Shane Ross

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Archive for July, 2008

Did Sarky Turn Tables On Tax?

AN engaging little man dropped into the French Embassy last Monday. Some small men exude an instant presence. Charlie Haughey and Napoleon come to mind. Nicolas Sarkozy had none. Initially, at least. But he could grow on you.

The pre-Sarkozy coffee, croissants and cakes session was more enlightening than the message from the President of France. We Irish were all treated to tea and French pastries in the salon. Cosy groups formed. Gerry Adams entered into a little huddle with Finian McGrath. Patricia McKenna was deep in conversation with Andy Storey of Afri and Richard Boyd Barrett . There was a chasm of contact between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps.

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Bertie Bails Out The Bores

THANK God for the gaffe. It all promised to be oh-so boring. And it was. Until along came Bertie.Bertie Ahern’s silly comment about suicide last week did a power of good to his pals in the unions.

Until Bertie arrived in the seaside resort of Bundoran, the biennial bash for the Irish Congress of Trades Unions was dying a death. It was all meant to be so different. When the Congress bosses booked the venue their choice of Bundoran seemed inspired. The overworked comrades would be able to bask in the Donegal sun and take the odd July swim in the warm waters of the North West.

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Last week the maestro lost his marbles

SEAN Quinn belongs in the pantheon of Ireland’s business heroes.

He tackled the white-collar thugs in the insurance industry. He pumped capital into Conor O’Kelly’s dynamic NCB stockbrokers, enabling them to challenge the mighty Davys. He bought health insurer Bupa, ensuring the survival of at least one player to confront the VHI monster.

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FAS: the €20m-a-week quango

SSHH. FAS is in the wars. And billions of euro are at stake.

Whisper it. The national training and employment agency is the object of murky allegations. Inquiries are uncovering odd antics. People are asking: what does FAS do with its €20m a week? The answers are disturbing. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan could find the sudden exposures at FAS the answer to his prayers. FAS has spent billions — and mis-spent millions — in recent years. All Brian needs is half a billion.

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Semi-State Spending

On the last day of the Seanad session, I spoke on the Order of Business about the current state of the ‘Public Purse’, especially in light of the issue of the Irish Aviation Authority. A very important point must be considered in respect of yesterday’s debate on cutbacks. €116 million was spent on a radar system that does not work. It is not that it did not work once but that it did not work several times. This begs the question as to what on earth is going on in semi-State agencies. It is not only a matter of the radar system not working but of there being no backup system. I therefore suspect there is something wrong with the culture of agencies.It appears Dublin Airport Authority is not providing the sort of information to which the public is entitled at this time.

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Broadband Better Value Than Fás

I have a view on the economy and the political battle that goes on, that nothing is as good or as bad as both sides are saying and not all of it is particularly relevant. I spoke to Minister Lenihan about this in the Senate because of its immedaite and persistent importance. I am a long time on record as stating that the stewardship of Mr. McCreevy, while it may have been an easy time, was superb in that he was prepared to take the economy in a new direction, which might have been at a political cost to himself – it may be why he is where he is now – but which was radical and introduced a new philosophy into the running of the economy which has worked extremely well.

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Two Circuses And A Fiasco

GREAT to hear Richard Nesbitt of Arnotts on Marian Finucane’s brilliant RTE show on Sunday. Richard was agitated by last week’s column here about Greencore, the one that fingered the food company’s auditors Pricewaterhousecoopers. Insiders tell me Richard was keen as mustard to rubbish my unremarkable piece.

Remember? PWC failed to spot a €21m hole in Greencore’s accounts. Hardly a trivial matter.

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FÁS Yet To Feel Pinch!

Today in the Senate I raised the very important Fás and their mammoth budget. I called for the government to examine in far greater detail this State agency, which has been something of a sacred cow for many years.

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