Independent 4 Change TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality last October
Independent 4 Change TD Mick Wallace, in The Irish Times, writes:
Not surprisingly, the weak legislation establishing the Policing Authority has resulted in a weak Policing Authority in practice. The body was supposed to have responsibility for senior appointments from the outset, but this was delayed till January 2017. In the vacuum, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has appointed more than 40 senior officers.
The Garda Commissioner still remains exclusively accountable to the Minister for Justice, and the Police Authority cannot even issue policy directives. Does that sound independent? Shockingly, after 10 days, the authority broke its silence to endorse the Garda Commissioner, which amounts to an effective slap in the face to Sgt McCabe and other whistleblowers.
…O’Sullivan’s statements in public are at complete odds with her actions in private. In October 2016, she told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that “anyone who brings forward issues and concerns will be supported”.
But Garda Nick Keogh made his protected disclosure on May 8th, 2014, to the then confidential recipient, Judge Pat McMahon. Following that, he was subjected to five internal investigations.
Readers will recall how Garda Keogh has been on sick leave since December 2015.
During Leaders’ Questions, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace named other Garda whistleblowers.
He also claimed that, in early 2014, a journalist contacted Supt Dave Taylor, to tell him that he had been in contact with the family of the girl at the centre of the false abuse allegation against Sgt McCabe.
Mr Wallace said the journalist told Supt Taylor “he had a great story and that it was going to be really damaging for McCabe”. Mr Wallace also said, following this conversation, Supt Taylor contacted both Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan.
From Mr Wallace’s speech in the Dáil…
“Taoiseach, I think the public inquiry should have a disciplinary, a criminal investigation running in parallel, run by people, policed from outside the country. A lot of bad things have happened.
“You said there Taoiseach that everybody has the presumption of innocence. You’ve a short memory. For several years, according to the Fine Gael government, Maurice McCabe was guilty until proven innocent.”
“Noirin O’Sullivan talked yesterday of a campaign of false accusations against her. Is she saying that Maurice McCabe was lying? David Taylor? Keith Harrison? Nick Keogh? Sinead Killian? Eve Doherty? Dermot O’Connell? And others? Are they all liars?”
“If she genuinely didn’t know how whistleblowers were treated. If she genuinely didn’t, she’s not fit for the job anyway, if she didn’t know what was going on in the force.
“With the O’Higgins inquiry, she instructed her legal team to give false evidence to the inquiry until Maurice McCabe’s tape turned it upside down. If she was innocent, why didn’t she sanction or discipline the two guards involved? Why? It’s a long time ago?
“How can you explain how Nick Keogh – when he reports Garda involvement in the heroin trade in Athlone, how come he faced five internal investigations in that same year and none before that? Why?”
“And the superintendent that Nick Keogh accused of bullying and harassing him, why was he put on the promotion list? Why”
“In 2014, the Garda Commissioner appointed an Assistant Commissioner to look at Keith Harrison’s complaint and the Assistant Commissioner leaked information back to the Superintendent that the subject of the complaint.
“And then, on foot of a different complaint, involving the very same superintendent, the same Assistant Commissioner was asked to carry out an investigation.
“And, if all that wasn’t bad enough, when GSOC, following its investigation into the second matter, asked for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against An Garda Siochana, who does Noirin appoint over it? You’d never guess: the same Assistant Commissioner.”
“A journalist contacted David Taylor in early 2014. He was press officer. The journalist told him that he’d been to the family of the girl at the centre of the sexual allegations of Maurice McCabe. He told her that he had a great story and that it was going to be really damaging for McCabe. Taylor texted [Martin] Callinan, texted [Noirin] O’Sullivan and told them the good news.”
“Callinan texted him, to welcome it. Noirin decided to ring him and have a good chat about it. A good chat about it. Now minister, Taoiseach, this is the woman who said, a couple of weeks ago, on the Sean O’Rourke programme, ‘I’ve absolutely no knowledge, nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana’.”
“The press officer, David Taylor, who was given back his job yesterday, said, this is a quote, ‘everybody in headquarters knew about the campaign against Maurice McCabe’. Everybody, seemingly Taoiseach, except Noirin. What do you think?”
You’ll recall a post from earlier concerning a Dáil debate about the establishment of Commission of Investigation into Nama.
During his opening statement, before leaving the Dáil chamber, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said:
“Throughout the Opposition’s statements today, there may well be bounds for other Nama transactions to be reviewed…I have little doubt that the calls to change Nama’s mandate, or even halt Nama’s activities, will continue. A change of mandate is outside the scope of a Commission of Investigation but it will attempt to summarise the position as, unfortunately, public discourse rarely captures what the agency can and cannot do.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Dáil he received a folder on Monday concerning a site in Spencer Dock, Dublin 1.
“That is a site that was originally to be developed, owned by CIE, developed by, it was going to be developed by Treasury Holdings, who couldn’t get…I rang Nama today to try and get the par value of the original loans, pertaining to the site and they couldn’t give me the answer. They said they might get back to me. But the, we’re talking in the hundreds and hundreds of millions.
“And that site is now commencing development again and it’s being talked about as being a €600million development. The developer, although Nama would not confirm this to me, and I asked them on the phone: who bought the site? Because we know from the last act that the original developers were not supposed to get their own loans back. Or that the sites, if you like, that, the sites pertaining to those loans. But the original developer was Treasury Holdings and it was reported, in October of last year, that Johnny Ronan, formerly of Treasury Holdings, was the preferred bidder in the bidding process which was launched last February 2016, where that portfolio, or that site, was put out on the market at a guide price of €50million, owned by CIE.
“But, CIE had an arrangement with Treasury Holdings. An arrangement was very seriously questioned and criticised at the time by Minister [Mary] O’Rourke, subsequently by Deputy [Pat] Rabbitte where there was, in fact, a report ordered by Minister O’Rourke into the whole deal between CIE and Treasury Holdings, on the grounds that Minister O’Rourke, at the time, and others, believed there were serious questions as to whether the public interest had been served in the deal that had been done between CIE and Treasury Holdings – as all CIE were going to get, for their site, was 17% of the sale value of any development or 17% of the rent. The rest was to go to Treasury Holdings, Johnny Ronan, [Richard] Barrett and so on.
“They obviously, they went into Nama – owing I think it was €2.6billion in total for Treasury Holdings, €1.67billion went into Nama.
“Now, the first question I have is: Johnny Ronan exited Nama, apparently paying off his €250million debt, but he now has the site again. Right? €250million, not €1.6billion, I don’t know exactly the breakdown in Treasury Holdings’ debt, but he has the site again.
