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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Longboat Quay: Developer crawls back out of his hole

Poor old Bernard McNamara got a going-over during the week. McNamara is a developer and former Fianna Fáil councillor. A hardened cynic might say that’s enough to merit a perpetual going-over. But in fairness to the man, he was well got in places high and low before his own fall from grace into the clutches of bankruptcy.

After his purgatorial sojourn under Britain’s bankruptcy laws, he rose like one of his own developments, back in business, showing that there are second acts in a developer’s life under a new corporate guise. His company signs now grace a site in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, and he is understood to be active elsewhere in the country.
Barnard McNamara
Until last week, McNamara appeared to typify the rehabilitation of The Developer. Back in the days of deep recession, The Developer was a creature nearly as reviled as The Banker. Now, with the emergence of a housing crisis, The Developer is back in demand. These days, he sees himself as a nation-building victim, with a succession of Nama-fied developers emerging from that process recounting their experience as if they had been raped. Between being in demand and affecting the pose of victim, The Developer was nearly rehabilitated. And then, the past of one of their finest blew out from behind the walls of Longboat Quay.

The confirmation that the 299-unit development on Dublin’s Sir John Rogerson Quay was a fire trap threw McNamara’s activity into a different light. The six-storey blocks were built in an appalling manner in 2006, at the height of the property madness. Corners were cut. Walls were not built with proper fire stops. Vital smoke vents were not installed. There was a total disregard for fire safety in a multi-occupancy building where a fire could have meant multiple fatalities.

At an information meeting for owners and residents last Tuesday, a number in attendance questioned how McNamara could skip off scot-free from the dangerous debacle he left in his wake.
“He’s back in business,” one man shouted from the floor. “Has anybody contacted him?” A director of the management company, Richard Eardley, pointed out that the company used by McNamara to build Longboat was now in receivership, putting the man himself beyond the law.

“It gets to me any time I go past his bright, shining sign on Stephen’s Green,” Eardley said. “It sickens me.”
As well it might. McNamara, it would seem, is beyond the law. In jurisdictions where they take matters such as building and regulation seriously, he would now be facing a criminal investigation. In jurisdictions where the rights of citizens are given due recognition, he would at least be facing the prospect of stumping up the money required for the remedial works. He may not have it now, but if his latest reincarnation continues apace, it won’t be long before he does.

We do things differently in this country. Here, the dominance of vested interests is such that laws and regulations are fashioned to ensure that their immediate concerns — principally making as much money as possible — are given far more weight than the rights of Joe and Josephine Citizen. It is not until the stink becomes overpowering that any real change is affected.

Look at a few other examples. Publicans had the final say over drink-driving limits in this country for decades. It wasn’t until due prominence was given to the bereavement suffered as a result of the carnage that the Government finally acted to make the roads safer.

Farmers ensured that the boundaries of pollution remained as elastic as possible until Europe began cracking down. A flight from the land in recent decades has drained much political capital from their power, but they still remain a force.
Lawyers feed from an overflowing trough at the gateway to justice. The Government only found the courage to attempt to rebalance the system when the troika put the hammer on. (Arguably, that giant leap forward has been followed by a few large steps back).

Nobody, though, appears to enjoy the power of The Developer. What he has built is a regime in which the citizen in general, and the homebuyer in particular, is a mere irritant as he goes about a business that is key to a society’s future.
Over the years, there have been attempts — usually feeble — to rebalance the citizens’ interests with those of The Developer. The Kenny Report on rezoning land in 1973 could have reshaped the whole business of housing. That was knocked on the head before it even left the cabinet table.

However, developers’ biggest achievement was taking over regulation from the State. Prior to the 1990s, building regulation in this State mirrored how things are done in grown-up countries. Local authority inspectors were employed to inspect buildings to ensure the work complied with standards.
Since then, there has been a de facto process of self-regulation. This pertained throughout the years of property madness. How can anybody now be surprised at what is emerging? Longboat Quay is just the latest Priory Hall. There will be other Longboat Quays. The Public Accounts Committee heard on Thursday that around half of the 300 properties it took over have required remedial work for fire safety. The agency has set aside €100m for all this work.

