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Lise Hand: We're now reduced to flogging the family silver to pay off loan-sharks

Colm McCarthy, aka An Fear Strip, walked past Anglo Irish Bank on Stephen's Green yesterday as the shiny silver letters over the door were being removed one by one in front of a small but appreciative crowd.

In a sense the economist is the complete antithesis of everything that the ruined bank stood for -- he's pragmatic, plain-speaking, low-key, has a disregard for the status quo and also an abiding suspicion of any displays of glitz or hubris.

And so the launch of his group's new report yesterday took place in the resolutely modest surroundings of a small, windowless room in Buswells hotel.

These days it seems to be a case of another day, another report on the ongoing state o'chassis in this battered and broke country.

On Tuesday, there was the Nyberg report into the banking farrago, and barely had this been digested when Colm McCarty's Report of the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities was unleashed yesterday.

It could also be called the Rock-Bottom Report, for effectively it's an unsparing stock-take of the collective family silver to see what's worth selling off in the hope of raising a few quid to pay back the loan-sharks.

It's the sort of story which often pops up in the tabloids -- an ordinary family in a small town suddenly wins the Lotto. They all go mad and spend, spend, spend like the good days will never end. Then the fraudsters circle and the money is invested in crazy castles in the air and get-richer-quick schemes. Then -- poof -- the money's gone, the fightsand recriminations break out, and the family ends up with the bailiffs at the door, their creditors in the courts and their jewellery in the pawn-shop.

And so Ireland is one big inventory, and Colm is the man with the ledger and the pencil, calculating how many shekels can be squeezed out of the sale of the State's assets.

And by his reckoning, valuables such as CIE, RTE, An Post, Coillte, Bord Gais, ESB, Bord na Mona, the Irish Aviation Authority and the National Stud could raise up to €5bn.

So what were the findings of An Bord Strip? Are 'For Sale' signs about to go up in Montrose? Could RTE fall into the hands of Fox News, or Bord Gais be snapped up by some Russian oligarch with an eye for a bargain?

Would everything have to be painted magnolia to make them more attractive to prospective buyers?

The first thing that Colm did at his press conference was to simmer everyone down. Ireland wasn't about to turn into the equivalent of the first day of the Christmas sales in Clery's with an undignified scramble to hoover up bargains.

"We're not keen that anyone should conclude that all of these companies could be put up on eBay tomorrow or anything like that," he explained soothingly.

So he recommended that some stuff could be hawked fairly smartly, such as the National Stud, Bord na Mona, some of the national bus network and the Government's 25pc stake in Aer Lingus.

But he was less enthusiastic about off-loading the Big Two -- the ESB and Bord Gais. Or at least the Government shouldn't rush into selling what he regarded as core assets.

Nor was the economist in favour of under-selling any of the assets up for grabs. To his way of thinking, the whole thing was very simple.

"You sell it to the highest bidder, which has two advantages: the first is that you get more money, and the second is that the Tribunal of Inquiry lasts two minutes," he quipped. "We just say, 'We gave it to the fella who bid the most money, Your Honour.' End of Tribunal."

Now that radical approach could've saved everyone both time and trouble.

The findings were greeted with a dollop of wariness and a soupcon of enthusiasm by the Government who have already decided to raise no more than €2bn through selling off assets, and they're also less than wholehearted about the notion of flogging forestry agency Coillte to make some loot -- a case perhaps of not seeing the wood for the fees.

There was a sense from the Government that the Long Finger was being prepared for many of the suggestions of An Fear Snip.

But the bald truth of it is that we're skint, on our uppers, and we need to raise money pronto.

In the Dail yesterday, Joe Higgins had a novel money-raising wheeze which he put to Enda during Taoiseach's Questions: "In view of the fact that the royal family of Britain is one of the wealthiest families in the world and that this country is almost sleeping rough, so to speak figuratively, would you ask the queen if she might make a contribution towards her own bed and breakfast costs?" he enquired.

Or maybe there is something we could put up on eBay -- the Anglo signs. As the busted bank's boss Mike Aynsley watched the letters being removed, he considered the option. "They'll be used in some way," he promised.

An Fear Snip probably could come up with an idea or two.

Irish Independent