Monthly Archives: January 2012

The short, desperate life of Mariora Rostas

Alan Wilson will never again stand trial for the murder of Mariora Rostas. Given the difficulties in getting the case this far it’s doubtful anybody will ever again stand in the dock accused of ending this girls life.

Why this injustice should rankle quite as much as it does is hard to say. Justice denied to the family of any victim, or the memory of that victim diminishes the entire justice system. Perhaps though it is that Mariora was so completely failed by everything in the course of her short life that this last attempt to do right by her is a disappointment that is particularly hard to stomach.

I have reported from Palestinian refugee camps, the squats of migrant Africans in abandoned railroad warehouses, sink estates in Eastern Europe and drug dens in Central America. I have never been as shocked by somebody’s living conditions, though until I went to Donabate in North Dublin two years ago.

Mariora Rostas was one of fifteen children born in Timisoara in Romania to Mariora and Dimitru Rostas. The extended Rostas family were among those who took up residence in 2007  in the roundabout at the Ballymun intersection of the M50. But the parents of the murdered Roma eighteen year old didn’t travel here until the end of that year after the majority had already been repatriated. Mariora stayed at home to look after her younger brothers and sisters while her parents came her to beg.

Mariora snr and Dumitru would have been very far removed from those in the Roma community who live a life of luxury off the proceeds of begging. Dumitru was a horse dealer, and not very successful at it. However bad things were in Romania they would want to have been awful to be an improvement on where they found themselves living when they got here.

The abandoned bungalow on the outskirts of Donabate is of course not a worse place to live than a refugee camp. The shock is that anybody lives like this in our midst. There was no running water, toilet, electricity, light,  flooring or furniture. Rubble has been bulldozed up to the back of the house to deny access, and has burst through all the windows. Rainwater runs freely down the wall. I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face it was so dark.  

This is how Mariora lived for the last three weeks of her life. The circumstances of her disappearance and death are pretty distressing. But the conditions of the life she was born into, and had no chance of escaping are worth dwelling on too. Particularly as all of the more prurient and less charitable things that were reported six years ago have turned out to be unfounded.

This is a podcast of a report I filed for Drivetime before Wilson had been charged with her murder that hopefully offers a more complete insight into how Mariora lived while she was here.


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No bondholders left to burn.

I’m impressed with the economists who are honest enough to say that they simply do not know what would happen if we burnt bondholders. Minister Leo Varadkar is, happily for him, possessed of no such doubt. In short, and I’m not paraphrasing here, he believes the effects of reneging on or restructuring Anglo and INBS bond repayments would be akin to dropping a bomb on Dublin.

This was by far the biggest stick that any government Minister, in any government since 2008, has employed to persuade the public.  There are big holes in the logic he employs, though. I stress tested his arguments in a Drivetime report on Monday that is podcast here.

“Like a bomb being dropped on Dublin”

Arising from that report there are two points worth making.

The only member of the Troika that will not give up on the belief that we should pay back every last cent, no matter how unsustainable the burden, is the European Central Bank. The reason that they gave when they first landed here was one that was hard to argue against with absolute certainty. If Ireland turned its back on Senior unsecured debt obligations the whole European market for that kind of debt could collapse. Lord only knows what that would have led to and we  would have been the cause of a 1929 scale banking pandemic, was how the argument tended to be made. The argument couldn’t be refuted with confidence so we went on paying out on bonds that the holders presumably had already written off or seriously discounted in their own minds.

But now that market has collapsed anyway on foot of fears of the health of much bigger banks than ours all across Europe. Unfortunately for us the ECB is still wedded to its conviction that we need to keep on paying out on these bonds. And we are doing this in order that confidence in a market in which nobody has any confidence doesn’t collapse. Eat your heart out Joseph Heller, you could never have come up with logic as perverse as that.

Hence Minister Varadkar’s new arguments in support of an old policy. I’m too weary to set them out here again … just listen to them here.

The second point is that very very soon there will be no Anglo or INBS bondholders left to burn. Yesterday in response to a query about what bonds are left to pay out on the people at IRBC sent me this document. IBRC Bond Repayments In short it shows how after the button is pushed on Wednesday transferring €1.25bn to some very lucky bondholders, there is only one payment left to be made to any unsecured senior creditors. That payment falls due later this year. Then there’s one more payment of €750m to senior secured creditors in 2015 … and that’s it. No bondholders left to debate over burning or not burning. They won’t be holding bonds in defunct banks. They’ll be holding taxpayer cash.

That debate will be over. Everything we learnt about the arcane world of the bond markets can be pushed to the recesses of our memories as we re-focus on Promissory Notes. Which we will pay out €3.1bn on this March, and the March after that, and the March after that, and the March after that, and so on until 2031.


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This afternoon as I was watching Ministers Howlin and Noonan get their retaliation in before the Troika I asked the Twitter hive mind had they any questions they would like to put to our economic masters.
The hashtag #questionsforthetroika trended very quickly with suggestions veering from the furious to the farcical.
Needless to say (it being Twitter and me being a proper grown up serious journalist) I didn’t ask any of the questions. You can hear the Drivetime podcast of what I did ask here, and there’s some very interesting stuff in there about how we could wriggle out of paying out on the Anglo promissory notes.
But the real reason your reading this now is to see did your tweet make it in to the roll of honour. Not surprisingly top tweet (most frequently re-tweeted) went to Abie Philbin Bowman. Of course it did.
@AbiePB: If you owe the bank €10,000 you have a problem. If you owe them €10 million THEY have a problem. What do we owe you?

My personal favourite is …..
@Emurphalot: Whose field is it?

Or perhaps …..
@rhotacistic: If it was tastefully done and integral to the plot, would you consider going nude?

Anyway, in no particular order, and by no means comprehensively here’s the most of the rest of twitter’s #questionsforthetroika that neither I nor any of my colleagues had the moral fibre to put the men from the IMF/ECB/EU.

susankilkenny Would they like me to catch them up on the Fair City storylines?

 sinead_ryan If you close the door of the minibar fridge in the Merrion hotel, does the light go out?

 anniewestdotcom Does my bum look big in this

 sinead_ryan You think you have it tough? Ever heard of Peig Sayers

 DonalConaty Do you want your ould lobby washed down?

 kevin_hiney If I eat at a Michelin Star restaurant tonight, can you foot the bill?

 mcwulty if I ride yez, will the debt be cancelled? I’m that good

 MrsDeise Who is the bees knees?

 MISSALONSO ‘STOP, It’s hammer time’… Whats hammer time?

 shanesphoto  Is this like a savings club? When can we make a withdrawal?

 markcurrancavan Did ET actually phone home?

 MrsDeise Was there a session after Bin Ladens funeral?

 LightspeedChamp Can I’ve a loan of a tenner?

 frost_ie Have you met out negotiators? They’re called Jedward 

 frost_ie Solve: -2^(2ax+5)+2^(bx+3)+4(3c-7)-5^4x+3)=0

 donnchup Did ye refer to Ministers Noonan & Howlin as ‘Baldy’ and ‘Shortarse’ back at the hotel?

 thatsuitbloke When do i get my country back?

 CiddyTours Given that u are not actually from russia… is it ok if we refer to you as “The 3 Amigos” from now on?

 Fly_Boy_Sean Will there be a tax on not going to mass?

 Trevor_Fisher Can we put a tax on the D4 brigade for everytime they say ‘like’? That would have us paid up ‘like’ in a week ‘like’?

 LauraJayneD Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?

 Trevor_Fisher Have you seen my pet leprechaun?

 frost_ie If we voted no to Lisbon a second time, how much worse would this be?

 LauraJayneD Are we in a relationship? Your status is a little vague.

 OConnorVincent Is it OK if I go for a pint tonight. I know I still owe you a few bob, but I haven’t had a pint in two weeks.Please

 BrianMLloyd Is it wrong to dislike Indian food?

 LauraJayneD Would you like my soul?

 Donal_OKeeffe “So when are ye going on ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’?” 

 LauraJayneD Can we bring back penny sweets? They’re two cents now, like.

 johnmortell what was the #Prisoner actually about?

 Solid_Spidey If Bono paid his taxes in Ireland, how much would we owe?

 conorthomas Vampire or Wolf?

 @Fly_Boy_Sean: Can I keep my communion money?

 MrsDeise Will ye have a float in the Patricks Day Parade?

 clearer_skies Should I stay or should I go?

 IamBootsy Does Eamon Dunphy finish every sentence with “Baby?” 

 MrsDeise Why does stew always taste better the next day?

 Moorerichardpr Well guard. Would you like a drink or a transfer?

 Ciara_Knight Is it the brown bin this week?

 damoboggler If you are insisting on emptying our pockets from the rear, would Greece help?

 clionalynch Any spare change?

 Ryan_Tubridy Hows about another €100bn in a few months time? Then we’ll owe ye €100bn, you’ll owe us €100bn so we’ll be all square?

 CiddyTours If a bank fails in the forest and there is no around to see it, do the bond holders lose their investment?

 aamurray7 France’s downgrade to AA – Does this mean they can’t sell small batteries anymore?

