Tuesday 26 September 2017

Multi-tasking Matt finds time to pen lively book on bust

MATT Cooper is said to be a dab hand at changing nappies. Nothing surprising about that. The presenter of Today FM's Last Word has five children; modern man changes nappies; and Matt is nothing if not modern man.

But it would be no surprise if his patient wife, Aileen, did not sometimes feel like shooting him.

Not that Cooper is a particularly irritating individual -- but I would prefer not to be married to him. Cooper is hyper. His energy is scary. Not only does he do a daily radio stint, he writes a weekly column for the Sunday Times and the Examiner, he chairs conferences and appears on chat shows.

Even more mysterious is how, two years ago, he wrote a bestseller Who Really Runs Ireland? alongside all that activity. No doubt he reassured those closest to him that it was a one-off, the sort of promise many of us have made to our nearest and dearest when explaining another mad project.

He was buoyed up enough by the success of his last book to embark on a follow-up, How Ireland Really Went Bust, published by Penguin.

It was high-risk. Not only is a second book harder, it was also doubtful whether there was still a public appetite for the tales of the Celtic Tiger. Cooper's overcharged daily timetable must also have threatened the quality of the book and could have tempted the author to take shortcuts.

The book shows no signs of shortcuts. Indeed it displays research suggesting that Cooper was burning the midnight oil for months.

Cooper's book is a lively commentary with nuggets galore. For instance did you know that AJ Chopra, Ireland's current IMF persecutor, was a bull of Ireland's economy as recently as 2006? As the lead author Chopra produced a report on Ireland's economy and the banking system. It described Ireland's performance as "strong, assisted by good policies ... fiscal policy has been prudent". AJ's report dubbed our banking system as "well capitalised". It praised the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator.

At the time Bertie was Taoiseach, Brian Cowen Minister for Finance and Paddy Neary was Regulator.

Cooper gives a rare insight into the character of current Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan, revealing that he is not exactly a media tart, but that twice in the last year he offered to talk directly to the Irish people. Both times he dumped the Government in the manure.

Nor is Cooper afraid to tackle Ireland's sacred cows. He gives the Goldman Sachs boss, Peter Sutherland, a mighty lash, after heretically describing Suds as having been "almost regarded by some in Ireland as a proxy for God".

This is the value of the book. It is not just readable but full of surprises. It is bang up-to-date with insights into people such as Kevin Cardiff and Enda Kenny. His comments about Ireland having "little of worth to bring to the table" in an earlier encounter with Merkel has resonances for our hopeless negotiating position in recent days.

How Ireland Really Went Bust is a worthy successor to Cooper's first book. Buy it, learn a lot and laugh occasionally.

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