Author Archives: Bodger

Andreas-Lubitz-DEE_3247465b

Andreas Lubitz competing in a Lufthansa marathon in 2013

…To conclude that his [Andreas Lubitz]  role in the [Germanwings] crash was the automatic consequence of any history of mental illness would be irresponsible and damaging. There has been no suggestion that males should be prohibited from becoming pilots, that Germans are unfit to fly, or that 27-year-olds should not be let loose in the cockpit. Only one factor has been picked over: Lubitz’s mental health.

The truth is that people with depression are all around us – they are our teachers and solicitors; our plumbers and health professionals. Data obtained following a recent freedom of information request revealed that more than 40,000 NHS staff took sick leave as a result of stress, anxiety and depression in 2014. Up to 20% of those are likely to be medical doctors; indeed, doctors are significantly more likely to experience depression than the general population. Having depression does not necessarily make you unfit to work, but, based upon the headlines in many of today’s papers you could be forgiven for thinking that it does.

Don’t blame depression for the Germanwings tragedy (Masuma Rahim, Guardian)

Andreas Lubitz hid illness: Everything we know on Friday about Germanwings plane crash co-pilot (Telegraph)

(Wolfgang Nass/BILD)

Thanks Spaghetti Hoop

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From top: Sylda Fleming; Eileen Rowder; above from left: Jenny Cairns; Mel Cairns, Ken Cairns and Stephen Cairns.

The Cairns family.

Purveyors of distinctive defiant tricolours for more than half a century.

Mark writes:

Prospect Designs company off Camden Street in Dublin have been making flags for over fifty years and are the official manufacturer of the Irish flags.  A family-run business Ken Cairns said anytime you see a Government Minister in their office with the Irish flag behind them, also the flags for the President’s office and the flag flying at the top of the GPO it was made in Prospect Designs. They’ve produced Irish flags which have ended up on Mount Everest, in the North Pole, in the Palaces of Arabian Princes and even in outer space. And also the  famous ‘Angela Merkel thinks we’re working’ flag during Euro 2012…

Prospect Designs

(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)

denis-O-brien111-539x2870008ce60-642From top: Denis O’Brien: Catherine Murphy TD

You may recall how Catherine Murphy, Independent TD for North Kildare, has been asking questions of Finance Minister Michael Noonan in the Dáil about IBRC’s sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien bought it for €45.4million cash while Siteserv owed Anglo €150million.

The sale involved IBRC writing off €100million of Siteserv’s debt with €5million distributed to Siteserv’s shareholders.

After the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien, GMC Sierra won a State contract to install water meters. GMC Sierra is comprised of GMC Utilities Group and Sierra Support Services Group. Sierra is a subsidiary of Siteserv.

It was previously reported that Australian hedge fund Anchorage Capital offered a higher price – €52million – but that ‘elements of the offer were considered less attractive then the O’Brien bid’.

And that French company Altrad claimed it was denied the opportunity to make an offer for Siteserv – saying it had been prepared to offer €60million – but that it was ‘effectively denied the opportunity because its representative was told the Irish group was not for sale’.

Last December, Ms Murphy raised her concerns about GMC Sierra’s water meter contract, in the Dáil, asking how could GMC Sierra be awarded a contract [by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan] for water meters even though it didn’t legally come into existence until July 15, 2013, 15 days after the closing date for bids.

She also asked Finance Minister Michael Noonan if he was satisfied that the IBRC acted in the best interests of the State when it sold Siteserv to Denis O’Brien/Millington.

In his reply, Mr Noonan stated that the IBRC acted “at an arm’s length to the State” and that “commercial decisions in relation to IBRC were solely a decision for the bank.”

In another question, Ms Murphy asked Minister Noonan to furnish her with the so-called Relationship Framework and Operational Protocol which oversaw the interactions between the Finance Minister and the former management and board [headed by Alan Dukes, former Fine Gael leader] of IBRC before it was liquidated.

Ms Murphy asked Mr Noonan to indicate to her the precise financial thresholds under the framework which would have “triggered mandatory consultation in advance of a transaction and/or disposal”.

In a reply on February 26 last, Minister Noonan confirmed to Ms Murphy that the bank would consult with the minister in relation to “any transaction which resulted in an adverse impact on total regulatory capital of the bank of greater than €100million would require interaction between the minister and the IBRC”.

Further to this, Ms Murphy then asked, if that was the protocol, why wasn’t Minister Noonan involved in discussions with IBRC, regarding the Siteserv sale.

In a reply, Minister Noonan stated that the protocol only came into effect on March 29, 2012 – 14 days after the Siteserv sale was completed.

Yesterday, Ms Murphy received three more answers from Minister Noonan in relation to records kept of meetings between Minister Noonan and IBRC in respect of the Siteserv sale; if IBRC extended a €10million credit facility to Siteserv between 2010 and its sale in 2012; and about IBRC’s reported rejection of a higher offer for Siteserv.

In his responses, Minister Noonan said the file notes, minutes and other records regarding his meetings with IBRC are currently the subject of Freedom of Information requests and will be released in due course.

As for the €10million credit facility, he said it wouldn’t have been typical for decisions around credit facilities to be disclosed or discussed with Department of Finance officials.

And, as for the higher offer for Siteserv, he said a company which made a higher bid made representations to the Department of Finance, prompting officials from the department to meet with IBRC. At this point, IBRC chairman – and former Fine Gael leader – Alan Dukes reassured the Department of Finance officials that the transaction was the best result for the State.

Minister Noonan also said minutes and records pertaining to these meetings are subject to Freedom of Information requests and will be made available upon their release.

