Thursday 18 January 2018

The Punt: Minister Burton sticks it up to banks over blunder

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton

SOCIAL Protection Minsiter Joan Burton is nothing if not a wily politician. The Punt has been at various press conferences where she used the old trick of having a go at the banks to wriggle out of some uncomfortable situation or other. But this time the old bank bashing trick may be justified.

The minister was asked in the Dail about whether her department or the banks were responsible for the recent debacle that saw social welfare payments delayed due to a May Day shut-down across Europe. She was uncompromising in her response.

The May Day holiday on the continent shut down interbank transactions in this country. The Irish Payments Services Organisation (IPSO) insisted it had warned the department there would be delays and advised it to process them earlier than usual.

But the minsiter was having none of this. Her department brought all electronic payments forward, despite not being warned to do so by IPSO, she told the Dail. They were told there would only be a slight delay. "My department transferred the necessary payment files to its banking provider well in advance of the required timeline to ensure prompt payments to its customers and staff on that date," she said.

She said her department had written to the chief of IPSO Noel Brett seeking the reasons for the delays. Take that bankers.

New developer digs in at Gannon house scheme

The sound of an excavator is not the first thing you might want to hear in the morning, but to developers it's like the dawn chorus. The Punt hears that the ground is already being prepared at developer Gerry Gannon's Robswall development near Malahide in north Dublin, with earthworks under way to prepare for the construction of more homes at the scheme.

The Irish Independent revealed last month how Gannon Homes' remaining interest in the scheme – nine acres of development land and 85 completed properties – has been snapped up by London-based Development Securities for just over €30m.

There are already 363 completed homes, which were built up to 2007. There's permission for another 154 properties. The acquisition is Development Securities' second foray into the Dublin market, having bought a small site in the city centre last year.

The company announced yesterday that it has also agreed to pay up to £27.4m (€33.6m) to buy UK developer Cathedral Group, which specialises in mixed-use projects in London and the south-east of England.

Cathedral's non-executive chairman is Barry Bennett, who previously headed up the UK arm of now failed Irish housebuilder McInerney Homes. He's now joining Development Securities as a non-executive director.

No done deal in sight for Finance replacement

WITH speculation about who will replace John Moran, right, at the top of Department of Finance rife, assistant general secretary Neil Ryan was keen to knock any possible rumours of a done deal on the head.

The investment banker turned civil servant (now where have we heard that before) was introduced as John Moran's replacement at a banking conference in Dublin, but quickly went out of his way to clarify things. Ryan explained that he was standing in for his (still) boss at the event, and assuredly "not replacing John Moran".

On paper the two are cut from similar cloth. Both joined the Civil Service post-crash from the private sector, though they are very different. Ryan comes across as very much a nuts and bolts man, while John Moran is very much the blue skies thinker.

Normally Patrick Kennedy at Paddy Power would be the first port of call for odds on a race like this. Come to think of it, the online gambling supremo himself could be in the running, after announcing his own decision to step down this week. After all, he knows his way around the numbers.


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