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The Punt: Co-op knocked off its pedestal


A branch of the Co-operative Bank in central London. Photo: AP

A branch of the Co-operative Bank in central London. Photo: AP

A branch of the Co-operative Bank in central London. Photo: AP

IT'S fair to say some of us have developed a pretty jaundiced opinion of our banks.

Hard as it is to believe though, it could be worse. In the UK, the Co-op Group, and its banking arm, was long held up as a bastion of correctness and was seen by some, in the aftermath of the crash, as a model for prudent, risk-based lending. Indeed at one point, the British government looked like it would broker a deal for the Co-op Bank to take on more than 500 branches of the hobbled Lloyds Bank.

Well, it turns out the Co-op wasn't quite the brilliantly-run institution we believed. This time last year, the Lloyds sale fell through. In May, a £1.5bn black hole was found in its balance sheet and the bank's chairman, Paul Flowers, resigned.

Mr Flowers was then arrested in November after a newspaper expose allegedly showed him buying drugs and boasting about previous drug use.

Yesterday, the bank confirmed it lost £1.3bn last year and won't be profitable this year.

If that wasn't bad enough, a Co-op board member was suspended amid claims he was struck off as a chartered accountant some years ago.

Flaherty will be missed

His many friends and admirers on this side of the Atlantic will read with sadness that former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty, below, has died suddenly aged 64.

He had only recently stood down as finance minister after more than eight years in the job – on March 18 to be precise.

That neat timing allowed the Irish-Canadian to play host to our own Michael Noonan in Toronto on St Patrick's Day before stepping down.

The two men had met earlier when Mr Flaherty was conferred with an honorary degree by NUIG in 2012.

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As finance minister during the crisis, Mr Flaherty is widely credited with helping America's northern neighbour to ride out the global economic slump in some style.

Mr Flaherty reacted to the crisis with a thoroughly Keynsian fiscal stimulus programme – running deficits and encouraging spending. It worked; the Canadian economy grew twice as fast as the other big economies through the period of the crash.

Mr Noonan issued a statement yesterday.

"Jim Flaherty was forever accessible to the Irish Government and the Irish community and constantly championed the promotion of Irish-related projects in Canada.

"I would like to extend my deepest condolences and those of the Irish Government to his wife Christine, and their three sons.

He will be sorely missed by his many friends in Ireland. May he rest in peace."

Knock airport beefs up board

Change is winging its way to Knock airport.

Ireland West Airport Knock, to give its full name, has beefed up its board with three new appointments.

New York lawyer Brian O'Dwyer is among the additions. The senior partner at O'Dwyer & Bernstein, he is a strong advocate of immigrant rights in the United States. As part of a delegation, he worked closely with President Bill Clinton and the White House during the peace process.

Knock airport has also appointed Pat Gallagher to the board. He's the manufacturing director for Europe, Middle-East and Africa at Baxter Healthcare. Based in Castlebar, Co Mayo, he has been a campaigner for better infrastructure in the west, northwest and midlands regions.

The third new appointment at Knock airport is John Molloy, managing director of Aircraft Consultancy and Equipment Sales (ACES).

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