Denis O’Brien Might Try To Silence The Government, But He Won’t Silence Me

Denis O'Brien Catherine Murphy TDThere’s a concept known as “Parliamentary Privilege“, used in both the British and Irish Houses of Parliament, which grants members of both houses legal immunity and protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties. It allows members to speak freely during ordinary parliamentary proceedings without fear of legal action on the grounds of slander or contempt of court.

This allows Members to raise questions or debate issues which could slander an individual, interfere with an ongoing court case or threaten to reveal state secrets, and plays a perfectly useful and legitimate purpose in a democracy, when legislators are elected in order to govern in the best interests of the electorate who chose them.

However, Irish billionaire Mr. Denis O’Brien would have you think otherwise. In fact, his opinion on the matter is so strong that he has actually gone to court and successfully sought an injunction to gag the Irish press from reporting what an elected Irish parliamentarian said during a session of the Dáil about Mr. O’Brien.

Unlike corrupt dictatorships such as Russia, Azerbaijan or Syria, for example, Ireland’s press supposedly enjoy the legal right to print, publish or broadcast a story without the molestation of the Irish government, or anyone else for that matter, especially if it simply reprinting what was said during a session of the Oireachtas.

What has Mr. O’Brien so scared? Well, it’s really very simple. Ms Catherine Murphy TD, is an Independent TD for Kildare North. She outlined a series of revelations in the Dáil on May 28th, which concerned alleged preferential treatment given to Mr. O’Brien by IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

The claims emerged as Ms Murphy introduced a bill to permit the Comptroller and Auditor General to investigate the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien and other IBRC transactions.

Her speech to the members of the Dáil was as follows;

“This bill extends the functions and powers, or seeks to extend the functions and powers of the C & AG [Comptroller and Auditor General] to cover IBRC. It was the Taoiseach that first suggested that the C & AG review the Siteserv sale’s process and it was then pointed out to him that IBRC does not come within his remit.”

“With this Bill, I’m attempting to address that problem by broadening the remit of the C & AG. The reason I’m anticipating the need to involve the C & AG, if not a full Commission of Investigation, which may well be a better option, is because I believe the Government have got this badly wrong, not least because most of the key players in the Siteserv saga have links with KPMG and its eventual purchaser and vice versa, is a web of connections and conflicts, that requires outside eyes to unravel.

I have no doubt that the special liquidator [Kieran Wallace] is more than capable of doing such a review but his direct involvement in the sale process, and his relationship with the eventual purchaser of Siteserv, and his current actions in the High Court, in supporting Mr O’Brien versus RTE, place him in a position where there is, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest, if not an actual conflict of interest.

The review is not confined to Siteserv but it is the transaction that prompted a review. I would worry about the transactions that have been excluded from the review, given that what we now know, that in the final months before prom night, the relationship between the department and IBRC had completely broken down.

“If deals were being done without the knowledge or input of the minister then we need to know what they were. We are now aware for example that the former CEO of IBRC made verbal agreements with Denis O’Brien to allow him to extend the terms of his already expired loans.

We also know that the verbal agreement was never escalated to the credit committee for approval. I’m led to believe, and I would welcome the minister clarifying, the rates applicable at this time, that the extension also attracted some extremely favourable interest terms.

I understand that Mr O’Brien was enjoying a rate of around 1.25%, when IBRC, and arguably, when IBRC could, and arguably should have been charging 7.5%. We are talking about outstanding sums here that are upwards of €500 million. The interest rate applied is not an insignificant issue for the public interest.

We also know that Denis O’Brien felt confident enough, in his dealings with IBRC that he could write to Kieran Wallace, as the special liquidator and demand that the same favourable terms extended to him by way of a verbal agreement could be continued.

We now have Kieran Wallace, who’s been appointed by the Government to conduct a review into the IBRC review, actually joining with IBRC and Denis O’Brien in the High Court and seeking to injunct the information I’ve outlined from coming into the public domain – surely that alone represents a conflict.

In FOI documents released to me, the minister, his officials and the Central Bank and even the Troika acknowledge that IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, is no ordinary bank and there’s a significant public interest because the bank had been fully nationalised and was in wind-down mode.

They all accept that this is the people’s money that we’re dealing with and that there can be no dispute regarding the public interest in this. The same FOI materials detail incidences where the minister can specifically intervene, and issue an ministerial order that material matters have significant interest. Included in these material matters are incidences that are outside the ordinary course of business.

I would argue that what I’ve outlined out here regarding verbal deals, extensions, etc, are outside the normal course of business and I would ask the minister to exercise his right to intervene in the current proceedings and defend the public interest.

“I’ve a motion on the order papers, signed by the majority of the Opposition – 45 members have signed it and more are welcome to – calling for a debate into the proposed review. When I tried to raise it on the order of business, I was silenced and I was told to take it up with my Whip. I am the Whip of the Technical Group and I did raise it at the weekly Whip’s meeting.

The Government Chief Whip told me that they would not be altering the KPMG review, the Government would not be giving time to debate this issue and suggested that we use Private Members’ time.

It’s not just an Opposition issue, minister. This is an issue for all in this house. It’s an issue of serious public concern where there is public money involved and I know, if you got your hands on maybe an extra €20 million, I don’t think you’d have to think too hard on how to spend that money. I urge the Government to reconsider this and give the Bill and the motion the time they deserve. I believe this is in the public interest. Thank you.”

Mr. O’Brien, who is said to be worth about €7bn, is considered Ireland’s richest man with widespread interests, including mobile phones, oil and aircraft leasing. He lives in Malta for tax purposes. He had argued that even the rich and powerful had a right to privacy and that Murphy’s remarks were “materially inaccurate”, based on stolen information and made in breach of an earlier injunction he had got against RTÉ banning it from reporting details of his banking arrangements.

RTÉ, which had been independently investigating the telecoms and media tycoon, consulted its lawyers and did not broadcast details of Murphy’s speech as it feared they could have been in breach of the O’Brien injunction granted 10 days previous. It was imposed despite RTÉ contending that press freedom, public interest and legitimate journalistic inquiry should be paramount.

The Irish Times initially reported the remarks online but then removed its article following a letter from O’Brien’s lawyers.

Even the former Attorney General, Michael McDowell, has said it is “absurd” to tell media outlets they can’t report on the speech given by independent TD Catherine Murphy in the Dáil .

“We now also have the ridiculous situation in which O’Brien’s spokesman uses the airwaves to condemn Deputy Murphy for ‘peddling lies’ in the Dáil but listeners are not told what her allegation is,” said McDowell.

It should also be noted that Denis O’Brien is the major shareholder in Ireland’s Independent News and Media Group, which owns The Irish Independent newspaper. It also publishes the Irish Daily Star, the Sunday Independent, the Sunday World, Dublin’s Evening Herald and a raft of other regional titles north and south of the border.

The Irish Independent, which is controlled by Mr. O’Brien, is Ireland’s best-selling daily newspaper. They are quoted as saying that “Mr O’Brien successfully stopped RTÉ from broadcasting the details which Ms Murphy raised in the Dáil”.

Mr. O’Brien is big in radio too, through his Communicorp group which owns two major national stations, Newstalk and Today FM, plus three regional stations.

So, the owner of the large majority of Ireland’s media outlets is using an injunction to prevent reports on his affairs appearing in the rest of the media he doesn’t control. Sounds like something one would expect from the likes of Vladimir Putin!

The fear he wields through his high priced lawyers has now prevented the Irish media from reporting even privileged Dáil speech, and it shows how dangerous the extent of the O’Brien empire is for Irish media and society in general. Mr O’Brien may justifiably claim a right to reputation, but the right of the press to report parliamentary proceedings is paramount in a functioning democracy.

