Ireland jails three senior bankers for their role in the 2008 economic crash


Denis Casey on his way to the JoyClodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Three senior Irish bankers were jailed on Friday for up to three-and-a-half years for conspiring to defraud investors in the most prominent prosecution arising from the 2008 banking crisis that crippled the country’s economy.

The trio will be among the first senior bankers globally to be jailed for their role in the collapse of a bank during the crisis.

The lack of convictions until now has angered Irish taxpayers, who had to stump up 64 billion euros – almost 40 percent of annual economic output – after a property collapse forced the biggest state bank rescue in the euro zone.

The crash thrust Ireland into a three-year sovereign bailout in 2010 and the finance ministry said last month that it could take another 15 years to recover the funds pumped into the banks still operating.

Former Irish Life and Permanent Chief Executive Denis Casey was sentenced to two years and nine months following the 74-day criminal trial, Ireland’s longest ever.

Willie McAteer, former finance director at the failed Anglo Irish Bank, and John Bowe, its ex-head of capital markets, were given sentences of 42 months and 24 months respectively.

All three were convicted of conspiring together and with others to mislead investors, depositors and lenders…

None of the defendants reacted visibly to the sentencing before being led away by officers to Mountjoy Prison, the country’s largest…

Overdue. Throw away the key.

Banks in the United States and Britain have paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements connected to wrongdoing over their handling of subprime loans that helped cause the crisis. But no senior industry executives in those countries have been sent to jail.

Pic of the day — Brexit

THE IRISH coast guard has today issued a nationwide warning for the East Coast as hundreds of thousands of British refugees risk their lives to cross the Irish sea in an attempt to flee the impoverished and unstable nation…

We have rescued hundreds of people from crafts due to overcrowding,” winchman Derek Ryan of Rescue 117 told WWN today. “It’s a terrible situation as many of these people are only hoping for a better quality of life in the EU”.

Har.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Ireland plans to make high-speed broadband a right for all citizens


Beautiful rural Eire – with slow internet if anyNeil Tackaberry

Politicians in Ireland plan to make fast, affordable broadband a legal right for every citizen…The country’s new communications minister Denis Naughten said on Wednesday, June 1 the government will ensure fast internet is enshrined in the country’s Universal Service Obligation (USO). Naughten compared fast broadband to electricity. “We want to ensure people have access to broadband as a right,” said Naughten in Silicon Republic. “I want it as an enforceable right.”

The EU country, which has traditionally lagged in national connectivity, is finalizing a $312 million National Broadband Plan that will accelerate broadband universal access to its 4.6 million citizens by 2022. The move would add the 30Mbps baseline service standard to Ireland’s 40-year-old USO which currently mandates copper telephone connections. In rural areas, 20% of the population lack such access. The plan is scheduled to break ground in 2017.

Rolling out the necessary infrastructure for high-speed internet parallels the rural electrification effort of the 1930s and 1940s. New cables and fiber optics must be strung on poles, or laid down in ditches, and to get last mile access to homes, new telecommunications equipment must be hooked up. Those projects are complicated by a patchwork of local authorities and legal requirements that give regulators headaches. Once the rural network is complete, the government said it would formalize high-speed broadband as a formal right.

A couple of decades later, I expect we’ll get round to doing the same for rural America.

Unlike the USA, Ireland hopes to treat drug addicts like addicts

On Monday, the minister in charge of national drug strategy said that Ireland’s next government will likely move toward decriminalizing all drugs, the Irish Times reported. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin also said that the country will open up injection rooms for heroin addicts, where users can obtain and use the drug — under strict medical supervision — without resorting to criminal traffickers and dealers.

This does not mean that Ireland stores will begin selling marijuana, heroin, and cocaine anytime soon. But if the next government takes up the plan outlined by Ó Ríordáin, it would remove criminal penalties for the possession of these drugs, eliminating the risk of prison time for drug possession, while criminal penalties remain for manufacturing, trafficking, and selling the substances.

Ireland wouldn’t be the first country to do this. In a move that got a lot of media attention, Portugal in 2001 decriminalized all drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Reports from Portugal have found largely promising results, with drug use remaining relatively flat as more people get treatment for their drug problems.

But Portugal didn’t just decriminalize; it also paired up decriminalization with a much greater emphasis on public health programs for drug addicts. That seems to be what Ireland is trying to do, as well. And at a time when the US is dealing with a harrowing opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic, Portugal and Ireland’s radical approaches could provide a lesson to America.

Which presumes the United States once again recognizes health as a public need with public solutions.

…Eliminating or at least diminishing the stigma surrounding these drugs could also come with a public health benefit: It would make it so that people aren’t as scared to get help when they need it. This is what a 2009 report from the libertarian Cato Institute found when it looked at Portugal’s decriminalization scheme: “The most substantial barrier to offering treatment to the addict population was the addicts’ fear of arrest. One prime rationale for decriminalization was that it would break down that barrier, enabling effective treatment options to be offered to addicts once they no longer feared prosecution. Moreover, decriminalization freed up resources that could be channeled into treatment and other harm reduction programs.”…

The details of Ireland’s new drug policies are still being worked out. But the country’s current government seems interested in adopting an approach that focuses first on treating instead of imprisoning drug users. And Ó Ríordáin seems convinced that the next government will continue along that path with full decriminalization…

But more broadly, the new Irish approach is increasingly becoming the new norm. As more countries take another look at the war on drugs and its failures to significantly cut down on drug use, they’re looking to rely less on law enforcement and more on doctors and hospitals to deal with drug abuse and addiction. Ireland is just the latest high-profile example of this shift. America, as it deals with its opioid epidemic, might not be too far behind.

