I just signed a contract to work with RTE for the next number of months. For that reason I’ll be on sabbatical from this website for the next while.

I have previously worked with RTÉ (I was ‘Lucy‘, for example) on a day-pay basis but this contract stipulates that I commit to providing RTÉ with first-option on all my output (and that I agree to the other requirements of RTÉ contractors as per any other journalist hired into RTÉ on contract). That means I won’t be working in print for the time being either.

Thanks to all of you who bothered to read what ever t’was I put up around here over the last year-plus. Further thanks to those who though it stimulating enough to comment or email me, especially those of you far smarter than me who put me straight on opinions or questions I raised. And a yet further – massive – thanks to those donated to the FOI fund. There have been times when I’ve been stunned by people’s generosity to this site.

I’ll still be contactable at 087 9431203 and coughlanmp AT gmail DOT com if you wish to get in touch (alternatively, add me on Facebook if that’s your preferred method of maintaining communication). Day or night, do call me if you think you’ve got interesting information or just want to talk over a pint/lunch!

G’wan save that number, who knows when you’ll need to call a journalist… Ah g’wan, g’wan, g’wan, g’wan.

Sure Gav was the brains behind it anyway.

I’ve never been one to pass up the opportunity to use a good-ol’ choon in a blog post. This is no exception. Diana Ross, boys and girls…

Thanks again.

In case you missed it

I have an econo-crush on Simon Johnson, I think. Honestly, I giggle whenever anyone mentions his name.

I joke, I joke. Still, this one is well worth a read. I’m not going to bother quoting any specific section, it’s all relevent.

A fair few of the comments refer to Ireland.

Also, close watchers of The Digest – see right hand column of this website – will have already read “The clear correlation between crisis and corruption” by Sigrún Davíðsdóttir. Davíðsdóttir is the London correspondent for RUV (Icelandic national television) and has been spending some time in Dublin of late.

You may also have picked up on “Assange accuser worked with US-funded, CIA-tied anti-Castro group“.

“Must not Sleep, Must warn Others”

Oh wise one…

Michael Somers, one of the most powerful civil servants in the State through the boom years;

“… I think we need to be careful that we don’t go in for over-regulation, over-control. I think we need to ease up a  bit in terms of political correctness and such likes, I think we’re being unduly politically correct at the moment.”

He also mentioned the possibilities for expanding the financial sector, how banks only came here after the IFSC was set up because the likes of himself “twisted their arms” (offered tax incentives?) and about how great we are that high-tech foreign companies, like Google base themselves here… Google employees how many engineers/coders in Ireland versus administrative workers? Saves how much money by routing its taxes through Ireland?

All in the final interview on The Week in Politics, about 42 minutes in at this link.

How far we done fell

It’s 2am. I just checked the news for the first time in 24 hours. Forgive the following poorly-written mind-dump. Comments and abuse though are of course still most welcome.

The figure won’t be 6.7%, but it will be too much.

6.7% is a senseless and idiotic figure. You’ve got to think the announced rate will be lower, perhaps so it can be claimed that the negotiations were ‘successful’.

If the figure does turn out to be 6%+ it will have been designed to scare other teetering PIIGS into line in the short term.

Clearly, Ireland cannot afford anything close to such a rate. If the rate turns out anything above about 4.5% it’ll be to make an example of Ireland to ensure Portugal, Spain, Belguim and others stay the course. It’ll be the ECB and Irish government kicking our default date two or three years down the line, while heaping an extra €xbn (who cares what X is anymore? Any number is too big) onto the bill, in a desperate and transparent attempt to stop further defaults in the eurozone. We’re the gangrenous arm and the high rate will be a tourniquet.

Our default is coming, the question is when it’ll arrive. Right now, the answer to that question lies in Irish hands. The question for them is what they’re more concerned about protecting; the Irish taxpayer or Ireland’s relationships with other Eurozone members. The Germans have big exposure to our debt… jus’ sayin’.

