Tag Archives: Terry Prone

Journalist Ken Foxe, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

Journalist, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer and Right To Know director Ken Foxe previously unearthed, via requests under the Freedom of Information Act, correspondence between Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and/or her officials, during Ms Fitzgerald’s time as minister.

Mr Foxe sought the correspondence between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

During this period of time, Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered there were 68 such records.

The Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall subsequently asked the Department of Justice to ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.

The Department of Justice later informed Mr Foxe there were more than 190 such records.

Further to this…

On Sunday, Mr Foxe released further documents obtained under FOI which show that the Department of Justice was considering going to the High Court – over the request to ask Ms Ftizgerald to check her private email for correspondence with Ms Prone.

They also show that Ms Fitzgerald said some of the records found in her personal email related to internal Fine Gael business and were “confidential and commercially sensitive”.

And they show how the current Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was kept up to date on the developments regarding Mr Foxe’s FOI request.

And how the Department of Justice planned on issuing a profuse and thorough apology to Mr Foxe but, in the end, sent him  a much watered-down version.

Previously: Clinical Exposure

From top: Justice Peter Charleton ; PR boss Terry Prone, who, it emerged during the Disclosure tribunal, had been advising both Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

This afternoon.

From the Disclosures Tribunal report.

Justice Peter Charelton writes:

One other matter is worthy of comment. A close reading of the chronology will indicate the extent to which a public controversy began to grow in florid form following on the deception of the media by the persons who leaked selected extracts from the O’Higgins Commission transcript.

This led to a flurry of emails, memoranda, communications at high level, drafts, counter drafts and final drafts about the Garda Commissioner’s approach to those who point out irregularities within our police force.

The tribunal is far from impressed by any of this.

It seems that our public life is now to be dominated by spin and that plain speaking is elided in favour of meaningless public relations speak.

This is a hideous development in Irish public life.

We have been brought to a situation where those who genuinely know their job are expected to put things in a form which no longer garners respect and which is far from the requirement of plain speaking.

It is frankly bizarre that when the Garda Commissioner is asked about her approach to a matter of serious public importance, she is not left alone to answer from her own mind.

But instead that comments and suggestions amounting to drafts of letters of several thousand words are whizzed over in her direction so that she can send the same thing back again.

The public are then expected to digest this as being her utterance.

The tribunal found this practice unworthy of our public service. It adds to the sense of public distrust in the key institutions of the State.

Public service is not about public relations.

Plain speaking by those who know what they are talking about is the only acceptable way to address the Irish people.”

Earlier: Justice Charelton on…

Previously: Frances Noirin And Tess

Rollingnews

From top: yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald (left); Terry Prone

Yesterday.

In the Irish Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times.

Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer, journalist and FOI sleuth Ken Foxe reported on the cache of correspondence he received from the Department of Justice – between Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and/or her officials, during her time as minister.

Mr Foxe sought the correspondence between Ms Prone, who signed off as ‘Tess’ in correspondence, and Ms Fitzgerald between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

During this period of time, Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered there were 68 such records.

And then the Department of Justice informed Mr Foxe there were more than 190 such records.

In a thread last night, Mr Foxe tweeted…

‘Wag finger here’: how PR guru Terry Prone guided Frances Fitzgerald (Ken Foxe, Sunday Times)

Last Thursday, Ken Foxe was a special guest Broadsheet on the Telly and shared his knowledge of the Freedom of Information process in Ireland. Watch back here.

Previously: Francis, Nóirín and Tess

From 0 To 68 To 190-Plus

Former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

Last night.

Journalist, director with Right To Know and Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer Ken Foxe tweeted that he had received word back from the Department of Justice yesterday.

This follows his attempts to obtain records of correspondence between the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017 – a time when Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered 68 such records of correspondence.

Last night, Mr Foxe said the Department of Justice informed him there were more than 190 such records.

He has yet to receive the documents.

