Author Archives: Admin

pathickey

anne-marie-291x300

From top: Pat Hickey arrested in Rio; Anne Marie McNally

Nobody in Ireland expected someone like Pat Hickey to be subjected to the full rigours of the law.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Sport, it evokes visceral reactions in us no matter what our activity of choice.

Even those with very little interest in organised sports will find themselves caught up in the fervour of national support when the soccer team reaches a major championship or our Rugby lads or lasses smash it in the Six Nations or, as the last few weeks have shown us, our athletes head to the Olympics.

This time we got the full gamut of the human emotional spectrum.

We felt tremendously upset when Katie Taylor lost, not just for our nation’s loss of a medal but also for Katie personally, we jumped with passion and screamed in delight at 2am as Thomas Barr surpassed all expectations in the hurdles; we spewed with anger when we saw that the Michael Conlan judges weren’t in fact wearing balaclavas when they carried out their daylight robbery; we glowed with pride when Annalise Murphy and the O’Donovan brothers took silver in their categories and we felt awe as we attached all of our athletes compete on the international stage.

Then a police officer knocked on Pat Hickey’s door and we felt embarrassment. And shock.

There it was…we’d come through the whole spectrum, a hair-raising rollercoaster of human emotion culminating in a severe drop which left us spinning.

The collective gasps, my own included, which resonated around Ireland on the day Pat Hickey was confronted in his hotel room (or more accurately in the hotel room next to his)  by a seriously unimpressed Rio police force, are testament to our psyche as to how we expect ‘important’ people to be handled by the law.

Here was a man in the nip, hiding in a hotel room next to his while his wife told the police at the door that he’d left the country. It plays like a slapstick sitcom scene yet here was one of the most senior sports officials in Ireland as the main protagonist.

The audacity of the Brazilian police to go and arrest someone so high profile, in such a public fashion, was eye-popping to us here in Ireland who are more used to a scandal being handled by a couple of demure political interviews where there’s a bit of hand-wringing and talk about looking at setting up an inquiry which will deliver a report to be considered by politicians who will once more wring their hands.

Even if it gets to a full Tribunal stage sure no action really comes of it, does it? In essence nobody really expects anyone in as senior a position as Pat Hickey to be subjected to the full rigours of the law the way others beneath him might be.

It’s almost like a form of Stockholm syndrome we are suffering from. We know when things are wrong and we call it out but by and large our expectations have been diminished to the point that we are just happy to see something being recognised rather than actually brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

It’s not because we don’t want to see real repercussions it’s that we’ve been conditioned not to expect them.

It’s why someone who has had the gravest of findings made against him by a Tribunal of Inquiry can proudly strut around the Aviva chatting about his funding of the FAI management team or why the other person also lambasted by the same Tribunal has no qualms about putting his name on a ballot paper – and can have thousands of people vote for him regardless!

This week we watched as Minister Leo Varadkar told us that he believes that anyone availing of State services who dares to criticise them publicly should have their most confidential personal details become fair game in the public sphere.

He believes it so strongly that he wants to bring forward new legislation which would enable him to do it.

You see according to Minister Varadkar these are the real issues we need to concern ourselves with, vulnerable people, reliant on State services, daring to speak out and criticise them, or to have the audacity to try to take a bit of control of their child’s future.

These are the people who need to be intimidated and silenced lest they make a mockery of our State.

Ironically the outlet owned by the same person who had such grave findings made against him by Moriarty, had no hesitation in becoming the Minister’s hatchet for this particular punishment beating on the latest vulnerable person who dared to get a bit uppity about their own life on the margins of society.

If only such dogged ‘reporters’ could give the same tenacity to the Moriarty findings, or the Cregan Inquiry into Siteserv we’d be a lot better served.

While in Rio the Brazilian police get on with the job of policing, our lads have, guess what…yup, they’ve set up an inquiry. Cue hands being wrung and costs to the State accruing rapidly.

Ah yeah, it’s another Irish white-collar investigation. We could win 10 Golds in that category, no doubt.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

 kate

Kate Fitzgerald

On this day in 2011, Kate Fitzgerald was found dead at her Dublin home having apparently taken her own life. She was 25.

Kate was a Broadsheet commenter and an unusually sincere one. Amid thousands of made-up identities and goofy avatars, she used her own name and headshot (pic above).

America-born, she was chairperson of the US Democrats Abroad and a public relations executive who had shown great promise as a serious journalist.

But, as the controversy following her death would demonstrate, Kate was only ever an outsider and her reputation expendable. Against the public image of those that mattered, she simply didn’t matter.

Overleaf, observing our strict ‘no commenter left behind’ policy, and with access for the first time to correspondence, emails, texts and phone records, we have sought to find out what happened between Kate Fitzgerald and her high-profile employer, the reasons the Irish Times edited her final words and why she matters now.

 

Continue reading

mckay

derek

From top: Jamie Bryson watches Daithí McKay giving testimony to Stormont’s Finance Committee; Derek Mooney

The recent Stormont resignations are an indication of the level of strict and unfaltering discipline that still operates within Sinn Féin.

Derek Mooney writes:

If there is one thing the Provos do well, it is commemorations. Give them the slightest reason and out come the banners, wreathes, black polo-necks, replica uniforms and the gang is ready to march anywhere.

So zealous are they to remember and memorialise that the objects of their commemoration do not even require any direct connection. All that is needed is a rallying cry, a route map, a bit of media attention and they are all set to go.

