Sunday Independent (Ireland)
IF there were skeletons to be found around Dublin on Tuesday night they were on the back wall of the College of Surgeons’ new atrium or between the covers of Maurice Manning’s novel, The Kilderry Files, which was launched with some fanfare by our former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
Faced with “a wall of intelligence”, as he put it, Kenny entertained the Fine Gael bluebloods (and the odd FFer) plus assorted friends of the author with quotes from the novel telling us that Manning is something of an aficionado of public house snugs, Sambuca in Nico’s and ‘would be’ nuns haunting the bar of the now closedup Larry Murphy’s.
Sidetracked about one character in the novel, a bishop “who knows about power and how to wield it”, he told us of his visit to the Vatican, where he said the eyes of Pope Francis “lit up” when Enda spoke to him about t he Argentina soccer team of 1978. Perhaps not surprising given the mood about the Catholic Church in Ireland at the time.
We also heard of other events which, he said to the amusement of some, occurred “long before the Taoiseach had a Specialised Communications Unit”. Mixing in the college’s York Street premises were luminaries such as Chief Justice Frank Clarke, former ambassador Sean Donlon, AIB chairman Michael Somers, businessman Mark FitzGerald, accountant Des Peelo, peace process pioneer Martin Mansergh, the former Laois Offaly TD Tom Enright (who got a well-deserved mention) and many others.
The author thanked members of the ‘Hypothermia Club’, some of whom, like the late PJ Mara, have possibly turned up between the pages of The Kilderry Papers as fictional characters. Missing in action was former judge Nicky Kearns — manning the Gate, perhaps. ZOZIMUS was curious as to the identity of Feniton Property Finance Designated Activity Company (DAC) which has acquired a €1m loan belonging to Gay Byrne and his family, raised through Derek Quinlan.
The loan was originally given to the ‘Clonskeagh Partnership’ by Bank of Scotland, which has escaped much of the blame for coming into the Irish financial market, undercutting everybody else (a move welcomed by the commentariat) and then creeping away from the wreckage and selling its customers down the river by flogging their loans to the highest bidder. But that, as they say, is another story.
Feniton DAC, which has no employees but has €351m in property loans, acquired the assets of Bank of Scotland on November 19, 2015, raising the money through loans and, intriguingly, “a private investor”. We hope when the case comes before the Commercial Court, where it was assigned last week, we will be told who that wealthy private investor now is?
Feniton itself is ultimately owned by USAbased CarVal Investors LLC, founded in Minneapolis in 1987, which has a lot of pleasant looking, clean-shaven executives on its tastefully designed website. They have a very nice way of describing their calling. “We are,” they say, “focused today on market dislocation globally.”
To put it less primly, they’re a vulture fund — but then high financiers, no matter their nationality, are never good at calling a spade a spade. Last Thursday senators jumped at the opportunity to praise their favourite corner shops during a debate on the more ridiculous aspects of the Public Health Alcohol Bill.
“Uisce beatha, the water of life, has been an integral part of Irish life for centuries,” thundered Paul Coghlan (clearly a connoisseur of the ball of malt), dismissing ideas of beer curtains and iron grills in local Centras, Spars and Galas in his beloved Kerry and beyond.
Sensible man that he is, he doesn’t want hardpressed rural shopkeepers to have to ‘wall up’ parts of their premises in a pretence that alcohol no longer exists, especially in rural Ireland where the local corner shop is the only place where the local farmer can get a bottle of wine for the wife before they settle down to watch the Late Late.
Wine buff Michael McDowell then weighed in with praise for his local Centra in Rooskey (near the holiday home), not to mention various corner shops in D4 where he lives much of the time and can pick up a bottle of his favourite tipple.
“Their selection is not something for our great connoisseurs such as Deputy Gerry Adams, who would pay €30 a bottle,” he added mysteriously. This led to some debate about the tastes of the Sinn Fein leader, who briefly held down a real job as a barman, and now appears to be something of an oenophile.
It seems that Health Minister Simon Harris — who looks like he’d have to bring his identity card to get served in most pubs — is going to bring back a sensible government amendment that will make alcohol “less visible”, but fall short of the ridiculous notion of hiding it behind bars. WHAT a lot of hot air the so-called Paradise Papers have generated.
Of course it’s amusing to learn that a few of Mrs Brown’s boys have a trust fund in Mauritius, that you don’t have to pay VAT if you buy your private jet through the Isle of Man and that Bono — apart from shifting his royalty payments to Holland to avoid taxes in Ireland — also invests in Lithuanian shopping centres.
But the bottom line is that it’s all perfectly legal tax avoidance — even if some of it comes under the heading of the newly-minted term “aggressive tax avoidance”.
Who needed the Paradise Papers to tell them about tax avoidance — when almost anybody who can practise it, including the offended media types, do?
Walk down the Liffey and look at the cathedrals of commerce that line the old river and you’ll realise that tax avoidance is a big business in Ireland and elsewhere. That’s why you have ‘private’ banking, corporate lawyers, tax consultants and advisers. Every major deal that is ever done is closely examined by these professionals for the ‘tax implications’. Nothing new there! The vaults of Ireland’s banks and professional offices are stuffed with stuff that would probably leave the Paradise Papers in the ha’penny place, but we’ll never know for certain. The one time we did find what was really going on, when Zozimus with a little help from a friend, uncovered the DIRT scandal and rampant tax evasion (very different from avoidance) in every bank in the land two decades ago. What happened? The banks eventually got a slap on the wrist and between themselves and their customers coughed up a billion euro or so to see it all go away.
Zozimus is still waiting from Revenue to call around and buy him a pint or two!