Tag Archives: Tony Groves

From top: The EU’s White Paper on the Future of Europe; Tony Groves

Prediction is a mugs game. Many people much smarter than I have erred badly in the game of throwing predictions about. Some, while not quite masters, are certainly more adept in the art of reading the economic tarot cards.

I remember being at a banker “breakfast briefing” a few years before the Global Financial Crisis where a hipster economist named David McWilliams laid out his prediction of the economic crash to come in our not too distant future. I was convinced by his reasoning until a colleague put up his hand to ask a question.

“David,” he said, “I’ve been to a series of these briefings for a number of years, and you always give the same warning”.

“Is there a question in there?” replied David.

“Ah, it’s kind of like saying in the middle of a heatwave that it’s gonna rain tomorrow. When it does eventually rain you can say I told you so,” came the response.

Everyone laughed and the bankers (myself included) skipped out into the world of darkening clouds, imagining that we’d never need the use of an umbrella.

I’d like to think I’ve learned something from the hubristic Celtic Tiger implosion. I’d like to think we all have. But I’ve read the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe and I don’t think we’ve learned much of anything at all.

The paper outlines 5 Scenarios for how the EU 27 countries will operate by 2025.

These are:

SCENARIO 1: Carrying on

This is the ‘sure isn’t everything grand, nothing to see here, please move along option’. In this scenario the polarisation of the EU isn’t addressed. The first priority of Scenario 1 is “to focus on…strengthening the single market”.

SCENARIO 2: Notheing but the single market

This is exactly what is sounds like, “the functioning of the single market becomes the main raison d’etre of the EU”. Everything else becomes irrelevant. It’s like a more honest Scenario 1

SCENARIO 3: Those who want more do more

This is termed “the coalition of the willing” option. The member states who want to address challenges within the EU can form groupings and work together to improve cooperation and deepen ties. Sounds reasonable, until you read that the areas that are to be given priority. You’ve probably guessed it, yep, it’s focus will be on “budgetary arrangements and greater harmonisation of tax rules”.

SCENARIO 4: Doing Less more efficiently

This option is a funny one. It starts on the false premise that the EU will “focus its…limited resources on a reduced number of areas”. 15 of the 30 wealthiest countries in the world are in Europe, so if the EU has limited resources it is because of a focus on socialising debt and privatising capital.

Nonetheless, there is in Scenario 4 the first mention of consumer rights and protections. Sadly, they also state this will “help close the gap between promise and delivery” and that “common standards will be set to a minimum”. It’s like telling someone that their pizza will be with them within 6-8 hours and expecting them to be happy when you deliver it in only 4hrs, cold. In sales this is called the ‘Under Promise and Over Deliver Option.

SCENARIO 5: Doing much more together

The sharing is caring option. This is the option I pegged my hopes on. Yes, it starts on about deepening the single market again. Yes it goes on about “much greater coordination on fiscal and taxation matter”. Yes, it even states that a “European Defence Union is created”.

But, it also states that citizens rights will be put above those of the Corporations and Banks that created the crisis. It promises to create and foster a European Identity, where all citizens are afforded the protections and rights of a European Constitution. Scenario 5 puts the people of Europe at the centre of Europe…

only it doesn’t. None of these Scenarios even hint at anything as revolutionary as creating and fostering a European Identity.

Everyone of these Scenarios are market driven and the rights of citizens are an afterthought; something to be “set to a minimum”.

Five Scenarios that all carry, in the European Commission’s own words, “the risk of alienating…a society which feels that the EU lacks legitimacy”. Yes folks, they are aware of the problem, but they think doing more of the trickle down economics that caused the crisis will avert the next crisis.

A few months back I was at another financial get together. Once more, David McWilliams was the guest speaker. He gave an optimistic outlook for Ireland and our economy.

His predictions weren’t based on the global economic environment, they were more (to my mind) based on austerity fatigue and the behavioural economic phenomena of people saying “Feck it” and buying a new car.