“The guide price, €50million for that six-acre site. Now, comparisons of similar sites on the open market at the moment will suggest that per acre you should be paying around €20million per acre which is €120million. Not the reported, although I couldn’t get this confirmed by Nama either, the reported €42.5million that Ronan, backed by Colony – a big investment fund – who refinanced Ronan’s loans, are reported to have paid, although I can’t get the answer from Nama which I find extraordinary when I rang them this morning, ‘we can’t tell you how much was paid for the site, we can’t tell you who bought it’.
“But it was reported, in October, that it was €42.5million and it was Johnny Ronan, backed by Colony who bought it. Now if that’s true, if the comparable prices, per acre, are in the region of €20million – then it means we have sold a site, Nama sold a site worth €120million for €42.5million. That’s shocking. Absolutely shocking. And the developer who now has it, is the developer who originally went into Nama back in, when Treasury Holdings were taken over by Nama.
“At the time, just on the valuations, back in 2002, per acre down the [Dublin] docklands was €8m-€14million – that’s in 2002. Right? So, it’s very reasonable to assume that in the last surge in property values since then, that €20million is a reasonable valuation.”
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace also spoke during the debate, addressing his concerns to Fine Gael TD Andrew Doyle (above) as Minister Noonan had left the chamber.
Mr Wallace said he’s seen an affidavit made by former Nama employee Enda Farrell who, last year, was given a two-year suspended sentence after he was found to have leaked potentially sensitive information – and said the affidavit was “worrying”.
Amongst other things.
Mr Wallace said:
“Minister, this was moved from Thursday to Wednesday so Minister Noonan could be here. He’s not here. Now his contribution at the start was pathetic. The contribution that the PAC, chairman, wasn’t much better.
“The notion that the PAC are an investigative body is total rubbish. The C&AG [Comptroller and Auditor General] looked at one dimension of one sale and the PAC are looking at it. They can’t access Nama’s papers. They can’t possibly hold Nama to account. Nama went into the PAC eight times now and they said what they liked. It’s absolute rubbish.
“It’s four months since the Taoiseach agreed to establish a Commission of Investigation into the secret society that’s Nama. Since then, Nama have sold over €4billion in par value of loans to vulture funds and almost €3million worth of this loans went to their good friend Cerberus. I agree that the commission should begin with examining Project Eagle as its first module but the problems in Nama are sadly not unique to Nama’s northern Ireland loan portfolio. It’s imperative that any commission adopts a modular approach, similar to the IBRC investigation.
“The allegations made by Enda Farrell – a former Nama staff member – should be the second schedule. It seems Nama may have internally investigated some of Nama’s officials named by Farrell in his affidavit – who may have leaked confidential information or engaged in malpractice. These internal investigations should be made available to the commission.I have read his affidavit and I can tell you it’s worrying.
“If one looks at the assets they have purchased, the links back to Nama begin to appear. The forum building, the Dublin Observatory building, Harcourt Street, Windmall Lane, New Century House, the Central Quay – all these assets were in Nama and are now in the hands of Hibernia REIT, either through direct purchases or secondary deals.
“A fourth module should consist of an examination of any internal Nama investigations into Nama officials regarding the leaking of confidential information or alleged malpractice. And if the judge sees fit, to investigate any other allegations of unauthorised leaking.
“The Commission of Investigation should provide this initial report on Project Eagle within six months and the remaining modules within 12. And, most importantly, any report that’s made should be made public.
“Before I move back to Project Eagle, I would just like to put on the record that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s role, in relation to Nama, has been abused by the Government. The Taoiseach, at one stage, tried to tell us that the C&AG had staff within Nama, this had to be rebuked by the C&AG who said, ‘an impression being given that everything that moves in Nama is seen by, and examined, by somebody from my office is absolutely incorrect’.
“Minister Noonan recently tried to tell me that the C&AG would have called for a halt to Nama’s activities – had he felt it was warranted. Again, the C&AG rebuked it. He said that it was prohibited from expressing an opinion on the merits of policy.
“On an aside, I’d like to tell the minister that Cormac Butler, a financial consultant and a member of the Namaleaks team, has pointed out that Nama may not even hold a legal title to the assets transferred over from the Irish banks in 2009, given that when a bank is insolvent, the ECB automatically acquires control of its assets. If that is the case, it would mean that the ECB, not Nama, is the owner of the loans.
“We’ve been raising some of these issues with the minister and his department since last August but to little avail. Cormac Butler has also been making the point that when Wilbur Ross – Donald Trump’s secretary of congress nominee – purchased Bank of Ireland shares in 2011 and then flipped them in 2014, for a profit of €477million, he did so with the advantage of having access to the financial position of the bank which was not in the public domain, information which was not available to smaller shareholders.
“I’d like the minister to confirm or deny that his, that his officials are now aware that the activities of Wilbur Ross and his sale of Bank of Ireland shares is the subject of an investigation in the US. They do an odd one over there. They’re a little bit more fond of it than we are.
“To go back to Project Eagle. The sale stinks from start to finish. In late 2016, we travelled to Asia to meet a businessman named Barry Lloyd who had contacted us through our whistleblower site, Namaleaks.
“As early as December 2010, Frank Cushnahan had been trying to sell the Nama loan portfolio in one lot. He met with Barry Lloyd and told him he had been heavily engaged by Nama and that there were very substantial opportunities for major returns for anyone who could access international funds to acquire blocks of development assets from Nama.
“Barry continued to meet and engage with Cushnahan and representatives from Tughan’s solicitors throughout 2011 – with a view to secure Asian investors – but the proposed deal eventually fell through in April 2012. Barry Lloyd has signed an affidavit in the last week in Dublin and has met with the NCA [Britain’s National Crime Agency].
“In November 2012, Brown Rudnick met Cushnahan and Ian Coulter at Tughan’s office. By February 2013, they were sitting down with [Northern Ireland’s] Finance Minister Sammy Wilson. April 2013, Pimco were on the scene. By May 2013, they were meeting Peter Robinson. When Pimco was informed by Brown Rudnick that it was the northern Irish government’s preferred purchaser of Nama’s northern Irish loan portfolio, and still not even a price on it.
“We’re told that they didn’t meet Ronnie Hanna until September 2013. By December 2013, Hanna was haggling for an exclusive deal with Pimco, I wonder why. We then had some role-playing, pretending that it was going to be an open process.
“Lazard brought in, to supposedly manage the sale, they weren’t even allowed to value the portfolio. They weren’t even allowed to control the data room. And when Pimco pulled out, Nama didn’t even tell Lazard the reason, why? And they didn’t even attend the meeting in late March between Cerberus and Nama, why? But they were paid €4.3million for a few months’ work? A lot of money just for a bit of back combing.
“Hogan Lovells were brought in for legal advice. But Nama didn’t even ask them their advice, following Pimco’s admission of a fixer’s fee for the boys. Nama didn’t even ask their advice when they discovered that Cerberus had gone ahead and paid the €15million fixer’s fee anyway.
