in November 2006 to promote his book titled Lasting Time : Russia in the World at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

He suddenly became ill, vomited and fainted in Maynooth and was rushed to James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown with suspected food poisoning where he was detained overnight.  This incident took place just five days after the death in suspicious circumstances in London of Alexander Litvinenko

Litivenko became ill on 1 November 2006 shortly after meeting two former KGB officials, one of whom, Andrei Lugovoi, had been Gaider’s bodyguard.  This visit took place shortly after Litivenko, a former Russian intelligence officer had accused the authorities of attempting to assassinate Boris Berezovsky, an anti-Putin oligarch who acquired the Russian oil giant Sibneft for a modest consideration and who controlled the major Russian television channel.

There had been speculation that Gaidar had been poisoned in Ireland but no conclusive proof supported this.

Mr Litvinenko is thought to have died after being exposed to the highly hazardous radioactive isotope polonium 210. On his deathbed, he accused the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of being behind his death.

The Russian Embassy in Dublin said at the time that Mr Gaidar was diagnosed as suffering from gastroenteritis, and that his medical report states that his life was not under threat following this incident.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan celebrates his 76th birthday

IMG_4670-copy_edited-1 WHEN I was learning history by rote at a Christian Brothers school in Dublin over 40 years ago I never anticipated that I would be attending a party to celebrate the birthday of His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.  It is also almost 20 years since his accession to The Chrysanthemum Throne, the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world (from 660 BC) and this was also celebrated.  But His Excellency, Toshinao Urabe, the Ambassador of Japan in Ireland played the role of a gracious and genial host to an interesting cross section of the great and the good last Tuesday evening at his elegant Foxrock residence.

Emperor of Japan

Emperor Akihito was born on 23 December 1933 and became Crown Prince on 10 November 1952.  His father, Emperor Hiroito died on 7 January 1989 and he acceded on 10 November 2000 as the 125th emperor.  The Emperor of Japan is the only head of state in the world today accorded the title ‘emperor’.  He is head of the Japanese Imperial Family and also of the Shinto religion.

He married Empress Michiko on 10 April 1959 and they have two sons.  The older son, Crown Prince Naruhito, born 25 February 1960 has a daughter, who is ineligible to succeed to the Throne.  But the wife of their second son, their second son, Prince Akishino born 30 Nov 1965 gave birth to a son,  6 Sep 2006 Prince Hisahito, their 3rd child, on 6 September 2006 meant that succession by the male line to the Throne was assured after a gap of 41 years.

The Emperor of Japan had been considered an all-powerful spiritual and temporal leader from the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the Japanese surrender that ended World War II,

The Imperial Japanese Armed Forces spent the first half of the twentieth century conquering vast swathes of Asia, fighting the Russians and the Americans, and threatening Australia and New Zealand. A new Steven Spielberg television mini-series created in Australia titled The Pacific which chronicles this will become available in the New Year and will feature my son Stephen playing the part of a US marine on the Japanese coast.  Japan’s defeat in 1945, however, prompted Emperor Hirohito was forced to renounce his divine status, as well as all direct political power.

According to the Constitution of Japan, Akihito is a "symbol of the state and the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power."

The Emperor of Japan has official duties that include receiving foreign dignitaries, awarding decorations to Japanese citizens, convening the Diet, and officially appointing the Prime Minister as selected by the Diet.

This narrow scope leaves Akihito with a lot of free time to pursue hobbies and other interests.  He typically rises  at 6:30 every morning, watches the news on television, and then goes for a walk with the Empress Michiko around the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo.

If the weather is unpleasant , Akihito drives in his 15-year-old Honda Integra. Reportedly, he obeys all traffic laws even though the roads in the Imperial Compound are closed to other vehicles, and the Emperor is exempt.

The mid-day is filled with official business: greeting foreign ambassadors and royalty, handing out imperial awards, or performing his duties as a Shinto priest.

If he has time, the Emperor works on his biological studies. He is a world-class expert on goby fish, and has published 38 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the topic.

Most evenings include official receptions and banquets. When the Imperial Couple retires at night, they enjoy watching nature programs on TV and reading Japanese magazines.

Like most royals, the Japanese Emperor and his family live an oddly isolated lifestyle.  They apparently have no need of cash, they never answer the telephone, and the Emperor and his wife are said to avoid the internet. All of their houses, furnishings, belong to the state, so the Imperial Couple do not own any personal belongings.

The true role of the current emperor of Japan seems to be two-fold: to provide continuity and reassurance to the Japanese people, and to apologize to the citizens of neighbouring countries for past Japanese atrocities.

Emperor Akihito has made particular efforts to repair relations with adjacent countries such as China, South Korea, and the Philippines.  Emperor Akihito has visited Ireland twice ~ in 1985 as Crown Prince and in May 2005.


Ambassador Urabe

IMG_4678-copy_edited-2 Toshinao Urabe (59) became Ambassador to Ireland on 30 January 2008 along with the Ambassadors of Ukraine, Vietnam and Bujina Faso

He graduated from Hitotsubashi University (BA: Law) and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974. After two years of language training in France, he joined the Japanese Embassy in Cairo as Third Secretary in 1977 and observed President Sadat pursue his peace detente towards Israel.

Returning to Tokyo in 1979, he participated in the organisation of the first Tokyo summit in 1979 and the second in 1986 before being appointed Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy in Colombo.
In 1988, Ambassador Urabe returned to Tokyo as Deputy Director for Policy Co-ordination of the Minister’s Cabinet and was involved in the coordination of the Ministry’s response to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War.

After a brief Directorship at the Oceania Affairs Division from November 1990, he was called in at short notice to serve as Private Secretary to the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs in July 1991. He was subsequently posted in Canberra in 1993 and Bangkok in 1996, during which time he observed the evolution of the economic crisis of 1999.

He again returned to Tokyo in 1988 and was promoted to Director of Financial Affairs of the Minister’s Cabinet. In 2000 he was appointed Consul General in Atlanta where he observed the election of President George Bush and 9/11.

In 2002, while serving in Seoul as Deputy Chief of Mission, he focussed on bilateral relations while keeping an eye on the presidential election and the North Korean issue. 

Urabe was posted to Paris in 2005 as Deputy Head of Mission and observed the transition from President Chirac to President Sarkozy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Should Ireland review diplomatic ties with The Vatican?

Papal Apartment

Why should a rain-sodden, destitute and spiritually bankrupt nation on the on the fringes of Western Europe continue to tolerate a Machiavellian and mischievous diplomat as Dean of its Diplomatic Corp when not one, but two incumbents, behaved so treacherously toward their host nation?

The sovereignty of The Holy See is captured in three treaties signed with Italy on 11 February 1929 acknowledged, among other things, the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent; however, the origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to the 8th century.

The oldest diplomatic service in the world is that of The Holy See when legates were originally essentially spiritual emissaries.  Permanent papal representatives began to appear In the mid-15th century and by the 16th century, there are records of the  establishment of apostolic nunciatures in different countries, with an exchange of representatives between those countries and the Holy See. The very first apostolic nunciature was established in Venice in 1500.

As affirmed in the Vienna Diplomatic Convention 1961 of April 18, 1961, the Holy See's ambassadors, or apostolic nuncios, are considered the deans of the diplomatic corps of the country to which they are accredited by agreement with the receiving State. The Holy See currently exchanges diplomats with 162 nations.

Canon Law 364 defines the duties of a legate: "to send information to the Apostolic See on the conditions of the particular churches ...; to assist the bishops by action and counsel, while leaving intact the exercise of the bishops' legitimate power; to foster close relationships with the conference of bishops ... ; to transmit or propose the names of candidates to the Apostolic See in reference too the naming of bishops ..."  There is precious little evidence of assisting bishops by actions and counsel in Ireland when the issue is child sex abuse.

The Vatican

Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed. Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by the three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion. Present diplomatic concerns of the Holy See include religious freedom, international development, the environment, the Middle East, China, the decline of religion in Europe, terrorism, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. But their concerns do not encompass the the sodomy of Irish children by far too many priests. 


Diplomatic relations with Ireland

The failure of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at The Vatican to provide information to The Murphy Commission on reports of clerical child sexual abuse from 1975 to 2004 which had been conveyed to the Congregation by the Archdiocese of Dublin highlights that the Irish people of all religions, and none, have a political and a civic relationship with The Holy See that is separate from its ecclesiastical relationship with Catholics.

The decision by two incumbents' of the office of  Papal Nuncio to Ireland in 2007 and in 2009 not to forward to the Commission all documents in his passion relevant to the Commission’s terms of reference cannot be construed as other than a demonstration of contempt towards a Commission that is independent of the Government and towards the Irish people for whom cooperation was an issue of vital national importance.

There is clearly no point in Ireland pursuing a high-level, but non-productive and inert, diplomatic relationship in such circumstances. I therefore agree with the suggestion of Des O’Malley that the Irish Embassy in Italy ought to take care of whatever diplomatic business arises with The Vatican on a non-residential basis.

