As Ireland tries to scrape the metaphorical dog-dirt of the Anglo tapes from the metaphorical shoe of her self-esteem, using the metaphorical limp useless twig that is an Irish political inquiry, a few questions arise:
Where did it all go wrong? How do punish those involved? How do we prevent it from happening again?
The first answer? That’s easy. Mary Poppins. There is a pivotal scene in the film where a cluster of musty old bankers – the executive team at Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank – attempt to persuade a small boy to invest his tuppence They sing a song explaining how his tuppence could turn into a pound. It could be invested Railways in Africa and plantations of ripening tea. But the little boy throws a tantrum. He wants to feed the pigeons.
The message from the film appears to be that money isn’t everything and feeding pigeons is good. Rubbish! For a start, pigeons are a nuisance. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to grow cabbage for a living. Also the scene was the first nail in the coffin for sensible banking. Cautiously investing tuppence in a slow yielding but reliable tea plantation is perfectly sensible. But Disney made it seem like a bad thing. Ever since then, bankers have been trying to be cool and exciting and doing spontaneous things.
Had the children somehow found their way into Anglo headquarters, the chief executive would have handed them 2 million euro – which he would produce from his bottom – and encouraged to build an estate of luxury pigeon lofts.
We can’t punish Poppins. She’s ‘fictional’ – although it has been alleged she is being protected by senior Department of Finance figures – so we have to go after the bankers. But how? When it comes to carrying out and prosecuting financial fraud, America is probably the best place to look. They’re as crooked as we are but at least they put on good trials. The symbol of white collar crime there is the shattered arrogance of a man who finally realises he can’t buy his way out of this cell. In Ireland white collar malpractice is symbolised by a court reporter saying “whereabouts are unknown” and “cannot be revealed for commericial reasons”.
We can’t overhaul our laws and constitution overnight, so at the very least we can bring over some investigators to kick off the inquiries in an American accent. Things always sound more serious if the person asking the questions sounds unlikely to know anyone you went to school with.
The final question is – how do we stop it from happening again. Rather than going into too much detail on regulation, the short answer is: Whatever they’re doing in Scandanavia. That’s where everything is done right.
If that means speaking Swedish and paying a tenner for a pint, then so be it.
Where’s my rigorous research for these opinions? There is none. I just pulled it out of my..
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on July 7th, 2013