Colum Kenny: How RTE is letting the Anglo money trail go cold
The State broadcaster is failing to tell us where all the billions went — and who is still benefiting, writes Colum Kenny
Colum Kenny Home
Sunday September 12 2010
We are still no wiser about where all the billions went. And ‘billion’ is such a little word for so big a scandal. It means one thousand million. And 26 thousand million is not even half of what Anglo will get from ordinary taxpayers , either directly or through Nama.
Pakistan estimates that the entire cost of recovering from its recent flood disaster will be €12bn. Anglo-Irish Bank alone will cost the Irish taxpayer four or five times that, with Nama perhaps one day recovering a fraction of the total.
Last weekend on RTE, Marian Finucane seemed set to take her cue from the Sunday Independent article in asking where had the billions gone. She said, as this newspaper had said, that they did not disappear into thin air. But she was too easily deflected by panellists unable or unwilling to follow the money trail.
She should have quoted even more from the article that had identified the elephant in the room.
And that elephant is the failure to follow the billions handed out to golden circles, billions that were never burnt in a barrel. They are still out there. But it is not just a question of where money went. Now it is also a question of where it was coming from, and why.
Last week, it emerged that 20 per cent of the deposits in Anglo come from the Isle of Man. That is presumably the ‘risk investment’ of tax avoiders who depicted themselves as entrepreneurs, but who are now fully guaranteed by ordinary Irish taxpayers. It is scarcely the small savings of Manx fishermen and farmers who worked very hard.
Irish citizens are punch drunk, and it is only very slowly dawning on us how much nonsense has been talked for the past two years. RTE is always a good place to test the national mood. The station reflects it, and shapes it. Last week alone, for example, there was Marian Finucane ready to go forward, but then reluctant to push her guests too hard. Keep pushing, Marian.
And there was a curiously conflicted RTE news bulletin on Wednesday night, when presenters indicated a couple of times that we ‘should’ know in October exactly how much Anglo owes. Yet, when we finally got to hear the Taoiseach talking, we learnt less of finality and more about the deputy from Offaly’s propensity to dodge and dive.
RTE seems reluctant to ask rude questions that need to be asked. Perhaps the organisation worries about its power, and worries about that phone-call from Government that reproached it for raising on one of its phone-in programmes the real prospect of a run on the banks. RTE depends on the Government for decisions about its future funding and structures.
Last Thursday, on Morning Ireland, Brian Lenihan brazenly distanced himself from any notion that the Government ever wanted a good-bank/bad-bank division at Anglo. He certainly had had all of Ireland fooled on that score. Now he is singing a different tune, creating a deposit bank at Anglo where taxpayers pay interest on the deposits of Isle of Man investors, but where no loans are available from that deposit base for Irish business.
Morning Ireland did not push him on this contradiction, perhaps because Lenihan has been ill, or perhaps because they are weary of exposing Fianna Fail’s contradictions. It is too much like shooting fish in a barrel. But it still needs to be done.
Even more restrained last week was RTE’s much promoted documentary called Freefall, billed as an account of how we got into our banking mess. At a time when citizens are increasingly eager to get real answers, this programme might, for the most part, have been made 18 months ago.
Not alone were there few new insights, but it gave the political stage entirely to Fianna Fail, placed the crisis solidly in the global context of which Fianna Fail likes to depict it as just a part, and featured no relevant bank officials or board members. Nor did our former banking ‘regulator’ appear, not even in one of those delicious clips of him telling us all not to worry, the sky could not possibly fall and our banks were fully capitalised. Oh, how we laughed.
The programme did have RTE’s usual line-up of approved commentators but, for all of RTE’s revenue, it had little bite in terms of pinning anything on anyone.
For its part, Prime Time last week was grittier, but it was largely bound to studio where we could get no further than seeing Miriam O’Callaghan banging her head against a West of Ireland stone wall called Minister Eamon O Cuiv. The endless ability of Fianna Fail ministers to bluster is truly mind-boggling.
Me? I know as little as any minister, and least of all where the thousands and thousands of millions have gone. Did the banks gamble most of the money recklessly on the US sub-prime market, with the tacit or explicit consent of the Regulator and Government? Is that what they are hiding?
It was not the poor wretches to whom bankers shoveled inflated mortgages and who are now royally screwed who got most of the money. Not even big Irish builders, who could only spend so many billions on what are now ghost housing estates and empty offices. We have yet to get the full story. Why?
And will we never see anyone account for their recklessness or criminality? Why all the delays and excuses? Were well-tried common-law offences replaced by statutes so weak that they are useless in terms of accountability and justice in banking?
The Dail could be providing answers, but it is not. No Oireachtas committee is pursuing the betrayal of our State on a daily and thorough-going basis, explaining where exactly the money went and who sent it there.
The media has been throwing some light on events, but not enough. Insufficient resources are being devoted to in-depth current affairs.
The media is hit by the recession, and much of it has little taste, or time, to devote to investigative journalism. This is where RTE could be doing better, given its big resources and public service remit. Its documentaries and dramas have been behind the curve when it comes to the scale of this crisis. We have yet to see the real despair and hurt that the betrayal of Ireland is now causing people, or be told anything like the full story.
RTE itself became infected by the virus of the greedy age that we have lived through. Its competitors resent its commercial profile, and the kinds of big payments it has been able to make to presenters and managers to sustain its dominant position. Last week, National Newspapers of Ireland launched an appeal to the Minister for Communications to ensure fair competition between public service broadcasters and the press in this digital age.
RTE’s best defense against attacks on it is to concentrate on public service broadcasting of a robust kind, one that provides answers to questions about where all the billions went, who sent them there and who is still benefiting.
I want to go up to the Sunday Independent office and shake your hand Mr. Colum Kenny
At long last the hard hitting questions are now coming out on to the pages of our newspapers .This is an excellent piece of journalism, however one critic it does not go far enough. The questions posed here have been asked on my blog for many months and it should not be up to independent citizens to highlight the shortcomings of those we have put our thrust in, the government of the day are guilty of the biggest con job in this state’s history and the newspapers of the country and the main media have chosen to tow the current governments line.
Can I say what a breath of fresh air this article is and it has made my day?
do please continue to pursue the Money the billions stolen from the citizens of Ireland and please insert that word everybody is afraid to “Derivatives”
Anglo and Allied and Bank of Ireland are hiding Billion worth of “derivatives” in losses
this word appeared for the first time last week in one of the Sunday papers
go and ask the banks about these enormous losses if they say that they have no dealings in these financial nuclear bombs ,well they are lying
Why is NAMA looking to recruit “Derivatives traders and valuation specialists”?
Anglo has denied in having any “Derivative positions “they are lying
For a review of previous postings of mine on the “Derivatives” just put the word Derivatives in the search bar on my blog and pay particular attention on the 16th of January article “Irish Banks Derivative trading losses”
Thank you once again