Tag Archives: The Gathering

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.”


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”


Clockwise from top: The Gate Theatre, Jill Kerby and Lise Hand

Earlier this morning.

On RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Canadian-born financial journalist Jill Kerby; columnist with The Times, Ireland Edition Lise Hand; Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett and Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness joined Seán O’Rourke for The Gathering slot.

During the slot, they turned to the statement released by The Gate yesterday, in the wake of claims made by six women against the theatre’s former artistic director, for 33 years, Michael Colgan.

The six women are Grace Dyas, Annette Clancy, Ali White, Ella Clarke, Ciara Smyth and Ruth Gordon.

The claims revolve around events ranging from the early 1990s to 2016, Mr Colgan’s final year at The Gate.

In the statement, The Gate Theatre called out for employees, or former employees, who have concerns to raise about sexual harassment or abuse of power to contact them on confidential@gate-theatre.ie.

It also said it intends to appoint an independent professional HR advisor to handle any issues raised.

The statement did not name Michael Colgan.

Readers will recall the Gate Theatre received €860,000 in State funding in 2016. Mr Colgan was paid €231,000, including salary, expenses and pension payments in the same year.

This morning, in light of the statement, Mr O’Rourke raised the matter with his panelists.

Nobody named Mr Colgan.

From the show:

Sean O’Rourke: “Moving on, the, I suppose, another one of the big stories of the week, can be summed up in the two words sex pests. Across the water, suggestions as well that there’s need to look into matters closer to home. I see The Gate Theatre now have appointed a HR expert to receive complaints from people there. What do you make of it all, Lise Hand?”

Lise Hand: “Well, I think there’s sort of two things going on here. First, you know, there’s actually almost a common theme running through a lot of what we’re talking about. A lot of it has to do with no kind of controls, regulation or no, and also people acting with impunity, with no fear of any consequences. And now you have, what started with a say #metoo in America spread…”

O’Rourke: “This is after Harvey Weinstein…”

Hand: “This is after Harvey Weinstein. And an actress started this hashtag and I think, within 24 hours, there was, you know, a million responses on Twitter to it. So, you now have this sort of rolling situation and, for the first time, we probably see people suffering consequences of these allegations. People are being made to step down, shows are, in Hollywood, shows are being axed. You have people, you know, you have men who have, are under these allegations, and they’re actually facing consequences.

“And you’ve a situation here, too, of course, where the #metoo thing has obviously reached Ireland, and, you know, we’ve seen a lot of action on social media over this over the weekend. There was you know, a report of one, it was in a Sunday paper, a couple of Sunday papers, you know, about one individual using the term sex pest and then there was sort of a separate story running online as well about other allegations made by somebody else of a much more serious nature.

“And I think there’s two things here. One, there is a danger when these things go up on social media, that different stories get conflated. And people who have nothing to do with this and are completely blameless, names start circulating. And this is the danger. And I think even with the best intention in the world, if somebody wants to step forward and say ‘we need to make this public so people will come out, you know, will come out with their stories’, I think there is a process, I think that, needs to be followed.

“I mean, as a journalist, if I’m you know, doing a story with any allegations, I will absolutely make sure that I have everybody sourced, every single fact nailed down before I go to it. And just one last thing: I think if the Government want to, could actually turn all this into an opportunity, it’s been, since 2002, many people have been trying to get a report, a new SAVI [Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland] report done…”

O’Rourke: “That’s. SAVI stands for sexual…”

Hand: “Sexual violence in Ireland…sexual assault and violence in Ireland, I think it is. Now they could. Since 2002, there hasn’t been a report on this. They could do that and also broaden it out to just look at the broader thing of harassment in the thing. If it only cost €1million and, you know, of a budget of €60billion, surely €1million could be found.”

O’Rourke: “Social media has transformed everything.”

McGuinness: “It has but the frightening thing is that women in America, who spoke out, are now empowered because they’re powerful. When they were powerless, they didn’t speak out. We and debate in the European Parliament on this issue, and there’s concerns in the parliament, as there would be in all big organisations, and I dare say in this outfit as well, that where people are together and some are more powerful than others, you can have what turns out to be sexual harassment and people are fearful to speak out. You need systems to address that.

“The worry with social media is it vents anger but actually could destroy a follow-up, where people should be held to account. And, in addition, people now saying ‘oh it’s going too far’ and the danger is that where there’s a real problem, and there are real problems in the workplace, that people will say, ‘ah sure look, it was harmless and now people are going too far and you can’t touch anyone in a lift or…’ That kind of thing. There is a danger.”

Jill Kerby: “Sure. But there’s always that kind of a backlash, I think, when any sort of event like this happens – especially in this country. I mean, when 20 years ago, there revelations about child sexual abuse in the church were happening, the same kind of people were coming out saying ‘oh, this is most unfair to the church and it’s most unfair to most priests because most of them are really nice guys and this is a terrible thing to do.”

McGuinness: “No one is saying that now.”

Talk over each other

Kerby: “Hang on, no, no, they’re not saying that but they are saying ‘oh this has gone too far’. You know. We have to live with social media. We have to accept…”

Hand: “I don’t think people are saying it’s gone too far, I think all people are saying is that care needs to be taken.”

Kerby: “On my tweet line, lots of people are coming out and, I have to say, most of them are men. And they’re saying ‘this has gone too far’, you know, ‘you women don’t always know what’s the difference between a little bit of jocular office whatever…'”

Talk over each other

Hand: “That’s different than saying, I think, that you know a lot of the people are going too far. I do agree that there is a certain, like ‘you can’t take a joke’…

Talk over each other

Hand: “The only people surprised by the amount, the outpouring on this, are men because any women have sat down together and they’ve talked about an incident, from something very minor, you know, something irritating…”

Kerby: “You know what? I believe them.”

Hand: “Well, we all believe them. Yeah. But..”

Kerby: “I believe those women who say that and that is why I believe the danger now is that there is going to be this great surge of opprobrium against the fact that it’s social media that’s directing this. We have to live with this.”

O’Rourke: “I, to be honest, don’t think social media is the main explanation for why these issues are coming up and I very much welcome the fact that they’re coming up and I think it’s a sign that feeling more confident, and in a stronger position to challenge what has been a rotten culture of sexism and misogyny and where sexual violence, harassment, sexism generally, was acceptable and pervasive in society. It’s becoming less acceptable and that’s because women are becoming more assertive and that is a good thing.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: “I knew It Was Likely I Would Never Work In The Gate Again”

gatheringWish you’d bought one now?

Exiled Purchaser writes:

My [Annie West] Gathering poster is just out of its tube [hence curling],  what on god’s earth are you using for paper stock? The skin of some velvety woodland creature? Didn’t expect it tbh, Lovely. Anyone know where to get a nice (inexpensive) frame 35 by 25cm also?


The paper is 310 gsm ‘Hahnemühle Museum Grade Archival Paper’.

Inexpensive but decent framer anyone?

*sucks teeth*

Previously: Annie’s Gathering (For Aware)


gauly89 sez:

Meet John Smith, current Toronto, CA resident and Leinster Rugby’s biggest fan. John has been a passionate supporter of Leinster Rugby all his life. Currently pursuing a better life for himself in Canada, John made this video to demonstrate his love for Leinster Rugby in an effort to get home for Leinster’s crucial Heineken Cup tie against Northampton Saints in the Aviva Stadium on December 14th.


(Thanks Fiona O’Donovan)

NIallNiall O’Dowd, of Irishcentral.com, above, believes The Gathering has been such a success, it should be an annual event.

He writes:

“The Irish Americans I spoke to and heard from lapped it up. It seemed authentic to them too, and the welcome they received at those events, where they tapped into the family tree, went down very well.”

“In a world grown more global and more corporate every passing year, to have these touchstones of family and community that millions of Americans yearn for is vitally important.”

“That is why The Gathering has been a success, like the Notre Dame game in Dublin last year which allowed tens of thousands of Irish Americans an occasion to travel back for and feel an intimate part of.”

“…So what should be the follow up to The Gathering? It seems simple — a long-term project in every village and town to preserve local history, to reach out to exiled sons and daughters and to create occasions every two years or so where the twain shall meet.

“Call it The Homecoming and extend it deliberately to every parish.”

“On the governmental level the intent should be to publicize and spread the word about such homecoming events and continue to try and drive more visitors through extended access such as flights from American Airlines and United Airlines achieved this summer, and new routes from Aer Lingus will next year.”


Brilliant global marketing strategy.

Or clover-soaked Fifth Avenue blarney?

YOU decide.

Why The Gathering may be Ireland’s greatest tourist success (Irish Central)

Pic: Advertiser.ie

photoMeanwhile, at the atm…

Who would I like to invite home for the Gathering? My hand freezes half way to selecting ‘withdraw €10′ . I can’t take my eyes away from the photograph of young women my age smiling over drinks. My friends are now scattered across the world – San Francisco, London, Brussels, Spain, Australia and even New Zealand. My tax money has paid for this ad, I realise. My friends’ tax money has paid for this ad….

A few evenings later, towards the end of the night I am chatting with a friend who’s home for a short visit. There is a pause in our conversation, during which she takes a deep breath, looks me in the eye and declares “I probably wouldn’t be saying this to you if I wasn’t a little drunk – but I really think you need to leave this city – there isn’t anything for you here. I love this place, it’s a great city, and I want to come back and raise my family here in a few more years, but even if you do get work – there are no people our age left here.” She gazes up and down the busy streets as if to prove her point and, I have to admit by doing so, she does.


A Day In The Life of ireland (Tangible Musings)

Thanks Maria

903078829030787690307866It’s their show. We’re just clattering in line with our arms by our sides.

John McColgan of Riverdance (top) and above, Jean Butler and Leo Varadkar and Moya Doherty at the launch of ‘The Gathering Riverdance weekend’ (which is this weekend) at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, today.

And for the announcement of the world record attempt to have the largest number of Riverdancers who will swap their dignity to promote a dance show to reel along the River Liffey.

Thanks, Farmleigh.

(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)






GathAsy6 gathering

Patron of the Irish Refugee Council and retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, second from top, addresses asylum seekers, refugees, human rights supporters and members of the public at a protest outside the Department of Justice earlier today.

And, bottom picture, protesters gather outside the Dáil, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Earlier: An Asylum Seeker Writes

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland