January 19, 2011

People need hope for a better tomorrow

Posted in Banks · 269 comments ·

Once we create a system that allows the person to start again, we facilitate the return of hope.

On Monday night I went for a pint with an old friend who was distressed. His wife had just lost her job and that meant there was now no way they could pay the mortgage. There wasn’t enough money to go around and he explained it was now a case of “the bank or the family”. So he is going to stop paying the mortgage and try to negotiate with the bank to see whether he can reduce the monthly payment.

He is, like hundreds of thousands of others, juggling bills around to try to make ends meet. He said he can do this for a while longer, but he needs to see what the bank might offer to work out his next move. He hopes his wife will get another job soon, but the prospects are dim, at best, right now.

He is trying to keep the spirits up but what is freaking him out, as a 30-something man, is the prospect that the debt on the house — not a flash gaff — bought in 2005, might follow him around for the rest of his days.

Like me, he emigrated in the 1990s and, like me, came back in 2000 to an Ireland which looked full of opportunity for us to raise our families. There were over 200,000 of us who came back.

In fact, he was the subject of the final chapter of my 2005 book ‘The Pope’s Children’. He was the returned emigrant marvelling at the new Croke Park during the Dublin versus Meath game. And his story is particularly poignant for me because back then when we both went to Croker with our four-year-old children, he was filled with so much optimism.

For him and thousands of people like him, Ireland has become a large debtors’ prison with no payroll. There is no NAMA for him, no bailout.

In contrast, the delinquent banks have NAMA, the reckless bondholders have the IMF, but this guy has nobody.

No one is speaking up for him and, with the recovery in Germany in full swing, how long will it be before interest rates rise and he is tipped over the cliff?

That is what an economy is: it is only the numerical agglomeration of thousands of individual stories. Economics renders these stories sterile. It reduces them to numbers and when the weight of numbers gets too big, the financial system buckles, but until that point the default position for the establishment is that everything is “manageable”.

But at the end of September last, the number of mortgages in arrears or rescheduled stood at 70,000 out of a total of 788,000 mortgages in the country. So that is one in 11 mortgages.

Of this 70,000, some 40,500 were in arrears. For a mortgage to count as ‘in arrears’, there must have been no payment made on it in three months. These amounted to €7.9bn outstanding mortgages and the mounting arrears on these mortgages totalled €630m.

The general picture is that today there are over 200,000 mortgages in negative equity. Each one has a story.

In total, the figure is about €12bn and is the result of the 42pc fall in house prices, from the peak, which we have seen over the past three years.

If prices fall further, let’s say by 55pc from peak, the negative equity picture darkens to over 330,000 families — or about half of all properties bought since 2000. And this will get worse, if house prices fall yet further. So are they likely to fall further?

Yes. This is what typically happens when a bubble bursts. This is called “deleveraging” in economics. The people who have debts try to pay what they can and the banks try to pay back what they have borrowed.

The people who have money save and the leveraging or borrowing that fuelled the boom goes into reverse gear.

This means that the prices of all assets in the country keep falling as both the demand for, and supply of, credit dries up and the greater the original leverage, the greater the subsequent deleveraging.

And in Ireland the leverage was pretty outrageous. The loan to deposit ratio of the banking system was 160pc at the top of the boom, meaning that there was 60pc more loans out in the country than there were deposits in the banking system.

These loans are either now being repaid or defaulted on.

So what do we do about the hundreds of thousands of our friends, family, and work colleagues who are in negative equity now or will be in the future?

Any political party that is truly serious about tackling not just present but prospective problems in our society needs to address the ticking time bomb of negative equity and the certainty of mass default. Remember each one of these statistics masks a story — a story of dented hope, dashed ambitions and chilly insecurity. These are the people who need to be reassured.

A political party that changes the language of the campaign, the party that shows itself to be generous, forgiving and capable of empathy will make significant gains — and should do. Because this party will be putting the interests of the people first and the people need a break. We need hope.

On the issue of negative equity, a way forward would be to adopt the American system of non-recourse loans. This means that the loan is fixed to the house and not the person. So the person can hand back the keys and the loan doesn’t follow her around for the rest of her life. This means that the principle of co-responsibility is instated whereby the lender, as well as the borrower, is responsible.

If the bank made the mistake of lending too much to an individual, the bank pays. It gets the property and the individual is free to rent down the road or somewhere else. In this way, we do not penalise the person for his mistake indefinitely.

The person doesn’t get off scot-free either as they will not be allowed to stay in the house because it is the property of the bank and the bank will have to sell it.

But the person can start again and starting again is the essence. Once we create a system that allows the person, or the family, to start again we facilitate the return of hope. It is hope — the idea that tomorrow will be better than today — that gets us out of bed in the morning.

It is essential that we see economics through this prism. Economics and statistics are only the numerical aggregation of our stories and it’s the stories, not the numbers, that make our society.

  1. CitizenWhy

    All mortgages should have a “clawback,” that is, a penalty, with the proceeds shared with the borrower and the govt, provided the mortgage default is based on any of these three: … 1. Lending too much … 2. Accepting false information, not verified …3. If the interest rate charged is above 6%. … So, even if a person loses the house, in many cases he/she will get enough money to start over with a decent apartment.

    This will force banks to be prudent, especially if the clawback is 20-30% of the loan’s principal.

    • shtove

      So long as the state guarantees the solvency of the lenders you cannot expect prudent lending.

      David recommends non-recourse lending. That was the system in California, which blew the biggest bubble in the US. Propped up by central-planning style purchase of mortgage securities through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      The lesson is crystal clear: the state is too big. Too much welfare – personal and corporate – not enough accounting.

      This is the End. We’re just being made to wait a bit longer.

  2. adamabyss


  3. BiggyWiggy Rogers

    Makes total sense to me.

    The only query I have.. would adopting this system cause the banks to end up grabbing more from the public purse to balance their books? It shouldn’t happen..but……

    I also don’t want to see a situation where the banks won’t lend anything unless you’ve gold encrusted underpants either :) – that surely will kill the economy completely..

    How to get a balance?

    • idij

      As per the article, lot of people are not paying anyway. So you what it changes is where they restart their lives, here unencumbered by debts forgiven, or abroad unencumbered by debts abandoned.

      The risk is obviously that you’d encourage more people to abandon debts and houses than are planning to do so. But given the cost of the banks already I have no idea how significant that would be.

      If you were planning a strategic default or debt for equity swap then within reason you’d want the citizenry in the best position possible and have someone else bear the cost of the mistake.

      A lot of the issues caused by this mess seem to be catch-22 situations. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But in that type of scenario the government should be picking the one that is best for the ordinary people.

      The horse has bolted, but we should still shut the barn door.

  4. DB4545

    David I’m one of many like your pal who came back to bring up my kids here. I left here in the early eighties with a trade and some ambition and followed the well worn paths to Germany, Australia, The States and finally London getting a formal and informal education along the way before returning home. The ambition has’nt gone and won’t until I’m six foot under. I’m hoping that won’t be for some time yet.Burning the banks is a no-brainer. A non-recourse mortgage is a no-brainer. These banks and bondholders took serious risks along the way. Had these risks paid off you can be certain the Irish taxpayer was’nt going to benefit. Therefore why should the Irish taxpayer be exposed to loss when s/he was’nt going to benefit? Communism for the rich and Capitalism for the taxpayer as has been stated before. I believe in Capitalism. I travelled in Eastern Europe in the early eighties before the wall came down. The general air of gloom and doom in Sofia and Belgrade and East Berlin was’nt that far removed from Dublin in the early eighties. Other elements were all too familiar. An elite living comfortable lives while hard working people had their ambitions crushed. We need this political and social elite held to account and removed from office. This applies to all the main political parties as well. Capitalism works.It’s not perfect but the market is a mechanism which is proven to be the least worst system to deliver the most to most people.Look at Australia and Canada.Let’s introduce Capitalism to Ireland and not the perverted Crony Capitalism we have at present.Ireland and its people have ambition. Let’s move on. It’s way past time for a Western European Glasnost. Eastern Europe grew balls and did it. Now it’s our turn.

    • healthadvisor

      What a clear and succinct analysis. Well said, and yes its time to move on and get this country back. Is tehre anyway to change the terms of the pensions of the retired TDs? they raped this country and like the Titanic they are the first to get off on the boats, while the less well heeled pay the ultimate price. Please tell me we can claw back and change their pensions in the future..

      • DB4545

        Thanks healthadvisor. A couple of points.How about a key piece of legislation for the next Dail?
        1.The Public Service Pension Emergency Provisions Act 2011. A maximum pension to be paid from public funds equivalent to the average industrial wage but no greater than 40,000 euros. One pension only for all. No multiple pensions and no lump sum or termination payments or any other bulls..t. If circumstances dictate that we take money off blind people we clearly can’t afford to pay these insane sums to incompetent and unproductive wasters under any circumstances. This maximum pension to apply to all from the President down. A premium of 25% to be paid in exceptional circumstances to whistleblowers who can aid the citizens in exposing corrupt politicians or officials and aid in recovering funds for the taxpayer. The rationale is simply that the people in charge of this country for the last 15 years mismanaged the economy for the taxpayers. Therefore they cannot be rewarded when they decide to bail out and leave citizens in the lurch.
        2.In addition I know that we operate under a written constitution, however our system of Government is largely modeled on the UK system. In the UK Parliament is supreme. This means that an incoming Parliament is not bound by the decisions of previous Parliaments. A future Dail cannot be held to ransom by decisions made by the current Dail. Therefore any legislation which attempts to “lock” Irish Citizens into the provisions of the upcoming finance bill has to revoked by new legislation in a new Dail.

  5. damian.agnew@macquarie.com

    I see the current Economist (w/c 15-Jan) has an article advocating the orderly and managed default of sovereign debt of a number of peripheral Euro nations including Ireland. It appears your proposed course of action to reduce burden on the Irish taxpayer and allow big boy investor & corporates to wear some of the losses is gaining momentum. Something has to be done to help us as a nation look upward toward possibility and not down in despair. Hope is not lost.

    • CitizenWhy

      The Economist generally comes around to a realistic view of economic policy. Every leader in Europe – except for in Ireland -knows the awful truth about the Irish so-called bailout.

  6. wills


    Firstly, inflation underway now is due to the massive QE / money printing out of thin air catching up on itself.

    Interest rates will be raised to counter inflation and your articles ticking bomb will be detonate n explode.

    This is imminent as far as I am concerned.

    And it is the final stage of the engineered property Ponzi bubble engineered by the private banking system in its boom and bust business model.

    You know all of this of course.

    So, the final stage is on the way.

  7. Julia

    It’s the stories, not the numbers, that make our society. Well said.

    I’ve always thought, since the beginning of this, and being a pass maths person that houses in general should cost about 2.5 times the average industrial wage. Or at most, 2.5 times E60,000. So there, house prices still have to come down more.

    Just saw Paul Sommerville and Peter Matthews on VB’s programme. David, you’re going to have to tell us soon what you’re going to do. You might find 5 years in the Dáil interesting. And I think you could choose any constituency in the country and get a seat. We promise we won’t come to looking for help with our squeaky garden gates.

    • TalentCoop

      Agree – the time for the old brigade has gone. We need brains and integrity to run the country. David you qualify on both and would win, wherever you stand.

      • healthadvisor

        Are their any other people we should look at to lead this country? As well as David. Ie unemployed business people who are straight and honest and willing to do an honest days work? Have we any leaders in healht? Charles Normand the health economics professor is vital for us to reform health, as is Fergus O Ferall who has the Adelaide society plan for universal health care based on the need for care rather than the ability to pay. However, we also need Masters educated healht mangers, not the bunch of dimwits in the HSE with their leaving certs and No 3rd level education never mind a masters in health service management like they should have. Our hospitals are in the exact same mess, jobs for the boys. The HSE jobs were advertised before christmas and as they were given to those in the queue, Cathal McGee has now ruled they are interim posts only and must be opened to the whole country. The administrators think they are more important than the patients on the trollies.

  8. muchwood

    Again common sense from David. I just hope he will join with other economists and try to negotiate with Europe or just tell them to stuff it… There will be thousands like his friend before the end of this year.

  9. idij

    I’ll be honest and say I don’t understand how this and a lot of other protections that are easy to come up with (e.g. strong deposit and income multiple requirements) were not part of the existing economic framework of Irish society up to now.

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t support shifting the goalposts after the fact like this, but let’s be realistic and say that we are not living in normal times. The alternative for a lot of people is going to be to leave the house and the debt anyway while emigrating. Better to have them restart here than abroad if possible.

    • shtove

      Best solution is to allow people the freedom of choice.

      Why should Irish people be encouraged to live in Ireland? They have the freedom to move abroad and make better lives for themselves.

      Problem is they can’t speak european languages and are funneled into english speaking economies, where the problems are exactly the same.

      Please don’t believe the UK is any better than Ireland. Frying pan, fire – just a matter of time.

  10. Gege Le Beau

    Hate to say I told you so, but I have been banging on about the importance of not divorcing humanity from economics for years on this site, you have got to question the numbers everytime whether they be in Chile, China, EU or US.

