It’s been almost two years since Conall Ó Fátharta first reported in The Irish Examiner that, two years before historian Catherine Corless raised fears about the Tuam mother and baby home in Co Galway, a HSE West social worker, in 2012, had expressed concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been trafficked to the US from the home.
The social worker came to the conclusion after she examined both the Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes while preparing material for the Magdalene laundries inquiry, led by then Senator Martin McAleese – material which was not included in the McAleese report.
Readers should note Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly was the Minister for Health at the time, while Phoenix magazine has previously reported DrReilly paid The Communications Clinic nearly €60,000 between 2012 and 2014 – out of an Oireachtas fund, called the Special Secretarial Allowance (SSA).
Further to this.
On RTÉ’s This Week.
Presenter Conor Brophy spoke to Ó Fátharta about his research and asked what, if any, action was taken after the HSE social worker raised her concerns back in 2012.
Conor Brophy: “In 2012, the HSE had examined both the Tuam mother and baby home and Bessborough in Cork as part of the Magdalene laundries inquiry [by then Senator Martin McAleese]. It’s findings in relation to high mortality rates at both homes, as well as trafficking of up to 1,000 children from Tuam for adoption were described by officials as ‘shocking’ and ‘staggering’. The HSE recommended a fully fledged, a fully resourced investigation and a State inquiry be established.”
Brophy: “Where did the reports go and what action, if any, was taken after this?
Conall Ó Fátharta: “Well that’s where you run into… it’s difficult to understand, first of all, why nothing was done. I suppose, the answer that I’ve gotten from the departments, while they initially said they hadn’t seen it, they then said that the important thing to note was that this was outside the terms of reference of the McAleese committee. It was specifically examining… Magdalene laundries and that any issues surrounding mother and baby homes, and any validated findings of concerns, I think was the wording they used, should be reported through a separate process. But to me, to my mind, it’s pretty clear that they were being reported. I mean, the wording was clear – ‘this needs to be looked at further’. You get the sense that they had only scratched the surface and the reason they were raising this at senior levels was because they felt, you know, someone needs to look at this, they need to look at it forensically. Again, the defence has always been that, you know, the McAleese committee wasn’t really tasked with this, somebody else needs to look at it, at a later date.”
“But as I’ve always said, and I’ve said it in innumerable pieces, the line that was thrown at me was kind of that, the findings, in particular in relation to the Bessborough report, were a matter of conjecture, which is a sentence that the author of that report does use but not in relation to infant mortality, and uses it in the context of ‘well, look, this is what I’m seeing, these are the concerns that come out of it, when you examine this documentation, and these are all conjecture, until somebody has a look and sees are my suspicions founded’. That’s the context of that wording. What you can’t deny is that the death rate figures are coming directly from a register and if the work of Catherine Corless, which is fantastic, was enough to launch a State inquiry, it seems beyond me why figures held by the HSE themselves, taken directly from the order, weren’t worthy of that same level of interest two years earlier.”
Brophy: “What, for you then, are the key questions now?”
Ó Fátharta: “They key questions, we’re probably trying to answer them now. My point has always been, we could be a bit further down the track with all of this. If the concerns raised about Tuam and Bessborough had been noted when they were reported in 2012, we could be at the end of a State inquiry into mother and baby homes. Who knows? We have to hope that the commission is now going to, it does seem like it’s going to broaden the scope a bit, more than Tuam. It’s clear that the same concerns that we’ve now found in Tuam were noted in other institutions. The figures are there. The records are there. So, it’s a matter of spreading the net a bit wider and looking at other institutions which it does seem like they’re going to do but, I suppose, we could be a little further down the track if the right people had been listened to back in 2012.”
Brophy: “That’s journalist Conall Ó Fátharta speaking to me earlier. Now, in addition to asking for a spokesperson from the HSE to join us, we submitted a list of questions to the HSE this weekend. Specifically, they were related to what, if any, notification was provided to the minister [for health, Dr James Reilly] back in 2012 and what steps were taken to investigate the findings contained in its own internal documents at the time. The HSE wasn’t in a position to provide us with a spokesperson. In a statement, the HSE said it was liaising with the mother and baby homes commission in relation to the disclosure of all documentation relevant to the commission’s work.”
Internal auditors at the Department of Social Protection have found high-risk concerns over the manner in which employers were allowed to sign up to the controversial JobBridge internship scheme.
