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Ireland: Thursday was a dramatic day in the
ongoing devastating economic crisis when the die was cast at last and the
Rubicon was crossed by an Irish government.
Alea iacta est (also alea jacta est in
Latin: "The die has been cast") is a Latin phrase which Suetonius
attributed to Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BC as his army reached the River
Rubicon in northern Italy. By crossing, he entered Italy at the head of his army
and began his long civil war against Pompey and the Optimates. Caesar is said to
actually spoken in Greek.
On Thursday in Dublin, the Quinn Group was seized
from entrepreneur Seán Quinn, brought low by debts of over €4bn. Also on
Thursday, the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) appointed a receiver to
take charge of a number of properties owned personally by former tax inspector
and ex-billionaire Derek Quinlan and members of his immediate family on foot of
the debtors’ failure to present and agree an appropriate Business Plan for the
repayment of loans owed to the agency.
Seán Quinn built his business from a startup in
County Fermanagh, almost 40 years ago. He deserves a huge amount of credit for
challenging established companies in cement and insurance. Quinn has provided
thousands of people with jobs and Ireland needs people who are prepared to take
The tragedy of Seán Quinn is that he succumbed to
the casino capitalism of the Wild West Ahern era and ended up placing a bet on
Anglo Irish Bank shares that for Ireland was of monumental proportions.
Derek Quinlan like many others, leveraged his
contacts and the people who were making windfalls at home from property were
also obsessed in investing overseas.
By 2007, the Irish were the second biggest
investors in commercial property across Europe.
The irony is that the individuals who were
carried away in the bubble of crony capitalism, would have prospered without
billions in a system of ethics, the rule of law and governance in the public
Hopefully, that it what the New Ireland can be.
Just weeks after the issue of the disastrous
State banking guarantee, in October 2008, the Financial Regulator had shown at
last that he had more than hen's teeth.
Quinn Insurance was fined €3.25m and Seán Quinn
was fined €200,000 for using funds from the company to offset losses from
The die was already cast for Seán Quinn.
He may not have welcomed tougher regulations
earlier but they would have saved him from his current fate.
A common curse for self-made business people and
political leaders is that inconvenient truths can be very uncommon in
their worlds when they reach the peak of their climbs.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan spoke to journalists on Thursday about matters relating to the Quinn Group. Speaking in the Department of Finance, the Minister spoke about the background of the case, the whys and the hows of what will occur and the Government’s intention to preserve jobs. The Minister then took a number of questions from the journalists present: