Tag Archives: Vincent Browne

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You may recall a post last week about the launch of a book by Jonathan Sugarman, a former executive at Unicredit Bank Ireland in Dublin’s ISFC.

His book, The Whistleblower, explains how his warnings of liquidity breaches at Unicredit – made in 2007 – were ignored by the Central Bank, a year before the financial crash.

Further to this…

Last night, Tonight with Vincent Browne broadcast an interview Vincent Browne recorded with Mr Sugarman on the day of the book launch.

At the start of the interview, Mr Sugarman explained that he’s an Israeli citizen, whose mother was born in South Africa, and how he started to study economics after finishing his three years of military service with the Israeli army.

He said he worked briefly for banks in Israel before going on to work for the Dutch Ministry for Economic Affairs in The Hague. Later, he went back to Israel but left for good in 1999 – which was when he came to Ireland.

Mr Sugarman’s first job in Ireland was with Microsoft Finance and later he started working for banks before he was eventually headhunted by Unicredit.

Readers may wish to bear in mind that Mr Sugarman was never invited to attend the Banking Inquiry.

From the interview…

Vincent Browne: “When did problems start to arise in Unicredit?”

Jonathan Sugarman: “Probably within the first two or three weeks of the beginning of my job there. There would be a daily set of reports that had to be signed off by the CEO and senior management of the bank, this is daily practice with all banks. As the risk management department, we produce these reports. For example, who are our biggest counterparts in our daily dealings, so that we know that if, for example, we’re dealing with a bank called Lehman Brothers, when we read it in the newspaper that Lehman’s is collapsed, we know that that’s one of our biggest counterparts and we would list these risks daily. Likewise, we would list our exposure to foreign currencies, we would list our exposure to certain industries. Are we lending a lot of money to aviation? Are we lending a lot of money to governments? All of these have particular limits. We don’t just go and trade whatever we want. And so, as a risk manager, I sign off a set of reports every day – to say these are the limits, this is where we are. It’s a bit like getting the results of a blood test where you say – this is where you’re at and these are reasonable parameters. Are you ok? Or are you not ok? And, as the risk manager, it is my job to make sure that we are ok and that every senior manager in the bank is aware of the fact that this is where we’re at.”

Browne: “What were the problems you uncovered?”

Sugarman: “There was a recurring problem with the liquidity figures. These reports are produced twice a day, after the close of business, at 5pm and then once again in the morning, as a repeat performance once all of the processing has done, has been done overnight by the computers, by the head office, etc, etc, to make sure that what we saw last night, yesterday evening at 5pm, was accurate.”

“One of the key factors that we look at in these reports is: what is our liquidity. Liquidity is very simple – it’s a case of we all know how much money we have coming in as wages every month or as income from our businesses. We know that if our income exceeds a million euro a month, then we can go and buy a beamer once a month if we felt like it. But we know what our situation is. So, do we have the liquidity to go and buy something we want. In banking, it would be a case of do we have enough liquidity. Say if a deposited turned up tomorrow morning and wants his money, we have the money to give.”

“Now, obviously, because it is the basis for banking, you deposit €100 with us, of which we keep €10, and lend out €90 – to make it simple. But then if you come back and make a claim on your €100, we have to give you back your €100. We can’t say ‘we’ve only got €10’. So, at every point in time, we have to make sure that, if a reasonable number of people come looking for their money, we’ve got money to give them and that’s liquidity. And this concerns billions of euro every day. I mean we could easily have done deals for €300m, €400m, €500m per deal so we have to make sure that if our counterpart arrives tomorrow morning, to collect their money, that it’s there. You can’t just turn around and say ‘oh I don’t have it’. And the need for the overnight guarantee was because all of the Irish banks ran dry. They didn’t have it.”

Browne: “Ok. But, going back to the problems that you uncovered, what were they with regard to liquidity?

Sugarman: “So, at the frequency of probably once or twice a week, the figures didn’t reconcile so, as a risk management department, we had our own set of reports. Obviously, every bank has its own accounting department, they have their own set of reports. There is something called prudential reporting which is required by the Central Bank of Ireland. At the end of the day, we all have to sing off the same hymn sheet, so there would be a bit of a parallel calculation being done between us, the risk department, and accounting.”

Big discrepancies started to show and I said – ok, so which one is the correct one? Because one day this one says there’s a problem; and another day the other one says there’s a problem…”

Browne:Discrepancies between what and what?