There was no regulation. It’s as simple as that. Some developers who retained a sense of integrity kept their own standards. But it was inevitable that pressure and greed would exercise a pull on many at a time when the country was awash with money. Have you ever put a child in a room full of sweets and asked them to self-regulate?
Priory Hall was a blow to The Developer, but was put down to a maverick. Phil Hogan threw shapes by introducing new regulations, which he said would ensure no more Priory Halls. A close analysis of those new regulations, however, exposes them as little more than window-dressing.

And so, The Developer was on the way back. In recent months, as a housing crisis emerged, the role of The Developer was bigged-up into a nation builder once again. Alan Kelly rowed in with a letter to the four Dublin local authorities in June to refrain from over-regulating the nation- builders. Earlier this week, it emerged that developers may not have to pay levies to local authorities in an effort to get more starter homes built. Instead, the citizen will pick up the tab in order to allow the nation-builders get on with the job.

The exposure of McNamara’s shoddy and dangerous work, along with Nama’s latest revelations, has landed in The Developer back in the foul stuff. The subservience of the State to this vested interest is once more causing a smell. Will anything finally change? Don’t hold your breath.
Michael Clifford

Photo Minute: War is hell but life goes on....

 An American Gi takes time to feed a goat in 1944 between battles
 A girls cradles her doll in London in 1940
 An American Gi banners how feels in 1944 on his helmet
 A young student determined in his blown up library to keep studying
 An Austrian boy in 1944 delighted to get new shoes
 Babies in London fitted with gas masks in 1940
 American wives and girlfriends saying goodbye to their man in 1944
 Russian soldiers in 1944 bedding down with their friend
 Horace Greasly, an American soldier,  giving a defiant pose in 1944 to Heinrich Himmler
  A laughing Russian soldier about to be shot during the Finnish/Soviet war  in 1939
Allied soldiers enjoying a Hitler impersonator in Berlin of  1945

Thoughts For This Moment

“Suffering usually relates to wanting things to be different from the way they are.”

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying it without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz”Allan Lokos

“Treat everyone you meet as if they were you.” 
Doug Dillon

“One doesn't have to be religious to lead a moral life or attain wisdom.” 
Allan Lokos

“We have negative mental habits that come up over and over again. One of the most significant negative habits we should be aware of is that of constantly allowing our mind to run off into the future. Perhaps we got this from our parents. Carried away by our worries, we're unable to live fully and happily in the present. Deep down, we believe we can't really be happy just yet—that we still have a few more boxes to be checked off before we can really enjoy life. We speculate, dream, strategize, and plan for these "conditions of happiness" we want to have in the future; and we continually chase after that future, even while we sleep. We may have fears about the future because we don't know how it's going to turn out, and these worries and anxieties keep us from enjoying being here now.” 
Thich Nhát Hanh

“The simple act of being completely attentive & present to another person is an act of love, and it fosters unshakeable well-being.” 
Sharon Salzberg

“Maybe” (Taoist story)
Once upon a time, there was a wise old farmer who had worked on the land for over 40 years. One morning, while walking to his stable, he noticed that his horse had run away. His neighbours came to visit and sympathetically said to the farmer, “Such bad luck”.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The following morning, however, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “Such good luck,” the neighbours exclaimed.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The following afternoon, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses and was thrown off, causing him to break his leg. The neighbours came to visit and tried to show sympathy and said to the farmer, “how unfortunate”. 

“Maybe,” answered the farmer. The following morning military officials came to the farmer’s village to draft young men into the army to fight in a new war. Observing that the farmer’s son’s leg was broken, they did not draft him into the war. 

The neighbours congratulated him on his good luck and the farmer calmly replied, “Maybe”.” (fin)

“Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time”.

Matthieu Ricard ( The happiest man in the world)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Video minute: Karma is a bitch

150,000 drivers not prosecuted over penalty points

Some 150,000 drivers summonsed to court over penalty points offences are not prosecuted

A Garda operates a speed camera: Almost 150,000 drivers who were ordered to appear in court over the past two years were not convicted

Four out of five drivers summonsed to court over penalty points offences are escaping conviction, new figures show.

Almost 150,000 drivers who were ordered to appear in court over the past two years were not convicted for reasons including not being served with a summons at the correct address, or claiming to have never received a fixed-charge notice in the post.
Tommy Broughan TD said it was “astonishing” a majority of drivers involved in speeding and other offences, and ordered to appear in court, were avoiding conviction.

“This is making a farce of the system,” he said. “We’ve had ongoing difficulties over the transparency and integrity of the penalty points system. This is just another way that people are getting away without prosecution.”

Regular post
Fixed-charge fines for penalty points are typically sent through the regular post, rather than registered post, making it difficult to prove a driver received the notice.

Road safety campaigners claim many individuals summonsed to court for failing to pay penalty points fines can escape prosecution by claiming they never received the notice. In addition, the Garda has reported difficulties serving summonses due to inaccurate address data, people moving house or living in apartments which make access to properties difficult.

Chairwoman of the Parc road safety group Susan Grey said efforts to make our roads safer were being undermined by the fact that so many were escaping convictions.

Figures compiled by the Courts Service for the Department of Justice shows more than 147,000 drivers were summonsed, but not convicted, between January 2013 and March 2015. The average proportion of drivers not being convicted was 77 per cent, though figures were highest in Kerry (89 per cent) and lowest in Wexford (67 per cent).

In a statement Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said a criminal justice working group was considering reforms aimed at making more drivers pay fines and reducing summons activity. The Garda said it was working on reforming issues over fixed charges for penalty points.
Carl O Brien

Change to debt relief raises ceiling to €35,000

People on low incomes are to have the amount of debt they can get written-off under insolvency rules increased to €35,000.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is to bring in changes increasing the ceiling on debt relief notices from €20,000.
The notices cover outstanding amounts owed on personal loans, credit, debit and store cards, credit union loans and bank overdrafts, and once approved by courts mean that people awarded them can no longer be contacted by creditors demanding that monies are repaid.

The moves will also boost Insolvency Service powers, and increase regulation of practitioners. People who already have a restructured mortgage will also be able to apply for a personal insolvency arrangement.
Ms Fitzgerald said the changes were needed to improve the debt relief regime.

“Increasing the ceiling for a debt relief notice from €20,000 to €35,000 will help people to return to solvency who are on very low incomes, don’t own a property or any significant assets, and are weighed down by debts they have no prospect of being able to pay.

“I would encourage people in this situation to contact the Money Advice and Budgeting Services or the Insolvency Service,” she said.
“The intention is to bring the remaining provisions of the 2015 Act into effect as rapidly as possible, including in particular, the new court review where creditors reject a proposed personal insolvency arrangement which includes a mortgage holder’s home. Work is well advanced with the courts on putting in place the necessary changes to court rules, so that this can be done. Intensive work is also continuing across government departments and agencies on putting in place a full range of measures to strengthen supports for people in mortgage arrears on their home,” Ms Fitzgerald explained.

Director of the Insolvency Service of Ireland Lorcan O’Connor welcomed the changes.

“The debt relief notice is intended for people with very limited means who are in genuine financial distress and we know from the hundreds of people who have availed of this debt solution already that it is life changing.
“I fully expect that the increase in the maximum debt limit to €35,000 will enable ISI to help many more people get back on track financially through our court backed solutions,” he said.

Opposition parties have branded the Government’s debt relief measures a flop.
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have called for a radical overhaul of the insolvency regime as they say current arrangements leave the whip hand with lenders.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said the Insolvency Service was still far too limited to be effective.

“This will open up as situation where direct relief notices are secured by many more borrowers, but a much more fundamental shake-up of the service is needed.
“Many more people need to be able to avail of an insolvency practitioner. The system needs to be much more efficient and cost-effective if it is to be broadened out to reach the number of people in distress originally envisaged.

“Fianna Fáil is in favour of reducing the bankruptcy period to one year as that is the reality in the UK.

“Obviously, the system needs to be stringently checked, but bankruptcy is not an easy option,” he said.
Shaun Conolly

Child care examples of abuse and neglect

A total of 37 new case reports have been published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project - detailing the neglect, physical and sexual abuse of children.

The project has been giving an overview of the cases seen in the child protection courts.

The report includes details of a young girl who was taken into care because there was no heating or food at home, she ate baby formula from a tin because there was nothing else, and she was living in filthy conditions with rats in the house.

Another young girl was taken into care because of repeated beatings by her mother.

However, director of the project, Dr Carol Coulter, said that some of the reports reveal good outcomes for young people in care and their parents.

"I think it's very important to acknowledge that we're doing far better than we have in the past," she said.

"As we know, in the past, these children ended up in institutions, which were very brutal, in which very, very many of them were physically and sexually abused, and were starved and were dealt with in a very, very bad way.

"The vast majority of children in care at the moment in this country, 90% of them, are in the care of foster families."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thank God For Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is a monstrous, ruthless, power-hungry political and military assassin.
Let me get that off my chest immediately.
I find much of what this former KGB agent does on behalf of the Russian people self-servingly repellent.
But when it comes to leadership, he makes Barack Obama look like a naïve, timid schoolboy.
And on the specific issue of ISIS and how to stop the terror group’s surge through Syria, he’s right and Obama’s wrong.

Today, Putin won authorisation from the Russian parliament to throw his full military weight behind Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, and launch immediate air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State.
He’s decided the time for jaw-jawing about ISIS is over; it’s time to properly war-war.
Ostensibly, this decision was made to protect ‘Russia’s national interest.’
But in reality, it will protect many other national interests too, including America’s and Britain’s.
I was all in favour of taking out Assad when the Syrian crisis first erupted five years ago.
Like Saddam. Mubarak and Gaddafi, he appeared to be a dinosaur despot eeking out the last vestiges of tyrannical power in a country which, as so much of the Middle East, seemed to crave freedom and democracy.

Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, many of them women and children, was a disgusting abomination which comfortably crossed President Obama’s infamous ‘red line’.
But Obama cried wolf and did nothing, an act of shocking cowardice which has now come back to haunt him and America.

In the five years that the Syrian war has raged, the situation has dramatically changed all over the region.
The overthrow of so many dictators, far from bringing peace and harmony, has simply created a chaotic, violent vacuum through which ISIS has emerged like a fast-mutating virulent virus.
The rebels who won so much sympathy and support in Syria at the start are not the ‘rebels’ we see now.
The new Syrian rebel army has become a hotbed of terrorism, much of it governed by ISIS.
The good guys are now the bad guys, and the bad guys suddenly don’t seem quite so bad by comparison.

It’s a hideously complex and difficult problem for which there is no simple solution.
But the primary job of any world leader is to defend his or her people, and to do so with a clarity of vision and policy.
Frankly, I haven’t got a clue what Obama’s plan is for Syria or ISIS.
As always, he talks a good game, constantly telling us that we can’t beat ISIS with guns, we have to beat them with ideas.

But sometimes in life, guns are the only answer. And I say that as someone whose opinion of guns is fairly well documented.
s never going to be beaten with ideas. He had to be beaten with guns, tanks, planes and battleships.
ISIS is not the IRA, nor even Hezbollah. Its leaders have no interest in negotiating any settlement.
They want to nuke all we infidels into the ether.
Their barbaric thirst for blood and mayhem knows no apparent limits, and their power and membership grows daily.
ISIS thus threatens every one of us.
But Obama seems utterly neutered on how to arrest their charge, muttering meaningless platitudes and putting on his best ‘We have to do something, folks’ face.
Putin is no such shrinking violet.
He understands the very real menace ISIS poses and he knows how best to deal with it.
A couple of years ago, I got talking to President Bill Clinton at a small cocktail party in New York and asked him about his relationship with Putin.

