Saturday 16 December 2017

The Punt: Equality minister blunders into racism row

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Labour's ultra politically correct junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin managed to fall foul of an iron rule of social media - the risk that no matter how apparently innocuous a comment, somebody, somewhere will take offence.

An online "tweet" by Minister Ó Ríordáin yesterday threatened to backfire spectacularly when he mockingly reacted to a video featuring Chelsea soccer fans in Paris racially abusing a black man.

"To satisfy/punish their fans, Chelsea should play out the rest of the season with only white English players. (Do they have 11 of them?)" the minister wrote.

You can see what he was getting at, although the self-proclaimed racists in the Paris video presumably would prefer to see their club field an "all white" team, even if it meant losing. The trouble started when some people who took the minister at his word pointed out that such a move would hurt Chelsea's non-white players. Indeed it would, if the idea was ever intended as anything other than a challenge to the racists.

Ó Ríordáin later posted a dictionary definition of "irony" to his online followers. The Dublin TD is no stranger to being outraged himself, he famously reported former Mayor of Naas Darren Scully to the Gardai over comments by Scully about people from Africa.

The irony of one of the country's most ostentatiously PC politicians having even a brush with a racism row would be funny, if it wasn't also a cautionary tale for anyone using social media. The risk of being misinterpreted online is big at the best of times and when you add humour it is practically guaranteed.

Permo's Masding has reason to be worried

PERMANENT TSB boss Jeremy Masding is sure to be anxious at the moment as the Central Bank investigates his bank over its treatment of mortgage customers who lost trackers.

The regulator is conducting what it calls an enforcement investigation over the bank's refusal to allow a number of customers to revert to cheap tracker rates once they came out of fixed rates.

The bank is working with the Central Bank to identify the relevant customers, and to calculate the loss suffered by them, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath was told by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in a Dail question this week.

Noonan said: "The bank has made clear to my officials that it will do everything in its power to expedite this matter and ensure that all affected customers are identified and receive appropriate redress."

The minister added that as part of its enforcement probe the Central Bank has the power to impose a regulatory sanction on the bank for its conduct in the matter. He told McGrath that any sanction was a matter for the Central Bank.

No figure on the numbers of mortgage holders affected was given, but it is understood to impact around as many as 2,000 mortgage holders.

Worrying times for Masding.

Brave Barrington shuns wife's share advice

New Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh, chairman Colm Barrington, and Stobart Air boss Sean Brogan were this week the latest trio to be subjected to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport.

They endured over three hours of questioning on Tuesday evening, trying to explain why they believed a €1.4bn takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG would be good for the airline.

Kavanagh, whose appointment as chief executive is effective from March 1, also revealed that he owns about 280,000 shares in Aer Lingus after 26 years' service.

He was coy regarding his potential remuneration and bonus package as chief executive. "In due course it will be in the public arena," he said. Outgoing chief executive Christoph Mueller fielded a barrage of criticism about his pay awards last year.

Barrington revealed that he's even been brave enough to sometimes shun his wife's advice when buying shares.

"I bought my 300,000 shares over the past six years, sometimes when the prospects of the company didn't look great, and sometimes against the strong discouragement of my wife," Barrington said.

"If this deal happens, I'll make some money out of those shares, which I'll be very happy with, but it was a risk investment by me at the time. I've ensured it didn't influence my thinking about this transaction." His wife will be happy too.

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