“Nama says they had a problem with Pimco, paying a fixer’s fee, so why didn’t they have a problem with Cerberus paying one? Just because the boys took Cushnahan’s name off the list? Seriously?
“Why did Nama refuse our FOI requests regarding their correspondence with Hogan Lovells? Nama agreed to pay Hogan Lovells €290,000 – ended up paying them €1.1million, for what?
“That Frank Cushnahan, Ronnie Hanna and Dave Watters were a cabal, making it all happen in the background is now beyond question. Frank Daly told the PAC [public accounts committee] last September that our key decision was to set a minimum price of €1.3billion for this portfolio. But they didn’t, Pimco set the price. Dave Watters did the business plans, Cushnahan pulled the strings and Ronnie Hanna fixed the price in Dublin.
“The reason that Nama fell foul of the C&AG was because the task of retrofit in the price led to them breaking their own rules. Of course, when Frank Cushnahan became unbackable, Nama decided to throw him under the bus and distance themselves from him as much as possible.
“But why did it take Nama until April 2016 – two years later – to even report him to SIPO. Why didn’t they report him under section 19 of the Criminal Justices Act or did they at all?
“We then began to hear NAMA tell us about how insignificant the NIAC was, so Cushnahan didn’t really matter at all. But Minister for Finance [Michael Noonan], on the 18th June, 2012 said:
‘I would like to thank Frank Cushnahan and Brown Rowntree for agreeing to continue serving on NAMA’s NIAC. I see this committee as having a very important role in assisting NAMA meet its obligations on both sides of the Border.’
“Then NAMA told us that Cushnahan had no access to confidential information. So why did NAMA ask him to return it or destroy it, if there was no value in it?
“Frank Daly was still trying to distance himself from Cushnahan when asked about joining the board of the religious charity Corani, of which Cushnahan was a long-standing member.
“Frank Daly said:
‘I think it was a pure coincidence. It’s a charity operated by Redemptorists. He was on the board for quite some time. I know some Redemptorists in Dublin and I was asked whether I would join the board. It was not a month later. As far as I know, it was probably the best part of a year later.’
“The truth is, it was a month later – not a year later. Cushnahan joined the NIAC on the 13th May, 2010. Frank Daly joined Corani 32 days later on the 14th of June, 2010. Can we believe anything that he tells us? The Project Eagle sales process was a textbook disaster.”
Acting Ceann Comhairle asks Mr Wallace to withdraw calling Mr Daly a liar. Mr Wallace said: “I didn’t say he was, honestly, I didn’t. I asked can we believe what he says, I didn’t say he was a liar.” Mr Wallace then continues:
“The Project Eagle sales process was a textbook disaster: Short time span for possible bidders; limited information; a one-bid process; no local valuations allowed. This all suited PIMCO, and later Cerberus, who bought the same info from the boys. It was never a competitive process. PIMCO’s gig only, became Cerberus’s gig only. And NAMA’s ridiculous decision to sell it in one lot, suited the fixers just fine.
“Did Ronnie Hanna declare any conflict he might have had with Northern Ireland connections from his Ulster Bank Northern Ireland days? Why did NAMA treat business people in the Republic of Ireland almost four times less favourably than those in Northern Ireland? Is it possible that Frank Cushnahan or Ronnie Hanna might have had anything to do with that?
“During his employment at NAMA, as Head of Asset Recovery, how many connections did Ronnie Hanna approve enforcement against? All of these need to be investigated to ascertain whether there was favouritism or motivation of any sort.
“In the BBC northern Ireland Spotlight programme, Frank Cushnahan clearly states that he went to Ronnie to make sure that John Miskelly’s ‘lights wouldn’t be put out’. ‘Me and Ronnie are thick as thieves,’ Cushnahan said. The entire Miskelly file needs to be investigated. All northern Ireland debtor and Project Eagle files need to be looked at, to discern whether there was favouritism or influence.
“In October 2015, I asked Nama if Ronnie Hanna, along with Frank Cushnahan or Dave Watters ever met with any investment fund personnel? NAMA said: ‘No, Mr Hanna had no such meetings with these individuals.’ That is not true. I know for a fact he did.
“When I said in the Dáil in July 2015, that £7 million of Cerberus’s money had ended up in an Isle of Man bank account, Nama claimed that it was the first they heard of it.
“Cerberus said it was informed by Brown Rudnick in April 2015, about the Law Society of northern Ireland Investigation into Ian Coulter’s conduct regarding the fee Cerberus paid to Tughans, through Brown Rudnick. Is it credible that no one told Nama?
“Well, for the Government’s sake, let me tell you that I’ve met an individual who was asked to look into the same matter in January 2015. On behalf of who? On behalf of Nama.
“The British National Crime Agency knew that all was not well. So, they commenced an investigation. The Security and Exchange in the US knew that all was not well. They, too, started an investigation. They were exercised by the possibility that Cerberus personnel Jon Snow and Dan Quale may have abused their former office. And they were looking at any possible bribing or inducing anyone for gain.
“All the while, NAMA were in denial – ‘everything’s grand, we’re doing a great job’. The Government and Department of Finance, and the Minister for Finance were the cheerleaders.
“Recently, Transparency Ireland stated that Irish people’s perception of corruption rose in 2016, owing to the controversies surrounding NAMA – but it doesn’t stop there. We have received very worrying information through Namaleaks regarding the behaviour of some real estate auctioneer firms,where individuals were looking for cash to be placed into an offshore account before agreeing to sell properties, belonging to Nama and other financial institutions. Some of these individuals are well known and have reached positions of high authority in this country.
“I’ve met a developer who told me that he paid large amounts of cash to an individual, a former employee of Nama, who held a very serious position in Nama, a very serious one. A lot of money has changed hands.
“Back in 2015, I mentioned the payment of €15,000 in a bag, by an individual, to a NAMA employee, to garner favour. Not sure where the Gardai are with their investigation into this, but I can tell you I’m more certain that ever, about what happened – they go their MOU, out the gap and away, and doing very well for themselves now.
“These ‘new kids on the block’, their newfound fortunes are built on the proceeds of crime. One of them is working in the higher echelons of Cerberus, who have been responsible for taking control of small businesses, family farms, and forcing people out of their homes and onto the housing list.
“We must be one of the best little countries in the world, to do business in. What in god’s name is wrong with us that we don’t like the truth? What in god’s name is wrong with us that we don’t want to hold State bodies to account? What’s wrong with us that we don’t want the truth about Nama?
“Is it because it’s too distasteful? Because you won’t like it? Because you’ve stood over what’s happened for the last five or six years? Is that why you don’t want the truth to come out about it?
“Nama is rotten to the core. And you know what? I actually believe that the minister [for finance, Michael Noonan] knows it. I don’t believe for a second that he thinks they’re clean. There’s problems right through the workings of Nama. The dogs on the street know it. Are you going to pretend forever that they’ve done a great job? And lied to the people?