They didn’t cross over as world leaders for very long, but it was enough for Clinton to deliver a pretty good insight into what oils the Russian leader’s wheels.
‘Putin’s very smart,’ Clinton said. ‘And he’s a hard man, a very hard man. But he respects strength. We used to kick everyone out of the room, then go at it with each other. And I mean GO at it! Things would get brutally blunt in there. But we’d get stuff done and agree on things. I think the right strategy with someone like him is to be brutally honest with private, and then, if you want them to help you, try to avoid embarrassing them in public.’

‘Did Putin ever renege on a personal agreement with you?’ I asked.
‘No, he did not.’
‘So he could be trusted?’
‘He kept his word on all the deals we made. But it’s not necessary to trust somebody to take them up on a good offer. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst in this business.’
It was a fascinating insight into diplomacy from one of the world’s greatest exponents of the art.
And one worth bearing in mind as Putin goes into battle with ISIS.
He may be loathsome. So is Assad.

But they’re not as loathsome as ISIS, nor are they as big a current danger to world peace.
Vladimir Putin has backed the right horse in a deeply flawed field, and deserves our support as he puts ISIS to the Russian military sword and seeks to vanquish this vile, devastating mutual enemy.
If he’s successful, he will deserve our deep gratitude too, however much that sticks in our gullets.
Piers Morgan

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Property tax rise coming to a place near you soon

Householders living in Co Cork will pay an extra 5% on their Local Property Tax (LTP) bill next year.

The move comes after councillors voted 32-15 to increase the tax in the wake of concerns a larger cut would affect council services.

Nearly 80% of home in the county, however, are in the property tax valuation bands of €200,000 or less.
For those living in an average three-bed semi detached house worth between €150,000 and €200,000, the charge in 2016 will be €299, up €16.

Councillors cut the LPT last year by 10% following a motion from Fianna Fáil. The party had proposed retaining the 10% cut for 2016, but failed to get support yesterday in County Hall.
Fine Gael proposed the 10% reduction be scrapped altogether. Independents sought a 5% cut, while Sinn Féin demanded a 15% cut.

At the outset of the meeting, county council chief executive Tim Lucey said the 10% cut had cost the council €4.2m, last year, and warned there “would be significant implications on the delivery of services if a 15% cut was introduced”.

Mr Lucey said that if the cut was scrapped altogether, as Fine Gael proposed, it would allow the council to invest an additional €3m in services.

Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said he and his party colleagues would love to be in a position to reduce the LPT but were concerned about being able to provide proper public services.
“A 5% reduction would give back one cent per day to the average householder,” he said. “The wealthy with a €1m home would get back 22 cents per day. We’d be looking after the wealthy much more than those who need it. The money is needed for services.”

Party colleague Gerard Murphy suggested any savings from the LPT should be used for a comprehensive hedge-cutting programme throughout the county.

Seamus McGrath, leader of Fianna Fáil on the council, said “people were very sore about the LPT”. He said he and his colleagues were “absolutely furious with Government” for reducing, for 2016, the percentage of property tax the county council receives. “It adds insult to injury,” he said.

Councillor Declan Hurley, for the Independents’ group, said that the Government shrugged its responsibility to local authorities by using the LPT to prop up services instead of providing money for them itself.
The first vote was on the 10% cut and was defeated by 28 to 13, with eight abstentions.
The second vote for the 15% reduction was also defeated by 28 to 21.

The third vote on the 5% cut was passed by 32 to 15 and therefore there was no need for the vote on no reduction.
Sean O Riordan

Spending watchdog adds up cost of bailout to the State

The total cost to the State of the bailout has been revealed as €60bn.

Spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, says servicing that includes €9bn in borrowing to meet interest payments.

Meanwhile, the Exchequer has recovered more than €5bn from selling stakes in banks - while winding up Nama is expected to yield about €1bn.

The Comptroller found that the cost of consultants and legal advisers during the bank recapitalisation programme came to €149m paid out by the state to 19 firms.

Among the payments were €33m to law firm Arthur Cox, €23m to Blackrock Financial Management, €21m to Ernst and Young, and €13m to KPMG.

