We have a lot to learn from Banking Inquiry
Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30
One of the more notable revelations from the Banking Inquiry was what the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) told the Government in March 2011. The State had the potential to save as much as €9bn by letting senior debt holders at the six Irish banks take a hit.
In a written submission, the NTMA, advised how "immediate steps" could facilitate burden-sharing.
It was confident that the markets even factored a haircut on the bonds into their calculations.
However, the possible implications with "external authorities" - the European Central Bank - were also weighed up. We had been chillingly warned that if the Government went ahead with a haircut "a bomb would go off in Dublin".
It is hard to conceive of a more inappropriate and hostile threat to a sovereign government from an institution it purports to serve. Without the support of the European Central Bank the country would have gone to the wall.
But without the compliance and acceptance of the harshest possible terms of burden-sharing imposed on the Irish people, the entire euro could have collapsed. The banking crisis and the insistence that private debt be shouldered by ordinary taxpayers who had nothing to do with accruing it has led many in this country to change their attitude towards Brussels. Since the crash, nations on the periphery have felt excluded from the decisions taken at the top table for the first time. The failure to force losses on the senior bondholders to recoup some of the cost of the €64bn bank bailout has been a running sore since Fine Gael and Labour entered government. We now know that the ECB's heavy-handed intervention cost Irish taxpayers billions.
It would be delusional to blame all our woes on the EU. Catastrophic lines of cheap credit and failures of oversight and governance at home massively exacerbated the situation, eventually resulting in a crash. But it should also be remembered that it was Europe's banks that fuelled the debt and the ECB failed to call a halt. Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny hinted that he may consider holding another referendum to give Oireachtas committees more powers following the Banking Inquiry. He agreed that the inquiry had been "limited and constrained". The inability to adequately examine individuals and make findings of fact against them rendered the Banking Inquiry inadequate for the huge size of the task at hand.
Burghers in Brussels lay down the law again
What's in a name? Would a burger and chips by any other name not smell as sweet? Apparently not, according to EU officials, and thus Irish fast-food chain Supermac's has lost a trademark battle with McDonald's in Europe.
It now finds itself in another bun fight with a different multinational competitor, Burger King, which is making a complaint against the company.
According to Pat McDonagh, CEO of Supermacs: "We got a letter from the Advertising Standards Authority the other day relating to another multinational group objecting to our utilising our Irishness in our adverts."
What is needed is an Irish solution to an Irish problem.
One might be tempted to take such things with a pinch of salt, but when the chips are down the law is the law, and the Burghers in Brussels are not to be trifled with.