It is therefore curious, given this penchant for marking the contribution and sacrifice of others, that neither former Sinn Féin M.L.A. Daithí McKay nor Sinn Féin activist Thomas O’Hara can expect to find their colleagues publicly commemorating them anytime soon.

Last week, McKay resigned his Stormont seat and O’Hara was suspended as a Sinn Féin member after the Irish News accused McKay, then chair of Stormont’s Finance committee, of arranging for O’Hara to coach a witness due to appear at McKay’s committee in September 2015.

The witness, loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, was there to give evidence about allegations of political corruption linked to Nama’s £1.3 billion “Project Eagle” sale of Northern Ireland property.

At the Committee hearing Bryson made allegations of kickbacks to a senior politician and, at the conclusion of his evidence, accused then Northern Ireland Peter Robinson of being that politician.

This is in line with the advice Bryson received from O’Hara on Sept 19th in their Twitter direct message exchanges:

O’Hara: When talking about Robinson refer to him as ‘Person A’. So say all you have to say about him referring to him as Person A. Then in your final line say: Person A is Peter Robinson MLA. Means that the committee cannot interrupt you and means that you don’t have to say robbos name until the very last second. So then it’s job done!

Shortly after the Bryson evidence, McKay was at the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee on October 1 to discuss his committee’s investigations into the Project Eagle deal.

Responding to a specific question from Deputy Shane Ross on Bryson’s evidence and why the NI Finance Committee had decided to call him, McKay replied:

“It is well known that he [Bryson] has blogged at some length on this. It is also well known that he appears to have a lot of material which some believe may have been fed to him from another source. It was an issue of debate for the committee. What the committee agreed to do was to set a bar. The bar that has been set for him and future witnesses is that they have to prove that they have some connection to the terms of reference of the inquiry.”

Oh the irony of McKay talking about Bryson being “fed” and his setting the bar high.

So, why does any of this matter?

Well, there is more to this episode than just dodgy goings on by Sinn Féin at Stormont. Nama’s Project Eagle was the single biggest property sale in Irish history.

The investigation by Stormont’s Finance Committee was supposed to establish the truth behind the accusations of wrong doing.

Perhaps that Stormont Committee was never going to be able to uncover the truth behind the deal and expose whose fingers were in the till, but as the SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood, has pointed out:

“Sinn Féin’s interference in that democratic investigation has only served the purposes of those who are alleged to have corruptly benefited from the Project Eagle deal in the first place”.

It is hard to imagine that was Sinn Féin’s primary intention, yet it is the likely outcome of it.

So why, after months of posturing and calling for a full public investigation of this massive property deal, would Sinn Féin undermine an element of that investigation?

Were they just eager to get Robinson’s name on the record or could they have had other pressing political considerations at the time?

At around this this time last year senior PSNI officers were linking a murder in east Belfast with the Provisional IRA. That killing was thought to have been in revenge for a killing in May.

We are now expected to believe that undermining of what is a very legitimate public concern was all done by two lone wolves: McKay and O’Hara without any input, sanction or direction from others? Really?

The current N.I. Finance Minister, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has described the contacts between Bryson and the Sinn Féin officials as “inappropriate”.

He denies any involvement with or knowledge of their communications, though he was a member of the McKay committee when Bryson gave his evidence and was even mentioned twice in the O’Hara/Bryson exchanges.

If the positions were reversed down here and it was a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil Minister facing such questions, it is hard to imagine Messrs McDonald, Doherty or Ó Broin being quiet as phlegmatic and dismissive as Ó Muilleoir appears in his statement this morning.

The fact that both McKay and O’Hara have so readily been thrown under the bus without even a whimper from either is not only a testament to their loyalty and commitment but an indication of the level of strict and unfaltering discipline that still operates within Sinn Féin.

Can you imagine a T.D., Senator or Councillor in any other party being so ready to walk away so silently?

No, me neither.

While it is tempting to speculate that Michéal, Enda or Brendan might yearn to have such command and mastery over their flocks, I suspect they are content to forego such control as they see the bigger picture and know that democratic accountability is not well served by such martial docility.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Top pic: Irish News

badsanta

 

What you may need to know

1. Billy Bob Thornton – Actor, filmmaker, singer-songwriter, epic haircut in Fargo, six times married*. ..This man works harder than Miriam O’Callaghan’s child minder and here he is back as Willie in Bad Santa 2, The sequel to 2003’s dark and cynical yet utterly hilarious Ba…. Well you’ve probably already guessed what it’s a sequel to.

2 Alongside Elf (2003) and the same year’s Love Actually (yeah Love Actually, I said it, I love Hugh Grant, I’m a fool to myself) Bad Santa is one of the great Christmas movies imho And the storyline this time sees him reunite with his sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

5. The movie seems to have had a troubled production as it’s been in development since 2009 however as an eternal optimist I’d like to think they’ve just been working hard to perfect their craft rather than the more likely awful alternative.

6. It’s directed by Mark Waters, the director of Mean Girls (think Broadsheet comments section with American accents) who surprisingly didn’t have to hand back his director’s badge after 2014’s Vampire Academy.

7. Sadly there’ll be no Bernie Mac this time round as he’s deader than the plants in Pat Hickey’s holiday home, but on a brighter note they have drafted in Christina Hendricks,
and Oscar winner Kathy Bates also stars as Thornton’s mother, despite being only
Seven years older than him in real life.

Bertie’s verdict: If it’s half as good as the first one it will pass a couple of hours pleasantly enough.

Bertie Blenkinsop

* SIX times married. Law of averages we’ll all eventually date either Billy Bob or Taylor Swift. Knowing my luck I’ll get Billy Bob.