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Stephen O’Connor writes:

I’m a co-founder at R2B. We are an Irish startup creating a safety service for outdoor activities. In short, a user creates an activity with an ETA and Emergency Contacts, in the event a user does not check back in from the activity; R2B will escalate to their Emergency Contacts with last known location details via SMS. All information is saved on our servers so no mobile signal, no battery or even no phone is not a problem.




Pat Comer, President, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA).  - Photo: Kieran Clancy   © 19/1/12  **NO FEE ** With Compliments ICMSA

John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA)

This morning.

On Today with Sean O’Rourke 

The show looked at farmers’  distressed loans being sold to vulture funds. Contributors to the discussion included solicitor John Murphy, of John A Sinnott &Co Solicitors in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) John Comer.

From their discussion:

John Murphy: “I saw somebody, as recently as yesterday, getting a letter from a mainstream bank saying his loan had been sold to a vulture fund. If you read the bottom of the page, it says ‘and will be managed by’ a different firm involved. So, you know, you’ve gone from a bank to a vulture fund but you can’t contact the bank, you can’t contact the vulture fund. There is a management organisation in charge of it who are based in a warehouse, where you just can’t really call in.

“And the difficulty, I think, about a lot of places, is trying to get a name, try to get a face that you can talk to. Try and do a deal. Let me give you a quick example.

“A vulture fund buys a mainstream debt, approximately six months ago. Within, there was information freely available that the debt was bought for 25% of its value. Within three months, the farmer concerned offered that vulture fund, its managing receiver, offered him 100% profit on the debt. Now, 100% profit in three months, by my reckoning is 400% per annum. And it was refused.”

Sean O’Rourke: “On what grounds?”

Murphy: Because the receiver took the view that the asset was worth more than the offer because his client had bought the loan, and the loan was in arrears, he was entitled to the whole asset. And I had a conversation, we had a polite conversation, and I asked how the receiver proposed to realise this farm which is in rural Ireland obviously. And, you know, who was going to buy it?”

“And really, I got absolutely nowhere. The attitude was, ‘ah, I heard all these arrangements about rural Ireland before, we’ll see where we go’. Now that’s the best part of a year ago. And nothing really has happened since.”

O’Rourke: “And what’s been happening on the farm, John?”

Murphy: “Oh the farmers are farming away.”

O’Rourke: “Are they repaying any money to anybody?”

Murphy: “They’re doing their best to make some repayments, yes. But, you have to wonder why was that offer refused? Were the, there must be investors behind every vulture fund. And you wonder, were they told that they were in line for a 100% profit within three months. Because anybody I know, in business, over the years, if they were getting 100% profit at three months, there’s only one thing they’d do, they’d take it and run, and get out.”

O’Rourke: “On the other hand, the vulture fund, or the person you were dealing with, may believe that there’s a better offer if they just sit tight for a little longer.”

Murphy: “Well you’d wonder about that because the offer was very well presented. There was an accountant, a very experienced accountant involved, it wasn’t just a kind of stab in the dark, you know, ‘we’ll get a quick deal from the vulture fund’. It wasn’t that kind of situation at all, Sean. This was carefully put together and a realistic, maximum, serviceable borrowing for this particular farmer was put forward and it was demonstrated, you know, on past figures, how he could. And he’d sourced another mainstream bank, by the way, to come up with the money. It wasn’t accepted. Now you have to wonder, did it have anything to do with the continuation of the case? Which obviously would bring the receiver in much better fees than if he cleaned it out fairly quickly.”


John Comer: “There is a lot of stress and anxiety out there in terms of, by the fact that we’re dealing with an unknown entity. There has been a lot of representations made to our office in Limerick, looking for advice on how to proceed. Obviously, the individuals involved were in a distressed situation anyway. But this has, as they say, added insult to injury. People, you know who had two or three generations of farming dealing with a bank, now find themselves in a situation where they don’t know actually who they owe the money to. They have no point of contact and they fail to understand why a bank would sell off these loans at 30, 40, we’re hearing different percentages of the value when, perhaps there was other options that could have been explored.

“We feel that I don’t think there was enough done overall to get loans that were, probably under performing, restructured and given to business people an opportunity to restructure their loans and essentially pay back the debt.”

“…we have met with all the pillar banks, you know, with an overall policy that we do not want to see a repeat of ugly scenes of farms and family farms, I stress, being sold in this manner. Because we believe, in most cases, there can be a resolution found if there was more engagement and if there was more recognition of the reality of the situation. Because, I can assure you, if vulture funds start selling off family farms in rural Ireland over the course of the next year or two, there certainly will be, you know, ugly scenes manifesting themselves because it’s ingrained in all of Irish citizens, I think, the repulsion of people being thrown out of their business and their home and there actual farm because of  a history and I think people would be making a mistake if they felt there was going to be no resistance in that area.”

