Sunday, July 4, 2010

In praise of ... Shane Ross

Double-jobbing is a hot topic both sides of the Irish border. Nobody does it as organically as Shane Ross.
He has three existences, as inextricably related as parallel lines:
  • He is a columnist for the [Irish] Independent;
  • He has twenty years experience in the Oireachtas, and continues to grace the Senate. He and David Norris are First Count shoo-ins for the Trinity College seats (and, in Malcolm's estimation, that's the most sophisticated electorate this side of Gallifrey).
  • He serves as a continuing channel between Trinity alumni, local and the vast diaspora, and the state of play in Irish politics, especially on educational topics.
The reason for Ross's elegant success is, first and foremost, an acute intellect. That is such a rare commodity among Irish politicos it deserves a statue in itself. In his case intelligence is also applied: here is a former stock-broker who has gone straight, who knows how to peel-and-chip a balance-sheet like a spud, and neatly flick out the dodgy bits.

Lining the cat-litter tray apart, Ross amounts to the near totality of reasons for buying the Indo.

What makes him indispensable reading is not merely the shrewd insights, but the verve. Put Ross on the rugby field (and Rugby School is one of his
almae matres), and he would be a cert for the Red Army at Thomond Park, not just winning handsomely, but taking apart; not playing dirty, just leaving a mark — if not flesh wounds — for future reference.

Example? Any week would suffice, but take last Sunday, putting the boot into the Dublin Airport Authority (trumpeting the third world airport's overdue, over-priced,unwanted second terminal), up before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport:
Chief executive Declan Collier strutted into the committee room with a couple of cohorts, ... [and] made a banal opening statement about the wonderful world of the DAA. Then he faced questions from Oireachtas members. Collier's replies were lifted straight out of the Alan Dukes school of arrogance. He must have been watching the chairman of Anglo's refusal to answer questions a week earlier. The two guys have plenty in common. Both are "public interest" directors of diseased banks. Declan is a state appointee to AIB. Alan is chairman of Anglo. Both are well connected and vastly overpaid. Declan nets just short of €600,000 from the two state gigs. Alan only pockets €250,000 (€100,000 as a ministerial pension and €150,000 from Anglo). Both "public interest" directors know how to brandish two fingers at the public.
A couple of years back, may thought Ross had his finest hour with FAS:
The national training and employment agency is the object of murky allegations. Inquiries are uncovering odd antics. People are asking: what does FAS do with its €20m a week? The answers are disturbing.
FAS tried to give Ross the brush-off, side-stepping his questioning. Bad mistake — Ross simply went out and got the dirt:
Luxury business-class flights for boss Rody Molloy and his wife, a €7,000 night out in a private dining room at the five-star Merrion Hotel, golfing at exclusive clubs, beauty salons and pay-per-view hotel movies are among the more extravagant costs incurred by top brass at beleaguered state job-creation outfit FAS.
Those "costs", Ross continued extended to:
a $410 bill at Solutions on West Cocoa Beach, Florida, also in August 2005. Solutions is a beauty and nail salon...

A Fas credit card was used to pay $942.53 for [DG of FAS] Rody Molloy to play a three-ball golf match at the Orlando Florida Grand Cypress Resort Golf club, described as “a golf resort more grand than you ever imagined”.
And so on, not forgetting the €6,962 dinner bill at Dublin’s five star Merrion Hotel, ... mostly featuring a cheeky little Cabernet Sauvignon at €48 a bottle.

In due course, it transpired the beauty treatment was a perk for Health Minister Mary Harney. And the good folk of the UK thought a duck-house was the nadir of sleaze.

The FAS exposé was merely the second-stage boost for hyperspatial Shane Ross.

Currently he is, in all senses, eating out on the phenomenon that is his book, The Bankers, How the Banks Brought Ireland to its Knees. They pile 'em high, and sell them as "three-for-two" in all good Irish bookshops. Ross doesn't complain: whatever he loses on the swings of discounting (and sales are going 40,000 or so), he more than gains in status as

the man who consistently gets it right.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites