Banking Favourites Scandal

100 things Ireland could have got for the price of one Anglo Irish Bank

With the #anglotapes this week it seemed to me a good time to recall those heady days of August 2010 when we had spent only €25 billion on Anglo.  At that time Ronan Lyons and I penned this little piece in the Sunday Business Post.  — BL


This week, it was announced that the EU had approved a further injection of our taxpayer money into additional capital for Anglo-Irish Bank . This brings the total as of now to  almost €25 billion.  This is money going into a bank that is essentially in wind-down over the coming decade, money that the Irish citizens and taxpayers will not see again, as it is shoring up the balance sheet of a bank that had too much imaginary wealth.  And that is not the end of the money, many fear.

So just how much is €25bn that we are having to borrow for Anglo? In one way, it’s small change, compared to what will possibly be €200bn in borrowings by the State to fund the non-banking deficit between the onset of the crisis and 2020. But to any rational mind €25bn is still a mind-bogglingly large amount of money.  The State has limited borrowing capacity, limited by a combination of what the taxpayer can repay. In putting €25 billion into Anglo, the government, on our behalf, has spent money that can not be used for other projects.  Here is a list, then, of 100 things – grouped into various categories – that the government could have spent €25 billion but chose not to.

Ireland could make a major contribution to fighting global poverty world-poverty

€25 billion would go a long way in the fight against global poverty. Here are a few suggestions:

100. Buy enough malaria nets to protect the entire malaria-affected population of the world (half a billion people) for 80 years (based on NothingButNets figures of $10 a net)

99. Completely fund the World Food Programme for five years

98. Repair twice over the damage done to Haiti in the recent earthquake

97. Fund enough clean water and infrastructure projects to meet the Millennium Development Goals in those areas

96. Buy up and extinguish the national debt of Bangladesh

95. Fund the UNESCO “Information for All” Project for 1200 years

94. Provide food aid to Niger for 1000 years

93. Asphalt every trunk and regional road (110,000km) of substandard road in sub-Saharan Africa

Ireland could become a World Science and Technology Hub leneye

Major scientific and technological projects cost a lot of money. But rarely €25 billion.  Here are a few ways Ireland could have used the money to become a global hub for major breakthroughs in science and technology.

92. Start our own space programme, with twenty €1.2 billion space shuttles

91. Foot the bill for a century of global research into nuclear fusion (the current 30-year global ITER project is expected to cost €5-10 billion)

90. Research & develop 5000 new drugs. One of  ’em’s bound to be useful

89. Construct 6 Large Hadron Colliders – one for each Green Party TD

88. Build 5 James Webb Space Telescope (the successor to Hubble), and revolutionise astronomy

87. Build two magnetoplasma space vehicles which in theory could get to mars in 40 days

86. Build a space elevator

85. Build two ITER nuclear fusion reactors and provide the world with cheap, abundant energy.

We could decide to give ourselves a break holidays

What about using the €25bn to give ourselves a break? Here are a number of things that €25 billion could pay for, while we take a break.

84. Pay the interest on everyone’s mortgage for 4 years (€147 billion of mortgages at 4% is €5.88 billion a year)

83. Abolish income tax for two years (based on 2009 gov income tax receipts of €11.8 billion)

82. Offer everyone on the live register €100,000 to emigrate (we could afford a 50% take-up by the 466,000 on the dole)

81. Abolish VAT for two and a half years (based on 2009 receipts of €10.8 billion)

80. Remove excise duty from fuel, tobacco and alcohol until 2015 (based on exise receipts of €4.7 billion a year)

79. Pay the grocery bills of everybody in the country for 2.5 years

78. Scrap all fares on all forms of public transport, intercity and commuter trains and buses for 33 years

We could just treat ourselves scrooge-mcduck-1

We could just treat ourselves with the €25 billion windfall. Here are some suggestions as to how.

77. Run the world’s best ever lottery – every Irish citizens is entered into a draw where 25,000 people become millionaires!

76. Give every OAP a pension of 55,000 for a year….

75. Fly the adult population of Ireland to Las Vegas, give everyone €10k to gamble with

74. Give every person in the country €5,555.56

73. Buy half a million ecofriendly Nissan Leaf cars and have enough for a 5GW nuclear power station with the cash left over

72. Provide a new laptop every year to every second level student for 147 years

71. Buy a 32GB iPhone, a 64GB iPad, a 13? 2.13GHz MacBook Air and a 27-inch iMac for every man, woman and child living in Ireland

We could treat the world icecream

Treating ourselves is probably a bit selfish. Here are some ways to make the rest of the world like us more!

70. Buy 6.7 billion copies (one for everybody in the world) of Joyce’s “portrait of the artist as a young man”

69. Buy a pint of guinness for everyone in the world to celebrate Arthur’s Day (and it would count as exports)

68. Buy every child in the world a 99 ice-cream cone every day for a week

67. Send every adult in the world on an MSc in Social Media in NCI

66. Send 225,000 people to do the Harvard MBA

We could truly become the world’s biggest sports fan 10bestclubs_2012

Sport is big business. But not that big. With €25 billion, we could…

65. Buy the world’s 20 most valuable soccer clubs, worth €9.6 billion, wipe their debt (€2.3 billion) and move them to Ireland, building each a 75,000-seater stadium (€600m each, based off cost of Aviva stadium)

64. Host two Olympics games, based on the London 2012 cost of €11.2 billion

63. Buy Tonga and Fiji, which would have obvious rugby advantages

62. Construct 25 Bertie-bowls (one for each county except Dublin!)

61. Buy 83,300 McLaren supercars

60. Buy the entire stock of tickets and merchandise for all premier league clubs for the next 12 years

We could decide to really become a major player on world markets 2374

Banking and finance got us into this mess. Surely they can get us out?

59. Buy €600 billion in Credit Default Swaps on Ireland (could pay off nicely in the next few years!)

58. Buy two of Asia’s largest banks – Bank Central Asia and Malayan Banking

57. Recapitalise ALL the banks in Europe that failed the stress tests

56. Purchase Monsanto, as a present for the green party, or (buy Nokia as a present for Ivor Callely)

55. Give each one of the 10,000 most senior bankers a round of golf on old head Kinsale, the most expensive course in Europe, every day for 20 years, and hope that they come up with some ideas!

54. Subsidise the US postal service for ten years.

53. Allow the Italian Government to not put in place its 3-year austerity plan.

52. Pay the salaries of TCD and UCD academics for 100 years.

We could just do it  because we can burjkhalifadubai-828m

While the Government says it’s not a waste of €25 billion, many people believe it is. Here are ten ways to really spend €25bn.

51. Buy Steve Jobs (€25 billion is actuarial value on his life) and get him to work for Ireland Inc.

50. Buy gold plating 1.75mm thick for O’Connell Street

49. 25,00 carats of red diamond, enough to encrust a Mercedes.

48. Build a shed 10k long by 4k wide and put it around Tullamore.

47. Buy every one of the 5.8m cattle in the country, and to keep their little feet cosy two pairs of jimmy choos each

46. Detach the People’s Republic of Cork from the Republic of Ireland, by constructing a 10-metre wide moat – the per-kilometre cost of the new Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland suggests this may cost €30bn but I’m sure we could haggle them down in a recession.

45. Cover the entire county of Dublin a foot deep in corn

44. Hire Bertie to speak for 95 years

43. Purchase carbon credits to allow us to burn 3,000 sq miles of hardwood forest

42. Build 20 copies of the Burj Khalifa Dubai, the worlds tallest building

We could just splash the cash item0-size-queen-mary-2-100488-1

When people win the lottery, there’s naturally a tendency to splash the cash. Winning a €25 billion lottery would certainly allow us to splash the cash.  Here are some ideas.

41. Buy 1,000 luxury yachts to kickstart the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme (78-footers, 2nd-tier Russian oligarch standard)

40. Buy over one third of Denmark, 10% of France or three Luxembourgs, based on 2008 land costs

39. Send 833 people into space (or perhaps just 1,666 one way trips…)

38. Stay in the most expensive hotel room in the world for 3,400 years (it’s the Atlantis resort, Bahamas in case you were wondering)

37. Build 50 ginormous cruise liners akin to Carnival Splendour or Queen Mary 2

36. Make 100 Avatar-type films, which lets remember made back its money x4 at the box office!

35. Buy every TD a Boeing Dreamliner, ideal for those trips to Glenties

34. Purchase 35 of the world’s most expensive mobile phone (goldstriker iPhone 3GS supreme) for every member of the Oireachtas!

33. Build four Libraries of Alexandia in each county.

32. Endow one university to the level of Harvard.

31. Tile Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown totally in nice porcelain.

30. Buy five Nimitz Class Nuclear supercarriers to scare the bejaysus out of the Spanish trawlers.

29. Or buy 17 Virginia Class nuclear attack submarines, if we wanted to sneak up on the Spanish trawlers instead.

28. Supply the water needs of Galway City, for a year, with Perrier water

27. Purchase four Birkin Hermes bags for every adult female in the country, one for each season’s wardrobe.

26. Buy and install 100 sq yards of parquet flooring for every single dwelling in the country.

25. Fill the Jack Lynch Tunnel with Midleton Single Cask whiskey

24. Purchase 225,000 kg of the most expensive truffles in the world

23. Buy every house and apartment listed on and still have 12 billion left to refurbish them

We could transport ourselves  out of this mess 98962638-crop-rectangle3-large

With €25 billion in our back pockets, all those pie-in-the-sky superprojects would no longer be pie in the sky! Here are ten ways Ireland could put itself on the global superproject map.

