Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Political Influence of the Super-rich

In my posting "Traveller Rights" yesterday, I made an exception of the super-rich - a minority who most definitely are not politically powerless.

In this regard, I had in mind a couple of"minorities of one" i.e. Tony O'Reilly & Ken Rohan, both of whom had specific legislation enacted on their behalf.

In O'Reilly's case it allowed the Eircom ESOT (Employee Share Ownership Trust) to accept his consortium's bid without triggering a major capital gains liability, effectively scuppering Denis O'Brien's competing bid.
O'Reilly had no telecoms background, was backed by venture capitalists who would be looking to sell out within 5 years and his bid was mainly funded by borrowings rather than capital, secured against the assets of the business and repaid from the earnings of the business. This appproach encourages a short-term owner to sweat the assets and minimise capital investment.
O'Brien, on the other hand, is a proven telecoms operator and the much larger capital element of his proposed financing structure was indicative of a long-term commitment to developing the business.
This was obviously on no interest to the Fianna Fail-led Government. It truly was "Payback Time" as a famous Indo front-page editorial had wisely predicted.

In the case of Rohan, he had furnished his modest home "Charleville" in Enniskerry with very expensive antiques and art which were owned by his company. The Revenue had assessed him as having a BIK liability which was reported to exceed €1m.
In the 1994 Finance Act, Minister for Finance Bertie Ahern introduced an amendment to remove this BIK tax liability. Not only that, but the relief was made retrospective to 1983! At the time it was reported in the media that Ken Rohan was the sole known beneficiary of this amendment.

Rohan had contested the Revenue assessment of BIK libility, but the very fact that the Government deemed it necessary to amend legislation would suggest that the Revenue had a fairly good case in the first instance. Needless to say, Ken Rohan was and remains a Fianna Fail donor.

What's particularly interesting is that we are repeatedly told that legislation cannot have a retrospective effect. Thus, when it comes to unwinding some of the tax shelters which are used by the super-rich to avoid tax, we are told these have to be allowed to run their course. Yet when it comes to looking after their own..........

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Traveller Rights

Travellers are a perfect example of how politically powerless minorities are (with the exception of the super-rich) and their plight illustrates the short-comings of our political system, at both National and Local levels.

Politicians thrive on clientelism and focus almost exclusively on their own constituency. This sustains a NIMBY mentality which has thwarted the provision of services to Travellers and other minorities. If your votes don’t count then you don’t count.

Both the settled community and Travellers have rights and attendant obligations. The current approach seems to be that when Travellers meet their civic obligations we, the settled community, might consider giving them the means to enjoy their rights.

Could it be time we tried this the other way round?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Enya's Loxian Amarantine

Amarantine, Enya's latest CD, contains songs with lyrics written in the Loxian language.

It seems this new tongue has been invented by the artist herself as she found english too restrictive for the artistic expression of her thoughts and feelings.

It should be mandatory for the CD cover to carry the following health warning:
"Please do not adjust or replace your equipment. Some of the lyrics on this CD really are gibberish".

Perhaps they should also carry a warning that listening to too much Enya may seriously damage your mental health.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rugby: Ireland 43 Romania 12

The forward battle was comprehensively won by the Romanians. Not a great confidence builder for the side going into the 6 Nations. Perhaps Eddie “The Eagle” O’Sullivan should try using the small ads to recruit some of our many Romanian immigrants for the pack?

The Welsh display against the Wallabies was vastly superior to our effort last week, while Scotland’s game performance against the All Blacks casts doubt over one of our “automatic wins” in the upcoming championship.
Paddy Power’s 16/1 against Ireland becoming outright winners of the 6 Nations doesn’t appear to be over-generous. The Wooden Spoon might be the bet to go for.

Push-over tries: The Romanian pack, in possession of the ball, crossed the Irish line 3 times, but on each occasion the video ref was unable to see the grounding of the ball. All they got for their efforts was a 5-yard scrum each time.
It’s time to change the rules so that, in those circumstances, a try is awarded on the 3rd visit to the in-goal area. The Romanians certainly earned it.

Memo to the IRFU
Subject: Ireland’s Call

Lads, if you want the predominantly male supporters to sing the bloody song, there‘s no point having a soprano to lead the singing! Unless it’s Tony Soprano.

