Ann Fitzgerald: 'The "vultures" are circling - and we ignore them at our peril'
When I landed in home from a meeting recently, my husband, Robin, started talking about a TV programme he had just watched, in which vultures had, albeit inadvertently, done a good deed.
Entitled Natural World: Flying Rhinos, the programme told how, last year, in South Africa, 668 rhinos had been killed for their horns. At this rate, none will be left in the wild within 15 years.
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Where vultures came into the story was an incident when they were seen circling in the sky.
On investigation, the bodies of a number of adult black rhinos that had been slaughtered by poachers were discovered along with a distressed baby rhino. Thanks to the vultures, he was rescued.
The reason Robin mentioned it was because the meeting I attended was about "vulture" funds.
Whoever came up with the moniker for these particular financial entities certainly hit the nail on the head.
Wikipedia describes a vulture as "a scavenging bird of prey".
A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of normal feathers.
Another fact which I found interesting is that a group of vultures resting, on the ground or in trees, is called a committee.
Vultures rarely attack healthy animals, but may target the wounded or sick. Vast numbers have been seen on battlefields.
Vultures are regarded as having great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions.
Their stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive (pH = 1.0), allowing them to eat putrid carcasses infected with terrible-sounding stuff like, botulinum toxin, hog cholera bacteria and anthrax bacteria.
New World vultures also urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses.
What disgusting creatures … that it's also hard not to admire.
The same cannot be said for human "vulture" funds.
The reason that these funds can operate as they do is because they are effectively faceless. As someone at the ICMSA meeting pointed out, a high-street bank would never get away with such behaviour.
The really scary aspect of all this is that it could take as little as one missed repayment for a loan to be considered tainted. There are numerous legitimate reasons for missing a payment, such as illness, death or bereavement.
It struck me that the sense of disconnection explains so much of why the world is going off-track at this present time.
But, no matter how difficult or unpalatable it may be, it seems that the best way to deal with any such encounters is upfront and as quickly as possible. The vulture funds won't go away if you ignore them.
There were only about 30 people at the meeting. But, as ICMSA leader Pat McCormack pointed out, those who most needed to be there were likely absent because of the stigma.
A woman present pointed out that there are three things that we Irish used to avoid talking about: politics, religion and money.
The first two taboo topics may have been consigned to the history books but the last one lingers on.
A number did speak up about their financial misadventures with a variety of professional bodies. It seemed obvious that, for some at least, it has changed the course of their lives.
Hopefully, the subject gets the coverage it deserves and will help those in financial difficulties to realise that they are not alone, that there is help available, both emotionally and practically.
Opening my front door, I paused for a moment, with renewed gratitude that, whatever troubles face me, I have a place to call home.
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