AIB chairman Richard Pym was quite the prophet of doom in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. A vote to leave the UK, he warned, could do untold damage to the Irish economy. It would pose a “huge risk” to business here and cause potential “tragedy” for a country just coming out of recession. He urged people to encourage family and friends across the water to turn out and vote to remain. But it wasn’t to be.
Happily, now the unthinkable has come to pass, Pym has undergone something of a conversion. It might not be a case of hell, fire and damnation for us after all.
The top banker caused a stir on Friday at the international congress of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) in Kilkenny with the ferocity of his comments on Britain’s decision to exit the EU following a campaign led by “a group of chancers and opportunists”.
But on the plus side, he reckoned there may be tasty opportunities for Ireland as cities such as Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are being eyed up by financial institutions keen to keep a base inside the EU.
The arrival of thousands of jobs would make an enormous difference to the Irish economy.
Wile E Coyote
We are now in a unique position to benefit from our nearest neighbour’s “folly” he declared, dismissing talk of continued growth in the UK economy, a development which has surprised many Remainers. Pym chose to explain why in easy-to-understand cartoon terms, a wise decision given that he was addressing a roomful of hacks.
"I think of it like one of those Road Runner cartoons, you know, where Wile E Coyote is chasing Road Runner and continues the chase over the edge of the cliff. Momentum carries the creature forward for a time before gravity has its inevitable victory."
To underline his point about London jobs crossing the pond, Pym said people in financial circles have christened Dublin “Canary Dwarf”.
Almost 100 journalists from 22 countries are attending the congress, which was opened on Friday morning by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan. He didn’t hang around as he had to rush off to catch a flight. He is accompanying Michael D Higgins on his state visit to Vietnam.
Dublin Four Meeja
Richard Moore, chairman of the Irish branch of the AEJ, said the association is delighted its bid to host this year's congress was accepted, particularly in light of the 1916 centenary. "The number of delegates attending the Kilkenny congress will be the largest for many years," he told the Kilkenny People. "Most of those attending will never have been outside Dublin so it is always great to showcase Ireland to visiting journalists."
We’re not sure if he was talking about the overseas participants or the home contingent, drawn mainly from that journalistic sub-species known as the Dublin Four Meeja.
Brexit was the big talking point yesterday, with the British government’s perspective presented by newly arrived ambassador Robin Barnett (his last posting was in Poland) who, in true diplomatic fashion, absorbed Pym’s broadside with serene stoicism. There were also contributions from Maireád McGuinness MEP, Mark Little, MD of Twitter Ireland and Stephen Collins of this parish. Canary Dwarf. Gas tickets, those bankers.
Simon Harris gets political pulses racing with call for donor blood
“Invitation to raise awareness about the need for blood donations.” This was the innocuous heading on an email sent to all TDs and Senators this week from the Minister for Health.
Simon Harris earnestly writes: “As you may be aware, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) recently issued a call for extra donations as the National Blood Supply was down to just three days. There is a particular need for new donors as 21 per cent less people came forward to donate for the first time in 2015 compared to 2010.” A worrying trend.
The next paragraph gets the blood racing. “To raise awareness about the need for blood donation, I invite you to join me on Thursday, November 10th, in giving blood at the D’Olier Street Clinic.”
Clever Simon has thought of everything. There will be a bus. The Blood Transfusion Service will cart them all down the short distance to D’Olier Street and cart them back again in their weakened state. This is not because the process is painful or debilitating, it’s just that politicians don’t have much blood. It is often said that trying to get a straight answer from them is like trying to get blood from a stone.
“I hope this timing will suit most of us and that therefore you will be able to come along. Depending on the numbers, the whole process should not take much more than an hour” says Harris, optimistically.
It will be quite a coup if he manages to get a big crowd and, with luck, it’ll be far from bloodless. He also mentions, by way of incentive, that he has invited members of the press to witness their bravery and generosity. The photos will be released. He might have to get a bigger bus.
Thrilling footage as Charlie Flanagan meets world’s great and good
Disappointingly, Charlie Flanagan wasn’t accompanied by a film crew when he addressed the continental journalists in Kilkenny, so his thrilling dash to Michael D’s airplane won’t have been captured for posterity. But, with any luck, the cameras might be present to record his trip to the Orient with the President. They could call it “Flanagan of Vietnam”.
It could be a companion piece to “Charlie Does Colombia”, which is already in the can.
We hear the Department of Foreign Affairs has agreed to be the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary with RTÉ.
Apparently, somebody in Montrose came up with the idea when plans to film a freshly painted wall fell through.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs must have looked very important at the United Nations General Assembly in September when he had a producer and cameraman traipsing after him everywhere. The aim of the project is to showcase swashbuckling Irish diplomats meeting the great and the good all over the world.
The department even agreed to allow the camera in on a few “bilats” between Charlie and his counterparts from other countries. Although Flanagan got very annoyed about this at one point.
He felt the filming was too intrusive during his meeting with the Colombian foreign minister, what with the delicate state of that country’s ongoing peace process and the Irish in a position to offer some helpful advice.
The camera crew then followed him around at an Irish community event in the consulate in New York before covering a speech he gave on Brexit at Fordham University.
Irish watchdogs jet off to Washington to protect democracy
It is with huge relief (and no small amount of pride) that we break the news this morning that, should Donald Trump fail in his bid to become president of the United States, he will not be able to claim the ballot was rigged. (At least not in Washington or New York.)
This is because six Irish parliamentarians will be watching the process, making sure nobody gets up to any sort of funny stuff in the balloting.
The Dynamic Half-Dozen flew out to Washington at lunchtime yesterday for a week-long “election monitoring” exercise. They join a 400-strong team of independent international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which was invited to oversee the presidential election.
The four TDs and two Senators are “short-term observers”. They “will be deployed throughout the country in multinational teams of two to monitor the opening of polling stations, the voting, the counting of ballots, and the tabulation of results”.
The US mission began in early October when a group of “long-term observers” arrived, and is headed by British diplomat Dame Audrey Glover. “We are not policemen” she told the Washington Post. “We would not interfere. We would not intervene. We would observe, and record if we see anything untoward happening.”
It appears the Irish contingent won’t be heading into deepest darkest rural America in search of electoral shenanigans. They are going to be in New York city (staying in one of John Fitzpatrick’s lovely hotels) and in Washington DC.
Their duties shouldn’t be too arduous; neither Manhattan nor the Beltway are noted flashpoints for voter fraud.
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says observers are selected and have their expenses paid by their governments, in accordance with the organisation’s standard practice. We hear the Irish group has the option to bring along “plus-ones” who have to cover their own expenses. As the intrepid observers were already airborne, we couldn’t establish if they brought travelling companions, although we understand most are travelling alone.