Sugarman:Between our liquidity figures and their liquidity figures. And when I said ‘ok, so which are the real liquidity figures, there can only be one set of correct figures?’ And I said ‘if the real figures are the figures that are showing breach, we have to report that breach and, invariably, I got told, ‘no, no, no, the real figures are the ones that show that we are within the limit. And I said, ‘well, how do you know that? I mean this is a €30 billion balance sheet. Do you have a little beer coaster that you keep your own…?’ [He was told] ‘No, no, no, you’re new in this job, give it a bit of a, you know, give it a couple of weeks, you’ll understand our systems better and you’ll see why it’s actually all right’. And this went on throughout the entire summer of 2007. Until one day, the breach was 20 per cent – which is 20 times the permissible deviation of 1 per cent. And, having spent three years in the Israeli army, I wasn’t going to spend five years in Mountjoy [Prison]. 

“The legislation that I took out earlier [at his book launch] clearly stipulates five years in Mountjoy well, perhaps not Mountjoy but five years in jail.”

“I put my foot down and said we are reporting this breach because I’m the risk manager. If, tomorrow morning, this bank collapses, I, it was on my watch that the bank collapsed. I’m the one responsible. The CEO will turn around and say ‘yes, this is why I pay Jonathan the way I do, he’s the one who’s responsible’. ‘I, the CEO, signed off because my risk manager told me it was all right’.”

“And so, we’re coming towards the middle end of, the summer of 2007. Northern Rock is collapsing; Europe, for the first time since the second World War is seeing people stand outside the banks, frightened that all of their deposits have been wiped out and I’m signing off reports, saying that everything is fine, when I know that it isn’t fine. And what shocked me even further was that, having breached, having reported a breach of 20 per cent – we’re talking about billions here – the Central Bank did absolutely nothing.”

Browne: “When did you report the breach first?”

Sugarman: “I reported this breach during August 2007”

Browne: “What was the form of your communication with the Central Bank in telling them of the breach?”

Sugarman: “I drew up a letter which notified the Central Bank. Each bank operating in Ireland has a team responsible for it in the Central Bank of Ireland. So the letter we sent was to the attention of the head of the team responsible for Unicredit Ireland, the operations of Unicredit in Ireland. So the letter was addressed to him, to notify him that, according to section so-and-so of the law, we are now informing you that we are in breach.”

Browne: “Did you send the letter? Or was it sent by the CEO?”

Sugarman: “The CEO signed the letter. At that stage, I was so adamant about the fact that I wanted to make sure that the Central Bank was going to receive the letter there and then, I hand delivered the letter to the Central Bank on Dame Street.”

Browne: “On that same evening?”

Sugarman: “Same lunch time. This is crucial. I am billions out of pocket. Now this can be…”

Browne: “How many billions was it?”

Sugarman: “I would say roughly €4bn to €5bn.”

Later

Sugarman: “The letter was addressed to the person dealing with Unicredit. I handed it in at the reception of the Central Bank of Ireland.”

Browne: “Ok, did you hear back? Or did your CEO hear back from…?”

Sugarman: “We received the letter of acknowledgement the next day from the Central Bank.”

Browne: “And, other than that, did you have contact with the Central Bank?”

Sugarman: “No.”

Browne: “Nothing?”

Sugarman: “Which is shocking but no.”

Browne: “They did nothing at all?”

Sugarman: “Nothing.”

Browne: “Then what happened?”

Sugarman: “In the meantime I had contacted an IT  company in London that was recommended to me that was operating in Dublin, doing precisely what that type of liquidity calculation for other banks. Their leading client at the time was a leading Irish bank called Anglo Irish Bank. And so I thought ‘well, if you’re good enough for… and, obviously, the Central Bank were aware of that, that this consulting firm was doing the calculations for Anglo, so I said ‘well, if the Central Bank is happy for them to calculate if for Anglo, you know, I’d be more than happy for them to calculate it for us. And so, I initiated contact with this company. We arranged for them to have access to all of our records and to start producing their own sets of figures, so that we could see where the problem was – if there was a problem.”

One night, I received a call from the person in charge in London, who said to me, and he knew that I was shocked over this breach of 20 per cent. He said, ‘Jonathan, from the figures that we’ve looked at, your breach is actually 40 per cent’. Now that is when I said ‘enough’.

Browne: “How is it that you didn’t perceive that the breach was 40 per cent?”

Sugarman: “Because of the mayhem in our computer systems and, again, this legislation I showed [at book launch] earlier stipulates very clearly that in order to run a bank you have to have adequate  IT systems. You cannot have IT systems producing different figures for the same transaction. And so, this is why I contacted this company. Because I said ‘look, there are discrepancies here, almost every day’.

Browne: “OK, did you inform the regulator that the breach was not 20 per cent, it was 40 per cent.”

Sugarman:No.”

Browne: “Why?”

Sugarman:Because my CEO didn’t want us to and that is when I resigned.”

Browne: “What did the CEO say?”

