Bertie Ahern Regrets…..

My contribution to this week’s Farmers Journal:

 Bertie Ahern used his last full day in the Dail, on Thursday January 27th., to offer his reflections on a career which included long spells in senior ministries, including Finance, and 11 years as Taoiseach. Reporters seemed genuinely shocked at Mr. Ahern’s lament for his lost Bertie Bowl, which unbelievably he identified as his greatest regret from his time in office. He also protested that nobody had told him about the problems in the banks.

 

The Bertie Bowl, described by Mr. Ahern as a national ‘infrastructural’ stadium, whatever that means, was as daft a project as ever issued from the fertile brain of an Irish populist politician. The city of Dublin contains two fine stadiums at Croke Park and Lansdowne Road, both rebuilt in recent times with substantial taxpayer support. The Bertie Bowl would have been a third. At one stage, no less than four stadium projects were under consideration, the fourth being the FAI’s Eircom Park. But during the period when Lansdowne Road was closed for reconstruction, only Croke Park was available and comfortably catered for the full GAA programme plus all the rugby and soccer internationals, as well as numerous concerts. That it was able to do so reflects the simple reality that there are not that many big matches to be accommodated. There are rarely more than about 12 or 15 big GAA match-days per annum, and not many more between rugby and soccer combined. One stadium was enough for three full years. Neither Croke Park nor Lansdowne Road will be intensively utilised in the years ahead and it is debatable whether the city needs two big venues never mind three. 

 

But Mr. Ahern wanted a third, at a cost of around €700 million. It was one of the very few of his spending schemes that did not go ahead, because the late lamented Progressive Democrats pulled the plug after the 2002 election and can at least claim to have spared us a ghost stadium to go with the ghost estates. The vigorous campaign against Ahern’s curious project got little support from the Fine Gael and Labour benches, mesmerised by the popularity at the time of Ireland’s first celebrity Taoiseach. Jimmy Deenihan of Fine Gael, who should know a thing or two about stadiums from his days in the Kerry jersey, and Labour’s Pat Rabbitte, are the only exceptions I can recall.

 

Given the current condition of the country there is something profoundly disturbing about Mr. Ahern’s choice of the demise of the stadium project as his greatest career disappointment. Fate, or the forces of darkness, deprived him of the opportunity to waste €700 million. But his protestations about the failure of others to warn him about the credit bubble are even more extraordinary. As far back as 2001, the former head of Bank Supervision at the Central Bank, Willie Slattery, who had departed for the private financial sector, warned publicly, and in very blunt terms, about the risks emerging in bank balance sheets. Mr. Slattery’s speech was widely reported and caused quite a stir at the time, given his career background and knowledge of the banking business. There were numerous other public warnings from commentators around this time about the emerging housing bubble and the excessive growth in public spending. In October 2004, the influential Economist magazine devoted a cover story to Ireland which received extensive media coverage here. The story described the Irish bubble in unambiguous terms and warned of the risks. It is simply untrue to assert that no warnings were given. There were plenty of warnings, and in public. By the time Mr. Ahern addressed the Irish Congress of Trades Unions in Bundoran in July 2007, he had begun to hear what was being said and responded to his critics in the following terms:   

 

‘Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide because frankly the only thing that motivates me is being able to actively change something.’

 

His ‘suicide’ remark, a subsequent YouTube hit, was warmly applauded by the assembled trade union brethren. Mr. Ahern subsequently apologised and quite properly, to groups representing relatives of suicide victims. He never apologised to the targets of his remarks, of course. By the time Brian Cowen replaced Mr. Ahern in May 2008 the damage was well and truly done and it has been downhill ever since. The electorate blame Fianna Fail for both the genesis and the handling of the crisis and they will have their revenge it would appear. But having run the country from 1997 to 2008, this is unambiguously Bertie Ahern’s crisis. And his greatest regret is not having wasted even more money on a stadium folly. Planet Bertie indeed.

39 thoughts on “Bertie Ahern Regrets…..”

  1. Tip of the hat!!
    Another thing that boils my blood is the respect he has shown for Brian Cowen in the last few months, probably a by product of his attempt to separate himself from the mess that he caused.

    One of the important lessons from this is for the country to look at itself seriously.

    Do we have any right or credit left to question the leadership qualities of Enda Kenny or any other politician when our recent estimations or sense of Leadership qualities have proven so off the mark!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. re:
    But having run the country from 1997 to 2008, this is unambiguously Bertie Ahern’s crisis.

    Good summation of his role as the captain of the country’s crisis.

    I would like to pick up on two points
    1. because the late lamented Progressive Democrats…. No late enough and certainly not lamented. Just in case anybody fails to detect the irony in the remark.
    2. I was not aware that the assembled union leaders applauded the ‘suicide’ remark. If so, it was disgraceful of them as of the originator of the remark.
    3. However, I would make the point that it is for governments to govern. The idea, widely promulgated by FF that of course they would have done things properly if only the unions and do gooders let them, is to completely misunderstand the role of government. Governments are elected to govern, not to be told what to do by various interest groups or lobbyists.
    4. Your laying of the fault for the country’s crisis at the door of the leader of the government for the critical errors of its governance is most welcome and very important.
    5. And finally, who expected to hear the truth from Bertie Ahern, or to believe that what he said was true?

  3. I have always thought of Bertie as being mildly retarded in some way although I do coincide he was also cute as a fox.
    Yet something vital was missing – the fact that so many Irish people could connect with such a “special” political animal speaks volumes for the Irish electorate.
    They can be sold anything – what children and how sad and dispiriting for pretty much everything.
    Haughey was right to treat the foot soldiers with such open contempt – there was no other logical response.
    Anyhow after listening to such Bertie verbiage after so long a gap I am of the opinion that he genuinely does not have any intellectual spatial awareness – the man is a blank page

  4. It takes an election to show up the political bias in our esteemed economists. All their bile is coming out now. For the record, Lansdowne Road, or whatever it calls itself now, isn’t a fine stadium, but a mini-Stadium, conceived by people with mini-minds, mainly economists who know nothing about sport, and is an object of derision among rugby fans in the other Six Nations. Its capacity is a pathetic 49,000. Last night Wales v England was a sell-out capacity 75,000. As I do quite a lot of business in Cardiff, I tried to get a ticket for last night’s match. Despite its 75,000 capacity, I failed miserably. If someone suggested to the Welsh that their National Stadium should have a capacity of 49,000, they’d be laughed at, which is what should have happened in Ireland. When England visit Dublin in a few weeks, they’ll think that they are playing in a Ladies B’International, so paltry will be the attendance, compared with their other matches this season. I have also heard complaints that there is a restricted view in many seats in the mini-Stadium. And the stand behind one of the goals is so low, it looks like what you might find in the Sligo Rovers stadium. It is totally inadequate for Ireland’s international rugby and soccer needs. The fact that the GAA, which has always been run by people of vision and not by useless economists, has an excellent stadium is irrelevant, as there was never any chance of the GAA agreeing to house rugby and soccer on a permanent basis. The first time that there is an Ireland v England Grand Slam decider taking place in the mini-Stadium (hopefully this year, although I doubt it), the hopeless inadequacy of the mini-Stadium will be revealed, and ticket touts will make a fortune.

  5. Here is William Slattery’s original article- he has now updated the figures in his orginal article.

    http://www.finance-magazine.com/display_article.php?i=8671&pi=315

    William Slattery writes:

    “I would like to pick up on the analysis in the original article and place it in a current context. The article was published in Feb 2000 against the background of very high house price and credit growth realised in 1999 and forecast in 2000. In the event growth in both was very rapid in 2000. With the bursting of the TMT bubble, and latterly, with 9/11 and with ECB rates at 4pc, growth in house prices and credit slowed significantly in 2001. At the end of that year house price growth may have actually been negative and the monetary increase in credit was less in 2001 than 2000, contributing to a significant slowdown in economic growth”.