I’m really beginning to think that O’Brien is Ireland’s equivalent to a dictator. His latest bid to gag the rest of the Irish media he doesn’t already own is something you might expect from the likes of Putin, Assad or China’s Xi Jinping.

This is Ireland for fuck sake. The country that showed the world only a fortnight ago that we stand for equality. That equality also extends to a free press and the freedom of speech!

Clearly, there are questions to ask about the press freedom implications due to Ireland’s lack of media plurality and diversity. Given that this is hosted outside the Irish Republic, written by someone outside of Ireland, I’m going to enjoy the letter his lawyers send to me. I think I’ll file it under “garbage” 😉

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

It’s Paddy’s Day today, so I want to wish all my readers a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or as Gaeilge, “Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig duit”.

For all your American’s out there who want to get in on the act and proclaim to everyone how Irish you are, even if your ancestors are really Scandinavian Poles or something else equally Irish, please make sure you DO NOT wish everyone a Happy St. Patty’s Day. This serves to further highlight to the rest of the Irish community, and the world in fact, that you’re a fucking moron, and you’re about as Irish as sushi covered pizza!

Given that this is the day that everyone on the planet is “Irish”, I thought it would be fun to remind us of all the things that make an Irishman who he is. So let’s begin.

IRELAND  – It’s the only place where……..

  • When you were young, you went to bed when Glenroe was over.
  • If you die from alcohol poisoning, you’re considered a lightweight.
  • ‘Fuck off’ means ‘Are you serious?’
  • The person that you insult most is probably your best friend.
  • Saying ‘I will, yeah’ means that you definitely won’t
  • ‘Fuck it, sure it’s grand’ means that you couldn’t be bothered your arse to finish it properly.
  • ‘He’s fond of a drink’ means he suffers from severe life-threatening alcoholism.
  • Saying you’re going for ‘a drink’ means you might not be seen again for 3 days
  • Saying ‘I’m grand’ doesn’t mean you have delusions of grandeur, rather, it means you’re fine/OK.
  • Crisps are called ‘Taytos’ and fizzy drinks are called ‘minerals’.
  • ‘For the craic’ is the best reason or excuse for doing anything, ever.
  • The best cure for a hangover is more drink.
  • The second best cure for a hangover is a full Irish breakfast with rashers, sausages and both black AND white pudding.
  • A rasher is what the rest of the world calls “bacon”.
  • Nobody can go a day without saying ‘Jaysus’.
  • ‘Meeting’ has a double meaning (see the 7th point above).
  • Tea is the solution to every problem.
  • And water is the solution to every GAA injury on the field.
  • ‘I got stuck behind a tractor’ is a perfectly valid reason for being late.
  • We eat Tayto sambos for lunch, and ham sandwiches on the way to Croke Park.
  • You can insert the name of a gardening tool into any sentence and it still makes sense, e.g. ‘I had a rake of drink last night’ or ‘I’ll be out in a minute, I’m just shovelling down me dinner’.
  • GAA is considered religion.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to swig from hip flask during a Rugby match.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to call your mother ‘mammy’ even though you are a fully grown adult.
  • Saying ‘Now we’re sucking diesel’ means that you are happy with the outcome of the situation.
  • Drinking ‘tae’ is everyone’s favourite past time.
  • You’re scared of the wooden spoon.
  • The word ‘like’ goes in every sentence.
  • You can say ‘Any craic’ to a police officer and you won’t get arrested.
  • You never need to study for exams because your Granny lit a candle for you.
  • You thank bus drivers.
  • If you’re not drinking, then you must be on antibiotics.
  • Flat 7UP and/or Lucozade can cure any illness.
  • The first phrase in a new language most Irish children learn when they start school is “An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas”, which is basically asking for permission to go to the toilet.
  • Mothers would usually spout of wisdoms such as ‘If you fall off that wall and break both your legs, don’t come running to me’, or ‘Laughing turns to crying’.

