WSJ on Ireland

From yesterday, via Ronan Lyons in the comments… I wasn’t aware of it simply because the Wall Street Journal has a paywall so I rarely visit.

The Emerald Isle has high unemployment and one of Europe’s deepest budget deficits, and is taking some of Europe’s harshest austerity medicine. Economists, however, are starting to feel less dismal about Ireland’s prospects because of the unique nature of its export economy.

Exports account for more than 50% of Ireland’s gross domestic product, ahead of even Germany. And while many euro-zone countries’ exports go to their European neighbors, Ireland sends much of its chemicals, business services, technology and food to the U.S. and U.K. That maximizes the benefit of the falling euro, which has lost approximately 15% against the U.S. dollar and 8% against the British pound since the beginning of the year.

As Ronan notes, it contrasts with the NYT feature, also yesterday.

NAMA status

Earlier this year I appealed to the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information, arguing that the National Asset Management Agency was a public authority for the purposes of the European Environmental Information Regulations. The OCEI has sent me their preliminary view, were they agree with NAMA, that it is not a “public authority”.

Here is the letter. If any of you eagle eyed readers (or legal eagles amongst you) want to comment on the preliminary view, then please contact me or leave a comment. I have four weeks in which to reply before a binding decision is made.

OCEI NAMA preliminary

Department of Foreign Affairs expenses data

Some time ago I sought from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA):

1) A datadump (or copy) of the entire Sun database insofar as such data relates to claimed expenses.

The Department has released the data in question. Unfortunately it was released in PDF format (3,000+ pages), so it will take a little extra time to import into spreadsheets. The release contains three tranches, expenses of DFA staff (2005 to 2010), Irish Aid expense claims (2005 to 2010), and Honorary Consul expense claims. I will be publishing this data over the coming weeks.

For now here are the Honorary Consul claims, which are relatively minor. I again wish to emphasise that publishing this data is not an attempt to embarrass any one person, nor does it form the basis of any claim that somehow there was something unjustified about any expense claimed by civil servants. It is merely an attempt to publish large public datasets as an exercise in transparency.

Other database requests are also pending, or subject to appeals.

Honorary Consul expenses 2005 to 2010

The data is subject to correction (albeit minor) because of the OCR processes I have to run on PDFs. However these will be checked once they are complete.

NYT on Ireland's austerity

New York Times feature on the Irish economy and the impact of our economic policies…

Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations…

[…] Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

It’ll probably be quiet around these parts until Saturday or so, we’re tying a things up on a story.

Although it seems everytime I say that Gav gets a big database doc FOI in the post and publishes it all an hour later. Anyway…

Digest – June 27 2010

Not much home stuff this week… entering silly-season early it seems. Or I missed something.


Sara Burke on the missing millions the HSE are pinning on Siptu.

Blog of Dominican Nuns in Ireland that I didn’t know existed.

Important ‘first’ pointed out by the Tombuktu on the CLR.

Karl Whelan, banking guarantee may have costly legacy.

I suspect that many people will have been surprised to hear the media report, time and again recently, that Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, an international expert in banking matters, gave an almost complete endorsement to the bank guarantee, with his only quibble being the inclusion of subordinated debt.

In fact, this reporting has not been at all accurate. While the report does conclude that some kind of guarantee was required, it raises serious questions about the essential nature of the type of guarantee that was introduced.


Cracking documentary by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners program (like Prime Time Investigates) in association with The Age newspaper into corruption in currency production. Finding have global repercussions. Podcast with reporters here too. There the on-camera journalist, Nick McKenzie, notes…

Corruption never happens without people knowing it’s happening, be it in a police force, a government department or Securrency, the company involved in this scandal. It needs more than one person to operate… it’s not going to be open, people aren’t going to be saying around the office “oh we bribed Mr X last night, but at the same time, people will notice things.

And some of the decent ones, he goes on to say, will feel compelled to speak.

The researcher, Richard Baker, also says something well worth quoting…

And the other [misnomer] about digging – and I think it’s complete falsity that’s given to journalism students – is you have to build up a big black contacts book that has [in it numbers for] all the top officials in secret services. That’s rubbish. The way you dig is you use some common sense and you hit the phones and you figure out that there’s forty people that worked in this company between these years… let’s call every one of them. It’s as simple as that. The best stories aren’t got from existing stories, they’re got from a sniff and you just call people and they tell you things.

Jay Rosen on in-the-camp political correspondents from Politico who outed themselves as the Rolling Stone/McChrystal story emerged.

Now this seemed to several observers—and I was one—a reveal. Think about what the Politico is saying: an experienced beat reporter is less of a risk for a powerful figure like McChrystal because an experienced beat reporter would probably not want to “burn bridges” with key sources by telling the world what happens when those sources let their guard down.

Let me enumerate why this is worth noting: (continued)

Article about an interesting artwork that reflects the inter-relationship between art and time by New Scientist.

Freakanomics podcast, ‘how is a bad radio station like the public school system?‘ Thought provoking suggestions on education reform.

New series for The Nether Regions, ‘Crap jobs for the work experience kid’. Entry #1 here; being the burglar in the fear-mongering stock shots. Subscribe there; craic.

Vidjoe: Prince Charles is down with the kids at Glastonbury. Kinda, in a ‘casual’ suit. Slugger comment here.

