Nama and Snip
Deaglán de Bréadún
The scale of the Nama (National Asset Management Agency) project is awe-inspiring. We never had it so good as in the Celtic Tiger years but it is clearly a case of, the higher they come, the harder they fall.
Nama and Snip? Tiger cubs at Dublin Zoo, with Mum and Dad (Photograph by Brenda Fitzsimons)
Our State and society have faced crises in the past. Probably the greatest was wartime neutrality. We came through that in reasonable order (I am aware that some would question the moral basis of our stance.)
This is a threat of a different kind, but very serious in its own way. The State is absorbing some €90bn in potentially-dodgy debts, the fruits of a property boom that went horribly awry.
As with wartime neutrality, we can batten down the hatches but we remain at the mercy of international events. If the storm abates, then it will all work out. But maybe this particular crisis is not going to resolve itself. We are all hoping for the best but the truth is that nobody knows the outcome, any more than they did back in June 1940 when most of continental Europe was under the sway of the Axis powers.
The Opposition is raising questions and casting doubts on the scheme. That is their job. But one wonders who will vote against the Bill in the end. My hunch is that Fine Gael may come around, provided certain assurances are given and the Bill amended to meet their concerns. Labour may vote against, as they did in the case of the Bank guarantee. But it seems that the powers the State is now taking could be used for socially-beneficial projects and that would appeal to the Left.
Traditionally, the Left seeks to have the banking system nationalised. It is not happening in this case, but some are claiming that the Bill restricts property rights in a manner that may not be in accordance with the Constitution. The Left usually has no problem with such restrictions, of course.
A constitutional challenge which went the wrong way could prove a big setback for Nama and the Government. But this administration appears to be getting very good legal advice.
What a dramatic few months it has been – An Bord Snip Nua, now Nama and, in a few weeks, the Commission on Taxation Report. Then we have Lisbon and, of course, the Budget. Stirring times indeed.
On a lighter note, a letter-writer in today’s Irish Times has suggested names for the two new Sumatran tiger cubs in Dublin Zoo: “Nama” and “Snip”.