22. Construct our own “Channel Tunnel” from Rosslare to Pembroke (based on the cost of the Jack Lynch tunnel)

21. Build 1,000 km of high-speed rail, serving all major coastal cities on the island (based on recent costs in Spain)

20. Build 11,150 miles of dual carriageway

19. Put in place a 400 station metro (if we could build it for the cost of Porto’s metro)

18. Put in place a Maglev train from Belfast to Cork via Dublin

17. Build our own Three Gorges Dam, complete with turbines

16. Put in place 12 new Luas lines

15. Build just short of two Hong Kong International Airport (€15 bn each)

14. Build 12 New York-style “Freedom Towers” at €2bn each

13. If we didnt want a tunnel we could have five Oresund-style 20km long bridges (Denmark – Sweden, €5b)

We could pay for improved public services childrenshospital

And lastly, some slightly more practical ways to spend €25bn

12. Build 75 brand new 50-teacher schools and run them for 75 years

11. Build 35 new Children’s Hospitals (based on €700m cost of new Children’s Hospital in Dublin)

10. Pay for an extra 5,000 hospital consultants for 62.5 years, based on Finnish wage (or for 29 years based on Irish wages)

9. Pay for cervical cancer vaccines for every girl going into 1st year for the next 8,333 years

8. Reduce the pupil teacher ratio in primary schools to 1 in 10 for the next 20 years

7. Given an ultra highspeed fibre-optic broadband connection to every single house (including ghost estates…)

6. Buy 8,500 years of private speech and language counselling and really help autistic and speech problematic children

5. Introduce free pre-schooling for 32 years, based on an average cost of €700 a month for two years of 10 months, for all 110,000 children in the country

4. Make education properly free – the current cost from primary school to degree graduation is €70,000 per child. €25bn would bring nearly 400,000 students through their entire education

3. Give medical cards to everyone, for 25 years based on €500m cost in 2009 to cover 1.5m people

2. We  could use the money to renew and replace the drainage and water system of all mains

1. Or we could buy one broken bank…oh, hang on…..

So, a mixture of the bizarre, the stupid, the deeply practical, the useful, all tinged with a sense of lost opportunity. A bit like the government’s solution to the banking crisis really! What this list shows us is that choices matter. Its unlikely that any government would have #50, paving O’Connell street in gold, as a priority (well, not perhaps unless its leader was from Dublin Central), But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a government with the courage and vision to do #18, a maglev on the east coast, which would catapult Ireland into a world leading technological position and cement the all-Ireland economy? or decide  #96 to lift Bangladesh out of poverty? Or … the list goes on, a list of lost opportunities.  And when one considers the additional €100 billion that represents the structural element of the government debt, well…

While Colm McCarthy is correct, that anger is not a policy, its hard to be anything but enraged when one considers the sheer scale of wasted opportunities.


Prof. Brian Lucey


Economy Favourites Religion

Religious Orders Not So Different from Bankers

The Magdalene survivors are to be paid something by the State to compensate them for their time imprisoned and enslaved by the religious orders.  This is only right and proper, although not everyone agrees that the amount offered is fair.  Some survivor groups have accepted the offer and others have rejected it, but at least it’s an offer on the table, with a scale of compensation set out clearly, based on the period of incarceration.

And yet, it’s hard not to ignore the strange parallel between the attitudes of the religious orders and the behaviour of the clowns in Anglo-Irish bank

Anyone who followed the appalling meat grinder that was the Residential Institutions Redress Board will be relieved.  Nobody – especially not a person rendered vulnerable and inarticulate by abuse – should have to appear before a board of stern examiners, as happened with the RIRB.  The examination process was cold, analytical, inquisitorial and deeply intimidating to people who had, at best, a limited education.  For many, it compounded the suffering inflicted in the industrial schools.  As if that wasn’t enough, even though the survivors were represented legally at public expense, many lawyers subsequently hit them with additional legal bills despite having been paid already.

The offer applies to about 600 women and the scale of payment ranges from €11,500 for people incarcerated for three months to €20,500 for one year, €68,500 for five years to a maximum of €100,000 for anyone imprisoned for ten years or more.  I hope this is a sliding scale and not a stepped scale, to avoid bureaucratic injustices where a woman locked up for nine years and eleven months is denied the full payment.  This is not a vague remote possibility.  This kind of thing happens all the time due to the narrow vision of the typical Irish administrator.

