Jim Carroll

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Going forward, moving backwards

Perhaps the most striking element of the entire Sean Quinn fandango over the last week was his admission that he lost €3 billion gambling on Anglo Irish Bank shares. The media thought I’d lost one or one-and-a-half billion, Quinn said …

Tue, Apr 6, 2010, 14:55

   

Perhaps the most striking element of the entire Sean Quinn fandango over the last week was his admission that he lost €3 billion gambling on Anglo Irish Bank shares. The media thought I’d lost one or one-and-a-half billion, Quinn said in his interview with Sean Whelan on RTE News (an interview which was far more noteworthy than Charlie Bird knocking up to a house in Cape Cod and getting nowhere), but I actually lost three billion.

There you go, he seemed to smirk at us, those media boyos got it wrong. I don’t know about you, but if I lost a three billion punt on a rogue bank, I’d be staying schtum about it. It’s a far cry from those folksy Tuesday night poker games.

In yesterday’s paper, John McManus nailed what I’m sure many people are thinking. With a track record like this, who the hell would let Quinn in charge of a sale-of-work in the local church hall, let alone a large company?

Sure, Quinn has transformed the border area and has given employment to many thousands of people, but is this really enough to excuse his headstrong, silly run on Seanie’s blackjack tables? You could argue that it was his own money and he could, if he wished, spend it anyhow and anywhere he wanted to. Problem is, though, we now know, far too late, how Quinn and Anglo Irish Bank operated and what it means for the citizens of this country. Even the whole issue of tax on Contracts for Difference, the mechanism which Quinn used to build his stake in Anglo-Irish, shows the remove between Us and Them.

Of course, Quinn was not alone. During the good times – remember the good times? – a micro-class of Gordan Gekkos sprung up in this country. Greed was not just good, they implied, greed was your national duty. There’s no need to go the detail the long, never-ending litany of madness which ensued here during those years, except to note that we’ll be paying for this binge-gambling for many, many years to come.

But as the payback begins and we face into what seems like years of hard labour, you can be sure that Quinn and his peers will be around to pick up the pieces and the cheap deals which will inevitably fall out of the NAMA shakedown. For all the outstanding loans and debts, you can bet that these lads will be the ones chomping at the bit to get a share of the action when the time comes. And for all those oustanding debts and loans, debts and loans which are so large that the mind boggles trying to get all those figures to make sense, they will still have cash or access to cash to leverage those deals. I’m sure if any OTR reader fell behind with a loan, the banks would be around first thing tomorrow to get their pound of flesh, yet there appears to be very little effort made to do likewise with our Gordon Gekkos. And don’t start with the line that “sure, they don’t have it”. Please. Tell me that when all attempts at forensic accounting have come up with nothing.

Yet, there is no doubt that we do have to move on from all of the above. I’m someone who doesn’t really think there’s much to be gained endlessly reviewing the past and raking over old ground. However, it’s abundantly clear that there’s such an amount of anger out there about how this country was mismanaged since the mid-1990s that moving on is not as simple as it sounds. Mananging the two – the public desire for retribution and the need to kickstart the economy again – is going to take some doing. And “retribution” means a lot more than just calling in little Seanie to have his collar felt in Bray garda station.