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Archive for October, 2007

None Of Your Business, Prime Minister.

Omerta everywhere. Omerta between the feisty blonde bombshell, the Lady Appleby of Ireland‘s civil servants, Julie O’Neill and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey. Omerta between Sir Humphrey Appleby himself, Dermot McCarthy and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Omerta between the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and its downtown Shannon office.

In every instance, one party knew that Aer Lingus was poised to desert Shannon for Belfast. In every instance the party with the knowledge failed to deliver it to the correct destination. Happily, on Thursday, Lady Appleby-O’Neill gave herself a clean bill of health. Her report on her own activities blamed no one. Nice work.

What is going on?


ESB To Refund 100,000 Overcharged Customers

Up to 100,000 of the ESB’s small customers are to receive refunds for overcharging following an investigation by the industry watchdog, the energy regulator. The regulator has ordered the ESB to repay all customers who have been overcharged by more than €5 under a flawed and systemic ESB method of charging customers.


Civil Servants Should Not Filter Information To Protect Ministers

The Aer Lingus affair was debated in the Seanad again yesterday. I argued that what Aer Lingus does is not the business of politicians; it is out in the private sector. However, the Byzantine manoeuvres of civil servants, supposedly to protect their Ministers, does concern us. When the Seanad debated the issue in the past two weeks, we were doing it in the dark because we had incomplete information.

If civil servants are filtering sensitive information to Ministers to protect us, that is seriously disturbing. Equally disturbing is the DAA’s failure to keep its principal shareholder informed of its plans. This is what I told the Seanad: (more…)

Stay Out Of This Property Prison

Only 8 days left. 8 days to subscribe for 10 years of imprisonment. Saturation advertising has hit the airwaves. Eddie is everywhere.

Reports from the provinces confirm that Eddie Hobbs and his band of property buccaneers in Brendan Investments are only attracting a handful of star-struck punters to their countrywide road show.


The Ostriches Gabble Glibly; But The Risks Ahead Remain

On Thursday, the Seanad debated the IDA and its record of attracting investment into the country. Minister Michael Ahern and Senator Ivor Callely spoke for the government. Their speeches reflected an enormous confidence in the future. I do not know whether or not that is misplaced, but there is a danger about being too smug over the future of the IDA, just because it has been so successful in the past.

Unfortunately, the ostriches on the government benches seem to be blind to the dangers ahead. The formula for growth which worked in the past, based on low taxes and foreign investment, is being successfully emulated by numerous others today. In order to compete, the country’s infrastructural problems – problems like broadband – must be tackled. Here is an edited version of my speech in the Seanad chamber:


Competition, Weather Take Pratt By Surprise

Last week Maurice Pratt, somehow still in command at C&C, came out of hiding to soothe the market in C&C shares. The interim results were brutal. Pratt headed for RTE’s Morning Ireland. He was desperately hoping to put a brake on the slide.

The disaster in cider sales was due to the “awful summer we had in both Britain and Ireland“. Shareholders have been hearing this excuse for months. “Clearly cider is a product which eh, eh, has a high dependency on, em . . . good weather and performs much better when weather is good. Em . . . when the weather is bad, eh, it also, eh, suffers . . .”

What a waffler. Cider needs sun.


What Has Happened To The Auctioneering Bill?

For some time now, I have been labouring under the illusion that the Seanad is a chamber for legislation to be introduced and debated. However, when I looked at the Order Paper for the House this morning, I noticed not one item of legislation was to be discussed. It is not as if there are not items of legislation that could be discussed: There is a civil partnership Bill, a climate change Bill, and another Bill from Independents.

Worse still, the auctioneering Bill remains on hiatus. About five years ago Senator O’Toole and I raised that issue in the House and scored a considerable success in that the then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, set up a commission to examine the malpractices of auctioneers. The result of that was the preparation of legislation which was due to come before the House in the last session but that did not happen. Here’s what I told the House: (more…)

Wanted: Two Political Patsies To Manacle Mannion

Joe O’Toole, my independent colleague in the Seanad, stuck his tongue firmly in his cheek last week and suggested that the two, as yet unknown, new directors of Aer Lingus should be questioned and ratified by a Seanad committee. Good suggestion, but it has as much chance of being accepted by the Government as has my own proposal that party politicians should stop appointing judges.

Many innocent shareholders believe that Aer Lingus left the state sector at flotation time. Last week, it emerged that one of the most independent members of the cabinet, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, is on the point of naming two new directors. It is not Noel’s style to promote patsies, but true to form, Bertie will seize this sinecure for a couple of reliable party loyalists.


Government Reaping Whirlwind Of Its Own Fudge Over Aer Lingus Decision

On Wednesday, statements were made in the Seanad on the Aer Lingus controversy. I told the House that the government was in difficulty over the issue because of its decision to fudge the privatisation of Aer Lingus by keeping a large stake in the company. Thus, it would, we were told, still be under effective state control. The vested interests were kept happy, and this non-privatisation fudge would ensure decisions, like the one taken last week, would never happen.

This was the false impression that the government deliberatley gave at the time. Now they do not know if they have influence or control! Fortunately for them though, they can still use Aer Lingus to reward its party political patsies. Here’s what I told the House:


Spin, Inaccurate, Flawed… But Enough About Eddie’s Prospectus

I want to say sorry to Eddie Hobbs. It was last Sunday week. Eddie was in a hot snot. I had burrowed right up the great man’s nose. In a previous posting here, I had dared to question Eddie’s latest property product.

Happily, I was out walking the Wicklow hills when Eddie charged onto RTE’s Marion Finucane show. So I missed the guru’s robust defence of his controversial investment offer to the Irish public. The next day, I heard a recording of his little outburst. It was vintage Eddie. He was busting a gut. All a bit personal, probably libellous, but good cut and thrust entertainment.

No one can blame Eddie for being tetchy. He stands to make a fortune if the foolish fish swallow his Brendan Investments bait. There is a lot of loot at stake. He likened the Sunday Independent and its business editor to The Simpsons – a clear libel on poor Homer and Bart. My piece about his property vehicle was “spin”, “inaccurate”, “false” and “flawed.”