  6. It takes an election to show up the political bias in our esteemed economists. All their bile is coming out now. For the record, Lansdowne Road, or whatever it calls itself now, isn’t a fine stadium, but a mini-Stadium, conceived by people with mini-minds, mainly economists who know nothing about sport, and is an object of derision among rugby fans in the other Six Nations. Its capacity is a pathetic 49,000. Last night Wales v England was a sell-out capacity 75,000. As I do quite a lot of business in Cardiff, I tried to get a ticket for last night’s match. Despite its 75,000 capacity, I failed miserably. If someone suggested to the Welsh that their National Stadium should have a capacity of 49,000, they’d be laughed at, which is what should have happened in Ireland. When England visit Dublin in a few weeks, they’ll think that they are playing in a Ladies B’International, so paltry will be the attendance, compared with their other matches this season. I have also heard complaints that there is a restricted view in many seats in the mini-Stadium. And the stand behind one of the goals is so low, it looks like what you might find in the Sligo Rovers stadium. It is totally inadequate for Ireland’s international rugby and soccer needs. The fact that the GAA, which has always been run by people of vision and not by useless economists, has an excellent stadium is irrelevant, as there was never any chance of the GAA agreeing to house rugby and soccer on a permanent basis. The first time that there is an Ireland v England Grand Slam decider taking place in the mini-Stadium (hopefully this year, although I doubt it), the hopeless inadequacy on the mini-Stadium will be revealed, and ticket touts will make a fortune.

  7. John TO

    Is that a critique of stadium design or a political statement?
    Consider also questions of responsibility for the high cost environment in which all this happened?

  8. @ Colm McCarthy

    Spot on Sir, well done.

    @ John the Optimist

    Spot on. Sitting here refusing to pay twice the price because they only put in half the seats.

  9. If I may JTO

    @ Al

    I would take it as the IRFU setting a contradictory strategy.

    Grow the game at grass roots, reduce capacity at the pinnicale of the sport, get more money per seat.

    Nothing to do with a high cost environment – the sport can afford it and the supporters proved it at Croke.

    Took my family to Ravenhill last night – 4 persons £48.

  10. Colm
    It’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel taking pot shots at Bertie – hardly a challenge so tch tch ,, not very nice.

    Having said that I thought Michael Lewis little pen picture in VF quite brilliant. Here it is or those who hadn’t time to read throught it all:

    “Ahern is known both for a native shrewdness and for saying lots of spectacularly dumb-sounding things that are fun to quote. Tony Blair had credited him with a kind of genius in how he brokered the Northern Ireland peace negotiations; on the other hand, seeking to explain the financial crisis, he actually said, “Lehman’s was a world investment bank. They had testicles everywhere.” Ahern spent his last days in office denying he’d accepted bribes from property developers, at least in part because so much of what he did in office seemed justified only if he were being paid by property developers to do it. But Bertie Ahern too obviously believed in the miracle of Irish real estate. After Morgan Kelly published his article predicting the collapse of the Irish banks, for instance, Ahern famously responded to a question about it on national radio by saying, “Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide.”

    Now Ahern is just another Irish backbencher, with a hangdog slouch and a face mottled by broken capillaries. To fill the empty hours, he’s taken a job writing a sports column for the Rupert Murdoch tabloid News of the World, which might just be the least respectable job in global journalism. Ahern’s star, such as it was, has fallen.”

  11. I have no brief for the IRFU or the FAI
    And I agree with you.
    Landsdowne may be on way to nama or nama II eventually

  12. @A McGrath.
    Thanks for the quote. I had failed to access VF article.

    In defence of the Bertie quote (below) attributed to him, it may have been the most persceptive insight yet into the entire banking crisis.

    “Lehman’s was a world investment bank. They had testicles everywhere.”

    We all know that now. Having having been well and truly shafted by the banking elite.

