30 Jun 2009

Well, kittens, and in particular FPL. I missed this telling sentence from an article by Joe Brennan in the Irish Independent last week which suggests that the steering committee advising on the establishment of NAMA have reached a worrying conclusion. Namely, NAMA won’t be any more effective in turning around bad debt sites than the average liquidator unless planning permissions for developments of unrealistic scale are guaranteed (for up to fifteen years): 

‘The steering committee behind the setting up of the so-called 'bad bank' had looked at obtaining powers to deploy compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) and grant planning permission, similar to that enjoyed by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. However, it is understood that the Attorney General, who is also on the committee, advised that building such overarching powers into NAMA legislation could drown the whole process in a quagmire of legal proceedings...’

In other words as FPL has already correctly pointed out in his/her comment on the last post, and despite the concerns of the Attorney General (who'll be overlooked), the whole country will soon become a giant DDDA. What an irony: the price we have to pay for fifteen years of terrible planning is fifteen years of worse planning. Or no planning. Or maybe I mean, anti planning. Ooh la la.  

Here’s the full piece:

http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/nama-wont-be-given-any-super-powers-to-deal-with-borrowers-1783097.html

All the jibber jabber in the financial pages and the opinion columns of the newspapers about ‘the best way to go about establishing fair valuations’ for bad debt sites is completely irrelevant. The only way to establish a valuation on any of these sites is to make an assumption about the amount of development which might be permitted. Which means that if the tax payer’s support is to be rewarded, all the NAMA sites must be developed beyond even the levels the original purchasers had in mind.   

24 Jun 2009

On the question of whether we the Irish taxpayer should be putting €4B into shoring up the ailing Anglo Irish Bank, I thought the chap who asked Alan Dukes ‘do you ever get fed up trying to explain complex banking issues to the (stupid) [my parenthesis added] public?’ on Questions + Answers last week might have hit the nail on the head, but in a way he himself wasn’t intending.

Hopefully not being too unfair to this gentleman, it seemed to me that what he was trying to do in his question was imply that if the ordinary Irish citizen better understood how necessary it is when dealing with international bankers to maintain an air of scheming connivance and, furthermore, if we only understood the sanctity of the secrecy and unaccountability which characterizes the world of big finance we would, in order to allow the next financial ponzi scheme take root and destroy us afresh, let retired-politicians-turned-bankers fling money into a black hole in quiet acquiescence. While Dukes dutifully replied that no, on the contrary he quite enjoyed trying to convince the reluctant public of why it should continue to live only to support the banking system, I thought I sensed that he actually really did appreciate the questioner's intention: yes folks, he appeared to hint, little people don’t understand what this kind of thing is all about and are better off leaving it to those who do. Like him.

If we accept both Alan Dukes’ and Mary Coughlan’s assertion that the main reason for supporting Anglo is to protect our national reputation then wouldn’t this mean we’d be spending an equivalent amount of money convincing the rest of the civilized world that we have no tolerance for the frocked child abusers who terrorized a previous generation? (The Ryan report is already drifting into a convenient haze...) And, in any event, does anyone really, really believe that, when a situation can be exploited for a quick buck, international banks care a jot for a country’s financial reputation? In five years time when the money starts to flow around these parts again, they’ll be back.
 
In short, the Government is simply lying to us about what it’s doing. The reason why they’re intent on supporting Anglo Irish Bank is because they’ve been told to do so by Brussels. And this is what really lies at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty: the freedom to let money do what money wants to do.   

Meanwhile, the cause of all this mess – a planning system whose only obvious effect in recent years has been, not to improve our way of life in any measurable fashion, but only to create a little bubble within which the spectacularly greedy indulged themselves in a diabolic orgy – remains fully intact, its failings completely oblivious to a cabinet of demagogues, high on dema but low on gogue.

And now I need a drink.

10 Jun 2009

The Dublin Dockland Development Authority shares its acronym with the better known Demolition Derby Drivers Assocition. Whose motto is 'We Crash'.

I just finally read Justine McCarthy’s piece in the Trib from several weeks back regarding the state of play in The Docklands of Sodom and Gomorrah. http://www.tribune.ie/article/2009/apr/26/ddda-deals-to-be-investigated/?q=DDDA Well done, Justine – you don’t write a piece as carefully pitched as that one was without having a good idea of what’s really going on down there. I look forward to the fruits of your further investigations – perhaps you might just be the person to finally explain to the rest of us the inner workings of that most inscrutable of quangoes that is the DDDA. For example, it would be useful for us all to know how a teeny, tiny little organisation which happens to have life or death power over some of the greediest, sharpest, money grabbinest bastards in the country manages, without much public accountability, to keep everyone happy and away (relatively speaking) from the courtrooms they so otherwise adore? I’ve always felt that the folks at the DDDA must have the moral fibre of members of certain religious orders, especially when faced with circumstances which might lead those of us with weaker juridical constitutions astray. Circumstances like, for example, when U2 decided to take a greater (that is to say ‘financial’) interest in the tower which was proposed to bear their name; or when the designers of the competition winning original U2 Tower, BCDH, were shafted and (allegedly, etc.) owed an absolute fortune in unpaid fees; or the occasson when Liam Carroll was satisfied to accept a reduced level of development on the site he owned right next door to the one where the revised Norman Foster designed U2 tower of awfulness was due to be built? Or the time the same Liam Carroll was fortunate enough to have the development potential of another piece of land he owns within the DDDA's jurisdiction suddenly multiply?

