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Michael O'Doherty: Quit whinging, Ballagh. You and your mates trousered the cash from banks for your art, now you've no right to say what they do with it

A recent decision by Bank of Ireland has provoked the ire of two of this country's leading painters, Robert Ballagh and Pauline Bewick.

Quoted in a Sunday newspaper, Ballagh described the plan by BoI to sell off its entire art collection -- valued about about €5m -- and donate the proceeds to charity, as "scandalous".

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Banks have, for many years, been a great supporter of Irish artists, and given the lean times feel a bit embarrassed about having this stuff sitting around their lobbies, when the money it raises could be put to some use. So they're selling it all and donating the proceeds to worthy causes.


Now you'd have thought it hard to argue with such a plan. But step forward Dumb and Dumber, Robert and Pauline, who've slammed the idea as being "cultural vandalism", urging the bank to donate the works to the State.

Their logic is that instead of deserving charities benefiting to the tune of €5m, nobody should get a penny from the sale of this collection -- it should simply be given to galleries so that a tiny number of people each year can stare at a picture of an artichoke and be "challenged".

Well that's easy for you to say, guys. After all, you've already trousered your money from selling it to the bank in the first place.

Robert and Pauline rage that the dumping of this art on the market will "devalue" other artists' work in the future by over-supplying demand. Allow me to translate that. Putting all these works on to the market will mean Robert and Pauline will have to charge less for their own work in the future. Doesn't sound quite so selfless when you phrase it like that, does it?


Do you know what really bugs me about these windbags? Ballagh and Bewick have been treated as superior citizens to you or me, courtesy of Charlie Haughey's absurd legacy to the nation -- the Artists Tax Exemption.

So while they chastise the banks for the damage they have done to our economy, they fail to point out one fact -- they haven't quite contributed to the economy to the same extent as you or I, because artists like them are exempt from paying tax on earnings under €250k.

So I've a suggestion -- if their sole concern is Ireland's cultural well-being, let them buy their work back from the bank, at 50pc of what they sold it for, ask the bank to give the other 50pc to charity, and then donate the paintings to the State themselves. Charities win, a few bewildered tourists in galleries win, and the artists get to keep half their original money, which is all they would have got if they'd paid tax on it.

While their paintings continue to hide a few stains on walls around the country, Robert and Pauline are part of the economic problem, just like the banks.

So do us a favour guys -- until you're willing to fully contribute your fair share to the cost of running a country, keep your opinions about how it should be run to yourselves.

'Mr Showbiz' has strife in the fast lane

Journalist Paul Martin is Ireland's self-styled 'Mr Showbiz. 'Self-styled' because Mr Showbiz is the name he gives himself -- everyone else on the planet calls him 'Paul', at best.

And as if to try to make himself more celeby, Paul appeared in court this week charged with dangerous driving, not only speeding at 120kph in an 80kph zone, but doing so while "perusing paperwork on his lap".

How very showbiz of him... Speeding isn't good enough for your average star, Paul has to be reading at the same time, something your average dangerously-driving twat wouldn't even attempt.

But I feel a twinge of sympathy for Paul. It was probably late afternoon, close to his deadline, and I'm guessing he was frantically reading the day's other newspapers.

After all, how else was Mr Showbiz supposed to come up with 'exclusive' stories for his column the following day?

So which bright spark thinks our electric cars can solve city jams?

Dublin City Council seem to have given up on dealing with real problems -- crime, poverty etc -- and are fixated on what they consider to be the real enemy, motorists.

First, it's 15mph speed limits. This week, electric cars. Following on from their Dublin Bikes project, the council is now proposing a motorised version using electric cars. So you turn up to a depot, swipe in your credit card, drive off to the nearest depot, where you do the same again, queue to re-charge that car... until you think, sod this, I'm still nowhere near home, I'll take my own car next time.


FG councillor Eoghan Murphy lives in a fictional world where every car driver in Dublin is touring the city centre, from one shop or office to the next, and their trips can easily be replaced by bikes or electric cars. Which ignores the reality that most people use their cars to get in and out of town, usually from a distant suburb, where none of these electric cars will be based.

And he backs up his idea with the claim that a similar scheme in London has resulted in "a 70pc decrease in car use". Ignoring the real, blindingly obvious explanation for the decline in London's car use -- the prohibitive congestion charge.


The main cause of city centre traffic jams these days isn't motorists -- it's the thousands of taxis looking for a fare. And what are Dublin City Council doing about this? Well, they're planning to make it worse by taking even more business from taxis and public transport by encouraging people to use bikes, and now electric cars, to get around the city centre. You couldn't make it up...