The media described Robert Troy’s activities as a “property scandal”. In truth, the TD is a small fish. I fail to see how Mr. Troy has benefited from what he did or did not do. However, recent events revealed two things about Mr Troy.
ne: He’s a hustler who focused on accumulating real estate during a real estate crisis.
Second, as a TD, he had to sign a couple of forms and he messed it up.
That doesn’t demonstrate the qualities some of us would look for in a government minister – so thank you, Mr Troy, and goodbye.
The former minister was accused, among other things, of not having declared his board position last year.
He declared his 2019 and 2020 directorship. It was no secret. He broke the rules when he didn’t bother to explain last year because the company stopped trading.
Is this really a “real estate scandal”?
Mr. Troy appears to be a minnow while we get nibbled by sharks. He’s not the problem.
You know that line from the movie: “The best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
The most successful Irish scandal of recent times is the one that convinced us that it wasn’t a scandal, it was just the way things turned out.
I am referring to a real estate scandal – the real estate crisis.
The homelessness problem became an issue around 2012, when Ireland was already being shaped as it is today.
After the 2008 crash, the very, very rich prepared to make a killing with the help of wealth management firms.
Billionaire mutual fund head Chris Flowers predicted that “wicked grave dancers like me” would “make an enormous fortune out of the mess.”
Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, thought Europe was ripe for picking: “We’ll wait and see how people’s psyches get hit.” Mr. Schwarzmann had a rule of thumb: “Wait until there’s actually blood on the streets.”
Ireland was a prime target. The Fianna Fáil government had installed Nama to unravel the bank debt. Mr. Schwarzman was not impressed. “They hardly know what they have,” he said at a Goldman Sachs seminar.
The Irish establishment faltered as the IMF took over the reins of the economy. After the February 2011 general election, Fine Gael’s new Taoiseach and Finance Minister – Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan – wanted to restore confidence to wealthy international investors.
Ireland would be the best little country in the world to do business with.
In November of that year, Mr. Kenny and Mr. Noonan had a visitor, Mr. Schwarzman. They had a private meeting.
Three months later, in February 2012, this newspaper reported that Mr Schwarzman’s company, Blackstone, had been hired by the IBRC (the new name for the zombie Anglo-Irish bank) to offer advice on how to unravel the mess.
The vultures were preparing to come here in waves.
In 2013, representatives from more than 100 hedge funds attended a conference at the Shelbourne Hotel. Mr. Noonan attended one of the meetings.
In 2013 and 2014, Treasury Department officials had 65 meetings with hedge fund officials.
In November 2013, the Dáil opened the door to investment vehicles called REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts).
Money managers like Mr. Schwarzman use REITs to buy and sell real estate. REITs allow the wealthy to pay lower corporate and capital gains taxes on real estate transactions.
Ireland’s future was being arranged by extremely wealthy and ruthless people and a new government determined to impress investors by demonstrating true love and absolute loyalty to the private market ideology.
Nama sold bank loans – to get as much money as possible as quickly as possible to please the politicians. She sold the loans very cheaply in huge, very expensive tranches.
This ensured that no developers could buy back their failed ventures, no ordinary person could buy back their bad mortgages.
Only the vulture funds had the immense wealth to buy up the large bundles of mortgages that Nama sold at a deep discount. The vultures became the largest landowners.
You’ll never guess what happened next. Rents rose like a hot air balloon.
David Ehrlich, the head of an American Vulture outfit, openly expressed his delight. “It’s a great market. We have never seen rent increases like this in any jurisdiction that we are aware of.”
Between 2014 and 2018, dividends paid by REITs to their shareholders increased tenfold.
Mr Ehrlich said: “I feel really bad for the Irish people.”
Meanwhile, the state steadily phased out the construction of social housing – which had previously been the backbone of Irish society, providing reliable, affordable housing for the workforce the state depended on for its growth.
And our own Irish vultures, whose greed had ruined the country, recovered, shaking off their self-doubt and debt.
A new generation of local hustlers get to work. They had the money to amass real estate and set out to maximize their wealth. Among them was a young TD destined for a brief ministerial career.
In 2012, 1,648 homeless people lived in shelters. We learned just last week that the number of emergency shelters hit a record 10,568 in June.
Of these, 3,137 are children.
The housing crisis isn’t just about homelessness — a social need dominated by a market full of adventurers.
The result is outrageous rents and house prices, absurd dog houses offered at exorbitant prices, young people forced to live with their parents, detrimental effects on mobility and personal choice: people used to be able to take jobs in other fields because they knew there would be somewhere to rent.
People used to be able to get a decent mortgage to buy a house at a reasonable price – now they’re competing with the rich, who snag houses as investments, who skyrocket rents with no regard for the consequences as long as they make their own can finance bags.
It is now readily accepted that something has gone terribly wrong in the provision of housing for our people – a terrible mishap for which no one is responsible. Housing ministers come and go, their promises melting away behind them.
Nothing went wrong. This was and is politics, from Enda Kenny to the current Varadkar/Martin setup.
It just didn’t turn out the way it did. The housing crisis has its roots in decisions made by politicians, and those decisions have made rich people even richer.
While shutting down the state’s supply of public housing at a reasonable cost, the FF/FG ideologues believed that the magic of the free market would fix the country.
In 2015 at TCD, in the presence of Enda Kenny, Stephen Schwarzman told the Irish people, “You have great leadership.”
In the same year, Rob Kitchin, Rory Hearne and Cian O’Callaghan produced a report entitled Housing in Ireland: From Crisis to Crisis.
It pointed to the beneficiaries of current housing policy: “The banks, developers, estate agents, solicitors, landlords and increasingly international equity and vulture fund investors who are buying up huge chunks of Irish home ownership, all of whom are after rapidly rising house prices.”
In short, there are many people with clout who have an incentive to see the housing scandal as a fine, fine thing.
Why didn’t the politicians prevent this?
Last week the Irish times conducted a political staff census: “Around 48 TDs own rental property or land, while 29 Senators also have property and land interests.”
That’s 48 TDs out of 160. And 29 Senators out of 60.
Don’t worry, didn’t we show Robert Troy where to get off?
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/robert-troy-is-a-mere-minnow-among-the-sharks-41941718.html Robert Troy is just a minnow among sharks