Sunday 19 November 2017

Volcanic ash or recession woes won't ground high-flier Gerald

Barry Egan

Barry Egan

THERE wasn't a whiff of volcanic ash to hold us up.

More importantly, the whiff of recession, which has caused so many of the glitterati to suppress their enjoyment of life, less they be thought insensitive, did not get in the way of Ireland's most famous solicitor, Gerald Kean, flying a party of football fanatics to Manchester yesterday to raise money for several charities.

It all started, as these things often do, on Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Gerald was there for the Angels Quest Spring Lunch with his fiancee Lisa Murphy and 200 other equally lovely women who had turned up in these hard times to support Deirdre Kelly's charity.

With characteristic generosity, he put a trip to see his beloved Man Utd play Spurs at Old Trafford into the auction as a prize -- and then paid €1,000 for it himself.

To make sure it was a jolly party, Gerald decided to bring along six men who had paid for a similar prize at a previous charity event earlier in the year which was to raise funds for the Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise, a day-care centre for cancer patients; Baby Max in Dublin; and Cheshire Homes in Cork.

As we prepared for the trip, Gerald fired up a Monte Cristo cigar and kept the guests entertained, among them Lorraine Keane, Sallyanne Clarke and Norah Casey. Moving among the tables, Mr Kean was like an anti-recession pill for the nation -- a one-man government pushing us forward into a brighter future.

He was cracking jokes and telling stories and generally bringing joie de vivre with his infectious positivity. It was a mental vacation from the almost constant woe-is-Ireland talk of economic downturns on RTE and the like.

Thinking in a negative way simply leads to feeling negative and Gerald -- and Lisa and the rest of the girls enjoying themselves outside in the sun -- were the antithesis of all that in D4 on Friday afternoon, especially at a time when most Irish celebrities do their utmost to appear humble and worthy and end up looking pompous and insincere.

Some 12 hours later, we are on board a Daz-white Cessna Citation II about to take off at Weston Airport. The kind host tells me: "I am a very happy fella, thank God. I really enjoy life. What I have learned -- particularly with clients in the film and music world, and soccer and business -- is that there are so many unhappy people in life and you don't have to be unhappy," he says.

Lisa was, alas, unable to make it. She had to work at her beauty salon, A New Lease, in Sandycove yesterday morning.

Despite the absence of the beautiful blonde, the six lads Gerald had brought over for charity were still delighted to be going to England. They had paid a small fortune to a good cause to go along and Gerald was delighted to help the charity. This wasn't Johnny Ronan flying Rosanna to Marrakesh on a sweet jolly on a private jet. This was for sweet charity.

"This trip to Man Utd would have raised about 20 grand for the individual charities,'' Keano says.

"I've always been very positive about life,'' he says, as we jet above the clouds, and above the recession. "What helps me an awful lot is that I come across so many people who have obstacles in their lives; people like Scoil Triest which is a special needs school in Cork. These are people whose sons and daughters have mental and physical disabilities from the day of their birth. They overcome these obstacles with a smile and they get on with their lives,'' he continues.

"These people... they have the strength of character that I admire. Instead of listening to a crowd of bankers, lawyers and accountants complaining that they can't afford fancy holidays or saying 'we're suffering'. The real suffering is being felt by people who have sick family members who have no income coming in or have children to feed. Those with comfortable lifestyles should do more to help others, and appreciate what they have.

"It's very simple. And it annoys me. That's why I admire Deirde Kelly. That's why I admire Scoil Triest in Cork. That's why I admire the Marie Keating Foundation. That's why I admire Temple Street Children's Hospital. Go and spend a day with them, as I do, and you'll know.''

He has nothing but disdain for those people who do their best to talk the country into a deeper black hole of recession. But worse is his loathing of the whole Nama situation. "I'm totally against Nama. Totally. I'd tell the senior bond holders and the subordinate bond holders in Anglo Irish Bank: 'Tough luck. You put your money in. You lost. Goodbye'.

"And do not put 15 or 20 billion of taxpayers' money into that. Put it into a national recovery bank like the SFEF in France.

"So if young couples wanting to buy a home or small business, if they are turned down by AIB or Bank of Ireland, they can go to a national recovery bank who will lend them 40 or 50 grand to kick-start the business.

"Obama borrowed $850bn to kick-start the American economy. We could do it if we just stopped -- now -- bankrolling Anglo Irish Bank,'' he says.

"Don't be fooled by the Government. Don't be fooled by economic experts who say we can't hurt senior bond holders -- that it will give Ireland a bad image. They said that about Lehman Brothers.

"They said that about Bradford & Bingley. That's rubbish. We should not save Anglo. That money should be invested. I believe in people. Invest in people. People are the future of Ireland," he says as we hit a bit of turbulence heading out over the Irish Sea.

Sunday Independent

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