According to the unpublished report, a copy of which was obtained by RTÉ’s This Week, the department’s auditors expressed concern over a lack of initial validation of the employers’ eligibility and whether their use of interns could lead to the possible displacement of real jobs.
The report noted that under the system of initial self-declaration, “employers make a statement on their application that the intern is not displacing a job vacancy,” going on to add “it is not possible to verify whether or not the internship is displacing a potential job vacancy”.
The auditors also found no checks into whether employers – or hosts – had the appropriate form of public or employer’s liability insurance, potentially exposing the minister and taxpayer financially in the event of an insurance claim.
There you go now.
Listen back to the This Week item on JobBridge here
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
On yesterday’s RTÉ Radio One This Week show, journalist John Burke reported on allegations of wrongdoing made by two Garda whistleblowers.
Grab a tay.
John Burke: “This relates to serious allegations of wrongdoing within the force that have been made by two young gardai. Essentially their complaints are different though they relate to the same senior garda. Both have made allegations. On the one hand, by one Garda whisteblower that there was serious impropriety in relation to the pursuit of drugs investigations. The other whistleblower has made again, quite serious allegations, in relation to what happened him when he arrested a garda for drink driving. They both say their careers have essentially been ruined in effect by bringing their concerns forward and they did so around the time that there was a great deal of publicity in relation to the Maurice McCabe case and the John Wilson case, where they brought their concerns forward. So that, it seems, emboldened them to bring their cases forward. They went into the process and made their complaints known to senior officers. And they claim, after that, that they suffered as a consequence.
“In the case of the first whistleblower, he went to the interim garda confidential recipient as it was at the time last May, Judge Patrick McMahon and, arising from that, in the summer of last year, approximately one year ago, a senior garda officer was appointed to examine his allegations. They met and at that meeting, the garda whistleblower was represented by a junior solicitor, not his normal solicitor in fact, as far as I understand they wouldn’t have even been known to each other before that meeting. Very shortly, after that meeting, the junior solicitor noticed that their LinkedIn page had been checked out, their profile had been checked out, by the accused Garda. That raised a big red flag for them in terms of whether that meeting with the investigating senior garda, which was supposed to be entirely confidential, whether there was a leak of information and, if that leaked, perhaps what else had leaked? So, at that time, this is the summer of 2014, they wrote to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and they wrote the the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and they said they had serious concerns in relation to the potential that information had leaked from this confidential process, back to the accused garda and that they then felt they couldn’t rely on it any further. The Garda Commissioner’s office wrote back to the first whistleblower in this case and whilst, as I understand it, they didn’t deal directly with the allegations made, in terms of whether they accepted them or not, they said that if the Garda whistleblower waited, he could engage then with a new process which was coming in at the time which is in now, the Protected Disclosures Procedure whereby one goes to GSOC as opposed to the Confidential Recipient. So we’ll park that for one moment. That’s the first Garda whistleblower who raised those concerns about information leaking out from his investigation that was overseen by this senior investigating Garda.”
“Exactly one year later, there’s an internal Garda inquiry now which has been launched, in relation to this accused Garda, arising from the serious allegations made by the second whistleblower. This is in relation to the pursuit of drugs investigations. It’s a very high level internal inquiry but what we’ve learned is that the guard who has been appointed to oversee that internal investigation is in fact the senior garda who headed up the internal examination into the first whistleblower’s complaint about whom, or about that process which the first whistleblower’s solicitors wrote to say that they were concerned about information leaking out. So essentially, what you have is, two senior gardai, 12 months ago, the first senior garda was examining the claims by the first whistleblower into the accused and the first whistleblower was not happy with the way information seemed to leak out from that process. We know see, in relation to the second whistleblower that that same senior garda has been appointed to head up the internal inquiry in relation to that second senior garda and our understanding is that both whistleblowers have now written to both the Garda Commissioner and to the Minister for Justice, expressing their concern as to whether they can have any faith in this process, in light of the concerns that were raised one year ago. We put these questions to the Garda Press Office and they said that they cannot comment on either operational or internal disciplinary measures.”
During the show, Mr Burke spoke to United Left Alliance TD, Clare Daly about the situation.
Clare Daly: “What it’s saying is that the old boy network, even though there are two girls at the helm, is absolutely alive and well and the same hierarchy is there defending itself and all of the demands that were very alive a year ago – that we needed to transform An Garda Siochana into a modern police service – are even more valid now because I would actually say the situation internally now is probably worse than when it was under former Commissioner [Martin] Callinan and Minister [Alan] Shatter… For 15 months now [the two whistlelblowers] have been put through hell, and their families have been put through this hell, isolated from their peers. They’re very vulnerable, they’ve been seriously harassed and intimidated and it’s just not good enough.”
Separately, readers may wish to recall how, in December 2014, Independent TD Mick Wallace, at a Banter event in Twister Pepper, Dublin, claimed some senior gardaí were benefitting from the drugs trade in Ireland.
There’s a number of cases where guards take, they capture drugs. We know of a case where drugs were coming in, maybe five suitcases of cocaine might come in and it would be organised to let four through, the guards would catch one suitcase with some chaps that would be heading off in one direction with the suitcase. Their leader was never caught. And the suitcase they would catch, they would bring it and there’d be a big show and the media would be brought down to show, ‘oh, there was a big drugs find yesterday and here’s all the stuff’. The stuff goes back in a box and fellas have come to us and told us that they were dealing in drugs, they were caught by the cops, they weren’t turned in and the cop says, ‘we’ll be back to ya’. They come back two weeks later and say, ‘here, sell this for us and bring us back the money’.
Denis O’Brien’s spokesman James Morrissey (above) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (top)
Radio that needs to be read to be believed.
Denis O’Brien’s spokesman James Morrissey and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin engaged in a pre-recorded debate with Richard Crowley for RTÉ’s This Week on the ongoing constitutional brouhaha.
Richard Crowley began by asking Micheál Martin if he believed the virtual black-out in the Irish mainstream media of Independent TD Catherine Murphy’s comments in the Dáil last Thursday represented a constitutional crisis.
Grab a tay.
Micheál Martin: “It is, I think we are in very dangerous territory where the alleged privacy right of the powerful, if you like, are coming into conflict with the constitutional right of parliamentarians to articulate matters of undoubted public interest in parliament and to have those concerns aired and reported on by the national media. I think last Thursday, as I watched the news, both on various TV channels, it was something I had never experienced before where, essentially, the media were silenced because of the litigation and because of the actions taken both in the High Court and in legal advice, to the effect that the national stations couldn’t cover what Catherine Murphy said in the Dáil. I think it’s an extraordinary state of affairs. The Dáil should be recalled to debate this because it goes to the fundamental heart and cornerstone of our democracy.”
Richard Crowley: “James Morrissey, this has been seen by some as an attempt by Denis O’Brien to silence the Oireachtas, to muzzle the press by preventing it from reporting Catherine Murphy’s statement.”
James Morrissey: “Well I agree with Micheál Martin that, as I think you said, a constitutional crisis because the courts and the Oireachtas need to respect each other. I don’t ever recall Micheál Martin bringing forward a privacy bill or anything that would help in resolving this problem and I have a greater difficulty with Micheál Martin because I recall going back to December of last year, when you, Micheál Martin, stood up in the Dáil and you said it is wrong and out of order for Deputy Mary Lou McDonald to name names in the context in which she did, in particular the individuals concerned need to know how they can get redress or, in essence, get their names cleared on the record and their reputations cleared as well. Now, I’d ask you a question: where is the difference? Is it because some of them were your party colleagues? Cabinet colleagues? So, Denis O’Brien is different is he?”
Martin: “No, the fundamental difference is that the media reported on all of that and carried everything that was said by Mary Lou McDonald verbatim on the national airwaves and in the newspapers. And I, or nobody in my party, ever attempted to stop the media from so doing and from exercising their constitutional right. And your problem, Mr Morrissey, is you’re attacking people too much. Your attitude and your response to this is to attack the person who stands up for democracy. So you attack Catherine Murphy, you call her a liar, you call her a thief and you denigrate parliament by calling it a ‘talking shop’, as you did last week. Now the first thing you should do, and the public want, is for you to apologise to Deputy Murphy for saying she’s peddling lies, for saying she got information illegally. It is extraordinary charges that you are making, attempting to bully and intimidate a parliamentarian who is held in widespread respect across the parliamentary divide. And we know that Deputy Murphy has form on this, in the sense, that through dogged pursuit of parliamentary questions and utilisation of freedom of information, she unearthed significant issues and concerns that public servants had, civil servants in the Department of Finance had in relation to the sale of Siteserv, for example, and other major transactions concerning IBRC.”
Talk over each other
Crowley: “Can we just hold it there. James Morrissey, can I just ask you to deal with a couple of points raised by Micheál Martin. You said that the document, or information, was stolen. As far as I remember you didn’t say that Catherine Murphy stole it but who, or from where was it stolen?”
Morrissey: “It was removed from IBRC.”
Crowley: “Removed? The original document, not copied, but removed?”
Morrissey: “There were documents stolen and they were amended and altered and they were presented to Catherine Murphy and what is most fascinating about Micheál Martin’s comments here, he seems to accept in totality everything that Catherine Murphy has said. So, has he seen the documentation? Or is he just relying on her version of events? You see…”
Talk over each other
Crowley: “Let him answer that..no, no, no, let him answer that because if we move on that point could be lost.”
Morrissey: “Micheál Martin, have you seen the documentation?”
Martin: “I have not seen the documentation that Catherine Murphy has seen but I accept…”
Crowley: “How do you know…”
Crowley: “How do you know that it’s correct in it’s entirety.”
Martin: “Mr Morrissey made an assertion and he was wrong in making that assertion. Now he hasn’t apologised to Deputy Murphy and he should because what I accept is, and will defend to the bitter end, is the right of Deputy Catherine Murphy to say what she said in the Dáil. She was speaking on legislation that she was introducing into the house…”
Talk over each other
Crowley: “No, Micheál I have to cut you off there, all right, look we want to get to the nub of this. James Morrissey how much of what Catherine Murphy said in the Dáil was correct and how much of it was incorrect? Did she say something that was true?”
Morrissey: “She said, most of what she said was untrue but not all of it.”
Crowley: “Not all of it. And so what she said that was true, you would have no difficulty with her putting that on the record?”
Morrissey: “Whatever she said is true she can say whatever she likes.”
Crowley: “You have no problem with that?”
Morrissey: “The most important thing though here comes back to, you see, Micheál Martin uses the word ‘powerful’. I would have thought that all citizens rank equally but he obviously doesn’t think so. I think the key issue here is when information is leaked and when it’s interfered with and when fundamental facts…”
Crowley: “I’m sorry, that’s the second time you’ve said that. What do you mean by altered, changed? Who changed it and in what way?”
Morrissey: “I don’t know who changed it but Catherine Murphy has presented as facts figures that are not correct and she has made statements that are fundamentally wrong.”
Crowley: “And are you saying that a document, in its original form, was correct in every way but that it was altered in such a way as to make it untrue?”
Morrissey: “I don’t know what documents she has but I am satisfied…”
Crowley: “How can you say they were altered then?”
Morrissey: “I am telling you that I’m satisfied that documents that she presents as being facts contain erroneous figures and numbers that simply…”
Crowley: “No, no, no, you said that they were altered. How do you know they were altered if you don’t know what documents she had?
Morrissey: “Well, I’ve seen, I’m aware of the original documentation, I’ve seen what she has misrepresented.”
Martin: “Well the bottom line then is deal with it, deal with it…”
Crowley: “Why not deal with it? Isn’t that a good point? If there is a difficulty here that some of the information is correct and some is not, why not come out an issue a full statement, clarifying what’s true and what’s not, James Morrissey?”
Morrissey: “You see I think what Micheál Martin is doing here is he…”
Crowley: “No, could you answer my question, rather than address Micheál Martin. If there is a difficulty here and some information is correct and some is incorrect, why not, why wouldn’t your side come out and clarify it by putting the truth into the public domain?”
Morrissey: “For one particular reason that Micheál Martin chooses to ignore and that is the rights of a citizen in this country to privacy in his financial matters.”
Martin: “But the bottom line here is, this is about the IBRC which is a bank that was bailed out by the taxpayer, 100%, fundamental matter of public interest which, by any definition, trumps any other issue. The public have a right to know if there are issues pertaining to how that bank operated in terms of its corporate governance, in terms of the large transactions that the civil servants and the department of finance had concerns about and which has led to an inquiry, established by the government in my view a very poor type of inquiry, that’s the context in which Catherine Murphy spoke last Thursday and she’s acting in good faith, that’s the point. That Mr Morrissey should attempt to undermine her authority…”
Talk over each other
Crowley: “Mr Morrissey…”
Martin: “Because people across the House, and this is an important point, will defend the right of Catherine Murphy to act in good faith..”
Crowley: “Even if she gets it wrong, inadvertently.”
Martin: “But of course, the whole nature of parliamentary democracy and parliamentary debate is the freedom to speak out but in terms of other issues when it’s come to the fore, if it’s dealt with efficiently, promptly and in the public domain, the Oireachtas polices the privilege it has under the Constitution. It has that basis..there is no issue to resolve here by the way, it’s very clear.”
Crowley: “All right. James Morrissey would you take the point about this being in the public interest? It’s a point made by Michael McDowell, the former Tánaiste, Attorney General and Senior Counsel, a former Justice Minister writing in yesterday’s Irish Times, he says ‘I venture to suggest that the points made by Deputy Murphy and her speech appear to be points of very significant public interest’.”
Morrissey: “Then there’s one key question and that is, why has RTÉ failed to appeal this whole matter?”
Martin: “But that’s not..”
Crowley: “We’re going to the courts next week, RTÉ is going to the court, as is the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post.”
Morrissey: “No, I think for clarification, Richard. RTÉ had seven days in which to appeal the court order – it did not do so.”
Crowley: “We don’t have the court order yet. We don’t know yet. The document has been redacted and we have yet to get the full court order and it’s on the basis of having seen that, that an application or an appeal would be lodged.”
Morrissey: “No, I think my understanding is that the station had seven days to appeal it and has decided not appeal it.”
Crowley: “No, that’s not true. As far as I’m aware, RTÉ has until next week. But would you go back to the point, would you go back to the point of the public interest, why is this not in the public interest?”
Morrissey: ” Because the private banking affairs of an individual who borrowed money to invest in properties and businesses, employing up to 10,000 people coming out of the recession is entitled to privacy in his financial matters. Maybe Micheál Martin could tell us, because he’s never brought forward a privacy bill ever, in all his years in the House, could he tell us what different grades of citizens, of what level of privacy should apply to various people, does it apply to former Fianna Fáil ministers or does it apply to Denis O’Brien? Again Micheál Martin you have danced around the whole Mary Lou situation, which I think is very curious..”
Crowley: “We’re not going back on the Mary Lou situation, let’s just stay with Denis O’Brien.”
Martin: “The Dáil dealt with that and dealt with it adequately, the CCP met and sanctioned..”
Crowley: “Would you go back to Denis O’Brien’s privacy. Why is he not entitled to privacy?”
Martin: The bottom line here, this isn’t about a private domestic banking issue. As I said earlier, it’s about a fundamental issue pertaining to the taxpayer, of public interest where the IBRC, a bailed-out bank, it’s a State bank in essence and, rightly or wrongly, there is no question but that large transactions are, by definition, matters of public interest and, in terms of the citizen out in the street. Here’s the real heart of the matter. People are out there, turning up in courts with their mortgages and so on with potential evictions from their houses, if the charge emerges that there is a different set of rules for those higher up the scale, as opposed to the ordinary punter on the ground, then that feeds into resentment in society and very significant resentment so there’s an absolute need for transparency here…that’s all we’re saying here and what’s..”
Talk over each other
Crowley: “Sorry, Micheál, we’re running out of time, I want James Morrissey back in on that point.”
Morrissey: “Micheál Martin, does that include all the business interests in Fianna Fáil and everybody in this country that all their banking interests should be made public. If that’s what you’re saying, that’s fine and we will cooperate with that but I think you’re biggest problem here is you’re working in a selective basis.”
Martin: “No, I’m not Mr Morrissey, I’m working on the basis of the Irish Constitution which actually has, at its heart, protecting parliamentary democracy which is at the very core of our system, our…
Talk over each other
Martin: “No, Mr Morrissey, we don’t actually have one [a constitutional crisis]. I think this will be resolved because the constitutional privilege is absolute.”
Talk over each other
Martin: “Stop the bullying, stop intimidating people and trying to undermine people. Have the guts to apologise to Catherine Murphy for how you’ve treated her and also apologise in terms of your denigration of parliament which you’ve..that’s your approach, it’s wrong.”
