Murky Murky Murky




Yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday and Michael McNicholas, CEO of Ervia, formerly known as Bord Gáis Éireann

The CEO of Irish Water’s parent company, Ervia, Michael McNicholas, spoke to Cathal Mac Coille on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning.

His interview followed a story in yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday [not online] which detailed how Mr McNicholas, the former CEO of NTR, has shares worth €1million in NTR, which makes €2million a year from Irish Water contracts.

It reported how NTR owns 50% of Celtic Anglian Water Ltd (CAW) which has contracts with Irish Water for meter installation and waste water worth €4million a year.

Readers may wish to bear in mind that, on July 27, 2012 – almost a year before Mr McNicholas was appointed CEO of Bord Gáis, now Ervia – the Sunday Independent reported Mr McNicholas saying: “The metering of Irish water opens up opportunities for Celtic Anglian Water. Celtic Anglian is well-positioned to provide those services.

This is a transcript of what Mr McNicholas had top say this morning.

Cathal Mac Coille“You have a connection still with NTR? First of all, in terms of shares, could you just tell us what the position is?”

Michael McNicholas: “OK, Gavin, let me first say that I have been, I am fully compliant with all the requirements of the code of conduct of Ervia in that I registered with the company my interest, and I’ve declared that I have shares in NTR, that NTR have an interest in CAW which is an operating company that has contracts, formerly with local authorities, now with Irish Water. And I have excused myself from any commercial contractual dealings with anything to do with CAW in the company which is what is required under the code of conduct so everything I’ve done is above board.”

Mac Coille: “What is your shareholding in NTR?”

McNichols: “Having said that, if I could just finish Cathal, I’ll come back to that, having said that, I did come on this programme last week and I said that one of the key issues for us is that we have not gained the trust and confidence of the public with regard to Irish Water and that was one of our key responsibilities. I finished with two words, which was that we need to build trust. And as group chief executive of Ervia, if there is any perception, no matter, no matter how misguided it is, that there is any perception of wrongdoing and the article did insinuate wrongdoing on my part, then I need to deal with that. So, yesterday, I spoke with NTR and I said that I no longer can sit on their advisory committee, even though it’s to do with renewable energy and it has no conflict whatsoever with my role in Ervia. I feel that’s no longer appropriate for me to sit on that committee. I do hold shares in NTR and they are restricted but I am divesting of those shares as a restriction is lifted. I am looking to see if I can accelerate the lifting of those restrictions to divest myself of those shares and, just to finish, my final point, any proceeds that come from the sale of those shares, we are, myself and my wife, as we always have intended, are donating the proceeds of those to Focus Ireland which has always been our intention.”

Mac Coille: “What is the shareholding?”

McNicholas: “I think I have 4,000 and odd shares in NTR.”

Mac Coille: “4,000?”

McNicholas: “Sorry, 400,000. 400 and something thousand.”

Mac Coille: “And you’re doing what you’ve told us, as a result of the Mail on Sunday story.”

McNicholas: “Absolutely not.”

Mac Coille: “Well why didn’t you do it before?”

McNicholas: “Do what?”

Mac Coille: “Get rid of the shares, stop sitting on the advisory committee with NTR? I mean, sorry, I got the impression from what you were saying, just to be clear, that you’ve only taken those decisions in the last couple of days…”

McNicholas: “There’s only one decision I’ve taken yesterday and that is to remove myself from the investment advisory committee with NTR, even though there’s no conflict there. As chief executive of the company, it is incumbent on me to make sure that there is no perception of wrongdoing. The trust that we need to build with the public needs to be dealt with and, clearly, because of the article in the Mail on Sunday, there is an insinuation there that there may be wrongdoing and I need be clear, the only issue, to be clear, is that I have made this decision on yesterday was to remove myself from involvement in the investment committee of NTR, where there is no conflict. All of the decisions in terms of the divestment of the shares, I have been doing anyway, will continue to do and it was always my intention to do that, and it was always my family’s intention that I would donate the proceeds of that sale to Focus Ireland.”

Mac Coille: “When will you start the process of divesting yourself of the shares?”

McNicholas: “I haven’t started because they’re restricted, I’ve sold some shares because they were out of restriction and these ones that were restricted, my wife and I always decided that the proceeds of that were going to Focus Ireland.”

Mac Coille: “So you’ve shares effectively in, or you have had shares since you took over from, as you said, you’ve done nothing wrong in terms of Ervia’s code of practice but you’ve had shares in a company which is, has applied for and got, or one of its subsidiary companies applied for and got metering contracts and you’re advising that company. Would it not have been better, to say the least, not to have such a role. You can see the questions of conflict of interest arising.”

McNicholas: “Of course I do but let me be very clear – any contracts at CAW for metering were given to them by local authorities for metering of domestic customers, even before I joined NTR. When I joined Ervia, the contracts that were with the local authorities transferred to Irish Water and no additional contracts or other contracts were given to them in that time. So they were historic contracts with local authorities before my involvement with NTR.”

Mac Coille: “You mean that no contracts were given after you took over?”

McNicholas: “Absolutely not, absolutely not. And if there were, or there were any commercial dealings, I would not have had any involvement with them because that is the requirement of the code of conduct of the company.”

Mac Coille: “There is another possibility or a perception of a conflict of interest and that’s again obvious. Whatever business was done since you took over in May of last year, as head of Ervia and therefore of Irish Water, that you were advising a company which had dealings with your company. Now, explain to me how that can make sense?”

McNicholas: “NTR is a shareholder in CAW. My involvement with the investment advisory committee is solely and exclusively to do with any investments in renewable energy – solely and exclusively renewable energy and I was very clear from the outset that was all I could do and would do, because anything else would be a conflict of interest and therefore I would not get involved in it.”

Mac Coille: “It would, would you accept, that it would have been better if you hadn’t had such a role, given the interlinking of the two companies, from, in terms of public confidence?”

McNicholas: “Well, if you look at it, I felt that if I did everything that was required by the code of conduct that it would be exactly what I should do to adhere fully to my responsibilities. But yes I’m here this morning answering questions with regard to my role.”

Mac Coille: “As a result of a story in a newspaper.”

McNicholas: “Well, as a result of a story in a newspaper which implies things which are not correct and therefore I have to deal with them.”

Seems legit.

Listen back in full here

Previously: Contains Impurities

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34 thoughts on “Murky Murky Murky

  1. Mark Dennehy

    D’ya think if we reanimated Oscar Wilde and had John Cleese and a few others work with him, that we could write a farce that even came close to how this entire thing has been handled?
    Or would the audience just say that even for a farce, this was too ridiculously stupid?

  2. phil

    First : WOW
    Second: If this sort of thing wasnt good enough for the director of Rehab, why should it be good enough for him?

  3. Tim Bucktoo

    I thought McNicholas answered all the questions head on and made perfect sense. Got the distinct impression that Cathal MacCoille was very disappointed at the end of the interview that there was nothing to see here. (He was the interviewer – not O’Mongain btw)

    1. Clampers Outside!

      The fact that he has to come on national radio and explain himself shows the fiasco he’s in charge of and the public distrust in Irish Water. You cannot just brush that off with a nothing to see here comment.

      Trust might not be tangible, but without there’s nothing.

      1. JimmytheHead

        the chap openly admits hes only here because the news found out, no conscience whatsoever but thinks he can EH and UMM his way out of it. sher worst comes to worst he’ll just take early retirement with a 6 figure pension…. standard

    2. martco

      I heard this guy on the radio this morning and I thought it was Callans Kicks for a mo…

      you could hear it in his voice, so so obvious……this wasn’t just someone a little bit thick who had a major oversight….he was trying to be a clever cnut and got caught with his hand in the till

      tip of the iceberg, keep it coming

    3. Just sayin'

      I agree. Morning Ireland kept saying “GOTCHA!” and this guy explained that actually it is slightly more complicated and, no he isn’t a corrupt official. How disappointing for the media. Way to go for putting slurs on a (well-pad) hard-working man though.

  4. Drogg

    This Is laughable and adding that the profits of the shares are going to be donated to focus Ireland is a clear admission of guilt.

  5. CousinJack

    Of the IW mess, this is the least significant part, it is much more interesting why Siemens didn’t get the water installation joband why another company (with established corrupt links to FG) did

    1. droid

      Its hard to judge which is the most significant part. The appointment of John Tierney, the huge amounts paid in consultancy, the appointments of consultancy staff to irish water, the cronyism on the IW board, the Siemens deal, the bonuses, Dennis O’Brien & the siteserv mess, the deliberate jukeing of the stats regarding ‘average’ water allowance, the politicised policing, the conduct of Phil hogan during the entire debacle… and I must’ve missed at least 1/2 of it there.

      Its a complete scandalabra from start to finish..

      1. Zynks

        What a scary list. I know of other banana republics that would be far more professional. Makes Ireland look very poorly.

    2. Michael

      Did Siemens put in a bid to the legally mandated public procurement process? Don’t think so.
      And what could go wrong with doing a Minister doing an untendered side deal with Siemens? Wonder what people would have said if he broken procurement regulations and done a deal with a company who have been accused of bribing government officials in Greece. And Argentina. And Brazil. or Nigeria, Russia Libya..

  6. ahyeah

    “… and any proceeds that come from the sale of those shares…”

    Not THE proceeds, but the deliberate use of a word almost invariably used in this context when the aim is obfuscation – “any” – which means “if there are some, but there might not be”. So what does he mean then by “proceeds”? The word can either mean profit or revenue. Is he going to donate the entire revenue that accrues from the sale or just the profit? If the latter, how does he intend calculating that? Will there be fees and commissions etc involved? This is an old trick. Everyone supposed’s to think “ah well that sounds fair enough” and turn off the radio and forget all about it; 18 months later, he sends Focus Ireland a cheque for €500. Job done.

  7. Jonner

    Chancer. He should admit that he has been caught and walk. Not least because if he stays, more dirt will likely come to the surface

    What if the shares lost him money?

    Rather than investing he should have just given the capital to focus Ireland?

  8. Anne

    So, he’s the former CEO of NTR, with shares worth 1 million in NRT, that out of the goodness of his heart, he’ll be donating the proceeds of to Focus Ireland, but hasn’t until now, as they’re restricted shares that he can’t sell. He is now looking to see if he can accelerate the lifting of those restrictions.

    They’re restricted. most likely as he was given the shares as CEO.
    The restriction is lifted upon the satisfaction of certain conditions, such as continued employment for a period of time.
    He’s no longer the CEO of NTR, so why exactly are they still restricted?
    How exactly is he seeing if he can accelerate the lifting of the restriction?
    The conditions for the restriction being lifted, have either been met or they haven’t.

    Seems legit all right!

    Now as CEO of Irish Water’s parent company Ervia, he’s advising the company -NTR, which owns 50% of CAW – which has won the contract in installing water meters.
    And there’s no conflict of interest, we’re meant to believe… right.

    1. Anne

      They’re restricted but he’s now going to see if he can accelerate the lifting of those restrictions.
      Coz, like with the homelessness increasing, he wants to accelerate things for Focus Ireland.

  9. Disgusted

    Im guessing with the bad publicity and the way things are going, .. share prices are rapidly dropping. He probably needs to sell, and fast, before irish Water is canned.

Comments are closed.

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