CiddyTours How much will I get for the silver lining on the clouds it’s not like we have any use for it anymore?

 dionsis How fast exactly do hotcakes sell?

 theotriangle Who puts you under pressure to give us the GOLD-STAR every visit.?

 clionalynch An bhfuil aon tintéan mar do thinteán féin?

 dionsis What is the timezone on the International space station. I mean how do they set their clocks?

 dionsis In the cinema, what arm rest is yours?

 MrsDeise When will the light at the end of the tunnel be turned back on again?

 Jackiem23 Men : please explain.

 unlaoised Peig had “cos amhain san uaigh”. Where was “cos eile”?

 orielgirl1 Is it a good day for drying?

 theotriangle Do you feel lucky.? well do ya punk.?

 GlendaPups Why do I have to open my mouth like a goldfish when putting my mascara on?

 MrsDeise Would be better off if we dropped Irish as a subject and introduced Australian?

 LaveryIan Is it a natural law that them bones them bones need calcium?

 aidan_walsh The B-52s: Before or after “Love Shack”?

 lehaneb Isn’t this hashtag gombeenism of the highest order?

 MurrayChristine Can we keep our last Rolo?

 maximusmarcus Can we get a new derek mooney? ours is broke byeeeeeeeeeeee

 oconnellbrian Who was more to blame – Miley or Fidelma?

 HoulihanBrian Who bails you out?

 bazmcstay Are you Mike Murphy from RTE?

 garethsoye Do you still think that 1990 was 10 years ago?

 alan_maguire Does my sovereign debt look big in this?

 MrsDeise Can the black market trade on the stock exchange? 

 Claredaisy and could you ever truly fry an egg on the stones? If you had an egg?

 Goldstonegym How did yer man stay up on the surf board after 14 pints of stout?

 LandersIE Can I get a number fifteen with a seventy-six on the side please. And a diet coke!

 garethsoye What is the longest Michael O’Leary has ever went without using the words ‘outdated monopoly’?

 Mister_pat How did #Sherlock fake his death ?

 freddielj_ If we take the Eurovision seriously you’ll right off our loans?

 garethsoye When is it my turn to marry Sinead O’Connor?

 TheRealPsycrow Apart from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation & roads, What has the Eurozone ever done for us?

 bazmcstay I know you’ve taken our sovereignty but do you really need to wear those crowns?

 garethsoye When is Daniel Day-Lewis British and when is he Irish?

 @Claredaisy: Twitter or Facebook?

 garethsoye My son has just done a dirty nappy and the wife is out, what do I do?

@davidbatt: Could the Irish citizens consolidate our debts with the Irish government debt into one manageable monthly repayment?

@frost_ie: Is my income just small or far away?

@LiamPort: Will yiz accept Tesco clubcard points?

@damog7: I put a €1,000 bet on a horse at 20/1 but it lost – when will you get the taxpayers to pay me my €20,000?

@ffergie2fs: Would ye know how to tune in channel 5 to sky

@11890Rosie: Where is Wally?

@djstaffs1: Please sirs can we have some more??”

@soloswimmer: Would you like fries with that?

@ConorFoley32: Could you explain The Singularity, in layman’s terms. That and the near cow, far away cow rule

@LorrCliff: Are you alright Sharon?

@xnashersx The wheels on the bus do what exactly??

@RiversNinety: Where exactly is the love?

@armelleskitchen: Have you been to specsavers?

@maidofmoney: would you face a puckout?

Has @joeyheavey tried to sell ye turf yet?

@waynerogers3p: Any yokes?”

@Elka72: red sauce, brown sauce, no sauce?”

@farrellyjohn: Is money lending a rewarding career choice?

@campbellsuz Why aren’t ye pulling a sleigh?

@Darren_O_Connor: Is the yellow snow edible?

@MrsDeise: Can you grow a hedge fund in your front garden”

@disildoforus: why is the eurosport channel shite?

@TheCarparK: When do we switch to ; In the name of the father , the son and the holy troika?

@djjohngibbons: Presumably you won’t mind being paid in bananas? #BananaRepublic

@fixtronix: Why Does Pluto Live in a dog house, eat dog food etc. but Goofy, who is also a dog, lives in a condo & drives a car?

@DuchessofWelly: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

@Nell496: Will #Greyhound collect my Green bin on Monday, it’s full to capacity.

@DAmolony: Why didn’t the ECB put their cash in an SSIA account during the good years? We’d be sorted now”

@jamestbowen: what’s going on Ted?

@MelonParty: Will ye fuck off?”