Crowley: “Mr Morrissey, I want to ask what your course of action will be next week. Let’s presume that RTÉ and the Sunday Business Post and the Irish Times go to the High Court for clarification on this from Justice [Donald] Binchy and he says that the original interlocutory injunction does not cover, that it was intended to [RTE journalist] David Murphy’s story for RTE, it does, it was not the intention of the court to cover matters raised by Deputy Catherine Murphy in the Dáil. What then will you do?”
Morrissey: “The answer is I don’t know, that’s something that’s being considered by the legal team at the moment. But what is of…”
Crowley: “What options are open to you?”
Morrissey: “A very important part of this, as I’ve mentioned. RTE decided not to appeal the decision and it was given seven days.”
Crowley: “Ah now sorry, sorry, James. Twice, I’ve told you that no decision has been made on that because the court order has not been received by RTE and that’s a decision that will be made next week so please stop saying that RTE have not appealed this. Now, go back to what you will do, what options are open to you next week, if Mr Justice [Donald] Binchy says that Catherine Murphy’s comments are not covered by the injunction?”
Morrissey: “I’m not going to get into a hypothetical situation on that at this point in time.”
Crowley: “But would you consider separate court action?”
Morrissey: “That will be considered by Denis O’Brien’s legal team. I’m not a member of the legal team.”
Crowley: “Micheál Martin.”
Martin: “The fundamental point I’d make, I think it’s absolutely essential that you back off from this. One thing you can not do is silence the national parliament or silence the rights of Daáil deputies, whether you like what they say or dislike what they say. Constitutionally you cannot do that and nobody, and I’m talking to people across the country, they’re very upset and angry with what is going on. They do not like it. Fear stalks the land in terms of the journalistic landscape by the way, litigations left, right and centre – it’s a very unhealthy situation, there’s a very unhealthy atmosphere out there in our democracy, there’s a very simple way of resolving that and pulling back from the brink. There’s one battle that cannot be won in any republic like this and I’m a republican. The parliament cannot be undermined…”
Crowley: “James Morrissey..”
Martin: “..in any shape or form in terms of the rights that it has.”
Crowley: “James Morrissey, the Sunday Times today publishes some of the details of what Catherine Murphy said, they’re still on the Broadsheet.ie website last night, it’s on the Oireachtas website, it’s been covered by the Guardian, it’s been covered by the New York Times, it’s on the Channel 4 website, in terms of keeping this under wraps, it’s been a spectacular failure for your side and if anything, you’ve heightened the interest in it. Everybody is interested in hearing more now.”
Morrissey: “Perhaps that is the case but I think it’s also fair to say that an individual is entitled to take a course of action and whether that course of action results in success or failure, Denis O’Brien said at the very outset, at the very outset in this whole affair that he was taking this action on a point of privacy principle in relation to the privacy of his financial affairs and his banking…”
Crowley: “And his opinion or his tactic, his approach hasn’t changed, given that there is now heightened interest in the story and that, effectively, the pressure is on for him to come out and make a clarifying statement to say this is untrue and I can prove it.”
Morrissey: “Well, you see, I think the big issue here is, do you concede to pressure that’s out there or do you stand your ground and say, ‘I am a private citizen and I’m entitled to privacy in my financial affairs.”
Crowley: “And you seem to be suggesting that it’s the latter course that he will opt for, or is opting for.”
Morrissey: “That’s certainly my understanding of it.”
Crowley: “And that won’t change in the short term, as far as you’re concerned?”
Morrissey: “I don’t believe so because, as I say, I think it’s a point of principle.”
Crowley: “Was the gagging, effective gagging, of Catherine Murphy on the Dáil on this issue unintended, though a welcome consequence of the injunction against David Murphy on RTE?”
Morrissey: “Well again I think it’s where there’s a constitutional issue. Denis O’Brien went to court…”
Crowley: “To stop David Murphy, on RTE, broadcasting a story but an unintended consequence of that has been, that it’s been interpreted as being affecting what Catherine Murphy said in the Dáil and then the reporting of what Catherine Murphy said, that was, that was hardly your intention or strategy at the time, was it?”
Morrissey: “Well I think what’s happened here is that…”
Crowley: “But was it?”
Morrissey: “A lot of information is being peddled and it’s being peddled to a lot of different people and we had no idea as who else was going to come forward with it next. It could be anybody. I mean clearly Micheál Martin obviously would have loved to have had this information for political points scoring, he could have gone into the Dáil with it but he didn’t.”
Martin: “What are you talking about?”
Morrissey: “I’m talking about…”
Martin: “I’m not saying, listen, I, my intervention this weekend is a very simple one: it’s to defend the national parliament and the right of the Dáil to exercise its constitutional rights, what I witnessed last Thursday night, I never witnessed in my life – where the national broadcaster was effectively silenced, where other television channels were silenced and you had these pathetic spectacles of senior reporters saying, we can’t talk about this, we can’t hear this. That never happened before in our country, it never happened before. ”
Crowley: “Final word to James Morrissey.”
Martin: And it’s not good enough and it needs to stop and you need to back off.”
Morrissey: “Micheál Martin has been in the Dáil and he has been a minister and he has never done anything about a privacy bill, ever.”
Martin: “Because the bottom line is I actually understand the balance between protecting society and having liberty and freedom of speech. And I actually will accept the points that have been made by former deputy and former minister Micheal McDowell in relation to that very point.”
Talk over each other.
At this point, Mr Crowley asked Mr Morrissey about a report in this morning’s Sunday Business Post which stated that Mr O’Brien advised the Government not to sell its stake in Aer Lingus to IAG.
Although the Government did give the go-ahead to sell the State’s 25% interest in Aer Lingus to IAG, it’s interesting to note that last week’s Sunday Independent featured a lengthy profile piece on managing partner of William Fry, Bryan Bourke, and mentioned how the firm – which represented Denis O’Brien at the injunction proceedings against RTE – was involved in IAG’s bid for Aer Lingus.
Crowley: “James Morrissey, before you go, one of the consequences of all of this, of course, is even greater scrutiny of Denis O’Brien and what he’s done or not done and we have the Sunday Business Post today reporting that Mr O’Brien contacted the Government several months ago to oppose the sell-off of Aer Lingus can you conform that that’s a fact and, if so, who did he speak to?”
Morrissey: “I”m not aware of who he spoke with but I know that he held very strong views that Are Lingus should not be sold because he believes it is an iconic brand and that it is a company with a great history and that it is one of the world’s leading Irish brands that has stood the test of time and, from speaking with him, I think he feels it’s regrettable that the headquarters of Are Lingus is going to end up in Hounslow.”
Crowley: “And did it have anything to do with his own business interests?”
Morrissey: “He has no aviation interests.”
Crowley: “No connection, none of his companies, either controlled or owned by him have no connection with Aer Lingus as of now and as of, and involved in transactions that might be involved, might be affected in the longer term by an IAG takeover?”
Morrissey: “He was a shareholder in Aer Lingus and, as I understand, he disposed of all of those shares in the last 12 months.”
Crowley: “And do any companies, now controlled or owned by him, do business with Aer Lingus and are those transactions that might be affected in the longer term by an IAG takeover?”
Morrissey: “None whatsoever.”
Crowley: “James Morrissey, spokesman for Denis O’Brien and the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin.”
After the interview, Mr Crowley clarified RTÉ’s position in relation to appealing Justice Donald Binchy’s original high court injunction, saying:
“RTÉ says that it has 21 days, and not seven days, to make a decision on that matter.”
Yesterday, John Burke discussed a statement that Marie Farrell gave to gardaí in 2006 with Colm Ó Mongáin on RTÉ’s This Week. In the statement Ms Farrell alleges that she was put under “intense pressure” by gardaí to implicate Ian Bailey for the 1996 death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Mr Bailey was arrested twice in relation to the murder investigation – in February 1997 and January 1998 – and released without charge on both occasions.
He’s now suing the State alleging wrongful arrest.
John Burke: “Marie Farrell was a local shopkeeper in the village of Schull in West Cork around the time Ms Du Plantier was killed at her holiday home nearby. Ms Farrell came to Garda attention shortly after the French woman’s murder when she rang Bandon Garda Station anonymously and said that she saw a man late at night on a road near the murder scene. She didn’t give her name as on the night in question, she claims to have been with a man who was not her husband and she was concerned her husband would find out. Now gardaí subsequently tracked her down and it was from this point onwards that one guard in particular began to ring her constantly about the case, she says. She’s claimed that she came under pressure from gardaí early on in the investigation, to wrongly identify the man that she had seen on the road that night as Ian Bailey, an Englishman who was living locally.”
Colm Ó Mongáin: “So, from the beginning, they were lots of phone calls. What level of detail does she give in her version of these conversations?”
Burke: “Well in this statement, Marie Farrell claims that during January and February of 1997, she was coming under intense pressure to name Ian Bailey in a statement, as the man she saw near the murder scene. One garda, she says, was ringing daily, sometimes several times a day, to discuss a possible statement. She said that the tone of the calls were not nasty at this time but they were pleading. And she said that the Garda claimed it would take a lot of pressure off him to have this statement about Ian Bailey. She was also being regularly asked whether she had said anything to her husband and she said she had not. Now, she said this garda was very concerned that other gardaí could be suspicious about him making so many calls to her home and to her shop. And she said that he asked her to go to two public telephones – one opposite the Bunratty Pub and one in the east end car park in Schull, and it was on these lines that they discussed the case initially. And then later that month, amid what she called constant pressure, she signed a statement in which she alleged to have recognised Ian Bailey as the man she saw on that night, on the road.”
Ó Mongáin: “Now according to this statement, she also claims to have been given the use of a special phone for the purposes of conducting these discussions with gardaí but not to go mad on it?”
Burke: “Yes, that’s right. Marie Farrell said, in this statement, that this garda gave her a mobile phone. She said he called it a State phone and she recounted the number of that phone in her statement and this number would appear to tally with the numbers of a normal, Garda issue mobile phone. She said he gave her the phone so that if anyone checked outgoing calls, it would look like calls were being made to a Garda rather than to her. And she said that this garda was, to quote her statement, always worried about phonecalls being checked to the extent that even when the Garda in question rang her, on the mobile phone that he gave her, he would cut the calls short and ask her to continue the calls via a public phonebox. She said that she had the use of this Garda mobile phone for around nine months and that she never paid any bills on it. She said he was constantly ringing her, looking for additional statements, relating to what she described as, to quote directly again, fictitious events involving Ian Bailey.”
Ó Mongáin: “Another key witness in this case is Martin Graham. Now Marie Farrell claims to have been rung by a garda who is deeply worried about a negative media report relating to this Martin Graham?”
Burke: “Yes, that’s right. She said that she was out at a family event one Saturday in May 1997 when a garda, who she had been dealing with, rang her and she said the garda was crying and she said that, to quote again directly, that they were “in the shit”. She said that this was a reference to a tabloid newspaper story which he believed was about to be published, relating to allegations that had been made by Martin Graham, who claimed that he was offered cash and drugs in order to obtain information about Ian Bailey and the garda pleaded with her to leave his name out of it if she ended up talking to the media or anyone about this.”
Ó Mongáin: “But that tabloid newspaper story was ultimately never published. What was the issue? Was the issue discussed any further in telephone calls, the issue of this potential story?”
Burke: “It certainly was, she said that the garda rang her sometime later during the summer of 1997 and claimed that gardaí in Dublin had somehow managed to stop this story being published. She said that the garda also told her that gardaí had put pressure on Martin Graham and he was fairly confident that Martin Graham had now gone to England and that he would not be coming back in a hurry. She made this statement in 2006 and her timeline of when this occurred would seem to fit with the same account given by Martin Graham.”
Ó Mongáin: “There’s also an indication that these calls of regular or even constant surveillance being mounted on herself and Ian Bailey?”
Burke: “Yes. Now she said that any time she met Ian Bailey, either this garda or others would ring her almost immediately afterwards to look for a blow-by-blow account of what was said. Interestingly she said that this also occurred after she met with gardaí sent especially down from Dublin to review the handling of the case, on which occasion she said this, or another garda, would ring her immediately to get a debriefing of what the other gardaí in Dublin wanted to know.”
Ó Mongáin: “So from around late December 1996, and certainly, into early 1997, Marie Farrell says she’s receiving constant phonecalls from gardaí in which she’s knowingly asked to give false evidence against Ian Bailey. We know that some calls to and from garda stations were being taped and they’re likely to play a central role in whatever Commission of Inquiry the Government puts into place. Do we know whether these calls were to Bandon?”
Burke: “Well Marie Farrell does make reference to calling Bandon in her statements. Of course we don’t know at this stage what calls were recorded and what particular recordings exist, we know that around three dozen recordings between Marie Farrell and gardaí have been found and they have been transcribed, it’s also likely that many more are yet to emerge.”