Sugarman: “He had his own reasons, he claimed that what the London company had come up with was just a trial run. I said, ‘yes but that’s a trial run without figures. And we know that there’s a problem. ‘Yes, but it’s, their still separate to the bank’. And so what made it even more worrying is that, even after my resignation – and I maintained contact with the company in London after my resignation – they kept on working on trying to come up with a definitive set of figures for the bank. Only within a few weeks, the Central Bank of Ireland arrived for a scheduled audit of the risk management department and, within the first day of that audit, the link to London was cut off. And I know this from the company in London which, to me, would imply, that the Central Bank, their team that arrived at Unicredit was so horrified a) at the extent of the problem and b) that a third party had full visibility of the problem.”

Browne: “So, you’re saying that some weeks after you brought the letter down the Central Bank yourself in mid-August of 2007, the Central Bank did an audit of Unicredit..”

Sugarman: “Yes.”

Browne: “And found that the situation was as you described it, or even worse..”

Sugarman: “Probably worse..”

Browne: “So, it’s not true to say, that the regulator did nothing?”

Sugarman: “Well they covered up. Because, if I walked in there  and said ‘heavens have fallen’, there should have been literally a raid by the Central Bank the next day – to say, how are you conducting your affairs? If we told you that a breach of 1 per cent is problematic, how can you turn up and tell us that you’ve breach by 20? I expected the Central Bank to have sent down a team the next day, if not that same afternoon, to say, ‘we gave you a licence to operate a bank in Ireland, assuming that you knew how to run a bank?’ They arrived for a scheduled audit two months later.”

Watch back in full here

Previously: Who Is Jonathan Sugarman?

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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

Last night.

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..”

Browne: “Really?”

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…”

Later

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…”

Later

Browne:If what we’ve heard is true, the damage that’s been done will be nothing to the damage that will be done.

Watch back in full here

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Last night.

Independents 4 Change TD, Clare Daly; Group Editor at Associated Newspapers Ireland, Sebastian Hamilton; writer and broadcaster Eoin O’Murchu and Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell were on the panel of Tonight with Vincent Browne.

Given the publication of the Chilcot report, the panel talked about the US Army’s use of Shannon Airport.

From the discussion…

Eoin O’Murchu: “In our case, the position taken by our, not just Bertie Ahern, but the entire Government, was that we want it to be, in our interest, to be on good relations with the United States. Shannon benefits economically, financially and so on. Very hard to find a politician, in the Shannon area, who will come out and criticise what’s being done. So, all of these things were done because of this sense: we had to make sure we were on America’s good side in relation to it. The fact that then makes us complicit, in the things that are done – because we know that war material, as well as people actually going out to fight, have been facilitated going through Shannon. We also know though none of the planes have been searched, that planes that have been used for rendition purposes, that is the taking of people for torture…”

Vincent Browne: “The abduction of people on the streets of Greece or of Italy or whatever and taking them to far off, far-flung torture chambers in Algeria or whatever and that’s what happened and it’s likely that a lot of those passed through Ireland.”

O’Murchu: “Well we know that the planes did because the planes have been identified and they’ve actually been seen going through Shannon. Now that then raises the question, for all of us in this country: if we say quite rightly, look at what happened in Iraq and the dreadful destruction that has flowed from it, the emergence of ISIS being one of them, the thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who’ve died, we have to share some of the responsibility for that because we’ve allowed that to happen. And the Government still refuses to officially even search planes and we rely upon our TDs to brave the fences and actually go in and search them…”

Marie Louise O’Donnell: “Can I ask you a question: who invaded Iraq?”

O’Murchu: “The United States and Britain.”

O’Donnell: “Thank you.”

Browne: “Along with a number of other countries…”

O’Murchu: “But we facilitated the movement of troops…”

O’Donnell: “But…”

Browne: “What’s that penetrative question about?”

O’Donnell: “What level of the blame game are we playing here?

Talk over each over

O’Murchu:We are responsible for allowing the movement of men and material through Shannon Airport. That is our contribution to that war effort. And it’s something that we should be ashamed of.”

Clare Daly: “And it continues. It continues.”

Browne: “The point I’m making is that we were complicit in an act that we deemed illegal.”

O’Donnell: “Well we had a prime minister called Tony Blair who didn’t even listen to the Security Council.”

Browne: “We didn’t have a prime minister…”

O’Donnell: “No, there was a prime minister called Tony Blair who didn’t even listen to the Security Council who told him: no, we’re going to monitor things, we’re going to continue to investigate what’s going on in Iraq. But he didn’t listen to anybody. He didn’t listen to anybody except to a kind of jockeying George Bush and they looked, the two of them, getting in and out of cars, swaggering around the place, messianic you’re right… I’m not missing the point. I’m…”

Browne: “You’re objecting to them getting in and out of cars?”

O’Donnell: “No but the way they were carrying on, like kind of modern-day cowboys, ‘we’re gonna get him’.”

Browne: “In the way they got in and out of cars.”

O’Murchu: “If George Bush had not decided to go to war, Tony Blair wouldn’t have gone to war either.”

Sebastian Hamilton: “If Bertie Ahern…”

O’Donnell: “I’m not disputing that..”

Hamilton: “If Bertie Ahern had decided not to facilitate Shannon, the Dáil would not have done it. My point is there is a political failure here, at the top, in which for this period of time, individuals, individuals were allowed, if you...individuals were allowed to wield massive power and massive influence over Governments. They told ministers what to do and if you look…”

Browne: “I don’t think so, I think if you ask the Irish people and we’ll get texts I’m sure, they preponderance of social media comments on what we’re saying will be anti what we’re saying…”

Hamilton: “That Bertie did not run this country?”

Browne: “No don’t mind that, that’s a silly thing..”

Talk over each other

Browne: “No, that they don’t care that the important issue is that we don’t alienate America and we don’t diminish the chances of further Foreign Direct Investment from America into Ireland which provides jobs. And the attitude would be: yes we could take a principle stand and we’d feel better about it but it would make no difference to what happened in Iraq.”

O’Donnell: “But listen, we’re not the ones who went into Iraq with the Kalashnikovs, we’re not the ones who went in and bombed the people, we’re not the ones, the Irish people aren’t, we weren’t in Iraq bombing women and children, that’s my point.”

Browne: “Who said that we were?”

O’Donnell: “But you’re making, you’re blaming, you’re giving us the same level, I mean maybe there isn’t  level, maybe there’s a different level of complicity. Blame. You’re saying that we’re nearly the greatest enemy in Iraq..”

Browne: “I didn’t say that.”

O’Donnell: “You’re carrying on as if, our, the fact that there were troops refuelling, if they were, in Shannon, that we are equally to blame as two massive warmongerers desecrated their own country and in Iraq. I think that’s ridiculous.”

Later

Hamilton:We’re having the argument about Shannon that has been going on since that decision was taken: that’s 13 years and nobody is saying: why did that decision happen? And why has the elected parliament of this country..”

Browne:What do you mean nobody is saying ‘why’?

Hamilton:Why nobody is asking – if you want me to write this down for you I will – why nobody is asking why was that decision allowed to happen. Nobody…”

Browne: “But we know…”

Daly: “We know why it was, exactly.”

Browne: “We know how. We don’t ask questions, the answers to which we already know..”

Hamilton: “But what we’re not asking is why was our system of Government set up in such a way as to allow, what you are saying, was effectively an illegal decision? Nobody is asking how do we prevent this happening in the future?”

Browne: “I’m saying that the majority of Irish people, and the majority of the Dáil, would have approved of facilitating…”

Daly: “I don’t agree with that, I don’t agree with that.”

Talk over each other

Hamilton: “They should have been given the chance to debate it.”

Browne: “But they did have a chance to debate it. They did have a chance to debate it…”

Hamilton: “Then we would know. And we should be debating it again. That’s what the parliament is for..”

Daly:It is a fact that record numbers of people protested in unbelievable numbers in Ireland and in Britain and globally against his war. So ordinary people’s instinct was completely against it.”

Watch back in full here

Previously: ‘A Former US Marine Will Show Ireland Has Breached International Law In Shannon’

For The Record

Declare And Present Danger

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 TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne last night; Independent TD Catherine Connolly

Last night, Tonight with Vincent Browne’s panel discussed the fallout of Brexit.

The panel included Sinn Féin vice president and Dublin Central TD, Mary Lou McDonald; retired Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin, Anthony Coughlan, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, Eoghan Murphy; and Independent TD for Galway West and barrister, Catherine Connolly.

During the debate, this is what Ms Connolly said:

I thought I’d reached an age where I wasn’t shocked. But to see Peter Sutherland saying that, ‘we must find a way to rerun this referendum’ or to see Tony Blair come out saying, ‘it has to be rerun’ actually has shocked me. I thought I was beyond shocked.

That’s number one.

Number two, like Anthony [Coughlan]. I didn’t think this Brexit was going to win, certainly after the murder of Jo Cox – I didn’t think. So I woke up to the result on Friday morning.”

I cannot believe what the establishment have done prior to Brexit, during Brexit and after Brexit.

I’m absolutely full of admiration for the English people who have stood up to a terrible bullying campaign. I would have no truck with anti-racism [sic], nor the famous poster with refugees, I abhor it and I appall it.

But to judge the 17 million people who voted for Brexit in that manner does the person who says that no service and does the people no service.”

They stood up and said ‘We see the EU for what it is’ or, at least, that’s what I’m taking out of it. Is it the start of a new dawn? I do not think so.

But I think it’s the first step in exposing the EU.

