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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 22, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    A reader writes…

    Harry McGee

    I was doing a Google search last week when I came across a speech that Bertie Ahern made to the Irish Management Institute back in 2003.

    He explained he had succeeded in persuading the Heavens to invest in Ireland plc by releasing manna on an unlimited basis.

    With every point and every sentence I found myself uttering ‘wrong’ or the non-abbreviated version of BS.

    He also majored on low taxes and especially low corporate taxes.

    We seem to be clinging onto the notion of low corporate taxes like a bit of driftwood after the mother ship has sunk.

    In the new reality we face, is the low corporate tax rate still the solution that will magic us out of the crisis? I am no longer convinced that retaining the low rate will make a whit of differrence.

    One of our regular commentators, David, submitted a long comment a few days ago that deserves a wider audience. He has aggregated a lot of reports (yes indeed, most from our own esteemed publication) from 2007 and earlier, most of them reflecting the unbridled optimism that existed at that time about property.

    There are some very eye-opening articles and some headlines and some interesting views expressed from unexpected people.

    Here is the comment in full:

    (The first reference is to the economist, Marc Coleman)

    If only Marc had been quite so in touch with reality every other day he turned up for work eh?

    Its not much of a coincidence, I guess, that this emphatic response came only months after Cowen and chums invested 12.5m in The Carr Mills apartments.


    He apparently noted this in the Dail, but we are only hearing about it now. From an English paper.

    “All will be well – if politicians don’t meddle in the property market.” [Marc Coleman, January 25, 2007]
    “Nothing exciting – or dangerous – is in prospect for the market over the next two or three years.” [Marc Coleman, March 1 2007]
    “Iceland for us is an inspiration in terms of business and also an indicator of business potential if it’s worked well.” [John Conroy, December 1 2006]
    “Dr Brian Lucey, a lecturer in finance at Trinity College, says that mortgage lenders will be able to grow their business activity through high-interest loans to people with poor credit records – known as “sub-prime” mortgages.” [Laura Slattery, February 14, 2006]
    “Sub-prime mortgage market reigns supreme.” [Laura Slattery, January 19, 2007]
    “Bricks and mortar beat equities hands down.” [Orna Mulcahy, December 31, 2005]
    “Construction industry likely to avoid crash landing.” [Barry O'Halloran, January 3, 2007]
    “The Irish property market is nothing like a real speculative bubble.” [Oliver O'Connor, October 29, 1999]
    “Where in the world should foreign property buyers go next?” [Frances O'Rourke, December 7 2006]
    “On balance, the data indicate a favourable outlook for the housing market.” [John McCartney, April 5 2007]

    • Kynos says:

      I will tell you Harry that the low corporate rate of tax is right now about the only advantage we’ve left in economic terms over our competitors in Israel and in China. Verb sap.

    • ShaneB says:

      Throughout the boom years The Irish Times really did appear to eat its cake and have it. Editorials and some commentary chastised the government’s approach while the Property and Business sections lauded trends that looked unsustainable even at the time. The line between journalism and cheerleading became blurred. In particular, the Property section became somewhat notorious for its vacuous estate-agency prose.

    • Kynos says:

      You’d have to ask yourself are Mr Cowen and his fellow purchasers being shafted here? What’s the meaning of “irredeemable” then? What is preventing a householder having the freedom to let especially if all owners of these apartments are of the same understanding and not conspirators in some unlikely attempt to defraud the freeholder, “the mind” of which cannot be ascertained, or rather the identity of which. In a down market it would be not beyond the bounds that some scam is being tried on here to put pressure on the owners to walk away from their properties with little to no compensation. Call me a cynic (I am) but it smells bad to me.

    • Kynos says:

      Beyond that I’d only add that Marc Coleman is as guilty as the majority of his colleagues in the journalism trade. Of getting it badly wrong is all. Happens to the best of us.

    • Kynos says:

      Sorry. The freeholder says it cannot ascertain the controlling mind behind the partnership which appears to be conducting the letting arrangements. No matter. Who is the freeholder? What is the restrictive covenant on which the action for repossession is being based (inter alia, the non-payment of charges etc. would appear specious. How long does it take before ground rent and management fees accumulate to the equal of the equity purchased by the leaseholders qua owners? I’d fight this one prima facie. Then again in a down market people might be less inclined to if enough suffocating pressure is brought to bear on them as individuals. I don’t know. From a political perspective this strikes me as a nothing. No bad reflection on Mr Cowen. Just business. Still reckon he’s getting shafted and should fight. Unless the fight’s gone out of him hope to God it isn’t not just for his sake either.

    • David says:

      Thanks Harry,

      Careful though, retrospect is a sackable offense on Fleet/D’Olier Street.

      I have a similar list for the Irish Independent which runs to about 40 pages. Though they don’t charge for access to their archives.

      My preferred acronymed expletive would be HS, as opposed BS.

      And the most memoriable use of that has to be from this interview:

      Vincent Browne speaking to Joe MacAnthony, ‘Ireland’s finest investigative journalist’, Nov 1st 2006.


      [29 mins in]:

      Browne: “this is an amazing story because we are all led to believe this phenomenon (of corruption) in Irish politics started in maybe the 60s, or the 70s or maybe even later still…”

      MacAnthony: “Horse s&^t”

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