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Ireland's Top Economic Crisis Blogger Calls it Quits

The anonymous blogger behind Namawinelake, a prominent watchdog blog that chronicled Ireland's efforts to deal with its economic crisis, has stopped publishing, triggering a wave of speculation as to the blogger's identity and his or her reason for quitting. 

Namawinelake was launched in January 2010 after the financial crisis hit the country and the government was forced to request a bailout plan from the troika, made up of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. As its title indicated, Namawinelake's reports were focusing on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), a state agency founded in 2009 as part of the government's answer to the financial crisis.

NAMA was filling the role of a “bad bank”, that is to say buying devalued property from banks and selling them afterwards, effectively making losses on behalf of private banks or companies in order to provide them with liquidity. Namawinelake was one of the many critics who charged NAMA with squandering public money for the benefit of the banks.

screen shot of the NAMA Wine Lake blog homepage as of May 19 2013

Screenshot of the NAMA Wine Lake blog homepage as of May 19, 2013

Jagdip Singh, the pseudonym under which Namawinelakes sometimes wrote, announced the decision on May 19, 2013, with a laconic message on the blog:

After 3.5 years and 2,700 blogposts, this is the final NAMA wine lake blogpost. I truly regret that I can’t continue something that has become more than full-time and has stopped me leading anything like a normal life.

Jagdip adds that existing publications will remain available. In addition, the author posted a mysterious message on the website broadsheet :

A panda walks into a bar. The clock reads 29 minutes past three though the second hand is broken and is stuck at 59. The panda sits down at the bar and looks all around. There’s a couple in the corner having a quiet chat, and a man by himself at the other end of the bar. The panda orders a pina colada and as the barman is preparing it, panda taps its paw on the bar and asks for the drink in a tall glass. The couple in the corner looks up, the panda stares meaningfully at them, the couple avert their gaze and stare at the table. The barman comes over to the panda and says “I hear the blog isn’t being continued” and the panda says “I truly regret that I can’t continue something that has become more than full-time and has stopped me leading anything like a normal life” Just at that precise moment, the second hand budges and advances in a single movement to 60.

What is the reason the panda isn’t continuing the blog?

Irish journalist Laura Noonan (@LauraNoonanIRL) summarized the general sentiment among Irish Twitter users when Namawinelake announced the decision to discontinue the blog:

@LauraNoonanIRL: End of an era as @namawinelake blog comes to a close. A must-read for anyone following Irish banks/property, it will be much missed.

A blogger under threat?

The exact reason why the blogger decided to stop writing isn't clear. But some, such as Twitter user “earlofcork” (@urlofcork), suspect that the decision to quit was because of a threat of some kind:

@urlofcork: 2day Namawinelake said he is to stop blogging, following legal threats from NAMA, he shone a lite [sic] on that cesspit and he has been shut down

Two weeks before announcing the shuttering of the blog, Namawinelake author wrote a post that details the context of a letter threatening legal action sent to him by Northern Ireland solicitors, Johnsons. He explains that in a previous post, Nawawinlake incorrectly stated that Neil Adair was the head so-called Maple 10 or Anglo Golden Circle, a group of financiers who have received loans from Anglo Irish Bank in return for buying shares. Despite a quick erratum and an apology, the blog was accused by the solicitors of deliberately and purposely trying to cause damage to Neil Adair's reputation.

On Twitter, professor of economics at University College Dublin Karl Welhan (@WhelanKarlpointed to the letter as a possible reason for the blogger's departure:

@WhelanKarl: Based on this entry and the tone of today's post, I wouldn't be surprised if the NWL closure relates to this letter. http://namawinelake.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/how-paul-tweeds-johnsons-solicitors-are-trying-to-muzzle-the-namawinelake-blog/ …

Under threat or not, economist and blogger Constantin Grudgiev emphasized the lack of support for independent information publishers in Ireland:

I can attest from my own & others’ experiences that those of us who run anything independent of the officialdom mouthpieces (regardless of political / ideological orientation or even the lack of one) have near-zero support (moral or citations- and links-wise) from our internal (not to be confused with international) media and all businesses.

Those in our society, including the traditional media, who only benefit from the free analysis and the climate of openness and debate the independent analysts help to create prefer to endlessly endorse and support, including via advertising revenues, cross-links, citations and readership, those who offer no alternative but consensus.

In contrast, independent analysts in Ireland operate in the environment of constant, usually indirect, ‘soft', pressure from the part of the Irish society which is fully aligned with the official elite. This ‘aligned’ sub-section of Ireland often has direct and indirect support (including financial) from major business, political and ideological organisations in this country, and even from European organisations. Because of this, Irish new independent media remains relatively small, under-resourced and often marginalised.

Meanwhile, a few commenters on IrishEconomy.ie congratulated and thanked the author of Namawinelake.

Gavin Kostick wrote:

Congratulations on your extraordinary achievement.

Your initiative and your perseverance has shown how citizens can take matters into their own hands and impact on public life. The time and effort to do the work you have done is mind-boggling.

David O'Donnell concurred:

An exemplar of active citizenship on shedding some light on the opaque world of NAMA_land. Thank you!

Georg R. Baumann added high praise for the author:

I remember your blog from day one, it was inspiration, it was a level of journalism that far exceeded the mainstream spin media and yellow press that makes the Irish media landscape. In a sense, to me it was always the very Irish version of WikiLeaks, it reflected the same spirit to me.

One question remains: Who was the blogger behind Namawinelake? The guessing game has already begun on Twitter:

 

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