“The people are tired of being lied to. That’s why politics is changing. That’s why the Americans elected an eejit called Trump, cause they were tired of being lied to but he likes of Obama and Clinton and Bush before him. Well, you know what? They’re going to get tired of you lot lying to them as well.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have engaged in deception, in dealing with the people of Ireland and they’re tired of it. You are not going to get away with it forever. The social media has changed things. People are waking up to what you are up to and to how disingenuous you are about how this country is run and how we organise society. This is such a frustrating place, it makes my blood boil.”
Mattie McGrath describes Tipp developer in NAMA going off to Poland during the Crash and “last weekend” say they’ve bought their assets back
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace raised the Garda whistleblower controversy again with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
It follows a report in The Irish Times this morning which says the Government will launch a Commission of Investigation into claims made by former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor following a review of his claims by retired high court judge Iarlaith O’Neill.
Supt Taylor has claimed there was an alleged campaign within the gardai to ruin the reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Readers will recall how, last October, Trevor Collins, the solicitor of fellow Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, raised concerns about Mr Justice O’Neill’s remit.
Mr Wallace raised the cases of Garda Harrison and Garda Keogh and the conflicts of interest that have emerged in relation to the investigations of their claims…
And he told how, just last week, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald received a letter from a whistleblower about a witness statement being doctored by gardai in an assault case. Mr Wallace said the background to the case involved the planting of drugs by a garda.
From Leaders’ Questions…
Mick Wallace: “We read today that you’re about to commence a Commission of Investigation into certain Garda matters, following the O’Neill report. Yesterday, the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] was on the airways, telling us how wonderful everything is and how wonderful she is herself – bombing us with doublespeak.”
“Meanwhile, Taoiseach, the harassment of whistleblowers continues. The Tánaiste last December said to me, in reply to a question, the Garda Commissioner is entitled to her good name, as indeed are people making allegations entitled to theirs, unless facts properly established prove otherwise.”
“Well, Taoiseach, David Taylor, who was interviewed for 21 hours, a file sent to the DPP in September 2015, 2015 – and there’s no decision yet. Nothing has been proven against him. Is the Garda Commissioner allowed to ride rough shod over fair procedure in this area? The commissioner said yesterday: ‘I have absolutely no knowledge nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana’.”
“Taoiseach, 14 times, Keith Harrison wrote to her, detailing his harassment and bullying. He’s out sick since May 2010. He’s on €188 a week and there’s three kids at home. Nick Keogh has got nothing but grief since he reported malpractice.
“The commissioner yesterday was boasting yesterday about taking part in the fight against heroin. But she’s protecting the Chief Superintendent who’s been involved in the heroin case in Athlone. And last year, she placed a superintendent on the promotion list who has been accused on numerous occasions of harassing a whistleblower. ”
“In June 2015, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to carry out an investigation into the allegation surrounding the chief superintendent and the garda for the drugs squad in Athlone. But it was the same assistant commissioner accused of earlier leaking information back to the super who was the subject of the complaint.
“In October 2015,the commissioner stated that she had commenced an investigation into this alleged conflict of interest. October 2015. Not a word of it since. I wonder where is it, Taoiseach?”
“Following the investigation into the matter, GSOC have asked for disciplinary procedures to be taken against them. Who does Noirin appoint to look after it? Yes, the very same assistant commissioner. Who also happens to be retiring in April so he probably won’t even get to the end of it and delay it all even further.”
“This month, GSOC asked to oversee the disciplinary procedure. GSOC’s request was refused. Taoiseach, when are you going to publish the report? Are you going to include the protective disclosures of all whistleblowers in the investigation, because if you don’t, it’s only a case of kicking the can down the road because we’ll eventually have to do it. And Taoiseach, do you intend to leave the commissioner in place while the investigation goes on because it will make a mockery of it if you do.”
Enda Kenny: “Mr Justice O’Neill was asked to review the allegations of wrongdoing. He was also asked to include any recommendations which he considered appropriate. The report, I understand, sets out in detail the allegations contained in the protected disclosures. I’m sure that the House will appreciate that in the view of the nature of the allegations, and the fact that third parties are mentioned, the Tánaiste referred this to the Attorney General for advice on how to proceed, including the question of what material might properly be put into the public domain, having regard for the rights of all concerned.”
“I understand that the Attorney General has given some response to that but has some further matters to conclude on. And I also understand that the specific proposals will come to Government shortly, including putting the conclusions and recommendations of Mr Justice O’Neill to the public domain, Deputy Wallace.”
Wallace: “Taoiseach, you haven’t answered any of my questions. Now while the Government sat on the O’Neill report, which you still haven’t told me when you’re going to publish, GSOC had to go to the High Court to force the Commissioner to hand over the transcripts of the O’Higgins Report – almost eight months since the Tánaiste requested GSOC to investigate the same.”
“Only last week Taoiseach, the minister got a letter from a whistleblower regarding a witness statement being doctored by garda, the gardaí, in an assault case. The background to the assault case related to the planting of drugs by a garda.”
“Taoiseach, I’ll ask you again: when are you going to publish the report? Do you intend to lead the commissioner in place? Because it will be laughable if you do. And, Taoiseach, if all is so well as the commissioner likes to tell us. Can you explain to me, or can the commissioner explain to me: why are so many whistleblowers out sick? Why aren’t they at work?”
“Why doesn’t Noirin O’Sullivan ring the whistleblowers? How come she’s never even rang… she’s rang none of them. Taoiseach, would you consider asking the commissioner to ring the whistleblowers that she says she cares so much about? Because, Taoiseach, it’s a bit scary. What she says in public is one thing. The reality, on the ground, couldn’t be much different.”
Kenny: “The [protected disclosures] act protects gardai, if they make a report – either to GSOC or the commissioner – for having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure. That’s the law of the land. That’s what the act says protects whistleblowers for. You mentioned, of course, that the minister did receive the report from judge O’Neill. There are third parties mentioned in this report and it’s only right and proper that we return to the Attorney General for advice as to in what form and what element it should be published. And, in the ministers engaging with the Attorney General on that matter, my understanding Deputy Wallace is that this will come back to Government very shortly including proposals to implement the findings that Justice O’Neill has, has recommended, following his report being sent to the minister.”
“…only recently, I was summoned to a meeting by a public figure and a message was passed on to me from a leading member of Cerberus Ireland that I was going to get sorted.”
Fast forward, if you will, to this morning.
At the High Court.
The Irish Times reports:
Ms Justice Caroline Costello today granted the bankruptcy petition by Promontoria (Aran) Ltd fund arising from a €2m judgment obtained after the fund took over the TD’s debt to Ulster Bank.
