Tag Archives: Fionnan Sheahan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and editor of the Irish Independent Fionnan Sheahan

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

On the show’s Gathering slot – Mr O’Rourke was joined by Fionnan Sheahan, editor of the Irish Independent, Sarah Carey, a columnist with Times Ireland edition, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen and Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone.

During the slot, they discussed the Strategic Communications Unit.

Readers will recall how a series of recent articles about the unit, by Ellen Coyne, in the Times Ireland edition, has led to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he may disband the unit.

From this morning’s exchange…

Fionnan Sheahan: “… a centralised unit to go about taking major policy initiative and actually explaining them over a concerted period of time. So if there are, if it was valid to set it up in the first place…I’m failing to see why Leo Varadkar is now backing off and saying ‘well, you know, we have to get rid of the whole thing’.”

Sean O’Rourke: “Well he’s not quite saying that. I mean he’s sort of holding it out there as a prospect that has to be looked at.”

Sheahan: “But I think he misses the point, when he attacks the Opposition for bringing this up – he’s actually missing the point about the nature of politics at the moment…”

“It is actually, there’s a valid reason why Micheal Martin and other Opposition leaders brought this up and it is about pure politics.

“The next election is not really about Fine Gael versus them, it’s about undermining Leo Varadkar. He is the one who is currently in the position where he is racing ahead of his own party in terms of his popularity ratings.

His biggest problem this week is not actually the Strategic Communications Unit, it’ll play out in the Premiere Hall in Thurles tomorrow night when Fine Gael are trying to pick a candidate for the next general election. There are seven candidates in the field, none of whom are regarded as a frontrunner, none of whom actually, people on the ground are saying, are going to win a seat regardless and they probably won’t be the primary candidate.

“I think that’s Leo’s problem. He has, he’s found himself in a position where his big issue is going to be getting candidates who can actually -…”

O’Rourke: “Ok, look, to come to you Sarah Carey, Brian Murphy, the Taoiseach’s most senior advisor – and this emerged in an email that Hugh O’Connell had in the [Sunday] Business Post last Sunday – he says the costs could be enormous and can easily be spun, however inaccurately as a vanity project. So they knew what they were letting themselves in for here.

Sarah Carey: “Yeah, they did and it’s the job of political advisors to see around corners and to see how something that you might want to do could be criticised. Now I agree with Fionnan, in terms of the need for a strategic communications unit to roll out Government policies, exactly like that auto-enrolment.

“And indeed yesterday, I was at a seminar at the ESRI about behavioural economics and healthcare and how the HSE is trying to do the same thing with changing how they communicate with people and with their users and strategic communications is actually vital to that.

“Of course the suspicion here is and was borne out somewhat by the way these Ireland 2040 ads were placed in newspapers in a commercial basis but were requested not to be treated as commercial but to look more like editorial that therefore this unit is actually just being used to promote Fine Gael and so they absolutely need to be way more careful about that – that it really is seen as Governmental projects and not Fine Gael promotion.”

Hmmm.

It should also be noted that last week, Ms Coyne, speaking about when the story broke, told RTE:

“…the initial reaction from Leo Varadkar was to claim that my story and similar reporting by Justine McCarthy in The Sunday Times was inaccurate.

“That led to a very heated exchange in the Dail during Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday and up to the unbelievable moment on Wednesday when Leo Varadkar went into the Dail and said on the public record that, actually, my story had been filled with anonymous sources who were secretly Fianna Fail candidates which is completely untrue.”

In addition…

Readers may recall how Ms Coyne, in the Times Ireland edition on February 27, reported:

“A drive to cut hospital admissions during the winter flu crisis was among the publicly funded campaigns that local papers were instructed to present as a news story, The Times can reveal.

The HSE was given final approval over journalists’ copy during the initiative, run by Mediaforce, the same agency used by the government for Ireland 2040 and Creative Ireland campaigns.

“To create advertorial content, local newspaper journalists were sent to interview staff at a number of HSE injury units. The interview was arranged by the media agency. It is understood that in at least one case, the journalists had been working in-house while others were freelancers.

Mediaforce told journalists that the advertisements should be laid out like a normal news page. Yesterday, The Times revealed that the same firm told editorial staff that advertorials had to look like normal news stories. Correspondence seen by The Times shows that after journalists wrote the interview it was laid out on the page, often labelled as a “special feature,” and the HSE was allowed to request amendments.”

HSE campaign to cut hospital admissions during winter flu crisis pushed as genuine news (Ellen Coyne, The Times Ireland edition)

Previously: “They’re Loud And They’re Growing”

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DAVOS-KLOSTERS/SWITZERLAND, 31JAN09 - Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University, USA, at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 31, 2009. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch

From top: Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and economist Joseph Stiglitz

This morning.

