‘The Lack Of Substance Is Communicated As A Virtue’


From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the National Ploughing Championships yesterday; Tony Groves

We are just over the one hundred day mark into the reign of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the only substantial change is that the lack of substance is now communicated as a virtue.

Of the core challenges facing the government, we can only say with certainty, that there are certain plans with less than certain outcomes.

There are also more kites floating around than on Dollymount Strand during a Kite Surfing Contest.

One such kite, that flew from the Taoiseach’s lips, was the proposal to convert NAMA into a Housing Development Agency to help tackle the housing crisis.

That this is considered new and innovative, as part of the new and innovative government, is disappointing.

This is, in fact, old news. NAMA has always had the ability to help in tackling the burden of homelessness. NAMA was created, on day one, with the powers to do just that.

Section 2 (iv) and (viii) of the NAMA Act state that the purposes of the establishment of NAMA are:

‘to protect the interests of taxpayers and to contribute to the social and economic development of the state.’

There it is in black and white. NAMA doesn’t need any new powers, it simply needs to be directed to carry out the task for which it was created. NAMA should already be working to “contribute to the social and economic development of the state”.

The kite of getting them to do so now is not new and innovative. The question, that sadly is not being asked, of this government is, Why Haven’t You Done This Already?

Fine Gael are in power since 2011, for them to not have even suggested this before can only be negligence and/or an ideological choice.

There is nothing new in putting markets before people. There is nothing innovative in falling asleep at the wheel.

The argument that they couldn’t have seen this crisis coming doesn’t hold up either. As early as 2013, the then Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan said:

“Homelessness is an affront to every value that we assign to the concept of citizenship. In a real republic there is an onus on us all to ensure that all citizens have a place they can call home”.

Sadly, there’s not much room for optimism. When Leo spoke of the NAMA possibility he was quickly shut down by his ‘handlers’ and further explorations were closed to questioning.

NAMA is part, and have been part, of discussions on the housing crisis for years now. Foisting it on them now isn’t a solution. NAMA ha shown no desire to enter the “contributing to the social development” stage of their remit.

Leo, who has a history of saying “it was like that when I got here”, needs to step away from the PR for a few hours.

He has said funding isn’t an issue, great. Issue the funds Taoiseach.

Give the Local Authorities the responsibility to get on with building. Make the Department of Housing, and your good friend Minister Eoghan Murphy, responsible for removing roadblocks and expediting building.

Support the Non Governmental Organisations who are on the front line, taking the flack that six years of Fine Gael government has had a hand in creating.

Make the Local Authorities, the Department and the Minister accountable. Do what Section 2 (viii) of the NAMA act says: contribute to the social development of the state; not just the social media side of things.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

78 thoughts on “‘The Lack Of Substance Is Communicated As A Virtue’

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Ah, stick your head up a dead bear’s bum, MK. Not “positive” enough for you? Pardon us for discussing things that actually matter.

  1. snowey

    better this article.

    Leo is being Leo he hasn’t changed – we always knew what he was as TD and Minister – a new labour wannabe in the mould of T Blair and co in terms of media savvy PR style over substance.
    As a TD he could never pass a microphone without a “boost my appeal” comment. In fairness that got him the job.

    But let’s see what happens when he has to face the people as leader of FG which is still an outstanding prospect.

  2. Brother Barnabas

    Nice one, once again, Tony.

    But is it “negligence” or “ideological choice”?

    I generally go with the “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” idea – and it was a lot easier to take comfort in that when Enda Kenny was around – but not so much with Varadkar. And if problems in housing, homelessness, health etc really are down to ideological choices, that’s a terrifying prospect.

  3. Milo

    My only worry is that I don’t have a clue what Leo has to do with Irishness. This is nothing to do with his ethnicity, just a sense that he is yellow pack Taoiseach. He seems to have no sense of who we are, our history or culture or anything. (FFS he even went and learnt Irish!). He is a CEO at best, and he could be running Norway or Lithuania for all i know. The most at ease I have seen him is with Justin Trudeau, another plastic person who is a shallow as a spoon. Thats why ideology without substance is very dangerous.

    1. A snowflake's chance in hell

      haha fair play on getting the racist, xenophobic card into your comment. You try too hard though.

