Sunday 19 November 2017

Anton Savage: Hey Fingleton, you were the boss - so how about taking responsibility?

Michael Fingleton
Michael Fingleton
Eoin Colfer
The McMor
Miley Cyrus

Michael Fingleton's appearance at the Banking Inquiry provided exactly what we expected - a 'robust defence' of himself, his pension and his management of Nationwide.

Here is a man who believes himself free of any real culpability for the collapse of the institution he ran.

It's best summarised by his comment about lending: "I believe that the property related lending strategies and risk strategies of the society were appropriate for the lending market in which the Society operated."

At the risk of over-simplifying - Nationwide went bust spectacularly. Fingleton was CEO. His job is preventing the company going bust. By that measure he wasn't a success.

Now he can argue that there was a major global crisis, that the Irish experience of the downturn was as awful as any in the world, that all of the commentators believed the theory of soft landing, blah, blah, blah.

But the reality is that companies did survive.

Financial institutions survived - credit unions and banks did (yes, the banks that survived needed assistance, but in at least one instance that help was handsomely rewarded).

Nationwide exploded and left a multi-billion euro crater to be filled by the taxpayer. So a 'sorry' might be nice.

Fingleton ain't the apologising type, though. In relation to the crash? "I continue to pay the price personally as a result." In relation to the management of the entity? "I don't regret any of the decisions I took personally."

He even went so far as to justify his €27m pension pot - on the grounds that the cost to Nationwide was only about €4m which he then built up through his own investments.

Rarely is a public figure so out of touch. The €4m came from an organisation which has soaked up €5bn of public money.

Many taxpayers feel like they are paying millions to a man who presided over the collapse of his company.

The idea that he can avoid all culpability for that collapse is laughable. He may be able to show that he tried his best. He may be able to show that he followed all the rules. He may be able to show a global crisis.

But to quote Spiderman's uncle, 'with great power, comes great responsibility'.

For decades Fingleton had great power, now he has a responsibility to accept for the failings that cost us all so dear.

Had the captain of the Titanic survived he could probably have made a good argument about following proper procedures and about environmental factors.

But nobody would have cared, because it hit an iceberg and he was in charge. The same applies to Nationwide - they smashed into an economic iceberg with Fingleton at the helm.

If he wants us to listen to his thoughts on the factors at play he has to start with 'I was in charge. We had a disaster. I am sorry'.

Anything else is just salt in a wound.


Gentleman Eoin Colfer is far too nice to be one of our most successful writers

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer is too nice. He's one of our biggest-selling authors, the creator of the phenomenally successful Artemis Fowl novels and the man selected by the family of the late Douglas Adams to continue his seminal Hitchhiker's Guide series.

He has a level of acclaim that should allow him to live behind a large wall, casting an occasional sneer at us less talented folk.

Instead, he is warm, open, witty and politely considerate. So much that when a kid walked up to him and asked if he'd sign a book for him, Colfer said 'sure', although he was a little surprised that the book was Alex Ferguson's autobiography. The kid clarified that he wasn't a Colfer fan.

Anyone else would have bounced the autobiography off the nearest wall. Eoin Colfer just smiled and signed it 'with apologies to Alex Ferguson'.


Because he wears his success so lightly it sometimes doesn't get the fanfair it deserves. Like yesterday when it was announce that Kenneth Branagh was signed on to direct the movie version of Colfer's book Artemis Fowl.

It is a uniquely Irish project, with Branagh directing and Conor McPherson screenwriting. There's even a chance it may be filmed here.

The whole endeavour is being underwritten by Harvey Weinstein (who brought us films like Gangs of New York, The Cider House Rules, and Pulp Fiction) and is supported by Robert De Niro.

It puts Eoin Colfer in a tiny group of internationally successful Irish authors. If the movie gets made and finds its audience it may put him in an even smaller group of Irish superstars.

While we have to hope it won't turn him into a prima donna, from now on he should at least be allowed to throw a tantrum when handed someone else's book to sign.


Cabbage in a bun? Just leaf it out

The McMor

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has stepped in to give McDonald's a spanking for calling one of their burgers 'artisan'.

The burger, made with kale, cabbage (I know, eugh) and a host of Irish-sourced ingredients is called the McMor (inset) and is on sale for just six weeks.

The FSAI refused to let it be called 'artisan' because it failed their specific tests for that term.

Thank God they stepped in, because otherwise we could all have been duped into thinking one of the world's largest multinational corporates was actually a cottage industry. That might just have been enough to convince us to try a burger made with cabbage.


Dolly, it's time we talked about Miley

Miley Cyrus

Okay, it's time for Dolly Parton to intervene. She's been standing by for too long.

In fact, you could say she's a little bit to blame. She is, after all, Miley Cyrus's godmother. It's only five short years since the two of them (with Miley looking all wholesome) dueted on TV.


When Miley (left) started the whole not wearing trousers, sticking out her tongue, smoking weed thing, Dolly (inset) was broadly supportive, saying "they thought I was trashy too". Except Dolly did not roll about naked for Instagram 'interviews' and gurn in lingerie for award shows.

Miley's behaviour is starting to cross from tasteless to utterly desperate. It's time for Ms Parton to intervene and guide her back to professional music - instead of amateur pornography.

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