Admittedly these are not mutually exclusive options but with the euro looking decidedly shaky, well, it can’t be all fun-and-games in Brussels forever… big-decision time looms.

Slight aside; Read Paul Krugman today

Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt. But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt. So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Step back for a minute and think about that. These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

But there is no alternative, say the serious people: all of this is necessary to restore confidence.

And Simon Johnson

So why not restructure some of this debt, particularly as much of what the government will owe is actually debt taken on by overgrown and careless Irish banks?

The government has indicated that it will force a restructuring of some subordinated, relatively junior debt. For at least for one prominent bank, Anglo Irish, this may amount to paying 20 cents in the euro. This debt by itself is too small to make a difference, but why not apply the same principle to other categories of borrowings?

The most obvious answer is: Ireland’s European partners do not want this to happen, because it would expose the really bad decisions made by pan-European banks and their regulators over the last decade and create potential fiscal risks in other euro-zone countries.

FOOTNOTE: Blogging about default being the best option; as Bunk said to Omar, “it makes me sick, motherfucker, how far we done fell.”

Worth watching

The two videos below have started doing the rounds on Facebuke and The Twitter. So if you haven’t seen them…

First up, an RTE report from March 2000 on an ERSI quarterly that was dismissed by Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevy. Brian Cowen also features in it; foreign affairs minister at the time, I think?

Secondly, LastTV, a programme on RTE back in 1998. They broadcast the hilarious – and pertinent – piece below on fractional reserve banking. It ends with “this could never happen here would it?” and a few lines on the default of… err… Asia. “Our banks are a lot more civilised though, aren’t they?”

I’m taking credit for finding that one first! Neh neh neh-neh nerrr.

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy

Notable comments in international blogosphere in reaction to four year plan. FYI; Bond spreads still rising.


What’s going on here? In a nutshell, Ireland has been orthodox and responsible — guaranteeing all debts, engaging in savage austerity to try to pay for the cost of those guarantees, and, of course, staying on the euro. Iceland has been heterodox: capital controls, large devaluation, and a lot of debt restructuring — notice that wonderful line from the IMF, above, about how “private sector bankruptcies have led to a marked decline in external debt”. Bankrupting yourself to recovery! Seriously.

Also, Alphaville.

Scannal on Insurance Corporation of Ireland

Scannal (the excellent sub-titled part-As Gaelige documentary show on RTE One) was – in an amazingly perfect event of ironic timing – about the Insurance Corporation of Ireland last night.

ICI was a significant subsidiary of AIB which collapsed in 1985. The taxpayer bailed out AIB. It eventually cost us IR£400m, a massive figure at the time.

Find last night’s programme in the archive here.

It was a story of lax regulation and greedy banking policies which led to a massive hit on the taxpayer that threatened to pull down “the sovereign”. It’s one of the major events in AIB’s “colourful history” referred to earlier on this blog.

Now, time for some Shirley Bassey…

“They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolution’s near,
But to me it seems quite clear,
That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”

Greens to pull out of Govt

Absurd day. National budget or December election on the horizon it appears after John Gormley announced the Greens will be pulling out of Government, but err… not until after voting for the budget; which essentially makes their support for the budget pretty irrelevant.

Gormley says the decision was based on there being a real problem with communications and the answers the Greens had received in recent days. He also said the decision had been made on Saturday after a series of – presumably, internal-party – meetings.

But I was watching Gormley speaking to Sky News yesterday evening and seem to remember him saying he backed Brian Lenihan and his proposal for applying for an IMF bailout despite reservations about communications earlier in the week.

Does anyone have the clip [or a more specific memory of the of it/transcript]?

I can’t find it on the Sky website. He was speaking outside Government Buildings wearing a reflective jacket and was standing beside his bike. I love to hear the quote again to check it against my own recollection. Sky hacks, where you at?