          1. A snowflake's chance in hell

            alright brother – you’re trolling at the wrong place bud – the cattery is over there

          2. A snowflake's chance in hell

            @ milo I’m not offended by you – not in the least
            I’ll call you out for what you are though

          3. Brother Barnabas

            I’m not trolling, Snowflake. Wouldn’t have any interest in it. I feel kind of sorry for you – clearly someone who’s been bullied; I suspect over your sexuality. And that isn’t cool. And I understand why you’re cross. It’s boring, though.

          4. A snowflake's chance in hell

            lol @ Brother, that really made me laugh – thanks very much ;)


            commenter waffles on endlessly about his prowess, he’s still got it, how good looking he is blah blah blah, vainly trying to impress imaginary online ladybirds, then says other people are insecure – that really has me in stitches

          5. Brother Barnabas

            Could very well be. But I can’t help you. I don’t know what you’re on about.

            Anyway, have to go now so I’ll leave you to it – tip from me: don’t take things so seriously and try not to get so upset about little things. Practice letting go. (And curb your tendency to be so opinionated; you come across as an earnest teenager with notions).

        1. A snowflake's chance in hell

          eh ‘yellow’ pack Taoiseach

          why not ‘value saver’ Taoiseach? That would be more appropriate. And not tacky and tawdry.

          1. Boj

            Honorable Brother (and true to your word) but if it’s a generational thing, then snowflake needs to be educated.

          2. Brother Barnabas

            I know, but it’s not just that: background issues + notions + thickness. His comments throughout are a bit of a cringe. He’s not a bad fellow, though. Just a bit annoying. It’s like kicking a puppy.

    2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      I was watching Trudeau speak at the UN. Christ, he laid it on thick. It was actually embarrassing.
      “We, Canada, stand with you” *cheesy grin, insouciant shrug*

    3. Andy

      Not everybody cares that much about Irish history & culture. It is not exactly exciting or that interesting.

      We were oppressed for centuries
      We ate spuds, farmed tiny plots and lived in farmhouses with straw roofs and rubble walls,
      We breath like rabbits cause kids died young and you needed kids to farm the land,
      We were ridiculously poor, 3rd world poor,
      Irish Poets wrote about wrote about how hard & boring life was,
      We tried to rebel but the brits trounced us on numerous occasions.
      This one time, we ran out of good spuds and loads of people died,
      And on and on and on and on
      Then we became our own nation and we had no ability to run it so outsourced everything to the church,
      We didn’t like change or outsiders so were a highly insular economy which remained poor and tons of us emigrated,
      We eventually embraced foreign capital and goods and began to prosper,
      We made a balls of that
      Here we are

      No industrial revolution, no cultural enlightenment, no architectural history, just lots & lots of misery, followed by lots of FDI and eventually starbucks & tescos.

  4. bisted

    …less than 20 years ago all councils had their own staff to provide public housing. The last great example of this was the Ballymun regeneration project. This project moved completely on-site. It designed and built loads of different house types and scales. These designs could be replicated quickly and efficiently anywhere there is a site.

    It wouldn’t take a lot of expertise to open drawers and cupboards in the old offices of Fingal, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin or the Corpo…they are stuffed with plans for social housing that should have been built but were sarcrificed on the altar of political expediency.

    While they are opening drawers they may come across the survey and report carried out by Hyder – the consultancy arm of Welsh Water. These consultants were real engineers and they identified the extent of leakage in the Dublin supply and proposed a water strategy to provide for a rapidly growing metropolis…

      1. b

        ” These designs could be replicated quickly and efficiently anywhere there is a site.”

        oh come on, that is a gross simplification of how to build a large scale social housing development – adds nothing to the debate

        even if the councils had an earnest librarian that could dig out the plans, they don’t have any expertise or competence to execute them

        1. martco

          presumably that’s the bit the Ernst & Young boys holed up in The Shelbourne on your money are doing because there literally isn’t anyone else on the island that can


    NAMA accused local authorities of not accepting perfectly good houses & apts.
    While local authorities claimed house & apts offered where not up to standard.

    Looks like conspiring between ‘unseen’ civil servants and politically attached developers.