Enjoy your pint, wee glass or your drop of the cratur and celebrate your inner Irishness today.

shamrock-1

I Proudly Commemorate Remembrance Day

Poppies

Today I read an article about a primadonna Irish footballer (James McClean) who refused to wear a poppy for Remembrance Day on the grounds that he came from Derry, and that although he was born 20 YEARS AFTER “Bloody Sunday” occurred, he still felt that wearing a poppy was an affront to those people who lost their lives.

Let me go on record and tell you as an Irishman that this guy is an IDIOT. He is an embarrassment to the Irish nation and his attitude is exactly the same attitude that results in conflicts never getting resolved and is an example of how hatred of a nation is exacerbated by the myopic vision of a child’s parents and their teachings. What happened in the past, is in the past. I accept that it is sometimes hard to forget the hurt and pain of pasts wrongs. We SHOULD remember, but only so we never repeat histories wrongs. But don’t hold on to it like a metastasising cancer, spreading the hatred from one generation to another.

Yes, “Bloody Sunday” was an awful event. But so were the bombings carried out by the IRA on the British mainland. And let us not forget that thousands of Irish men lost their lives during WW1 and WW2. Maybe they were, or were not fighting for the King. But if they were Irish, I certainly know that they were fighting to preserve freedom and liberty and save the world from tyranny.

This idiotic Irish football player plays football for a living. If he was someone who worked in a charity, dedicated his life bringing peace and education to the worlds poor or helped starving, repressed nations around the world regain their dignity, I might….MIGHT….listen to his bullshit reasons for not wearing a poppy. But he’s not. He’s a footballer, who most likely has three or four brain-cells to rub together and gets paid a fortune for playing a game most children do for free in their backyard. In short he is a nobody.

So I implore my friends both across the Irish Sea and around the world to not judge us Irish with the same disdain you rightfully hold for Mr. McClean. There are many of us who respect the sacrifice that our forefathers made for my ability to speak my mind like this (in the English language (sorry Tim and Michael, couldn’t resist) without persecution or reprimand.

And I pray that the sacrifices being made in other conflict zones around the world, on the side of the right and the just also come to an end soon so that those people can return to their loved ones and rebuild their broken countries.

Riverdancing Around The Globe

Riverdance Riverdance_2Three mates from Dublin, Iain McNamara, Chris McGrath and Kevin Cobbe have put together a unique and memorable video of their trek around the world by Riverdancing their way across the globe. They’ve jigged and reeled their way across 23 countries in South America, Australia, Asia and the UK.

The lads filmed a clip of themselves dancing in front of some well-known attractions, including the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate, the equatorial line in Quito, Ecuador, the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru, the Sydney Opera House, the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and London’s Big Ben. Even some of the locals seemed keen to join them such as the young fella with the squeegee in Buenos Aires.

The clips are accompanied by the iconic music and footfalls of “Riverdance,” and the lads get increasingly more technical with their routine as the trip continues.

KLM Have Created A New Country

Southern IrishAccording to KLM’s marketing team, I am a citizen of Southern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland. Not merely content with flying people across the globe, but they’re not busy renaming its countries and citizenships of said globe.

I discovered this when I was asked to fill in a questionnaire regarding my most recent trip to Moscow. Well, you can imagine my delight when I saw that I’m not really Irish, but rather Southern Irish.

I’d best inform an Taoiseach and an Uachtarán na hÉireann about the changes thrust upon us by those crazshy Cloggies.

In the meantime, I’ve off to rename this blog www.southernirishmanabroad.com!!

Irish Mammies – And The Wooden Spoon

Wooden SpoonYou didn’t have an Irish childhood unless the wooden spoon was involved.

