From top: Denis O’Brien, Anne Marie McNally
The Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges meets today to discuss the legal challenge initiated against every one of its members by Denis O’Brien.
Remember. Don’t lose the head.
Anne-Marie McNally writes:
In the spring of 1642, Charles I began assembling a pack of armed men to march towards London and seize Parliament. His stupidity cost him his head and forever enshrined the pre-eminence of Parliament.
Fast forward several centuries and cross the sea to Ireland. We don’t have a pack of blood-thirsty warriors marching towards Kildare Street – this is not Game of Thrones – but we do have what appears to be a modern version of the same tale.
This time the pack wear expensive suits and they’re armed with threatening letters. They are the army of legal eagles assembled by the wealthy commander determined to challenge the power that resides in the democratically elected Parliament. The roles may differ from 1642 but the premise really doesn’t.
In medieval times, the nobility was considered as one of the three estates of the realm (clergy & commons being the other two); things have since moved on and the media is now considered as the 4th estate because of its vital importance to a functioning democracy.
Control the 4th estate and you, in effect, become a Kingmaker – if not the king. Combine such power with extreme wealth (at least on paper), a disdain for Parliament, and a propensity to assemble an army of legal eagles at the drop of a hat and you can see how one individual becomes an intimidating force capable of mounting a siege on democracy.
It may sound dramatic but recent events have shown us just how vulnerable our democracy is to such intimidation. When Catherine Murphy made that speech in the Dáil the outlets that had run it initially immediately pulled it down (present company excepted) at the behest of the aforementioned powerful individual – he who shall not be named.
What followed was an almost comedic interlude of media organisations spinning themselves into a tizzy while legal teams effectively wielded control of our newsrooms. Things got so ludicrous that some individuals took to printing out copies of Catherine Murphy’s speech and handing them out on street corners.
They took this step because they were aware that while most of us take social media and web based news for granted there is still a huge majority who rely on RTÉ et al for their news. When that news is stifled, their knowledge is stifled, their ability to know what has happened in their national parliament is stifled, and thus Democracy is stifled.
This week the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) will meet to discuss a legal threat against it, and the TDs who serve on it, from the same powerful individual who previously threatened the media outlets which ran Catherine Murphy’s speech.
This is separate to the legal action the same powerful individual will soon commence against the entire State for allowing an elected parliamentarian to make a speech in the Dáil Chamber. Imagine!
Funnily enough, the same powerful individual is also the founder and current Chairman of international telecommunications company, Digicel – a heavily indebted company which will shortly seek to raise billions with an IPO on the NYSE.
It’d almost make you wonder why such emphasis is being placed on trying to stymie anything that may reflect negatively on Digicel or anyone associated with it.
Interestingly, the NYSE comes under the remit of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). The SEC has a five year statute for criminal prosecutions of companies or company officials involved in corrupt payments.
In 2016 it will be five years since the final report of the Moriarty Tribunal. Perhaps someone should send the SEC a copy, particularly the excerpt which reads that payments from Digicel’s founder to Michael Lowry TD were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr Lowry” and that Lowry “secured the winning” of the 2nd mobile phone licence for that Digicel founder. Perhaps someone already has….
Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally