Monday 24 October 2016

Finally, it is time to put the taxpayer first

Published 09/06/2015 | 02:30

Michael Noonan’s commission will investigate some of the work of the IBRC
Michael Noonan’s commission will investigate some of the work of the IBRC

We were able to find €30bn to save a toxic bank, but when it came to burning the bondholders, none of the bright sparks in the Department of Finance and the Central Bank could find a match.

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Instead, the taxpayer was smoked and we know the rest. Then along comes outgoing Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan with a batch of emails to suggest that the "moral case" for ensuring that the surplus money from the liquidation of IBRC be returned to the taxpayer is "almost unassailable". The only difficulty we have with this sentiment is the inclusion of the word "almost".

It seems there could be almost €300m to be gained for the State were Mr Honohan's advice acted upon. It may be a dollar short, and a day late, as has been the case with much of what has happened in the banking world in recent years; but this seems like the very least that should be done. For once, the taxpaper should be put first.

The coming days will also see the finishing touches being put to the parameters for Michael Noonan's commission to investigate some of the work of the IBRC. He will attempt to address what he has termed growing public disquiet over the terms of loans and the size of write-downs given to some.

Opposition members have huffed and puffed, and there has been a sense of impending moral apocalypse in the hue and cry. But it is important to remind ourselves that "facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored". And the facts are that when Anglo Irish collapsed, and the IBRC emerged from its ashes, within that wasteland were a number of good and bad businesses. Those with the wherewithal to spot a bargain swooped in, that which could be resurrected was, and some debts were written off. Some did very well out of the deal. Others were left to die in the dust. The IBRC did its work. Those who were solvent got better rates than those who were on the brink. And those who did greater volumes of business also got more favourable terms.

Was this fair? That is a separate issue.

Was it illegal? If it was, then every bank in the world probably has a case to answer. The commission is welcome because it will hopefully bring definition where so far the picture is being filled in by interpretation in the absence of firm evidence. We should wait and see.

Public deserves more from health service

In April of this year, €74m was set aside for the express purpose of reducing overcrowding in our hospitals. On Friday, we had the news that a woman aged 102 was left on a trolley for 26 hours at a Dublin hospital.

The woman had to be administered a blood transfusion drip in the emergency department. The busy public area meant that very little sleep was possible for the woman, who remained lucid throughout.

Today, we report that a woman aged 101 has spent more than 24 hours on a trolley in Limerick.

Clearly, in a department with an exchequer contribution of €13.079bn, something has gone very wrong if this is the best we can offer.

That is a cold economic view. But in the context of human dignity and respect for the weak and elderly, the questions are far more searching.

Surely, in a society that aspires to value all its members and espouses compassion and decency, such failures must shame us all.

The word "crisis" and health service have been synonymous for far too long, and the public deserves and expects more.

Irish Independent

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