Yglesias on the demise of the Chatham House rules left-leaning DC email list, JournoList.


In honour of silly season. Vidjoe; country hip-hop dancing. Via Piaras on The Facebuke.

Circumlimina; 'Labouring the point?'

Good post over on relatviely new – to me at least – lefty blog, Circumlimina, about Ruairi Quinn’s conflicts? declaration… of interests.

The most striking entry belonged to Ruairi Quinn, and is notably absent from the profile on his website. In the Dáil register, we find the following:…

Go have a goo to get the nah’ledge.

The post also contains a cracking catch about the interests of another member of the political class…

I’ll spare the blushes of the Dublin City councillor who, in declaring shares in Cadbury, listed Nature of Business as “Sweets” (ah, screw him, it was [clicky-click-click the link to find out, TheStory readers].)

Nice work, over there.

Anglo emails

I received a bunch of emails today from the Department of Finance in relation to communications with Anglo Irish Bank between September 2008 and February 2009. I will scan them all shortly and upload. One in particular though caught my eye. It’s an email exchange between Marie Mulvihill at the DoF and John Paul Coleman at Anglo Irish Bank. It’s dated February 2, 2009, just two weeks after nationalisation, subject line: “Query over Tier 2 capital”.

John Paul

We have received a query regarding the tier 2 capital securities on Anglo Irish Bank’s balance sheet. I’ve had a quick look at the preliminary results as at 30th September 2008 but can’t locate a break down.

I would be grateful if you could outline what makes up the Tier 2 capital and whether it is covered by the Bank Guarantee Scheme.

Many Thanks


About an hour later, John Paul emailed back, stating:


With Tier 2 capital the Bank has two forms of securities issued these are Lower Tier II (LT2) and Upper Tier II.

LT2 the Bank has issued all have a final maturity date and therefore fall into the dated subordinated category’ which is covered by the Bank guarantee scheme. The coupons on LT2 cannot be deferred and most be paid at each coupon date

The Bank has 5 LT2 deals outstanding these are
€750 million Floating Rate Subordinated Notes 2014
US$.165 million Subordinated Notes Series A 2015
US$ 35 million Subordinated Notes Series B 2017
€500 million Floating Rate Subordinated Notes 2016
€750 million Floating Rate Subordinated Notes 2017

In total the Bank has €2,112 million outstanding at 30t h September 2008 of LT2 Upper Tier II that the Bank has issued is perpetual bonds i.e. they do not have a final maturity date.

Unlike LT2 the coupons on Upper Tier II can be deferred but are cumulative i.e. if you miss one coupon payment at the next coupon payment date you most pay the two coupons. Upper Tier II is not covered under the Bank Guarantee Scheme as it is perpetual

The Bank has one Upper Tier 2 GBP300miilion with a value of €385milIion at the 30th September 2008.

If you need any additional information please let me know.


The question I am asking myself is why, two weeks after nationalisation, the Department of Finance was only then asking about Tier 2 Capital? Interestingly, Carl O’Brien at the Irish Times sought the briefing papers used by DoF officials at a recent Oireachtas committee. The DoF is keen to defend itself it would appear.

Original document here:

DOF/Anglo email

Some sellers don't want to sell

Intriguing little piece on the property pages of The Irish Times today via a report by magazine Property Week

[The magazine’s analyst/journalist said] some of the properties owned by property investors were advertised to give the impression to their bankers that they were “trying to get their finances in order”.

These investments were priced up to 17 per cent above the levels advised by the agents involved, and were “clearly intended to repel buyers and just make it look like action is being taken so that the vendors can protect their financial positions”.

Here’s the original report. A stand-out quote;

Apparently, there are quite a few properties on the market owned by property investors (e.g. bankers) or developers who are merely going through the motions in order to placate the lenders managing their finances but with no real intention of selling at current market prices. From what we can gather, it may be that in order for them to continue to get favourable treatment from the institutions, they know they must at least be seen to be trying to sell assets and those assets must retain a certain value as collateral in their finances.

Tangentially related; Barry O’Halloran reports today that some developers are after more taxpayers’ money. Which is, in essence, them admitting they’re utterly financially screwed. Which brings me to another report published in the last few days by Property Week under the headline ‘Property market magic numbers’...

In Dublin;

  • 4500 properties have come onto the market since the new year (180 per week)
  • 2336 properties have gone sale agreed or sold (95 per week), many of which have been on the market since before the start of 2010.
  • So supply is still outstripping demand by almost 2 to 1.
  • The resulting downward pressure on prices is about 1% per month
  • Right…

    Oireachtas Bills 1997 – 2010

    We frequently hear talk of how much (or how little) legislation is passed by the Oireachtas. We also hear about Bills languishing at Committee Stage for years. Unfortunately the Oireachtas website isn’t very useful for discerning any patterns or where Bills are, or when exactly they were introduced. In an attempt to make this much clearer, we (excellent Alexia is keen to help, and we need more help from readers) are going to try and build a spreadsheet that at least contains the current state of affairs, and included all Bills introduced since 1997. You can see what we’ve pieced together so far, and it is by no means complete or exhaustive.

    Oireachtas bills 2010, 2009

    If you want to help, please get in touch. Future applications would include using the Google Charts API to map legislative processes digitally.