Dean of Diplomatic Corp

The passage of the 5th Amendment to the Irish Constitution deleting the text conferring the recognition of the State on the 'special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the Guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens' on 5 January 1973 must surely challenge the practice of the Papal Nuncio continuing automatically to be the Dean of the Diplomatic Corp in this country. If it is necessary to appoint a Dean why not pursue the practice in other countries where the longest-serving ambassador fulfils this largely ceremonial role? This would ensure that this role is undertaken by a range of ambassadors over time and the Government and the people are less likely to be humiliated when the titular Head of the Diplomatic Corp chooses to ignore the authority of the State on ascertaining the truth with respect to vile criminal, carnal acts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

“Twaide up to a bigga house” Bank of Ireland

2009 11 25_1274 THE other morning I wondered if I had awakened on April Fools Day. it was stills dark as my transistor radio came to life and the morning news reported that the awful devastation from flooding throughout the country was now impacting the capital. Then there was an advertisement from Bank of Ireland Mortgages urging listeners’ “to twaide up to a bigga house”. 

I gathered my chattels and then I spotted the house of my dreams, pictured above.  Perhaps I really should escape the park bench,  which is my winter home, having recovered form the symptoms of swine flu and apply to Bank of Ireland Mortgages with my Roma gypsy lover before she starts her 10-hour shift begging from the early morning commuters and offering herself to truck drivers at the Ferryport.

I thought how tuned in Bank of Ireland are to the sentiment of the country. Those that are not bailing out flood water are coping with 413,000 on the Live Register, 12½% unemployment, the prospects of further cuts in income for one reason, or another. Had the captains of finance had become the admirals of empathy, equipped with new periscopes?

Bank of Ireland My mind wandered again and I imagined what would Bank of Ireland be like if it were a human being and not a corporate entity. I had this vivid image of an osteoporosis-stricken female in her seventies, who had lost 37% of her bone density, strutting along a beach in The Gambia. Her hair had once been blonde, but now it resembled dry bleached straw under the unforgiving late morning sun. Her heavily tanned body was almost fully exposed as all that covered the critical wrinkles  was a bikini bottom made from dental floss. While her appetite for pleasure and hedonism was infinite her finer assets were no longer as elegant as they once had been. She had seduced an East African migrant, 50 years younger than her, who was a vendor on the beach selling fresh pineapple to tourists. A woman with an established lifestyle of elegance, a wheezing voice and rustic charm, she also had great ambitions for him, her horny, insatiable go-getter. His formal education ended at the age of nine but she envisaged him becoming her house boy at her suburban Dublin mansion, Chew Fatima. His Bermuda shorts would be replaced by tailored trousers and a white Charvais shirt complete with silver plated cuff links. An occasional visit to a barber was intended to make him socially at ease with the the other court jesters already employed in the cellar of the mansion.

The Governor of the Bank, Mr Molloy, appeared in Leinster House last week to brief the legislators about current trends and future prospects. He was accompanied by the young buck his predecessor hired to mind the shop and report the Bank’s losses every six months, most of them attributable directly to himself. Old Mr Molloy has been around for a long time. His value is not just in what he knows but who he knows.  The Long Fellow and The Short Fellow ran the show in Ireland when his career commenced. Éamon de Valera was Taoiseach and Seán T O’Kelly was President and principal kisser of the rings of all bishops’ and whatever other part of their anatomy required soothing.

Molloy described to the legislators  ‘the appreciation’ of the Bank for the ‘significant’ support provided by the people. Allowing for the Doctrine of Mental Reservation the significance of this support is that the people have provided €3.5 billion to a business with a market capitalisation of €1.68 billion. He outlined how the Bank is meeting the needs of Irish customers, business and personal, many of who are skittish about credit availability and the rules and procedures to access same. For the record – the Bank has deposits of €34 billion from Ireland and has loans due from Irish customers of slightly over €62 billion.  They obtain around €53 billion of deposits elsewhere but the Bank is coincidentally curtailing its business activities elsewhere.

I was particularly intrigued by Old Mr Molloy’s remarks about mortgages. The country as a whole owes €147.8 billion in residential mortgages as of the end of October 2009. The Bank of Ireland share of this is €28 billion of which 21,000 of their 196,000 Irish mortgage customers are in negative equity-land. €1.5 billion has been lent in the first nine months of 2009, of which 31.6% went to first time buyers. This implies they lent €1.05 billion to other categories. They consider 350 mortgage applications per week – 18,000 a year who are acquiring properties in flood plains, settlements, townships of more remote fields of thistles – always mindful of the circumstances of the 3,436 individuals who claim tax relief in respect of urban renewal, the 1,149 who claim tax relief in respect of town renewal and, of course, never forgetting the 1,167 who claim tax relief for seaside resorts or the 2,137 who qualify for tax relief in respect of rural renewal.

Mr Molloy saw mortgage trends that no other white man has seen in Ireland this year – signs of an uplift designed to raise the spirit of harassed legislators. This, he said, is reflected in “an improvement in overall applications and drawdown trends compared with previous periods”. Wow!  Could a Nigerian even outclass this man’s supreme optimism?

This is the official position with respect to mortgage approvals and payments in Ireland for the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008:


New Houses

  2008 2009 Change
Number of loans approved 15,805 7,264 -8,541
Value of loans approved €4,164.2 €1,592.7 -€2,571.5
Number of loans paid 14,759 4,732 -10,027
Value of loans paid €3,971.1 €1,117.5 -€2,853.6
Average loan paid €269,000 €236,158  


Secondhand Houses

  2008 2009 Change
Number of loans approved 19.736 7,739 -11,997
Value of loans approved €5,784.1 €1,948.7 -€3,835.4
Number of loans paid 30,033 12,216 -17,817
Value of loans paid €8,430.1 €2,921.1 -€5,509
Average loan paid €280,690 €239,120  


I am not really sure what this old man’s optimism is based on.  Perhaps he is thinking of the first year he worked for the Bank of Ireland when 2,000 women in Ireland, who already had 10 children, gave birth to an eleventh.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Begging bowl out at Dublin Docklands

2009 10 10_0717 IS it necessary for the taxpayer to invoke the Doctrine of Mental Reservation when reading the recently published 2008 annual report of Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), evaluating the opaque character of its corporate governance since its inception in 1997 and its overall viability? Its annual report lacks candour. It fails to inspire confidence in its board and taxpayers’ should be alert lest they be plundered to compensate for a disgraceful episode of buccaneering speculation.

DDDA lost €212.9 million in 2008 and its net assets withered from €177 million in 2007 to €26 million in 2008. This did not arise through the diligent prosecution of its corporate mission - to be a paragon of sustainable development in the inner city that would offer a major contribution to the social and economic prosperity of Dublin and the whole of Ireland. But it did occur as a consequence of harum-scarum commercial and residential property speculation that could only have succeeded if potential customers had become submerged with overwhelming and unsustainable debt.

The former city dump at Ringsend was purchased for €412 million in 2006, a price well in excess of what it was professionally valued at that time. This property was valued at €50 million on 31 December 2008, a write-down of 87%. The former chief executive informed an Oireachtas committee in February 2009 the revaluation would be 30% lower than the purchase price – a clear inconsistency within a matter of weeks. He has departed from DDDA but there is no explanation in the annual report of either the circumstances, or the terms, of his departure.

Sixty percent of the Ringsend development was to have been residential with the most basic unit, a one bedroom apartment adjacent to an incinerator and the city water purification facility, purportedly intended to sell for €500,000. The average gross household income of a person(s) with a mortgage in 2006 was €58,190 so a prospective purchaser with a 92% mortgage would be borrowing €460,000, or 8 times income. The 2008 annual report bemoans ‘the huge problems caused to DDDA by the collapse of the property market’. Perhaps it would be more candid and honest to recognise that the final episode of the economic terrorism of the Celtic Tiger had been averted from a consumer perspective.

The 2008 audited accounts for this state agency include a charge of €5.43 million for legal fees. The Master of the High Court consistently criticises lawyers’ costs but there is no indication as to who the recipients of this money are; what the basis for the costs are, or any rational foundation for the taxpayer to see a basis of value for money. Given that there are reputedly 800 unemployed solicitors and presumably a proportionate number of under-employed barristers, this is a very large unexplained cost incurred by an agency that has never winced when it comes to throwing money around.

The board of this agency has failed its stakeholders, gambled its resources and lost. The chances of DDDA ever accomplishing its original mission are as probable as me becoming the Mayor of Monte Carlo. Does the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government intend to declare this a failed agency and close it, or is this to become another example where speculative profits are the trophy of speculators’ but uninsurable risks and the flotsam and jetsam associated with these, are the burden of taxpayers' while they distract themselves planting bluebells?