  13. What a brilliant thread. Excellent Colm.

    I was going to chip in some pithy observation when I was sidetracked by JTO.

    “It is totally inadequate for Ireland’s international rugby and soccer needs. The fact that the GAA, which has always been run by people of vision and not by useless economists, has an excellent stadium is irrelevant, as there was never any chance of the GAA agreeing to house rugby and soccer on a permanent basis.”

    Yes, OK I know the output from economists has been generally, for decades, of amazingly little use. I know this because I tried very very hard to use it in a way that didn’t detract from decision making – its a kind of rite of passage.

    However Croke Park is there as a super-stadium because the GAA has “always been run by people of vision” – the vision to appeal to a combination of gombeen politicians like Bertie with access to the taxpayers’ pockets; and a scoundrel’s use of patriotism or in this case nationalism to batter rational critics into silence.

    Maybe giving all that money to the GAA without a deal to share the facility with other sports is just another example of sectional political interests trumping the national one.

  14. @JTO

    You are way off the mark there on Aviva. There are only 2 possible stadium filling high attendance matches in the Rugby calendar which happen here every second year – France and England. Tickets could not be sold by Clubs for the last round of Autumn Internationals and that reflects the fact that there is limited interest and money here from the public. The same applies to home games against Italy and Scotland in the 6 N. The IRFU and their policy in setting up a limited capacity Stadium is spot on as a business model and a financing model unlike other entities in this country during the last 5 years.

  15. @ Grumpy

    Spot on in principle. If the taxpayers are paying then it is for everyones benefit not some sectoral interest (including bankers and bondholders).

    @ Ragusa

    Nonsense – people felt exploited. The reason tickets could not be sold is they were too expensive – not that there are not 60,000 fathers, mothers, sons & daughters out there who would not like to see Ireland play anyone for 10 or 15 euro a ticket.

    I am fortunate and can afford it but I would not pay the gobshites – you only encourage them.

    Well done Ronan !

  16. because the late lamented Progressive Democrats

    I’ve no doubt that the PDs are lamented by one Colm McCarthy, but you’ll find few others who will (and good riddance to “airmiles” Harney).

  17. Bertie Ahern should be absolutely ashamed of himself for his prime regret in failing to build a sports stadium in his name when tens of thousands of people face years of misery, partly at least because of his negligence.

    Ahern is a cousin of mine through his mother who was a Hourihane and just a stone’s throw up Kilbrogan Hill in Bandon, where Willie Slattery lived, one of the Hourihanes lived when he was a chaplain at Bandon Convent.

    Colm recites a familiar litany but have things changed since the crash?

    I would say NO.

    When the goals of political leaders coalesce with those of powerful vested interests, against a backdrop of ignorance in Ireland, policy gains an unstoppable juggernaut.

    Voilà le ‘smart economy’ farce.

    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1021295.shtml

  18. Colm,

    You are right to make the point at the end of this bit:

    “His ‘suicide’ remark, a subsequent YouTube hit, was warmly applauded by the assembled trade union brethren. Mr. Ahern subsequently apologised and quite properly, to groups representing relatives of suicide victims. He never apologised to the targets of his remarks, of course.”

    There is much attention currently to the effects that the property bust is having on those who partook – though the bizarrely non-upper-limited family home legislation leaves some “victims” palatially accommodated.

    There is NO acknowledgement of the business, professional, career and personal pressures that were brought to bear on the dissenters who thought (but did not Know) it was just a bubble, and who acted and advised accordingly.

    Those individuals were made out to be fools by the massed ranks of the culture of the day – including the majority of the economics and financial analysis community.

    Those people, by their actions, did the country a service, but are frequently rewarded not with thanks or an apology, but with searing resentment by the people who (still) run more or less everything. It would be so much more convenient if those awkward smart arses didn’t show them up!