I thought it was exposed when we were forced to rerun the Nice Treaty. I thought it was exposed when we were forced to rerun the Lisbon Treaty. I thought it was exposed during the financial crisis but, unfortunately, the establishment, the politicians that were in power, plus the media, by and large, helped to stop that exposure.”

“I think it’s exposed again now and I think it’s open for us to grab that opportunity and not let the Right have the narrative or tell the story. It’s up to us to grasp it.

How could you possibly say that the EU is good, as it stands when we have a country where we have to get permission to build homes for our people – that came out recently the committee, that we have to get permission to fiddle with the fiscal treaty to get money, how can we possibly say that this EU is a social EU that allows 10,000 minors, unaccompanied minors go missing in Europe and we haven’t had one single urgent debate at EU level in relation to that.

On top of that, we have the Lisbon Treaty and I’m all for a social Europe, I’m all for Europe. However, the Lisbon Treaty, which I canvassed against and I canvassed against it after reading it in detail.

I would hope that there was scope in that Treaty to bring out social Europe but I’m afraid the emphasis is on the militarisation of Europe, page after page, and we made this point at the time. It’s in relation to the neoliberal agenda page after page, in relation to freeing up the markets.

There are good, there are good articles in it like the one I quoted in the Dáil that all democratic decisions should be made as near as possible to the citizen. That’s the dream. The reality is we have taken power repeatedly from local politicians, just as one example, so I would love if someone took this [the Lisbon Treaty] away, that was able to study it better than me and show us the way forward to bring out the social Europe.”

“But I think it’s dominated by clauses that have a neoliberal agenda and dominated by the militarisation of Europe.

Watch in full here (go to 27.05)

Earlier: A Choice Between Two Sides Of The Same Dismal Coin

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Last night.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time, presenter David McCullagh spoke to Gerry Edwards, of Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland, and Tracy Harkin, of Every Life Counts, about the UN’s criticism of Ireland’s abortion laws.

From last night’s discussion:

Tracy Harkin: “I think, myself, as a mother, who has a daughter who has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, I find this report from the United Nations disturbing for a number of reasons. Firstly, I suppose what’s deeply distressing for many parents involved in our support network, and other charities that work with families that have lost babies to these conditions is the language the United Nations has chosen to use.”

Terms like ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, ‘incompatible with life’, they’re such harsh sounding, dehumanising terms. And I think for parents like myself and for the many parents throughout Ireland who have lost their little ones to these conditions, that’s not how they see their children at all.”

“Their experiences have not been heard by in this report which is deeply disturbing; parents have been speaking out, for example, in our organisation, Every Life Counts, for the last few years, calling for better support and services to be rolled out in maternity hospitals throughout Ireland to help them make the most of the time to parent their child, to love their child, to hug their child, to, you know, smell their child as any mother wants to.”

“And this is so important, such an important pathway to healing for these mothers and I think it’s alarming that the only option, or solution that the United Nations is fixated on is abortion. You know, these are children, human beings with severe disabilities and there’s not an agreed list, neither will be, and I think for us parents, for myself, before I had my little daughter Kathleen Rose, who’s now 9 years of age, you know she’s such a wonderful little character, she’s brought such joy to my life. Many of our parents didn’t have that time with their little ones and maybe only had minutes or days but they all said that that time was so important to healing. And there’s more and more research coming out to show that, in contrast, abortion increases despair and depression among mothers because they don’t have that closure.”

David McCullagh: “Tracy Harkin, sorry to cut across you, you talk about having services available to allow parents to spend time with their children, however short that time unfortunately may be. And I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that people shouldn’t be able to make that choice. But simply that others, who feel differently, shouldn’t be deprived of their choice, for what is best for their family.”

Harkin: “Well, I think the main thing here is accurate information and I think what’s missing from this whole conversation is also to look at what’s happened in other countries. What has the impact been of legislation in other countries. You look at the UK for example, over 90% of children with any disability whatsoever are aborted right up to birth. I mean most of us have their children with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, in our communities, we love them, we fundraise for them. There’s a chilling effect to legislation here which the United Nations has chosen to ignore, time and time again. And it’s also important to mention that this case was brought forward by the Centre for Reproductive Rights which are a large, wealthy organisation with many millions at their disposal and their only focus, worldwide, is to promote abortion…”

Later

Gerry Edwards: “I think it’s very important, again in the interest of language, that we are quite clear that there is a difference between disabilities and life-limiting conditions and fatal foetal anomalies which are conditions which are not capable of sustaining independent life outside the womb.”

Our son had a condition called severe anencephaly. Most of his skull was missing and his brain was missing. He could not sustain independent life, there was no question whatsoever of him surviving for any length of time. And that was confirmed to us by five different medical professionals in three hospitals in two jurisdictions.”

