Democracy Under Siege

June 2, 2015

Oligarchs threaten Irish democracy 

In contrast to the extortionate rates of interest handed out to Irish variable rate mortgage holders, Dennis O ‘Brien has managed a more favourable deal perhaps under threat of withdrawing his money from Irish banks. But first:

“Last night German Chancellor Angela Merkel held an unscheduled emergency meeting in Berlin with Greece’s creditors. In addition to Merkel, Francois Hollande and Jean-Claude Juncker, the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and ECB’s Mario Draghi were also in attendance.

According to the Guardian, The meeting took place from around 9.30pm until midnight, and though rumours spread that concessions would be agreed, the commission paper drawn up offered none.

Concurrently, a cabinet meeting was held in Athens and a “comprehensive proposal” sent to Greece’s creditors. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says it contains specific, realistic proposals, and that the decision on agreement now rests on European leaders, as Greece has conceded enough already.

Today various members of the SYRIZA government have been re-iterating that position – that they will not accept further austerity measures.”

This issue flagged repeatedly and most recently here on last blog, is about to reach final endgame.

Over in Athens, the minister of state Nikos Pappas has also racheted up the pressure this afternoon describing the proposal the Greek government has made as “complete, unified and solid,” reports our correspondent Helena Smith.”

This will have profound ramifications for the future of the EU. Key differences exist between the reforms proposed by the ECB and those proposed by the Greek government.

While relegating this story to the side line meanwhile RTE have other irons in the fire.

It’s all about Dennis O Brien and his challenge to the Oireachtas. At its heart is O’Brien’s argument that his banking affairs are private and his right to privacy trumps any effort by the state to investigate the affairs of IBRC or indeed any of his business dealings.

Right to privacy, commercial sensitivity have led to a rash of laws protecting NAMA’s right to cloak itself in secrecy.

O Brien has threatened to remove his assets held in Irish banks and like Bono take all his banking offshore….

Transparency and accountability have been to the fore in what this blog has called for investigating the fallout of Ireland’s financial collapse and bailout 2008-10.

In their place we have had obfuscation and coverup culminating in the mea culpa dirges sung by those before our so-called banking inquiry acknowledging mistakes were made and apologising if the complainant/defendant had any inadvertent role in same.

This blog has argued for an approach to follow the money investigating the 10 highest developer deals. Sadly developers and bankers trumpeting their right to privacy have tooth and nail like O Brien fought to prevent such examination of their ‘private’ banking affairs.

Contrast this position with the €67bn bailout of the Irish banks by Irish taxpayers whose right to investigate the banking collapse and vindicate their rights with criminal proceedings to prosecute wrong doing if required.

If no crime committed, there should be nothing to hide. There again if you consider it a crime that taxpayers were left to bail out a collapsed economy, they are deserving of knowing what exactly they are paying for.

If bonuses, brown paper bags, political influence, incompetence, under the table deals, skull duggery of whatever guise were the cause of collapse, taxpapers right to know trumps the rights of criminal concealment of crimes if committed.

To make this judgement we need to root out any wrongdoing hiding under false claims to right to privacy. With banking collapse normal banking claims to right to privacy are absurd if they cover up wrongdoing.

FG/LB and FF government have signally been remiss in changing the constitution to enable legislation if required to trawl through the records of financial affairs that led to banking collapse. See Deputy Catherine Murphy’s proposal to end this debacle below.

Collusion with bankers and developers is an extraordinary feature of this present government culminating in the appointment of KPMG to investigate IBRC and hounding of those who seek to get at the truth.

The O’ Brien saga cuts to the root of the problems that led to the ill-fated Celtic Tiger marriage of developers and politicians with bankers.

The O’ Brien saga if anything shows where we really should be looking to see the roots of Ireland’s financial collapse.

Siteserv deal or selling off by NAMA to bottom feeding vulture funds of discounted state assets, should warrant open public inquiry. This is  in contrast to ludicrous KPMG inquiry of the fox investigating the missing hens.

A real inquiry into our banking collapse should be enabled by constitutional changes re right to property. Such rights should be forfeit if proven to hide criminal wrongdoing or corruption favouritism given to political and/or developer oligarchs.

If such a right is shown not to serve the public interest, but to serve only the interest of eg developer barons looting this economy as tax exiles,  emergency legislation to examine the private financial affairs of developers and bankers, should make way for proper banking inquiry.

Squeals from O Brien show we are on the right track on investigation of shenanigans where the right to privacy is invoked over the right to free speech, what is in the US called the First Amendment.

Neither the right to privacy, nor the right to free speech, should confer the right to hide the truth taxpayers deserve to know:fingers


Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I move:

    That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 in order to make an addition to the First Schedule, to expand the areas under which an examination under section 9 may be conducted, and to provide for related matters.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2015 proposes to extend the functions and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General to cover IBRC. It was the Taoiseach who first suggested that the Comptroller and Auditor General review the Siteserv sale process at which time it was pointed out to him that the IBRC does not come within the Comptroller and Auditor General’s remit. With this Bill, I am attempting to address that problem by broadening the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The reason I anticipate the need to involve the Comptroller and Auditor General, if not a full commission of inquiry which latter might well be a better option, is that the Government has got this matter badly wrong. That is not least because most of the key players in the Siteserv saga have links with KPMG and the eventual purchaser and vice versa. It is a web of connections and conflicts that requires outside eyes to unravel.

I have no doubt that the special liquidator is more than capable of carrying out such a review, but his direct involvement in the sale process, his relationship with the eventual purchaser of Siteserv and his current actions in the High Court in supporting Mr. Denis O’Brien against RTE place him in a position where there is, at the very least, a perceived if not an actual conflict of interest. The review is not confined to Siteserv, but that is the transaction that prompted a review in the first instance. I worry about the transactions that have been excluded from the review given what that we now know that in the final months before prom night, the relationship between the Department and IBRC had completely broken down. If deals were being done without the knowledge or input of the Minister, we must know what those were. We are now aware, for example, that the former CEO of IBRC made verbal agreements with Denis O’Brien to allow him to extend the terms of his already expired loans. We also know that the verbal agreement was never escalated to the credit committee for approval. I am led to believe and would welcome clarification by the Minister that the rates applicable to the extension were extremely favourable. I understand that Mr. O’Brien was enjoying a rate of approximately 1.25% when IBRC could, and arguably should, have been charging 7.5%. Given that we are talking about outstanding sums of upwards of €500 million, the interest rate applied is not an insignificant issue for the public interest. We also know that Denis O’Brien felt confident enough in his dealings with IBRC that he could write to Kieran Wallace, the special liquidator, to demand that the same favourable terms extended to him by way of a verbal agreement be continued. We now have Kieran Wallace, who has been appointed by the Government to conduct the IBRC review, joining with IBRC and Denis O’Brien in the High Court to seek to injunct the information I have outlined from coming into the public domain. Surely, that alone represents a conflict.

In documents released to me under freedom of information, the Minister, his officials, the Central Bank and even the troika acknowledge that IBRC – the former Anglo Irish Bank – is no ordinary bank and that there is a significant public interest as the bank was fully nationalised and was in wind-down mode. They all accept that this is the people’s money we are dealing with and that there can be no dispute regarding the public interest in this. The same materials obtained under freedom of information detail instances where the Minister can specifically intervene and issue a ministerial order that material matters have a significant public interest. Included in these material matters are instances that are outside the ordinary course of business. I argue that what I have outlined here regarding verbal deals and extensions etc. are outside the normal course of business and ask the Minister to exercise his right to intervene in the current proceedings to defend the public interest.

I have a motion on the Order Paper signed by the majority of Opposition Members calling for a debate on the proposed review. I note that 45 Members have signed and more are welcome to. When I tried to raise the matter on the Order of Business, I was silenced and told to take it up with my Whip. I am the Whip of the Technical Group and I had raised the matter at the weekly Whips’ meeting. The Government Chief Whip told me that the Government would not be altering the KPMG review and that it would not provide time to debate this issue. He suggested that we use Private Members’ time. This is not just an Opposition issue; it is an issue for the whole House. It is an issue of serious public concern involving public money. If the Minister opposite, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, got his hands on an extra €20 million, he would not have to think too hard about how to spend it. I urge the Government to reconsider this matter and to give the Bill and the motion the time they deserve. It is in the public interest to do so. ”







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