The Year That Was

 

Compiled by SUZANNE LYNCH

JANUARY

A bad start to 2009 as US multinational Dell announces it is to transfer its manufacturing activities at its plant in Limerick to Poland, with the loss of 1,900 jobs.

The manufacturer was the largest exporter in the State.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan announces that a taskforce will be set up immediately to help give support to workers who have lost their jobs.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan announces that Anglo Irish Bank is to be taken into State ownership, in the first nationalisation of its in kind in the history of the State.

The Government had been due to take control of 75 per cent of the bank after pledging to inject €1.5 billion into the institution the previous December.

However, the Minister said the Government had “no option” other than to nationalise Anglo due to its weakening funding position.

More than 100 Waterford Crystal employees begin a sit-in at the company’s visitor centre following the announcement that the iconic Irish company is to close down with the loss of 480 jobs.

The sit-in was to last seven weeks, finally coming to an end on March 22nd, when 90 per cent of workers voted in favour of a package that would retain 176 of the 480 jobs.

FEBRUARY

Irish Life and Permanent (IL&P) chief executive Denis Casey resigns as controversy over the bank’s €7 billion deposit in Anglo Irish Bank in September 2008 continues.

Mr Casey had originally received the backing of the bank’s board following an eight-hour meeting on the evening of February 12th.

However, he announced his resignation on the afternoon of February 13th, following a meeting between Brian Lenihan and chairwoman Gillian Bowler.

Bank of Ireland appoints internal candidate Richie Boucher – head of the bank’s Irish operations – as chief executive to replace Brian Goggin.

MARCH

Sir Anthony O’Reilly announces that he is to step down as chief executive of Independent News & Media, and will be replaced by his son Gavin O’Reilly.

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgrades the Irish banking system for the second time in four months. The agency reduced Ireland’s banking industry country risk assessment from group two to three on a scale of 10, citing in particular the “reputational fallout from the events at Anglo Irish Bank” and “weakened investor confidence in the framework of bank regulation”.

APRIL

The Government announces the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), a State-controlled agency that will purchase up to €90 billion in property-related loans from the Irish banks.

Figures from the CSO show that prices are falling at the steepest rate since 1933.

MAY

There are concerns for the future of American multinationals operating in Ireland as US president Barack Obama announces sweeping changes to the corporate tax regime.

Under the proposals, US multinationals would still be able to defer paying US tax on profits earned in Ireland, but would no longer be able to claim tax deductions in the US for expenses related to their Irish operations.

Accounts for Anglo Irish Bank show that the State-owned bank made a pretax loss of €4.1 billion in the six months to the end of March, largely as a result of a €3.7 billion impairment charge.

The Government announces it is to inject a further €4 billion in new capital into the nationalised bank.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan says that the new capital was required to avoid “wider losses” in the economy if the bank was allowed to fail and disputes suggestions that Anglo’s business could be subjected to an orderly wind-down.

JUNE

Signs that trouble may be brewing at Setanta as it emerges that the Irish sports company has missed a £3 million payment to the Scottish Premier League. Over the following weeks, frantic discussions to stave the Dublin-based company from administration take place. After a £20 million investment by wealthy industrialist Len Blavatnik collapses, the company’s UK division enters administration. Setanta’s international business and its Irish arm survive .

The changing of the guard at Irish banks continues with the appointment of Kevin Murphy (57) as chief executive of Irish Life Permanent.

Once again, an internal candidate is appointed to the top job. Murphy had been with Irish Life since 1972 and was head of ILP’s life and pensions business since 2005.

JULY

The long-awaited McCarthy report – officially known as the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes – is published. Dubbed “An Bord Snip Nua”, the group proposes swingeing measures to achieve more than ¤5 billion in cuts, including the elimination of 17,358 jobs across the public sector.

Several companies associated with developer Liam Carroll, collectively known as the Zoe group, apply to the High Court for protection after ACCBank issued demands for the return of €130 million in loans. The court hears that the Zoe group owes some €1.1 billion to a range of banks. This is the beginning of a protracted legal saga which sees Mr Carroll make a series of representations to the High court and Supreme Court over the next few months.

AUGUST

A survey by property rental website Daft.ie find that rents have dropped by an average of 17 per cent over the previous 12 months. The survey found that there were 23,400 properties to rent in August 2009, four times as many as were available in August 2007. The survey shows that rental prices have been falling steadily since early 2008

Independent News & Media bondholders agree to a third extension to a standstill deal between the heavily indebted company and banks and bondholders. The €200 million had been due for repayment in May. A debtrestructuring deal is agreed in November, with shareholders voting in favour of the deal and against a series of proposals put forward by rebel shareholder, Denis O’Brien

SEPTEMBER

The Commission on Taxation – which was established in February 2008 to review the structure, efficiency and appropriateness of the Irish taxation system – finally publishes its report. Some 230 recommendations are made in the 550-page document, including the introduction of a property, carbon and water tax, a simplification of the income tax system and the recommendation that social welfare payments should be subject to taxation with exemptions for maternity benefit, adoptive benefit and health and safety benefit.

Chairman of Fás Peter McLoone announces that the 16 members of the board of Fás are to resign, following criticism of their handling of the expenses controversy. 

OCTOBER

A study by business group Ibec finds that cross-Border shopping will cost the exchequer almost €430 million in lost tax revenues. The business group said the direct loss of VAT and excise duty as a result of consumers shopping in Northern Ireland would amount to €190 million this year. 

Shares in AIB and Bank of Ireland plunge in the worst fall in Irish shares since the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, after Brian Lenihan signals that loan transfers to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) could be delayed until 2010. 

NOVEMBER

A provisional liquidator is appointed to Tallaght-based Belgard Motors group. Established in 1969, initially as a print business, the motor group was started in 1981 and became one of the biggest car dealerships in the Republic, holding franchises for Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes and Mazda brands. It was also Ireland’s official Porsche dealer. The court was told that the group was insolvent with debts of more than €17 million.

Ireland’s largest tour operator Budget Travel ceases trading, with the loss of 172 jobs and the closure of 17 shops. Nearly 750 Budget holidaymakers are effectively stranded abroad, although the company arranges for them to return home.

Dubai shocks global investors as Dubai World, the government’s heavily indebted flagship holding company, asks for a creditor standstill. Dubai World was the company behind some of the world’s most extravagant real estate developments in the Middle East’s trading hub.

DECEMBER

House prices fall to October 2003 levels, the Permanent TSB/ESRI house price index finds. The data shows that prices, nationally, have fallen by an average of 26.7 per cent since February 2007.

Prices declined by 12.7 per cent in the first 10 months of 2009 and are down 13.9 per cent for the year ending October 31st. Meanwhile, an analysis by international researchers Capital Economics suggests a further 25 per cent drop “is not out of the question”.

Property developer Bernard McNamara is ordered by the High Court to pay €62.5 million to a group of investors who were procured by Davy stockbrokers to invest in the €412 million purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site at Ringsend, Dublin.

McNamara’s company Donatex is also liable for €98 million.