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Full banking inquiry a potential minefield could politicians rise above takling sides?

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World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

That was a sensational scoop in the Irish Independent on Monday. Newspapers love nothing better than unearthing secrets and all the better when it is a tape, especially one that is candid and self-incriminatory.

Viewed through the prism of today, there is little in the conversation between the two senior executives from Anglo Irish Bank that is surprising. That is knowing what we know now.

But it is clear that those within the failed Irish bank knew then what we only know now.

I heard people getting outraged on Joe Duffy’s show on Tuesday about the fact that the two fellows were cracking jokes. I actually have no issues with that. It was a private conversation between two colleagues. If you listen carefully to the tone and tenet of the conversation they both realised that the company was in the soup. It was a bit inappropriate, it was a bit of gallows humour. And if you excuse my contradiction of the previous sentence as I mix my metaphors, it wasn’t really a hanging offence. Ok, the laddish quote to the ‘Drummer’ (then chief executive David Drumm) and pulling a figure out of his ass was inappropriate. But it wasn’t that big of a deal.

What was really striking to me was that both knew that the game was up. In the last sentence of the transcript (which I urge you to read in full, it’s on the independent.ie site and also on the irishtimes.com site) there is an admission that the bank is a goner and can’t survive. One of the two is prescient when he says the only solution is for the bank to be broken up or be nationalised. It was as stark as that.

It’s clear from the gist of the conversation that both knew deep down that all of the other Irish banks were so reputationally damaged and  weakened (Bank of Ireland might be big here but was a ‘minnow’ in the bigger world) that they were in no position to buy Anglo and, indeed, were in trouble themselves.

What was also intriguing is that they also knew at the time that €7 billion was not enough. They said if the Central Bank was willing to cough up that amount of money it would have “skin in the game” and would cough up more. In other words, the Central Bank would have no choice but to invest much more (and we know the eventual figure came to a staggering €40 billion) in order to protect its initial investment of €7 billion.

The transcript, with its mixture of macho bravado and uncertainty, reads like the script of a David Mamet play (he’s the guy who wrote the seminal play and film Glengarry Glen Ross). There’s even a hilarious parody of the hapless financial regulator Patrick Neary. One of the two mimics Neary’s nervous search for reassurance as he was told that the Central Bank would have to stump up €7bn. Neary championed the now discredited light touch or principle-led regulation of the banks and was unaware that a crisis was about to befall Irish banks until caught in the headlights of the juggernaut bearing down on him.

There are two major political issues that arise from this disclosure. The first is how much of this knowledge was shared with the Government on the famous night of the guarantee in September 2008. All accounts of that fateful meeting seem to suggest that the problem was presented by the banks – including Anglo – as a liquidity problem but one that could fell all the banks if it was not sorted.

It’s clear that Anglo and others were economical with the verité as they obviously knew much more than they pretended and knew that the problems were graver and more systemic and – most probably – unrecoverable.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Only sure thing in politics is nothing stays the same

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Galway in the 1950’s – how different is this to today.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

In less than a month’s time we will witness a first in Irish politics – the first instance of a Government which rotates its Taoiseach half way through the term.

It was due to happen on December 15, but it has been pushed back to allow Micheál Martin have his last hurrah – a final Summit in Brussels.

Then Leo Varakdar will come back for his second go – and if the Government lasts a full term, Varadkar’s two stints in the job will use about amount to one full term of five years.

It’s not the first time that a shared Taoiseach has been floated. Dick Spring suggested it to John Bruton in 1994. There was talk of Eamon Gilmore doing it with Enda Kenny before the 2011 general election. Enda Kenny suggested it to Micheál Martin in 2016.

Now it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we will see it in the Irish political context – because the political landscape has altered irrevocably.

A majority of voters in Ireland identified with one tribe or another during most of the 20th century. Memories of the revolution and civil war were still fresh. The parties both represented different sections of society (although there were big swatches of common ground). Ireland was rural, isolated, Catholic, conservative. Even in the 1980s, the two big parties still pulled 80 per cent plus of the vote.

We have a WhatsApp group from my class in the Jes in the 1980s. One of the lads recently posted an aerial photography of Galway taken in the the late 1950s. The city of Galway was nothing more than small town.

Shantalla was a new estate on the far outskirts. There was no Cathedral. Taylor’s Hill was hitting open countryside once you got past St Mary’s Terrace. There were open fields leading from Sea Road down to the shore.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Tackling shadowy spectre of gambling at long last

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Salthill's entertainment hot spot of the 1960s and 70s, Seapoint.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The Salthill seafront was about a ten-minute walk from where we lived in Glenard when I was growing up. I can’t remember exactly when I started going to the amusement arcades but I was probably about 14.

At the time there were three or four along the so-called Golden Mile – Salthill Amusements near Western House; Claude Tofts casino in the middle of the drag, and the Silver Dollar, which was just before you turned for the Sacre Coeur Hotel. And then there was Seapoint.

The main attractions for us initially were the snooker tables upstairs in Salthill amusements, the roller disco on the Silver Dollar, and the teenage discos in the Captain’s Deck in Leisureland.

Mostly it was playing the video games – Space Invaders; Asteroids and Pacman. Yet no matter how absorbed you were with the games  you could not help noticing the other half of the arcade.

On that side there were battalions of one-armed bandits and poker machines. This was the early 1980s and I think it was about 10p a go. I think if you got one cherry on the right you won about 20p, and the amount of winnings went up especially if you got three bars in a row.

I’m not saying I never gambled on those machines. I did, although not too often. I remember having one big payout – I think it might have been £20. I was able to buy a ticket for the Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert in Seapoint.

It was July. Gino was actually number one in the charts that very week and all the Northerners were down in Salthill to escape the Orange marches.

We hung around the amusements a bit as teenagers. After a while, you began to recognise the regulars, the daily penitents. They would come in every afternoon and evening and spend hours sitting on a high school with a bucket of coins beside them, playing either the one-armed bandits or the poker machines.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

World’s politicians prefer cop-outs over COP-ins

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Michéal Martin...COP contributor.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

COP 27; it’s all the rage these days. Good cop? Bad cop? Fair cop? In actual fact, COP stands for Conference of Parties. It’s the United Nations Climate Change Conference; it more or less meets every year and involves most leaders of 197 nations peppered around the globe.

The talks focus on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), an agreement to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent human-generated interference to the world’s climate system.

So every year, leaders discuss and try to reach agreement on the best ways to limit – or reduce – global temperatures and to cut emissions from fossil fuels and from human industry and activity.

COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995. What’s happening in Egypt this week and next is the 27th meeting of world leaders on climate change.

I have attended two COPs: COP 15 in in 2009; and COP 21 in 2015.

COP 15 was held at the end of November and beginning of December in Copenhagen. I was added to the reporting ticket and booked my accommodation at the last minute. I managed to secure a room the size of a generous coffin (and it felt like one too) at the price of the Paris Ritz.

My biggest thrill there were seeing Barack Obama in the flesh as he passed by me in the hall – surrounded by a retinue of secret service agents. I also had the briefest of forgettable chats with Thom Yorke, the lead singer with Radiohead who has a huge interest in the issue.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

 

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