On the Today with Seán O’Rourke show.

Fine Gael Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy; former IMF director Donal Donovan, and Irish Independent editor Fionnan Sheahan were on the panel to talk about the Apple tax ruling.

Later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz spoke to Mr O’Rourke.

Grab a tay.

Richard Bruton: “The principle, that the Irish Revenue authorities ruled on in 1991 and in 2007 was a standard approach. The principle that they enunciated was that a company, based in Ireland, should pay tax on its Irish activities and that was the ruling that was applied but what the EU is trying to now used state aid rules to do is to say that Ireland should become the international policeman for dealing with worldwide problems where companies are seen to play one tax code off against another. Very specifically, in relation to the US situation as you know, they offer a deferral tax system where the liability for tax in the US, which is obviously legitimate ultimately by companies like Apple, where all their research and development goes on – they allow a deferral so that tax is not brought back to the US authorities. But the EU itself has recognised that this €13billion is not available to Ireland because the US, it recognises that the US has a legitimate interest in getting access to this tax revenue and, indeed, their deferral rules would see that revenue taxable in the US and Apple have said that so Donal [O’Donovan] is simply wrong. The [EU] Commission isn’t authoritative on this issue, they are seeking to break entirely new ground…”

Sean O’Rourke: “Well no, what they’re doing is using the rules on the single market which prohibit member states from tailoring special inducements to incur rich companies to locate operations on their soil and the very fact that we allowed Apple, and we connived with Apple nationally, not necessarily breaking any of our own rules, but we allowed them to use Ireland as the basis for this, effectively, non-existent headquarters – no employees, no activity, to put money offshore and to avoid paying tax. It stinks to high heaven and we’ve been caught out on it and maybe we should just accept that fact.”

Bruton: “No you’re wrong, Seán. Ireland has a substantial substance from companies like Apple, 350, 000 over all. In the case of Apple, it’s 6,000 employees and they have paid tax on their earnings in Ireland.”

O’Rourke: “But why do we allow, why do we allow the to pay virtually no tax on their worldwide earnings or 90% of them…”

Bruton: “We apply…”

O’Rourke: “Why do we facilitate that?”

Bruton: “Don’t talk me down when I’m trying to answer….”

Later

Bruton: “The EU wants to make Ireland some sort of international tax policeman which would be entirely negative to our interests and so many countries invested here.”

Paul Murphy: “…This argument by Fianna Fáil and the Government is utterly disingenuous and dishonest. The idea is that somehow Ireland stumbled into this situation of being a tax haven and different companies are managed together in the different loopholes of different countries and they all just happened to set up in Ireland. It was designed to do that. That’s the point of the tax ruling in 1991. So it isn’t about the [EU] Commission now asking Ireland to be a tax policeman in retrospect, because in 1991 and 2007, a ruling was designed to say to Apple: we don’t mind if you come here and you set up Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe. And you have head offices that have nobody working for them whatsoever and you funnel through $22billion of profits a year, in the case of Apple Sales International and, don’t worry, we won’t charge you tax on it. So we didn’t stumble into this situation, it was a designed thing and now the Government is trying to like make things not clear because the Government has a real problem on it.”

O’Rourke: “Donal, you don’t often agree or nod when Paul Murphy is speaking but you’re nodding vigorously there.”

Donal Donovan: “Well, you know, you’re right, I don’t often agree with Joseph Stiglitz either but actually I do think there’s a great deal of truth in what Paul says. This is something that has not happened by accident. This is a long-plan strategy and we did remove parts of this last year, and the year before but we did so at the point of a gun. I mean Minister [for Finance] Noonan was quite right when he removed the ‘double Irish’ and his [inaudible] residency but he waited until he had absolutely overwhelming pressure arising for the US and elsewhere and public opinion. And I think we’ve been on the back foot of this, Sean. We have reacted when we’ve been pushed into reacting, there’s no doubt about it that we have not been proactive in earlier years in trying to change the situation. And really, it’s a much bigger issue than the technical question of the legal matters who approved what in 1991. Really this has become a political and moral issue. We’ve seen ever since the US Congress held hearings, we’ve seen it with Panama Papers, Lux Leaks, everything, our 26% [rise in GDP] figure is related to this. All of this, the world is changing and, again, I wouldn’t always agree with Fintan O’Toole on many things but, this morning, he said we have to be on the right side of history and we should get on the right side of history.”