David had identified the one thing that the European Commission failed to notice. That is that the people are the economy. The recovery, if there is to be one, will be driven from the bottom up and not the Single Market down.

European citizens are fed up of stagnation and having to put things like having a family on pause. The pent up societal demand of a life in economic limbo can be the driver of growth in the real economy.

The EU needs to recognise this and make it the centre of the 2025 plan, or, at the time of the next crash, the EU will collapse in on itself.

In Ireland we currently have no appetite for leaving the EU, but Brexit is everywhere. The election of Macron hasn’t stopped the disillusionment. The European Commission needs to wake up, people don’t live in an economy, they live in a society.

We need a Scenario 6. The McWilliams option.

ony 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

From top: Dervla Brennan  (left) Eleanor Coleman at Loreto College, Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 this morning; Minister for Education Richard Bruton visiting the National Parents Council Exam Helpline in the Omni Center in Dublin this afternoon. Tony Groves

In 1914, Walter Lippmann wrote a book called Drift and Mastery. The book, which argued for a progressive, scientific and rational society, also contained the first reference of the American Dream.

He argued against the “understanding that the common, undisciplined man” would save society. To Lippmann this was a dangerous fantasy of unbridled capitalism “that leads only to… anarchism”.

Lippmann wanted the American Dream to be seen “as a way to differentiate a high national ideal, from mere economic opportunity”. He saw it as an vision for a forward-thinking America; a system not driven by top down business and industry, but by bottom up labour initiatives and creativity.

When, in 1931, James Truslow Adams popularised the phrase “the American Dream” he defined it as “a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

He argued that the Great Depression was brought on by America worshipping business above its people.

(Reread that. Doesn’t it remind you of the Marxist slogan – From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs-, no? Maybe my red-tinted glasses are colouring my understanding.)

Sadly, in my opinion, both Lippmann and Adams lost the battle for the American Dream. The phrase, rather than becoming a societal utopian vision, became synonymous with big business and rampant capitalism.

President Calvin Coolidge summed up the mentality when he said “the man who builds a factory builds a temple; the man who works there, worships there”. Praise to the Almighty Dollar, indeed.

The defeat of Lippmann and Adams wasn’t accidental. It was a strategic bastardising of their American Dream by big business. Post World War II the business elites poured resources into a campaign that positioned themselves as the saviours and protectors of the American Dream.

They developed curricula for public schools and helped word sermons for Ministers to give to their congregations. They crushed, remoulded and then sold the American Dream as one of Consumerism and Keeping up with the Joneses.

This boom and bust, consumerist driven American Dream has failed. In 1970 over 90% of 30 year olds who were earning more than their parents had at age 30. Today that figure is hovering just over 50%. The American Dream, if not dead, has certainly become a nightmare.

Back home, the Leaving Cert results are out and the points race is in full flow. The future is wide open in front of our best and brightest. There are more options for school leavers than ever before. But who’s dreams are they pursuing?

I’d like to think that it is down to the individual and that each of our school leavers will avail of an opportunity to advance themselves and follow their dream.

But I can’t help thinking of the Big American Industrialists shaping school curricula to suit their own dreams, and I remember our Minister for Education, Richard Bruton recently saying: “employers are to be given a greater say in shaping the type of education and training that is delivered.” Scary, isn’t it?

You’d have to question a government that defended Apple against the EU much more robustly than it did its own citizens in the face of a decade of austerity.

Nonetheless, our young people are more savvy than our politicians. They have a more global outlook than many of the businesses they will go on to work for. Survey after survey shows them to be more progressive, liberal and optimistic than the cranks of my generation.

They can carve out a world where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone. After All, you’ve got to have a dream.

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

Rollingnews

From top: Leo Varadkar;Tony Groves

A mathematician, an accountant and an public relations manager apply for the same job…

The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks “What do two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says “Yes, four, exactly.”

Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The accountant says “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.”

Finally, the interviewer calls in the PR manager and poses the same question “What do two plus two equal?”

The PR manager gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal”?

When Leo Varadkar was Minister for Social Protection he said that there should not be refunds for those who paid water charges. He also added that those who did not pay should be pursued. Now, as Taoiseach, he wants us all to engage in collective memory loss as he rebrands himself into Santa Leo.

Santa Leo is promising Christmas bonuses to all the little good boys and girls. Refunds, that he said he wouldn’t do, are going to cost €170,000,000 and an estimated €10,000,000 to process it.

So that’s a €180,000,000 humiliation for Fine Gael that is to be spun as a Ho Ho Ho Christmas Holiday present of “three hundred odd euro back” per household.

Great news for those “two thirds of people” who obeyed the law and paid their Irish Water bills. Three hundred euro is not to be sniffed at.

Well played Leo, everyone will forget your previous guff about pursuing non-payers and you get to turn your democratic defeat into a political win. At least you would do, if you’re figures weren’t as unreliable as your proclamations. Just a cursory exploration of the facts exposes the flaws.

Firstly, Irish Water only took in €165,120,680 and not €170,000,000. Irish Water was responsible for 1,700,000 households, when applicable they billed 1,522,000 of these.

At their peak, Irish Water say 989,000 people were paying; that’s 58% of households and not the 66% claimed by government.

Even using this 989,000 figure is problematic; to refund this many households “three hundred odd euro” back would cost the exchequer €296,700,000.

There’s either a €126,700,000 hole in their sums, or they still aren’t telling the truth about how many people were paying and how much had been paid.

Taking the €300 refund amount to be true, then we can estimate that only 566,666 households paid up. That’s one third of the 1,700,000 households. A figure only slightly above the 30% figure claimed by that “lefty looney” Paul Murphy.

I know, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter. After destroying the Labour Party and bringing Fine Gael to its knees Water Charges are dead. Not to mention the real crises of housing and hospital waiting lists; true emergencies that require immediate responses.

But that’s sort of the point.

A Taoiseach who quotes bogus stats on a dead issue like Water Charges is not credible when he quotes stats on new housing builds or hospital waiting lists.

A Taoiseach that has hired a separate office to manage his own Public Relations is a Taoiseach who needs more scrutiny than any to have ever held the office before.

Remember, this is a government that when they failed to meet their goal of patients not waiting over 24 hours in an A&E Department decided that, rather than redouble their efforts, they’d simply change the goal to say that patients over 75 would not be waiting over 24 hours.

This is the government that claimed there had been 15,000 new homes built in 2016, when the real figure was closer to 3,500. In Cork alone the government’s figure of 287 was a shameful 21.

This is why it Santa Leo and the €300 matters. A government that holds to data that is disproven cannot be expected to solve real crises. Flat earther economics is not going to build houses. PR soundbites won’t stop winter flu.

We know, looking around our dinner tables, that hospital waiting lists are rocketing towards 750,000. The people who get up early in the morning in homeless hubs know that 2 + 2 = 4. No amount of PR media spin is going to make it otherwise. Santa Claus is not real.

(BTW There’s a Inner City Helping Homeless, No Place to Sleep, Public Meeting on Wednesday the 16th of August, at 7:30. 72 Amien Street, Dublin 1.)

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

From top: Paul Murphy TD; Tony Groves

 

Paul Murphy is the Dark Knight. He’s the hero Protesters deserve. But not the one we need right now. When he came out onto the steps of the court, an innocent man, he declared what had “happened in there…disgusting”.

Disgusting was, I’d imagine, picked deliberately; the echoes of former Garda Commissioner Callinan, are too convenient.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, wasn’t exonerated. Far from it. In fact no less than the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar declared “just because someone wasn’t convicted doesn’t mean their behaviour was acceptable”.

Clearly the Taoiseach for soundbites has learned nothing from the recent rebuke about sticking his nose in the business of the judiciary.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, is profoundly guilty of the Orwellian Newspeak crime of Facecrime. A crime of acting inappropriately to the views of the establishment. His face doesn’t fit.

For my part, I’d have preferred Paul Murphy, an innocent man, to step in front of the microphones and begin by thanking the judge and the jury for proving that justice was not out of reach for those outside of the establishment.

I’d have liked him to talk about not condoning the uglier events of the day, but also stating categorically that the right to protest usurps the hurt feelings of those who deem themselves “respectable and honest”.

If there’s hope, it lies with the proles” – George Orwell

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, is guilty of wiping his feet on the unwritten establishment rule book. I’m not comfortable with his running roughshod over the hierarchical structures and ignoring the rules of disengaged engagement. I’m probably not Paul Murphy’s target audience.

Paul Murphy is for the proles (the Marxist proletarian) and their struggles. The proles who know that education doesn’t necessarily mean intelligence, and that respectability often does not mean honesty. The proles aren’t bothered by standing protocols, when they’re too often the stood upon.

When Jeremy Corbyn ran on a slogan of “for the many, not the few”, he was, in his own pacifist way, appealing to the proles. He knew that by standing up for those stood upon, that he might awaken in them something that no amount of mainstream smearing could quell, hope.

An awakened proletariat need “only rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies” for the Chumocratic Instruments of the State to crumble.

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” – George Orwell

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, in giving two fingers to the establishment, also gave a kick to the horse. That he did it in a way unpalatable to many, myself included, matters not a jot.

What matters is that the proles are getting a feel for their power, they can sense fear in the establishment and they’re realising that they have less to fear from a State that trembles at a tweet than they do from poverty. They’re becoming conscious.

Conscious of the imbalance in reporting that stresses the inappropriateness of social media* above the inappropriateness of perjury.

Awake to those who portray the ordeal of that day in Jobstown as in some way more trying than the proles own daily struggle. Angry that having won in court that they’re facing more anger than ever from the commentariat.

Paul Murphy, an innocent man, kicked the horse. Now the horse’s tail is swishing and one eye is open.

“Rise like lions after slumber
In unfathomable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep have fallen on you –
Ye are many, they are few.” – Percy Bysshe

The hope today is that we now have more reasons to be hopeful.

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 at Trickstersworld

*note how the mainstream media don’t fret about the public judge, jury and executioner that is an RTE Investigates documentary, or a Paul Williams interview exclusive.

Tony Groves

‘sup?

Tough Mudder is 10 miles of mud and 20+ obstacles in Loughcrew Adventure Centre, Oldcastle, County Meath on July 8-9.

Financial consulatant and Broadsheet columnist Tony Groves will be taking part in aid of the Peter McVerry Trust.

If you would like to donate please click on link below.

Tough Mudder For Peter McVerry (iDonate.ie)

Yanis Varoufakis gets around, and much like the dreaded contagion of the financial crash, he’s rarely as advertised. When he appeared on the Russell Brand podcast (the day before the British General Election) he was a little downbeat; not at all positive about Corbyn’s chances.

Whereas, when he spoke at the DiEM 25 meeting in Dublin, he was the embodiment of positivity in Doc Martens. So much so that Vincent Browne told him to stop being so idealistic!

I guess the lesson is this: know your audience.

It is with this simple wisdom in mind that I read about last weekend’s Italian bank bailout. You see Italy has just pumped €5 billion into two banks that are not considered systemic to the Italian economy. The final bill (if any of these things can have a bill that doesn’t include the societal damage) is estimated to be in the region of €17 billion.

This burden, and it will be a heavy austere burden, will fall on the citizens of Italy and not the bondholders of Italian banks.

But the good news is that “Markets have rallied as a result”. The socialisation of private debt in order to protect market confidence, how very Irish of those Italians, hey?

