So where were you, the historic day the great Seánie Fitzpatrick walked scot-free from court? Coincidentally Insider was in the public gallery of an Irish district court, to see, via video link from prison, an array of petty offenders being further remanded in custody.
One of the 'culprits' was accused of stealing a bottle of cheap wine, a bottle of sherry, and some cans of the appropriately named Orchard Thieves Cider. Insider concluded: the guy either had an eclectic taste in booze or was a victim of alcoholism. The visual evidence suggested the latter. Either way, prison is hardly the solution. Meanwhile, a smiling Seánie Fitz, whose cavalier bank helped to bankrupt the Irish people, posed for the cameras very far from any gaol.
Returning to Galway, Insider had a Shakespearian moment realising – as Hamlet did – “that something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. This was compounded by what greets everyone on the Dublin Road entering this “shi**y city”, as one Galwegian poet described our hometown.
On the right-hand-side lies a beautiful meadow which has been condemned for redevelopment. Pressure on a majority of local councillors means Galway Hospice will build there and destroy that natural beauty. Why the new hospice could not be situated in the huge grounds of Merlin Park hospital is incomprehensible.
And while everyone has a right to lobby politicians, Insider wonders if there is not a serious 'conflict of interest' on the part of an influential local media 'celebrity' when local councillors receive a call from this person urging them to vote in favour of the development. Of course, there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on this 'celebrity’s' part, but it could have had an exaggerated influence.
As the Friends of Merlin Wood would probably tell you, once this meadow is 'redeveloped' it is gone and that will impact on the neighbouring nature reserve. It also opens the way for further developments – the domino effect.
What about the present hospice? It is a lucrative piece of real estate with its traffic light link to the Dublin Road. There are strong rumours it will be gobbled up by the ever-burgeoning private hospital next door. While our public health system collapses, private medicine steps in, not to fill the gap, but to make a packet. So this could prove to be a shrewd business deal for Bon Secours and the Galway Hospice.
It is on occasions like this that a favourite saying of my dear old mother comes to mind: Má ta cáil na mochéirí ort, is féidir leat codladh go headra: Get the reputation of an early-riser and you can sleep all day. The seanfhocal indeed gives another dimension to Leo Varadker’s comment about representing “people who get up early”. But this stream of consciousness about our “shi**y city” does not stop there.
From a distance the monstrous new Garda barracks can be seen towering over the Dublin Road. It is truly of Ceausescu proportions. Will it not impede widening of this thoroughfare for public transport in the future? Could the Oranmore Garda barracks, that is clearly under utilised, not have sufficed?
Originally earmarked for the Dublin Road, the site was a modest driving test centre. Before Insider is allowed to muse further, the view of the derelict Corrib Great Southern greets us at the gateway of our would-be European Capital of Culture. Can the Galway City Council's CEO Brendan McGrath please tell us why nothing has been done to penalise the owners of this eyesore?
Thanks to the economic crash, the City of the Tribes is more like a game of Monopoly, as people join the frenzy buying up large swathes of Galway. It must be stressed that they have done nothing wrong and played no part in the Republic’s meltdown. They are just taking advantage of our misfortune. Sure isn’t that capitalism?
Somehow it is always us, the ordinary punters, who pay the price for the failures of capitalism. For example, NAMA was set up and bankrolled the developers that bankrupted us. Insider knows at least two such developers, both pocketing €150,000+ per annum to look after their failed 'portfolios'. They are now back 'developing'. And NAMA has helped the vulture funds to a gluttonous feast.
The Irish bankers are scot-free. The foreign banks have recouped their gambling losses on the Irish property market. At the heart of this crisis is the euro currency. From 1993 to 1999 the Irish punt was devalued and floated on the currency markets. The Republic’s annual growth rate averaged eight per cent a year during that period, more than doubling its earlier level. Then we foolishly joined the Eurozone.
At the time Ireland needed higher interest rates to restrain its Celtic Tiger boom. That did not happen. The European Central Bank set interest rates low to suit Germany and France. So the Irish boom got "boomier”, as Bertie Ahern put it.
From the early to mid-2000s the rise in the value of the euro led to a consequent loss of Irish competitiveness and a slowing of our growth rate. Meanwhile foreign banks had begun gambling on our boom which fuelled the property bubble. Traditionally the borrowings from foreign banks by the Republic’s banks had been low. However inside the Eurozone these borrowing went sky-high from 10 per cent of GDP in 2003 to 60 per cent by 2008.
The crash came and the EU and ECB forbade the Irish Government to let the Irish banks go bust. It might have threatened the survival of the euro and severely dented the profits of German, British, and French banks, which were owed €43 billion, €28 billion, and €12 billion respectively. Instead of working in the national interest government politicians represented those “who get up early” – at least one hour earlier for the bureaucrats and bankers residing in Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Paris.
The only conclusion which can be drawn is that we need to get up even earlier to catch the white-collar crooks, who have been hoodwinking us for a very long time.