Monday, May 31, 2004

A funny old time

It's a funny old time in Ireland just now.

The CEO of our second largest bank resigned over the weekend ... because he admitted that he had used the private computer in his office to look at the website of a Las Vegas escort agency, 'with links to sites of an adult nature'. He had made the rules, and he took the hit on himself.

Meanwhile, over the last few weeks, the country's largest bank has been embroiled in a series of revelations about systematic overcharging of customers for foreign exchange transactions, adding insurance premiums to loans without clients' permission, and, most recently, admitting that named members of its former top management benefited from secret overseas investments and had 'tax issues'.

These are revealed on the watch of the same CEO who survived the $700 million Risnak scandal of the bank's US subsidiary some years ago. Arguably a worse situation than the 'curiosity killed the cat' internet browsing of the other bank's boss. But so far, only the 'internet' CEO has thought fit to resign.

And then there's the government minister who, over the last several months, insisted on pushing forward the purchase of electronic voting machines, which were to be used in our forthcoming local and European elections. This despite a lot of opposition from other political parties, and the people of the country. His stance was backed up solidly by his boss, our Taoiseach (prime minister).

There's another angle, as the voting machines were apparently supplied by a company set up by former employees of the main political party in the government.

Eventually, a commission which the minister had picked himself to examine the concerns turned around and told him bluntly the machines were not proven to be accurate, nor was there any way of checking if they had worked properly. He had to back down, and we're now back to the tried and trusted pencil and paper (and its attendant paper trail).

The total cost so far of this electoral farce is more than $100 million of taxpayers' money. But the minister is not resigning, nor is his boss, who is strongly being lobbied to be the next President of the European Union.

As I said, it's a funny old time in Ireland.

And the fun times aren't over yet ...

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