Sunday 23 October 2016

The Yates anthology: Lots of talk, but not much action

Published 27/06/2015 | 02:30

I will jointly co-present with Anna Daly, a new television programme on Sundays, from 9am to noon, from August 29, for 30 shows
I will jointly co-present with Anna Daly, a new television programme on Sundays, from 9am to noon, from August 29, for 30 shows

We hear of 'crony capitalism' and Golden Circles of business elites seeming to have the inside track - an inner sanctum of the most influential who aren't answerable to anybody.

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The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry has laid bare the secretive nexus of informality between the Department of Finance, and the Central Bank, NTMA and Nama. Tic-tacking over the bank guarantee with bankers and with the IMF about the bailout reveals that Kevin Cardiff and John Hurley operated private channels of communication more powerful than the Cabinet. When they'd establish their own internal consensus, politicians merely followed suit.

This custom and practice isn't consigned to yesteryear, as the Central Bank confirms again that the majority of seven lenders haven't conformed to a statutory Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) and further breaches under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). Inspections revealed the legal requirements in terms of borrower communications and fair processes aren't met for distressed debtors. It's not new; yet previous breaches resulted in no sanctions.

Bernard Sheridan, head of consumer protection, isn't even prepared to reveal the culprits. The bare minimum of a reprimand is to name and shame.

Nama is equally impervious to censure, as the favoured child of same department. Since 2011, it refused to accept former Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly's ruling against secrecy relating to journalist Gavin Sheridan, incurring massive costs in High Court and Supreme Court appeals. All of which it lost.

There's no Nama probe into losses on individual loans or asset sales below current market value - unlike the vilification of IBRC.

Wheels within wheels of oversight of the financial/banking sector are an Omerta at the apex of public service.

Scenes from the TV series 'Yes, Prime Minister', where Sir Humphrey Appleby, as Cabinet Secretary, deftly wields power over lunch at the club, may not be as fictional or comedic in a Dublin context.

Curragh hurdle

T oday celebrates the historic 150th Irish Derby at the Curragh racecourse. It's the only race meeting where I must wear a tie. All Irish classics of 2,000/1,000 Guineas, the Derby, Oaks and St Leger are held at this Kildare venue. Despite equine excellence, the facilities at the home of flat racing are bluntly not acceptable.

The main grandstand is outdated, even dilapidated. By modern standards, levels of creature comforts leave much to be desired, especially roof leaks and shabby corporate facilities.

This can't continue for a showcase event and shop window for our internationally renowned breeding industry, with wealthy global guests asked to invest in our bloodstock.

As far back as 2005, the green light was given to approve a massive upgrade for facilities at the Curragh. The crash forced a rethink on the financing of a €50m investment. We readily recall the negative financial impacts on the Irish Greyhound Board of blindly proceeding with an ambitious Limerick redevelopment - it capsized its balance sheet with debts. Now that we're back to positive economics, it's time to move ahead and avail of generous private contributions from the Aga Khan towards the project. The last known announcement dates back to February 2014, when Grimshaw Architects and Newenham Mulligan won international architectural project to design a state-of-the-art grandstand.

The likely cause of the delay was the protracted negotiations between the Turf Club and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to sort out ownership and funding issues. Ultimately, the Government must approve multi-million cash requirements.

Next month sees the unveiling of grandiose revised multiannual public capital programmes for infrastructural development. It's expected to include headline-grabbing 'bells and whistles' announcements, eg. public transport for the north side of Dublin.

Let's hope it includes modernising the Curragh - a most fitting celebration of 150th anniversary.

On track, Aidan O'Brien's monopolisation of the Derby could be temporarily interrupted by John Gosden's/Godolphin's Jack Hobbs; he's got Epsom Derby form line to win.

Sunday best

My personal highlight this week was appearing as part of TV3's presentation of 'Upfronts', launching aspects of its autumn schedule to advertisers and media. I will jointly co-present with Anna Daly a new television programme on Sundays, from 9am to noon, from August 29, for 30 shows. It's an entirely new venture; no live current affairs/magazine production exists across the entire network of Irish television on this slot.

We start with zero viewers and limited total audience at that time of the week. BBC's Andrew Marr has a successful flagship programme then, building on David Frost's past success. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The Sunday newspapers and top guests will, hopefully, be key selling points. Simon Delaney, best known for his Tesco Mobile adverts (ha ha - he slags me too), teams up with Anna on Saturdays.

The only certainty is that Anna is a radical improvement on my radio co-presenter Chris Donoghue!

Viewership ratings determine ultimate sustainability of any media gig; my ambition is to ensure this innovation becomes a permanent fixture on Irish TV.There may be a gap in the market at that point of the weekend to assess Sunday scoops and preview important events of the week ahead.

Irish Independent

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