    I remember hearing Bertie’s comments and the laughter that followed, on the radio, shortly after having a conversation with someone about the Irish property market in which I had had to more or less tell them that I could not understand why property was not yet going down significantly in value and that perhaps they should be thinking about getting advice from another source.

    You don’t have to have too much imagination to think what effect Bertie’s comments may have had on some people who had actually got into trouble as a result of not believing in the boom. I don’t think Bertie has much imagination though.

  19. Ahern’s comments lately have been very strange and a rich source of ammunition for critics. However, it is important to note that Harney and McCreevy, Cowen and McDowell, their party colleagues and almost all of the establishment were his partners, or like the opposition did little to campaign against his policies. People around Brian Lenihan blame everyone else for the bank guarantee, while he publicly defends it. McCreevy blames Cowen and Ahern implicitly. Ahern blames Cowen. Cowen and the FF establishment are now blaming Ahern, as they did Haughey – but they’ll still give him a great funeral oration. Haughey blamed a dead advisor. Lots of others except FF were to blame too, or everyone was equally to blame.

    The truth is the system is broken and must be changed and all participants must be held accountable. A good start would be eliminating FF and thus laying the basis for proper left right politics and policies instead of the auction and vested interests version we have now. Every other mature democracy has it. We haven’t and the country has been wrecked ( the latest most spectacularly) three times in it’s history. It’s time we had too. But without the whole system changing it still won’t be enough.

  20. The Ahern recommendation that ‘cribbers and moaners’ commit suicide must go down as one of the most egregious and contemptuous comments ever made by a senior Irish politician -and supported by guffaws and sniggers from his trade union ‘Social Partnership’ partners!
    This comment was deliberate and truly showed the measure of the ‘man’ and his audience.
    His subsequent attempt at an ‘apology’- – ‘IF I SAID etc…I didn’t mean etc’ underlined that measure.

  21. Good question from p.ie to see exactly how far FF are distancing themselves from him:
    “All Fianna FAIL IMF Anglo candidates should be asked question No 1

    1. Do you still believe Mr Dig Outs TRIBUNAL evidence ( your leader at the last election )

    Why did you give him your 100% support ?”

    Likely response: “I do not want to interfere in the workings of the tribunal,” etc etc i.e. no response. They want him to take the blame, but they DON’T want him to get so annoyed that he might start singing.

  22. @ Colm McCarthy,

    The most worrying thing, is not that Mr. Ahern expressed doubt as to the quality of advice he was offered by his civil. It is not the fact, that radio programs such as those hosted by Marian Finucane, almost break down in disarray, owing to discussions about the inability of the same civil service. Forget all of that. Remember for instance, what Amartya Sen had said about democracy and freedom. Remember for instance, that no where in 11 year Taoiseach veteran, Mr. Ahern, did he mention anything about what his own people – the Irish citizenry – may, or may not have told him.

    A Teachta Dála usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament). More literally, it translates according to Mr. Glennon, as voice of the people. The notion, that the function of the parlimentarian in the house, is to convey the voice of the people onto record. Maybe it is a symptom of the rot in Irish society in 2011, that we must complain – our politicians have nothing to say.

    What Daniel O’Connell fought for in 1843, was not the right to speak to a hundred thousand, but for a way, the hundred thousand could speak to him. Valerie Hanley, reporter for the Irish Mail on Sunday, tells us that in March 2008, 12 members of an Irish golden circle paid €60,000 for time with minister for finance, Brian Cowen. That is a measure of progress we made in 150 years. Until the small island of Ireland re-discovers its voice – the voice it found, when O’Connell was alive – then our statesmen and women, will have nothing to say. BOH.

    http://designcomment.blogspot.com/2011/02/wide-screen.html

  23. @Brian O’Hanlon:
    I’m not sure that O’Connell was exactly a model MP in financial matters.

    bjg

  24. @ BJG,

    We need to measure the progress of our nation made over centuries, rather than decades. That is difficult for the modern Ireland to do. It requires the recognition of different traditions and cultures than our own.

    There is much reference to the period between 1920s to 2010s in election 2011. It is as if the island history came into existence then. The political parties in Ireland have depended too much, for political cache on that story, and only that story. Others claim to be a reaction to civil war politics, which inadvertedly defines them within the same framework.

    That is an obstruction to us, and our thinking, in election year 2011. The 1920s in Ireland happened. It was messy, dis-organised and rushed through (the very same factors which seem to define Ireland today). The 1920s produced divisions in all kinds of ways. We must remember an Ireland and a time before divisions or be defined by the same for ever. BOH.

  25. Colm McCarthy’s extremely nasty little piece is simply low-grade character vilification. It should have no place on a distinguished site like this, but should be confined to the tabloid media. This site is supposed to be about the Irish economy. There has been a wealth of economic data published in the past week, most of it very encouraging, but which economists like Colm McCarthy seem very reluctant to discuss. Instead, with an election coming up, he prefers to use it for a piece of politically-motivated character assassination. Most of the quack economists attacking Bertie Aherne are not fit to lace his boots. Bertie Aherne has massive achievements to his credit. What achievements can Colm McCarthy or any of the others attacking him boast of? Among Bertie’s achievements are:

    (a) Negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, which brought the conflict in the Six Counties to an end.

    (b) Doubling the size of the economy in the decade he was Taoiseach.

    (c) Massively improving Ireland’s infrastructure, especially the road network. This has resulted in a 60% fall in the road deaths rate in Ireland since 1997. One of the reasons the infrastucture was so crap in 1997 was that economists predicted in the early 1990s that the population would fall in the subsequent 20 years, so infrastructural spending was run down. A Davy Kelleher McCarthy report, published in 1990, predicted that the population would fall from 3.5m in 1991 to 3.3m in 2011. Colm McCarthy should tell us how much he was involved in the preparation of that report. I have asked that before on this site, but never got an answer. In the event, the population did not fall from 3.5m in 1991 to 3.3m in 2011, but rose to 4.5m. For a time during this population boom, the infrastructure became totally overloaded. That was the situation in 1997 when Bertie took over. But, thanks to the massive increase in spending on infrastructure that Bertie Aherne oversaw, the infrastructure has massively improved, and is comfortably handling in 2011 a population one-third larger than that which economists like Colm McCarthy were forecasting back then it would be in 2011.

    (d) Achieving the greatest ever fall in mortality rates in Ireland, bringing them from well above the EU average in 1997 to well below the EU average in 2007, This was highlighted in a recent ESRI report, although it got scant media attention and, naturally, none on this site.

    Colm McCarthy is simply a fanatical anti-nationalist, doing a hatchet job on one of nationalist Ireland’s greatest ever leaders. McCarthy has previously posted on this site that the Scots were ‘more intelligent’ than the Irish because they opted to stay in the U. Kingdom, and sneered at any suggestion that 1916 should be celebrated. He will be long forgotten by the time Bertie Aherne bacomes first President of a 32-counrty Republic.

  26. @JtO

    I think you have missed the point of this article, which is at it’s core is to create a new narrative of what happened:

    “By the time Brian Cowen replaced Mr. Ahern in May 2008 the damage was well and truly done and it has been downhill ever since. The electorate blame Fianna Fail for both the genesis and the handling of the crisis and they will have their revenge it would appear. But having run the country from 1997 to 2008, this is unambiguously Bertie Ahern’s crisis.”

    The point being to absolve Fianna Fáil of collective responsibility and to paint them as victims of an understandably enraged (and therefore patronized) populace. Of course, as it was all Bertie’s fault, the next man can get on with looking into his heart with a clear conscience. This is the new FF narrative ‘going forward’. So for example Cowen is not responsible for his time at Finance, nor are Cowen and Lenihan responsible for the Bank Guarantee, and as for Martin, sure he was wasn’t even born – it was all Ahern and it was all too late.