    What we need is a form of ‘social economics’, a socio-economic system that puts the interests of the citizen not the institutions that have lost all trust and credibility, at the heart of social, political and economic decision making in a new Republic.

    Neoliberal economists can go as much as they like about competitiveness, the need to drive down wages, cut the minimum wage and a myriad of other measures which have ultimately deflated our economy by driving down consumption, which in turn helped create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty which has led to a staggering increase in savings and unfortuntely a rise in unemployment as the demand for services dried up. We have experienced a 15 billion ‘adjustment’ in government expenditure and a massive economic and social contraction, the consequences of which are about to be seen in terms of increased hardship for people all over the place but most especially in disadvantaged communities who have historically suffered enormous injustices both pre, mid and post Celtic Tiger but rarely get pages dedicated to them in any book.

    The neoliberals dropped our tax base too much (so we would be more attractive for FDI they said), overspent and now desperately trying to claw back to make the books balance, instead of implementing a more measured and sustainable approach and not ‘spending it when we have it’ or allowing the culture of non-existent regulation and sweet heart deals between politicians and businessmen, the fall out from which we see nightly on the evening news as a revitalised and deluded Cowen cracks jokes in the Dail.

    I say again, the call should always be: people before profit. Hopefully the creation of a more ‘Left’ orientated Dail may yet see more people focused policies but I won’t hold my breath.

    Posted before but worth watching.

    Rocky Road to Dublin

    I am in rented accommodation because I saw the bust coming and did not want to get caught like the individual featured in this article. Interestingly about 2 weeks ago, a lettter arrived for the person who used to live in this apartment, I inadvertently opened the letter thinking it was for me, it was from one of the major Irish banks and they wrote to inform the person that due to being several months in arrears that had authorised a law firm to pursue the person through the courts for monies due. I have no idea where this person is, but they haven’t lived in the apartment in 2 years, whether they are in Ireland or abroad I cannot say, but I found it highly ironic given all the events of the past few years and especially of the last few weeks with the big political heavy hitters hitting the road one by one and yet, here in this one letter was the entire story.

    • Dorothy Jones

      ‘The importance of not divorcing humanity from economics’

    • coldblow

      Hi Gege

      Just taking part of your post and thinking out loud.

      I wonder what the creation of a more ‘Left’ orientated Dáil would achieve? (That’s probably why you put it into inverted commas in your post.) I agree with Hudson, and others, who argue that the Left lost its way over recent decades. (See eg Hudson’s “Neoliberalism and the Counter Enlightenment” essay from his website, although he doesn’t go into the whys of the matter.) That is, they surrendered the only really important argument, the economic one, to the neolibs and their acolytes in academia and the press and instead focussed on… well, on what exactly? One can argue about how this all happened, what their motivations were, what difficulties proved insurmountable, etc. But if spokesmen of the ‘Left’ are occupying the platform without having clear and constructive proposals shouldn’t they step aside and make room for those who do?

      • Gege Le Beau

        I am not sure the Left lost its way, I think it was trying to find a way amdist the dominate neoliberal ideology which was pursued to the extreme in Ireland and now finally sees it political casualites such as Harney and McDowell and Liz earlier on.

        Sometimes the ‘left’ can be its own worst enemey, look at the so called Left in France for instance, you have serious divisions at the top of the socialist party (two female candidates fighting for the top job) instead of uniting behind one, they all went to Mitterand’s grave as if somehow he could inspire (could they not leave the man in peace?). While some on the Left are ,as Chomsky calls them, proto-fascists.

        But for the first time in decades, an alternative type of politics is emerging which will hopefully embrace the social democratic model, I think it is a given at this stage that FF was way too friendly with big business and finance, “cosy capitalism at its worst” as the Financial Times characterised it (hardly a left wing journal) to the detriment of the Irish Republic, FF certainly lost touch with their ‘values’ but had the price of almost everything. They must finally face the consequences, although many seem intent on running with the money.

        But your point is well made especially the line “they surrendered the only really important argument, the economic one, to the neolibs and their acolytes in academia and the press”, they were overwhelmed, isolated, marginalised, but they didn’t surrender entirely, I was at in meeting in 2005 where Joe Higgins spoke about the inevitable crash that was coming and that he and others would be ready but that people must organise now, he was proved right and he certainly never gave-up the fight despite the conditions which seemed to indicate he should.

        Higgins has people’s respect like the guy from the financial services centre who shook Joe’s hand during an interview with Kathy Sheridan in a cafe and said “I don’t support your policies but I respect you as a politician”. I accept Joe can overdo it with the ideology and old style language (comrades, workers etc) but it looks like he and a few others will be returned to the Dail and for the first time in Ireland’s history you will have a serious leftist presence in the Dail which will have an impact on policy.

        Given what we have experienced, this can only be good for people who have taken the lash under neoliberal policies. I don’t expect nor seek for Ireland to be turned into a socialist Republic, such a thing is unrealistic but a marriage of the two systems with the best aspects from both may well be an interesting route.

        How will that happen? Well it would be foolish to prescribe, such things happen over time, bit by bit, organically etc But it does give people like me a real lift and some hope for the first time in 2.5 years.

        • michaelcoughlan

          Hi Gege,

          One of the ways it would be possible to achieve a more equitable model, and at the risk of boring everyone yet again to death about the point, would be to agree that salaries in a corporate body would increase starting with the lowest paid in the organisation first, in line with an agreed ration once 6% return on capital had been achieved by the corporate activity.

          Other initiatives could include restricting tax breaks to the lowest paid in society first and allow such persons the opportunity to write off such tax breaks against all income and make them available in a way where even small contributions such as €20 Euros etc could be claimed for if the citizen contributed to such a tax designated fund if introduced.

          Putting more money in the pockets of the workers at a time of deleveraging as McWilliams has described would help increase spending and create jobs in the GDP arena.

          All we have heard from Eamon Gimmiemore is more sh*t as usual and didn’t he reveal his mindset when giving the reasons why he wouldn’t share power with Sinn Fein. He said Sinn Fein have no discernible economic policy and of that which passes for such is not one we identify with or words to that effect.

          In other words what Eamon really wants is more of the same merely focusing Labour’s agenda on wealth redistribution from the rich once accumulated rather than what he should be doing which is creating a society whereby the more misfortunate in society can earn the income in the first instance rather than depend on redistribution in the first place.

          On this occasion I would consider voting for a centre left party but Labour offers nothing new and I could never find myself voting for the proto fascists so I may consider spoiling my vote in protest since the option will not be available to me on the ballot sheet “none of the above”.

        • coldblow

          Hi Gege

          Strangely enough I’m not put off by the old style language in that it expresses the issues in a more straightforward (ie economic) way.

          Your reference to the financial services fellow shaking Joe Higgins’ hand is similar to a remark made by Hobsbawm in a recent interview (I posted a link to it at the end of the thread to the last of David’s articles) where Soros expressed admiration for Marx and Hobsbawm makes the point that businessmen have been quicker to pick up on Marx than most on the Left.

          • Gege Le Beau

            Coldblow, here is some of that interview with Kathy Sheridan, if you do a search you should find it

            Money can’t buy you love or Joe.

            I read the Hobsbawn interview, it was an interesting one. not all business people are thick, they just have a tendancy to mis-apply their intelligence and ability and walk around justifiying it all with “I didn’t create the rules”, some appreciate Marx because they recognise the truth at the heart of the analysis, he called their number in quite a remarkable way, apparently Das Kapital is flying off the shelves.

          • coldblow

            I never accepted (what I understand to be) the materialist basis of Marx’s thought but he clearly towers over both contemporary and subsequent thinkers with few exceptions I can think of.

            Joe Higgins is the kind of politician I ‘can connect with’. He won’t allow himself to beceome ‘gentrified’ (see Michels: Political Parties written 100 years ago about the inevitability of labour parties losing touch with their grass roots).

          • coldblow

            I read a volume on 19th c. philosophy a few years ago (not particularly interested in the subject, just that the book was all I could find in the language of choice at the time). It covered Kierkegaard, utopians, Positivism (Comte etc: it turned into a kind of weird religion based on science and technology), etc: all rather abstract, quaint, etc. The chapter on Marx was like a full colour photo among the black and white. (Still wouldn’t go as far as reading Das Kapital though.)

        • Hi Gege, copies of Das Kapital are flying off the shelves in America as well.

    • shtove

      Pointless. Pointless. Pointless.

      Establish principles:
      Justice – let debtors and creditors go bust. That means kicking people out of their houses and wiping out bank investors. Can’t have one without the other.
      Accounting – force government to balance its income and expenditure. I understand that government doesn’t work on the same basis as a household, but the “trees grow to the sky” idea of spending has to be stopped. So bye bye 50% of the civil service.

      There really is no way to avoid an economic depression. All efforts must focus on what comes afterward. Hopefully it’s a free market world, instead of the crap peddled by the PDs over the past thirty years. And god forbid it’s an extension of the socialist nonsense that has just exploded in our faces.

    • Land n Gold

      Well the banks are certainly basking in socialist handouts while the taxpayers are handed the full rigor of capitalism!!

  11. TalentCoop

    I’m no economist, nor banker, just someone who recognises too well the situation you describe.

    Surely, an option here has to be negotiation to reduce mortgage debt, in a similar way to what’s already happening with credit card debt (the next financial Tsnunami to my mind).

    Banks are already accepting 30 in the pound, or less, to buy off debt in total, in effect pay 300 wipe off 1000 of the debt.

    Why then, given this financial crisis is Bank created, as a result of their gambling and malpractice, can this not be used to solve mortgage problems ?

    Let’s face it, the taxpayer has already been forced to bear the pain and cost of bailing out everyone but themselves!.

    A recent article talked of Banks proposing lucrative buyouts on tracker mortgages (as they lose money on them and will continue to), surely something similar can be designed to keep people in their homes.

    Otherwise what IS going to happen in Ireland ?

    Yet again mass emmigration but this time with NO return of bright, young talent.

    Instead all that’s left is a skeleton with county after county full of even more empty homes, with no value to the Banks or anyone else.

    A country which will decay and die as surely as some of the old villages, alive in the 1950′s, are now empty, except for ghosts, with the Irish families who lived there, spread worldwide and buried in graveyards from Manchester, to Miami, to Melbourne!.

    The economy is the sum of it’s people and the Politicians and Banks may have have to learn that in order to have ANY economy or country, it needs to do everything in it’s power to retain it’s people.

    To paraphrase JFK, ‘you have done everything for your country, now it’s time for your country to do something for you!’

    • coldblow

      “in order to have ANY economy or country, it needs to do everything in its power to retain its people”

      The suspicion (and it’s more than a suspicion) is that this is not the priority, and never was (note the emigration rate since the Famine).

      Is there an alternative view, an unspoken assumption, or understanding, shared by all that it’s every man for himself? That if you cannot swim here you either sink (and expect no help) or learn to swim abroad. Like, everyone knows this, although nobody admits it, and when the election comes this will be the underlying agenda and the rest of the spectacle just a diversion from this unpleasant truth?

      While people may believe that the collective should be able in theory to deliver the best outcome for all there is no confidence that this particular collective can deliver. So each voter will vote for his own narrowly-perceived interests even while realizing that it would be better for all, including himself, if a constructive alternative were available?

      So you can have Desmond Fennell writing in a newspaper column (around 1986)about having a sudden realization that the vision that the powers that be have for Ireland is as a kind of Luxemburg Mk2: a tiny, relatively well-off population of an empty island, living off rents, EU handouts and whatever.

      There is no place in such a vision for ‘the people’. Indeed, while in Tunisia and other dictatorships it is that leadership that flees the country, in Ireland it’s the other way round.

      “A country which will decay and die as surely as some of the old villages”

      Here’s a quote from J.J. Lee – Ireland 1912-85, one of my all-time favourite quotes:

      “The post-famine image makers set eagerly to work chiselling a face for Caitlín Ní hUallacháin that would be virtually completed by the turn of hte century and that would anticipate the main features lovingly unveiled a generation later by functionalist Harvard anthropologists. There was no conspiracy among the image makers. Many worked in isolation. But they all responded to the same compulsion of circumstances. They did their work so well that Arensberg and Kimball could add little except detail to the inherited portrait in ‘the Irish countryman’ (1937) and ‘Family and Community in Ireland’ (1940). Their brilliantly articulated model of West Clare society in the 1930s portrays a community in equilibrium, having apparently acquired the secret of eternal stability. It would be difficult to glean from this account of the irish countryman that 165,000 emigrants left Clare between 1851 and 1920… Emigration scarcely intruded into this classic portrait of a serene society, at peace with itself and the world, functioning like a beautifully balanced clockwork mechanism, a perfect ‘gemeinschaft’. By an ingenious slight of funcionalist hand, the anthropological ‘high priests of cultural stability’ portrayed secular decline as timeless stability. A community that had undergone traumatic cultural, demographic and economic shock in the previous three generations, and which objectively was threatened with virtual extinction of its way of life within another generation or two, somehow appears, as viewed through the spectacles of its own hegenomic bloc, as suspended in time, outside history.”

      Sounds just like the Quiet Man.

      Here’s another challenge, then, for the current generation of spin-meisters.