‘Tis true. Many a wooden spoon was broken in our house, between me, my brother and my little sister. While some nations preferred using, for instance, a belt, Irish mammies always relied on their trusty wooden spoon to mete out justice, Irish-mammy style. Or, they would use psychological warfare against use and just use the open threat of taking out the spoon if you were acting up and didn’t listen to your Mammy. It was a little bit like a nuclear deterrent. You knew it was there and what is was used for, but you hoped to fuck she never grabbed it from the kitchen counter to use it on you.

I even had my own mother break my Tech Drawing T-square over my back as she chased me up the stairs because I took a step too far….which was followed by the taunt of how I would have to explain to my teacher WHY I couldn’t finish my tech-drawing homework. Irish mammies are great when it comes to psychological warfare…must be the Catholic Church’s influence 🙂 And yes, I readily admit it…I was testing her to see if her threats were idle, and if she’d follow through. It’s part of that child/parent dynamic where the child is constantly pushing boundaries.

We usually had the wooden spoon thwacked on our open palms. And it stung like fuck! Three was the optimum number for your average infringement. And almost anything was classed as an infringement – answering back, telling lies, stealing biscuits when you were told “No”, not doing your homework, coming back with a note from school, not eating your dinner, not doing what you were told….for the umpteenth time. The list was long and (sometimes) arbitrary, the sentencing varied, but discipline was abided by.

It was an era when the phrase from parents, aunts and uncles was “Children should be seen, and not heard” was oft used. I never really knew what this meant as a child. But now as an adult, living in a country whose idea of disciplining their children is a simple “Jan, sweetie, you cannot do that”, or “Jan, honey, please stop that”, rather than the Childline like disciplinarianism that was doled out in my childhood home, I can now understand why adults prefer their children to go up to their room or out to the garden and play rather than hanging around adults all day long.

And whilst some of you might think how horrible it must have been to have grown up with “the wooden spoon”, let me tell you this. It taught us respect, manners and how to behave. Unlike today’s 21st Century kids who haven’t had it so good – am starting to sound like my old man now – and have no fecking clue how to behave, either with adults or with their peers. Sure, there was bullying when I was growing up. But I don’t think it was ever as bad as it is today with kids thinking that the only solution available to them is to take their own life, because they can no longer handle the constant barrage of hatred and violence they experience from fellow children. If it was 1980’s Ireland, and a school headmaster complained to a bully’s parents, you could pretty much guarantee that those childs parents would swiftly and surely sort out their little gurrier, and some semblance of civility would soon take hold once again.

And as a “wooden spoon boy”, I don’t think I am a mal-adjusted adult, with social or mental problems. In fact, I think I am the exact opposite….a hard working, law abiding and sociable person who understands right from wrong, and will always try to err on the side of doing what’s right. Why? Because my Mammy (with help from her trusty tool) taught me what was right and what was wrong. Ireland back then was a very black and white world. Unlike the world of today with its 50 shades of grey and everyone’s opinion chiming in from all sides…Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Instagram, 24/7 News Channels, Talking Heads etc.

What’s the point of this article? I guess that I am reminiscing of a childhood that once was, and I find myself comparing the kids of today to the children of my own yesteryear and asking myself are we the same or were we really very much different. And I guess that I am in a round-about way, asking all those who are parents of children, to actually educate your children, to teach them right from wrong and to not settle for mediocrity when a child just can’t be arsed to do the right thing, respect others and just do their very best in life.

Maybe the wooden spoon is not the 21 Century answer, but neither is the constant “Good Job” philosophy that Americans are so quick to afflict the rest of the world with. As did I at an early stage of my life, so too must every other child discover for himself, that life is NOT a bed full of roses where you always get everything that you ever wanted, handed to you. You have to graft and doggedly pursue what you want. As a parent, your job is to make sure that they have the skills to make their own dreams come true, to encourage them to pursue their dreams, and to comfort them when they feel that the world has crushed and defeated them. But they should do so whilst ensuring deferential respect for their peers and fellow man.