Friday 28 October 2016

Regrets of a watchdog who failed to bark

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

Patrick Neary, the former Chief Executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority
Patrick Neary, the former Chief Executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

Speaking in the early 19th century, one of the founding fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson, said that the "modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating."

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This "modern theory" was taken to a whole new level by bankers in this country all too recently.

The billions burned and the debts placed on innocent citizens have once more left generations with "burdens ever accumulating."

Sufficient time has lapsed for the smoke to have cleared, and for some forensic examination on how exactly such a disaster was visited upon the nation. The Banking Inquiry has struggled valiantly to get to the bottom of matters, but as far as accountability and responsibility are concerned, we have some way to travel yet.

Yesterday, former Financial Regulator Patrick Neary held the stage. On Mr Neary's watch many of the catastrophic events that lay behind the crash unfolded, but try as he might, he failed to fill the great gaps in our understanding of events.

It was not his fault. A watchdog can only bark when they are alerted to something truly amiss.

It seems in Ireland that there were no alarm bells as our economy disintegrated. No sensitive seismograph to pick up the economic fault-lines that brought the house down.

Yes there were briefings, yes there were meetings, but nothing you could put your finger on. Nothing? Should we have expected more from someone who left his office with a pay-off reported at the time as €630,000 and a pension of €114,000?

Perhaps. But as Mr Neary said, he was not to blame. He did say that given the events of the previous months he felt his position "was going to be difficult" and that it "might have been better" to retire.

No doubt it was difficult, but hopefully the pension took some of the pain out of it for him.

When asked if he could understand the anger felt by taxpayers and shareholders about the collapse of the banking sector and the cost to the State, he replied: "I most certainly can and I regret that very much."

So there you have it, Mr Neary has regrets. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Why the whistle has now blown for Blatter

Sepp Blatter has cast a long shadow over football since he took over Fifa in 1998. Under his reign, some remarkable, some might even say inexplicable, things have happened. If the decision to hold the World Cup in Russia raised eyebrows, the one to hold it in Qatar raised a storm. There were questions of judgment - now along with them is a major corruption scandal.

Today, Mr Blatter is seeking an unprecedented fifth term as president of football's governing body. Fifa's official line is that the appointment will still go ahead, despite the arrest of 14 of its executives and officials on request of the FBI.

Sponsors are far from impressed, nor should they be. The whole World Cup is in danger of being drowned in a sea of bungs and backhanders. Professional sport does not need the stench of corruption hanging over it. In the interest of sport, Mr Blatter should go now. His image has been hopelessly tarnished. Professionalism demands results, but not at any cost. Incidentally, if Fifa is looking for an exemplar as to how a sporting organisation can be run in the interest of the fans and players and still flourish, it could do worse than look to our own GAA. Now that would be a game changer.

Irish Independent

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