Promontoria is owned by US fund giant Cerberus, the fund at the centre of allegations made in the Dáil by Mr Wallace concerning the acquisition of Nama’s €5.7 billion Northern Ireland portfolio. The substance of those allegations is now subject to investigations in the UK and US.
From top: Independents 4 Change TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at an Oireachtas committee meeting this morning
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and other senior gardaí appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality this morning.
Their appearance followed reports of the two protected disclosures made by Sgt Maurice McCabe and former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor.
It’s been reported that Supt Taylor has admitted he was central to a smear campaign orchestrated by Garda management to destroy Sgt McCabe’s name and character, and that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan knew what was happening, as did his successor Noirin O’Sullivan, who was then a deputy commissioner.
Supt Taylor has alleged the campaign included text messages; the creation of an intelligence file on Sgt McCabe; the monitoring of his activities on Pulse, and making false allegations about him to both members of the media and politicians.
It’s also been repaired that Supt Taylor has claimed there is evidence of the campaign on his phone, or phones, that were subsequently seized as part of a separate investigation.
Readers will also recall that on January 24, 2014 – six days before Sgt McCabe gave testimony in private to the Public Accounts Committee – Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness met then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in the car park of Bewley’s Hotel on the Naas Road for a secret meeting, at which Mr Callinan told Mr McGuinness that Sgt McCabe could not be trusted.
It’s been reported that it was Mr Callinan who sought the meeting with Mr McGuinness.
Speaking of the meeting, Mr McGuinness told the Dail:
The Garda Commissioner confided in me in a car park on the Naas Road that Garda McCabe was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him.
The vile stories that circulated about Garda McCabe, which were promoted by senior officers in the Garda, were absolutely appalling.
In addition, on RTE’s Morning Ireland on Monday, the solicitor of another Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, Trevor Collins spoke to Cathal MacCoille, saying:
“[Harrison] has suffered and the victimisation, the intimidation, the ostracization that is ongoing… what I can say, without going into detail, is he has been the subject of surveillance, he has suffered victimisation, bullying harassment, as has his family. There has been a dissemination of rumour and innuendo which has been solely designed to undermine his credibility and that has been circulated within certain members of the media, certain politicians and his Garda colleagues.”
Mr Collins also highlighted how different Garda whistleblowers have suffered similar mistreatment and that Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s appointment of former High Court judge Justice Iarlaith O’Neill – to review Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor’s claims – is a flawed inquiry if it doesn’t include the allegations of other whistleblowers.
Further to this… from this morning’s Oireachtas committee meeting:
Clare Daly: “Commissioner, you said you weren’t privy to any information about allegations of mistreatment of whistleblowers, that your knowledge was very much based on what was in the public commentary and, from what you’ve heard, but is that statement not contradicted by the fact that legal counsel for one of the whistleblowers wrote directly to you 14 times over a two-year period, outlining a litany of direct experiences that he had had in terms of surveillance, intimidation, and all the rest of it?”
Noirin O’Sullivan: ” Deputy, as you will be aware, I’m precluded from talking about individual cases but what I can say, in general cases, as I have said earlier, each individual’s experience is different, we are dealing with each individual separately and as an individual and, indeed with their representatives or their legal teams who raise issues with us and all of those are being addressed. We are in the process of retaining a professional expert to review all of these and indeed our experience to date is, because of the, as I say, these are single figure numbers, but nevertheless, each individual’s experience is so different, that actually what we believe is, the professional expert can help us to review our internal structures, our internal process and our approach to things. If there’s areas that we can strengthen, we’re very open to strengthening those but perhaps it is time for a consideration to be given to some kind of an independent entity where all of these issues go to and that people can have some reassurance that there is somebody independently looking at all of these matters and then that we ensure that the internal structures are there to strengthen and support individual needs.”
Daly: “I’ve no intention of going into details on any individual cases butmy question was is it the case, that you received direct contact on 14 occasions from a legal counsel, of one of the whistleblowers stating, and giving very specific information which I won’t give here, outlining his negative experiences as a whistleblower?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, again, I’m not able in this forum, in a public forum, to go into individual cases. I think it would be grossly unfair to individuals.”
Daly: “And I’m not asking you to do that, Commissioner. I’m just asking you could you confirm that you received 14 direct communications from legal counsel in relation to these matters. I think it’s a valid question, chair?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy I have specific obligations under the Protected Disclosures Act, as the employer, to protect the individuals and to protect the identity of individuals and I am not in a position to answer any specific questions in relation to any specific individual or any specific correspondence received in relation to an individual, other than to say that every individual’s case is being treated individually and that we have structures in place to deal with that.”
Daly: “I’m not asking you, Commissioner, to detail any details about an individual case, but I am perfectly entitled to put a question, in terms of, particularly in the context of O’Higgins [inquiry], of the public assurances that we’ve got from your offices that the Garda Siochana are a safe place for people to come forward with information when that public, I suppose, statement is contradicted by other issues – we’ve a right to tease that out and I’d just like to ask you again – …are you perfectly happy to reiterate your statement that you are not privy to any specific allegations involving mistreatment of people who’ve come forward as whistleblowers?”
O’Sullivan: “I don’t think my answer to Deputy [Jim] O’Callaghan was in respect of allegations because I obviously have heard the public commentary in respect of allegations that have been made but I don’t think it is fair or even just to say that all that one has to do is look at what we have put into place, in an effort to support and to support our determination to ensure that people can bring forward facts. And I think the evidence speaks for itself in terms of the structures that have been put in place, in terms of the systems that have been put in place and in terms of the efforts that have been put in place. But without going into individual cases, I cannot go into individual cases and I’m sure …”
Daly: “Nobody has asked you, nobody has asked you to go into individual cases but there has been a huge amount of public statements, and you’ve done it again today to say that you are not privy to any of these complaints, if you like, or more specific examples that are in the public domain, I’m just asking you to either: it’s kind of a yes or no – can you confirm that you are aware or you’re not. Because you’ve said you’re not privy to it. My evidence is that you are but I mean, if you’re telling us you’re not, I’ll move on but could you just tell us whether you are or you’re not.”
O’Sullivan: “Well deputy what I did say was I’m not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment or any campaign to malign any individual employee.”
Daly: “So you’re not aware of any circumstances where such claims would have been made, that hasn’t been brought to your attention?”
O’Sullivan: “That isn’t what I’m saying, deputy, what I’m saying is that I, personally, was not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone any campaign against any individual.”
Daly: “So if you had been made aware, of any such allegations, what action would you have taken to deal with that situation?”
O’Sullivan: “Any issues that are brought to our attention by any individual are fully addressed and that is the case in terms of all of the individuals, have brought matters to our attention, or indeed any member of any representative of any individual, those issues are being addressed in the structures and the processes that we have there. As I say we are in the process of retaining an independent, professional expert to review those processes and it may indeed need to go beyond that but we can only do what we can do internally and what we have control of and that is why we have somebody independently being retained review either areas that can be strengthened, recognising that individual needs are different.”
