Saturday 29 October 2016

The Yates Anthology - Stunt politics

Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30

"Taoiseach Enda Kenny attacks the banks’ behaviour, Finance Minister Michael Noonan urgently meets Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan. Such gestures are optical illusions – impressions of action, concealing inaction" (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Ruby Walsh in action

Variable loan rate facts are clear: standard variables in the UK and EU vary from 1.8pc to 3.29pc. Here, they're 4.5pc or more. New customers obtain rates 1pc cheaper than captive customers. The average tracker mortgages are cross-subsidised by €6,000 annually by variables.

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The Government response is ultra-superficial. Taoiseach Enda Kenny attacks the banks' behaviour, Finance Minister Michael Noonan urgently meets Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan. Such gestures are optical illusions - impressions of action, concealing inaction. The Central Bank is inherently conflicted in protecting debtors or mortgagors.

Their primary responsibility is ensuring bank profitability and enhanced balance sheets. When banks breached protocols relating to non-performing debts, there were no sanctions. Debt-restructuring targets were blithely ignored and failure to meet them went unpenalised.

Kenny and Noonan could exert pressure on their own appointed management teams, and boards of directors in AIB and Permanent TSB - they own more than 99pc of these shares.

Instead they want more profits, readying them up for sale. There has been no government initiatives to stimulate new mortgage competition, such as legalising consolidation and mergers among credit unions. They could provide €4bn of mortgage finance. Expect ministerial crocodile tears to be fully exposed as up to 50,000 repossessions emerge.

They're off

Three days of Fairyhouse's Easter festival kicks off tomorrow. Some top horses will be re-emerging after their Cheltenham exertions. Willie Mullins can continue on the glory trail: Sunday - Vatour in the Ryanair Gold cup; unbeaten Morning Run will take some stopping in the mare's race; Monday - Annie Power and Vroom Vroom Magic are un-opposable in the graded events.

Injuries to Mark Walsh, Davy Russell and Barry Geraghty mean Ruby Walsh has an extra incentive to be champion jockey. These steering jobs should help.

As Easter varies in the annual calendar, this year Aintree's Grand National Festival coincides with holidays.

I'm off on the ferry on Wednesday. Liverpool is magical: the entire city buzzes with excitement for three days and nights. Merseyrail provides a seamless service to the track, beer flows from 11 o'clock each morning. Friday is ladies' day - booze and bikinis, despite the cold. Photographers are to be banned for the day. It's easier to make money at Aintree with the benefit of Cheltenham form.

Looking for winners in the two Grand Nationals? At Fairyhouse, Try Grand Gesture at 14/1 each way. He's an expensive purchase by the Potts and a course winner. Horses belonging to his trainer, Henry de Bromhead, are flying. The further he goes, the better. He caught the eye at Cheltenham, staying on well to finish second.

At Aintree, Hot favourite Shutthefrontdoor represents AP McCoy's farewell ride, but perhaps no fairy-tale finish.

I like Alvarado, who has been backed from 40/1 into 25/1. He finished 4th last year despite running fresh and pulling too hard; different tactics and a handy low weight could pay dividends.

Six glorious days of racing out of seven; so - needless to say - no Irish Independent columns or radio rants next week.

Mental health services and Elaine O'Hara

Elaine O'Hara's murder and Graham Dwyer's conviction rightly received saturation media coverage.

What is surely worth analysing in light of this tragic case is the state of our mental health services.

In all other areas of our health system regular reports on care and standards are ventilated in the media. Savita Halappanavar's death at University Hospital Galway led to a comprehensive expert panel review. Fatalities in acute hospitals result in HSE and Hiqa probes. I fear we treat diagnostic and treatment of mental health as taboo.

The HSE has organised a international mental health nursing conference in Dublin Castle, at which divided views about relative effectiveness of 'medicine' or 'recovery' models of treatment and care will be debated.

Fresh scrutiny is required on senior clinicians relying on dispensing drugs rather than psychotherapy.

Secrecy about risk assessment of patients in mental institutions must be lifted urgently in order to prevent other horrors. Reaching out to patients' inner needs must take precedence in improving outcomes.

Irish Independent

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