Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night
On Tonight with Vincent Browne.
In a pre-recorded interview with Fine Gael’s Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, who is running in the Fine Gael leadership race against Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar…
Mr Coveney said he is different to Mr Varadkar who, earlier this week, said he wants to lead a party for “people who get up early in the morning.”
In addition, Mr Coveney said “those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything” referring to people in receipt of social welfare payments.
The Housing Minister also called for people to judge him based on his actions, pointed to his €5.5billion social housing plan.
From the interview…
Simon Coveney: “I think there is a choice for the party that’s quite different.”
Vincent Browne: “Tell us the choice, between one person who says what and the other person says. Tell us both.”
Coveney: “I will. What I have been talking about is a party that represents everybody. Unlike most parties in the country at the moment, many of the smaller parties in particular, focus on niche areas in society and only represent that group of people and then actually get political traction on the basis of division and anger and protest.”
“What I’m talking about is Fine Gael representing someone who is unfortunately in a sleeping bag tonight on the streets of Dublin, as well as supporting people who are creating thousands of jobs. And supporting them and celebrating that success.
“This is a party that I joined and it’s a party that I’ve been a part of for nearly two decades of my working life that I believe has to get the best out of everybody regardless of their limitations or disabilities or social disadvantage or whatever. And…”
Browne: “Ok, that’s what you stand for…tell us how…”
Coveney: “I am not the kind of person that talks about Fine Gael only representing the person that gets up early in the morning.”
Browne: “And that’s what you stand for. Now tell us how that differs from what Leo Varadkar stands for?”
Coveney: “Well I think that is my vision for the country, is one…no, let me finish now and I’ll get to your question.”
Browne: “Ok, good.”
Coveney: “My vision is one of social justice, as well as economic progression. And I think that the approach that I have, that Fine Gael needs to reach out to people who don’t naturally support us and who may never support us in the future but our responsibility to try and get the best out of those people in society, not in some kind of dependancy way but in an enabling way.”
“I think that is a very different message to what I’ve heard from Leo Varadkar this week when he talks about Fine Gael being the party of the person that gets up early in the morning to work. Of course those people need to be represented by Fine Gael because they pay for everything. But there are many people who need the State’s intervention to allow them fulfil their potential and those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything.”
Browne: “Ok, he’s talking…”
Coveney: “I think that is very different vision for the party.”
Browne: “Ok, he talks about a sense of, culture of entitlement in the country. Do you perceive that?”
Coveney: “I mean, I think there is a politics in Ireland at the moment, that calls for the State to deliver people’s rights on everything. A right to a house, a right to healthcare, a right to education, a right to a decent income.”
Browne: “Justice. That’s justice.”
Coveney: “Yeah it is… but the way…”
Browne: “Are you not in favour of that?”
Coveney: “The way in which you achieve it is to ensure that the State enables people to make a contribution to society, as well as a dependency on a government. And I think that is the big difference between me and the hard left. And I think, you know…judge me on what I’m actually doing. I mean, in housing policy at the moment, Vincent, people will talk about the numbers and so on. We have a huge social housing build programme that’s now under way, it’s a €5.5billion project and so on. But the real change, actually, that I’m looking to bring to social housing policy in Ireland is forcing integration.”
“I no longer accept the hard-left arguments that we should designate whole parts of cities and fill them with social housing estates in a mono-tenure way. Instead we have to ensure that social houses are part of private developments and that private housing is part of new social developments…”
Browne: “Are you suggesting that Leo Varadkar is part of the hard left?”
Coveney: “No, I’m not. I’m not suggesting anything about Leo Varadkar, I’m talking about myself.”
The panelists were: Michelle Murphy, from Social Justice Ireland; policy analyst Dr Rory Hearne; media lawyer Andrea Martin, and political correspondent at The Irish Times Harry McGee.
In the latter half of the show, they discussed the Disclosures Tribunal, following on from Judge Peter Charleton making his opening statement yesterday morning.
The tribunal will investigate allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Specifically, Mr Browne raised the subject of journalists and their sources.
Vincent Browne: “There is another issue that arises and it is that a woman made, allegedly made allegations of misconduct against Maurice McCabe which she subsequently withdrew*. And which the DPP found, it couldn’t possibly prosecute on the basis of those allegations. But the name of that person was disclosed to at least two journalists who went off and got exclusives in interviews with this woman. Now that would seem to me that there’s something really insidious involved in that. And who disclosed it? And the journalists then going and interviewing those people. What do you think about that, Harry?”
Harry McGee: “Well, I don’t know if, I mean, what evidence is there that the name was disclosed to journalists?”
Browne: “Well, how else would journalists know otherwise?”
McGee: “Well, I don’t know, you’d have to ask the journalists.”
Browne: “I know but can you think how the journalists would know otherwise?”
McGee: “I can think of many ways in which journalists might know otherwise.”
Browne: “Tell us.”
McGee: “Well, they might have been told my some other people, they might have…”
Browne: “By who? Who’d know?”
McGee: “Well, I don’t know, Vincent.”
Browne: “But who’d know? A priest? A nun? A social worker? A counsellor?…”
McGee: “Well, who do you say? Who would you suggest told the journalist?”
Browne: “I would think that the likelihood is that it was the gardai, members of An Garda Siochana.”
McGee: “I just, I don’t know. I, I…”
Browne: “These are crime journalists that were…”
McGee: “But listen I wasn’t [inaudible] to that particular story, Vincent, you’re asking me to give…”
Browne: “Social workers wouldn’t have much truck with crime journalists…”
McGee: “You’re asking me to answer a question for which I have no, I have no direct knowledge.”
Browne: “Assuming, assuming that it was revealed by gardai – or that the journalists were tipped off by members of An Garda Siochana – this would be pretty insidious, wouldn’t it?”
McGee: “If they were tipped off about the…the identity of…?”
Browne: “Given the name of the person who originally made the complaint.”
McGee: “But there’s no evidence to suggest that at this particular juncture, Vincent, other than supposition. And I, I have no direct influence…”
Browne: “What do you mean there’s no evidence for it? The fact of the matter is: a woman made a claim of abuse. Subsequently, that woman’s name was released to journalists, crime journalists and they went and interviewed that person.”
McGee: “But, you, there is no direct evidence that the identity of the woman was released by gardai. They might have come to identify that woman and find out where that woman was and contact that woman from a separate source. To illicit that information. I think that you should ask…”
Browne: “But is it likely that, is it likely that, given that it was the crime journalists that were given that information – not journalists that are involved in social issues or political journalists or whatever – it’s crime journalists. Isn’t it likely that they got it from the gardai?”
McGee: “Well, there’s a possibility…”
Browne: “But anyway…”
Talk over each other
McGee: “I just can’t…”
Browne: “If that’s so, do you think that’s another dimension of insidiousness with the garda in this whole thing?”
McGee: “Well, I mean, if that were so, yes it would be. But there’s no direct evidence to suggest that, Vincent.”
Browne: “Ok, in your view, in your view, can journalists validly claim confidentiality with regard to their sources, in respect of texts they may have received, or emails, or whatever, they may have received, concerning phone calls, relating to false information concerning Maurice McCabe?”
McGee: “Well, I think that, what the judge was doing today was he was making a distinction between legal professional privilege where he said that the privilege lay with the client and that of informant privilege where it lay with the informer, as opposed to the recipient of that, which is the journalist in this case. And that’s an important distinction, that he’s making. So, I think that, from what I, he said he [Judge Peter Charleton] hasn’t reached a conclusive decision in relation to this and he’s going to receive submissions on it. But he is making the case that if the informer were to waive his or her privilege, than the privilege wouldn’t attach to the journalist who received it. Now, but, for that to work, the journalist would have to reveal who their source was and the journalist, no journalist, in my experience would reveal who the source was. The second…”
Browne: “But, on what basis?…where information was received, that was entirely false, designed to do terrible damage to a person’s reputation, all in the aim of discrediting that person, in the context of…”
McGee: “But in your own, you said that it was, in your opinion, that journalists actually believed the information that was conveyed to them. So, in this case, I think that the test will be a subjective test because if it were an objective test, if the journalist believed that what was being said to them was a calumny, detraction, was a lie – that would be ludicrous and the journalist would be in dereliction of their duties as journalists. So I think that journalists, who received that information, believed that information to be true…”
Browne: “And they should not disclose and, in your view, they should not disclose the source?”
McGee: “Well, yes, if, I think journalists are quite entitled not to disclose their source.”
Browne: “On what basis do you think that?”
McGee: “On the basis that they gave an undertaking to their source that they wouldn’t compromise that source. They believed that information that was being given to them at the time…”
Browne: “And if it then emerges that that source told them lies, and malicious lies, should the journalist still be bound by the the confidentiality arrangement?”
McGee: “Well, that would be post-hoc and so..”
Browne: “Well, we now know it was lies…”
McGee: “I think that might change the circumstances somewhat, if the informer were to waive their privilege. But the difficulty is that the journalist would then be required to reveal their source.”
McGee: “That would present a difficulty for journalists.”
Andrea Martin: “[If she was a journalist] What I would do is I think that I would disclose my source. If ordered to by the court to do so, if there was no greater good going to be had by staying silent on it. But I think many, many journalists would not agree with that. And it’s a personal decision…”
Michelle Murphy: “I think if you are aware that, or if you become aware that what you have been used as a conduit to spread lies then, I think the journalist, in order to protect their integrity, might do so. If they felt that they were being used by a particular individual….in this exact situation, I think they should. But then there’s other areas where you need whistleblowers, in for example, the HSE…”
Rory Hearne: “I think in this case, yeah, they should. I think that the level of maliciousness, the extent and depth of, you know, it’s just shocking to see the corruption and the way people are treated. Our institutions are, you know, used. People who are supposed to be there to protect us are actually, you know, like the guards, are doing things like this to other guards. Tusla has appeared to be used, it’s just disgusting if you ask me. And I think if you were a journalist, and you realise that these people had done this, you know, used you, to denigrate their colleague, then I think I would say, ‘I’m going to tell who that person is’.”
*Broadsheet understands that what’s been reported thus far has been that the girl made an allegation against Sgt Maurice McCabe in 2006, it was investigated, a file was sent to the DPP – with the recommendation that there was no grounds for a prosecution – and the DPP directed that no prosecution should be taken, with the observation that it was doubtful the allegations should constitute a crime at all.
TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne will broadcast an interview Mr Browne has carried out with Jonathan Sugarman at 11pm.
Mr Sugarman is a former executive at Unicredit Bank Ireland in Dublin’s IFSC who resigned in September 2007 after giving a detailed account of enormous liquidity breaches at his bank a year before the financial crash.
The panel on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne
On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.
The panel was comprised of Syrian lawyer and Dublin restaurant owner Ghandi Mallak, Irish human rights activist and documentary maker Caoimhe Butterly, legal advisor to the Irish Refugee Council Maria Hennessy, and Áine Ní Chonaill, who founded the Immigration Control Platform party in Ennis, Co Clare in 1998.
The panel discussed the war in Syria; the 9 million Syrians who have been displaced – around 5 million within Syria and 4 million who have fled the country; and how, last year, 1.3 million people seeking refuge, not just from Syria, came to Europe, which has a population of 500 million.
A clip from Ms Butterly’s award-winning documentary, The Border, was shown in which two teachers from Aleppo spoke to her from a makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at the beginning of this year.
While introducing it, Ms Butterly said:
“Although this clip focuses on these two Syrian women, these two survivors, I think it’s important also to widen the frame, in terms of migration, out past Syria and not just to exceptionalise the Syrian experience because, horrific as it is, there are people seeking refuge from Congo, from Eritrea, from Afghanistan, from Mali, from multiple other contexts. And conflict is only one one frame with which to view this. There’s also, as you know, climate change and resource grabbing and sectarian persecution, etc. So I think to have a more nuanced understanding of, you know, the determinants of forced migration and to recognise that this is a new reality that the EU has to deal with in a less myopic way and a more human way.”
After the clip, Mr Browne asked Ms Ni Chonaill if, on a humanitarian level, Europe should welcome more refugees – given that countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey have taken the greatest numbers of Syrian refugees and, more importantly, given that Europe had a part of play in the political unrest in some of the countries from which people are fleeing.
During her response, Ms Ni Chonaill said people who left Syria and entered Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey had “already fled the bombs and bullets” and were only moving on for economic reasons.
She said: “Europe has had enough of this.”
From the discussion following this…
Caoimhe Butterly: “I’d just like to respond. I mean, I think for a lot of us who are engaged in refugee solidarity and migrant justice work, or work with the undocumented and with asylum seekers in direct provision, living through the unjust direct provision in Ireland, the xenophobic discourse we’ve just heard, is nothing new to us. I have to say, at this stage, I think we’re all quite used to it, I think to the inhumanity of it, to the complete lack of empathy of it, to the other-ing, and to the selfishness of it ultimately. I think of an approach which prioritises, you know, really excluding those who have every right to seek refuge and lives of dignity in our homes. But, while listening to that, I’m just, I’m back from Calais a couple of days and all I could think of are the families, the women, the men and the children there, of such deep dignity and integrity and bravery, you know, who have risked so much to build lives of safety and I think it’s just a profound shame that this discourse is, you know, given time, that it’s given space…”
Aine Ni Chonaill: “Just listen to that now. What a democracy we live in…”
Butterly: “It’s not about censoring..”
Ni Chonaill: “Those who oppose you must not be heard?”
Butterly: “It’s not about silencing, it’s about widening that window of empathy and actually looking at the consequences of…”
Ni Chonaill: “You just said the discourse shouldn’t take place.”
Butterly: “…of responsibility. No, I think a discussion in which the lives of people who are condemned to death by these policies, at sea and in the backs of airless refrigerated trucks will be continued to be condemned to death by that lack of empathy. I just find it deeply sad and I really wish that those who hold these opinions could go and see, and interact, with these people and listen to their stories.”