Daly: “If everything is improving, you’ve said that the numbers of whistleblowers are single figures, could you explain maybe why all of those single figures, five at least, if not more, are presently out sick and have been on protracted sick leave for a period of time because of work-related stress.”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, again, and I’m very conscience that we are speaking about single figure numbers and, even by extension, that could serve to identify individuals and I’m precluded from speaking about individual cases and, as the employer, I have a duty of care to all of the individuals and their circumstances but there are systems in place to support and to help the individuals concerned.”
Daly: “It’s very difficult to get an answer, chair.”
Daly: “I mean, obviously, some incredibly serious issues were raised here this morning and I do think that clarity is actually critical and I note Commissioner that, on a number of occasions, that you said that you weren’t privy to, nor aware of, nor approved any campaign to target whistleblowers and I’d just really like you to be concise around some of these issues, yes or no preferably. Like, is it your assertion that you were never directly made aware of any such allegations in relation to the targeting of whistleblowers?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, I can only repeat what I said. I am not privy to, nor would I approve, nor did I approve, nor would I condone, any actions such as targeting any individuals other than individuals engaged in criminal activity in the sense of targeting that we spoke about earlier.”
Daly: “Okay. I note you’re reluctance to answer again so maybe I’ll help by partly answering for you. I’m aware that you were directly made aware – I have the correspondence and your replies in my folder here – in relation to allegations of precisely such, a campaign of targeting in relation to whistleblowers. So what I’d like to know is what actions did you take on foot of hearing about those allegations?”
O’Sullivan: “Well deputy I’m sure you will appreciate that I’m not aware of neither who the disclosures are, the content of the disclosures, or the allegations that you are suggesting and in such circumstances it would not only be inappropriate but it would be impossible to comment.”
Daly: “I’m sorry, Commissioner, but I didn’t actually ask you to comment on any individual cases at all. I think that would be inappropriate, I was talking about the general processes which I think are incredibly fair questions, in the context of the seriousness of what is the case. And particularly, in light of your comments, that the system is changing, when really, on a fairly regular basis, evidence is being produced to say that things aren’t changing. And I’m wondering how you can, if you like, square that circle?”
O’Sullivan: “Well I cannot comment on something which I have not seen, I am not aware of and I think that there is a process that is being set up where there will be fair procedure and due process provided and Mr Justice O’Neill can address any issues arising from that.”
Daly: “I would just like to put on the record, chair, that I have seen that you have seen these allegations and, in that sense, I find your response quite upsetting actually in many ways. But I wonder maybe the last question that you could answer: how do you explain, if you’re not aware of any of these allegations, and yet these allegations are there and they exist both in terms of documented proof going back over years and, as you said yourself, huge conversation in the public domain, if you’re not aware of that and yet they still continue, is that not a huge problem? Particularly as they’re continuing in different parts of the country, in different regions. Supposedly, without any of your knowledge, is the issue really then that you have no authority amongst your members? That they’re flagrantly doing the opposite of what you’re telling them to do? And does that not put your position in jeopardy?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, I’m not in a position to comment, or indeed should I comment, or it’s impossible to comment on unsubstantiated allegations which are put into the public domain by elected representatives and others. And I’m very much aware of the unsubstantiated allegations which are in the public domain, I’m also aware that a process has been established where all of these matters can be afforded due process and fair procedure, to allow for proper examination of all these matters and I will fully cooperate, as will An Garda Siochana with that process.”
Mick Wallace: “Commissioner, did you admit that you gave instructions to challenge the credibility and motivation of Sgt McCabe, in relation to the O’Higgins report and my second questions, and I may have missed it, I don’t know, over the last couple of years, but you were sitting beside the former Commissioner Callinan when he described the whistleblowers [Sgt Maurice McCabe and Garda John Wilson] as disgusting. And I’m just wondering minister, Commissioner did you ever disassociate yourself from those remarks?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, firstly, deputy, the O’Higgins Commission which was your first question: At all times, my interactions with my legal advisors were based on legal advice and, as you know, there is lawyer-client privilege pertains to every citizen of this State, and including the Garda Commissioner and, as such, I cannot comment on any interactions between me and my legal advice and that is what my advice is. Secondly, in relation to my sitting alongside my predecessor, former commissioner Martin Callinan, a lot of play has been made of that issue and, you know again that was an interaction at a Dail committee, I am record as saying that the choice of words was unfortunate and what I actually wrote to the Commissioner Callinan was to withdraw those remarks because I do not believe they were said in the way that they came across.”
Separately but also during Ms O’Sullivan’s appearance, Cork Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O’Brien asked Ms O’Sullivan some very direct questions…
Mr O’Brien (above right) started by asking Ms O’Sullivan if she knew of any whistleblowers being put under surveillance.
From their exchange…
O’Sullivan: “Am I aware of any…”
Jonathan O’Brien: “Whistleblowers being put under surveillance?”
O’Sullivan: “Absolutely not, deputy.”
O’Brien: “Ok, are you aware of any intelligence files being opened in relation to whistleblowers?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, I’m aware of suggestions in the media, and in public commentary, but I am personally not aware.”
O’Brien: “You spoke, in relation to electronic materials which will be handed over if Justice O’Neill requires it. Can I ask is it one, two or three phones which were confiscated from the whistleblower [Supt Dave Taylor]?”
O’Sullivan: “I don’t think it’s appropriate, we have a number of ongoing live investigations and I don’t think it’s appropriate deputy to speak about individual investigations.”
O’Brien: “But will they be handed over?”
O’Sullivan: “Absolutely, every assistance and any requirement of Justice O’Neill will be fully met by An Garda Siochana.”
O’Brien: “And if there are intelligence files in relation to whistleblowers, will they also be handed over?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, I believe there are no intelligence files but if Mr Justice O’Neill requires any access to any area of An Garda Siochana, he will be made fully aware, given full access.”
O’Brien: “Will you undertake to find out if there are any intelligence files in relation to whistleblowers?”
O’Sullivan: “I am not aware of any intelligence files, deputy.”
O’Brien: “Will you ask if there are any intelligence files?”
O’Sullivan: “I can certainly ask but we do not, and I must state this categorically, protected disclosures are relatively a new phenomenon, we do not keep intelligence files. I hope you’ve heard form my colleagues here today, we have enough activities to keep us very busy and creating intelligence files on people who are causing harm to communities.”
O’Brien: “Are you aware of the content of the meeting between the Commissioner Callinan and Deputy John McGuinness?”
O’Sullivan: “Deputy, the first I became aware of that meeting, of the fact that even a meeting took place, was in the media. I am not aware and I have not been aware up to reading it in the media of any interaction between Deputy Commissioner, or sorry, former Commissioner Callinan and Deputy McGuinness in a car park.”
O’Brien: “So you’re not aware of any content which was discussed at that meeting?”
O’Sullivan: “Absolutely not.”
O’Brien: “Have you considered temporarily stepping aside as Commissioner while Justice O’Neill carries out his review? Given that there are a number of allegations that you had knowledge of a campaign to discredit a whistleblower?”
O’Sullivan: “Well, firstly, deputy, what I will do is reiterate my statement, I was not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign against any individual….”
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace in the Dáil
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.
The Garda whistleblower controversy was discussed again with Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace – addressing Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald – recalling the O’Higgins report.
Readers may recall how, during the O’Higgins’ Commission of Investigation into Sgt Maurice McCabe’s allegations, Colm Smyth, SC, initially told Judge Kevin O’Higgins that, on behalf of Ms O’Sullivan, his instructions were to “challenge the integrity of Sgt McCabe and his motivation”.
This was based on a meeting in Mullingar between Sgt McCabe and two gardaí.
Several months later, on the day Commissioner O’Sullivan was due to give evidence – by which time Sgt McCabe had produced a transcript of his meeting in Mullingar with two gardaí – Mr Smyth told Judge O’Higgins: “The position now is that his motive is under attack, credibility is under attack from the Commissioner. But not his integrity.”
Mr Wallace’s raising of the O’Higgins Report followed reports this morning that Garda whistleblowers have said they will not co-operate with a State inquiry until Commission O’Sullivan temporarily steps aside.
From Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil…
Mick Wallace: “Minister, yes Nicky Keogh did write to you four times. You replied once when he told you about the harassment that he couldn’t have been suffering without the commissioner’s knowledge. And you wrote back to him to say they were looking for an urgent report from the Garda Commissioner – that was May of this year, right? May. You say you follow up things quickly. May is a long time. It’s over years Minister that myself and Deputy Daly had been telling you about the huge problems that are not being addressed – over two years.
“How in God’s name can you say that you’re dealing with these matters. You’re talking about a rush to judgement, two years? You’re saying that claims not properly tested. Minister you have the transcript from the O’Higgins’ report hearings, in your office. Is there not enough information in that, was that not properly tested? The role that she played in trying to undermine the credibility of Maurice McCabe, is there not enough in that for you? You talk about people disposing the laws of the land? God bless us, Minister. What arrived on your desk last Monday, oh god, look it, if half of it, if any of it is true, how bad is it? I’m not easily shocked. I’ve spent my life living in the real world. And I know how bad things can be out there. I haven’t seen the like of it. It’s horrific. It’s mind numbing.
“Myself and Clare Daly have met the two senior gardaí who have made the protected disclosures and we haven’t briefed the protected disclosures but Minister sitting down listening to it, face to face, oh my God. I’m not…I don’t want to talk about it anymore, right? Listen, Minister, you’re talking about another inquiry, another judge. You talk about the new broom you brought in. Nothing has changed, Minister. Nothing. And we marked our cards for you on your legislation on GSOC and on the Policing Authority. We’ve have [Judge] Mary Ellen Ring and Jospehine Feehily stressing the lack of authority that they have through legislation to do their jobs properly.
“The gardai, minister, are in turmoil. There’s a split in it. There’s two camps. She has promoted a ring around her. It’s corrosive. She is doing so much damage to An Garda Siochana, there are so many good gardai, minister, that are shocked at how she is operating. You cannot leave her in position and Minister, the idea that there will be an investigation while she was in place, is nuts.”
Frances Fitzgerald: “Well, deputy, you’ve made a number of comments there, I will repeat what I said, that I believe, you may not, but I believe that due process is important. I believe that the law, should be used carefully in these circumstances. I don’t believe in making a decision before the evidence has been heard. What we have is a body of allegations that we brought forward and I have said to the House, that I believe that they are serious and that they ought to be investigated. And I will ensure that that happens. And I will ensure that there is follow-up, depending on the outcome and the output from that investigation. Of course, I will. That would be my job and that’s what I would do.
“Quite a number of things have changed. For the first time, we have independent oversight. We have the Police Authority where the public with the public meetings can see An Garda Siochana be accountable to a new policing authority, being chaired by Jospehine Feehily and a very, very competent and serious board who are totally committed to their task. That’s different, that’s changed.
“GSOC have been given new powers and I’m perfectly prepared to meet both chairs to discuss further changes that are necessary to the legislation. You’ve made a number of points about investigations going on over a period of time. And yes, investigations do take time. There are procedures to be followed. And let me make the point, in relation to the disclosures that were made some time ago. And what’s been happening. And without commentating in any way on the disclosures, who has made disclosures, or the disclosures themselves, I can tell the House that I am extremely concerned about matters which have been raised in relation to policing in Athlone. And by the way, deputy, I wrote to you and I haven’t received a reply.”
“I have sought and received a number of requests form the Garda authorities about this matter. These indicate that a series of investigations have been taking place into the complex issues involved, including criminal investigations, disciplinary investigations and investigations by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman (GSOC). Not all of these are yet completed, I am monitoring the situation closely and I expect further reports from An Garda Siochana about these matters and I do want to make it very clear, as I’ve already said, that should the present investigations not succeed in fully addressing matters of public concerns which have arisen, and I’m talking about the investigations that are being under way, I’m not talking about the more recent protected disclosures which only arrived on Monday, which I am currently considering.
“I will have no hesitation, in establishing some other form of inquiry, but I will wait for due process to take its place and to continue. And I won’t act precipitously either in relation to that investigation, or indeed the recent protected disclosures, but I will follow the letter of the law and I will follow the legislation that was passed in this house where people have a right to confidentiality and people have a right to due process. And I wouldn’t be doing my job, as Minister for Justice, if I didn’t follow due process and the law which has been laid down which we have all agreed to be following in relation to protected disclosures. And we are the first Government, as has been said already and has been spoken about for many years, we’re the first Government to actually bring in law to deal with the issue of protected disclosures.”
Wallace: “Well it doesn’t seem to be working then. Minister, you’re talking about returning letters. I wrote to you a year ago and I gave you evidence of the massaging of crime figures in the same place, I asked you about the report yesterday. A year ago? My god, and why is the fella on the promotion list? Number 14? Why? You tell me. And there’s another guy that was reported by the whistleblower down there and he got promotion, but you know what? The people that stood by that man in that station, they didn’t get promotion.
“The commissioner said in a statement yesterday that she wishes to reiterate that any employees in An Garda Siochana will forward any concerns or issues they might have, will be taken seriously ad the matters examined. Well, my god. People can’t believe what this woman is saying. Minister, what she says in public and what she does privately is 100% different. You can say that you don’t have enough evidence, Minister, and you want due process, right?