      • TalentCoop

        I think of my Fathers village where as a child I lived in complete happiness, with parents, grandparents and siblings, until, the grinding poverty took parents to England, sending money ‘home’ from the little they earned.

        ‘Home’ (Leitrim not the Quit Man territory of Connemara) was visited only for short summer holidays, with saddest partings till the days when Grandparents died and land was sold for a pittance.

        The village is now all the same, where happy families once lived, there are empty houses, most derelict, with holes in the roof, cattle sheltering where we once lived. My father and his siblings mainly buried in Manchester.

        That’s reality for the spin-meisters, their challenge – to make sure it is not repeated for this and future generations.

      • CitizenWhy

        East and West clare had very different histories, with West Clare suffering greatly. But the response to the famine in East Clare and elsewhere was the … 1. The Land League, which succeeded in ousting the worst of the landlord class. … 2. A strict dowry system combined with primogeniture. The dowry system made a spouse put up money to “buy into” a farm, giving it a solid financial foundation. Primogeniture made sure that a farm holding was not divided among the children, one of the old practices that led to smaller and smaller farms extremely vulnerable to famine. … 3. The Irish marriage age rose to 27. Famine areas often has a marriage age of 15. … 3. East Clare Irish Catholic tenant farmers enjoyed the benefit of the 99 year lease, inheritable, the legal equivalent of ownership (only the Ulster Protestants and also parts of Limerick enjoyed this privilege). The 99 year lease allowed for operating on a cash basis and the accumulation of capital. Plus it gave the tenant farmer the vote. The people affected by the famine paid their rents in crops, and those rent crops were often found packed into the barns where people died of starvation. … Daniel O’Connell was elected form East Clare because it was the only district in Ireland where Catholics were the majority of voters, based on property ownership. The 99 year arrangement was practiced in some way as a compensation for the refusal of the Irish Parliament to ratify King William’s Treaty of Limerick, granting all sorts of rights to Catholics in the area. And many of the Protestant landlords of East Clare were of Irish origin, not English. Before Catholic Emancipation Protestant members of the UK Parliament elected from East Clare were champions of Catholic rights. By the way, one of the reasons the Irish Parliament was eliminated was its extreme mistreatment of Catholics. It was a necessary step in effecting Catholic Emancipation.

        As for East Clare farmer prosperity I can tell you that my grandfather, whose house near Limerick City was burned down three times by the Black and Tans, had the capital to rebuild each time, party out of necessity and partly out of defiance. Actually, with 20 children (natural children and adopted relatives), the family lived in three houses and only the main house near the road was burned down. The Black and Tans did not dare penetrate into the deep countryside where my father’s house was located.

        The land League, the GAA, the change in marriage customs and family organization, and Irish cultural organizing brought about one of the greatest and most successful social revolutions in the world. It’s a shame that the famine story does not include the success of the remaining Irish in bringing down the landlord system that was the prime cause of the Famine.

        • Malcolm McClure

          CitizenWhy: There is so much that is constructive in your carefully researched commentary about the Germans and about East Clare that it is worth pointing out the flaw in your final sentence.

          It was not the landlord system that was the prime cause of the famine, it was potato blight combined with overpopulation. Famine (and the current debacle) was the consequence of destabilising external factors (Blight or Lehman Brothers collapse) on a classical boom economy.

          In the 1840s, Irish agriculture had been transformed over the previous 40 years by the replacement of the old rundale system with initially viable, squared off, farms. Increased productivity, combined with better hygiene and medicine led to a drop in infant mortality. The consequence after a couple of generations was Malthusian population growth beyond what the land could support. The landlords, (like politicians and bankers up to 2003) created the conditions for economic growth. Over-optimism by the population made us and our ancestors vulnerable to unpredictable external factors.

          Let us accept our share of the blame and get on with rebuilding the economy.

          • CitizenWhy

            The famine hit where the landlord system was absolute. Yes, the tenants on these holdings set themselves up for disaster by marrying at 15, having many kids, and subdividing their small plots among their children. On top of that a diet of potatoes and milk provides complete nutrition, so the tenants were healthy and able to bear many healthy, long-lived children. But the fact remains that when the relief parties made it to remote villages they often found the people starved to death and the barns full of grain crops (for rent). The tenants actually did not know how to convert the grains to food. If, prior to the failure of the potato crop for three out of four years, the landlord system had been eliminated in favor of 99 year leases, or other cash based operations, the loss of the potato could have been far better weathered. Those with 99 year leases, I can assure you, suffered not. The elimination of the landlord system would also have dampened the population growth and encouraged steady migration. Most of my ancestors at the time of the famine were 99 year leasers, they dealt in cash, and they were able to buy what food they needed to replace the lost potatoes.

            I also made the point that the remaining Irish did solve the problems that allowed the failure of the potato crop to lead to starvation in many backward areas: total dependence by serf-tenants on the potato, paying rent in crops, a lack of a money system, too early marriage, many children, a lack of the practice of primogeniture. At the heart of the failure to deal with the potato loss was a feudal system of serfdom.

            I tried to be gentle in my previous remarks, only hinting that the Irish should stop overemphasizing the failure and victimhood of the famine in favor of including in the narrative how Irish Catholic rural society sobered up and reformed itself, throwing off victimhood in favor of a renewed sense of nationalism, self-reliance, prudent savings, collective organization and a widespread burning desire for political independence from Britain.

            After the landlords were eliminated it turned out that many of the distributed farms were too small to be workable over time. As a result farms were consolidated into larger holdings and those with the consolidated farms prospered. I would assume that many selling off the smaller holdings emigrated. But they were able to sell because they were owners, not serfs. Better to emigrate with some money than none. At the same time many of the rural landless also continued to emigrate, quite poor.

            P.S. Immigration was rare among the many children of my farmer ancestors, and my parents left due only to political reasons, not economic reasons. These ancestors had existed and prospered on a cash system since the 1600s, without being part of the Anglo-Irish or Protestant establishment. Much of the Midlands and other parts of southern Ireland also operated on a cash system, even for Catholics, although I am not aware of how that evolved.

          • Malcolm McClure

            To amplify the context of your well-balanced response, I would point out that the 1850 Ulster Tenant Right movement, based on the three Fs, ‘fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale of improvements on the property’ was based on practices that originated even before the plantation by English and Scotch settlers. The customs and systems of land tenure in vogue among these settlers were not very different to those existing among the native Irish in the 16th century.
            “The gaelic-speaking natives bought and sold among themselves; the landlord or agent was, doubtless, content to receive the rent from any comer.” The English settlers who were brought over were accustomed to a secure tenure. Most of them were from districts where the copyhold tenure prevailed and they could not be ejected without cause.”
            In 1610 Lord Deputy Chichester issued a proclamation requiring every landlord “to covenant to make certain estates to the under- tenants, with reservations of certain rents;” and he subsequently recommended that as long as the Plantation landlords “receive their rents from the natives, they should never remove them.”

            In my opinion, it is as unfair to ignore the positive contribution of landlordism to the economic development of Ireland as is any castigation of banks and bankers that ignores their key role in economic progress, prior to the recent excesses of Anglo, AIB et al.

          • CitizenWhy

            The main point of my response to your legitimate response (interpretations can validly differ) was that if the Irish were able to unite and organize to solve enormous problems in the recent past, then they should be able to solve the current crisis of bank irresponsibility and political mis-governance combined with an irresponsible consumerist culture. The Irish reformed their culture in the past, and they can do so again. I can assure you that my prosperous Irish relatives did not participate in the recent speculation and wild spending because they were still operating out of the prudent culture of their rural parents and grandparents, a culture not dissimilar in some ways to that of the Germans. Ireland need not be a victim. It can solve its problems.

          • coldblow

            Malcolm, I appreciate your arguments to show that there are two sides to every story, but I remain nevertheless unpersuaded by your advocacy of the benefits of landlordism or the banks. As I mentioned here before the Irish banks were one of number of Irish institutions that flourished on a decayed system (others would have been the Church and Guinness’ brewery, according to Crotty): in their case they channelled farm incomes into the British economy and is one of the reasons why they were so profitable when compared with banks in other countries. I know I’m being flippant, but that would be akin to recommending the destruction of Hamburg and Dresden in the final year of the war as a first step in slum clearance. (But if we all agreed all the time there would surely be something wrong.)

            CitizenWhy: again, most interesting posts. You say that Irish society reformed successfully and that the same can happen again to resolve the current crisis. The point of my quote from Lee was not to disupte the fact that an apparently orderly well-functioning society was encountered by visiting sociologists in the 1930s but to show that appearances were very misleading. I agree that is is possible (if unlikely) that a similar reorganization can happen this time round so that a future generation of sociologists can be persuaded to hail its success, but a state is judged in terms of providing improved livelihoods for all of its population, not for those fortunate to remain and enjoy a secure livelihood.(I don’t mean to imply of course that you are arguing otherwise.) My concern is that all of the main political parties will attempt something similar to what was done in the earlier case: appearances will be saved, Ireland can ‘hold her head up’ in international company (which is so important to many, it seems), while the losers can either shut up or **** off.

            I found the analysis of the differences between west and east Clare very interesting (I know Cloonlara well) – so there’s more to distinguish them then than that the dancers of East Clare have a smoother step! I had wondered why O’Connell chose E. Clare to stand for election. He’s the man who the Dublin tour driver said brought in “Catholic emanstipation”.

            Since I’m here, I wonder if anyone can tell me the name of a short sociological volume which probably appeared 25 or 30 years ago (a friend of mine, a sociologist, told me that she was told as a student that it was controversial), and which (I’m sure) built upon the work of the two academics who Lee mentions. This latter work analyzed a small fictional/ unnamed community (though it sounds like somewhere in W. Clare) where population were seen as inhabiting either of two broad camps. The ‘traditionalists’ were centred on the village pub and embodied older values such as friendliness. The ‘modernists’ were generally younger, they wanted progress, a break with backwardness and similar qualities. These gathered in the shop.

  12. Colin

    “If prices fall further, let’s say by 55pc from peak, the negative equity picture darkens to over 330,000 families – or about half of all properties bought since 2000. And this will get worse, if house prices fall yet further. So are they likely to fall further?

    Yes. ”

    How correct you will be David, even though the RTE Pravda machine was hinting at a soft landing of price decreases in David Murphy’s bullshit report on the latest ESRI/PTSB Index.

    The house price index is being controlled by vested interests now. We don’t see the downward pointing graphs, the charts have been discontinued because……apparently there isn’t accurate data out there due to low volumes of sales. More bullshit.

    If a vendor can’t sell a house, its because its not priced low enough. End of.

    David, your mate was obviously in the A Class. He shouldn’t have bought, but no point crying over spilt milk now.

    Finally, following Vincent Browne’s show last night with Peter Mathews and Paul Sommerville, I feel more hopeful for this country. Paul says he hopes you can join them in politics. They are bona fides. Go for it David, and take out either a FF or Green, make my day!

    • Colin

      Forgot to say, bet you George Lee feels regret now that the economists are out in force. But then again, he obviously loves the RTE Pravda safety net, with its 6 figure salary and single digit working week.

      And where’s his mate Charlie ‘Bring me home’ Bird disappeared to?

      • Gege Le Beau

        found that interesting too, no out of breadth Charlie on the steps of Leinster house breaking stories as if they were of global importance……….

  13. ladygee2

    Colin, I couldn’t agree more with what you had to say in the last paragraph of your comment on DMCW standing for election in the coming General Election. If David were to stand in any constituency in the country he’d top the poll and be elected after the First Count in every one of them!!

    David, please do as Paul Sommerville asked you on VB’s programme last night and that’s stand for election and you’d make me and a whole lot of people very happy if were to ‘take out’ an FFer or a Green. Dun Laoighre would be ‘your’ constituency and I’d love to see you take out either Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews or Ciaran Cuffe, because all they are are a bunch of complete and utter wasters!!!!

    • Dorothy Jones

      Great to see Paul Sommerville announce that he will run as an independent.

      • Gege Le Beau

        Sommerville seems like a more serious contender, he will never get a better chance at reform than the next Dail with so many heavy hitters heading for the doors. It seems the Chinese saying is correct: “crisis brings out the champions”.

  14. CitizenWhy

    In Philadelphia in the US three mortgage rescue models were tested. The only one that worked reduced the principal, that is, the total owed, which in turn reduced the monthly payment. The reduction brought the principle in line with the market price, encouraging the householder to hang in (and making hanging in more affordable).

    BUT the national US plan chose to use one of the failed models, reducing monthly payments but nothing else (and prolonging the length of the mortgage). This has resulted in many more monthly payments before the defaults, the defaults resulting from financial need or the householder realizing that he/she was paying a huge price for a house that could never be sold for the price paid.

    Since then the US Treasury Secretary has admitted that the mortgage relief program was really another bailout for the banks, not for the mortgage payer.

    • TalentCoop

      The right approach you describe is what I hope Ireland is bright enough to implement – unlike the States, the population here can’t sustain an alternative which just delays default, in my humble opinion.

    • shtove

      Mortgage relief in any form is nonsense. If the debt has gone to the bad, then that’s usually it – just a question of who gets to cover the losses.

      The competition to provide that cover is between bank bondholders and taxpayers. The taxpayers are losing. Just part of the war between Wealth destroyers and Wealth creators.

      Lots of sentimental tosh on this blog, resisting property rights. Families who can’t afford the mortgage should find alternative accomodation. They can rent – FFS, Ireland has plenty of vacant properties.

      Resistance to that idea is actually in support of the property ponzi scheme – believe me, state subsidy of mortgages is purely for the benefit of the mortgage lenders. If you want to compare systems, look at the UK – bizarre payments mortgagors, which effectively keep private landlords in business when they should have folded a long time ago. Result: increased rents!!!

      Have you had cause to doubt the State? You know it sometimes wears a Halloween mask. But bear this in mind: that’s not a mask – it’s the actual face.

  15. Winter

    The “return of hope” can only be achieved if after the next general election the Dail ends up with a majority of conscientious, independently minded TDs. It is highly unlikely this will happen. A Fine Gael/Labour majority will hardly differ from the present puppets yet this looks like the probable outcome. Having great people like Shane Ross or David McWilliams elected may provide some temporary reassurance but eventually one’s faith will be destroyed by their inability to do anything. Just think of George Lee and his noble act of resignation from the Dail upon seeing the truth, or think of the absolute opposite of that noble act whereby Brian Cowen holds on to power indefinitely just because he can. As long as our political system remains intact where the majority of the Dail hold absolute power and the majority are a coterie of party politicians, there is no hope of real change. Party politicians by definition are not independently minded people. They cannot come up with creative solutions to solve the problems of the nation because they simply cannot think independently or they are ineffectual, spineless, unconscientious cowards. If the present opposition parties had any balls or decency, they would resign en masse tomorrow and bring the curtain down. Holding onto their seats whilst partaking in this charade shows them for what they truly are.
    All it takes to stop this nonsense now is for every opposition member of the Dail to resign by agreement en masse. The Government would have to wind up the Dail immediately. So don’t be talking about punishing Fianna Fail/ Greens when the election comes around and rewarding the present opposition for their inability to act. Don’t expect David McWilliams, Shane Ross and others to save the day either.
    I propose we put a sign up at every port of entry in Ireland saying:
    “Abandon Hope Now All Ye That Enter Here”

  16. vincent

    “Oireachtas” The old meaning is “A Meeting of The Hearts”

    • Deco

      Well…it would be inaccurate to call it’s current contents…a “meeting of the brains”….

    • coldblow

      I find it interesting that most people pronounce it as oirEACHtas. I heard it discussed once on Leagan Cainte: those from Tír Conaill and Conamara assumed it originated in the Kerry Gaeltacht, however Eilín Ní Mhurchú explained that they didn’t say it that way either and thought it originated in the north and west. Apparently an official in the Dept. of Education started it off and it just caught on.

      However, I can see a market for ‘meeting of the hearts’ on teatowels for tourists in places like Killarney and Adare, and in presidential speeches. Somehow can’t say the same for selected quotes from Joe Lee!

  17. That’s bad news about your mate David and I hope the rumours about you standing for election are true but I would fear for you. There are straight people in Ireland and yourself and the likes of Shane Ross, who are a minority, keep some of us sane but after seeing the FF gang resort to type I think you would be in for one hell of a time if you entered the bull ring. You can always rely on our support when the going gets rough however and we will still be here because this blog is one of the few places left in Ireland where we are likely to hear common sense regarding how the economy is managed
    Rather than suffer the constant stress and worry about losing a house I would be inclined to hand the keys back to the bank and let them get on with it because there is no point in making yourself ill. The bank has most to gain after all and not many people ever manage to pay off a mortgage – the risks are huge and in this day of multiple career changes and mass unemployment it does not make sense to entrap yourself and your family. It’s better to be financially savvy, mobile and live without the constant fear of losing it all. Why buy a house in say, Mayo, where there is no jobs and if you lose the job you have you end up royally screwed. I think this is just plain common sense but the trouble is that the Celtic Tiger was all about flights of fancy and had noting to do with common sense. It was financial suicide

    To break with conventional thinking requires courage and I hope that you continue to write articles which make people realise that there is more to life than mortgages and piles of brick and mortar. Watch people’s eyes glaze over when you tell them you rent and don’t have the millstone of a mortgage around your neck and you learn that the brainwashing is not going to disappear any time soon. Then again some us are ‘difficult’ and possibly even ‘incurable’ because we insist on living life today and not in some imaginary golden tomorrow that never comes

    So many people are stressed out about losing their homes and the council waiting lists are rocketing yet we have all these empty houses in the ghost estates. Madness

    At the end of day David you need to create your own hope in this world and if you wait for others to deliver it for you, you will waiting for a long long time. Just be happy and do it today, feck it.

    • CitizenWhy

      The Celtic Tiger was very real, pre-Euro. Before taking the Euro, Ireland had a weak currency and a low corporate tax rate. It was also English-speaking and a member of the EU.

      A weak currency attracts foreign employers. They pay less because of the weak currency, yet the wages for the person being paid are high by local standards and offer high buying power within the currency’s country.

      Foreign employers are even more attracted by a weak currency and a low corporate tax rate. They make more money, pay less tax, and yet provide high paying jobs.

      A weak currency also makes it easier to export and harder to import, so domestic production goes up. A weak currency also discourages spending abroad.

      The combination of foreign operations settling in Ireland and high tech entrepreneurship produce a real Celtic Tiger, which indeed may not have extended into the northwest (except for (Galway City). But when the Euro was adopted the weak currency advantage was lost and the economy shifted from manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, services and tech to what in the USA is called FIRE – Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, all based on excessive lending for a fictive real estate boom.

      Foreign companies are now looking to get out of Ireland and move to Poland. Why? They have their own weak currency and a favorable corporate legal and tax code.

      A country with its own currency can deflate and thereby cool down its economy. With the Euro Ireland is forced to cool down its economy through austerity measures so severe that they should lead to a depression.

      • Changed days indeed CitizenWhy

        I was pulling in over 1000 sterling per week working in Electronics and Ireland was like the stories behind Britain in the 60s where you could leave a job on a Friday and go to another one on the Monday

        I thought it would never last and behaved accordingly with restraint. Some of my workmates were buying BMWs and Mercs and playing the property game but for some reason I am not attracted to that kind of living. Maybe there is something after all in the jokes about Scotsmen and their money lol

        I know what you are saying and it is true that there was a real rise in manufacturing output during the rise of the tiger but we became too expensive and the world moved eastwards. I hope Ireland learns from the experience and does not fall into the same trap again

      • paddythepig

        Funny how the Germans manage to have had a strong currency, and manage to export at will. How is that?

        Funny how with the devaluation of the US dollar over the past 10 years, that their trade deficit keeps rising and rising.

        You might want to revisit your theory.

        • CitizenWhy

          The Germans have a strong currency and export a lot because … 1. Their banks lend to other countries so they can buy German goods … 2. They make excellent industrial products as well as cars and consumer products. … Their industrial products are very expensive, commanding high prices because of the quality. Their consumer products are also high end. No cheap stuff. … 3. They sell to countries under NATO trade interdicts – yes, they do, ask Iran … 4. Their companies, jointly managed by owners and the unions, settle for moderate wages. This is possible because the Germans are frugal savers. A high savings rate and almost no consumer debt helps produce a strong currency. Their national health plan helps too. BUT their insistence on driving down food costs by buying at dirt cheap supermarkets is threatening to ruin German farmers. … 5. Their states are very clever at financing huge public works projects at a profit to the government. A good example is the Rhine-Danube canal. … 6. Their educational system prepares young people for top flight skilled jobs as well as for university degrees. Their college prep high schools (gymnasia) are excellent in the sciences and the classics. These gymnasia are the equivalent of US undergraduate colleges, only far more rigorous. … 7. No matter how educated you are, when you join a German company, you start at the bottom and earn your way up. They have not turned a university degree into a patent of nobility. Note: One of my Irish uncles trained to be an engineer in Germany. … 8. Their engineers are superb, excellent problem solvers, not just technicians. … 9. They do not waste much money on the military, unlike the US and even the UK and France. … 10. Executives and bankers are not overpaid. … 11. Many companies are still run by families, and therefore not answerable to the ridiculous demands of any German equivalent to Wall St. … 12. Real estate speculation is foreign to how Germany operates (except for some exploitation of the old East Germany). … 13. The German government protects the German banks, as Ireland should know too well.

          Germany is unique, a truly advanced and diverse economy, nothing like Ireland, and should be the economic engine of Mittel Europa, as it used to be. Membership in the EU and the Euro is of dubious value to Germany, which is why the whole enterprise may yet fail.

          P.S. Certain parts of the German north are relatively poor, especially in the ex-communist states. The Saxonies, although ex-Communist, are culturally part of the prosperous south and have integrated well into the German economy. At one time there was a woman in charge of integrating East Germany into West Germany economically. She was doing such a great job that the radical leftists, whom many considered a front for the right wing, assassinated her. From that point there was much exploitation of the East by West German speculators, which she had prevented. Some leaders really can make a big, positive difference.

          • Colin

            Excellent post and very informative. That puts many myths and half truths to bed about why we can’t be as successful as the Germans. We are peripheral. There is no history of peripheral locations performing better than locations which are more central. Examples are Sicily v Lombardy, Andaluscia v Basque Country, Scottish Highlands v London, Corsica v Paris etc…. so we should stop beating ourselves up about not being as good as Germans in an economical sense, and instead just try to do the best we can with the resources we have.

          • adamabyss

            What was the name of that lady politician CitizenWhy? Political assassination seems odd in modern Germany.

        • CitizenWhy

          The US wants to weaken its currency to help boost exports. If the dollar rises the US is really in trouble. Europe has complained about the weak dollar because it dampens imports to the US. That is, a weak currency can be a big advantage. But especially so for developing countries such as Brazil and India.

  18. Joe Toes The Show :

    Wobble Wally Wonkers receives a Blow Torch.


    The Vassal of My Vassal is not my Vassal ‘…..

    ……………meaning to have no responsibility for that vassal that is not my vassal.Meaning that NAMA and IMF have no remit to sort out the bad bank loans of the ordinary electorate .

    We the Electorate with huge bank loans are not protected from the fall out of the incumbent Irish Government’.

    Even in a circus act there is a net to catch the fall ….under insurance and public health rule regulations.

  19. Malcolm McClure


  20. Dorothy Jones

    - ‘Like me, he emigrated in the 1990s and, like me, came back in 2000 to an Ireland which looked full of opportunity for us to raise our families. There were over 200,000 of us who came back.’…..‘For him and thousands of people like him, Ireland has become a large debtors’ prison with no payroll.’

    Just a thought on the above excerpt from David’s article from this emigrant who returned in 2000 and who also knows what it is like to experience loss of a job in the course of a working life:

    The Marshalsea DEBTORS’ PRISON provided the backdrop to Dickens’ Little Dorrit 1855 — 57.

    If one wants to look into the mirror to see Ireland in the last 10 years, this novel, for the most part, provides an uncanny, accurate, and poignant, picture of just exactly what has happened here, as particularly well depicted in the following:


    The villain of the piece: arch-SWINDLER, Merdle, is described thus:

    ‘Mr. Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a Midas without the ears, who turned all he touched to gold. He was in everything good, from banking to building. He was in Parliament, of course. He was in the City, necessarily. He was Chairman of this, Trustee of that, President of the other. The weightiest of men had said to projectors, “Now, what name have you got? Have you got Merdle?” And, the reply being in the negative, had said, “Then I won’t look at you.’

    Remind anyone of particular individuals closer to home? Perhaps even persons in leadership roles? The ‘Byzantine Web’, quote from Justice Kelly also comes to mind.


    ‘Numbers of men in every profession and trade would be blighted by his insolvency; old people who had been in easy circumstances all their lives would have no place for their repentance for their trust in him but the workhouse; legions of women and children would have their whole future desolated by this mighty scoundrel …’

    Note also that one of the main characters, Arthur Clennam, became incarcerated in the Marshalsea Prison because of personal debts resulting from his investments with Merdle. He was eventually saved by his old friend, a onetime struggling engineer by the name of Doyce. DOYCE HAD NOT INVESTED with Merdle but had sold a mechanical invention of his abroad [Russia, I think, interestingly] after being IGNORED AT HOME in his own country for years by the Circumlocution [patent] Office……

    Just a thought…..

    • adamabyss

      Good stuff Dorothy. I really love Dickens but haven’t read any of his work for years. Might try to get to this one during the summer.

      • Dorothy Jones

        I got it from my local library when I was doing some work on cases against developers and the NAMA legislation and before it was enacted. [I was saying 'No, No, No' but no-one listened]. It really struck a note with me, especially as I stopped reading novels in 2002.
        When you are finished your studying / papers, I suggest you give it a turn.

        • adamabyss

          Yes, I stopped reading novels myself a few years ago. Too much real stuff to read, although you wonder how much of it is superfluous in the invasive information age. There are a lot of excellent lessons to be learned from Dickens.

    • coldblow

      Reminds me I must dig out my copy of David Copperfield. One fo the best starts to a novel I’ve ever read (the beginning Return of the Native is also superb) but failed to keep it up. You can reach truths and get insights from novels that you can’t get anywhere else.

  21. Deco

    David – I think it is far to say that even the coldest and most clinical of us feel for you freind, and his predicament. This is what happens when ordinary decent hard working people try to survive in a society where deceit is rampant. And I mean this concerning the way that business is done in Ireland. To buy in 2005 is a disaster, regardless of how small the house is.

    The way for ordinary people to survive is to be extremely sceptical of everything official and mainstream that gets circulated in public, and that the media gets paid to circulate.

    This morning we had the Pravda of Economic forecasting telling us that they expect “50,000″ people “to leave” each year. An amazing turnaround considering previous forecasts. I have a suggestion. Sell the ESRI, and spend the money on retraining unemployed construction sector workers.

    We also have Paul Gogarty making a donkey of himself again. Gogarty was OK with NAMA, the bailout that was a loan, the digout for Ditherer that became a loan, Anglo, Nepoto, and even Drury’s Glen. But when he is not consulted concerning resigning FF ministers, he starts throwing the toys out of the pram. Go-go Gogarty. Actually, on reflection, it is clear that Gogarty is playing pre-election stunts.

    Earlier in the week, I seen a debate on Frontline consisting of the candidates for the Dun Laoghaire constituency minus GimmeMore (who is a difficult man to pin down). It reminded me once again of what a game the entire political process has become. I gave my analysis of this the last day. I don’t expect an improvement after the next election. In any case you end up with a new mix of proxies for IBEC and ICTU running the country.

    Yesterday, we were reminded of who really calls the shots. Joe Higgins MEP (I am not a supporter of his ideological stance, but he does have the courage to state the obvious when the others seem to be squirming) laid it out in the EuroParlaiment. And Barrosso then went on the attack, without actually addressing the issues that Higgins made.

    On top of this we have the front page of the Indo telling us about the severance packages being made available to resigning ministers.

    Well, presumably your freind would give his right hand for overtime, or Saturday work – or for a chance for his wife to work part-time. And his wife might even be one of the thousands of mature applications trying to get back into college in the CAO again. If they are living in Dublin they are more fortunate, as transport to college is an options, in addition to a wider array of courses. In large parts of the country, the bill for getting to college (thanks to all the carbon levies which are supposed to be for our own good) would be much more – and would make looking after children more difficult.

    Well, we are all in various predicaments. And we are meeting people every day with various predicaments. The best we can do is to offer encoruagement, and a listening, unjudgemental ear. And then battle on each one at their own individual station.

    If we do not have a way, we each must make one. This is a test of everybody’s resourcefulness. I was told of a man he met who was laid off from the construction sector last year, who put his savings into a course, and who has just started working on a oil rig for the next six months on a contract. That is how people are coping. Well it is a fortunate story in a way. He did his own research, and chose not to rely on FAS or any of the other quangoes. Of course single males can be more flexible in many regards concerning the labour market. The state has proven to be completely incapable, and the Frontline program in DL the other night is proof, that we cannot expect anything serious for a long time there. We have opportunists who know nothing about economics, and nothing about the private sector labour market queueing up to get (or keep) their snouts in the trough.

    The fact is, the labour market in ten years time will be even tougher than it is now. That is where the long term trend is leading. And the individuals that make up this society must adapt, and must conserve the gains – and not blow them like has occurred since the early 1990s. To survive, requires a completely different mindset from that which predominated in the West since the 1960s. It is just that we have been told everything but that, for the sake of “our advertising sponsors”.

    • There are people with masters degrees working in bars Deco. An education is useful but it does not guarantee a lifetime of gainful employment. A vocational course with practical project work that also offers a paper qualification is more useful than say a paper qualification alone in something like Philosophy

      At the moment IT recruiters are claiming that there is a severe shortage of people who can do practical things with Computer Technology but often they ask people for CVs and never contact them again. For job candidates this is soul destroying so the next logical step for them is to look into the possibility of creating their own work

      After redundancy the reaction most people have is panic followed the question: will I ever find another job. This usually means any job at all as long as it is a job but this is not making the most of your talents and abilities. It is not a recipe for personal happiness either as most jobs lose their novelty value after a while. Most people would rather do something they like and there is no reason why they can’t. It might take five years of research, soul searching and practice but it can be done

      This is the age of the freelancer, as DMcW wrote some time back and there is an answer there because there are always opportunities for adaptable people who have practical skills which they can trade on. Having experienced unemployment I know that if you look deep within you find talents and skills you never knew you had. It is hard work but it can be character building too because there comes a time when you realise that your old ways of thinking are getting you nowhere fast

      If you do things that motivate you and become excellent at them then you have something which acts as your lifetime vocation and you double your chances of success because there will be both self employment opportunities as well as regular job openings. A person can set themselves free and achive the type of life they aspire to as long as they keep their dreams modest and achievable

      Accept that your life has not turned out the way you expected

      Keep the finances under control and avoid debt

      Do your own thinking and learn to like yourself

      Find your motivations and work on excelling at them

      Be confident that everything will work out fine

      • I listened to Olivia O’Leary on the Late Late Show and she displayed a clarity of thinking that made me sit up and listen. She is very smart, well traveled and I hope we see and hear more of her. You don’t get to become a senior presenter on Newsnight by not being the brightest

        O’Leary put forward the theory that Ireland missed a step in it’s development because we went straight from British domination to domination by the church – two powers that had plenty to fear from an educated population

        She basically said that Irish kids need to be taught how to think while they are still in school being ‘educated’ and that they need to think critically and learn how to trust their own judgement. The system would never allow this of course so we will just need to share the wisdom among ourselves in snugs like this

        Young people need to be encouraged to find out what makes them tick and how to productively explore their interests and motivations. Now that the country is being overrun with out of control teenagers we are seeing the effects of a useless education system which turns out so many youngsters who feel they have no future. The rot is spreading like a rash and action is needed now if we are to save the soul of this country. We are better than this

        If we were really radical we could take over the ghost estates and get those youngsters from school who want to be tradespeople out working one day a week where they would be taught trade skills by all the skilled men who are now languishing on the dole. Such an initiative could be community based, by the community and for the community rather than the property maniacs. Self employed tradesmen might not think it is a good idea but it is time to put the country first – a project to help fix Ireland and give us back some sense of pride

        Only one problem – we have no cash. Well we could pay the youngsters for their work in vouchers for educational materials, tools etc or we could give them vouchers for somewhere like amazon where they could buy books or anything else for that matter. The men could be given extra cash on top of any benefits they are getting to help offset the effects of the budget cuts. Its just an idea and I know people will think I have lost my marbles but that is a small price to pay for suggesting a solution that might do a lot of people some good

        Here in Sligo some of us have signed up for a voluntary project to provide a basic household fix and repair service for older people living in the community who are not capable of doing these jobs for themselves. There is never any shortage of volunteers in Sligo and this tells me that there are plenty of decent people in Ireland who do care about society. The project can only get the go ahead if enough volunteers sign up but I know for a fact that this will not be a problem. See? all is not as doom and gloom as some people choose to think it is

        They say that the worst of times can bring out the best in people but it can also bring out the worst. After the Clydebank Blitz the authorities were attempting to evacuate the young and find houses for them. Some people living in the posh areas were more interested in taking in the pets rather than the poor kids who had just been through screaming bloody hell. They also say that there is nowt as queer as folk :-(

  22. Deco

    By the way – a lot of people are opting to go to Canada or Australia. These are both economies that are in bubble phases, dependent on construction booms that will end when the financing system is overleveraged, or when there is excess capacity in the real estate sectors. Therefore my advice to those going there would be evaluate the medium term employment prospects. Going there for three months work is not justifiable. People – do your research – and get as many vocational qualifications as possible in advance, as you might have to make yourselves very flexible.

    A fall in the Aussie dollar, might also be a problem in the even of China’s bubble demand for Iron ore and coal coming off the rails. David McW warned you to be prepared for a crash here. You should know the strong inevitability of the same coming to Australia, and prepare accordingly !!!

  23. Deco

    Full marks to Paul Somerville. He will presumably be taking a similar policy line to Senator Shane Ross. He is running in a four seater with against big well oiled party machines.

    David – in Dun L’re – Gilmore(ILP), Barrett (FG) and either Andrews or RBB will get elected on the basis of party machine strength. There is an opening for a non-party candidate. RBB is going for ILP/FF voters and represents a threat to Andrews and Bacik. But a non-party Independent could get a high first preference vote, across the board, before voters start reverting to party loyalty.

    There is also the option of going for a high unemployment level constituency like Waterford, Limerick, or in the Midlands… or a multiseat commuter belt constituency like Kildare North (though you might need to check with Brian Lucey), Wicklow, Wexford (check with Peter Matthews) purely on the economic policy ticket. You might be surprised at the results. Bear in mind in the 1917 election, candidates got elected for constituencies where they had no connection – purely based on their position on national policy issues. (We were more advanced back then that we are now….)

  24. Gege Le Beau

    “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” ~ Kenneth Boulding, economist

    • Deco

      Where would that place the cheif economist in the BoI ?

      • Gege Le Beau

        Well you know the old story Deco about the partition of India and Pakistan?

        There was an asylum located right on the new frontier between the two countries.

        An Indian officer was despatched to the institution, and upon arrival discovered that one wing of the building was located in India and the other wing in Pakistan.

        He gathered all the patients in the reception area and said: “ladies and gentlemen, today is a momentuous day for the New India, if you would like to be part of that bright future please step into the Eastern Wing of this building, if however you would like to be a citizen of Pakistan then please proceed to the Western Wing”…….

        The patients wondered who was more mad………..

  25. coldblow


    At the end of the “Pope’s Children” there is an expectation (or hope) that the returned emigrants would bring all the skills and experience acquired abroad to bear on transforming this closed shop of a country.

    How do you see it now? Do you get the impression that the numbers are there and the ability? And if so, do they still form a consituency for change (and have not been re-assimilated by now into the old ways of doing things)?

  26. irishminx

    I came across this a while ago and it is really brilliant. I think people are amazing. Have a look.


      • irishminx


        David, some of the stories I hear are worse. A lot of people have 3 mortgages or re-mortgaged twice or three times, that’s how irresponsible some of the banks were.

        Some of these re-mortgaged properties were once local authority housing. I make this point only to show how irresponsible the banks were.

        There is very real pain, suffering and stress being felt right across Irish society.

        If a person goes for a mortgage supplement they only get interest relief on the first mortgage and they pay the first €24 themselves. They are not being helped with the re-mortgages!!

        These are tough times for people and what I find horrific is that the Irish Government, no matter which party, they haven’t a clue that people are suffering, they, in my opinion, have lost empathy and compassion for those they claim to represent!!

        This too is tragic!

          • Malcolm McClure

            irishminx: Excellent link about groupthink thanks. It develops the concept of loyalty in a new direction that is very well expressed here. Once it becomes established in an organization of whatever colour, anyone who resists the consensus view, or raises questions about it, gets excommunicated. ‘Not one of us’ mentality rules.
            What Ireland need in this election is a Dail comprised entirely of well-educated, outward-looking, independent TDs who have had international exposure. Surely we can find a hundred candidates with these qualifications. That number should be sufficient to return Ireland to well deserved prosperity in a couple of years.

          • irishminx


            Malcolm, If Cowen does have a drink problem, see above link, aligned with “groupthink”, it explains his arrogance and ill-fated superiority! I think Cowen is mentally ill, his behaviour has certainly been mental.

            I don’t want any of the old members of Government in a new Dail, I am only one though!

            I’d like a compassionate revolution in Ireland.

          • Interesting link but groupthink misses an important factor. There are groups within groups and a very small group can manipulate a very large group.

            To understand this, you should read the following def.


            The small group within FF were reinforced by cronyism through an extended group in the DoF, NTMA, and a circle of bankers and developers and other cronies. This was the plutarchy.

            Worked well during the tiger bubble, but the idea there was any form of consensus building grass root
            in FF is itself a delusion.

            Most of the sods had as little input into the formation of policy as your ordinary Joe on the street. A small group at the top of FF led delusional thinking and fed it to the party faithful below.

            Falsehood was to challenge delusions that were seen to be making a lot of money. Not many foresaw houses were being built on sand.

            Another delusion that weakened this grip on power was the plain lack of skill of the financial elite that ran the mess.

            The epitomy of this was the emergence of delusional and failed nonsense from financial hangers on paid to attack those who had sound advice.

            The plutarchy fed out the propaganda to the FF machine which turned it into consensus by the groupthink party machine feeding propaganda from the top.

            Example of the propaganda:

            Bertie Ahern 04/07/04
            Irish Prime Minister

            “‘Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don’t know how people who engage in that don’t commit suicide because frankly the only thing that motivates me is being able to actively change something,’”


          • Malcolm McClure

            irishminx: Firstly, Its amazing how Twitter can be streets ahead of the media on the Big Stories. Still, you earned brownie points for spotting that. :)
            Secondly, I suspect drink is only a symptom of the problem. Is it possible that Biffo were somebody’s puppet, who stays ‘clean’ on everything else? The question then becomes: ‘Who had been pulling his strings? ‘ Carrot? Stick?

        • irishminx


          Addiction is generally a symptom of other issues within a body.

          Maybe Cowen is being scapegoated?!? If so, where are his courage and morals to do the right thing?!? By our deeds we are known.

          Then what does Cowen gain by allowing “somebody” else to pull his public strings?!?

          Reality is always stranger than fiction! :)

          • Malcolm McClure

            My guess is a year off to recharge his batteries, then director of Carlyle group or somesuch, … the John Major ploy after Black Wednesday and Sleaze rubbished the Conservative party for 13 years.

  27. Dorothy Jones

    General Election 11 March?

  28. Deco

    What is the problem with the GP ?

    They did not want to see any of Ditherers cronies being replaced with new people in the Ministerial posts. Even if it was for only a few days it might make an improvement. Now we have rotating government ministers. This is an even bigger farce than the debacle this morning.

    Are they a bunch of control freaks ? I get the opinion that we are back in “the tail wags the dog territory” again.

    This the final gift of the GP to the Irish people – along with a Climate Change Bill that is all about optics and “sending the right signal”. Muppets !!!

  29. Deco

    I was told that the ILP wanted an election as soon as possible to prevent the only useful peice of legislation from the GP in four years – which related to political funding. It has been shelved numerous times.

    The GP proposal prevents SIPTU providing slush funds for ILP electioneering. The bit that prevented political parties from taking money from unions was a big issue for GimmeMore….they are livid at the thought that the GP would think of such a thing.

    • Gege Le Beau

      Deco, I know you are no fan, I too have my reservations, but lets get real, they are going to be in government and surely won’t do the kind of damage FF and the PDs have done.

      This is a more savy Labour party that is trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible to ensure it gets its numbers up, no seats, no role in decision-making, shaping policy.

      • Deco

        Well actually, I don’t think that it was the PDs that did the damage – though Harney was a waste of space. More actually a case that IBEC did the damage – and let the PDs take the flack.

        IBEC….they have not gone away you know…..

        This is the same bunch of ILP wasters who were in power from 1993 to 1997, flying the government jet to Poland for Joan Burton to do the shopping, appointing pals into quangoes (Michael D.Higgins), advertising state jobs in internal party publications (De Rossa, Gilmore Rabitte). Same collection of muppets, who seem to think that we are stupid and desperate enough to forget.

        • Gege Le Beau

          I am a little too young to remember those governments (1990s) in any detail, too busy trying to get through exams, so thanks for the heads-up.

          Apparently Gilmore felt the need to wish retiring ministers all the best, a bit like Dev expressing his condolences on the death of Hitler, political faux pas…….seems all buddy, buddy, where is the rage, the effort to finish them off.

  30. Pedro Nunez

    ya its shameless,
    and these ‘jobs for the boys’ health service managers respond to assertation of proper governance or the correct way of doing things is by bullying and personal manipulative criticism and attack because that’s the culture, a culture of gombeenism and inadequacy.

    Nil aon gombeen mar do gombeen fein, ‘four legs good tow legs bad’!

    • Dorothy Jones

      But….it’s not finished yet. Apparently the Green Party is to hold a conference now to ‘explain events’ if the thread on poltics.ie is correct. Also rumours continue to grow apace on broadsheet.ie that our host is to throw his hat in the ring…….

      • Deco

        Like the fact that the GP prefer to have rotating ministers. The time for the GP to “explain events” when Gormless stood beside the Ditherer on the steps of Government Buildings, when Ditherer announced that he was resigning as Taoiseach. Instead of deciding to “explain events” Gormless was like as if he was at a funeral..

        No need to explain. Just get out of the way and stop the nonsense.

  31. stiofanc02

    I think it is unimaginable that David would want to be a politician, I think he will do us a far better service away from the political arena. Doesnt seem to be more than a vicious rumor to me.


      Looking like he is going to annonce that he is going to run for election in Dun Laoighre. Will he last longer than George Lee? Think he will find it very hard to effect change from an independent stance. All these politicians are like Mafia and it will be hard for him to infiltrate the system. They will block him at every turn. Think he will become disillusioned with it very quick but anyway good luck to him and I hope he tops the poll.

      Would have been better off going this route>>>

    • Ask yourself this:

      Why would someone who is so against the banking system be over in Davos mixing it with the sharks?

      Anomaly = Alarm bells

      You need to be strong to be incorruptible and DmcW is not strong enough for this in my opinion. Sommerville is. I hope.

      DmcW is a great writer and documentary maker and that is why I like him. I hope he sticks to what he is good at because I reckon politics could be the ruining of him. I think some people want to use him for their own agendas

      Maybe I am wrong but you never can tell what is going on in the dirty waters of political life

  32. ex_pat_northerner

    You couldn’t make it up. Left hand not knowing what right hands doing. And now Conor Lenihan calling on taoiseach to resign. Well at least the effing effers have set a date. FF will still get a seat in most constituencies so approx 40 seats. They have a hardcore support which ultimately believes that they are the rightful heirs to Ireland – its in their bloody name – soldiers of destiny. Even in opposition they always had this belief that because they were the biggest party they deserved to be in government. It will be interesting to study the transfer of votes in this election and see where they go.. will SF crack the transfer market. Thats been their big undoing. Will people vote tactically to try and stick it to FF and Greens ?

    On the subject of David running, I would advise against it. I don’t know if the Irish constitution allows like the British one, where a cabinet minister without portfolio can be brought on board, but that would be the ideal position.
    If not then stay out of the vipers nest. By the end of 5 years you’ll have a well worn funeral coat and an intimate knowledge of planning regulations but will have forgotten why you ever took the job in the first place.

    Whichever party gets in, the biggest problem will be state quangos and Berties appointees in the positions of power…as he said himself he appointed them because they were his friends.

    On the subject of the article, the science exhibition would make you proud.. some great ideas. How many people will leave the country though .. 100000 in last 2 years according to the news (or is it in next two years) 1000 a week. As someone who emigrated and returned (albeit to the North) I see one major problem with which the Irish treat the diaspora and their children/grandchildren. The plastic paddy taunt. (not old enough to watch Houghton in 1988 or 1994 I bet)..but I have hope that there’s enough returned emigrants to push for a better Ireland. Some bemoan the tiger, but it has brought some openness into Irish society..maybe the outsiders are growing in confidence. May the election bring more confidence, and may it be directed wisely by those who hold power after Mar 11th.

  33. Black Cat

    I was just at politics.ie – I know its a bad vibe but curiosity makes me have a look sometime and this guy was anitcipating with pleasure that Ireland will have a sovereign default and the so called wasters will go to get their dole and there won’t be any money for them – seriously though what will happen if we default – can we expect the four horsemen of the apocolopyse and plague and famine like this guy is implying – how will the country continue to tick over?

  34. Pedro Nunez

    Join up with the Guardian of ‘Moral ha(p)azard in Europe, Portugal’s profligacy and lack of enterprise economy is the architect of its problems also

    All Irish shoud be his friend


    • Deco

      The comment that Barroso made about himself “Jose Manuel Barroso is a great diplomat” is a pile of —– (rhymes with oversight)…

      He is running the EU like he was running Portugal.

      Does this mean that Portugal is also responsible for it’s mess (including his mates in the Portuguese Parlaiment).

      Sounds to me that Barroso is trying to cover his ass…

      Good on Joe Higgins for calling it as it is !!!

  35. The recovery should reach down to those suffering the most. Arguably those suffering most are those on high mortgages they can no longer pay back.

    Non recourse loans is one solution but the family get to lose their home and this is unfair.

    We need creative ways to ensure families do not lose their homes. Here’s a few ideas:

    Negotiate the buyout of the 70,000 homes facing arrears with the banks and cut a deal with the banks at a heavy bulk discount. This would be funded by a debt free Recovery Programme for Arrears (call it what you like) operated through a lending bank, see below.

    The bulk scheme could set up a CDO, Collateralized Debt Obligation type fund through the IFSC if creativity was required. But for arguments sake here, lets just consider it as a large fund administered by a bank, even a new lending bank set up anew to manage it.

    Now negotiate a rental purchase scheme with property owners based on ability to pay. If the person is unable to pay, so be it, payments can be deferred, but proof of inability to pay must be provided.

    People pay rent with rent going into the fund gets invested and the fund grows with profits ploughed back to lessen the repayment burdens. If they leave the house, they lose the portion set against the full ownership of the house. The house reverts to the bank who can sell it on the open market.

    These payments could form the basis of a counterpart fund that would eventually pay off the debt free Recovery Programme.

    There are smarter people with better knowledge of mortgage housing industry about who I’m sure can come up with variants on the above, or better ideas. I’m certain its possible to do so.

    Beyond the issue of mortgage arrears, we need a proper recovery programme for Ireland, but it must include apportioning money into a scheme such as above to help young Irish family men and women and their children in mortgage arrears.

    Another approach taking the loss of the buyers reduced circumstances and arrears: If the loan was given based on 30% of income, the repayments reduce to 30% of the reduced income due to loss of employment or whatever. They balloon again hopefully when employment prospects improve. But the families gain an amnesty of sorts. Interest payments are frozen to take this into account so arrears can’t multiply exponentially.

    Here’s a national recovery plan that worked – we have one that doesn’t work. We need one that does and we need to debate solutions around these.



    The Organization for European Economic Cooperation took the leading role in allocating funds, and the ECA arranged for the transfer of the goods. The American supplier was paid in dollars, which were credited against the appropriate European Recovery Program funds. The European recipient, however, was not given the goods as a gift, but had to pay for them (though not necessarily at once; on credit, etc.) in local currency, which was then deposited by the government in a counterpart fund. This money, in turn, could be used by the ERP countries for further investment projects.
    Most of the participating ERP governments were aware from the beginning that they would never have to return the counterpart fund money to the U.S.; it was eventually absorbed into their national budgets and “disappeared”. Originally the total American aid to Germany (in contrast to grants given to other countries in Europe) had to be repaid. But under the London debts agreement of 1953, the repayable amount was reduced to about $1 billion. Aid granted after July 1, 1951 amounted to around $270 million, of which Germany had to repay $17 million to the Washington Export-Import Bank of the United States. In reality, Germany did not know until 1953 exactly how much money it would have to pay back to the U.S., and insisted money was given out only in the form of interest-bearing loans–a revolving system ensuring the funds would grow rather than shrink. A lending bank was charged with overseeing the program. European Recovery Program loans were mostly used to support small- and medium-sized businesses. Germany paid the U.S. back in installments (the last cheque was handed over in June 1971). However, the money was not paid from the ERP fund, but from the central government budget.[citation needed]“

    • CitizenWhy

      Excellent comment. I was once aware of how this German aid worked but had forgotten about it. Of course the American motivation was to make Germany a bulwark against the Soviet Union, and to prove that “consumer democracy” could work in Europe too. In the US, government and business were so scared of the Soviet alternative that they cooperated in creating what they called “consumer democracy,” which equated capitalism with democracy and worked hard to prove that the capitalist USA and its allies could provide a far better material standard of living for its citizens than the Soviet “worker’s paradise” of communism.

      Now that the Soviet alternative is dead, corporate America has grown more right wing, advancing the notion of meritocracy, which means that the cream rises to the top and gets highly rewarded. It also means that those who are poor or financially insecure have brought it on themselves, and cannot be helped. There is no effort to raise the wages of labor, and unions are constantly under attack and in decline.

      In fact middle class relative incomes have steadily declined in the US, the income shortfall made up by parents with two jobs and by borrowing (credit cards). Consumer democracy has been narrowed to a smaller segment of the US population But it extends to enough of the population to assure political stability, that is, no effective politics from the left.

  36. Censorship of the Week
    - Award goes to RTE Pravda

    At the wrap up of Brian Cowens interview on Six One News tonight with Brian Dobson, Cowen distinctly let it slip that the new appointments could have served their remaining eight months! Yes I’ll repeat that – serve their full eight months! It was just a slip and I said to the wife – Did he just say that? Eight Months? So we rewound on the old Sky Box and yes he did let slip 8 months! So tonight I go to the RTE Player to pull up tonights Six one News and guess what? Somewhere between 38mins and 40mins it’s stuck. It works fine before and fine after but just not at the point where Cowen absolutely said Eight months?
    Did anyone else catch the slip?
    Spooky or what?

    • Well spotted Paul. I copped it too.
      I am not surprised that it was censored.

    • Paul, well spotted, and you’ve written here about it. Take it further, email:


      For information on the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, please contact one of the Authority’s staff by e-mail, info@bai.ie, or by phone, 01 644 1280.

      OT regarding Clowen’s shenanigans, I blogged about the delusional and fantasy descent of Cowen in my small blog here,http://colmbrazel.wordpress.com/

      This was written even before yesterday’s invention by Cowen of ‘Ministers Musical Chairs for Government Ministers’, a game he hopes will be copied by cabinets worldwide. Has to be played with a minimum of 6 ministers participating.