However, here is a more detailed account of Ms Murphy’s questions and answers…

In her first question, Ms Murphy asked if records were kept of any meetings Minister Noonan or his officials held with IBRC in respect of the Siteserv sale; what questions he raised in respect of payments to the directors of Siteserv, in light of the debt that was written off; what questions he raised in respect of the number of tenders considered; why Millington’s bid was more deemed to be more advantageous to the State and the questions he raised in respect of this who were involved in the tender process.

In response, Minister Noonan said:

“As way of background on the transaction referred to in the question, following a meeting between officials from my Department and senior management of IBRC held on 31 May 2012 it was agreed that my Department would review this transaction to better understand the decisions taken by IBRC. This review took place, by way of a meeting between officials from my Department and senior management of IBRC, on 11 June 2012. Following this review, a further meeting was held on 25 July 2012, which I attended along with officials from my Department and senior management from IBRC. At this meeting, the transaction referred to in the question was discussed further, along with a number of other topics. A further meeting between the former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, John Moran, and the then CEO of IBRC took place in August 2012 at which this matter was further discussed.”

“The file notes, minutes and other records regarding these meetings are currently the subject of Freedom of Information requests and will be released in due course as part of these Freedom of Information requests should officials in my Department consider their full release to be appropriate. The Deciding Officer will make the materials released under these Freedom of Information requests available to you upon their release.”

“Until those decisions are made by the Deciding Officer, I can confirm that at the meeting which I attended on 25 July 2012, it was put to senior management of IBRC that officials in my Department had concerns with a number of decisions taken by IBRC in relation to the sale of the company referred to in the question including the decision to allow the sale process to be led by advisors of the company referred to in the question, the decision to exclude trade buyers, the timing of exclusivity and the payment to shareholders. Senior management of IBRC confirmed to me at this meeting that the transaction involving the company referred to in the question was thoroughly assessed by the Board of IBRC prior to them approving it and that the transaction was managed in the best manner possible to achieve the best result for the State.”

Secondly, Ms Murphy asked Minister Noonan if IBRC extended a €10million credit facility to Siteserv between 2010 and its sale in 2012; if he’d confirm that all due diligence procedures were followed in advance of the forwarding of this line of credit; and if the €10 million or outstanding portion thereof was specifically recovered through the sale of Siteserv or if the money was written down entirely.

In response, Minister Noonan said:

“In relation to the Deputy’s query on a €10 million credit facility extended to the company referred to in the question between 2010 and the sale of the company in 2012, I am advised that it would not have been typical for decisions around credit facilities to be disclosed or discussed with Department of Finance officials unless required under the Relationship Framework which governed interactions between the Bank and the Department of Finance as these activities typically would have been within the ordinary course of business for the Bank.”

“Officials in my Department have also contacted the Special Liquidators but they are unable to comment on individual cases as the information requested is confidential and it would not be appropriate for them to release such information. This being the case, I am unable to comment further on this matter.”

Finally, Ms Murphy asked Minister Noonan, if he’d confirm the media reports that IBRC had turned down a higher offer for Siteserv because one element of that proposal included a mandatory eight-week due diligence exercise.

She also asked if Minister Noonan was aware that if IBRC had chosen this reported bid, the new framework agreement would have been in place once the said eight-week period had expired. She then asked if he felt the sale of Siteserv was rushed and, if so, why.

In his response, Minister Noonan said:

“As part of parliamentary question 97 which was answered on 12 March 2015, the Deputy is aware of the process which was undertaken to introduce a revised Relationship Framework for IBRC and the reasons behind this.”

“In relation to the sale of the company referred to in the question, it was after representations made by an unsuccessful bidder in the process and subsequent meetings between that party and officials in my Department that my officials met with IBRC and undertook a review of this transaction. Following this review, my officials were made aware that the transaction involving the sale of the company referred to in the question was run by the company referred to in the question along with its advisors. This review raised concerns with the quality of some of the decisions taken in respect of this transaction, including, among others, that a higher bid for the company referred to in the question was received after entering into an exclusivity agreement with the ultimate winning bidder.”

“In light of concerns stemming from the review of the transaction by officials in my Department, I subsequently met with IBRC’s Chairman [Alan Dukes] and CEO to discuss this transaction. The Chairman and CEO confirmed to me that the transaction process and its terms had been thoroughly assessed by the IBRC Board and that the transaction was managed in the best manner possible to achieve the best result for the State.”

“The file notes, minutes and other records regarding the review of this transaction by my officials are currently the subject of Freedom of Information requests and will be released in due course as part of these Freedom of Information requests should the Deciding Officer consider their full release to be appropriate. The Deciding Officer will make the materials released under these Freedom of Information requests available to you upon their release.”

You Want Transparency?

Denis O’Brien, Fine Gael And The Water Meter Deal

‘I’m Getting Fed Up Of The Constant Questioning From Catherine Murphy’

Thanks Catherine Murphy

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A nifty breakdown of the VFX on Amazon Prime/BBC Victorian-era drama Ripper Street, including a eye-popping train depot ‘before and after’ (top and centre).

Made at Dublin’s post-production house Screen Scene.

Keith writes:

We’re delighted to report that Screen Scene has just received a BAFTA TV Craft Award for our work on Season Three of Ripper Street. VFX Supervisor Ed Bruce, 3D Supervisor John O’Connell and VFX Co-ordinator Nicholas Murphy have been nominated in the Special, Visual and Graphics category at this year’s craft awards, which will take place on April 26.
Our VFX work can next be seen on Season five of Game of Thrones, which will premiere this April on HBO and Sky Atlantic, while our upcoming projects include ITV’s ‘The Frankenstein Chronicles‘, Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Room’ and the screen adaptation of Ken Follett’s best selling novel ‘A Dangerous Fortune’.

Screen Scene VFX Nominated For Bafta (ScreenScene)