“Was the O’Higgins report not enough for you in the first place? So let’s forget about what you got on your desk last week, was that not enough for you? The dogs on the street can see that there was a deliberate effort on her part to undermine the credibility of Maurice McCabe. How in god’s name can you leave her in position after that? I tell you what minister, as long as you leave her in position, there will be allegations coming in against that commissioner and, you know what, it’s only going to get worse, Ministier.”
Fitzgerald: “Yes, I did receive a letter from you. To which I replied. I have the letter here. And I went back to and I asked you to give me some detail that was important in relation to protected disclosures, if I was to follow up the points that you made. You didn’t respond to me.”
Wallace: [barely audible as microphone was off] “I didn’t get it.”
Fitzgerald: “Well, it was sent to you here, in Dail Eireann. Ok…I didn’t get a reply from you for the information that I asked from you. I’ll send it to you again….”
In The Irish Times, Fiach Kelly, a journalist, writes :
Knee-jerk calls for resignations and blanket condemnations lead to a demeaning of the political system and erode trust in politics.
…Dáil privilege is nowadays often used to air serious allegations that have been investigated thoroughly elsewhere.
…The latest claims are contained in protected disclosures currently in Ms Fitzgerald’s possession, and have led to calls for the immediate resignation of Ms O’Sullivan.
It is undoubtedly the case that some whistleblowers, such as Sgt McCabe, were poorly treated but it is equally unacceptable for people to call for resignations, on foot of serious allegations that have not yet been tested.
...there have been substantial efforts to reform the justice system in order to increase public confidence in it and to help improve the culture of An Garda Síochána to make it a more open place for those with dissenting views and concerns about how the force is being run.
These reforms have yet to be completed and are still being bedded in.
Nama’s chief executive Brendan McDonagh and a letter from Michael George, managing director of Fortress Capital, to Andrew McDowell, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s former economic adviser, at 3.04pm on February 13, 2014
Further to the appearance of Nama officials – including chairman Frank Daly, chief executive Brendan McDonagh and audit committee chair and member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee Brian McInery – before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday…
US investment fund Fortress was the only underbidder in Nama’s eventual sale of Northern Ireland loan portfolio, otherwise known as Project Eagle, to Cerberus.
You mayrecall the following sequence of events, as outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the sale:
Nama approved a proposal to sell Project Eagle at a minimum price of £1.3bn over two meetings on December 12, 2013 and January 8, 2014.
On January 8, 2014, Lazard and Company Ltd were appointed as the loan sale advisor for Project Eagle.
On February 13, 2014, it was reported in the press that Pimco had approached Nama, back in 2013, to buy the whole Northern Ireland portfolio and, a day later, selected bidders were allowed to access information on the loans in a data room.
On March 12, 2014, Pimco withdrew from the loan sale process – after informing Nama of a £15million success fee arrangement involving a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Frank Cushnahan, London law firm Brown Rudnick and Belfast-based Tughans solicitors.
On April 3, 2014, Nama approved the sale of Project Eagle to Cerberus who also used the services of Brown Rudnick and Tughans solicitors.
You may also recall reports that Fortresss had to make a representation to the Department of the Taoiseach on February 13, 2014, before it was invited into the bidding process some five weeks after it had begun and Nama’s denial of the same.
During yesterday’s PAC meeting, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock had the following exchange with Brendan McDonagh.
Noel Rock: “When were Pimco initially informed there was going to be a sales competition?”
Brendan McDonagh: “Pimco were told, I think, post the board meeting in January 2014. We’ve always maintained to Pimco, that there was never going to be an exclusive off-market sale directly to them.”
Rock: “Okay. All right. Do we have the minutes for that board meeting?”
Rock: “And it says that in it? Okay. Fortress, it was said earlier on, I don’t know if it was yourself of Frank said it, that there was no email to Enda Kenny from Fortress seeking…”
McDonagh: “None. No. There was reporting effectively that Fortress had, it was reported in the media that Fortress had to email the Department of the Taoiseach, the official Department of the Taoiseach to get access to the thing.That’s actually completely untrue. I know the managing director, senior managing director of Fortress. I met him a number of times I think in 2009 and we stayed in touch over various things. He emailed me on the 13th of February 2014. My email is available to the, there’s nothing in it. Basically saying, ‘Brendan, how’s it going?’ Talked about the rugby match at the weekend and said, ‘I just heard through one of my colleagues that the Northern Ireland portfolio may be on the market, it’s something I’d be interested in’. I forwarded the email to my colleague and said, ‘please let this guy, get Lazards to contact him because, you know, I met this guy, and I had no issue with him. I would know Fortress in my previous life. And it was, Fortress were brought, they were contacted by Lazards, I think that evening on the 13th of February. They were sent an NDA, an non-disclosure agreement and they were sent the NDA on the 14th of February and then they didn’t return their signed NDA, because you can’t get access to the data room until you supply the NDA, they didn’t return their signed NDA until the 26th of February, I don’t know why it took them 12 days to sign it. Maybe they had to go through their own internal compliance or whatever it was but they were invited into the process, on the evening of the 13th of February, but certainly on the 14th of February when they were sent the NDA.”
Rock: “I’m familiar with your emails. I’ve seen a copy of those. On the same day though, they did email the Department of the Taoiseach. Why do you think they would have done?”
McDonagh: “There was no, I don’t know what email the Department of the Taoiseach, I haven’t actually personally seen that email…”
Rock: “I’ll forward it to the secretary so you can be provided with a copy.”
McDonagh: “But I saw the media report but I was a bit surprised by that because I had got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress on the 13th of February myself and I arranged for Lazards to get in contact.”
Rock: “Okay, all right. Thank you. In, I think it was yourself Brendan, in a previous appearance before the PAC, I’m just going to quote this here if you don’t mind: ‘We appointed Lazard, then Lazard approached the nine biggest funds in the world, the guys who would have fire power and capital to be able to buy a portfolio like this. Then you listed the nine firms, including Fortress that you said had been approached. But it obviously seems, based on the discussion of the email with the Department of Taoiseach and indeed to yourself, that it wasn’t the case that they were approached; they, in fact, had to approach you. Do you accept this quote is now inaccurate, in effect?”
McDonagh: “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s inaccurate, deputy, because Fortress were one of the people which were considered to be approached by Lazard anyway so, as I said, there’s a league table in terms of, you know, people, division one, division two, division three, so as people drop out, we were pushing Lazard to get more people into the process.”
Rock: “Right. So. So, like, I’m finding this hard to understand. Did Lazard approach Fortress? Or not? If so, why did they [Fortress] need to approach you?”
McDonagh: “Well, all I can say to you, deputy, is as follows: On the 13th of February, I got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress, I got one of my colleagues to contact Lazard to say, ‘contact these guys in Fortress, find out if they’re interested or interested or not’. I don’t know personally when Lazard were going to contact Fortress or not, but I do know what happened on the 13th and 14th of February.”