      Some argue this could be his rumoured epic ‘Kiss of Death’ for citizens game, the view is this could be a bigger one he’s working on that will even surpass his NAMA(Not Another Mess Again) or his EU/IMF Chopper bailout games….or his Support Anglo Banking game …or his Urban Estates for Rural Villages game, selling well in Ethiopia and especially now in newly independent Southern Sudan

      Citizens getting phone calls in the middle of the night offering them ministerial positions should politely ignore them:)

      • Hi Colm

        You can’t send an email to a web site address.

        I checked the site and it seems you need to download a complaint form, print it, fill it in and send it to them. Yawn

        The process is obstructive and busy people don’t have time for snail mail. These people really are something. We have all these instant communications tools yet are expected to use methods of communication that went out with the ark

        I will check again in case I missed something on their site

      • Hi Colm and Paul,
        Yes the BCC site is a minefield. – I was going to complain them to RTE!
        Anyway I worked it out. I downloaded the form at the base of which it gave the address complaints@bcc.ie So I filled it out and sent it off. Of course I expect to hear nothing because my complaint was about unfair censorship which probably doesn’t fall directly under one of their civil service classification of grounds for complaint. Also the RTE Player will only have that program up for 7 days at most and it wouldn’t surprise me if the whole thing’s gone by the weekend. Something similar happened when Pat Kenny was verbally abused (rightly) on The Frontline. It wasn’t kept up on the player for the full seven days.
        The Junta is dead! Long live the Junta!

    • Yep!

      I saw the very same!

      Then again, I am not astonished anymore. the only difference between Tunisia and ireland is that the bastard in Tunisia had to flee the country with 75 million in Gold, welcomed in the Kingdom of course.

      Here, they do not have to flee, they cash in for the rest of their life obscene sums for retirement.

    • Paul @ Pauldiv,

      That site url I gave is for the BBC complaints procedures. I gave as a reference, also because it gave the tel and email address for complaints regarding RTE.

      I looked into the Player recording and confirm it gets stuck around 38min on Chrome. But this is a problem not of censorship, but of Chrome. Open the Player in IE and you can watch it in full.


      At around 46.33 he makes the point ‘slip of the tongue’ “they can remain to serve for the remaining eight months”. I’ve made a recording of it. One free programme you can use to do the same and record it, but verify its picking up audio is http://camstudio.org/

      • Thanks for that!
        In my experience what’s said the least is what’s meant the most! The comment “they can remain to serve for the remaining eight months”??? You have to admit that collecting and accepting the resignations of so many Ministers is more than just a tad suspicious? I am convinced the weasel had a so called cunning plan until the Greens went and cocked it up? – And when I say a cunning plan I don’t mean one in the national interest – I mean one of a much higher priority than that – That of FF and the Cowen legacy! I suspect Mrs. Cowen is gonna be well pissed off?

    • Deco

      Yeah, Mike Shedlock is an advocate of letting the finance capitalist sector taking all of the reponsibility for lending to wayward banks, governments, and municipalities.

      But he does not matter. The grown up Spoiled Brat Revolutionaries are in charge in Europe, and they know which way their bread are buttered. They obey the lobbyists, and the banks.

      Call it a bailout for reckless, stupid, enthusiastic careerists. That is in reference to both Brussels and the banks.

  37. John-Paul O'Driscoll

    With the first gasp of fresh air inhaled by all, with the Election set for March 11, relief, from utter despair, and hope, that wisdom will replace the madness of the past two years, are now possible. I hope voters will to people like David McWilliams to install the vital wisdom, compassion, and neck that will be needed in Leinster House and Merrion Street.

    It seems that David has already campaigned or presented his views, principles, morals, and credentials to Ireland in his editorials, documentaries, and in ‘Outsiders,’ performed recently across the country in towns and cities. If there was weakness, illusion, deception, or flaws in what he said or wrote, his audience would know it. I hope he will be on the ballot somewhere, but I cannot think of a party that shares his view of the world or of his fellow countrymen. Do you?

  38. Gege Le Beau

    Possibly one of the strongest articles ever written against a politician features in today’s Irish Independent, p.27 in print edition or

    While John Allen should check out Kevin Myers’ article on p. 29 entitled: Falling Victim to the Dark Side of the Moon

    While a politicial kite is being flown in relation to David McWilliams over at the Irish Times

    • adamabyss

      Myers’ piece reads like something by Lovecraft or Poe.

    • Gege – we now have a new factor of production ( in economics ) and that is ‘moon wobble’.
      We have seen so much in this wobble and experienced so much of it through this blog the experience is no longer lost in translation anymore .The Irish language is imbued with coded constellations unlike our ‘common law tongue’ .We need to explore that more and derive further codes to the mysteries of life as we now know it .
      What is relevant Now is the how the moon twisted her face as she looked inwards away from us yesterday and the secrets she took to be no more and the fall from grace she discarded before she did that .
      And we thought we knew it all !!!

    • Good links Gege. Interesting times indeed for Ireland.

      A bar room brawler Taoisigh who has lost his mind.
      Disenchanted middle classes holding meetings in secret.
      The rise of the left.

      Many agendas at work all plotting and planning.

      Better to watch and learn from a distance than get pulled down into the sewer I think.

      • Gege Le Beau

        @ pauldiv

        Zen Story: Cause and effect

        There lived an old farmer who had worked on his fields for many, many years. One day, his horse bolted away. His neighbors dropped in to commiserate with him. “What awful luck,” they tut-tutted sympathetically, to which the farmer only replied, “We’ll see.”

        Next morning, to everyone’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How amazing is that!” they exclaimed in excitement. The old man replied, “We’ll see.”

        A day later, the farmer’s son tried to mount one of the wild horses. He was thrown on the ground and broke his leg. Once more, the neighbors came by to express their sympathies for this stroke of bad luck. “We’ll see,” said the farmer politely.

        The next day, the village had some visitors — military officers who had come with the purpose of drafting young men into the army. They passed over the farmer’s son, thanks to his broken leg. The neighbors patted the farmer on his back — how lucky he was to not have his son join the army! “We’ll see,” was all that the farmer said!

    • coldblow

      Another good piece by Myers. I happened to watch that Horizon programme too (‘What is Reality?’). I thought they said there were 60 quarks not 16. The biggest one is so rare that they have to smash particles together in an accelerator for years on end just to find one. The programme also mentioned experiments which only work when you have an observer (I can’t work out how they know they wouldn’t work without an observer). (Is there a separate discipline called quantum economics, where say debt only exists when you think about it, but disappears when you stop?) This opens an appalling vista: from the anthropic pricniple to intelligent design. Happily, the scientists have a way out of this: an infinite series (or should that be ‘suite’) of parallel universes. (Wonder what CitizenWhy’s rational Indians make of that one…) Is this the scientists’ Nama in the face of a materialist crisis?

      I’m afraid the last few days’ events have passed me by. The 6-1 Snooze was serving up ‘Dáíl drama’ yesterday so I switched it off. Could anyone explain (and CB’s “eight months” above while you are at it)?

      • Malcolm McClure

        Coldblow: Nice analogy between Irish debt and Schodinger’s Cat. Wish I’d thought of that. Of course the total debt is governed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Just when you thought you knew how much it was it had already changed.

      • Deco

        { The 6-1 Snooze }.

        Rolling with laughter. That is the best description yet.

        Pravda-RTE still have not discussed the involvement and career of the former News Editor and Chairman – Fintan “the fixer” Drury……Deafening silence.

      • @coldblow,

        re “and CB’s “eight months” above while you are at it”

        Simples, election is announced for Mar 11 because of Clowen’s failed efforts to install his set of six cronyStrokeThursday replacement ministers. His “eight months” as remaining term for these ministers is his Freudian slip evidence his real intention was to delay, delay, delay the election day until FF lived out its full term.

        I believe the Freudian slip shows Cowen actually planned to manipulate the public and the Greens into allowing him finish the full electoral term with his new ‘old team’. It was a political stroke that ended in disaster for him and FF.

        We shouldn’t lose sight of reality. DmcW above is serving up a dose of reality that lies under the words and figures, a guy in danger of losing his family’s home. Think of the family men at Dublin airport weeping as they say goodbye to family left behind, or people losing their jobs.

        Time magazine recently had that iconic Afghanistan photo of a soldier carrying a limp child in both hands. This was horrific enough, until you looked closer and saw the child’s foot and the kid’s ankle blown away…

        Clowen might be losing grip on reality, but for eg those people above, reality isn’t going away sOOn!
        Pity Clowen didn’t choose to fight for them instead of fighting for his bankers and developers and the crony interests of eFFers.

      • CitizenWhy

        The sub-atomic world of quarks, etc. IS another universe, not really having any effect on ours. But I especially like the experiment of Niels Bohr proving that light is made of both particles and waves, but not simultaneously, or at least not during the same observation. The rational Indian, if I dare speak for such a character, would probably agree with the metaphysical conclusion that Bohr advanced: “The opposite of one great truth is not falsity but another great truth.”

  39. Gege Le Beau

    Meanwhile courtesy of Oireachtas News

    “Barry Desmond, Dr.Maurice Manning and Dick Roche TD discussing ‘a more effective Dáil’ now at Leinster House seminar. Watch on-line”

    You couldn’t make it up!

  40. The world and Ireland is in a perilous financial state and we either get Chopra and IMF/EU colleagues and the banks to completely screw us, or we put people in government who have a grasp of what’s happening in the financial world, such as DmcW.

    For what it’s worth, here succinctly put by Steve Keen, are the issues our next government will have to deal with in managing our financial crisis IFC as well as our IFSC:

    (weekend reading nb)

    Steve Keen


    Interesting on Bernanke on Irving Fisher


    “Conversely, when deflation strikes, the real rate can be higher—much higher—than the nominal rate. This is why Fisher called his theory “the Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depression”—because debt on its own was nowhere near as dangerous as deflation. Considering the real debt servicing burden emphasises how much danger we are in now. The two big Depressions of the last one and a half centuries—the 1890s and the 1930s—had substantial deflation—with prices falling at up to 15 percent per annum in the 1890s, and over 10 percent per annum for two years during the Great Depression. That meant that even a low nominal rate of interest was a huge real rate.”


    “Marching ignorantly forward

    With such ignorance about the dynamics of debt, academic economists and Central Banks around the world are hoping that the crisis is behind them, even though the cause of it—excessive levels of private debt—has not been addressed. They are recommending winding back the government stimulus packages in the belief that the economy can now return to normal after the disturbance of the GFC.

    In fact “normal” for the last half century has been an unsustainable growth in debt, which has finally reached an apogee from which it will fall. As it falls—by an unwillingness to lend by bankers and to borrow by businesses and households, by deliberate debt reductions, by default and bankruptcy—aggregate demand will be reduced well below aggregate supply. The economy will therefore falter—and only regular government stimuli will revive it.

    This however will be a Zombie Capitalism: the private sector’s reductions in debt will counter the public sector’s attempts to stimulate the economy via debt-financed spending. Growth, if it occurs, will not be sufficiently high to prevent growing unemployment, and growth is likely to evaporate as soon as stimulus packages are removed.

    The only sensible course is to reduce the debt levels. As Michael Hudson argues, a simple dynamic is now being played out: debts that cannot be repaid, won’t be repaid. The only thing we have to do is work out how that should occur.

    Since the lending was irresponsibly extended by the financial sector to support Ponzi Schemes in shares and real estate, it is the lenders rather than the borrowers who should feel the pain—which is the exact opposite of the bailout mentality that dominates governments around the world.

    Unfortunately, it will take a sustained period of failures by conventional policy before unconventional policies, like deliberate debt reduction, will gain political traction. Implementing them will require both a dramatic change of mindset and probably also a widespread changing of the political guard.

    It will also require the breaking of the hegemony of neoclassical economics over economic thinking, but I doubt that the academic profession, or economists in Central Banks and Treasuries, are up to the task of changing their spots. Change in economics will have to come from the rebels, and from outsiders taking over a discipline that economists themselves have failed.

    The second decade of the 21st century promises to be a dramatic one, politically and economically.

    [1] Bernanke went on to develop his own interpretation of Fisher which I won’t bother with here because I don’t think it’s worth the effort.”

    Steve Keen

    Interesting on Bernanke


    “Conversely, when deflation strikes, the real rate can be higher—much higher—than the nominal rate. This is why Fisher called his theory “the Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depression”—because debt on its own was nowhere near as dangerous as deflation. Considering the real debt servicing burden emphasises how much danger we are in now. The two big Depressions of the last one and a half centuries—the 1890s and the 1930s—had substantial deflation—with prices falling at up to 15 percent per annum in the 1890s, and over 10 percent per annum for two years during the Great Depression. That meant that even a low nominal rate of interest was a huge real rate.”


    “Marching ignorantly forward

    With such ignorance about the dynamics of debt, academic economists and Central Banks around the world are hoping that the crisis is behind them, even though the cause of it—excessive levels of private debt—has not been addressed. They are recommending winding back the government stimulus packages in the belief that the economy can now return to normal after the disturbance of the GFC.

    In fact “normal” for the last half century has been an unsustainable growth in debt, which has finally reached an apogee from which it will fall. As it falls—by an unwillingness to lend by bankers and to borrow by businesses and households, by deliberate debt reductions, by default and bankruptcy—aggregate demand will be reduced well below aggregate supply. The economy will therefore falter—and only regular government stimuli will revive it.