Listen back in full here


Brigid Mae Powerethereal Irish folk dreaminess

What you may need to know…

01. Over gentle waves of textures and reverberations comes the voice of singer/composer and visual artist Brigid Mae Power.

02. Having existed on the fringes of Irish folk for a number of years, she cut her teeth on her first full-length, I Told You The Truth, recorded in St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway. Leaving Ireland and heading to Oregon to record with American folk musician Peter Broderick in his studio proved to be a turning point.

03. Streaming above is the video for single I Left Myself For a While, from her self-titled “proper” debut record, available via Tompkins’ Square Records. Early solo work also available on her Bandcamp.

04. Headlining Quarter Block Party festival, on the weekend February 3rd-5th in Cork City Centre. More info here.

Thoughts: Some lovely moments amid the melancholy, resonating with subtle drone, and the atmosphere of the studio.

Brigid Mae Power



From top: John Kilraine of RTÉ; Unite’s , Brendan Ogle

Further to the report  on RTÉ yesterday about trade union Unite and its former headquarters on Merrion Square, which has been empty for three years.

RTÉ reported that “a trust connected to the trade union Unite applied to be exempted from social housing for a development at its former headquarters…while one of its top officials was planning the occupation of Apollo House…”.

The report went on to say Brendan Ogle, of Unite and the Home Sweet Home movement, gained access to Apollo House a day after Unite’s application for a Social Housing Exemption Cert was granted by Dublin City Council.

Further to this…

Mr Ogle writes:

We knew that there was an agenda at work in RTÉ, re: Apollo House, as long ago as Tuesday, December 27th. Carole Coleman sat outside with a cameraman for three hours wondering if she could get in and get some footage.

At that stage, no media had gotten inside to record footage and they, and the public, were quite understandably eager to have a look. Eventually, Carole’s patience paid off and I personally walked her and the cameraman into Apollo House where they spent the best part of an hour. What they had seen was remarkable. Beautiful even.

They had private bedrooms, communal areas, kitchens, medical room and facilities, and an environment of joy. Carole herself expressed her gratitude and how impressed she was and she and the cameraman were treated with the utmost courtesy throughout. Carole got so much footage that she told me it may have to be rolled out over two days.

I looked forward to seeing Apollo House on the Six One news that evening but, alas, no. So I contacted Carole, who rang me back to say that she had encountered an unforeseen problem. RTÉ had decided that there was a legal prohibition on them airing the footage!

Really? Nobody in RTÉ had told the Claire Byrne Live show there was a legal problem when they had repeatedly requested access to Apollo House the week before Christmas. Nobody in TV3 had a legal problem entering and filming in Apollo House for Tonight With Michael Clifford.

Nobody in The Irish Times had, nobody in the Sunday Business Post had and even RTÉ (Prime Time) forgot about their problem a week later.

I knew exactly why RTÉ didn’t show the footage then and I told Carole Coleman. They didn’t show it because it was too positive, it looked too good, and it wasn’t the message RTÉ wanted to communicate.

RTÉ wants to support and uphold the inequality in this state. I have written much about RTÉ’s shameful behaviour in their coverage of the water campaign. And it is getting worse. RTÉ, as an impartial public service broadcaster, is dead. And getting ‘deader’.

Throughout the Right2Water campaign, RTE’s agenda-setting reportage has stood in stark contrast with the events on the streets in the eight massive days we have had both in number, and in tone.

Massive festivals of good nature and change are routinely reported as small side demonstrations in a tone as sour as month-old milk.

I was driving back to Dublin last Wednesday trying to get some order on the ridiculous High Court decision.

I spoke to John Kilraine and he asked me where I was. He was outside Apollo House and I told him Glen Hansard and I would be there to talk to him on the Nine News, which he agreed to on the phone.

We got there at 8:58pm precisely. Kilraine was in the RTÉ broadcast van outside and as the news began he wasn’t coming out. So I texted him. He said we were tight for the 9 o’clock news and I told him we were outside. Waiting on him. Silence. More silence. 9:15pm, silence. 9:20, silence.

I told Terry McMahon “he is waiting until it’s too late because he doesn’t want us on live wrecking their agenda setting reportage with some honesty”.

9:25pm, when the news was over, Kilraine finally found the door handle to exit and tell Terry and I what we already knew, “it’s too late”.

Last Saturday afternoon, I was with my children on an important family weekend and John Kilraine started texting me. I couldn’t deal with it so Dave Gibney rang him.

When Dave told me what he wanted later I wasn’t shocked. Nothing about the dishonest, sneaky agenda setting of this shameful entity that used to pass for an impartial public service broadcast station surprises me after the water campaign and the events set out above.

Why didn’t we put up homeless people in an empty Unite building on Merrion Square? He knew the answer well. He knew a trade union, or Jim Sheridan’s house, or Mattress Mick’s warehouse, or Glen Hansard’s wardrobe was not the point.


We, the people, already owned NAMA and that was the point of Apollo House. And it was massive. It held 40 people with the judge’s say-so, and could have helped up to 100 in total. But that is not the point.

The point is sabotage of a campaign that has the State and its mouthpieces very worried.

Kilraine asked detailed planning questions and, as property was not my area, he was passed on to Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly. Jimmy quickly found out that this matter was being handled by architects in London. Unite is a large union.

Trade Union representatives don’t do their property deals. Jimmy told Kilraine he would answer all his questions in as much detail as he liked by Tuesday. (Remember this happened over a weekend when offices are closed so it would be [Monday] before we could even start getting information – clearly our sources aren’t as quick as Kilraine’s in – wait for it… Dublin City Council).

I offered him a live interview on [yesterday evening’s] Six One news, knowing full well that “the man in the van” wouldn’t want me calling him and his behaviour out live on TV. And of course he didn’t.

Then there were the sinister elements.

The man who invaded a social housing complex in Finglas, calling for backup to take attention away from Home Sweet Home while he was panned by the media, somehow got hold of Kilraine’s interest in Unite’s empty building in Merrion Square and turned up with seven people, just while Kilraine happened to be passing by, and these renowned union haters read a prepared statement. How do these things happen? Any guesses anyone?

Another man, the only one to be thrown out of Apollo House and who has been railing against the machine ever since, was slaughtered by the media nine days ago for having a troubled, and troubling, past.

But, two days ago, he became the trusted source of a front page story in a Sunday paper lashing Home Sweet Home.

[Yesterday] morning I messaged John Kilraine that he was never to contact me again. About anything.

He then decided, and got permission from RTÉ, to run his ‘story’ before Unite had had the chance to get the proper information from London. Why not wait until Tuesday

The facts:

Former Minister Alan Kelly (not a man Unite or I am known to be on friendly terms with) changed the social housing provisions such that properties of 10 units or less are exempted from the social housing requirements. The development of the Unite building in Merrion Square is for just four units. Everybody who doesn’t have 10 properties or more is required to fill out a form proving this. Declaring this. This is ‘the story’?

The implication, if Kilraine was right, would be that workers who are our members would have to give their assets, like a tax, to the state? So, Denis O’Brien and Apple don’t have to??

Trade Unions are not-for-profit ‘friendly societies’ run for, and by, their members through democratic structures. I am very proud to be a trade unionist, to be in Unite and to stand on my record as a representative and activist over many years. And I intend to go even further.

As we have been discussing for a considerable time, and as these events prove, our media and our democracy is broken and agenda-laden. The country is being run by, and for, elites embedding inequality in everyone and everything.

We will be launching in the coming months a daily news media outlet to go with our existing permanent political school for communities all over Ireland.

Furthermore, we will be launching a Unity Movement to ensure campaigns such as the water campaign and Home Sweet Home will not only continue, but expand. And Unite will be using it’s Dublin property and it’s members support to enable that movement.


Everything I have done from helping save workers’ pensions in ESB to the water campaign, and on to Home Sweet Home I have done at great personal risk, cost and sacrifice. It is not what I do. It is who I am.

Am I subjected to such hate and abuse because there are some that simply cannot believe that we do what we do because we believe in it?

– I own no home or property. I am a renter
– In 2016 I was driven out of Dublin (where I work) to rent elsewhere due to rising rents
– I have no assets, wealth, shares capital or great material goods
– I do my best to pay my bills, look after my family and meet my commitments

To be subjected to this disgusting behaviour in the media, and for some in the media to be working hand in hand with mysterious and unsavoury elements to attack my trade union and I, must mean that we are getting somewhere.

But it isn’t easy.

I appeal for all who want to change Ireland for the better to support us, face this down, and build our movement.

Brendan Ogle (Facebook)

Some edits have been made. Rights of reply welcome.

Unite union sought social housing exemption for former Dublin HQ (RTE)

Previously: Ireland’s Biggest Problem Is RTÉ, Says Max Keiser