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Archive for November, 2007

The Great Irish Bank Robbery

Someone should write a thesis about Jim Flavin’s antics. His staggering survival act deserves a doctorate. But he is unlikely to cling on for much longer. No one would write it better than Liam Collins, my colleague in the Sunday Independent. Liam has just penned a humdinger about banking. The title: “The Great Irish Bank Robbery.” The robbers are, of course, the banks. Liam tells the story of how some of the top characters in Irish banking never noticed massive tax evasion on their watch. Half the nation was on the fiddle and the directors of the banks concerned were apparently sleepwalking.


Stockmarket Can Make Monkeys Of Us All

It seems that the carnage on the stockmarket just won’t stop. The Iseq has sunk below the 7,000 mark. Great news for Robbie Kelleher, head of Research at Davy stockbrokers. He is not alone in making a monkey of himself on the markets.

A few months ago I foolishly boasted in print that I had sold Vodafone shares at £1.47 and was holding onto BofI as they soared all the way up to €18.65. The switch was showing a healthy profit at the time. Hubris. Today Vodafone stands at stg£1.92 while Bank of Ireland have nearly halved at below €10.00.


Luddites In Leinster House Are Blind To The Lack Of Broadband

Last week, I was guest speaker at the Irish Internet Association’s (IIA) ‘net visionary’ awards in the Mansion House. It is a sell-out. These guys are at the coalface of Ireland’s economic boom. There are billions of euro sitting at the dinner tables.

I launch a broadside against Ireland’s broadband deficit. Why are we so behind the rest of Europe on broadband? Well, Leinster House is laden with Luddites. Its IT system is antedeluvian and no one in Government gives a toss. Half our TDs do not seem to know how to open a laptop.


Eddie Responds To “That Person!”

Will Eddie Hobbs never go away? After the Corkman got a right of reply in last week’s Sunday Independent to some fairly robust revelations about his current property product, Brendan Investments, he sends a message: there is nothing personal about our exchanges over his attempts to raise as much as €250m. A generous gesture? An olive branch? I am beginning to feel quite guilty about the lumps I took out of the guru. But the guilt hardly lasts 24 hours. I am surprised when a friend contacts me saying that Hobbs himself has been on the blower to him.


EU Treaty Our Opportunity To Play Hardball

It would be appropriate for a national dialogue on the new EU treaty to begin at an early stage. There exists a widespread assumption that all parties and persons are in favour of passing the treaty, which may or may not be true. However, the EU is not treating Ireland very well at present. Some member states are continually trying to undermine the basis of Ireland’s economic success – our corporation tax rate of 12.5%. So we must use what leverage we have to defend our interests. Here’s what I told the Seanad:


Irish Aid Must Not Be Used To Prop Up Corrupt Regimes

It is commendable that Ireland’s aid level is approaching the goal of 0.7% of GNP, and that we are giving €800 million towards developing countries. However, when the Minister came to the Seanad to discuss Ireland’s aid strategy, it was depressing that he made no reference to how the Government distributes that aid. Poverty relief is important, but beyond this it is vital that funds go into the hands of those who are committed to democracy, and not to propping up corrupt regimes in Zimbabwe and Uganda. This is what I told the House:


Final Round To The Bear

The markets are tanking. The end of the world is nigh. Doomsday is bad enough – but far worse, I am really missing all those happy-clappy emails from Robbie Kelleher, head of research at Davy Stockbrokers. Robbie and I developed quite a relationship last year. Not a very cordial relationship, but a relationship all the same.

In May 2006, I rashly gave Robbie a bit of stick for calming his clients’ nerves on RTÉ after stock markets had crashed. I rabbited on about stockbrokers’ judgment being flawed; how they are frequently conflicted; how they always talked the market up; and how they are as likely to be right about future market direction as a spaniel on speed.

Robbie was indignant.


Is There Anybody In At The EBS?

All is calm at the good ship EBS. As the financial sector worldwide weathers a week of turmoil, Ireland‘s last mutual hardly notices. All is so calm that the EBS has still not found a new boss. Poor Ted McGovern announced his departure four months ago but the search for a successor has drawn a blank – no one wants Ted’s €760,000-a-year job.

A few weeks ago chairman Mark Moran told journalists that the appointment was “imminent.” Now he is muttering about January.


Trinity Stays On Top!

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn that Trinity has remained Ireland’s top university, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement table.  Better still, Trinity is now considered the 12th best university in Europe, and 53rd in the world. It has thus broken into the international university elite, overtaking such prestigious institutions as the London School of Economics and St. Andrews in Scotland. Trinity also ranks second in global immunology research. (more…)

Leinster House Shouldn’t Be Surrounded By Concrete And Cars

Leinster Lawn was once a lovely park, a green space, which was made into a car park some years ago. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement until a long term solution could be found. However it remains a car park to this day, and it is us Members of the Oireachtas who are to blame for failing to restore Leinster Lawn to its former glory. Here’s what I told the Seanad: