The banks are at it again. A new report has described the behaviour of the Bank of Scotland as ‘unconscionable.’ It is a word I never heard before but it sure sounds like someone is getting a good telling off.
“Bank of Scotland has said it will appeal against a Belfast High Court judgement that ruled it had unfairly double billed customers who fell behind on their mortgages.
In a scathing verdict, Master Ellison said the bank's behaviour had been unconscionable.”
But wait til you hear what the bank was at:
“The case focused on the way the bank added arrears to the original mortgage borrowing. That is a standard practice for tackling arrears, known as capitalisation, which has the effect of increasing borrowers' monthly repayments.
The judge ruled that once capitalisation had taken place, the mortgage should no longer be considered as in arrears. However, the bank continued to treat such mortgages as in arrears and used that as the basis for bringing legal cases.” (BBC News)
The only thing I could think about as I read this was the men who wash diesel. Let me explain: I have often said that if the men who can figure out ways of taking the red out of red diesel would spend their time figuring out ways to produce good stuff for society then we would all be better off.
But there appears to be in certain people a mind-set that simply cannot do the thing straight….and now some of these people appear to be working for the banks.
A serious question: ‘Do the banks employ people to sit in wee rooms, much as the diesel washers sit is wee dark rooms in pubs, plotting ever new ways to cream money from their customers?
On all the available evidence it would appear that they do.
So we begin from the starting point that the foundation of all business in the land, the money lending banks whose job it is to facilitate finance in the country, is basically corrupt.
Ask any person what they hate most about the banks and the reply you get 99% of the time is ‘hidden charges.’ The very name, hidden charges, is self-explanatory: the charges are hidden so that you will not notice them!
Then we read about the shenanigans going on over the pond:
“Bank of America has agreed to pay a record $16.65bn to settle charges it sold flawed mortgage securities in the run up to the financial crisis, the largest fine ever levied by US authorities on a single company.
‘This morning we demonstrate once again that no institution is either too big or too powerful to escape appropriate enforcement action by the department of justice. At nearly $17bn, this resolution with Bank of America is the largest the department has ever reached with a single entity in American history,’ associate attorney general Tony West said at a press conference on Thursday.” (Guardian)
Do you notice anything? The Americans are proud of the fact that they can take on any bank or financial group and make them pay heavily for the wrongdoings of their institution.
The banking crisis in the Free State happened in 2008, September 30th, to be exact, when the banks blackmailed the Irish government into backing them with a blank cheque.
Not a banker has served a day. Ok, a couple of them got convicted but all they got was a bit of community service, hardly a fine of $17billion, but sure that is the Free State, isn’t it.
And then we see poor old Albert Reynolds is dead. He was a good man who did a lot to help the peace process along. They say that he had a good friendship with John Major and that their rapport enabled them to talk on a serious but friendly level.
However, I don’t think Albert Reynolds was the stature of a leader for whom you hold a State Funeral; they are reserved for exceptional leaders and Reynolds was good but not exceptional. I think it is more to do with the Free State lot trying to divert attention from what is really going on than paying respect to a great man.
The highlight of Reynolds’ career as far as the north was concerned, was December 1993 when he and John Major stood on the step outside No 10, Downing Street and read the ‘Downing Street Declaration.’
The Downing Street Declaration was a resolution signed by the Irish Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and the British Prime Minister, John Major, following months of secret negotiations driven principally by Reynolds and the SDLP leader John Hume. Hume had taken the initiative knowing that Sinn Fein had to be brought in from the cold.
The declaration stated ‘that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self‐determination on the basis of consent. . . to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish’.
Thus, for the first time the British government declared officially that it had no inherent strategic, political, or economic self‐interest in Northern Ireland, and gave the Irish people as a whole a role in the governance of Northern Ireland. This is the bit that unionists have to reject.
The declaration laid out plans for negotiations for the future of Northern Ireland, in which all parties were welcome to participate, including former terrorist organizations which laid down their arms and committed themselves to peaceful negotiation. The IRA responded on 31 August 1994 with a cessation of violence, without indicating whether this was permanent.
Despite the efforts by John Hume and the encouragement of President Clinton, progress was slow. An impatient wing of the IRA resumed its bombing campaign in February 1996. However, the Declaration provided the basis for efforts to find a peace settlement in Northern Ireland, and ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement.
From this it can be deduced that Reynolds, and to an even greater extent John Hume, have saved hundreds of lives that would have been lost if there had been no ceasefire. I always find it amazing how after only 20 years we have all but forgotten the part played by others in helping Sinn Fein become a legitimate political party.
And we all forget about the good work done by that wee woman from England, Mo Mowlam. She was a great woman. Here is a bit from the Mail in 2010 that I bet you never knew:
“The extraordinary story of how the late Mo Mowlam deliberately chose inappropriate treatment for her brain tumour solely to ensure her place as a Cabinet Minister in the new Labour Government in 1997 can be exclusively revealed today for the first time.
When her malignant brain tumour was diagnosed in January of that year, three months before the General Election that would sweep Labour into power for the first time in 18 years, the much-loved MP chose not to follow medical practice and insisted on a course of treatment that would enable her to continue to function as a politician - but would eventually kill her.”
I wonder if the real story of how Mowlam was able to keep the negotiations going between the eternally warring parties of Northern Ireland will ever come out. In her biography of Mowlam, Julia Langdon says that her illness helped her deal with Northern Ireland’s politicians.
“I knew from the brain surgeon to whom I had spoken that much of Ms Mowlem’s behaviour was what is known by doctors as 'disinhibited', and that this was a symptom of the tumour.
It meant that she could be vulgar and inappropriate sometimes, but this worked to her advantage in politics - particularly in the cauldron of Northern Ireland. She could reach out to people. She said what she thought. She didn't mince words or bother with niceties.
It was once said of her relationship with the prickly Ulster Unionists: 'She touches them in ways that nobody except their wives has ever touched them before.'”
When I read these things I am amazed at how quickly we forget; have you recently thought of the hatred that was abroad on all sides in Northern Ireland at the time? I haven’t, and I find myself having to recall what it was that people like Reynolds, Hume and Mowlam did for us.
But there is a new type of hatred out there at the moment and it is something that I have no understanding of at all. It is the hatred which appears to be in some young Muslim men for anything that comes from the ‘West.’
I have never read the Koran so I have no idea if what the ISIS group is doing in the Middle East is representative of Islam or not, but there is something very wrong somewhere when a man with an English accent is prepared to cut the head of an American, and show the whole thing on video.
Most of us would have to agree that for all its faults England is a reasonably fair place to live and yet some lad who has lived there is prepared to go out to Iraq and fight against all things western.
We humans are a remarkable species; we never seem to learn that violence achieves nothing in the long run.
What good came out of two World Wars, Vietnam, Korea or the hundreds of other wars that went on during the 20th century?
Look at our own little splat, 3,700 dead and where are we that we would not have got to with a little common decency and a few people like Mo Mowlam to knock our heads together.
Did you ever think to yourself, what would have happened if we had let the Civil Rights movement get on with what they were doing and kept violence out of it? No one knows the answer to that, we can speculate all we want but history is what history is and we can’t change the past.
In fairness Northern Ireland is a much better place to live without the Unionist domination that was there before 1969. We have seen the rise of a relatively wealthy Catholic middle class but for the most part this new middle class has taken no real interest in politics. Instead, they are holding on to their money and protecting their pensions.
And who can blame them, they are doing what people everywhere do, they are looking after their own; we all do it in our own way.
The banks protect their own, the Free State are masters at it and even here we see the once great revolutionary parties take on the mantle of respectability. It is human nature at its best and at its worst.
If we return to the efforts of Reynolds, Major and Hume for a minute and look at the reaction of the parties in the North to the declaration we shall see how everyone protects their own interests:
“Hardliners were outraged. Ian Paisley called the Declaration a sell-out to Dublin. The more moderate Ulster Unionists were prepared to consider the document. Party leader James Molyneaux, who had been consulted in the talks, insisted the declaration was merely a statement of principles and it posed no threat to the union because any change required the support of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein also said that it would be hard to sell the plan to the IRA. It said it would seek clarification of elements of the Declaration before approaching the IRA Army Council - though many analysts interpreted this as an attempt to begin actual negotiations.” (BBC History)
Twenty years later we have accepted the union, Sinn Fein are now the junior partners in administering British rule in Northern Ireland and any talk of a United Ireland, free, independent and just, has been put on the back burner.
The bulwark of Ulster Unionism has been toppled and is not coming back.
To our shame we nationalists have been bought off by the block grant and accept British rule as the best we can get.
With nowhere to go and nothing to add to the debate on national unity, the mighty Sinn Fein, who once walked in the corridors of power here and in the US, are reduced to promoting platforms that are geared to gaining votes rather than standing by principles.
What would Bobby Sands think of it all?
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