Colm McCarthy: Fours years on yet not even a parking ticket issued

Colm writes in today’s Sindo on the outstanding problem of obtaining satisfaction from those responsible for the banking crisis within the banks. As usual there is a lot to think about and digest, but one piece stood out for me:

In Ireland, almost four years after the balloon went up, not so much as a parking ticket has been issued. Inquiries are under way by the Director of Public Prosecutions, An Garda Siochana, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement but none has yielded fruit. The Irish banking bust has been described by Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan as one of the largest, relative to the size of the country, which has ever occurred anywhere.

The snail-race by the investigating bodies is an embarrassment, has fed public cynicism and the belief that those responsible for the disaster will never be brought to account.

The socially corrosive effect this delay is having cannot be estimated. There has been at least one file prepared and sent to the DPP, but that’s it as far as we go. Colm has a gloomy outlook on the possibility of any redress coming via the Oireachtas:

It does not matter which Oireachtas committee undertakes the next incomplete inquiry.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

98 replies on “Colm McCarthy: Fours years on yet not even a parking ticket issued”

Good piece by Colm McCarthy raising questions that on the minds of most citizens.

However, any investigation into the banking collapse is likely o go nowhere because it is not in the interests of the broad political establishment that it get to anywhere significant.

The outcome of the tangnetopoli inquiry and trials in italy was the blowing apart of the political establishment.

Any investigation of any significance in Ireland would first have to recognize that the bank collapse is inseparably tied to a political culture that a recent tribunal described as ‘endemically corrupt’.

Who will account for the dozens of politicians who received loans on very favorable terms, a practice that fed into pipeline of conflicts of interest?

An investigation is essential for many reasons ranging from economics to morals. The outcome of a competent investigation may be sufficiently subversive as to initiate a movement to a 2nd Republic.

And that may be no bad thing.

When there is a conflict between the public interest and the vested interests — Irish politicians always side with the vested interests. The Irish politicians never act in response to the public interest but only in response to their own self-interest. Irish politicians favour the special interests that finance their election campaigns. The interests of the typical voter will be overwhelmed by the power of the lobby groups,who can devote time and money to advance their cause.

Another term for the problem is “clientelism”. When political parties get into office,they need to reward their supporters with jobs,tax breaks, subsidies, state leases etc etc. The Irish property disaster started with one house –Leinster House. Politics is like war. There are three things you need to win. The first is money and the second is money and the third is money. In matters of Church or State the man with the money carries the weight. Follow the money it always leads to Leinster House.

Colm is too polite to name the 8 SCs who helped killed the referendum:

David Byrne, Patrick Connolly, Paul Gallagher, Dermot Gleeson, Michael McDowell, Peter Sutherland, John Rogers and Harold Whelehan.

Clearly if you want to commit crimes and not face accountability, you need to get into a position of power. Seems to be the very clear lesson we’re learning these days.

The C McCarthy article is timely and his call for a rerun of the referendum is correct.
We need to know who is running the country. It is as simple as that.
Is it bankers or lawyers or PS or trade unions or powerful media or farmers all with their own interests. Or do we have a democracy and a parliament to which all sections are accountable.
The intervention of the ‘Gang of Eight’ in the last referendum exemplified the worst aspects of Ireland and the Irish.
That Ireland gave an ear to such a gang, clearly protecting their own interests, shows that we are a very gullible people.

Upper_echelon hibernian insider inbred governance pre-crash = Upper_echelon hibernian insider inbred governance post-crash


A closed dystopic governance system; decoupled from the Citizenry and Demoracy; protected by the hibernian legal system.

The more I listen to extracts and or read reports on sessions the more I feel THANKFUL to our electorate for depriving the Dail Committees of more power.
I am not passing judgement on any findings but feel that the whole process has become a CIRCUS !!

The members of committees seem to be continuously trying to win an Oscar.!, or at the very least playing to make headlines in Media. Party Political colours shine through every question and comment , and taking every opportunity to score political points. Approach to questioning is very adversarial, bordering on Bullying. Personal prejudices and beliefs drive attacks on individuals.

The impressions I am left with remind me of the “Hanging Trials” common in Cowboy films of my youth —when the Gallows were being built outside the saloon where the trial was just commencing.!

Last weeks Uk Government committee questioning of The Diamond fella showed they are no better over there –with disjointed questioning following individual party lines.

I am definitely not advocating Tribunal inquiries but there must be somewhere in between where justice can be delivered and SEEN to be so done..

Last weeks Uk Government committee questioning of The Diamond fella showed they are no better over there –with disjointed questioning following individual party lines.

Ireland’s response to problems and stresses be they in health, education, industrial development, pensions, personal debt, political corruption and the bank collapse exhibit a common weakness in problem-solving.

In the vast majority of cases the information and evidence of the positives and the negatives are there, but the capacity and willingness to develop and keep under review the necessary problem-solving strategies is either weak or absent.

The usual response has been to create more complexity, stir more complexity into the institutional mix – examples in health, education, etc. Joseph Tainter in his study of societal collapse, argued (nearly thirty years ago if memory serves me) that as the return on increased complexity falls off, a society becomes more vulnerable to what he termed collapse.

I don’t recall his arguments in detail but it strikes me that at least some of the resistance to various household charges and so on must be based in the public perception that successive governments have added on complexity and complications without the necessary quid pro quo coming down the line.

Colm McCarthy’s piece amplifies this loss of faith in the capacity of politicians to make the kind of decisions that are in the best interests of holding public confidence together.

As the Constitution is both political and directive in nature, It is the Oireachtas that is charged with the job of implementing the will of the people. The simple truth is they don’t want to implement the will of the people.

At this point in time, it’s implementation would require hundreds of them to be sent to jail. Eventually, that may happen but I won’t be holding my breath. Meanwhile, I don’t want to hand any more power back to these idiots and their committees they are a disgrace. I voted against the government in the referendum essentially choosing between the lesser of two evils, the politicians or the judiciary and I see no reason to change my vote next time out.

There is nothing stopping the Garda from investigating the financial crimes or is there? Oh, yes there is. I forgot the politicians! The government have lost the moral authority to govern this state it is as simple as that.

Don’t blame the bankers.

Banks create essentially all of the nations money supply through loans and hence almost every euro has a matching debt.

Banks also delete the money supply through loan repayments and this is why there’s less money during a recession. It’s also the reason why reducing our personal and business debts to banks doesn’t leave us in a better position.

Under this system the banking sector can’t behave prudently. Even if banks lent only to those with the highest credit rating it is still the case that many people would have to default.

The only way to keep this system running smoothly to for us to take on more debt than we repay. To date this has been achieved through mortgages taking longer and longer to repay.

Martin Wolf has pointed out the authority to create the nation’s money supply is a privilege of the banks and it’s one which he suggests they’ve abused. However, if banks had created less money through loans it’s still the case that we’d owe more than exists and nothing would change in principal.

The bankers just did their job. Allowing the Government to create a much higher proportion of the money supply would allow this system to run much smoother.

Economists giving advice on legal matters? Hmmm, this has been tried before, with not particularly good results.

Is it possible that nothing has been done on this matter because no one actually did anything technically illegal? Unfortunately stupidity and immorality are not criminal offences. And theres little point in shareholders suing bankrupt companies for damages either.

Fianna Fail, or Fine Gael have no appetite for reform – never have and never will.
If you think Charlie McCreevy getting soft loans from disgraced bankers was problematic then isnt it the same for Phil Hogan.
If you think the ULA getting travel expenses is a scandal then shouldnt it be the same for FG and FF who do precisely the same.
If you think Phil Hogan was right to say there was no local planning corruption when a FG cllr. was later arrested for same then fine you’ll see no problems with nobody being arrested.

There are many things that need reform in this state. Its taken a long time for the leading lights to see that.

The penny dropped after how many decades?

@paul ferguson

Don’t blame the bankers.


INBS, Anglo etc. all were run properly with appropriate credit committees, etc.?

Directors being loaned money to buy shares in their own banks? Good practice?

Maybe Philip should put in a bid for the inquiry to be outsourced to IE.

Witnesses (situated in a disused railway carriage in a sisused siding somewhere run down and intimidating, with garda security and internet access) to be required to answer all questions from two panels of inquisitors – one group selected for their likely incisive questioning and the other to be let loose with limitless questions about diesel consumption or whatever should a witness be deemed to be obfuscating, until they are brought into line.

