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How Mr Noonan dipped his hand into my pocket

A few weeks ago, I was mugged. My mugger did not look anything like the archetypal hoodie-and-knife kind. In fact, he was a small bald man from Limerick with a briefcase.

He stole €55, as ruthlessly and efficiently as any street-crim.

The first I knew of it was when I looked into my internet banking account.

It was empty. I telephoned the bank to know who the criminal might be.



STEREOTYPES

Cybercrime is a growing problem, so I expected the worst. Despite our attempts not to be judgmental, we are conditioned to follow stereotypes about these cyber criminals. Was he from Nigeria or Limerick?

I was right at the second guess. They could even name the culprit without going to the gardai. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had snaffled my money.

Apparently he has been snaffling a lot of money recently.

Various calls to different recesses of the financial institution led to various differing explanations.

One teller told me that I must have been mistaken, my bank account did not exist.

Another very helpful official, at the end of the telephone, told me that mugger Noonan had taken my money because my account had been inactive for a year.

I expressed concern that my bank (Permanent TSB has been under pressure this last year) was vulnerable to random account closures by the said mugger, perhaps more vulnerable than the Opposition, and maybe I should close my two other accounts with the bank.

She replied I should do what I liked.

None the wiser about recovering the money, I went to my branch. Again I was told the account did not exist, it was a figment of my imagination.

But eventually someone in customer services located a record that it had once been there and had once had money.

Yes, I could get it back if I signed a form and provided evidence that I was not dead, and sent it off to some distant branch.

The money would not be reimbursed to my account nor my account reopened, instead it would arrive by cheque.

The very cheques that are being phased out by the banks and penalised by Minister Noonan in the hope of eliminating them entirely.

The cheque has still not arrived.

The amount of money was not an issue in the sequestration.

Like most muggers, Michael Noonan was oblivious to how much he might collect when he mugged me. It could have been hundreds of thousands and the money would have been seized, without notice or warning.

It was to his disadvantage it was just ¤55.

It was to his disadvantage I was not an elderly person with Alzheimer's, or even someone who was not prepared to accept that the bank account had been a figment of my imagination.



problems

It made me wonder how much money has been seized by this particular mugger, without being noticed by his victims.

I met Michael Noonan a few days later in RTE.

We were both waiting to go on Morning Ireland, where he was due to talk about mortgage redemption and I about travel.

I felt like asking for my ¤55 back. I didn't.

He looked like a nice man and he could probably do with the money.

He sounded like he has a few financial problems of his own right now.