“My wife would have been forced to continue with that pregnancy for five more months in this country, not able to bear the social contact with other people, working with the people that she worked with, being stopped by people on the streets, in the full knowledge that our son would not die, or would not live, I beg your pardon. And this was the situation which was absolute torture for us and we made a decision which was in our best interest and in the best interest of our family.”

“And that decision required us to leave our carers, leave our family and travel to another state. We did spend time with our son, he was delivered naturally, he had an induced labour, we got to spend time with him but we would have got to spend more time with him had we been able to go through that process here in Ireland.”

“Our family members would have gotten to meet him, we would have had the dignity of having a funeral and a community to stand with us and support us in our loss. Instead we got a jiffy envelope, delivered by a courier a couple of weeks later. That’s unacceptable.”

Later

Edwards: “It’s the responsibility of our legislators to legislate. They also have an obligation to uphold international human rights law. This isn’t imposed upon Ireland. This is something that Ireland signed up to. There was a discussion earlier on in the programme about upholding the law and Ireland is one of those countries that has pledged to uphold international human rights law and we’ll find out very soon whether our Government is going to honour that commitment it made and actually take steps to change our legal environment soon.”

Watch Prime Time back in full here

Meanwhile,

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On TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne last night…

During the newspaper review, the panel – Senator Lynn Ruane, Breda O’Brien, of the Iona Institute; Sinéad O’Carroll, of The Journal.ie and Ger Colleran,former editor of the Irish Daily Star – also discussed the UN’s criticism.

From the discussion…

Mick Clifford: “Breda, ‘Cabinet to defy UN on abortion reforms’ [the main headline on today’s Irish Examiner]. This is not going to go away and some people would say all roads to a referendum one way or the other.”

Breda O’Brien: “Well I’m absolutely delighted if that’s an accurate headline in the Irish Examiner because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to kind of, in a sense, the UN treaty say ‘do not give any right to abortion’ but these committees have been pushing this agenda for years. And they’re stuffed with people who share a point of view which is that the baby in the womb does not have equal rights with the mother. And of course they’re going to find that something is cruel and inhumane and degrading, but I had the privilege of accompanying a friend of mine when she had a baby with a life-limiting condition and..”

Clifford: “But there’s stories like that but there’s also the other side…”

Sinead O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is different to life-limiting…”

O’Brien:No, life-limiting condition is the term used by hospice, it’s the term used by…”

O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is the term used by doctors when they give diagnoses to women with fatal foetal abnormality…”

O’Brien: “But also, people, I think fatal foetal abnormality is one that people who have had babies with life-limiting conditions have asked to have it removed because it is so offensive. Your child is not a fatal foetal abnormality, no more than somebody with leukaemia is a cancer.”

Ger Colleran: “It’s the condition, not the child…”

O’Brien: “But that’s what, people have actually said in the media, they’ve said things like, ‘the fatal foetal abnormality’ as if that were, it’s a child who has a life-limiting condition…”

Clifford: “Breda, do you believe there’ll be a referendum?”

O’Brien: “I hope that there will be good sense and that people will see that this is a matter of equal rights and that they should leave it as it is.”

Lynne Ruane: “There will be.”

Clifford: “Ok, well, we’re going to have to leave it for that because that’s it now, we’ve run out of time..”

Watch back in full here

Previously: ‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

Tonight at 11pm.

On TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne.

There will be interview with former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, recorded at the recent International Literature Festival Dublin.

Via Daniel Murray

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From top: Michael Clifford, Colette Sexton and Gavan Reilly; Vincent Browne

Further to the statement Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan released last night – in which she stated:

“I want to make it clear that I do not – and have never, regarded Sergeant McCabe as malicious.”

Vincent Browne discussed the matter with his panel on TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne last night.

The panel included Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford, who last week reported that Ms O’Sullivan’s senior counsel Colm Smyth told Justice Kevin O’Higgins – during his Commission of Investigation into Sgt Maurice McCabe’s complaints – that McCabe told two officers he was acting out of malice.

The allegation was proven to be false after Sgt McCabe produced a recording of his conversation with the two Gardai – and the episode wasn’t included in the final report.

Mr Clifford reported:

The documents show that, at the commission, Mr O’Higgins asked the commissioner’s lawyer whether “you are attacking his [McCabe’s] motivation and attacking his character”.

The reply from Colm Smyth, SC, was: “Right the way through.”

He told the judge that he was acting on instructions.

This morning, Mr Clifford reported that after he received a draft of the O’Higgins report, he threatened to get an injunction against the publication of the report – because the episode wasn’t included.

Colette Sexton, of the Sunday Business Post and Gavan Reilly, of Today FM were also on the panel.

Grab a tay…

Gavan Reilly: “On the question of who was acting on whose instructions, by the way, Vincent, it’s worth bearing in mind that the senior counsel involved in this particular exchanged that formed Mick’s story on Friday. Not only were they hired and instructed by the Chief State Solicitor but they were the same legal team that represented not only Noirin O’Sullivan but the two former commissioners Fachtna Murphy and Martin Callinan and all the other members of the Gardai who were implicated by Maurice McCabe’s allegations the whole way down so…”

Talk over each other

Vincent Browne: “That makes it even more confused because it could have been somebody else that…”

Michael Clifford: “No, the counsel was specific on whose instructions he was representing.”

Browne: “On what basis are you saying, are you asserting this?”

Clifford: “I’m asserting… it was in the story on Friday. He was asked was it the Commissioner that wanted to follow this line and he said, he was operating on instructions.”

Browne: “I know but where do you get this from?”

Clifford: “It fell off the back of a lorry, I mean what do you expect me to say to that?”

Browne: “Have you two…have you, I assume that it fell, let’s assume it fell off the back of a lorry. But then did you, did you independently confirm that what fell off the back of the lorry was true?”

Clifford: “I am 100% secure and confident in the veracity of that story that was published.”

Browne: “All right, tell us about this story that you have in the Examiner tomorrow, the ‘McCabe threat to injunct inquiry report’. What’s that?”

Clifford: “This is, when the draft report, as I understand it, was released, Sgt McCabe was, as I understand it, very perturbed because he felt that it was entirely imbalanced and that one of his main issues with that was the fact that this matter was not included, at all, in the draft report. As a result of that he was minded to take a legal action, to injunct the report. We saw something similar in the Moriarty draft report, where there was a similar scenario. Now, ultimately, they didn’t do that because the costs would have been so prohibitive. But I think it just demonstrates how perturbed he was that this matter in particular, I think there may have been a few others but this was one of the main reasons…”

Browne: “Which matter are you talking about?”

Clifford: “The matter about the….”

Browne: “The malice issue, yeah.”

Clifford: “The attempt to impugn his character that this hadn’t been included in the report and I have to say, just looking at it, there’s a question there for Kevin O’Higgins. Let’s for example assume that he had, Sgt McCabe didn’t have a tape recording of that and that officers came in and said he had expressed malice, would that have been in the final report? Would it have…we’d have had a very different report, remember, completely. You’d have had a report that suggested that McCabe had brought forward these allegations on the basis of malice and therefore they had to be treated on that basis and seen in that light. That’s the kind of report you’d have had if hadn’t protected himself with a tape recording. And would have that have been included? And if so, why was it not included as it emerged here.”

Reilly: “It does raise the other question though as to whether the inquiry would have been allowed to include that, if, as you mentioned, that if it was included on the basis of arguments by lawyers and not by evidence from witnesses. That if this was something that was brought to the tribunal only by lawyers chatting among themselves really..”

Clifford: “Oh yeah but surely…”

Talk over each other

Clifford: “There’s an indication that there’s going to be evidence to that effect, and then the tape recording was produced, surely it was still incumbent to hear the evidence to see what was going to be said…”

Browne: “OK, we gotta take a break but I think, just before we go to a break, it’s fair to say that yes, questions arise, further questions arise that the Garda Commissioner has got to address but I think it’s fair to say that, given her record and given her stature and known integrity, that it’s very unlikely that she is telling a lie about a matter as central as this to the whole O’Higgins’ report.”

Watch back in full here

Previously: ‘I Have Never Regarded Sgt McCabe As Malicious’

Nóirín’s Disgust

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Last night Independent 4 Change TD Clare Daly, Dr John Lannon, of Shannonwatch, and Karen Devine, of the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University, spoke on Tonight with Vincent Browne.

They discussed the Turkey-EU refugee deal, the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, and the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – the countries from which most of the refugees travelled to Europe last year.

Mr Browne read out sections from an email written by Hilary Clinton and published by Wikileaks – prompting Wikileaks to tweet the email during the show, above.

From the discussion:

Clare Daly: “[EU-Turkey deal] It’s effectively an agreement to facilitate mass expulsions of people. I mean we’ve had the very unusual situation whereby, internationally now, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – all of the organisations that deal with refugees have all come out, all of the NGOs, and been absolutely definitive that this is a breach in international law. We’re denying people their right to seek asylum because what’s being done is they’re basically being forced – Turkey will force them back, Turkey in return are being facilitated with financial inducements, with a greater access to EU membership and so on, when there’s very serious questions to be asked about the regime in Turkey.”

Vincent Browne: “They’re navigating because there’s too many muslims in Turkey and EU doesn’t want muslims and the former Pope Ratzinger, that fellah, he gave, remember his speech he gave about the threat of muslims to Europe.”