Might be able to do some sort of side deal with Big Brother?

NOURIEL ROUBINI: Break Up The Banks Or Hang Someone In The Streets

“The incentives of the banks is still to cheat and do things that are either illegal or immoral,” he said. “The only way to avoid that is to break up these financial supermarkets. When you have within the same firm commercial banking, investment banking, asset management, prime brokerage, insurance, underwriting , derivatives…there are no Chinese walls and there are massive conflicts of interest.”

Nobody did anything technically illegal.

Maybe the boys in the office of Corporate Enforcement will find otherwise.

Colm has also said – here – that an enquiry is needed into the bank guarantee.
The form of the board of such an enquiry was the subject of a piece on the rte news tonight.
Not to digress from the subject here, it’s a very important issue – especially in the context of the ECB/EU involvement with it. The old version of the closed, unmediated decision, without knowledge or input from outside has been contradicted by at least four then-members of government – discussions have been said to have been ongoing with counterparts in the other euro-area finance ministries, and directly with the ecb, for days beforehand.
As certain celebrity economists have moved directly into politics, agitating in crude sophisms for federalism as a panacea to local mismanagement, and by extension as ‘antidote’ both our own national sovereignty and the very concept of self-determination across europe (curiously echoing the emergent parallel campaign that begun in politics proper in the last few months), it is necessary to have the full spectrum of the causes for our situation fully disclosed to the population.

Meanwhile, the German President wants all the details of the En-tanglement (are there photos?):

“German president Joachim Gauck has ordered Chancellor Angela Merkel to clarify exactly what she agreed behind closed doors at the EU crisis summit ten days ago, lending a powerful voice to critics dismayed by the surging costs of euro bail-outs.

“She has a duty to explain in great detail what it means, and what it means fiscally. There seems to be a lack of energy in telling the people what is really happening,” he told ZDF television.

President Gauck’s broadside came as markets wait anxiously for a crucial hearing this Tuesday by Germany’s constitutional court on the legality of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the EU’s €500bn (£397bn) bail-out fund. A clear ruling against the ESM would throw into doubt Germany’s ability to backstop the euro and risk a dramatic escalation of the debt crisis.”

@ Fiat

Eh, isn’t the whole point of this post that they hasn’t found anything so far and the apparent outrage at this non-finding? I’d love of some of the idiot bankers of the boom were found guilty of some crimes, but I’m sceptical this will happen. As I sai above, I reckon most of them were too stupid to comit any deliberate act of fraud.

@ All,

One question I will leave with the group here to reflect upon, if they may, is the following. That in years to come, historians may understand some members of the Fianna Fail party over the period 1999-00, in their efforts to loosen regulation by government over the private banking system – as fellows in the pursuit of reform – and as trying to cut the remaining ties that had existed between Irish government and the private banking infrastructure for too long.

There were some of those within the ‘permanent’ government infrastructure in Ireland (those who it could be argued, really held power over an extend period on the island), who were shocked and horrified by the attempts of the parliamentary executive to cut loose from the banking system – and to allow those private institutions such as AIB, BOI etc – to float freely and behave of their own accord, without interference.

No investigation yet, has entered into that basic question. What exactly were the nature of the connections between state regulation, or interferences, that the Fianna Fail government were so keen to eliminate? The counter action to which, on the part of certain interests, was to lavish the ministers in state with all sorts of favours, and to inflate a credit bubble, possibly to counteract the effects that full de-regulation of Irish banking would bring about.

This is something that perhaps only historians will figure out, and piece together. But it underlines perhaps, a point that economist Kevin O’Rourke has often brought to bear in this forum – the need for historical economics – as a means to piecing together, the correct fragments that are available, about our past. BOH.

Eoin wrote,

Eh, isn’t the whole point of this post that they hasn’t found anything so far and the apparent outrage at this non-finding? I’d love of some of the idiot bankers of the boom were found guilty of some crimes, but I’m sceptical this will happen. As I sai above, I reckon most of them were too stupid to comit any deliberate act of fraud.

This is slightly unfair.

I would be less inclined to refer to them as bankers, and more so as agents.

We have never quite had an ability in Ireland, to allow our private banks to operate for themselves. They were raised and trained to act as servants to a political executive – permanent or otherwise. This is another reason, for why Irish bankers were compensated so highly for their efforts.

In a truly private banking infrastructure, they would have to compete for their compensation against others with ability and skill – and not be reimbursed however generously – as mere servants to their puppet masters, who have always endeavoured to control their strings. BOH.

@ Ceabhall
Thanks for the link.

It’s a global failure – it needs a global fix. Enquiries won’t work – the bankers are too psychopathic and too strong. We know what went wrong – we were conned by bankers for 10 years. Now let’s get global and contribute to the debate on reform

@Bond and Paul
They haven’t found anything illegal is likely because they don’t want to. the links between politicians and bankers was so tight that if one set goes down, the other has to as well. I can’t believe that the concealed share support schemes were legal, I really can’t and if they were legal in Ireland, are they also legal in the US?

and the “they were stupid” theory is hard to swallow when one reads about the labyrinth of holding companies established in different, read friendly jurisdictions to ring fence assets from liquidators. Not generally the behaviour of the stupid.

What is not true is that Ireland is any different than anywhere else. Smaller maybe somthe inner circle may be tighter, but the same instincts to close ranks and insulate the insiders from consequences while using hangers on and cheerleaders to justify transferring liability to the outsiders is a central aspect of crony capitalism everywhere.

@ Bklyn

1. There may in fact be a different set of laws in the US compared to here. Just a suggestion.

2. Aren’t we talking about the bankers here, not the developers?

3. So there’s a conspiracy where literally everyone involved is turning a blind eye? Seems a bit OTT.

@ Eoin,

Nothing conspiracy about it at all. The truth is fairly easy to find, if one were to merely interview the right people in 2008, who were willing to part with information.

Basically, the reason I was able to conduct such informative interviews myself at the time, was because so many were simply waiting for the order to come, to come out with their hands up. Those were the folk, who only had very peripheral liabilities. The fact, that no one was asked to come out with their hands in the air, has had an very interesting effect upon those who do know all of the in’s and out’s.

All I can offer, is that via some high court proceedings taken by huge borrowers within the Irish state, in the coming years, the full extent to which our politicians became mere portfolio managers to the largest borrowers may begin to see the light of day. But the effort is underway as speak today, to undermine and criminalize any of those able to fight back.

All of this development has been a much more interesting development, than anything else to do with the crisis and its formation. The fact is, that the Oireachtas in the Irish State is the one place, where one can get away with almost any conduct or enterprise, that one may wish to invent. The parliament does not have the powers to investigate its own activities. It ends up having to defend itself, no matter how in-defensible its activities may be. That is the great flaw, that the crisis has revealed, if nothing else.

I hate to use the parallel. It follows a very similar thread to that of Watergate. Namely, the inability of an administration to recognise, much less cure, its own dysfunction. We haven’t produced a Nixon-type character as yet. But what we seem to have managed to do in Ireland, is to produce the exact conditions which are conducive for a Nixon type character to emerge. BOH.

I’m more interested in how/why we decided to guarantee the banks rather why they failed. For me the guarantee is the culmination of all that is wrong with Ireland.

Although it’s not the worst part, the 10 sorry years that led up to that point, the ‘Boom’, that’s the most god awful part of it all. Let’s not forget when we talk of this sorry mess, it was 100% within our power to prevent. Yet weak government, weaker media and an easily bribed electorate helped guide the country towards the night of the guarantee and of course the government, for reasons yet to be disclosed took the worst of all possible actions.

A massive decision, the implications of which will span generations. Zero consultation with the people and minimal consultation with most of their representatives. Presumably made under pressure by morally bankrupt insiders, though perhaps not, we don’t yet know. Described as a ‘master stroke’, our finance minister was apparently delighted at how pissed his British counterpart was. Cute-hoorism on steroids, of course betting the entire country on a coin toss would have made more financial sense. The gauarntee, the sorry culmination of all that is wrong with Ireland.

@ Bond
As far as I know, Bank of Ireland, Alllied irish were listed in the US under an ADR program. I am pretty sure the “borrow to support the stock” would be illegal here. My point was, if there was a will to prosecute the BANKS (i believe Anglo lent out the money with a view to using it to support the share price) then if laws in one jurisdiction were not violated, then prosecutors would find where they were and act on that. Nothing about it, of course, because there is no will to investigate the possibilities.

point 2 the banker lent the money to support anglo’s share price, didn’t they? banker developer politician = Larry, Curley, Moe, same crew all of ’em

Conspiracy? I don’t know, but when you read of Galway tents, share schemes, the Fact the bank management’s have not changed it sure a heck looks like a cozy club, if not an outright conspiracy. There was no raid to take out paperwork in ANY of the banks when they failed, instead there was a lot of talking, hand wringing and “well we must respect contracts” nonsense that gave ample time for the shredders to rev up (if that is what happened, I don’t know of course). The point is, it may not be a conspiracy, but it sure looks like a very incestuous and cozy boys club.

A hallmark of the Irish system of governance has been that the buck stops nowhere. It has embedded a culture where a national scale problem has to morph into a serious crisis to merit attention.

Conservatism coupled with self-interest has ensured that change if it happens at all, happens ever so slowly. When a politician calls for a national debate or orders up another report, it invariably suggests that he or she is clueless or putting an issue on the long finger.

There are always reasons to stick with the status quo and the eight attorney generals became very rich in a small country from a closed shop system with ‘make work’ procedures at exorbitant rates. In contrast, taxi regulations were declared a ‘restraint of trade’ simply because most taxi owners inhabited the base of the economic pyramid.

In 1986, the late UCD constitutional law professor and Fine Gael TD, John M. Kelly, said: “Ireland’s political and official rulers have largely behaved like a crew of maintenance engineers, just keeping a lot of old British structures and plant ticking over… The challenge is to evolve structures – – within which the people can be drawn to individual and community responsibility for their own development.”

Nothing has really changed: the hardware has improved but the software is still dodgy.

A share support scheme in the UK in the 1980s saw Ernest Saunders, the head of Guinness, going to jail; in the US, Bernie Ebbers, the founder of WorldCom, has been making car license plates for some years, after a 30-year sentence for false accounting.

In Ireland, the crony board of DCC only responded to a court ruling on insider trading when institutional shareholders demanded action.

On the current slow boat to China farce, there are three choices: specific company laws, criminal laws or common law. Reckless trading, false accounting and so on.

Procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception, contrary to section 11(2)(a) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001?

Could it have applied in respect of the panic on the evening of Sept 29, 2008 when Anglo needed security for a loan of €4.5bn from IL&P to dress up its year-end accounts? Were Cowen & Co aware of the agreed transaction that was subject to a security?

Philip Stephens wrote in the FT last week:

During the boom years limits were set by an assumption that anything vaguely legal was broadly acceptable. Rigging markets, avoiding tax, embellishing expense claims and pocketing unearned bonuses – well, didn’t everyone do it?

Austerity has redrawn the boundaries. The cost of the financial crash was borne by the hard-working classes. Now it turns out that the banks who were gambling with taxpayers’ money were also selling them fraudulent insurance policies. Tax cheating by the wealthy is now recognised as imposing an added burden on everyone else.

Ireland of course would be a whited sepulchre to make a big deal about false accounting when the Irish Government facilitates massive international tax evasion.

Just take Microsoft as an example: Revenues in Ireland rise by €2.1bn in 2011 and charges rise by €2.6bn while payroll numbers fall and net global income as a ratio of sales is at 40% in both 2010 and 2011 – – so no evidence of a big jump in administrative costs. Is the Revenue likely to query the big charge?

As regards individuals who got high pay, big bonuses and lavish pensions, is it timidity or are the laws so laughingly weak that there cannot be a clawback?

Under common law, implied terms in a contract are recognised and surely if a payment is made that is later shown to be based on reckless trading that reverses all the income gain, there can be a case?

It should have been tested at least.

This from the Finfacts archives in the distant days of Sept 2009 when Opposition leaders queried the status quo that now seems rather comfortable for them:

At the MacGill Summer School last July, Enda Kenny asked why do we have a budgetary system in place that is unfit to run a corner-shop, let alone a nation of 4 million people?

“Has it anything to with the replacement of accountability in the public service by a new cosy relationship between ministers, senior civil servants, trade unions, Government agencies and regulators?” he asked.

Eamon Gilmore told the recent meeting of his party’s parliamentary party, in Faithlegg, Co Waterford: “It is not enough just to think and talk about economic recovery: we must communicate our vision as to what it is for.”

He said the party needed to set out strategies on the economy, on reforming the public services and on political reform.

The Opposition may have the opportunity in government to implement radical reform and produce a modern state to be proud of – – reforming a public spending system, which is designed to protect insiders while keeping taxpayers in the dark; ending cronyism; introducing accountable systems where the pass the buck culture would end and changing the clientism dominant political system, which has not served the public interest.

However, producing laundry lists of aspirations in Opposition will not position the parties to hit the ground running in government.

If they fail, the ancien régime will be restored and the seeds will likely be sown for another episode of reckless economic mismanagement.


““The German magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday, without citing sources, that an agreement had been reached for Moscovici and Schaeuble to share the Eurogroup presidency. According to the report, Schaeuble would take the first half of the five-year term then be succeeded by Moscovici in the second half. “”

Very bad news. It means Schauble in charge of the EZ for the next two and a half years. Terrible mistake by the French.
Remember the reason that Juncker publicly gave for not continuing was German pressure to do what they wanted.
Did the other countries get to vote I wonder!
Will the other countries get to vote I wonder!

Stats would be good:
Number of jailed bankers in UK =?
Number of jailed bankers in US = ?
Number of jailed bankers in France = ?

It’s easy to get an out and out fraudster or rogue trader but very hard to get someone who plays the game.

Time we grow up. Money and power accrue together. Money always tries to (and mostly succeeds) in shaping politics to its own advantage. The failing was that we all forgot this. We let ourselves believe in financial alchemy. We forgot the true nature of money and power.

@ Dork
It has to be a coordinated global fix. The system will always exploit the weakest link

@ Joseph Ryan

Moscovici denied the story.

Having Schäuble in the chair changes nothing.

Wherever he parks his wheelchair, he will exert the same power and that depends on how many colleagues support his positions or even not.

Coincidence or evidence os some serious movement?

Minister Rabbitte: “I am in favour of the Government seeking to run again a referendum that would give a parliamentary committee the proper investigative powers to get to the bottom of what happened in the banks.”

And then he goes on to demonstrate why perhaps quite a few voters rejected last year’s “Abbeylara” amendment of the Constitution:

“Mr Rabbitte said the Government had not made a decision which of two competing Oireachtas committees should hold the inquiry into the banking collapse.”

The fundamental principle here is that it not for the Government to decide; it is for the Oireachtas to decide. There were many reasons why this amendment was defeated. Many factors played a part. But I believe the effect of the intervention of the Gang of Eight former attorneys general is being over-emphasisied. I have a sense that quite a few voters were not happy with, in effect, restoring powers to the Oireachtas whose exercise would ultimately be determned by government.

It appears to me that probably a majority of voters have no great desire to empower and resource the Oireachtas to subject government – and its expansive apparatus – to effective scrutiny, restraint and accountability. In the main most TDs are elected as mini-ombudspersons and constituency advocates. It appears that perhaps a majority of voters wouldnot be happy with them acting as proper parliamentarians – either because they, probably quite rightly, believe most TDs are not equipped, intellectually or tempermentally, to perform this role or that it would distract TDs from performing the duties they were elected to perform (or both).

It also appears to me that probably a majority of voters have a reasonable understanding of the essentially dysfunctional nature of democratic governance in Ireland, but the frequency of the opportunities they have to go to the polling booths gives them equally frequent opportunities to assert their ultimate authority to decide who governs – and an often blunt and crude indication of how they wish to be governed.

These frequent assertions of the people’s ultimate authority should prevent over-mighty governments losing the run of themselves, but these safeguards failed in the early years of this century. Governing politicians, and those aspiring to govern, have no incentive – and every incentive not – to shore up these safeguards or restore others. Many voters, quite rightly, would be deeply suspicious of proposals by governing politicians to shore up or restore these safeguards. They may not be happy with the current dysfunction, but they have no wish to accept the possibility of even more being generated by self-serving governing politicians.

And it is not for the voters who are dissatisfied with the the current dysfunction to develop and advance solutions; they simply have to express their discontent. They elect and pay, quite handsomely, public representatives to deliver effective democratic governance. And they pay, equally handsomely, ‘public intellectuals’ to inform, educate and enlighten both them and their public representatives.

The dismal failures of both groups have left most voters dissatisfied with the current extent of dysfunctionality, but deeply suspicious – and quite rightly – of any remedies advanced by governing politicians – and determined to preserve and defend – again quite rightly – the limited finctionality the current system possesses.

“And yet they wonder why ?”
No, Dork, what people wonder Is why your ravings, ever more divorced from whatever the point is if the discussion, are tolerated. To read this blog now requires wading through comment after comment of semi coherent ravings about minders diesel credit money being created in Grenoble or something. Moderators, enough!!! Please.

@ grumpy

The current German president has an interesting history. He and Merkel are known not to see eye to eye and, indeed, she blocked moves last year to see him in the post which he now occupies following the spectacular fall from grace of his predecessor; Merkel’s choice.

@ Paul Hunt

The voters pay alright! But who decided the amount? The Review Group on Renumeration in the Higher Public Service! That such a group exists, without any questions as to why being asked, demonstrates the crazy world which the two sides to the equation – public service and politicians – have succeeded in creating. Modern government has many functions and the heterogeneity of those functions – which exist also in the private sector – should be reflected in the methods of organisation and the skill-sets – and their market rates of pay – required. This conclusion is the obvious one but it will not be drawn until a tide of public discontent forces it to be cf.

@ All

The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow in Ireland but grind they do. I am inclined to share the view of BEB that stupidity and hubris are the main reasons for the disaster rather than criminal activity. But it would be nice to know which!


An early start on getting some traction on the conflicts of interest and the banking collapse would be the publication of list of directors who borrowed from their banks to buy shares in the same bank, or indeed to invest in other projects.

I am reasonably certain director loans for share purchase are illegal in many jurisdictions but not in Ireland.

Moreover, given the nature of cronyism in Ireland there is always the possibility that (once) high net worth individuals in the professions connected to the banks may be able to avail of debt discounts quietly.

Worth bearing in mind is that many professionals, some very prominent, especially in the legal sphere, entered into partnerships with leading figures in banking.

It is hard to put a figure on how many partnerships are underwater, but since the vast majority were property focused, a fair percentage must have seen their equity wiped out.

I tend towards the cynical when observing Ireland, but I have never quite understood by Lenihan allowed such a huge sum for professional fees in the creation of NAMA. Given the scale of the debt whole, surely the emphasis should have been on driving down professional fees? I know there was some amendment later, but the fees are eye-watering at a time when most of the eye-watering is being born by unemployed.

I’m afraid I cynically think that the protection bankers have received is a byproduct of protecting some public servants and office holders, and, more reasonably, of a desire to protect the State itself from liabilities arising from official malfeasance. At least some of what is in the public domain about the State’s response to the banking crisis as it emerged suggests involvement in improper manipulation of markets that might reach the threshold of illegality.


Agree. But the failures of our ‘public intellectuals’ – with some notable exceptions (and even they pull their punches and indulge in displacement activities) – are particularly egregious. There is so much in the public domain – but ‘hidden in broad daylight’ – that is crying out to be addressed in a systematic manner. But the way they manoeuvre to deal with the constraints, compromises, capture or conflicts under which they operate – or are imposed on them – so as to avoid confronting issues staring them straight in the face is a wonder to behold.

Mounting public discontent is being constrained – for the moment – but when it breaches its banks – as it, inevitably, will – it is difficult to envisage how Official Ireland – long in a state of denial, attempting to suspend disbelief and projecting optical illusions – will respond.

The pace of investigation and prosecution in Ireland is pathetic.

The major causes seem to be as follows:

– Many of the bodies charged with prosecution are understaffed and possibly lack expertise. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has only about 20 staff. The DPP is understaffed. Only the enforcement sections of the Central Bank are properly staffed as a result of the imperative of regaining a reputation for a properly regulated financial sector. They have had some positive result lately, e.g. fining a bank for non compliance with AML regs a few weeks ago.

– we do not have a specialist investigation and prosecution bodies like they do in other countries (e.g. SFO in UK).

– The prosecuting authorities in Ireland all have other roles: Central Bank, ODCE, Competition Authority, even Health & Safety Authority).

– The most responsible bodies are largely unaccountable (Garda Fraud Squad, ODCE, DPP).

– There is overlap between the various authorities. One case might involve a breach of banking regulations, a breach of competition law, a fraud matter and a breach of directors duties under the companies acts. The different authorities are usure what the others are up to and are [overly] cautious about possibly prejudicing each other’s cases. No one body has the responsibility for project managing such cases. Co-ordination is ad hoc.

– Many serious cases (to be tried on indictment) have to go to the DPP which entails extra delay. The DPP is the only organisation with extensive experience of the criminal law aspects of running prosecutions in the superior courts.

– Our Courts system can be brutally slow. An appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law generally took three years until recently.

– The burden of proof in our courts can be difficult to overcome. Other countries have specialist laws for financial crime. I do not agree with the US system where people can be bullied into telling lies through plea bargains (2 year sentence if you help our case, 150 yr sentence if you don’t)

What do we need?:

1. A Government that isn’t afraid to hire more lawyers and accoutants where they are needed.

2. A streamlined prosecution process with a specialist investigations body over-seeing it all. That body should have access to all aspects of DPP expertise while conducting investigations.

3. A special criminal court for serious financial crime.

4. A review of standards and burdens of proof in the legislation as compared to other jurisdictions, including in particular the variety of search warrants and the rules surrounding same.

@ Paul Hunt


This article might as well have been written by a political commentator as an economist. The need to know how the banking debacle occurred and the urge to see the bunch of ‘right Charlies’ in our banks, civil service and political class brought to some form of public account for their actions is all good and well, but what will it achieve?

From a political standpoint the purpose of such an enquiry may be framed as (1) to finally speak to the ‘truth’ to how the bank guarantee decision came about (2) enforce some sort of moral accountability on those responsible, directly and indirectly, for the banking collapse, and (3) reconcile the public to the policies of austerity required to correct the economic disaster that followed from the combined failures of politics, regulation and banking administration.

Arguably, an Oireachtas Committee led investigation cannot deliver on any of these objectives. These Committees are woefully under-resourced. They are politically partisan in the lines of enquiry likely to be pursued. Individual politicians cannot be expected to forego the many opportunities for point-scoring, personal grandstanding and favourable media representation which arise. The mud-wrestling between the PAC and Finance Committee as to who should get first call on conducting the enquiry underlines this point.

As BEB points out above, and as others have previously, stupidity is not a crime and it may well be the case that the bankers and developers who brought the house down on our heads were stupid, greedy and arrogant but did not break any existing law. If so, this points to a failure of the legislature in their adherence to ‘light touch regulation’ and omission in framing stiff penalties for misdemeanours in financial practices that might have constrained the excesses of the financial sector. ‘Show trials’ now are no substitute for due process.

As for reconciling citizens to necessary austerity measures, any such enquiry may likely have the opposite effect. We have an old-fashioned government that continues to conduct itself in the old-fashioned way of Irish politics of top-down government. As discussed by Paul Hunt, no real effort is being made to reform the aprliamentary process to make the executive more accoutnable for its actions since this government came to power. Given their overwhelming Dail majority, the trend has, most regretably, been in the opposite direction. The government is squandering its political capital by its own actions. Distractions via a banking enquiry will not halt this slide.

CMcC has also miread the reasons why the Fiscal Treaty succeeded where the Oireachtas Powers Referendum failed. The European Parliament commissioned survey on why voters opted for a ‘yes’ to the FT clearly shows that, far from a ‘win’ for the government, the electorate was primarily motivated by fear of what ‘no’ would mean. The intervention by the former AGs in the Oireacthas referendum is overstated. Although it took the media a while to pick up on it, the flaws in the wording of that referendum were becoming apparent some time before the AGs wrote their letter to the Irish Times. When it comes to referendums, the Irish electorate exhibits a clear ability to discriminate between the issues and self-serving political blather whatever source it is emanating from.


Most businees people and professionals have to live by their reputations.

The bankers are failingt o even tell the truth to themselves about how they messed up.

Reputations should be destroyed and those that come after them in the banks should know that such actions can destroy reputations in the future.

Making mistakes and stupidity are ok as long as the mistake was not motivated by greed and did not show reckless disregard to the well-being of others. That is what “trust” is all about.

The previous referendum wording was way to wide ranging and encroached way to far on personal freedom. Colm MmCarthy’s contempt for lawyers shows his lack of understanding that when push comes to shove it is only lawyers that fight against the state in support of individual rights. It must cause him some intellectual difficulty that the former Attorneys General were not paid for their joint stance in defence of the rights of the individual.

With that said, there should be compellability in relation to failed financial institutions in relation to matters relating tot he failed institution(s) only (e.g., including amounts of salary and bonuses but not extending to what a person spent them on unless it is relevant).

@ Veronica

+ 1

@ Paul Hunt

While I would agree generally, the phenomenon that you identify goes deeper than the desire of leaders of opinion to avoid rocking the boat. It is deeply embedded in the Irish psyche and rooted in our past, in my opinion. Put simply, we have an expectation of someone from outside coming to our rescue; or a cargo cult mentality, to use the description of MH. From what I have been reading, it may well also be a characteristic of the Greek situation. Portugal and Spain, both with imperial pasts, react differently.

Our man in the Euro Group is being sent into the lists again by the media to respond to this public mood (even though, according to press reports, the competition he hopes to join is not even scheduled).


Agree. Colm McCarthy has long argued that a full-blown banking inquiry is required to lance the boil of growing public discontent with the policies being implemented on foot of the disaster. But even if one that might have a sporting chance of achieving this objective were to be established – highly arguable as you suggest, the machinations attending its establishment, the inevitable self-serving manoeuvres of those subjected to scrutiny and the likely duration would be likely to fuel even more public discontent.

The question for me is will the electorate bide its time to cast its judgement – as it did from Sep. 2008 until Feb. 2011 – until an interim judgement in the local and Euro elections in 2014 and a final judgement when the Government runs its course in 2015/16.

The sound good sense of a majority of the electorate – and the long history of deploying this good sense – suggests that they will. But they have been so ill-served by so many governing politicians, policy-makers, regulators and public intellectuals since 1977, culminating in the recent blow-out and continuing with only limited modification under the current government (with any significant modifications being imposed by the Troika), that is it is difficult to see the mounting discontent being contained indefinitely.

However, since it is the socialistic, nationalistic utterances of SF and the disingenuous, hypocritical and dishonest clamourings of those on the so-called left that are seeking to exploit this discontent – all of which tends to repel a majority of the electorate, it may be that a majority of the electorate will seek to exert some pressure through the usual channels and bide its time until it is asked to cast its judgement.

But if it consents to bide its time, it is likely that its judgement will be severe – and more severe than the one it cast in Feb. 2011. But the Government seems incapable of doing anything that might pre-empt the casting of such a severe judgement. There seems to be this sickening inevitability attending its trajectory of governance as the domestic economy sinks in to the mire.


It seems as if John McManus was reading my most recent musings in relation to the Quinn Anglo arguments namely:

“..At the heart of Quinn’s defence is the argument that his wife Patricia and their children have no liability for some €2.3 billion in loans made by Anglo on the grounds they were allegedly made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the bank’s share price. The money – advanced from the autumn of 2007 onwards – was used to meet margin calls on complex investments in Anglo shares made by Quinn on behalf of his children, but without their knowledge, it is claimed.

It seems a bit of a long shot until you realise that any case brought by the State against former Anglo Irish executives for fraud or similar offences will – if successful – go a long way towards helping his case.

This puts the State in something of a cleft stick. If it moves now to bring prosecutions in relation to Anglo, it could have unintended and very negative consequences for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formerly Anglo) and its efforts to recoup the €2.3 billion from the Quinns.

The mere fact of bringing the case could lead to a delay of months if not years in Anglo’s efforts to realise what it can from the Quinns. And given that the State owns the IBRC, it would be tantamount to shooting itself in the foot.

A more prudent way to proceed would be to let the Quinn case proceed before launching any Anglo-related prosecutions.

But that is unlikely to be very palatable from a political perspective and then there is the issue of the six-year statute of limitations..”

I suggested the very same argument on the issue many moons ago and following a review of the recent ODCE movements its quite clear that the State has zero intention of bringing a case against the Anglo directors any time soon. The underlying reason being (which John doesn’t mention) is that were the State to bring and win a case against the Directors of Anglo and prove that they defrauded all sorts of investors etc etc the State will be hit with potentially ruinous claims from equity holders who have lost everything as a result of such a fraud. The claimants would win every day of the week and the State as the new owner would be on the hook for potentially serious compensation. Don’t be under any illusion that the large pension funds aren’t watching this very closely. The State knows this.

John is correct in his argument. Its almost too crazy to believe that the Quinns could in fact be holding back the States effort in bringing the case against the Anglo Directors (aside from the issue above). To me the States actions through IBRC have been carefully orchestrated in running around the world and pursuing the Quinns in the manner in which they have done. Surely the penny will drop sometime with the public and the most obvious question will soon be asked. Why?

The guff about securing taxpayers assets etc is almost as unbelievable as the 2008 Anglo accounts, but the media through RTE has very short memories. The why is simply answered by the fact that the State knows it cannot defend the families action and if the case ever sees the light of day the IBRCs house of cards will fall dramatically – and the IBRCs actions in placing a receiver in the Quinn Group of businesses when they did will seem all the more ridiculous, which it clearly was.

I heard reported on the VB Tonight show a few months back that witness statements taken regarding any wrongdoing in relation to the banks contained claims that the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank were all in the loop. We can not expect any prosecutions. The implications financially for the state are just too great.

Would be surprised if Quinn case over 2.3B loan keeps going. Sean has already been taken out. If Receivers appointed to other Quinn family members as IBRC has requested I doubt case will proceed. Watch with interest. This case was the only place some truth was likely to come out.

The real tragedy is that this system is so engrained that everyone, at some level of intellect or emotion understands it. So when the jobs are scarce and the unconnected bright kids graduate, they skip town and emigrate. And when they go, they don’t, for the most part, come back.

All human systems, however disfunctional, find an equilibrium. In Ireland emigration provided that release because an unlevered, agricultural economy needed few talented/educated people. A levered, service led economy on the other hand needs a lot of productive people. Our politicians know that, of course, but they only “know it” in the sense that you know how to speak German by reading a book. When the pressure is on, they revert to type and this is what they are doing even though this is disastrous in today’s Ireland.


“As BEB points out above, and as others have previously, stupidity is not a crime and it may well be the case that the bankers and developers who brought the house down on our heads were stupid, greedy and arrogant but did not break any existing law. If so, this points to a failure of the legislature in their adherence to ‘light touch regulation’ and omission in framing stiff penalties for misdemeanours in financial practices that might have constrained the excesses of the financial sector. ‘Show trials’ now are no substitute for due process.”

a) Fit and proper person (a whole new concept, literally, in Ireland btw).
b) Integrity is absolutely key to the financial services industry. This got forgotten and you can see the result.

a) & b) both need to be insisted on and those who don’t pass muster turfed out. The City has an old culture it can re-invigorate if it wants to. Ireland will have to make one up.

@Paul + 10

“Show Trials” are not about Justice.
Our elected politicians are not qualified ,motivated or inclined to FAIRLY run the inquiry required—-party pedigree and local biases are dominant drivers.!

@Seafoid (and DOCM),

Beckett got it in one. Ireland is simply too small and incestuous – with everyone who exercises any measure of power or influence knowing everyone else in the same station and all in turn being close to members of the public in their various capacities – to develop the adversarial systems of governance that are required.

Most people prefer to employ the secrecy of the polling booth to cast and express their judgements. The exercise of excessive executive dominance and the extent of the centralisation and expansiveness of the government apparatus embeds the clientelist, supplicant nature of most citizens’ relationship with the state. Adversarial or confrontational stances are discouraged or suppressed – either as a result of social pressure or a recognition of their ineffectiveness (unless, on relatively rare occasions, when they are supported by the ‘power of numbers’ or the resources to secure favourable legal judgements).

This creates an absolute paradise for those narrow sectional economic interests capable of exercising power and influence. In relation to the Government what I describes as the “sickening inevitability attending its trajectory of governance as the domestic economy sinks in to the mire” is directly related to this exercise of power and influence, its inability to break free and govern in the public interest and the lack of mechanisms of governance to contest and scrutinise the exercise of this power and influence.

But a majority of the electorate is well aware of all of this. They aren’t total fools – even though many have been taken for a ride in the past. They’re not hugely enamoured with the idea of empowering and resourcing their TDs to deliver the necessary contest and scrutiny. So they’ll pass judgements themselves in the secrecy of the polling booths.

It’s simply unfortunate that so much time elapses before remedial action is taken – and more and more economic damage occurs. And any remedies are always too little and too late – and still constrained in their range and effect by the sectional economic interests.

That is, until a majority of the electorate finally decide they have enough and demand their politicians bring these sectional economic interests to heel. Since so mnay people are conflicted or compromised, if or when this will happen is anyone’s guess.

Seventh attempt, my apologies if the earlier six arrive.

The intervention of the gang of eight senior counsels in the referendum on Dail Inquiries was as naked an act of class interest as seen in the recent history of the Irish Republic, the fact that ring leader Peter Sutherland is so embedded in the financial sector made it even more sordid. Of course it was also a rotten and uninspiring piece of legislation so we can not just blame the Feudal nature of Ireland’s legal institutions and professions for its failure.

As for the lack of any perp walking by bankers surely with the rumours of a senior serving minister’s nine hundred thousand euro loan being personally expedited by Fingleton, and with two former Fine Gael Taosaigh working in the financial sector we can say that the reason no one has gone to jail is that the laws in this area were essentially made for the financial sector and that a significant proportion of the government here and abroad are in their thrall. I suspect that at least a few posters here (BEB and Grumpy accepted) have crypto-banking sympathies to go with their various neoliberal cognitive tics.

More broadly Ireland’s problem, like Europe’s, was not so much that things were done which were illegal but that things which were entirely legal should not have been. It is tax arbitrage for the multinational, tax management for the wealthy and only tax evasion for the garlic importer. EMU and the the law at a European level as well as at an Irish one encouraged the reckless speculation and financial complexity that has characterized the Irish banking crisis.

Of course reading this thread you might get the impression that the cause of the European component of the global financial crisis was the Croke Park agreement and an insufficient commitment to right wing economic dogma (austerity in a crisis of demand – simply brilliant!) among the ruling classes and commentariat.

@grumpy on the secret crowning of neoliberal crackpot Wolfgang Schauble as Eurozone chief.

As long as the executive spoils are evenly divided up between Germany and who ever else is still standing in the Eurozone I think we can all be satisfied.

@ Paul Hunt

‘Ireland is simply too small and incestuous – with everyone who exercises any measure of power or influence knowing everyone else in the same station and all in turn being close to members of the public in their various capacities – to develop the adversarial systems of governance that are required’

Why is it that other similar sized countries don’t share our problems then eg Finland?

@John F

“Why is it that other similar sized countries don’t share our problems then eg Finland?”

b) Integrity.

The Finns must have got a large integrity delivery in the 1990s after their banking crisis.
It is much more likely that their leaders in financial services started their careers in the teeth of the crisis and learned some lessons. Same with the Swedes , the Swiss and the Canadians. It is also likely that our banks will avoid the next crisis somewhere as they will be regulated to the eyeballs and run by people who believe in careful underwriting.
Our banking system, political system is no more corrupt or incompetent than anywhere else. It is no more incestuous than anywhere else.
Look at Germany where a president had to resign for taking dodgy money, as did Kohl while a current senior minister has never explained large sums resting in his a/CS.
Faced with reality that power corrupts , one needs the illegitimate ones to have as little as possible and to be watched closely.


Integrity deliveries are a function of both prompting cockup and public/customer reaction. Both influence the quantity of integrity that arrives.

Integrity also has a half-life that is a dependent on the country it is situated in. It doesn’t go off quickly in places like Finland.

“Our banking system, political system is no more corrupt or incompetent than anywhere else. It is no more incestuous than anywhere else.”

Can’t agree. It is certainly very, very incestuous and has scored very highly on incompetence.

@John Foody,

I think Grumpy is being too harsh. Irish citizens have no less integrity than those in other countries. It is simply that the structures of governance millitate against its exercise. Most functioning democracies learn the hard way that, rather than being excessively centralised and exercised expansively, as it is in Ireland, power and influence should be distributed and diffused with different centres of power, in parliament and at the local governance level, contesting and complementing the exercise of power by the central governing executive.

In general, former colonies tend to find it difficult to learn and apply this lesson. The perceived benefits of being governed by native power elites, rather than foreign power elites, tend to linger longer than any objective assessment of the quality of governance – which, inevitably, deteriorates over time – would deem to be sensible.

In Ireland – and this seems to be true for the other PIGS as well – increasing primary governance by the EU suppressed the demand for better native governance. Indeed, it substituted for native governance in many instances – to the apparent satisfaction of a majority of citizens in most cases. In contrast, better governed countries – and Finland is an excellent example – strengthened their internal systems of governance as they became more integrated in the EU to prevent or minimise any detrimental impacts. As another example, Denmark and Sweded stayed outside the Euro mainly because they were not convinced they could prevent possible detrimental impacts arising from membership.

It’s not ‘it’s the economy, stupid’; it’s the structure of governance.

@John Foody

Why is it that other similar sized countries don’t share our problems then eg Finland?

Would you mind giving us another example of a country in the Eurozone not bordering Germany that is not in the process of being destroyed by EMU and the EU neoliberal consensus?

What with Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland all suffering sever economic distress, substantially as a result of European monetary policy being tailored for German needs it seems a much easier case to make that Ireland’s dire situation is the rule of EMU and Finland the exception. No special ineptitude is required on our part.

I am not even sure Finland qualifies as an exception, its two largest trading partners are Germany, home of the ECB and destination of the peripheries escaping bank funds, and Russia – a country still less tightly coupled with the Eurozone. Finland is nothing like us economically – why would they be in the same trouble?

For the slow of understanding Ireland is in trouble because the weaknesses of EMU interacted so toxically with the latest and greatest rolling crisis of capitalism – the global financial crisis. We can not extricate ourselves from this mess because Europe’s most powerful country finds the crisis to its economic and political advantage and they find themselves in a rough alliance with Europe’s creditor classes who have successfully made the state pick up their losses.

It is not so hard to understand, unless you are on the political right.

You really can’t see the wood for the trees and so you continue to oversell the micro and ignore the macro.
We joined an inappropriate currency union. McCarthy, O’Leary, Lucey warned us of the act of folly. Credit was mispriced & unlimited in quantity. This explains the bulk of the banking losses with the balance due to incompetence, greed, nepotism, and whatever veniality you were having yourself. That Finland escaped is probably due to luck- no large banks. Sweden escaped due to good old independent monetary policy and good regulation. Too early to say if Denmark is ok- some very risky mortgage underwriting.
You believe in some Northern European superman if you want. I just see a lucky guy with tights outside his speedos,

@Paul H

“I think Grumpy is being too harsh. Irish citizens have no less integrity than those in other countries.”

It isn’t about the integrity of individual Irish citizens, it is about their expectations of the integrity of financial and political actors. Those expectations are very, very low in Ireland.

The reason the bankers have not been prosecuted is that the policies they pursued are no longer illegal – though they would have been for much of history.
There is no longer a need for banks to hold a fraction of their deposits as reserves in the Central Bank apart from a risibly small liquidity buffer. Historically the fraction or reserve ratio would have been of the order of 10%. This allowed banks to hold little or no reserves, helped by the use of international wholesale funding which should be illegal but wasn’t and isn’t.
This was the proximate cause of the financial crisis this time. However, as Paul Ferguson points out, since money is created as debt there is always more debt outstanding than there is money to repay it. Until we come up with a completely different and non-usurious monetary system such crises are inevitable in one form or another. We may have quite some time until the next one though as we have blown it so spectacularly this time and energy constraints will act against economic growth.

@ Tullmcadoo

It’s absolutely ridiculous to effectively view Ahern, McCreeevy and Harney as victims of external events while by chance incompetents were in charge of key functions at the Central Bank.