Saturday Views

Irish Ferries dispute

Irish Ferries have borrowed the Genghis Khan HR Handbook from the Chester Beatty Library. Could they please return it as it’s long overdue.

Liam Lawlor

The Dail tributes to Liam Lawlor during the week, from leaders of all major parties, had me reaching for the bucket. This was one crooked politician and silence would have been a dignified response, if they couldn’t summon the moral courage to condemn their former colleague.

In truth, The Sunday Independent did the family a favour. Their ill-informed report on the circumstances of his death put the entire media on the back foot. Far from obituaries reciting his well documented mis-deeds, the entire focus was on media standards and public sympathy shifted onto the family.

What should not be forgotten is that his family have long been beneficiaries of Lawlor’s ill-gotten wealth. Presumably his estate is significantly larger than it would otherwise have been, so they continue to benefit. I trust the Criminal Assets Bureau will pursue his estate. But the Sunday Indo may well have scuppered that too.

Well done Aengus Fanning.

George Best - simply the best

George Best said that he spent a lot of his money on booze, women and fast cars and he simply squandered the rest.

The "best" story is the one about George phoning room-service in the Europa Hotel, Belfast and ordering another bottle of Dom Perignon. When the waiter entered the bedroom of the Presidential Suite, ice-bucket and champagne held aloft, he saw George in bed with Miss World and a huge wad of £20 notes on the bedside table. Standing at the end of the bed, he shook his head wistfully and uttered the now immortal words: "Oh George, where did it all go wrong?"

On a serious note, I presume George had signed an organ donor card, given the fact that he had received a liver transplant himself. I doubt if many of his organs were in a suitable condition for transplant, but what about his feet? There are many current Premiership strikers who could benefit from the famous Best skills, even if the famous feet have considerably aged. Peter Crouch of Liverpool springs to mind.

Mary Robinson - first Queen of Ireland

As a man, I'd be afraid to offer any opinion on Mary Robinson's recent comments about highly qualified women "copping out" of the workplace in order to get married.

However, her appearance on RTE's Late Late Show (18th November) was quite revealing. When questioned by Pat Kenny on the public perception that UN officials in New York enjoyed the high life, she offered a couple of examples to debunk this myth. She revealed that, while she could fly Business Class, her personal assistant had to fly Economy. When Kenny asked if she'd ever gone back to join her colleague in Economy, she replied that her assistant had sometimes managed to cajole her way up to the front. It was clear that it never crossed her mind to join her companion in the back of the plane.
She also revealed that a senior UN official had recently complained to her that his allowances were insufficient to let him stay at the best hotels. Tight belts indeed at the UN.

If Ireland ever decides to be a Monarchy rather than a Republic, I think I know where we can find a queen!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

George Bush and al-Jazeera

Tony Blair persuaded George Bush not to bomb al Jazeera, but failed to persuade him to bomb the BBC!
On a serious note, the media is a key element of the terrorist armoury, the "weapon" by which they deliver their messages to the world. Bombs in Iraq are focused on Baghdad and areas where they will most easily receive worldwide media coverage. Elaborate hostage situations are played out on video for media consumption.
For all their protestations of "just reporting the news", the media have become players. 24-hour media needs content and the terrorists are happy to provide it - one monster feeds another. Editorial judgement often appears to go missing. Broadcasters know they are being manipulated but are content to go along with it.
Bush is wrong to think about bombing al-Jazeera, but you can see where he's coming from. I wonder did he consider bombing Fox? Don't think so!

Roy Keane's latest bust-up

Roy Keane seems to display some of the classic traits of a bully - he can hand it out but he can't take it.
Some media reports of the post-MUTV session with the manager & players say that, when reprimanded in front of the players by Alec Ferguson, Keane threw the "Rock of Gibraltar" affair back in his face.
If true, this clearly had nothing to do with the situation but was the petty, spiteful response to criticism that you might expect from a spoilt child.
It's sad that a footballer of his undisputed class has such an immature personality. It's hard to imagine him succeeding in team management where player motivation would be a key requirement.
Instead of fond memories of his exploits for Manchester United and Ireland, he'll probably be remembered for the sour taste of his departures from both camps.