A couple of weeks ago the Spanish had there own bailout bonanza. Santander, the private bank, raised €7 billion in a rights issue to bailout the Banco Popular. Santander then burned Banco Popular’s bondholders to the tune of €3.3 billion and completed the purchase for the symbolic amount of €1. No taxpayers money was involved in this Bailout/Bail-in.

So why did Italy opt to burn the citizenry and Spain the bondholders? The answer lies with Yanis Varoufakis and knowing your audience.

The Italians are less than 10 months away from a General Election, that’s just enough time for voters to not feel too much pain from the bailout and what would have been too little time for large investors and bondholders of the banks to forget their pain.

The two Italian Banks in question, Banca Popolare and Veneto Banca, have depositors and senior creditors who the Italian government do not want to upset.

So rather than use the EU’s bank-failure law, (the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive) they took “a very pragmatic decision… that shouldn’t affect investor confidence”. Gotta keep those investors confident, right?

So we have an a la carte menu in Europe now. I’d like one slice of a bailout, a large portion of a bail-in and can I get a good bank/bad bank diet coke to drink? Certainly, Sir. Could I interest you in some pragmatic pie for dessert?

Meanwhile, in Ireland we successfully sold just over a quarter of AIB, raising around €3 billion. Money, as the the best little country in the world to do as it is told, we are going to use (waste?) in paying down our debt. We are eating the Irish-Italian menu of toxicity. The one whose audience is for the bondholders, private investors and the European Commission, and not the citizens of the state.

When Spain breached the EU deficit rules the EU Commission sent them a fine of €2 billion. Spain promptly told the EU to go take a long walk on a short pier. The EU backed down and sent a symbolic fine of €0, citing “past fiscal efforts and the risk of a backlash” as their reasons for capitulation. The EU Commission knew its audience, it backed down.

Here in Ireland, we run in fear of the EU Commission and its possible fines. Irish Water, paying down debt and our budgetary gymnastics around the Fiscal Deficit are all examples of our Government working for the EU audience, rather than us.

In fact, the only time we stood up to the EU Commission was in the interests of Apple’s taxation acrobatics.

We have a new leader who doesn’t speak power to truth, he’d rather discuss pop culture. He has a grand vision, with himself at the head of it. His backbone in facing down Fianna Fáail and brazening out the Máire Whelan stroke goes missing when he’s representing you and I.

When he’s playing to his favoured audience he becomes Hugh Grant, or some other narcissist . What hope do we have of avoiding the property bubble floating along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay?

Yanis Varoufakis has a vision for a European Constitution that puts the citizens ahead of the markets. Yanis, I’d imagine, sees what has happened in Italy as the opposite of his vision; a missed opportunity to show how Europe can act as a protector of people and not markets. DiEM 25 has many great solutions, but so did Italy last Friday.

The EU had an opportunity to help Italy, the Italian government had a choice between market confidence or their people’s well-being. Both parties chose to opt for the Irish Stew. Me, I’d love some Spanish tapas. Luckily for me, they serve them in the Gravedigger’s.

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 at Trickstersworld

Pic: Getty

From top: Minister for Finance Pascahl Donohoe; Tony Groves

It is difficult to define an elephant, but you know one when you see it – Bob Dowdall, Chief Inspector of Taxes

There are idioms and sometimes there are cliches. The elephant in the room is that both idioms and cliches are merely at different stages of the common lexicon cycle. One man’s philosophy is another man’s bunkum. Both things CAN be true.

It’s with this verbal trick in mind that my eye is once more drawn to the state of our exchequer returns. Month after month our indicators of economic performance have painted a picture of an economy that is once again the envy of all of Europe.

Forget Leprechaun Economics, we have more people at work than ever before in the history of the state. Don’t mind the begrudgers who point out Ireland’s preeminence in tax evasion scandals like the Panama Papers, we collected more tax in 2016 than ever before in the history of the state.