    At least Leo & the gang can still convince the coping classes, early risers or whatever their assigned PR label is this week that the money raised by NAMA property sell offs will not be used to give folk ‘free gaffs’ but will be going straight back in to the gov coffers, except for that 3.2 billion they paid bondholders last week that is.

  6. Pete

    Where is Jan O Sullivan now? You can hardly accuse her of speaking for this government. She issued her platitudes in the last government. This government has other platitudes.

  7. rotide

    ‘to protect the interests of taxpayers and to contribute to the social and economic development of the state.’

    This is vague enough to write an article about how NAMA is responsible for any number of evils. Claiming that because of this line, NAMA is repsonsilble for keeping people homeless is ludicrous.

    1. mkg985

      I don’t think Rotide understands that the sentence is vague so as to give the Govt the tools to act. That they do fupp all is just, like you, rotide a bit dim

      1. Cian

        No, it gives NAMA the leeway to provide social housing. If this clause wasn’t there then NAMA would be forced to maximise returns at the expense of social housing.

        And look, they have helped: NAMA 2016 Annual Report: “By end 2016 NAMA had offered 6,942 residential properties for social housing purposes.” [not all were taken] and “2,378 homes were delivered for social housing by end 2016”

  8. Cian

    Jeez, you can’t pick and mix purposes of the act. Part 2 (Purpose of this act) says:

    The purposes of this [NTMA] Act are—
    (a) to address the serious threat to the economy and the stability of credit institutions in the State generally and the need for the maintenance and stabilisation of the financial system in the State, and
    (b) to address the compelling need—
    (i) to facilitate the availability of credit in the economy of the State,
    (ii) to resolve the problems created by the financial crisis in an expeditious and efficient manner and achieve a recovery in the economy,
    (iii) to protect the State’s interest in respect of the guarantees issued by the State pursuant to the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 and to underpin the steps taken by the Government in that regard,
    (iv) to protect the interests of taxpayers,
    (v) to facilitate restructuring of credit institutions of systemic importance to the economy,
    (vi) to remove uncertainty about the valuation and location of certain assets of credit institutions of systemic importance to the economy,
    (vii) to restore confidence in the banking sector and to underpin the effect of Government support measures in relation to that sector,
    (viii) to contribute to the social and economic development of the State.

    Notice anything? Small word at the end of (vii) and before (viii)? The word “AND”.
    NAMA were set up to do ALL those things, and after eight years they have achieved most of them.

    If you want to change NAMA into a ‘Housing Development Agency’ this will need to be reflected in a new Act that changes NAMA’s purpose.

    1. egghead


      I normally agree with you but the articles conclusions don’t suggest NAMA be changed into a Housing Development Agency, you knew that. All you care about is obfuscating from the fact that your Blue Shirt Gang are not taking this seriously.
      Not all us FG voters are as comfortable with leaving people in direct provision hubs.

      Shame on you.

      1. Cian

        My bad – Honestly I misread the conclusion.

        I don’t like the constant blame game against FG. Yes they are in charge now, but the problems aren’t of their making. Could they have done thing differently? yes – but there is no guarantee that everything would be better.
        Homelessness has always been a problem in Dublin – even at the height of the boom. Today’s housing crisis traces it roots back decades. There are no ‘quick fixes’.

        For the avoidance of doubt: I agree that we should make the Local Authorities, the Department and the Minister accountable. But their targets must be achievable.

        1. AnAccountant

          We hired FG to administer our “kitty” properly and they are not. You don’t like the people blaming the incompetents they hired? I don’t like when turkeys vote for Christmas; when average Joes get offended for the powerful. It is FG’s fault. They deserve scorn from a rightly angry populace.

  9. Ron

    I have anger fatigue. I’m tired and drained from getting angry with what these political filth bags are getting away with it. Bad things happen when good people don’t stand up and try to stop it.. seems everyone must be happy with the status quo if I am to believe the opinion polls. Am I missing something?

    1. egghead

      No Ron, you’re not missing anything.
      Just a scroll through these comments is proof that there is a large constituency that are only concerned about themselves and think anyone who is worse off is due to their own issues.

  10. Nigel

    Okay but in that photo it looks like Leo’s bodyguard is about to shove him aside and take that purple balloon full in the face for him. That’s the kind of bravery we should be celebrating.

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