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Scandals, Stormont & Speaking Out


NAMA Scandal.....Final Thoughts (For Now)


Doesn't the Irish News have a bit of a bee in its bonnet over the NAMA Scandal? The morning paper has gone in hot and heavy following the appearance of Loyalist flag protestor turned financial expert Jamie Bryson up at Stormont last week.


We've had revelation upon revelation, plenty of detail and photographs of the business figures alleged to have been in line for a cut of the money being linked to the sale of NAMA's Northern Ireland portfolio to Cerberus.


But did Jamie Bryson produce any proof of his allegations? Amidst all the media interest, the fact is that he didn't.


So one suspects that this saga has a long way to run. If Bryson, and whoever is allegedly feeding him his lines, turns out to be some way off the mark, the lawyers are going to have something of a field day. If he's on the money.....then that's another story.


But here's a question. Hypothetically, if you or I reckoned that we'd brokered a deal which could help allow those with loans in NAMA (many of them clients) to move on with their businesses, might we think that we should be in line for a fee? The odds are that we just might.


OK, so it's not quite as simple as that. But, in business terms, would a £7.5 million alleged fee for a deal worth many millions (or even billions) be all that extraordinary?


We'll see, though. Let the drama continue. It moved south to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee today.....and it was all a bit dull, truth be told. Dublin's committees aren't as lively as our own, it seems. But it will all be back up the M1 shortly.


Or maybe we should hold a big open all-island discussion … one of the Applegreen service stations maybe?



Stormont....Lights, Camera, Action


One thing's for sure. Jamie Bryson managed to turn the spotlight onto Peter Robinson in one way last week....but he also managed to take the spotlight off the political stalemate at Stormont.


We seem to have reached the point where it has all ground to a half, and no one really seems to care all that much.


Ministers are playing silly political games, the very well spoken but rather ineffective Theresa Villiers has announced a three-person panel to assess paramiliary activity, and the talks stutter along....or do they? No one seems to be entirely sure.

As the excellent Newton Emerson pointed out in his Sunday Times column at the weekend, the high-powered panel on paramilitary activity is going to ask the PSNI for its assessment of the IRA, in order to resolve a crisis caused by the PSNI's assessment of the IRA.


You really couldn't make it up......



For Whom The Bell Tolls


It's fascinating to witness the arrogance of the DUP Ministers who currently dip in and out of their roles.


At the launch of Tourism Northern Ireland's new initiative, Year of Food & Drink 2016, at Titanic Belfast at the tail end of last week, TNI's new Chairman Terence Brannigan had to introduce Jonathan Bell as “one of our MLA's”.


Bell should, of course, be the DETI Minister and have responsibility for tourism.....but he's currently taking part in the hugely important political protest over a few bad boys still being around here in Northern Ireland.


The personable Bell was quickly up at the lectern making jokes about having to drive himself to the launch event in the absence of his official car. Oh, how we all laughed at his easy wit and repartee.


But here's the thing, Jonathan. Almost all of us would much prefer that you ditched the jokes, got back to your desk at Netherleigh and to the job of running a vital government department.


Tourism NI probably had to toe the line. But we don't want phantom government ministers at our microphones.


If you don't want to get back to work for the money you're earning, then we should find someone else who does.....!



Speaking Out......


Time for a spot of credit where credit is due.


In last week's Business Eye Online, we took aim at the big business organisations for what we said was their lack of outspoken action directed at our politicians (see above).


To be fair, on the same day, CBI Chairman Colin Walsh had been doing just that. His message at the organisation's annual lunch is that business doesn't want direct rule and that it wants to see the Exectuive back....but in a new and more dynamic format. And he effectively told them to get back to work. So, in the case of the CBI, we eat our words.


And we also had a bit of feedback from both Ann McGregor at the Chamber of Commerce and the PR representatives of the IoD. Both pointed out that they had been actively calling on the politicians to sort things out.


But let's not leave it at that. Let's keep on speaking out. We're right, after all, and they're wrong.



Tourism & Eating


Back to the afore-mentioned Tourism NI launch of the Year of Food & Drink 2016, one of the first outings for the new team at the helm of tourism here.....Chairman Terry Brannigan and CEO John McGrillen.


Providing these two can work well together (...and chairman/chief exc relationships aren't always easy), they could be a potent force for tourism good here.


The food and drink concept might be a bit of a stop gap in the absence of any big grandstand events during 2016, but it's not a bad idea. We're pretty useful when it comes to both food and drink around these parts.


To borrow Terry Brannigan's words, the year will be about forming “memory triggers” in the minds of our visitors “creating the sense of a place...on a plate or in a glass.”


We'll drink to that.....!