Put aside your concern for the various crises (housing, health, policing etc) and focus on a growing fiscal space that might start to tackle these issues.

But above all else, ignore the elephant in the room.

Since February a funny thing keeps happening with the income tax take; it keeps undershooting the government’s targets. Our former Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan is said to be at a loss to explain the results.

[Word of advice; in the event of a zombie apocalypse do not reach out to Michael Noonan, the Department of Finance and the new Finance Tzar, Paschal Donohoe, for help]

They can’t see the elephant in the room, let alone tackle it. It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture Taoiseach Leo Varadkar giddily welcoming the zombies and talking about his favourite Walking Dead episodes.

Whether our leaders are willfully blind to it, genuinely perplexed, or sincerely unaware doesn’t matter; the fact is that report after report has found that (at least) 1 in 5 self-employed workers are not really self-employed.

These are workers in the “sharing economy”, the “gig economy” and even your GP. The lad on the mountain bike, delivering your Thai Green Curry is a modern day entrepreneur, apparently. The fella sweeping the building site is the CEO of yard brush enterprises, who knew?

These are the workers whose job description includes the unwritten criteria of pretending they are self-employed.

This is the ‘elephant in the room’ work practice that the instruments of the state, Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Finance ignore because “the arrangement is administratively efficient in collecting tax from a sector which is traditionally recalcitrant when it comes to paying tax”.

What that actually means, in the eyes of the state, is that some money is better than no money.

It is bizarre to think that allowing people be misclassified as self-employed is the lesser of two evils, when, if these individuals were PAYE workers, the tax would be deducted at source.

From an employers point of view this is a ‘no brainer’. The estimated loss to the state (and saving to the employer) is an estimated 30% per employee.

Savings in pension contributions, sick pay, holiday pay, employers PRSI all hit the state coffers. All this while flexibility is forced upon workers in precarious employment. It’s manna from heaven for an unscrupulous employer.

There are quite literally tens of thousands of these wishy-washy contract for employment jobs, in lieu of contract of employment jobs; nearly 100,000 in Relevant Contracts Tax roles alone.

This herd of stampeding elephants have smashed holes in the ‘Fiscal Space’ that will determine our budgetary constraints. They have been allowed trample on hard earned employees rights, making the nature of work more precarious than in the past.The insurable jobs divide in the gig economy is estimated to be growing at 15% per annum.

People in such employment will be excluded from things like mortgages and employers pension schemes, they are not the recalcitrant children. They are the victims. The state, by looking the other way, are the issue.

You know an elephant when you see it, and this elephant is bad for the state, its citizens and the future. It needs to be addressed. Tackling it might seem like a mammoth task, but as the cliche (or is it an idiom?) goes; How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I just don’t see any big game hunters in our midst.

Note: I’d strongly urge you to check out Martin McMahon‘s video clips outlining his experiences of this sector. The links are embedded in the piece and are available to view in full here.

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 at Trickstersworld

 

From top: Leo Vardkar addresses the media; Tony Groves

Long before Rome was an empire, there was the regal period; a much disputed and historically vague time. It was in this age that the origin stories of Romulus and Remus were born, and it was here that the myth of Roman citizenry was cultivated.

The kings, seven of them, while individually interesting characters, are not as important in today’s context as is the methodology of their ascension.

Kingly succession was not hereditary and the Romans used complex legal procedures that involved the appointment of an Interrex (a ‘between king’), a popular vote for the new monarch and senatorial ratification. Only then could the Interrex be called the Rex (Latin for king).

Hundreds of years later, the Romans, wanting to project later priorities into the past, cultivated backstories of these Kings. It was said that of the seven, three were murdered, one was struck by a divine lightning bolt, one was exiled and only two died in their beds.

The message to the later Romans was clear, Rome has no King, Rome needs no King; a message heard and manipulated by the Caesars.

Much like the recent election of Leo Varadkar to Fine Gael Leader (and in contrast to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader) the popular vote of the Interrex counted for much less than the “senatorial ratification” votes.

Much like the ascension of Leo Varadkar to Taoiseach, dodgy deals were cut with powerful interests in order to gain the senatorial favour. While unlike in Rome, no assassinations were ordered, one can’t help think of Michael Lowry and his backing of Leo Varadkar.

Much like the new Tory Taoiseach wants us to focus on his backstory and not his conservative, neoliberal politics, the Interrex would also have a backstory cultivated to appeal to the plebeians.

Numa and Titus Tatius, were said to be the sons of a refugees, Servius Tullius was the son of a slave. The message here, much like that of the new Taoiseach, is unmistakable: Romans could come from anywhere; and those born low could rise to the top.

Yes, there is much to admire in the son of an Indian migrant rising to the top position in the country. There is some comfort in his sexuality not featuring as a topic, but for a brief idiotic moment in the Irish Independent. But, there’s more discouragement in our need to slap ourselves on the back for such ‘enlightenment’.

I would love to see Leo Varadkar succeed. He has made much noise about the death of Left/Right politics, if only to deflect from his Right Wing leanings, and if he was to govern as he says then perhaps he will find a new route. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, briefly.

Let’s see how serious he is about resolving his “unfinished business” in the Health Service. As a country we await him fixing the date for the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

As a two speed economy, we await the “substantial increases in capital spending” he has promised. Let’s see him address the housing crisis and impending property bubble, without bowing to vested interests.

Leo has put his name to an ambitious list of promises. But until he starts to deliver on his “Republic of Opportunity ” mantra and living up to the (demagoguery like) hype, he will remain the Interrex; an in between king.

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 at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

From top: Pro life demonstration last Summer; Tony Groves

We need to talk about Abortion. Again and Again. Not only because a young girl, who was seeking a termination, was held in a psychiatric unit.

Not only because the Citizens Assembly (another vehicle from the Do Nothing Dáil) delivered recommendations that the Government are now referring to as a ‘guide’.

Not just because we had the Strike4Repeal, a walkout of workplaces and universities, take place on  March 8 and other methods of Repeal Activism go largely ignored in mainstream media.

Also not because I’m concerned that the new Taoiseach has drawn comparisons between women travelling for reproductive healthcare, to men travelling to Amsterdam on a Stag Party.

Nor is it because of the fact that any further delay to repeal is a violation of a woman’s rights.

No, I’m writing because of something Minister for Health Simon Harris said previously, that in the context of the latest outrage has been crystallized it in my mind.

After the UN Human Rights Committee’s found Ireland imposed “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” on Amanda Mellet, Mr Harris apologised saying:

“I am very sorry that this is how she was treated. Ireland’s history shows that it has been a cold and uncaring place for women and children. I felt the echoes of that when I read that UN view.”

I heard echoes as well. Echoes of a dark history.

When in January 2014 the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2003 was brought into force under former Health Minister and self-proclaimed conservative  (Taoiseach in Waiting) Leo Varadkar, it brought some truly terrible echoes from history ringing back.

Before you start complaining and yelling “Godwins Law” at me, I’m not about to draw an equivalence between Ireland’s failure to provide free, safe and legal reproductive options and Nazi Germany’s genocidal purges.

Whether it was the law for the prevention of hereditary diseased offspring , or the involuntary euthanasia of Aktion T4, or the Eugenic based practice of compulsory sterilisations, the Nazi State unquestionably engaged in “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

But most startling, in an Irish context, is a little nugget. When an individual (with a disability, a mental disorder or a genetic flaw or was simply gay) was identified by the Nazis, a file would be prepared and sent to (and this is the chilling Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 part) three Doctors for sign off.

The three doctors, unknown to one another, would assess the individual and place a Red Mark in a box if the person was deemed unfit for life. It was a majority rule decision. If two doctors used the Red Pen, the person was done away with.