O’Rourke: “So, Richard Bruton… if the situation is changing, and you’ve highlighted yourself how the Government had introduced measures last year, if the situation is changing, why don’t we sort of shrug our shoulders and say to Apple, ‘look, sorry guys, the world is moving along, you’ve got a massive cash pile, something in the order of, is $230billion, we have to take a sizeable slice out of it’, the rules have changed and maybe we’re not going to lose a load of jobs if we do that.”

Donovan: “Well I think that’s right because the arrangements that gave rise to this, you’re absolutely right, have been changed already so it’s not that we’re relying on this to continue in the future… we should do the right thing and make up for it.”

O’Rourke: “Could we not take that approach, Richard Bruton?”

Bruton: “No, because we have established in the OECD a process whereby these sort of reforms will be done on a collective basis, with countries acting together and that is the approach that has already brought the sort of changes we’re talking about where, the way in which companies can aggressively play one tax off, one country off another is being wound back. There is numerous examples of where that occurs in the treatment of interest, the treatment of capital, the treatment of company resident, the treatment of intellectual property, the treatment of deferral of tax and so on and what we have to do is collectively sit down and work out agreements that will be applied universally. What the EU wants to do is to make Ireland the international policeman – to go out and say to the US, ‘you should not be applying deferral system’, ‘you should be collecting money from Apple straight away’ so Ireland should go and collect that money….Let’s not forget that if the word of the Irish authorities, independent Revenue Commissioners, independent of Government, if that cannot be relied upon, on companies who have invested and employed 350,000 people in Ireland, up and down the country…”

O’Rourke: “But we gave our word and then showed we were up to no good. We were conniving with these guys to avoid paying tax…”

Bruton: “That is precisely what we will be fighting to appeal against. There is no, it is not the case that we were conniving with anyone. We made legitimate rulings with the Revenue Commissioners made independently and they offered their opinion and companies have made their decision…”

O’Rourke: “But to quote [European Competition] Commissioner Margrethe Vestager yesterday, if my tax bill was 0.05%, falling to 0.005%, I would think I would need to have a second look.”

Bruton: “But those are bogus numbers because what that ruling is saying is that the activities of Apple in the US, where they do all their research and development, their manufacturing in China, should be taxed, that tax should be collected in Ireland. There is no basis for that, the US authorities will collect tax from Apple on the so-called deferral system that they have and, as you know, this is hotly debated in the US, how they should reform that and whether they should have instruments to bring that money…”

Later

Donovan: “I just want to say…if the Minister Bruton could say: when these rulings were issued in 1991 and 2007, and I accept that they were rulings by the Revenue, did the Revenue check with Brussels at the time, as to whether these rulings were, or would be considered consistent with state aid rules? Because if we went ahead and did them, and issued them without getting the OK from Brussels, then we can’t really complain if, later, Brussels, says: ‘well, no I’m sorry you did these rulings but they were illegal.

O’Rourke: “Minister?”

Bruton: “These are rulings on tax matters and the Irish authorities took a view that is absolutely common across tax world that you are taxed in the jurisdiction on the activities in your jurisdiction. The issue then around tax structures that companies have – that involves much more elaborate collaboration across the system and we’ve sent up vents to precisely address that, this process at the OECD…”

Talk over each other

Murphy: “Minister, you know you’re being dishonest there, you do. You know that the thing was set up to facilitate it, that’s the point of the tax rulings and I think the Government’s spin around this is designed to make it seem all so very complicated right.”

Bruton: “That is not the case.”

Murphy: “And the reality is extremely clear: one of the biggest, multinational corporations in the world didn’t pay tax to the tune of €13billion-plus. It’ll get close to €19billion when you add on interest to Ireland and we are owed that tax. Now, Government would like to make it seem. Yesterday they said, first of all, well, at least the Commission has given us a clean bill of health in terms of Google and Facebook, the Commission had to come out and say, ‘no, we haven’t, we haven’t looked at them’. Then, the Government said, ‘but sure even if we got the money, we could only spend it on paying down the debt’, the Commission came out and said, ‘no, that’s not the case, you can spend it on capital expenditure. And the Government has a major political problem – this is their bank guarantee moment..”

O’Rourke: “And this is my cue to bring in [Irish Independent editor] Fionnan Sheahan. Just speaking of the Government’s political problem. Do you think they’re going to give us a decision today based on Michael Noonan’s recommendation – an immediate decision to appeal?”

Fionnan Sheahan: “No. I think, as Donal has said, they will take time to assess the ruling. You said at the start, the Government’s decision was to appeal – that was half the government the other half was saying something very different. And if you look at the government’s handling of this: the European Commission versus our Government has been a bit like {Danish TV series] Borgen versus Ballymagash [fictional rural town in RTÉ’s Hall’s Pictorial Weekly]. We have Margrethe Vestager basically cleaning us out for an hour yesterday on the steps of the European Commission building, quite authoritatively setting out her case on the basis of the European Commission’s ruling and then we have Michael Noonan basically floundering around, talking about all folksy tales about seed potatoes and so on and so forth. Well, to give you an old folksy analogy to match that: she ate him without salt. And I think there are major questions about Michael Noonan’s handling of this entire affair over recent months.”

Meanwhile, later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz also spoke to Mr O’Rourke, saying:

“I think they’re [the Irish Government] wrong [to appeal]. I think, it was an interesting discussion [above]. I thought, to put it frankly, what the minister was saying is all utter balderdash. The fact is that you were encouraging tax avoidance, you knew it, let’s not make any pretence about it. You got  a few jobs at the cost of stealing revenues away from countries around the world and that’s the kind of activity that has to be stopped.

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 13.20.35

Last night.

On RTÉ’s Six One.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan spoke to Brian Dobson about the ruling.

During their discussion, Mr Noonan said:

This isn’t a moral issue. This is a financial and a taxation issue.”

There you go.

Watch back in full here

sheahan:burkeFionnan Sheahan (left) and Cormac Bourke,

Independent.ie reports

Fionnan Sheahan, INM’s Group Political Editor, has been appointed as Editor of the Irish Independent. Cormac Bourke, Executive Editor at the Irish Independent, has been appointed as Editor of the Sunday Independent. Both editors will report to INM Editor-in-chief Stephen Rae and their appointments will begin with immediate effect.

This changes everything.

EVERYTHING.

INM appoints two new editors to Irish Independent and Sunday Independent (Independent.ie)

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Jubilation in the INM newsroom this morning.

Via INM

He’s kind of a big deal.

Movember.ie

Earlier: The Media And Irish Water Protests

FionnannnYou may recall the row as big as a fight between Irish Independent political editor Fionnan Sheahan and Vincent Browne on TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.

It continued backstage.

In the presence of his producer, Browne said to me: “As a result of your disruption to the programme tonight, I will do everything to ensure you never appear on here again.”
He raised his voice.
I raised mine.
He pointed a finger at me.
I pointed a finger at him.
He shouted at me.
I shouted at him.
He swore at me.
I swore at him.
Neither side can particularly claim any credit from the incident – I’m man enough to admit that.
The expletive-ridden conversation would definitely have generated quite a lot of YouTube hits if it had been recorded.
He walked off in a huff to his desk in the corner, repeatedly saying: “F*** off.”
My parting shot was to retort: “You can give it but you can’t f***ing take it, Vincent.”
After leaving the TV3 studios, I pulled the car in to ring Fiach Kelly [whose honour he was defending], who found the entire episode hilarious.
As I related the events of the night to him, I began writing down notes of the exchange with Browne, while it was still fresh in my mind, as I anticipated he would deny banning me from the show.

Fionnan Sheahan.

Like all bullies, Vincent Browne can give it out but he just can’t take it (Independent.ie)

VINNN

“[Sheahan] said [on air] I hated the Independent and was pro-Irish Times. This went on for a while. After the programme, I said I’d like to talk to him. I was going to say, ‘You cannot come out here and hijack the programme to raise issues not relevant to what we’re discussing.’
I started to say this to him when we went outside and he started shouting.
I said to him that obviously his participation in the programme had caused great stress and I would attempt to ensure there was going to be no repetition of this. He continued to shout at me and I told him what to do with himself. That was it.
“Then, he made a big thing that he was barred from the programme. He’s not barred. We are happy to have him on any time provided we’re satisfied he’s in a fit condition to take part.
“We’d need written affirmation to this effect from three psychiatrists and four obstetricians.”

Vincent Browne

Interview with Liam Fay in The Sunday Times (behind paywall)

Screengrabs: TV3

vbrowne:sheahan

Further to Monday night’s ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’, which opened with this confrontation (above) with Independent political editor, Fionnan Sheahan..

The difference of opinion continued after the show went off air and Mr Browne told Fionnan he would do everything to ensure he never appeared on the show again.

Asked to comment on whether Mr Sheahan was no longer wanted as a guest on his show, Mr Browne replied: “What I want on the programme or don’t want on the programme is irrelevant.”
When asked again whether Mr Sheahan was no longer wanted as a guest, he said: “You will have to talk to the producer about that.”

“I am enjoying the notoriety of being the only guest to be banned from the ‘Vincent Browne Show’,” said Fionnan last night.

 

Vincent Browne tries to gag our political editor Fionnan Sheahan (Irish Independent)

Previously: Lose The Hattitude