    This however will be a Zombie Capitalism: the private sector’s reductions in debt will counter the public sector’s attempts to stimulate the economy via debt-financed spending. Growth, if it occurs, will not be sufficiently high to prevent growing unemployment, and growth is likely to evaporate as soon as stimulus packages are removed.

    The only sensible course is to reduce the debt levels. As Michael Hudson argues, a simple dynamic is now being played out: debts that cannot be repaid, won’t be repaid. The only thing we have to do is work out how that should occur.

    Since the lending was irresponsibly extended by the financial sector to support Ponzi Schemes in shares and real estate, it is the lenders rather than the borrowers who should feel the pain—which is the exact opposite of the bailout mentality that dominates governments around the world.

    Unfortunately, it will take a sustained period of failures by conventional policy before unconventional policies, like deliberate debt reduction, will gain political traction. Implementing them will require both a dramatic change of mindset and probably also a widespread changing of the political guard.

    It will also require the breaking of the hegemony of neoclassical economics over economic thinking, but I doubt that the academic profession, or economists in Central Banks and Treasuries, are up to the task of changing their spots. Change in economics will have to come from the rebels, and from outsiders taking over a discipline that economists themselves have failed.

    The second decade of the 21st century promises to be a dramatic one, politically and economically.

    [1] Bernanke went on to develop his own interpretation of Fisher which I won’t bother with here because I don’t think it’s worth the effort.”

  41. Dorothy Jones

    Well David, what does your friend think the utter disregard for the plight of irish people illustrated in Dail Eireann yesterday?

    …’Fevered representations began. In their distraction, the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party couldn’t care less who saw them. Astonished journalists crowded into the no-man’s land between that landing and the press gallery. They watched the unfolding drama from a few feet away. It was electrifying. Nobody went near the stricken politicians. For this was the moment when the party dropped all pretence of unity and cohesion. Discipline went out the window. Fianna Fáil was disintegrating in front of our eyes….’Miriam Lord, today’s Irish times.

    I could not believe that among all of the chaos there were scenes accompanied by racous laughter. As a citizen of this country and a taxpayer, I wish to say the following to those, from all parties and independents alike, who have contributed to events resulting in the sickening debacle yesterday:


    Hang your heads in shame, the lot of you.

  42. Many thousand of young Irish have left to foreign shores without any handouts or pensions and denied the right to vote abroad .They are disenfranchised and the new forgotten .They sit alone in corners of rooms wondering what happened and why they are where they are .They are lonely and broke and with little to feed themselves .They write home making up stories of how great things are and how the sun shines and their poor mothers know less and maybe it is better that it is that way.

    • adamabyss

      I hear you John, but one of the best things I ever did was leaving Ireland at the age of 17 in 1989. I did very little ruminating or sitting in corners. I couldn’t have cared less that I lost my vote by moving overseas, nor do I really care that I have got it back just because I am back in the country for a year or three now. The main reason I put my name on the register of electors recently was to prove the to social welfare office that I intended to stay here for a while (which is true). I wasn’t lonely overseas, I made loads of friends from all over the world. I worked my arse off in a myriad of jobs to make sure that I had enough to feed and water myself as well as anyone else who was lucky enough to be in my generous company. I met and married two lovely girls (one Hungarian and one Caribbean) and had a bevy load of lovely ladies (of all colours and creeds) before, in-between and after my more serious relationships. I did tell many a story of Ireland and wrote down a few too. I came back to visit as often as possible and plenty of family and friends came to visit me too in whatever corner of the globe I happened to be in. I lived in seven different countries and loved every minute of it. Now I’m back here now and it’s not bad. It’s true that there are a bunch of muppets in power and they have made a mess of the last ten + years of government but they are on the way out now and hopefully the next crowd will be somewhat better. People are hurting but the only way is up. I have a lot of faith in the ability of good people in this country to bounce back. I have a lovely three year old half-Irish (obviously) daughter, who lives in the States but I look forward to many happy years of showing her around this country (as well as many others). From my own point of view. I’m getting a great third-level education up at Maynooth, fully paid for by the state. I’m working my nuts off at it and just got superb results in my exams. I’m met many lovely and interesting people up at Maynooth, particularly my mate Jimmy (he’s probably reading this!), and when I’m finished my qualifications I look forward to getting a great job here and making a very positive contribution. 15 years (or less) from now, I’ll be back in the Caribbean, or somewhere warmer, but until then I’ll be doing my very best to make Ireland a better place for us all, but my point is that a lot of the positive vibes I feel are due to the fact that I got out of here at a young age and got to see a lot of the world and have been able to come back at will and share some of my experiences and well as still keeping a contact with here and not forgetting where I came from and who my first people were and are. But I’ve met great people everywhere and I wouldn’t try to persuade anyone not to go and see other places, people and cultures and especially, to live in them because that is the only way to really get to know somewhere, and their cultures and languages and wonderful diversities. I know emigration is not for every individual, but if you do go, then make sure you make the most of it, don’t forget where you came from and try to make a positive difference wherever you are, whether that be here or elsewhere. We can’t stay at home with our Mammies forever!

      • adamabyss

        Is anyone watching this crap on RTE1? About the Irish guy who goes to Jamaica with his Jamaican mate. He just said he wouldn’t have liked to grow up in Rose Hill – beautiful weather and gree trees and friendly people all over the place, lovely fresh air and food. Would he prefer Darndale then? The Jamaicans love to talk about how rough the place is – it’s all bravado. Most of the time the gangsters only shoot each other. 99% of the time you can lie down in the Ghettos in the Caribbean and no one will touch you. Especially if you have local mates. Just try that in Coolock. There is a massive propaganda machine in operation to suggest that Jamaica is a wrong a horrible place. Wrong! People are amazing, very welcoming and down to earth. Yes the murder rate is high in some parts of the cities but as I said, they are just killing each other. Normal people get left along by and large. Gary the Jamaican’s mate doesn’t seem that bright – perhaps not the best ambassador for the Irish abroad.

      • This is the way to look at life because there is a big wide world out there waiting to be discovered and only when you have traveled do you realise how huge it is

        If I was 21 again I would ramble to exotic countries and live the life the of a rover rather than be thinking about the goings on here. I would probably go to South America and the Caribbean now

        When I was young I wanted to live on the west coast of Ireland and I imagine this had something to do with genetic memory. Stop laughing I am serious you know!

        Anyway I did it and it was great and you are very right when you say that you need to live in a place to understand it’s culture and it’s ways. Only one problem – I still don’t understand Ireland and probably never will but I love the country all the same

  43. Philip

    The mask has well and truly fallen. I always said the FF would kill itself. Looks like an annihilation scenario Mar 11 or earlier.

    The mask is slipping in Europe as well. Joe Higgins has been laying into Barosso and Van Rumpuy and the rebuttal firmly placed issue at the Irish Institutional door fully siding with the European institutions. Barosso needs to watch his demeanour and realise that the recall of media very precise.

    We are witnessing the fall of the bumbling and overweight West as the dominant power. When the powers that be are more focused on their pensions and get out arrnagements than the future of what they are paid or care for, it is time to watch out.

    • Gege Le Beau

      Its going on all over the place, this just appeared on the Politics.ie website:


      Is it right that such a prominent FF supporter presents Late Late show?

      Has Ryan Tubridy ever resigned from Fianna Fáil? Can it be credible to have such a prominent member of the FF “family” presenting the State broadcaster’s “flagship” show?

      Tubridy was a member of Fianna Fáil while in UCD and was also in the Dun Laoghaire branch of Ógra Fianna Fáil. Two of his maternal uncles, Niall Andrews and David Andrews, were Fianna Fáil TDs.

      His brother stood unsuccessfully for FF in the 2009 local elections, bizarrely choosing to use graphics modeled on the Obama presidential campaign rather than the FF logo.

      Two of his first cousins, Barry Andrews and Chris Andrews are Fianna Fáil TDs. His grandfather, Todd Andrews, was a prominent associate of Fianna Fáil founder Éamon de Valera.”

    • coldblow

      All right, as nobody will tell me I spent (wasted) 20 mins reading up on it, but I still don’t get it. It’s a govt reshuffle. Why? It’s supposed to be an election stroke, so how does that work? Is it because a few FF candidates now have ministerial experience, or the constituency is now on the political map for favours, that’s supposed to influence things?

      But the bigger question is what’s all the fuss about? I’m getting the impression this is another Hand of Henri moment.

      • Gege Le Beau

        One report pointed out that Cowen alledgedly offered some of the FF boys posts in return for their vote in the motion of confidence farce and they in turn would get ‘positive’ publicity (more like the kiss of death, as one TD pointed out, ‘I might have some chance as surviving as a humble TD but if I arrived back a Minister I’d be stoned to death by my constituents).

        So get those who were going to go to resign early and then try to ram the promotions in over the heads of the Greens (presenting a ‘fait accompli’), however the Greens spiked the whole thing and called Biffo’s bluff, so he had to back down and double up ministries, which makes a mockery of those offices, of the Dail (for the manner in which it was handled, with Coughlan doing the ‘business as usual scene’ which FG and Labour spotted a mile away).

        Has to be the final nail in political coffin especially given another report which indicates that Cowen intends to lead FF into ‘the election and beyond’, which must surely be abusrd even by recent standards.

        • coldblow

          Thanks for the explanation, Gege. Not that big a deal I’d say, at least in comparison with track record of all concerned to date.

        • coldblow

          And what about the “eight months” mentioned above? Is tha the period required to qualify for a ministerial pension?

  44. paddythepig

    The net effect of introducing jingle mail for existing loans in Ireland will, give or take, have zero net effect on boosting the economy.

    Those who can walk away will indeed be the better for it. The debt won’t go away, and the bank will have to recoup it by raising it’s charges, and it’s interest rates. So others will end up carrying the can for the defaulter.

    Their former pain will just be spread around a bit more, and will be passed on even to those who are in negative equity, but who choose to soldier on and keep payments up.

    What about their extra burden?

    Incentivizing ‘trading down’ should be looked at very closely. In this scenario, David’s friend could trade down to a smaller gaff in a less affluent area, and have the bank reduce the loan by 50% of the NE, for example. The guy still has a house to live in, and has taken a hit in terms of his lifestyle expectations; he also owes less on his loan ; and someone who can afford the repayments gets his old gaff. This is much better than leaving someone in a house they can never afford.

    • The problem with that is negative equity and the fact the market is broken. You could have a very messy situation calculating the NE and you still end up having to reduce the loan. The guy and his family have to get a new market foothold from a house with negative equity and persuade a bank to lend them the money for a new house purchase. Too messy and complicated especially in a market of falling house prices of up to 5-15%/annum at best, or with emigration and repossessions rising a lot worse figures than that! But lots of suggestions like yours should be considered as there is a solution.

  45. Anybody know the total annual cost to taxpayers of current and past ministerial pensions calculated on an individual and a total basis?

    Not bad the €140,000/annum pension for ministers dropping out of the cabinet.

    OT..Joke…Brian Cowen was spotted in Ikea earlier today looking for his new cabinet…

    Last year we had Bertie, Enda and others offering to give up their ministerial pensions. Then Lenny Wrong’s budget leaves these pensions virtually intact!!!

    See this rather dated 2007 list, but notice the salary of the Norwegian PM, same population as Ireland


  46. Deco

    I still don’t know why anybody has not picked up on the stupidity of having half ministers in charge of departments. It is absolutely absurd. It is a fudge. These are serious responsibilities, and we have ministers who are fighting to save their seats juggling responsibilities in the background.

    Even more obscene is the pretenscious collection of wasters in the GP, who are lecturing the people continually concerning the GP being responsible, while they are required this stupidity from Cowen.

    RTE Snooze seems to ignore this very important issue.

  47. Deco

    Sumo Harney’s resignation passed with minor comment.

    Last year Nell McCafferty on Newstalk, commented one of the longest running rumours in Ireland. Harney threatened to sue McCafferty. And McCafferty was banned from Irish airwaves.

    Now just think about that.

    McCafferty was shipping contraceptives on the train in the 1960s, to the obvious annoyance of the Catholic Bishops. The Bishops did not however silence Nell.

    I have a theory. Harney is most loyal person in the cabinet with respect to IBEC. Basically, IBEC have their plant in the government. In return the media are applying a “hands off” approach to Harney.

    There was a rumour concerning Harney going on in December, and it eminated from D2. It was running all around the Civil Service. Then Harney went missing. We were told that officially she was on holiday. I made the point that I thought that Harney should resign. I made the point that she was not fit to hold the position that she held.

    Well, it seems in recent days, she has effectively come to the realization that she is not able to do the job.

    And so ends the career of a student politician, who has no experience of a career outside politics. She is a pet hate for the left. And she is IBEC’s set of ears at the table.

    I remember when she decided a fews year ago to declare war on God, at a time when she seemed to have an opinion on everything from wages to Hong Kong. Suddenly it dawned on me, with complete clarity, that Harney had lost the plot. And everything she did since has been proof.

    “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they make mad first” – well maybe not completely so…….figure it out…

    Support our (IBEC member) advertising sponsors !!!

    (Bring back Nell McCafferty – she had some important comments to provide….).

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