In Ireland a woman might have an abortion “where the threat to her life arises because of the risk of suicide. Three Doctors—a woman’s obstetrician and two psychiatrists—must agree that her life is at risk.”  Three Doctors must all agree.

Yes, I understand the very different circumstances. I acknowledge the aim of the States are ethically and morally very different. But when you imagine the pressure doctors were placed under back then, how the regime could punish dissent, you can’t help but imagine the pressure our doctors must be under today. They are caught between the 8th Amendment and the UN Human Rights Charter.

Ireland’s Medical Professionals need not be exposed to bad laws, the issues we are asking them to adjudicate on are too serious. Their jobs are hard enough and the physical and mental well-being of our mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends is too important for any more political games of kick the can.

Echoes from the past can be learned from. Yet here we are today, writing our own history, and failing.

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 at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

From top: Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe offer cakes and coffee during the Fine Gael leadership election hustings last month; Tony Groves

Facilitator: “Kevin Doyle from the Irish Independent…”

Kevin Doyle: “Congratulations Mr Varadkar…”

Leo Varadkar: “Hi, Kev…”

Kevin Doyle: (talks over Leo) “… first off on Fianna Fáil…you’ve said some things that we probably couldn’t say as this is airing live…”

The above happened at Leo Varadkar’s first press conference as the elected leader of Fine Gael. The bonhomie, over familiarity and little inside jokiness off the relationship between politicians and the media charged with holding them to account, laid bare in a 15 second exchange.

A window into world of anonymous sources, party spokespersons and a source close to a source.

I know that I’m just a grouchy old man shaking his fist at a cloud, but even I know that this is the way of the world. Journalists are embedded, and in bed with those they are paid to cover.Kevin Doyle is just doing his job, Leo is just playing the game, and we, as consumers, are eating junk food journalism.

Fox News unashamedly uses the tagline “Fair and Balanced” and it used to bother me. Not so much anymore, I mean, some people go to the cinema to suspend reality and spend a few hours away from the travails of real life.

Is it really any wonder millions of Americans watch Fox; the American middle class has shrunk relentlessly over the last decade and Fox News acts as a comfort blanket of unrealities and an outlet for their outrage.

The BBC warned Jake Painter, the man behind the Liar, Liar song, not to go too heavy on the Tories before he went on screen. They’ve also refused to cover this speech by Jeremy Corbyn. I’ve found their election coverage, while not as biased as Sky News, more pro establishment than in previous campaigns.

And I understand it. The Beeb’s reluctance to upset the Tories stems from money. I mean, they depend on the licence fee and this Tory Government have threatened to cut their budget by hundreds of millions. No matter how well Jeremy Corbyn does, the BBC knows too well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Junk food journalism, in moderation, serves a purpose. It can be somewhat informing, it can build consensus and social cohesion. Unfortunately many of us aren’t discerning consumers. We eat our news at the same echo chamber restaurants every day. The only thing we like in moderation is any fair and balanced moderation.

I’m a glutton for news and my problem is overeating to the point where I’m able to hold opposing views at the same time.

Multiple helpings of the Indo, the Times, RTE, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Fox News, barely leaves enough room for my cognitive dissonance dessert. Still, I would like to see the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland show some teeth. I’d love to hear the Press Council comment on the quality of the commentariat.

There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, that I never get tired telling. It goes that in one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s early congressional campaigns he told an aide to spread a rumour about his opponent. “Leak to the press that the guy fucked a pig”, he reportedly ordered.

His aide, horrified, responded “Christ Lyndon, we can’t call the guy a pig fucker, it simply isn’t true”. Johnson, not to be overruled, shot back “Of course it ain’t true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it”.

I often wonder in today’s modern media landscape that if you want to smear an opponent would an aide be necessary; couldn’t you just Whatsapp Kev at the Indo?

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 at Trickstersworld