Dan O’Brien (senior Editor & Economist, the Economist Intelligence unit) did not hold back in his call to action in his article in the Irish Times yesterday. O’Brien is a well known face to the Irish public – through his regular appearances on Prime Time. Clearly he is very fearful for the outlook for the Irish economy.
O’Brien is critical of our political system – whereby he believes we do not get the most competent people in key positions at a time of crisis. I would agree with this. My previous urging for a National Government is just another example of this. Interesting to see Buffett reminding Democrats and Republicans to work together to address this ‘Pear Harbour’ economic situation – in his recent CNN interviews. At best Fianna Fail’s invitations to the opposition to put forward their ideas can be described as half hearted. The Fine Gael response was less than half hearted – they are more like a ‘dog in heat’ – believing they have the opportunity to grab power in the near future. Heaven help us.
Returning to Dan O’Brien – he obviously believes the government is avoiding the issues re management at the main banks. I had presumed, that given that the government is represented on both boards, they were 100% satisifed with the recent appointment of a new CEO at Bank of Ireland. I think O’Brien is very clear – they should all go.
Interesting to listen to Michael Soden (former CEO Bank of Ireland) on this morning’s Eamonn Dunphy radio show. Soden suggested complete replacement of both main bank boards (on basis of being in place while 99% of the value disappeared) - rotating off 4 at a time – getting to a new Board within 12 months. Seems like a reasonable approach – and perhaps a way to implement what O’Brien is suggesting. Soden excludes from necessary removal those with less than 2 years on the Board.
Things are moving on. Obviously Messrs Cowen and Lenihan have been engaged in a serious roadshow for the last week. There have been distractions – including unhelpful – and supposedly unfounded – comments from a German politician – subsequently countered by the German Minister for Finance. The move towards a ‘toxic bank’ seems to be gathering speed in the US. But clearly the US is taking the view that is can continue to write money to kick start things. Only David McWilliams seems to think Ireland can do something similar (listening to him on Prime Time during the week).
Here in Ireland the press continues to be highly sceptical/ critical. I continue to believe that a right of centre govenment (combining FG and FF – and anyone else who wants to be part of it) – would provide a national response and have the capability to win over far greater support – both in the street and the press. Within such a government there should be room for non elected experts in key cabinet positions – is that’s what it takes. Dan O’Brien is just another well informed commentator putting up his hand (again) and warning us that we are not doing enough.