Daly: “There are two points, there are 2.7million refugees in Turkey, in appalling conditions, some held in detention centres, there’s been examples of Turkish guards, beating people back, imprisoning people, shooting people on a regular basis and the conditions are not in compliance with the safe passages and right to asylum that people have under international law and one of the points being made, by the NGOs, is the fact that Greece doesn’t have the staff available to process in a lawful manner the asylum application of individuals. So, essentially, what’s being done, has been to undermine the European context the international right to asylum for refugees and, as you said, they’re doing that against the backdrop that the EU itself has been responsible for facilitating the very circumstances that made these people refugees by the military intervention in their countries.”

Later

Karen Devine: “[In] academic literature, they talk about something called Fortress Europe and Fortress Europe is a name given to an idea that the EU wants to close its borders effectively to economic migrants or asylum seekers. The asylum seekers are very different from economic migrants. They’re not looking for a better job, a better quality of life, they’re looking to survive, they’re fleeing a war situation. And I suppose one of the problems here, when you look at the EU, how it functions, they can afford a budget of €50million a year for the CAP, they can come up with policies in environment, in transport, a lot of areas where it costs money. What they need to do is to pay serious attention and to adequately resource what has been happening over the last 3/5 years in the Middle East and they always knew that this problem was going to occur but they have not put in any policies to deal with it.”

Later – after a clip of acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in the Dáil about the EU-Turkey deal

Browne:The fact of the matter is that there’s a cap of about 72,000 on refugees coming in to Europe from now on and this compares to the million who went to Germany alone in 2015. So this is a massive change in Europe’s willingness to accommodate refugees from war that Europe had a significant part in fermenting and, of course, Ireland did to. And John you’re familiar with Ireland’s role in that because of the use of Shannon and facilitating American aircraft, military aircraft, going through there.”

John Lannon: “Absolutely, I mean it’s interesting there, first of all, to hear the language that Enda Kenny is using. He’s talking about irregular migrants, he’s talking about people smugglers, he’s talking about managing the flow. I mean what he doesn’t mention is that what in effect we’ve got millions of ordinary men, women and children that are fleeing from war with absolutely nothing because they don’t have time to take anything, bombs are being rained down upon them and, as you say, we’ve been part of that. You mentioned Ireland’s contribution.
Well Ireland’s contribution has, as you say, to give Shannon Airport over to the US military so that they could invade and they could occupy the countries from which the refugees are now coming. I’m talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, we’ve had Libya, now we have Syria. We’ve also got bombs raining down on Yemen now, killing hundreds of people, we don’t heard about that in the news. So, over the last 15 years, almost 3 million armed US soldiers have come through Shannon Airport. We claim to be a neutral country, we claim to respect conventions like the Hague Convention 1907, which says belligerants are not allowed to cross neutral territories on their way to war but we’re opening up our airport, a civilian airport, to them. We’ve got hundreds of military planes landing and taking off from the airport, we don’t know what’s in those planes. We’ve got, as I said, millions of armed soldiers coming through, we’ve got rendition planes, we’ve had coming through for years as well. We’ve got no oversight whatsoever of any of this.”

Browne: “And this is quite a change from the way it used to be. People say this was going on for years – no it wasn’t.”

Lannon: “It wasn’t, no.”

Browne: “We wouldn’t allow even overflights of military aircraft over Ireland. And there was an interesting case. This was quite some time ago where a helicopter, a British Army helicopter that was used to help reduce people who got into difficulties of the Donegal coast sought permission to land on a abandoned rock off Donegal, but within Irish territorial waters, and the Government of the day refused to allow the helicopter to land there because of our neutrality, remember that?”

Later

Daly: “Now we have a situation where aircraft are landing at Shannon almost twice daily. Some of the information sought and received by Shannonwatch last year, under Freedom of Information, shows the amount of permits sought for munitions to be transported, including materials that could go to form cluster bombs which we believe are being used in Yemen, US air refuellers which, we know, are refuelling the Saudis who, only a week ago, massacred over 100 people yet again. Did they come through or use Shannon, we don’t know because we allow them carte blanche to do whatever they want.”

Browne: “People might wonder what this has got to do with Syria. I came across a Wikileaks email written by Hilary Clinton in 2002 when she was Secretary of State in America. We can’t show you this properly, we can show you some of it on the screen but you won’t be able to read it I think.
But, what she’s saying is what Israel military really worries about, but cannot talk about, is losing its nuclear monopoly and it’s saying, she goes on to say, ‘It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Al Assad, in Syria, that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israeli security’ and she goes on to say that, ‘it is the combination of Iran’s strategic alliance with Syria and the steady progress in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program that has led Israeli leaders to contemplate a surprise attack’ and then she says, ‘In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria’ which was to ferment or to assist in the war that dissident groups in Syria were waging against the Assad regime. And the American forces did not directly intervene there but they gave all military help and assistance, everything possible, to keep the war going. And no doubt, a lot of that military assistance came through Shannon.”

Watch back in full here