But last night, Mr Foxe explained:

Previously: Frances, Nóirín and Tess

From top (Clockwise) Terry Prone, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan; a reply from the Department of Justice to journalist Ken Foxe

Under the Freedom of Information Act, journalist Ken Foxe has been attempting to obtain emails between the former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, while Ms Fitzgerald was minister between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

From 2014 to 2017, Ms Prone wasn’t only advising Ms Fitzgerald. She was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

As Ms Fitzgerald was the Justice Minister at the time, Ms O’Sullivan was, on paper, answerable to Ms Fitzgerald.

Mr Foxe was originally told there were no records of correspondence between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald but, after appealing that decision, he was informed by the Office of the Information Commissioner last month that there were 68 such records.

Further to the OIC’s decision, Mr Foxe has since been sent an update from the Department of Justice (above).

Yesterday evening, Mr Foxe tweeted:

Those notorious ‘non-existent’ emails between former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald and PR guru Terry Prone will be released (or perhaps not depending on the decision) next Monday.

Previously: Frances, Nóirín and Tess

…starring Terry Prone.

Sigh.

Economist David McWilliams’ new documentary on Ireland’s economy.

On TV3 Virgin Media One at 10pm.

Previously: Terry Prone on Broadsheet

From top: Terry Prone, Frances Fitzgerald and Norin O’Sullivan

Last Friday journalist Ken Foxe revealed that the Office of the Information Commissioner had discovered 68 records of correspondence between former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

These were records which the Department of Justice previously said never existed.

The OIC made the discovery after Mr Foxe appealed the department’s claim that there were no such records in existence.

As a consequence of the OIC’s examination, the OIC Peter Tyndall quashed the department’s decision to refuse to release the correspondence and requested that the department ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.

The Department of Justice has since told Mr Foxe it is considering Mr Tyndall’s decision.

From 2014 to 2017, Ms Prone wasn’t only advising Ms Fitzgerald. She was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

As Ms Fitzgerald was the Justice Minister at the time, Ms O’Sullivan was, on paper, answerable to Ms Fitzgerald.

The Disclosures Tribunal saw how statements or draft speeches were written with the help of Ms Prone by Ms O’Sullivan for Ms Fitzgerald concerning issues about Ms O’Sullivan.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton described this sequence of events worthy of Myles na Gopaleen’s satire.

Continue reading

Journalist Ken Foxe, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

The Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall yesterday quashed a previous decision by the Department of Justice to refuse to release correspondence sent between the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and her officials and Terry Prone and her PR company the Communications Clinic.

The department made this decision on the basis that there was no such correspondence.

However, Mr Tyndall’s office, in reviewing the department’s decision, found there is such correspondence.

He concluded the department did not take “all reasonable steps to ascertain the whereabouts of further records”; and he has requested that the department ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.

On March 11, 2017, journalist, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer and director at Right To Know Ken Foxe made a request for “copies of all correspondence, both written and electronic” between Fine Gael TD Frances Fitzgerald and/or her private office and Terry Prone and her PR company the Communications Clinic – from the time Ms Fitzgerald was made Minister for Justice to the date of his request.

This meant Mr Foxe’s request covered correspondence between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

[Ms Fitzgerald stepped down as Minister for Justice on June 14, 2017]

The department wrote back to Mr Foxe two days after receiving his request, saying it was seeking four more weeks (on top of the initial four weeks provided for) to make a decision on the matter, without any explanation for why they needed the extra time.

On May 15, 2017, Mr Foxe sought an internal review as, by then, Mr Foxe deemed his request was refused.

On June 8, 2017, the department decided to refuse the request because, it said, there were no such records.

But it’s on public record Ms Fitzgerald paid the Communications Clinic, via a special secretarial allowance, more than €11,000 between the date she became minister and the end of 2016.

Those present at Disclosures Tribunal earlier this year also saw written/email communications between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald during the relevant time of Mr Foxe’s request.

In the same month, June 2017, Mr Foxe appealed the department’s decision to the Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall – believing that there had not been a thorough search of Ms Fitzgerald’s professional and personal emails and messages.

In turn, an investigator with the Information Commissioner’s office asked the Department of Justice about the steps it took to search for records relevant to Mr Foxe’s request.

The department then discovered 74 records which had not been considered relevant previously.

In his decision regarding Mr Foxe’s appeal, Mr Tyndall wrote:

“It seems that in late January 2018, following concerns expressed by my investigative staff that further records could be held, the Department searched archived email accounts.

My Office identified 68 records that fall within the scope of the applicant’s request and advised the Department of this. The remaining six records were created after the FOI request was made and are not therefore within the scope of the review.”

Mr Tyndall also wrote that some of the records finally located by the department were related to speeches given by Ms Fitzgerald.

He also wrote:

“in response to the query about whether it [the department] had considered
records held in personal email accounts, the department stated that it ‘has no access to or control over such accounts, particularly in respect of persons no longer working in the Department’.”

Mr Tyndall, in his decision, explained that the Department of Justice said it wouldn’t be appropriate for it to ask Ms Fitzgerald whether she has records of correspondence with Ms Prone or the Communications Clinic in her personal email accounts “that might fall within the scope of the request”, and that the department “does not feel it is in a position to go outside of the scope of the FOI Act and seek such information from [Ms Fitzgerald] in an attempt to respond to an FOI request”.

However, Mr Tyndall said he couldn’t accept this position.

Specifically, Mr Tyndall said:

It appears from the records retrieved by the Department and dealt with above that the former Minister and some of her staff used gmail addresses in correspondence with the company [the Communications Clinic] about official functions and activities of the Department.

“To the extent that a gmail or other account may have been used in this way, I do not accept that such content could reasonably be characterised as “private”. I do not believe that it is particularly relevant that the former Minister is no longer working in the Department.”

Yesterday Mr Tyndall made the following decision:

“I hereby annul the department’s decision to effectively refuse access to records identified during the course of this review and I direct it to undertake a fresh decision making process on those records.

“I direct the department to ask the former minister whether she holds additional records within the scope of the applicant’s FOI request and if she does, to retrieve them and furnish them to the department so that it can make a decision on them in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act.

“The fresh decision making process should be carried out and decisions on both elements above notified to the applicant in accordance with section 8 of the FOI Act.

“For clarity, I specify that subject to sections 24 and 26 of the Act, the statutory time limit for making a decision begins within five working days of the expiration of the four week period for the bringing of a High Court appeal.”

There you go now.

Previously: ‘Records Do In Fact Exist’

Norin’s Prone Position

Thanks Ken

UPDATE:

Terry Prone (left), of the Communications Clinic, who acted as an advisor at the same time to both former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan during the Maurice McCabe controversy

Meanwhile…

An email – as seen at the recent Disclosures Tribunal – containing press clippings sent from Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic to both the then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in 2014.

Good times.

Ken Foxe

 

From left : Noirin O’Sullivan, Terry Prone and Frances Fitzgerald

Yesterday.

At the Disclosures Tribunal.

There was an  exchange between Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Justice and Equality Ken O’Leary, who retired last June.

It came after Mr Marrinan asked Mr O’Leary about the Department of Justice’s relationship with the Garda Commissioner.

It was in the context of the swirling of drafts – with the help of Terry Prone of the Communications Clinic – being sent back and forth between the then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and the then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, via Mr O’Leary, in May 2016 after reports emerged in the Irish Examiner and RTE about the O’Higgins Commission.

The drafts were in relation to pending public statements by Ms O’Sullivan and contributions to the Dáil by Ms Fitzgerald.

When Ms O’Sullivan gave evidence, it was put to her that it appeared she was drafting a statement for the minister – to be made in the Dáil – when she wrote an email, with a draft attached, and the message:

“I understand that you may have to make a statement this morning and I enclose a draft for your consideration.”

But Ms O’Sullivan said:

“I may have said a draft, I don’t mean a draft statement, it’s a draft insofar as here are pointers that you can choose to use or not.