10 Jun 2009
10 Jun 2009

I need a little help on something. While interviewing Brian Cowen on the radio last week, George Hook asked the Taoiseach why, instead of fooling citizens into believing that supporting bad banks is a patriotic thing to do, the Government didn’t just let Anglo Irish go to the wall? And, in reply, the Taoiseach said something to the effect of ‘… because European rules say we're not allowed to…’.

My question is simple – is this true? I’ve tried looking for the answer myself on various EU websites but, just as it was with the Lisbon Treaty, the experience makes me feel dim, euphoric and giddy all at the same time – a bit like Patrick on Sponge Bob. (Actually, before I settled on the Patrick analogy I just used there a second ago, I was going to make a reference to Charlie McCreevy and his ‘you’d want to be mad to read the Lisbon Treaty’ comments from last year. Obviously, something deep in my subconscious is making a connection between Charlie McCreevy and Patrick from Sponge Bob. Uncanny. (Also, does anyone know if, in a previous career, McCreevy was the person who voiced the lines ‘There is no dark side of the moon. As a matter of fact it’s all dark’ on the eponymous Pink Floyd album of the 70s? The voice isn’t quite right, but the mentality is captured exquisitely.))  

Anyway… now that Declan Ganley has said it won’t be him, who’s going to step up to the plate and save us from the ‘you might think you’re voting for greater democracy in Europe but, instead, you’re helping banks increase that uncomfortable hold on your throat ’ inspired Lisbon Two? Ganley was on to something for a while, but I think if he’d stayed in Galway and focussed his energies on getting the Irish people to more fully understand his message instead of forging alliances with folks from unusual parts of the Continent so unknown to us that the pro Treaty media could mispresent their characters any way it liked, he would have obliterated Lisbon Two last weekend.

Richard Boyd Barrett, perhaps?

Despite the Irish Times’ desperation to have us believe that, unlike the last time round, this time their opinion polls showing that the Treaty will be supported are accurate, my gut feeling is that a combination of (a) increasing awareness that support for the FF government is irrational and, therefore, absurd + (b) Joe Higgins + (c) Sinn Fein’s heavy first preference vote getting in Leinster and Munster + (d) The People Before Profit folks suddenly emerging in Dublin + (e) Ganley’s natural 70,000 constituency in the North West, will all mean that we’ll be facing a Lisbon Three this time next year (if the banking system hasn’t collapsed the in meantime, in which case the Lisbon Treaty won’t be necessary (because its got nothing to do with you or me feeling any sense of 'ownership' of the 'Great European Experiment')). 


 

2 Jun 2009

This is from the latest Nenagh Guardian:

'A Ballina man is appealing for people experiencing planning problems in North Tipperary to contact him with a view to setting up a forum on the matter.

Patrick Clarke has spent six years battling for planning permission in Ballina. He says his case is just one of too many affecting people all over the county, who Pat alleges are being treated unfairly by the local planning authority. Pat and his wife Martina McKeogh have been renting in Ballina for over two years with their four young children, who all attend Ballina NS. They want to build a home in the area and do have local connections on Martina’s side, she being able to trace her family history in the area back over eight generations.

Six years ago the couple were offered a site on the family farm, only to discover that they could not proceed with their plans to build a house as they did not meet ‘local need’ criteria. “Because neither of us were born locally nor lived locally for 10 years we are excluded from building our family home on the family farm,” Pat says... he has been repeatedly refused planning permission by the local authority, whose interpretation of the local need policy he finds too “black and white,” offering no room for discretion in individual circumstances.

The Ballina resident believes many other people are experiencing similar problems in North Tipperary, and that local politicians are either unable or unwilling to help. He’s now appealing for people to contact him on the matter. “You are not alone,” Pat says. “There is strength in numbers. If you wish to do something about this then now is the time to act.”

Contact Pat on 087 9020321 or email  mailto:pclarkeirl@eircom.net

Anyway. So far so typical: a ridiculously discriminatory planning policy, which wouldn't last on the statutes in the US or any Continental European country for the smallest fraction of a second, being exposed for the national embarrassment it is.

However, the situation must be viewed in the context of a separate North Tipp application for a family home which was recently approved but for which there was an alleged question as to that applicant's qualification under the 'local need' rule. It has come to Pat Clarke's attention that the applicant on the 'successful' application couldn't really be considered a local but does have alleged connections with a local TD as well as a senior planner. Whether this fact in any way influenced the outcome of the planning application, as Clarke suggests in a letter to all TDs in the country that it might have, is something I couldn't possibly comment on.  

Pat is hoping that people in the North Tipp area for whom his situation may resonate will contact him before the local elections on Friday and assist him with an email campaign. Here's his contact information again: Pat Clarke, 087 9020321 or pclarkeirl@eircom.net