The damage was well done over 6 years until the ECB rate fell to 2%

Do you seriously believe that with a punt premium over the ECB rate attracting carry trade inflows that a comatose central bank would have been able to counter pressure from Merrion Street to keep the party going?

@ Tullmcadoo

Two years before the launch of the euro, the Irish Central bank declared its impotence on credit control:

There seems to be a perception that the Central Bank can exercise some legal authority in restricting credit. It has no such authority. Any restriction would be inconsistent with European Union practice. Besides, it would be unworkable as demand would probably be met by overseas lenders.

The point that was made about EU practice does not appear to have been correct.

Some time later, Governor O’Connell began sending a series of letters to lenders pleading for credit restraint.

It really was pathetic and to assume if the punt had been retained, there would have been prudence once the credit boom accelerated, is in the realm of fantasy.


I don’t see any Northern European supermen – with or without tights covering their budgie smugglers. Just people who learned the lessons from previous mistakes and acted on them. Nothing perfect – that’s impossible to achieve – just better. Maybe lucky, but you make a lot of your own luck in this world.

The divide between the better-governed northern and central-northern EU states and the poorly governed southern and central-southern EU states is widening with every passing day. Ireland has to decide on which side of this divide it wants to be. Playing the EU game while simultaneously trying to play another game between the UK and the US may no longer be possible.


The expectations are low because, sure, aren’t they our very own native power elites – and they wouldn’t do us any harm.

@ grumpy

People in Ireland have very low expectations of their public representatives and you would probably need a series of sociology conferences to get a better handle on it. The whole concept of what is civic society is very weak. Politicians hold “clinics” to dispense their rights to people.

In the summer time on the Continent many towns have flower displays. Ask tidy towns people why they are so rare in Ireland. Because the flowers get pulled up for a laugh on Friday and Saturday evenings after a feed of pints. Public space is not taken care of.

I know a woman who paid a fine for the dumping of her domestic rubbish on land belonging to Iarnrod Eireann. 2 years later she put herself forward for local elections representing FF. Not untypical.

Post colonial etc etc.

Here is one my favourite videos on the topic of integrity in Ireland

That we will never know. But the boom could have been curbed with tighter policy in the late 20 century and the crash would not have been as severe post the bust.
Those who see everything as the result of unique Irish incompetence and graft are only partly right.
The decision to enter emu led to the Irish state abandoning a whole range of policy levers- monetary, fiscal and regulatory and ourtsource the whole lot to Brussels. The Irish Permo govt & political elite gave up governing and awarded themselves massive salaries to boot. If we had not joined the euro and even ran the place in a slightly better than mediocre fashion the outcome would have to be better.

@paul hunt

Isn’t part of the challenge in putting together an adequate framework for an inquiry into the banking collapse that Ireland, especially Official Ireland, has never really joined in the European project? European thought and best practice were always fine for ‘foreigners’.

The Troika bailout is around 65 billion. Some might think that the sheer baffling scale of the bailout, plus the NAMA black hole, would have politicians turning over any and every tome of thought to devise a proper investigative framework.

There is something plainly dysfunctional about a system that can spend a small bailout on legal fees for tribunals whose reports are promptly ignored once the political sticks the beat the other side are extracted.

For reasons I don’t understand, inertia and greed come to mind, the possibility that a substantial portion of the Irish legal framework is a real and perilous hindrance to the exercise of certain democratic responsibilities is rarely countenanced.

The system of investigative magistrates is widespread throughout the EU. Perhaps the adoption of such a system in Ireland is a precondition for a bank inquiry, albeit one requiring major constitutional and legal practice changes. But with 80 billion in the red, that may be a small price for the truth.

An antecedent concern to Colm McCarthy’s call for a bank inquiry, one that only the politicians can resolve, is who runs ireland? The Law Library or the elected representatives? If conflicts of interest cannot be untangled and kept untangled at this interstice, the vast bulk of citizens are effectively being disempowered.

There cannot be and will not be an adequate bank inquiry in Ireland until politicians cease taking their role models from a corrupt and discredited political culture, and learn to take political responsibility for decisions.


“People in Ireland have very low expectations of their public representatives..”

Indeed they do. And with some justification.

I am still waiting for our public interest directors on IBRC to let us know why State funds -in enormous figures-are being used to pay Eversheds for their legal expertise on behalf of the Quinn family. I thought IBRC was trying to collect money not give it away.

Perhaps it was the judges call or was it? Was the decision contested?
It brings the concept of free legal aid to a whole new level.
I must remember to retain Eversheds if I get into a spot of bother.

@ Tullmcadoo

There is never a soundbite explanation for an economic crash but I would still say that the disaster was mainly homemade.

The poltroons were like children let lose in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Were they so helpless that nothing could be done about 30% annual credit growth and so on? The Taoiseach was egging people on to buy property.

In 2006, an international survey compared prices in over 300 metro areas in several countries, using the standard of a 2,200 square foot, 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath home that would be typical in an area favoured by a business manager’s family. It found that for the cost in Dublin, at US$1,406,497, it was possible to buy nine similar houses in Houston, Texas, three in Amsterdam, two in Sydney and almost two in Tokyo.

@ Shay Begorrah


By the way why do you need another example other than Finland, the facts were obvious prior to joining the EU that monetary policy would favor Germany, we still joined.

And just like joining the euro, all that occurred prior to the Guarantee was entirely within our power to prevent. We did anything but even attempt to prevent it, we encouraged it via tax breaks, no touch regulation and speeches encouraging all to jump in or commit suicide. All the while setting about destroying the tax base and overpaying ourselves for the effort.

Then though the banking problems were brewing/obvious for at least a year (according to Michael Summers), time we could have spent putting a proper resolution regime together for the banks, nothing was done.

The culmination was the night of the Guarantee. Apparently we were ‘bounced’ in to it. Though I doubt it. Either way the fact that so few had the power to make such a large multi-generation affecting decision on a whim is a shining example of the weak governance that is the seed of the problem.

Being part of the euro has so far punished weak governance more severely than usual, however it is still weak governance that’s at fault.

@ John Foody

“Why is it that other similar sized countries don’t share our problems then eg Finland?”

I wish all answers were as easy!

7.2% of the population are members of the main state church, the Lutheran Church of Finland. Meanwhile, Ireland is a Catholic country!

Couldn’trunabath-watch, via DJ:

“Disagreement Over Euro Area Plan for Banks

–European Commission says sovereigns don’t have to guarantee equity share in banks directly recapitalized by ESM

–Senior euro-zone officials had explicitly said the opposite on Friday

–European Commission does not control ESM bailout fund

BRUSSELS–Disagreement emerged Monday between euro-zone states and the European Commission over how far the currency union needs to go to prevent banking problems from dragging down the finances of entire countries.

Euro-zone leaders said last month that their bailout fund should be allowed to directly recapitalize struggling banks without first lending money to their host government–thereby driving up its debt load–once a new, powerful supervisor for the bloc’s banks has been set up.

But several senior officials from euro-zone countries insisted last week that the benefiting governments would still remain liable for any losses incurred on this type of bank support.

A European Commission spokesman contradicted those officials Monday and said that euro-zone countries whose banks have been directly recapitalized by the European Stability Mechanism, the bloc’s permanent bailout fund, wouldn’t need to guarantee the equity share that the ESM would take in those banks.

Simon O’Connor, the spokesman for European Commissioner for economics, Olli Rehn, said that “In terms of the issue of banking recapitalization…there would be no need for a sovereign guarantee for banks.”

@John Foody

@ Shay Begorrah


By the way why do you need another example other than Finland, the facts were obvious prior to joining the EU that monetary policy would favor Germany, we still joined.

Ok, let us simply this a little.

What if Finland is simply not representative enough of the Eurozone to use as an example?

Given that Finland is very different from us economically why would the fact that they are not in economic trouble reflect on our inferior governance rather than their currently superior economic circumstances (the right industries, the right trading partners, smaller banks, and so on)?

Spain is quite plausibly in a worse situation than we are and yet as Martin Wolf noted in the FT they did everything they could within the strictures of EMU.

Five out of seventeen Eurozone countries are now in serious trouble while non Eurozone Europe is ticking along nicely (until overall European demand flattens them too). It suggest that EMU and the neoliberal dogma that goes along with it is the central problem and not poor Irish governance, bad as it might be.

I would say we agree the causes but not the weights attaching to each. That is the problem with an enquiry. Who in Official Irelamd will evil discuss EMU?
I was wondering when an anti catholiciism would crop up. See u on the 12th?
We need to know whether EU officials are provos or stickies now?

We are not like finland because we are not finns. Likewise we are not like . Wishing it were so, or worse decrying us for not being is as pointless as blaming the man on the moon.

@ All

A number of interesting and inter-linked issues!

On the dysfunctional nature of the Irish public service, which has played a major part in leading the country into the present crisis, one may note the current state of PSPMDS (!)

The approach is posited on the assumption that the PS is homogeneous in its structure and operation, an assumption that is patently absurd!

Is the denial of the obvious a peculiarly Irish phenomenon or is it something in the water?

What is the ECJ supposed to with this referral?

Then; the banks, the banks!–14405442/

Whatever is on the table, direct re-capitalisatioot of banks does not seem to be included.

Any logical understanding of these events would suggest these false post Cromwellian republics are a fake.

They are nothing of the sort.
They were set up to take the money power away from the King with the Banks using the Serfs as their agents while filling their heads full of nonsense.
Now that the banks have become King (taken or given direct executive power) via the European market state the wheel has turned full circle.

A true Republic rises or falls in a open forum.
If it produces too much script or gives it all to its criminal elements it will fall.
The people can thus be blamed for their stupidity as people can see all the money production in open view.

But the bank credit deception is of a truely different character.
They can produce debt without comment as it produces no noticeable inflation if done with some skill.
It works until it cannot take anymore wealth from the future.

Then it implodes.
It has happened so many times in the past.

You would thinks we would Known this.

People, people…
There seems to be a basic premise here that Ireland is uniquely incompetent when it comes to prosecuting banking miscreants.
Show me the proof:
1: When you exclude straight forward fraud how may bankers have been jailed in UK, US, Ireland or Spain?

There’s a lot of crybaby type stuff here. What’s an enquiry going to do? It will tell us that banks lent money to people who couldn’t pay it back (big deal). It will tell us that politicians turned a blind eye because they can be corrupted and seduced by money (big deal there).

The way you fix this is to split banking into deposit banking and investment banking. You make deposit banking incredibly boring but safe and you allow investment banking to succeed or fail according to the wisdom of its own investments. It might take us a while to get there – but that’s where we’re heading.

Apart from sating the bloodlust of a narrow minded mob – inquiries have little real function. It is better that Seanie’s toothy grin goad us to improve our world rather than waste our energies chasing villains we will never catch.

In my post at 13:10 I used the word “accepted” instead of “excepted”, at best robbing a sentence of meaning and at worst reversing its sense.

I suspect that at least a few posters here (BEB and Grumpy accepted excepted) have crypto-banking sympathies to go with their various neoliberal cognitive tics.

This makes me a bad person. Sorry.

@ Tullmcadoo

That should have read 72% of the population are members of the main state church, the Lutheran Church of Finland not 7.2%.

It is not an “anti catholic” thing at all, but if we take a closer look at the Piigs! Portugal Italy Ireland Greece Spain they are very corrupt countries with severe governance issues. They all profess to be moral, ethical, proper etc. They are all crony capitalist immoral countries. I know about all the others worse than us, but I live in holy catholic Ireland and am wondering in particular about “the shall not steal”. This one is given a particularly wide latitude in Ireland. It appears that, all exchequer money can be stolen without incurring any state of sin.

84% of the population of Portugal is nominally Catholic. In Italy Catholics make up 87.8% of the population. In Ireland it is 87.4%. Spain 70.1% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics. Even if these figures are not bang on they are highly indicative.

Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church in Greece also claims to be the “One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. Its members comprise between 95% and 98% of the population, although recent surveys on the religiosity of Greek citizens seem to contradict these numbers.

It is not a little surprising that all the poorly run Piigs countries are broke? All follower of the humble Nazarene like myself, but are shot through with corruption and greed. I remember ringing the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey once and asked him why my daughter could not attend college. Only the very rich and connected were accepted. I got a hand written letter and was told Robert call in for a “chat”. Unfortunately, I never made it though I was also told I had given him “pause for prayer”. They have made some progress in that direction! I do give some people “cause for prayer” most of them praying for patience or praying that the Croke Park thing will stay “in tact” etc. The problem is that none of our lot practice religion other than the a la carte version. BTW this is meant to be tongue in ckeek.

Michael Hennigan wrote,

In 2006, an international survey compared prices in over 300 metro areas in several countries, using the standard of a 2,200 square foot, 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath home that would be typical in an area favoured by a business manager’s family. It found that for the cost in Dublin, at US$1,406,497, it was possible to buy nine similar houses in Houston, Texas, three in Amsterdam, two in Sydney and almost two in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, a lot of this happened at a point in Irish history, when people valued having careers very much – and the opportunities were there it seemed to follow successful careers. That led to two things in particular. In the first place, often marriages did not last, as individuals moved on in their careers and moved off in different directions. Also, individuals delayed the choice of getting married longer than had been the case, in the past in Ireland.

You put this two forces together, and what occurred was there was a greater pressure put on the residential market for housing units, which were no longer purchased (or invested in), by couples or families – but more and more, were invested in by individuals – many of whom later found themselves moving back into relationships, and having an excess of housing ‘investment’ on their books.

It would not be too bad, if many of these couples disposed of their excess properties there and then, but many looked at the price inflation and decided to rent out one property, while living in the other. Unfortunately, some realized that their property was ‘earning’ at such a rate higher than they were at work, they got in even deeper, and acquired properties in addition to the existing two properties they original had.

Unfortunately, when the prices turned downwards, it really caught out a lot of people – who had began to get into the habit of thinking of themselves as individuals, rather than family units. The investment at 2X Amsterdam or Japan prices, would not be too bad, if that statistic was related to families. But in a large number of cases, I would argue owing the late middle age divorce trends, and early age non-marriage trends (delaying of having children, the empty cradle etc), an awful lot of those 2X residential property investments were like 4X in reality – because at the end of the day – two individuals owning 2 x 2 times what a home is worth in Japan, equals 4X investment in total. BOH.

@ Robert Browne
The US is full of crony capitalism. You’ll find crony capitalism in the UK too (why is their Labour Party so afraid of a Parliamentary enquiry?) and remember Tory sleaze!
You get c**p everywhere. The Spanish might be corrupt but they didn’t invent fables about weapons of mass destruction to seize another country’s oil (and while I’m at it think Halley Burton etc.)

The debate here is rubbish and ill-informed. Trying to bend facts to fit prejudices. The world is badly governed. This needs a global fix

@ MH,

I wrote above, Unfortunately, when the prices turned downwards, it really caught out a lot of people – who had began to get into the habit of thinking of themselves as individuals, rather than family units.

It is probably fair to say, that in social terms, many coupled relationships between individuals were not solid, long term types. The reason, the ‘second property’ may have been held, rather than disposed of, may have been to use it as the exit strategy, in the case that things did not work out.

You saw it time and time again.

Often, the death of a set of parents on one side of the family, was quickly followed a split in a relationship on the part of a child who had inherited the family home. Therefore, you are back into a situation again, where the older man or woman wished to divorce themselves from the idea of a family unit, and become an individual at a later age.

All in all, between the young career driven folk who did not settle down early – and all of those older folk – who decided to re-invent themselves at a later age in their life, a huge amount of pressure came on the residential market in Ireland for properties that were never occupied by family units. BOH.

@ Eureaka
“This needs a global fix”. Yes, me thinks the world is broken too.

Any suggestions? Scientology?

Just listened to VB and even Karl Whelan seems to be sanguine and coming round to the inevitability of a Euro break up.

Wolfgang Munchau in FT

“Eurozone crisis will last for 20 years
Italy and Spain should tell Germany they will withdraw from the eurozone if there is no change in policy”

The title of the piece says it all really.. 4 years on. Not one banker, auditor, regulator, politician has been fired, jailed or even charged.


Sweden and Finland escaped because they experienced their banking collapses in the previous iteration (before the neolib credit machine went out of control) and learnt the lessons. AIB unfortunately was out of sync- it should have gone in 1991- like the Scandinavian banks – rather than 1982 – that might have saved it from the Götterdämmerung of 2009.

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