But actually, and we probably will come to the email but they were the facts, the actual facts as opposed to the erroneous facts that were floating around the commentary at that time.

The draft, or pointers, included the lines:

“I have interrogated this matter in detail with the Commissioner…I wish to state here and now that I have full confidence in the Commissioner.”

Ms Fitzgerald didn’t end up saying this in the Dail.

Returning to the exchange between Mr Marrinan and Mr O’Leary:

Patrick Marrinan: “I mean, a commentator might say that you know, that the Department was acting hand in glove with the Commissioner at the time?”

Ken O’Leary: “And so it was, for the very good reason that we had to take a public interest view in relation to all these matters and our view was that the public interest was not going to be served in any way by the Commissioner’s position being put in jeopardy at that time.”

Marrinan: “Yes. But you will appreciate that we are probably hearing about this relationship as it existed at the time between the Department and the Garda Commissioner for the first time, because it’s not evident and apparent to members of the public to know that there is this closeness and degree of closeness between the Garda Commissioner and Department — officials in the Department of Justice and indeed the Minister, do you understand?”

O’Leary: “Well, I mean, there is two points I’d make: Like, our contribution, I mean, if any of the material that week looked as if we were very supportive of the Garda Commissioner, that’s because we were very supportive.”

Marrinan: “Yes.”

O’Leary: “And it wasn’t because of loyalty or whatever. It was because we took the view that there was no proper basis for questioning the Commissioner’s position. But there was a danger because of the political feverish climate going on at the time, if people had looked at previous things that had happened during the course of Garda controversies they could go anywhere.

And frankly, we also thought there was a danger that the Commissioner, given the way she was being pilloried in public and the very difficult position that was in, there was obviously a danger that a sensible person might say, look, I am not putting up with this any more.

And the implications for us of having to find a new Commissioner and the disruption that would have been caused, as I say our view of the public interest was that anything we could do to support the Commissioner, we would do, because we thought that was in the interests of the leadership of the Guards, and the public interest.

So as I say, it wasn’t all friends helping each other out; it was a clear view of where we thought the public interest lay. If –I mean, if the O’Higgins Commission report said the Commissioner inappropriately relied on strategies to do down Sergeant McCabe, well then we would have had to deal with that in an entirely different way.”

Marrinan: “Yes. So I mean, would it be fair to summarise your position in relation to this, that you may well have been hand in glove with the Commissioner in relation to this issue at the time, not because you had a cosy relationship but because the Department had taken a view arising out of the O’Higgins Commission that the Commissioner was in fact correct in her approach and there was no question that she was going to resign?”

O’Leary: “It’s not that we were taking a view the Commissioner was correct in what happened at the O’Higgins Commission, because we had absolutely no information except for one detail, we may be coming to.

What we were doing was relying on Judge O’Higgins’s report and there was nothing in that that questioned in any way the approach of the Garda Commissioner on our reading of it. The hand in glove phrase, do you know, if you don’t mind me saying so, it is a bit pejorative. Like, we were working closely with the Garda Commissioner in the situation which arose to achieve the objectives we thought were best in the public interest.”

Marrinan: “Yes. But so closely that you thought it appropriate and not out of order to send a draft letter to the Commissioner for her consideration to send back to the Department and also that the Garda Commissioner could contact the Minister directly with what, on the face of it, appears to be a draft speech expressing confidence in her?”

O’Leary: “In relation to, you know, what is called a draft letter, I have tried to explain the background to that, if it had been written, headed instead ‘points that you might take into account in the light of our discussions’, I don’t think anyone would find that objectionable and maybe that is what I should have done.”

Marrinan: “I know. But that is not the way it’s written, it’s written in the first person, as indeed the speech is written in the first person.”

O’Leary: “Well, I mean, frankly, like, that is a question of form rather than substance in relation to what was going on.”

Marrinan: “Well, I think if it had become — either the letter or the speech had become bestsellers, there might have been a quarrel in relation to copyright and royalties, but anyway.”

The tribunal continues today.

Previously: Disclosures Tribunal on Broadsheet