Leprechauns of Ireland: “Pot of Gold now Sack of IOUs.”

Three children from Glengooly, Co. Tipperary, unwittingly sparked major panic across Irish financial markets last night as they accidentally rumbled the secret that Ireland’s strategic leprechaun gold reserve has been replaced by a potato sack full of IOUs.

Shane Duggan (11), his sister Sheila (9) and Paul Maher (11) were playing in the fields near Glengooly yesterday when they saw a rainbow arcing to the ground in the next field. “We knew the story about the how the leprechauns hid pots of gold under the rainbow,” said Sheila, “So we ran over to find it. But when we got there we didn’t see any pot of gold. There was just a bag, full of pieces of paper that said “IOU.””

“Daddy was very disappointed when we brought them back.”

The discovery sparked an immediate investigation and after brief resistance the leprechauns of Ireland decided to come clean and make a straight confession.

The leprechauns admitted misappropriating Ireland's strategic gold reserve.

The leprechauns admitted misappropriating Ireland's strategic gold reserve.

“It is with deep regret that the people of Ireland must be informed that Ireland’s strategic gold reserve has been – perhaps to paraphrase the words of the great leprechaun playwright Shakespeare – it has of late, and wherefore we know not, been somewhat over-invested in dubious stocks and ghost estates,” said Seamus MacGillicuddy Finnegan O’Flaherty, the leader of the mysterious leprechaun tribe rumoured to have been until recently living in a luxury fairy fort in Dublin 4. “But if only you could have tasted the intoxicating cornucopia of the boom years! The stock market looked like a young Icarus boldly taking wing; the property market was rising like Jesus going up on the cross! How were we to know we would all get crucified in a couple of years?”

“Our friends the property developers Paddy Kelly and Mervyn Walsh were telling us that property values were going through the roof and we had to get in on it as soon as possible with everything we had. Even farmers – fucking culchies! – were getting in on the act, selling off grazing land in Upperchurch to property developers who wanted to build housing estates with “easy access to Dublin” up in the Galtee Mountains!” said Finnegan O’Flaherty with the feverish air of an inveterate gambler seeing horses with outrageous odds win races he hasn’t put any money on. “How could we know what was waiting round the corner? So we took the plunge and rode the Celtic Tiger like she was Shergar and we were Lester Piggott.”

With a rueful smile, Finnegan O’Flaherty added, “We thought the property market could make all our wishes come true.”

Things apparently went well for a while, with the leprechauns gaining international renown alongside such financial luminaries as Bernie Madoff for their business savvy. The leprechauns rolled on waves of loans and debts that were just about enough to afford living in Dublin at the time. However, by early 2008 it was becoming apparent to the leprechauns that the whole thing was a house of cards.

“I guess perhaps that what may be termed perfectly understandable and in no way reprehensible actions were taken which were later revealed to have been based on faulty premises and misinformation and thus may possibly be construed with the benefit of hindsight as having been unsound,” said Finnegan O’Flaherty, to knowing grimaces from the assembled journalists, who have become accustomed to this kind of bullshit, and not just from leprechauns. “Certainly buying that seaside resort in Bulgaria was a bit overenthusiastic, especially as we used the mortgage on the D4 fairy fort to finance it. We asked our friends, the bankers Sean Fitzpatrick and David Drumm, what to do and they recommended that we invest the remaining gold with institutions of great integrity and financial probity, which offered a guaranteed dividend and a share price so buoyant it could be filled with helium – i.e. the banks and financial institutions of Ireland.”

“Pricks,” added Finnegan O’Flaherty with uncharacteristic bluntness.

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean Fitzpatrick denied misleading leprechauns.

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean Fitzpatrick denied misleading leprechauns.

The onset of the financial crisis brought the house of cards to the ground. Property prices crashed, the stock market plummeted, and suddenly all that easy money had turned into hardened creditors calling on an hourly basis looking for their money back. “To speak the plain truth, it turned out that most of what we had was worth half of what we thought, and half of what it was then worth was mostly gone before we thought of selling it for a price we wouldn’t have thought of selling it for when it was worth what we thought it cost,” said Finnegan O’Flaherty despairingly. “It turned out that they hadn’t even started building the seaside resort in Bulgaria yet, so it was just a stony beach in the middle of nowhere. That cost us the D4 fairy fort and it wasn’t long before the pot of gold was a pot of IOUs.”

“But we really knew we were fucked when we had to hock the pot,” said Finnegan O’Flaherty grimly.

With the gold all gone, the leprechauns have been reduced to advertising breakfast cereals in the USA and starring in low-budget Disney movies. Finnegan O’Flaherty said he had come to terms with the leprechaun tribe’s fall from grace, but had a piece of advice for those interested in doing business in the Emerald Isle.

“When you’re in Ireland, don’t trust the big people,” he said.

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