@OK_Kincaid: What’s the point they won’t answer”

@CrackedUpCorson: What happens if we blatantly refuse to keep up with our repayments?

@blogaboutcrisps: Q: King or Tayto?

@Fly_Boy_Sean Will the troika tax hard-ons?

@oconnellbrian: Is Craig Doyle worth anything to you?

@Finbarr353 Any fancies for Cheltenham ?

@Foran__ How do you get to Carnagy Hall?

@RandiGandi Would you risk it for a chocolate biscuit?

@IamBootsy: I’ve no credit. Did you not get my Call Me message?

@Dustydink Did ye get to Funderland at all?

@uathachas: An bhfaca tú mo Sheamaisín?

@sineadkenn Anyone buying or selling a ticket?

@ConorLambert: Which of you is Curly?

@Irishjobsie: An bhfuil céad agam dul amach?

What do people in China call their good plates?

How exactly would Sally O’Brien look at you?

Can you use lube next time please?

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

Is it true that guilty feet have got no rhythm

Would yiz have one of those wee key yokes for my Henry the Hippo?

Is Pat Spillane a wee bit biased?

Do yiz mind sharing?”

There’s three noughts in a Billion. Right?

Is there a secret law that mandates that hotels have to serve bad pints of Guinness?

Have you checked the back of the couch?

Do nice guys always finish last

So how much Anglo debt do your banks hold again?

So tell me, how much is that in old money?

Where would you be going with no light on your bicycle?

Is there something I can help?

if a plane leaves ireland every hour carrying 200 young irish people emigrating, who cares?”

Is this rhetorical?

What is the average number of servants an RTE presenters has?

Will yiz accept Tesco clubcard points?

How high?

Have ye got a penny for the baby?

Can it be made legal to shoot people who sit in the outside lane of a motorway?

Shefflin or Ring ?

Hats. Scarves or headbands.

Is it fair to say our old folks, handicapped children and carers cause much of our financial woe.

Next time, could you send Deepak Chopra?

Have I told you lately that I love you?

Magnets. How do they work?

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A day with a SNA


Sneak preview Podcast 

Fionn is in Senior Infants in Gaelscoil Baile Brigin. He relates happily to his classmates, asks his teacher intelligent questions about what they are learning, and does what he is told with a willing smile. All of which would be noteworthy in most six year old boys but Fionn has Asperger’s Syndrome.

He is a poster child for how well the system works …. when it works. The SNA who was working with him that morning told me about the huge strides he had made in just 5 months. Fionn is happily integrated into his class. When he arrived first he would talk to no one other than the SNA. Now he chats to all the other kids and they are completely accepting of Fionn’s harmless little eccentricities.

As the morning I was there wore on he began stimming – a repetitive flapping of his hands – that shows his concentration is flagging. With no fuss one of his classmates handed him a crayon and he re-focussed. As we were walking to the playground a classmate sidled up to Fionn and took his hand into hers. It was an entirely unself conscious display of friendship. In the yard they run off to play in a small group. This generation of Irish children will have a very different attitude to disability, but it wouldn’t be possible if the SNA, Helen Ni Riain, wasn’t there to keep his mind on the job at hand.

This school has 10 Special Needs children in four different classes. All of whom are attended to by one and a half  SNA’s.  If I ever go to war I want this school’s Principal, Clodagh Ni Mhaolchiaran, planning my logistics for my side. She coordinates the movements of the assistants around the classes to ensure the maximum amount of care and attention for each of the children as their minimal resource allows for.

The system has worked for Fionn largely because his parents have done an impressive job of lobbying and pushing for the resource that their son needs.  But also because his condition was diagnosed and his needs attended to before austerity cuts began. Standing outside the playground that morning was another little boy in Senior Infants who couldn’t come in because he is not so happily integrated into his class. His autism was diagnosed first after cuts were imposed. The contrast between the two boys and what you would imagine to be their futures couldn’t be more stark.

In the Podcast of my Drivetime report you will hear Helen talk about Fionn graduating from Third Level in the future. That would be nothing less than what this charming kid deserves, and can achieve if he continues to receive the support he’s getting now. It’s painful to contemplate, though, the agony of any parent trying to imagine what might happen two or three years down the line if the resource is withdrawn. To raise a child’s horizons and then take all that away would seem exceptionally cruel.

The other thing that really impressed itself upon me was the positive impact that “main streaming” Special Needs children has on the attitudes of the rest of their classmates. If we stay the course with resourcing special needs programmes its not unrealistic to contemplate an Ireland one generation from now with one less prejudice.’

This podcast will broadcast this evening on Drivetime as a part of our week long focus on primary education and the state of national schools.


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