Payments below the €10m mark included €9m to Goldman Sachs, €8m to PricewaterhouseCoopers, €7m each to Merrill Lynch and NM Rothschild & Sons, and €5m to Boston Consulting Group.

The biggest payments were by the Central Bank – €23m to Blackrock and €21m to Ernst and Young.

The Department of Finance had one single bill of €19m to Arthur Cox.

State paid €9bn interest on borrowings to bailout banks

C&AG calculates the total cost of bank bailout for the State has been €60 billion to date
The additional state borrowing undertaken as part of the bank bailout has already cost the state almost €9 billion to service, according to the report of the Comptroller &Auditor General.

This cost largely offsets all the income which the state received from the banks in return for giving them the guarantee.
The C&AG calculates that the total cost of the bailout has been €60 billion so far for the State.

Against this it offsets the value the State is attributing to its remaining holdings in the banks of around €17 billion, giving a net figure of €43 billion.
In addition it says that additional cost of servicing the national debt associated with the bailout will be between €0.85 billion and €1.7 billion per annum.

The calculations by the C&AG of the costs incurred from servicing the bank bailout debt provides new information on the cost of rescuing the banks.
As well as additional money borrowed by the State, the figures include the return which would have been expected from funds in the National Pension Reserve Fund, which were diverted into recapitalising the banks.

Over €22 billion of the State funds invested in the banks came from the NPRF.
On the plus side of the ledger, the State has recouped over €5 billion from selling stakes in the banks. Also, the figures do not include an expected surplus from the winding up of IBRC, or a surplus of around €1 billion now expected form the winding up of Nama.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said he believes that the State will recoup all the money put in to the three remaining banks, but not the €36 billion spent on Anglo and Irish Nationwide, now merged into IBRC.

Achieving this would require a higher return than currently counted in the state books for the sale of AIB and the expected returns from IBRC and Nama to come through.
Cliff Taylor

Oughterard Galway This Evening

Monday, September 28, 2015

Real Irate letter to the Irish Prime Minister (Brilliant)

Dear Mr. Kenny

Please find below my suggestion for fixing the Irish economy.
Instead of giving billions of pounds to banks that will squander the
money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan.
You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:
There are about 400 thousand people over 50 in the work force.
Pay them a £1 million each severance for early retirement with the
following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire.
400 thousand job openings - unemployment fixed

2) They MUST buy a new car.
400 thousand cars ordered - Car Industry fixed

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed

4) They MUST send their kids to school/college/university - Crime rate fixed

5) They MUST buy €100 WORTH of alcohol/tobacco a week .....
And there's your money back in duty/tax etc
It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members of the Dail pay back
their falsely claimed expenses and second home allowances

If you think this would work, please forward to everyone you know.


Let's put the pensioners in jail and the criminals in a nursing home.
This way the pensioners would have access to showers, hobbies and walks.
They'd receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical
treatment, wheel chairs etc and they'd receive money instead of paying
it out.

They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped
instantly, if they fell, or needed assistance.

Bedding would be washed twice a week, and all clothing would be ironed
and returned to them.

A guard would check on them every 20 minutes and bring their meals and
snacks to their cell.

They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose.

They would have access to a library, weight room, spiritual
counselling, pool and education.

Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, PJ's and legal aid would be free, on request.

Private, secure rooms for all, with an exercise outdoor yard, with gardens.

Each senior could have a PC a TV radio and daily phone calls.

There would be a board of directors to hear complaints, and the guards
would have a code of conduct that would be strictly adhered to.

The criminals would get cold food, be left all alone and unsupervised...
Lights off at 8pm, and showers once a week.  Live in a tiny room and
pay €600 per week and have no hope of ever getting out.

Think about this (more points of contention):

Please note also: COWS

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad
cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Mayo
almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept
And, they even tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable
to locate 125,000 illegal immigrants wandering around our country.
Maybe we should give each of them a cow.

Noeleen Duffy
Secretary to Director Of Nursing
St mary's Hospital 

Photo Minute: Nature being nature (Press on photos)