I manage to be both an optimist and a cynic. I believe much of the educated world will continue to move towards solving substance abuse questions as a public health issue. I don’t include the United States in that equation.

Port na bPúcaí

The lovely Irish folk tune Port na bPúcaí (The Music of the Fairies) had mystical beginnings and it’™s said that the people of the Blasket Islands heard ethereal music and wrote an air to match it, hoping to placate unhappy spirits. Seamus Heaney’s poem The Given Note tells of a fiddler who took the song out of wind off mid-Atlantic:

Strange noises were heard
By others who followed, bits of a tune
Coming in on loud weather
Though nothing like melody.

Recent research suggests that, rather than fairies, the islanders may have been hearing the songs of whales transmitted through the canvas hulls of their fishing boats. Humpback whales pass through Irish waters each winter as they migrate south from the North Atlantic, and their songs seem to resemble the folk tune.

Ronan Browne, who plays the air above on Irish pipes, writes, In the mid 1990s I went rooting through some cassettes of whale song and there in the middle of the Orca (Killer Whale) section I heard the opening notes of Port na bPúcaí!”…

Thanks, Ursarodinia

A good day to remember the trade in Irish slaves

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle…

…In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.

But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong.

Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories.

I’ve a few personal contacts in my life of the cruelty of Imperial England and how they “relocated” Celtic people who were in the way of their landed aristocracy. John Connell, the main builder of Wester Ross cycle frames in Scotland and Yorkshire was descended from one of those Irish lads sent by Cromwell to Jamaica. He and I worked together in the 1970’s.

My own family came to North America via slave ship in 1851 from the island of South Uist. Not being a cargo as profitable as slaves they didn’t need to be treated as “well”. A third of those transported died at sea. Almost another third died that winter after being dropped on the coast of Nova Scotia in November.

RTFA for details of this part of the slave trade. It will be what you expect.

Thanks, Mike

Dispute over chess move ends with murder and cannibalism

Hemisphere-Chess
Click to enlarge

An Italian man was arrested in Dublin on Sunday and charged with killing his Irish landlord and attempting to eat his heart after an argument about a game of chess.

Police said that 34-year-old Saverio Bellante admitted to killing Tom O’Gorman, 39.

O’Gormans body had been stabbed dozens of times and his chest cavity was opened up. Although the heart was still in his body, a lung was missing…

“The victim’s heart was intact but the post-mortem confirms that a lung was removed from the body and has not been located,” the source said. “The investigation is following a definite line of inquiry.”

At his arraignment on Monday, Bellante requested to represent himself and offered no plea. According to Det. Patrick Traynor, when Bellante was charged with murder, he replied: “I am guilty.”

The argument allegedly occurred over a move in a chess game that Bellante and O’Gorman had been playing for a year.

This blog and those involved with its production are all friendly to the discipline, skill and history of chess. At least one of us is damned good. It ain’t me.

We all understand that things like this can happen. They also happen between people watching telenovellas. We don’t approve of either circumstance allowed to descend into violence. 🙂

Yes – weird science can be interesting


This one is simply titled “Belly button cheese”

We’re no strangers to unusual food here at Gizmag, but this latest culinary masterpiece is probably the most unappealing treat we’ve yet come across. Dubbed Selfmade, the cheese in question is made from human bacteria which derives from samples taken from people’s armpits, toes, and noses.

The Selfmade cheese is the work of scientist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas, and is being exhibited as part of the Grow Your Own … Life After Nature exhibit, at Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery. The exhibit also features other projects which blur the line between art and science, such as I Wanna Deliver a Dolphin: a project proposing that future humans give birth to dolphins.

Each Selfmade cheese is created from cultures taken from the skin of a different person, and the process involves a strange combination of food preparation and microbiological techniques. This results in signature cheeses which are unique to each person – such as a “Christina” cheese, and “Ben” cheese, for example.

However, if the image of human bacteria-based cheese is making you salivate, be aware that the human cheese isn’t actually available for human consumption, but is rather intended as a means of promoting discourse on microbiology.

Our readers in Eire can wander by Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery. The signature cheeses will be on display until January 19, 2014.

No one’s offered any recipes using the self-made fermentations, yet. No doubt one or another of the purportedly avant-garde element in posh urbane restaurants will want to give it a try.

Backlog for godless wedding services in Ireland


Brandan Hastings, Suzy Addis after their Humanist wedding in Slane

Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed an atheist group to perform weddings this year for the first time, and the few people certified to celebrate them are overwhelmed by hundreds of couples seeking their services.

Demand for the Humanist Association of Ireland’s secular weddings has surged as the moral authority of the once almighty Catholic Church collapsed in recent decades amid sex abuse scandals and Irish society’s rapid secularization.

Until now, those who did not want a religious wedding could have only civil ceremonies. Outside of the registrar’s office, only clergy were permitted to perform weddings.

But statistics show rising demand for non-Church weddings. In 1996, 90 percent of Irish weddings were performed by the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland. But by 2010 that percentage had fallen to 69 percent.

The pent-up demand from those who want more than a civil ceremony in a registry office but reject a religious wedding has created a major backlog for the humanist group’s ceremonies director.

Brian Whiteside, initially the only humanist “solemnizer” certified to legally marry couples, was already booked well into next year when the civil registry office agreed in late June to approve 10 others, taking some of the pressure off him.

It remains very, very busy,” Whiteside said. “We’re all finding it difficult to keep up with the inquiries. We had 595 new inquiries in the first three months of this year, which in a little country like Ireland is quite a few.”

With all the din made by official religious sources opposing everything from abortions that save lives to civil rights for LGBT couples you might think the wave of progressive sociology and philosophy growing throughout the educated world might have skipped over Ireland.

I’m pleased to see that’s not so. And, then, there’s the United States.