Ni Chonaill: “I, particularly since Caoimhe has mentioned Calais, the people in Calais are in a safe country, France, but they have the brazen unadulterated cheek to say, ‘oh that won’t do, it’s got to be Britain. Nowhere else will do us. We’re going to Britain.”
Butterly: “They have families, they come from post-colonial contexts in which they speak English.”
Ni Chonaill: “Oh how, they speak English. ‘Oh I’m not going to go to the trouble to speak French. I’m going to Britain.’ They are in safe country and they have the brazen cheek, backed up by idiots like yourself, to say it’s got to be Britain.”
Maria Hennessy: “They actually have legal rights that aren’t being respected, under the Dublin Regulation, in order to be able to arrive in the UK because they have family members.”
Ni Chonaill: “And they only have to go through the asylum process in France and I’m quite sure that they can communicate with Britain..
Talk over each other
Ni Chonaill: “The right of family reunification is the right of the people in Britain to say ‘I want my relative in Calais to come’, it isn’t actually, I think you being a lawyer, will know that. It isn’t the right of the person in Calais to say ‘I want…'”
Hennessy: “I think you’re confusing now, we’re talking about family reunion under the Dublin Regulation…”
Ni Chonaill: “So am I…”
Hennessy: “…which happens before you’re through an asylum procedure. Well you’re incorrectly quoting it there when you talk about it because…”
Ni Chonaill: “Well I’ll stick to what I’m correct about. They have a brazen cheek to say ‘I’m in France but France won’t do’.”
Hennessy: “They have a right to be reunited with their family members. You have to remember about the principle of family unity within the right to seek asylum with your family members.”
Ni Chonaill: “I consider Britain a decent country and I’m happy for them to do their regulations.”
Vincent Browne: “Do you not feel there’s some obligation on the part of us, as members of the human race, to assist people who are in dire straits, such as the people in Syria, such as the people in parts of Africa, such as the people in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and elsewhere and that we should do our bit to assist those people.”
Ni Chonaill: “No, and on and on and on with your list. And, as Caoimhe said, it was very interesting to listen to her, we must not exceptionalise Syria, neither must we, we must think of all these others ones, including the climate change and she seemed to imply the economic difficulties as well. It is neverending. And the rights you talk about…”
Browne: “I didn’t talk abut rights.”
Ni Chonaill: “No, no, no, sorry…”
Talk over each other
Ni Chonaill: “This right to asylum. Well, really, it’s too much to go into this evening but the Geneva Convention that was set up in 1951 said, and these people know that, it said this applied, I’m putting lay language into it, this applied to, it was a mopping up operation, after world war two, this applied to people displaced after world war two. It applied to nobody else and no other circumstance and in 1967 with the New York protocol, because of the Cold War, and having no idea what was coming down the line in the future, they stupidly expanded it and both of, they never, ever, ever would have signed it, the countries of the west, if they knew what it would mean.”
Browne: “Ok, Maria wants to come in…”
Ni Chonaill: “And there’s an opt-out clause in both of them.”
Hennessy: “I just hope you never have to flee conflict..”
Butterly: “I was just thinking the same thing..”
Hennessy: “I really, really hope that you never do because it’s such an inhumane response. I just can’t believe it. It’s truly shocking.”
Ni Chonaill: “Never mind the playing the man, not the ball, stick to the policies..”
Browne: “You’ve been playing the man, you called them stupid a few minutes ago.”
Hennessy: “Okay, so we have our international legal framework within the Geneva Convention, as correct, you referred to the 1967 protocol as well. We’re also part of a Common European Asylum System. And, as part of the Common European Asylum System, we’ve signed up to a number of obligations under the charter of human rights…”
Ni Chonaill: “Which my organisation opposed precisely for this reason…”
Hennessy: “Well, we’re a member of the European Union, we’re part of the Common European Asylum System. Ireland is one of the main, when we talk about the Dublin Regulation, it’s always been signed under the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union…”
Ni Chonaill: “So what..”
Hennessy: “So we have opted into that Common European Asylum System, it is grounded in international human rights..”
Ni Chonaill: “We have done all these foolish things, yes..”
Hennessy: “…in many ways, but not in all ways. And you just really need to look at the right to asylum being really being guaranteed in practice as well as in law. And I just really hope that you never are in the situation where you have to flee your home.”
Ni Chonaill: “The Geneva Convention should have never been interfered with. It should have been what it said, purely as a mopping up operation after world war two. And both of those things, the convention and the New York protocol have an opt-out clause. Of course the EU would be a different kettle of fish but any country that signed up, as we did in, I think it was 54 whatever, every country can give a 12 months’ notice and withdraw from it and if we’d any cop on, that’s what all the countries of the west would be doing.”
Butterly: “Who is we? What constituency do you represent? I mean, really, who is we? Because I would say that there is a deep core of empathy and humanity and compassion in Ireland and I’ve seen that on so many expressions, from the grassroots up and I really hope that, that you can bear witness to some of that, whether it’s on the ground in camps or face to face with people who are prioritising empathy. We can go into policy but I think the core of this is having the basic humanity and decency to see people in times of need and to do the right thing by them.”
Ni Chonaill: “There will be no end to times of need. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea. And on and on and on.”
From top: Car park of The Maldron Hotel, formerly Bewley’s Hotel, Newlands Cross, Dublin 22; the panel on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne and Vincent Browne
On Tonight with Vincent Browne.
The panel included Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly; Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford; director of communications at Social Democrats Anne Marie McNally; and Gavan Reilly, of Today FM.
The show followed Noirin O’Sullivan’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on Wednesday, of which Clare Daly is a member.
They discussed the ongoing Garda whistleblower controversies and, in particular, the meeting that took place between Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a car park on the Naas Road on January 24, 2014.
Mr McGuinness has told the Dail that, at that meeting, Mr Callinan told him Sgt Maurice McCabe could not be trusted.
The panel talked about what else Mr McGuinness claims Mr Callinan said to him, without detailing what was supposedly said.
Readers may wish to note that, on RTÉ’s Six One on Wednesday, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan – who is also a member of the Oireachtas justice committee – told presenter Brian Dobson:
“I have confidence in here [Noirin O’Sullivan] and it’s not my part to be an investigator on this committee, this isn’t an investigative committee, there’s a judge who’s been put in place, Judge O’Neill, to inquire into the protected disclosures that were recently made, that is an investigative process and there will be a report produced at the end of that process and if that report is critical of individuals in high places whoever they are, I won’t be shy, nor will other members of Fianna Fail be shy about calling on those individuals to take responsibility. But what I’m not prepared to do, is just to call for somebody to resign in circumstances where allegations have been made against them but there’s no findings. In those circumstances, I do retain confidence in the commissioner.”
Further to this, from last night’s Tonight With Vincent Browne…
Vincent Browne: “Among the rumours that I’ve been hearing over the last while is that a senior Garda directed by an even more senior Garda sent text messages to other senior gardai and to members of the media, making horrendous allegations about a whistleblower and that a lot of these top echelons of An Garda Siochana were aware of this and may even have encouraged this. Now, it seems to me, if this is true and it isn’t the resignation of the Garda Commissioner that would be required but the resignation of an awful lot of people at a senior level. Have you heard this?
Michael Clifford: “It’s more than a rumour. I mean, a lot of what you said is in one of the protected disclosures but, as you said, Vincent, if it’s true, the issue is can it be proven? Can it be proven to a degree that it would for example, an official legal figure, whomever would be willing, would be satisfied enough…”
Browne: “It could be proved to be true or not to be true because the gardai have capacities to examine text messages, as we found out in the Elaine O’Hara murder trial, for instance, and they’d be able to look back at the text messages and see…”
Clifford: “If they wanted to…”
Browne: “But, sorry, there is available, the expertise, to look back at text messages…”
Gavan Reilly: “If the handset or SIM can be recovered which isn’t always necessarily a given.”
Browne: “What’s that?”
Reilly: “If the physical phone or the SIM card from which the text messages were sent is available to you – which may or may not be the case.”
Anne Marie McNally: “My understanding is that Keith Harrison is saying that he’s got evidence on his phone that will prove the allegations. But, if I’m reading it correct this evening, the judge that’s been appointed, according to the Commissioner’s testimony, he won’t actually have the power to examine phone records so I’m not sure if that extends to text messages but it would seem to be…”
Clifford: “He’ll be able to request it…”
Clare Daly: “Yeah.”
McNally: “He should be, yeah.”
Reilly: “That’s part of the problem of the inquiry that’s been asked of Iarlaith O’Neill, that because he’s existing in a very legal grey area, where it’s all very ill-defined where he’s not acting in a judicial capacity, he’s effectively acting as a kind of wise alderman but he has no powers of compellability or inquiry, as such, so all he can really do is ask people to cooperate and if they do, then he’s entitled to come up with an opinion, as eminent as it might be but that he’s ultimately flying blind. He doesn’t have the powers to demand anything of anybody. So, realistically, the scoping exercise…”
Browne: “So what’s the point?”
Daly: “Well that’s the question, isn’t it. And I mean obviously points have been made by the two…”
Browne: “You’re aware of what I’m talking about…”
Daly: “I’m absolutely aware of what you’re talking about…”
Browne: “My understanding is that when a senior garda person got a, got this text message, the reply was ‘perfect’ which would seem to imply that that person, that senior garda officer was aware of the plan to smear the reputation of the whistleblower in the most odious possible way that you could think of.”
