Friday 9 December 2016

Let's give away our assets -- it'll buy some goodwill

Published 25/04/2011 | 05:00

We're being told that we were bounced, conned and bullied into the €85bn bailout by our EU counterparts and that our ECB executives are betraying us at every available opportunity.

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On top of this Colm McCarthy now seems to believe that nobody is particularly eager to buy our airports, railway stations or bus companies at fire- sale prices. So, considering just how amenable we were to our "allies" in the past, why don't we just give 'em away to our friends as a goodwill gesture?

It shouldn't be too difficult, what with the queen and President Barack Obama coming in the next few weeks. It's always easy to give presents to people with hobbies and Queen Elizabeth is no exception. Something tells me the queen would be delighted to be given the National Stud and a few horses with good bloodlines when she comes. Racing is not called the sport of kings for nothing and we are far too broke for the State to be involved in such a posh sport.

Obama is a little harder. What to give the man who has everything? A large bit of the ould sod could be the answer. Other presidents have had to make do with the bowl of shamrock but perhaps it is time to hand over the entire shooting gallery in the shape of Coillte and Bord na Mona.

While the idea may sound crazy, it was Theodore Roosevelt, after all, who created the world's first great national parks and perhaps Obama might do something similar.

Prince Albert of Monaco left our shores empty-handed during his recent visit but we could still make the speed-loving prince a present of Bord na gCon and its interests in our greyhound tracks. What could be better for a lover of fast boats and women?

It wasn't so easy to come up with a present for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Something tells me all she wants from us is that we stay shtum about the bailout and pay back what we owe.

But I think I have the answer: CIE's tour-bus business. Ms Merkel might enjoy spending some of her retirement criss-crossing our green and pleasant land to see firsthand how people and businesses are struggling to meet the strict conditions of the bailout that nobody wanted.

Silvio Berlusconi is another man who seems to have everything -- except perhaps class -- but he, too, has "helped" bail us out so it seems reasonable to give him TG4 in return to help bulk up his media empire. After all, TG4 is already famed for its beautiful presenters and newsreaders, akin to those he employs to adorn the screens of his Italian stations.

But who would want the country's ports? During World War Two, Winston Churchill rarely lost an opportunity to grouch about the fact that the treaty ports were now in Irish hands so it would perhaps be foolish to hand them to his successor in case we became embroiled in one of the UK's many wars.

Most other countries already have more ports than they need but there are two obvious exceptions: Russia and Switzerland.

No bout of present giving would be complete without a struggle somewhere. In this case, it is Nicolas Sarkozy. We all know that a rise in our corporate tax rate would be just the thing he is looking for, but we are not giving that away. And luckily, he and Carla Bruni revealed in 2009 that they share a hobby -- stamp collecting.

It seems he has been a stamp collector since he was a boy and his collection is growing into one of the most impressive in the world thanks to help from foreign leaders who like to give him stamps to fill his albums. So why don't we go one better and give Nicolas and Carla a present of An Post? Of course, we wouldn't mention that An Post is one of two assets which comes with a shareholder deficit; in this case €39.8m.

But as we've learnt the hard way -- some presents are not always what they seem.

Irish Independent

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