    I agree, by the way, with the particular criticisms of Ahern in the article, but do not agree to the end to which those criticisms are put. I met the man a few times and some of the comment above is absurd. He himself outlined his strategy in various interviews, which was to act fairly dumb, thereby prompt other people to speak out confidently, and when he had the various views in hand, to seek consensus which was weighted to whatever objective he had all along.

  27. @jto

    I’ve just lost all respect for your opinion, damnit man your an intelligent chap and you come out with that reply

  28. @jto you like tryin’ to upset the apple tart don’t ya? Funny ting is – seems Bertie never boddered asking about de banks. Wid his testicles everywhere he shud have know’ed about dem. And he wid his qualfications from de Londin skool of ecmononiks.

  29. (Letter to the Editor, Irish Farmers Journal)

    I am not an apologist for Bertie Ahern and I am an admirer of the work of Colm McCarthy where he consistently displays a cool, fair, dispassionate approach. In this article, however, these attributes have unfortunately disappeared, I hope temporarily.

    Should a national stadium have been built in Abbotstown is not such a clear-cut “no no” as he makes it out to be.

    First, Croke Park was and is a privately owned stadium; initially it was doubtful whether it would be available even on a temporary basis.

    The end result of all the furor over Abbotstown is the Aviva Stadium, an attractive football stadium of limited capacity and limited facilities on a constricted site on some of the most expensive land in the country; it is a dubious outcome.

    Can a UEFA Champions League final be held there?
    The UEFA Europa League final will be be hosted there this year. It’s likely to be the last time – the stadium is too small.

    Is it possible to hold an athletics event there: a Diamond League, a European or World championship in youth, junior, senior?
    The European Athletics Championship 2010 was held in Barcelona from 26 July to 1 August and it attracted nearly half-a-million spectators with revenue to the city estimated at 42 million euros.

    Taking a long time frame of 50 years plus, and bearing in mind all the potential sporting events, a national stadium built at Abbotstown on land owned by the state and partly financed through the sale of the Lansdowne road site would appear, at least to some, to have been the best outcome for sport, for the city and the country.

    Speculative, I know, but what would a small, super-competitive state (like Singapore) have done?

    In regard to Mr. Ahern’s failure to recognise the imminent financial crisis, he was not alone: there were plenty of economists, bankers, central bankers and gurus of all shades in Ireland and across the world that also failed.
    The IMF reported in July 2006 in its Financial System Stability Assesment Update for Ireland that

    • The Irish financial sector has continued to perform well since its participation in the Financial Sector
    Assessment Program in 2000. Financial soundness and market indicators are generally very strong.

    • The outlook for the financial system is positive. That said, there are several macro-risks and challenges
    facing the authorities. As the housing market has boomed, household debt to GDP ratios have continued to

    rise, raising some concerns about credit risks. Further, a significant slowdown in economic growth, while

    seen as highly unlikely in the near term, would have adverse consequences for banks’ non-performing loans.

    Stress tests confirm, however, that the major financial institutions have adequate capital buffers to cover a

    range of shocks.

    • Good progress has been achieved in strengthening the regulatory and supervisory framework, in line

    with the recommendations of the 2000 FSAP.

    Mr. Ahern’s and his government’s big failure in my opinion, was that of not being prudent in respect of receipts from the housing boom. The construction of seventy to eighty thousand houses per annum was not sustainable and associated revenues should have been regarded largely as a windfall.
    The eurozone central bankers / bank should also have done what central bankers are supposed to do: regulate the banks. They should have devised and implemented measures to deflate the bubbles in the periphery countries.

    Mr Ahern’s comment to the ICTU conference was a bad lapse of judgement.
    In any appraisal of Mr. Ahern his failures and his faults will be recounted but in a fair one his achievements will also be acknowledged. Among these, probably the greatest was his contribution to obtaining a peace settlement in Northern Ireland, for which he deserves much praise.

    Finally, the statement “Bertie Ahern used his last full day in the Dail, on Thursday January 27th, to offer his reflections on a career ..” is very misleading.

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