TV3 said last night that when interviewing Mr Varadkar, Browne would take the opportunity to ask the Taoiseach about his plans for his time in office and what he meant by vowing to represent “people who get up early in the morning”, as well as Brexit. The programme is broadcast from 11pm.
People’s basic needs, in terms of human rights, if we look at social needs, in terms of housing, health care, childcare, jobs decent-quality jobs – are not being met.
If we just take the housing crisis for example. We have almost 7,000 people homeless in this country, record numbers. There was almost 500 children homeless in 2014, we now have over 2,000 – that’s a four-fold increase in that space of time.
We have almost 100,000 families and individuals on the social housing waiting list… the facts are that there is 8,000 social housing units, that includes local authority and housing associations, that are in some stage of planning. There’s only 1,800 – that’s a quarter of that number – actually on site that is likely to be built in the next two years.
There was about 500 local authority, plus housing association, 500 social housing units built last year. At that rate we will be 200 years before we meet the housing waiting list. [Minister for Housing Simon] Coveney Rebuilding Ireland plan and the Government’s housing plan is not actually going to deliver the social housing and the housing that’s needed…
There are between 800 to 1000 families homeless in Dublin and, at the same time there are 20,000 vacant homes, vacant houses, according to the CSO. So that’s 20 empty houses per each homeless family. And it’s just illogical that we have this situation where housing/property is treated primarily as an investment, as an asset, rather than a home and a need.
And, you know, I think this underlies part of why we’re in this crisis. Because we have vultures buying up property, we have Real Estate Investment Trusts coming in. And we’ve the Government just sitting there – yet the Government could be building, you know, 10,000 affordable rental homes every year, if it took on models like the European cost rental model – which provides, using public land for a mix of incomes – Austria does it, Denmark does it. These countries provide much more levels of affordable housing than us.
But there’s this real, I’d describe like it’s an unwillingness to change things radically. And what is really disappointing … in the last election, there was a very clear message of people wanted investment in public services – they wanted a more equal Ireland – that was the message back.
It was a rejection of the idea of the recovery and yet, rather than taking that energy that’s there and we saw it, the same in Apollo House recently, where we had thousands of volunteers being involved and saying ‘we want to address this crisis’. And that’s what’s really disappointing.
The people still believe in the idea of a fair Ireland, they want to get involved in helping it. Yet, what are our politicians and our Government doing? It’s like they’ve given up on the idea of an equal republic. All they are focused on is their party and them getting one better on each other.
The disconnect between politics and between people’s lives, I think, has got to the point where it is just disgusting.
…The mainstream politics and main media discussion about politics is all about personalities and about competition for the spoils of power rather than actually ‘are we dealing with the issues that affect people’?
But if you talk to the people on the street – what do they want politics to be about? They want it to be about ‘are you dealing with the housing crisis, are you dealing with those awful, awful stories of children who are waiting months and years for health care? That’s what they want politics to be dealing with.
Dr Rory Hearne speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night.
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.
From top: Fine Gael TD Damien English, Rosie Leonard, of the Irish Housing Network, and Dr Rory Hearne, of TASC; a Dublin Region Homeless Executive graph showing the number of adults who have accessed homeless accommodation in Dublin since January 2014
On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne, presented by Michael Clifford.
Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English, Rosie Leonard, of the Irish Housing Network, and Dr Rory Hearne, of TASC discussed the occupation of Apollo House by the group Home Sweet Home and the current homeless situation in Ireland.
They also discussed vulture funds with Ms Leonard recalling Focus Ireland’s ‘Vulture Shock’ campaign from earlier this year when it proposed legislation to protect homeowners and tenants from being evicted, via vulture funds.
At the time, Focus Ireland estimated that 47,000 homes in Ireland were owned by vulture funds.
Readers will recall how, in it’s most recent annual report published just before Christmas, the Simon Community said it had worked with 8,297 people – including 897 families – in 2015.
In addition to that, nearly 7,000 are currently using emergency accommodation.
Further to this…
From last night’s discussion…
Michael Clifford: “Damien, what do you think of Apollo House and Home Sweet Home?”
Damien English: “Well, look, as you said, there’s great energy there and it’s provided people with accommodation over the Christmas. You know, it is true to say that there is other, there is emergency accommodation there. We generally believe we have, there is enough of a supply there, we’ve increased it by 200. But this, it’s a worthy cause… again, it’s temporary and we are, as a government, as priority number one, to put in place long-term solutions. We can’t fix everything, every item, overnight but we’ve an action plan, you’ve read it yourself and we can talk through that but, you know, what Home Sweet Home are doing is certainly, you know, raised the profile a bit, there’s no doubt about that but for us, in Government, and for anybody involved in politics for the last year or two, it’s been a high priority, priority number one.”
English: “…there is enough accommodation there and what’s happening at Apollo House it’s, again, it’s temporary…
Rosie Leonard: “Then why are people sleeping in doorways?”
English: “Well…I mean, there is enough accommodation. Not everyone wants to choose to use it, for different reasons. I accept all that. But I can say to you, there is enough accommodation there and already we’ve engaged, through the Peter McVerry Trust, with all the members in Apollo House, who are there. That 68 people have been taking up residence there, 42 have left…just to be clear Michael…42 have transitioned out of there now into accommodation.”
Clifford: “OK. Do you have any problem with people, like Home Sweet Home, highlighting this issue…occupying buildings as they…”
English: “I can’t condone the occupying buildings that are illegal, right? I’ve no problem with raising the profile of the issue and on the thousands of people who want to help, absolutely, that’s great. There’s a lot of NGOs, who are doing great work, working with government over the last number of years on this as well. I’m sure they’ll avail of the energy. I can’t say. To me, it’s unnecessary to occupy homes. I believe we’re providing enough emergency accommodation. But apart from that, people are also transitioning out of emergency accommodation. And just to be clear, Michael, people need to know, because Rosie’s right, there’s some hope here – 3,000 people left homelessness this year and went into permanent accommodation but the problem was 3,000 more came…”
Clifford: “Homelessness is higher this year than it has been ever…”
English: “But I’m saying to you, the problem is, many more come onto it. But we have said, and we’re committed to it that, by June next year, there’ll be nobody living in emergency accommodation…we will fix this.”
English: “The trends that we can see are beginning to go the right way…”
Leonard: “They’re not.”
English: “Just…I want to make the point…”
Leonard: “There’s an average of 60 families that are going to continue becoming homeless every month this year…”
English: “From my point of view, from the department, from [Minister for Housing] Simon Coveney, myself and the department, we believe and we are confident, that we will have tackled that end of it by June.”
Rory Hearne: “Nama has been used as a way to show the international markets that Ireland is recovering and the way in which the Government has approached that is, trying to sell off, Nama is selling as much assets as possible, showing we’re paying down the debt. Nama itself being wound up early, returning, making a return to the taxpayer. But the fact, the problem with that approach has been that, in fact, that has worsened the crisis. Because Nama, by Nama selling off the assets so quickly, and in particular I would focus on the Irish ones, the international are different, it has meant that, for example, Nama itself has said that it has sold land that could build 20,000 houses but only 5% of those houses have been built because it has sold them to vulture funds, to investors who are hoarding the land. Also…”
Clifford: “On that, a lot of developers claim that one of the big problems they have is that it’s not worth their while building because of the cost at the moment and that that is much of the reason for the fact that only 5% of those lands have been developed.”
Hearne: “And that is exactly the point that why Nama should have sold that land and the point is it can still…Nama still has the land, it said itself, it can build 20,000 houses in the coming five years which would make a dramatic impact in the crisis but the problem is that those 20,000 houses, only 10% will be social, if even. And the rest will be sold to vulture fund investors because Nama’s mandate – that it’s operating under, under direction from the Minister for Finance – is to maximise the financial return to the taxpayer. The problem with that is it’s just selling assets that could be used for affordable housing and the issue is that Nama now has €3billion in cash reserves; it has paid down the majority of its debt. Those houses could be built as affordable houses if it sold them to local authorities, to housing associations and I think what has happened is the Government have looked on the housing system and the housing market and seen recovery in property prices as part of feeding into the narrative of economic recovery, rather than actually looking at how are we providing affordable housing and I think Nama is one key way that things could be done differently and can still be done differently.”
“The other issue is that they’ve promoted the introduction, the influx of real estate investment trusts. The Government introduced a tax break in 2013 which allowed real estate investment trusts write off a certain amount of their profits for rent because the Government has been about bringing in these investors to buy up the property, to give the impression that Ireland’s property bubble, crash has been dealt with…”
Hearne: “Kennedy Wilson [US investment fund] it’s been shown by the Freedom of Information Act, wrote to the government in 2014 and 2015, when there were talks of introducing rent controls…they were against the introduction of rent controls and the 4% increase in rent that’s been put in the rental strategy, there’s no evidence behind that. Why 4%? Why was it not inflation [Consumer Price Index]? And 4% is a yield to attract in private investors…at the heart of the problem is that the Government has not gone about approaching the housing issue with providing housing as a human right and a home. If you look at the action plan, the right to a home is not mentioned once in that plan.”
Leonard: “There’s no…another thing to add to that, there’s no preventative measures to stop the homeless figures from increasing. For example, there was an amendment proposed by Focus Ireland, into the new rental strategy bill. Focus Ireland have said that a third of all families being made homeless and presenting to them are because they’re in buy-to-let houses, the owners are selling up and they’re being forced out, evicted, because of terms of sale. And there was an amendment put in by Focus Ireland – to stop the terms of sale being used as the cause for an eviction in a buy-to-let house and that was voted down by Fine Gael. That would have immediately stopped a third of families who are becoming homeless and the 60, a month, on average, who are becoming homeless next year and that’s not even including people who are sofa surfing, who are hidden homeless, who are living in overcrowded situations and you declined that. So you’ve actually, you’ve actually said no to preventative measures that would have eased off the number of…”
Clifford [to English]: “Deal in general with the idea that Nama is not being used predominantly for the social good, as it could be, and it would tackle this issue, rather than as a vehicle to generate money to show the international community that the economy is doing well. Just deal with that issue.”
English: “I’ve heard that commentary and I’ve read a lot of what Rory has written on this aswell and it actually isn’t true…”
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.”
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: “Which is shocking but no.”
Browne: “They did nothing at all?”
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: “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..”
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.”
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.”
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…”
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.”
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.”
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.