Of course, as is normal, the religious orders are complaining about being asked to pay their share, just as they did when asked to pay a minuscule proportion of the compensation arising from the Ryan report.  Of the €1.4 billion final outcome, the taxpayer has so far carried almost the entire cost.  In their own defence, the nuns are saying that they still pay for 100 women in their care.  Or to put it another way, they continue to feed their slaves in old age, which is very Christian indeed.  It will be very surprising if they contribute a penny to the State’s costs, because these are not people who believe in contributing.

It’s only right that the Magdalene women should be offered full health care and a minimum weekly income before reaching pension age, but yet, here we go again.  The State is carrying the full cost — and here, I should point out that the amount is trivial compared to the scale of the scam inflicted on us by the Anglo spivs.  The total lump-sum cost of compensating the Magdalene survivors will come to about €30 million.  Even if we included the €1.4 billion spent on the redress board, the total comes to a figure less than one twentieth of the hardship inflicted on the citizens by Anglo and Irish Nationwide.

So let’s get things in context, and let’s also remember that these women are far more deserving of compensation than the bondholders of failed banks who couldn’t believe their luck when Lenihan announced his ill-conceived bailout of gamblers and hedge funds.

The bankers, the priests and the nuns, behind all the superficial differences, share a similar mindset.  They share a belief that the Irish State owes them something.  They share a belief that they are above the civil law, and most of all, they share a belief, which was subsequently shown to be correct, they they would never have to pay anything back.   And let’s not forget that the bankers formed a sort of priestly brotherhood whose expertise, we now know, was not based on any kind of scientifically-confirmed knowledge, but, in their own words, picked out of their arses.  Much like religion, in other words.

For different, and yet strangely similar reasons, the State found it necessary to step in and cover the damage caused by these two very different, and yet very similar,  societal groups.  It’s no accident that bankers and priests were on the list of people of impeccable probity who could sign an official document on your behalf.   How times change.

There’s no escaping the question: do we Irish have a disastrous failing that leads us to believe every chancer, wide-boy and bunco-artist who sets himself up as an authority in some fake doctrine, whether it happens to be religion or banking?

And as a corollary, why don’t we as a nation force the perpetrators to carry the consequences of their actions?   There are very few clerics in jail and even fewer bankers.


Full text of report here:

Download (PDF, 1.17MB)





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The Anglo Tapes – Failure to Understand Citizenship

anglo irish bank

Did you, like me, feel nauseated listening to the Anglo tapes?

What made you sickest?

Was it the fact that our country was being set up for one of the biggest stings in history?

Was it that our financial regulator was laughed at as a bumbling fool by executives of the failed bank while the bank’s management was plotting a huge scam?

Was it the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly yuk-yukking as they discussed inflicting  a gigantic lie on the citizens of this state?

Any of that is likely to induce nausea, but for me, it was something else.  It was that small word “they”.

The strategy is that if you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep, they have to support their money …


Who did these executives think they were talking about when they discussed the possibility of sucking money from a third party to compensate for their bank’s incompetently-managed affairs?  Did it dawn on them at all that the burden they were about to inflict on the country they presumably claim allegiance to was tantamount to sabotage?

Did it bother either of these two chuckling fools that they were discussing undermining our society?

I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t come across in their jocose conversation that they had the slightest understanding of how the Anglo chicanery would impact on their fellow citizens and perhaps that’s where the clue lies.  Maybe neither of these inflated fools had the least grasp of what it means to be a citizen.  Perhaps their citizenship is in a different country, a place where AIB was  “Allied”, where Irish Permanent was “Permo”, where Bank of Ireland was simply “Bank”.  A place, in other words, where arrogant, self-regarding tosspots like “Drummer” and Fitzy felt they were entitled to game the entire State, regardless of the consequences for the little people.

I can’t begin to express the extent of my contempt for these people and their like, but however contemptible we might find them, what level of disgust do we retain for the political idiots who believed the lies and placed our country in hock for generations to come so that leeches might remain in comfort to the end of their days?

It would be a mistake to think that these two fools controlled the scam, but they’re close enough to the core to be aware of the subtleties.  What this tape reveals is the extent of cynicism that pervaded Anglo, and perhaps the other banks as well.  It reveals that there was a mindset oblivious to notions of civic responsibility.

Did the senior bankers regard themselves as citizens of a nation with concomitant responsibilities?  On the face of the evidence, the answer has to be no, and yet they continue to live among us, availing of the protections due to Irish citizens.


Irish Central: Interview with David Drumm