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We’re Not On Obama’s Radar

Posted on: November 10th, 2008


My last day of a week in Boston. I switch on CNN to hear Barack Obama fingering Ireland as one of the countries to which the USA exports labour.
He specifically brackets us with India and the old Eastern block. Ominously, he is answering a question about where he will raise money to fund his middle class tax cuts. Corporate taxes are his target. Ireland is specifically in his sights.
I freeze, but I cannot blame Obama. He owes Ireland nothing and has done little to court the Irish vote. A president without Irish baggage is not good news for us. Any move by Barack to coerce US multinationals home could be devastating for Ireland. The first leg of the Celtic Tiger — construction — is already amputated. The removal of the second leg — multinationals — would cripple Ireland. If Barack is elected tomorrow, Brian Cowen should take the first aeroplane to Illinois.
On the plane home I read John Murray of RTE’s hilarious new book on business jargon. It will make a great Christmas present. It takes pomposity apart. It pokes fun at captains of industry by name and takes lumps out of all the social partnership waffle.


I arrive home to a nightmare experience from state monopoly, An Post. A director is ringing to apologise. The old semi-state dinosaur is living up to its reputation.
My redirected post has not been redirected. It has been casually stuffed into a letter box of a house I occupied two -and-a-half years ago. I discover the old post box overflowing with mail, dripping with rain, some envelopes on the ground , others blown away, a few bits and pieces lying at the bottom of the box. Other items which An Post has not managed to stuff into an overloaded box have been ‘returned to sender’. I do not know what items have been sent back, which cheques are lost or which bills have been happily blown away in the wind. An Post keeps no records, but it charges through the nose for its “redirection” service. It pleads that it has carried out an investigation, that “the redirection fell through the cracks”. My cards had “gone missing”. There was a change of personnel. They are sorry.
What a pointless investigation. I have absolutely no remedy. I hope the old dinosaur is doing a bit better with its current probe into missing money at the GPO. Perhaps this probe will “fall through the cracks” too.
Why on earth Brian Lenihan did not sell off this monster, or at least summon its faceless boss Donal Connell, demand efficiency and insist on a huge dividend to the state in his Budget is beyond me.


President Obama is elected. In the Seanad, senatorial sheep are bumping into each other to bleat congratulations to the new man.
None of us seem to realise that our fawning words in Seanad Eireann may not be the president-elect’s top priority. Ireland is not on his radar except as a shelter from US tax. Did he even mention Northern Ireland once in the election campaign?
Keeping an eye on the stock market I hear the bearish statement from AIB and see my own meagre holding in Bank of Ireland plunge even further. The shares are offering no dividend and are at about a tenth of their value just 18 months ago. Thank God I did not buy any more on the way down!
A great evening at the Pharmacists dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin. Pharmacists were soft targets for government cuts a few months ago but the plucky group fought back against the bullies in the Health Services Executive ( HSE). Today, after a victory in the Courts, they are in a strong position to take on Health Minister Mary Harney. These people are community workers as well as small businesses.
The government thought they were a weak group, but hopefully like the elderly, the parents, teachers and children, they will not be taken for granted.


But cuts are essential somewhere. Right on cue, FAS, the guys who should have been cut to ribbons by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan appear in front of a Dail Committee.
Bernard Allen, chairman, adjourns the meeting almost immediately because FAS absurdly plead that their lawyers will not allow them to release vital documents which the Committee has sought. One of the withheld items is the Tony Spollen report on failures in FAS safety training in the construction industry. Strange that the FAS lawyers will not allow them to release it; because I just happen to have a copy in my possession. And I will happily give to committee members if they want it! It does not make pretty reading for FAS.
Remember these guys have a €1bn-a-year , €20m-a-week budget. Government politicians are strangely protective of this most extravagant of all state agencies.
Despite huge interest rate cuts from the Bank of England and the ECB, stock markets tumble further. The Dow has its worst two sessions since 1987.


A day to take stock of another week of carnage in the stock market. For how long will middle-class people dependent on dividends from blue chip stocks have to suffer? What about pensioners whose pot has been decimated? I am tempted to make a stock market prediction but they have a habit of biting back.
I pull out an article I wrote in July 2007 headed ‘Run for Cover, Cash is King’. Wow, right — for once; but my record when a stockbroker was so bad that Dermot Desmond rightly gave me my P45. On the law of averages we must all be right one day. This last 18 months have been my day in the sun. At the date of the piece the ISEQ stood at 8357 (now 2826), the Dow at 13265 (now 8943) and the Footsie at 6215 (now 4364).
But if any readers are beginning to take me seriously, remember it was I who advised people to sell First Active Shares when they went public and subsequently quadrupled and it was I who told innocent investors not to touch Ryanair shares with a barge pole at the flotation. They rocketed.
But suddenly, 10 years later, even those bearish noises are beginning to look right!
Figures from Mercers released on Friday reveal that the old investment industry propaganda that “equities are the best bet in the long-term” has been exploded.
A 10-year investment in the ISEQ now shows a LOSS of 1.4 per cent per annum. During that period inflation has run at an average 3.8 per cent. Even An Post would have been better than shares, if they did not lose all your documentation. Cash remains King.