Daly: “At the heart of the protected disclosures is precisely that, that there was an organised and orchestrated deliberate campaign, authorised at the top, including the current and the former commissioner to effectively do exactly what you’ve said – to demonise, to ostracize and put everybody off this whistleblower so that he would be a person that nobody would want to touch or listen to and I mean media people would have got that information, obviously a lot of guards, but politicians did aswell. And, you know, whatever about maybe…”
Browne: “Did politicians get them?
Daly: “Texts, part of the allegations that selected politicians were sent these messages also..”
Daly: “And given that message which…”
Browne: “Who were they?”
Daly: “Well, I don’t know, I know I definitely wasn’t one but it begs the question that even if, initially, some people believed it to be true, as I’m sure some people would, when it emerged around the O’Higgins Commission and the evidence that emerged in that, whereby the commissioner’s legal team had been instructed to undermine the credibility of Maurice McCabe and question his motivation and all of that came into the public domain, why wasn’t that the trigger for people to come forward? And say, ‘hang on a minute here, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. A huge problem now with the inquiry is that the present whistleblowers, the serving guards, who were live, who made protected disclosures, under Noirin O’Sullivan’s watch, they’re allegations of mistreatment and bullying are not being included in Iarlaith O’Neill’s terms of reference…”
Clifford: “What would be very interesting in that inquiry is whether the chairman or the judge asks in somebody, for example, [Fianna Fail TD] John McGuinness, who may have something to say. And he’s nothing to hide himself whatsoever but he may have something to say in relation to his meeting with former [Garda] commissioner Martin Callinan and did anything transpire there that may be of any use to Mr O’Neill trying to get to the bottom of this issue.”
Browne: “I think many of us know what John McGuinness says he was told by Martin Callinan.”
Clifford: “He hasn’t publicly stated it himself, I suppose for good reason, but he hasn’t. But I’m sure…”
Browne: “It is truly shocking. It would really..absolutely shocking. I think if viewers knew what was said, what John McGuinness says was said, I think they would be appalled…”
Reilly: “To go back to the very last point though, what John McGuinness and his meeting with Martin Callinan in a car park somewhere on the Naas Road. John McGuinness revealed that, on the Dail record, he was in the chamber, when he was speaking under privilege but I think he’s repeated it outside the chamber since, that Martin Callinan told him Maurice McCabe was, quote, not to be trusted. Now if that, that in most people’s eyes I think would qualify as an attempt by the most senior garda in force…”
Browne: “Yeah, but if that’s all that was said, you might think, well, yeah, yeah, yeah, but if that was all that was said…”
Reilly: “Well is it tenable for the commissioner at the time to be intervening as he did to cast those kinds of aspirations on the character of Maurice McCabe as he was…”
Browne: “OK but if…”
Reilly: “And for his assistant deputy commissioner not to know?”
Browne: “If that was all was said, that Maurice McCabe wasn’t to be trusted, if that was all was said, you’d say, well, all right, it was, shouldn’t have done it and all that, but my understanding is that very much more was said and of much more damning significance than that Maurice McCabe wasn’t to be trusted…”
Browne: “If what we’ve heard is true, the damage that’s been done will be nothing to the damage that will be done.”
Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Vincent Boland, Ireland correspondent at TheFinancial Times and Independent TD Catherine Connolly
On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.
The panelists were Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Vincent Toland, of the Financial Times and Independent TD Catherine Connolly.
From the discussion:
Kieran O’Donnell: “Firstly, Vincent, America is made up of 50 states, right? So I see that as one..”
Vincent Browne: “Oh, really? 51 states.”
Catherine Connolly: “52 [inaudible].”
O’Donnell: “51 states, I stand corrected. 52, look, well, whatever. ”
Talk over each other
O’Donnell: “Companies have, in the main, pay federal tax, right? So I don’t buy the argument. Europe is made up of distinct countries with their separate tax laws, right? That’s number one. And I think that, number two, the Revenue Commissioners have operated independently of Government…they operate independently of Government and I think that’s why we have a situation whereby that, if Government ministers were aware of every ruling with or with the opinion given by Revenue Commissioners, people would say that’s interference, you can’t have it both ways, so, effectively we have a separation…”
Connolly: “I actually don’t want it both ways but ye want it both ways.”
O’Donnell: “We don’t.”
Connolly: “You do. You want to be part…”
Talk over each other
Lisa Chambers: “Catherine, is this a state aid matter or is it a taxation matter? State aid should not encroach on taxation matters and it is a fundamental principle..”
Vincent Browne: “I would say the opposite..”
Chambers: “It is a fundamental principle of taxation law that it should not apply retrospectively. This is going back 25 years. 25 years.”
Connolly: “That’s not accurate, sorry, it’s not accurate, it’s not 25 years.”
Browne: “This is quite wrong.”
Connolly: “That’s not accurate, the second thing is, we’re a part of Europe, ye have endorsed Europe, you’ve endorsed the Commission and their rules and now that it doesn’t suit you…”
Chambers: “But if one of the rules that… a country defines its own taxation law…”
Connolly: “One of the basic rules is you cannot give state aid selectively and that’s the crux here, on top of the other crux…”
Chambers: “But it’s a taxation matter…”
Browne: “Ah, Lisa…”
Chambers: “It is not state aid, I’m sorry, it’s incorrect.”
Connolly: “The commission is saying that you treated Apple selectively. You gave them special treatment, compared with other companies. You’re saying ‘no we didn’t’.”
Chambers: “But why are you backing the commission and not your own country?”
Connolly: “I’m not backing anything. I’m looking at the judgement.
Talk over each other
Vincent Boland: “It’s not a question of patriotism. It’s a question of law and of policy and of…”
Eoghan Corry: “It’s one story and it’s a media-led story. Let’s look at this,you know, bring a bit of analysis to this. It’s been a media-led story from the beginning…and the Brazilian newspaper…”
O’Connor: “My god, I mean, the media doesn’t have to do too much work here, the facts are tumbling out…It’s just…”
Corry: “The Brazilian newspapers are the ones that led the charge on this investigation and they were the ones invited by the police today and the video that’s being shown all over the place, and the picture, the naked photograph, we have it on the front of the Examiner – the bathrobes photograph, he was naked when he opened the door on Pat Hickey is…”
O’Connor: “It’s rather distasteful, isn’t it?”
Corry: “Well, is this part of the process? You know, is this part of a judicial process? Is taking, going through somebody’s laptop to get their confidential…”
O’Connor: “Perp-walk approach…”
Corry: “…legal advice. That’s the sort of thing that was said about [Minister for Sport] Shane Ross “put him in his box” is said in the Four Courts everyday, in the private meetings with people, with their clients, that was paraded by the police today. The police were the ones who suggested that he was not cooperating with them when they arrived and was in a separate room. The Olympic Council statement later on says, this is not the case. Those of us, in a late night programme, analysing the media coverage, have to make the point, this is not process, this is media-led. There is almost a voyeuristic thing here of taking on Pat Hickey, with the cameras and parading it around the world before anything comes to trial.
“We also have another very interesting angle, in that Shane Ross has been telling the Examiner, a great story by Daniel McConnell, the political editor of the Examiner…”
O’Connor: “Who broke the original drug test story…”
Corry: “Absolutely, terrific work again by the Examiner, and he said that he was considering withdrawing the funding for the OCI. You can see here what we have…”
O’Connor: “And you can see why. I mean, obviously, then you have the athletes suffering…”
Corry: “OK, well if you consider from a sporting background and most, a lot of my journalistic life, my early journalistic life was in sport. We saw, every time, politicians went trailblazing through sport, it was for their own benefit. We saw a Taoiseach end up on the podium for the Tour de France, we saw, you know…”
O’Connor: “But would you not acknowledge that there are obviously questions that need to be answered here?”
Corry: “Of course there are questions but is a politician saying, ‘I’m going to sort all of this out, trailing down and coming back out. You know. Pat Hickey has been through Minister for Sport after Minister for Sport and if we just look back at the trail of habits of some of our previous ministers…”
From top: Console CEO Paul Kelly and the charity’s former patron Mary McAleese in 2011; The panel on TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne last night
On Tonight with Vincent Browne, hosted by Matt Cooper, the panel discussed the payments made to Console CEO Paul Kelly, his wife Patricia and son Tim – as recently reported by RTE Investigates.
The panel included Fine Gael Senator Michael Conway, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins; interim CEO of Console David Hall; and columnist with the Irish Independent Colette Browne.
Matt Cooper: “Did this come out of nowhere, is this only something that’s happened in recent times? Or for how long have people in authority been aware that there’s a problem?”
David Hall: “You know my function, when we came in, was to carry out this review and as I said to everyone concerned at the time, only the truth will be expressed from mine and those involved’s perspective. The review and the analysis of the HSE began in April 2015. The first interim report was given on the 1st of July, 2015. These are the documents I’ve seen and I have. The…”
Cooper: “A year ago?”
Hall: “A year ago. The ninth…”
Cooper: “Money was still being given to Console, Console was still actually taking money from the public, was getting money from the State, for a year after the HSE knew there was a big problem here?”
Hall: “Yes. The ninth version of this report was given to the board in March of this year.”
Cooper: “The ninth?”
Hall: “The ninth version and there is one more version I believe which is being tided up and is the final version not yet released by the HSE. The last version I have, and the one I relied upon in court today, with Justice Gilligan was version number nine. 176 pages. Actually, and this might sound a bit odd to say this but it’s a brilliant report. The people who conducted, this actually makes the situation ten times worse than you would imagine. The quality and the content of that report would be, for its investigative manners and information that it garnished, is brilliant.”
From left: Ian Kehoe, editor of the Sunday Business Post, Independent TD Mick Wallace, Tara Deasy, community activist, political blogger Jamie Bryson, joint-leader of the Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway, Cliódhna Russell of TheJournal.ie and Siobhán O’Donoghue, of Uplift, on last night’s Tonight With Vincent Browne
You may recall how NAMA sold its Northern Ireland €5.7million loan book – known as Project Eagle – to US investment fund Cerberus for €1.6million in 2014.
In July Independent TD Mick Wallace told the Dáil that £7million was found in an Isle of Man account following an audit of Belfast law firm Tughans – which was hired by New York legal firm Brown Rudnick to help Cerberus buy Project Eagle.
Mr Wallace claimed part of that £7million was earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party.
On foot of these claims, the UK’s National Crime Agency and the US authorities are investigating the sale.
Readers will also recall how, yesterday during Leaders’ Questions, Mr Wallace told the Dáil that he was summoned to a meeting by a ‘public figure’ during which he was warned by a ‘leading member of Cerberus Ireland’ that he was ‘going to get sorted’.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Mr Wallace to take his concerns to a member of the Public Accounts Committee.
Last night, the matter was discussed on TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne.
Ian Kehoe: “I suppose Nama’s always been, I suppose, a state within a state. It’s almost impenetrable to find out exactly what’s been going on there. Part of that was out of necessity, part of it was that it was created so quickly. The position of Nama in relation to this and the position of the Government would appear to be and I think they’ve acknowledged privately that they have concerns around the buyer side, not around the seller side. And therefore, they’re the sellers, so there’s no worries. I don’t really think that’s good enough. I don’t think it’s likely. But I mean the Government set up a Commission of Investigation into the IBRC – Catherine Murphy did a lot of work on that – and again there was no real, full evidence, you know there was no documents linking it all back but they established that Commission of Investigation very, very quickly. Even with Michael Noonan saying – well, in the end, compared to what they’re doing here, Catherine – but with the Michael Noonan thing, we don’t think there was any allegation, any wrongdoing there. In this case we know that there was 7million pounds Sterling in an Isle of Man bank account, we know that one of the world’s largest private equity firms was asked to exit the initial race because of some allegations over third-party fixers. And the allegations keep on coming. Yet the position of the Government has been, and we also know it’s being investigated, should I say, and parts of it are by the FBI, by the US Department of Justice and by various authorities in Britain and Ireland. And yet the position in this jurisdiction has been, ‘there’s nothing to see here, folks’, ‘it’s somebody else’s problem’. I’m not sure that’s good enough because I think it damages Nama, as an institution, for them to be constantly questioned in this way. I think we should have a look at examining what went on.”
Catherine Murphy: “There’s a culture of secrecy and that’s part of the problem and that’s the way Nama was set up. But this culture of secrecy within the political system as well and they’ll just try and bat this away and hope that somebody like Mick Wallace, or myself when it was the IBRC, will stop making a nuisance of ourselves. The reality of it is with both Nama and IBRC, this Government accelerated the sale of these distressed assets at a point where property values were coming up and where you would have had an entitlement to get more: that’s an issue in its own right. That the public have an entitlement..”
Vincent Browne: “It’s a big issue.”
Murphy: “Absolutely huge issue. And it’s the people’s money that they have done this with and the only purpose that seems to be served on that is that they can say at the end of the day, ‘oh we closed it up two years earlier or three years earlier’…”
Browne: “And they talk about it getting a profit. Wait ’til you see, they’ll talk about getting a profit.”
Murphy: “Yeah, huge, huge losses that are public losses and, in terms of the secrecy, last year I had the same problem and earlier this year when I was looking for even replies to parliamentary questions on IBRC. I was told, Michael Noonan went on the radio and he said, that I could always apply through the Freedom of Information Act. Well I applied through the Freedom of Information Act in the same family of things in relation to IBRC last May. I was due a reply to that in June. It was batted ahead until July. I’m still waiting and I’m now preparing to go to the Information Commissioner to make a formal complaint. That is the kind of behaviour that we’ve come to expect – batting it into a committee – and I think Mick is right on this, batting it into a committee is trying to kind of move it over to a sideshow and actually not deal with the issue at hand. And they’re very serious allegations that have been made.”