Author Archives: Vanessa Foran

Vanessa Foran aka Frilly Keane

As stubborn as Saipan on a sultry Summer Sunday.

The original rebel with many causes.

An absolute demon in the kitchen.

Ladies and langers, we give you…

…Vanessa Foran, aka Frilly Keane, writes:

Of all the names attached to Broadsheet, the pair I’m responsible for, Frilly Keane and all the concoctions I made with it, and Vanessa off the Telly, are possibly the pair that will appear across any best of and worst of a Broadsheet reeling in-the-years.

Its hardly a brag to think aloud that the former quite possibly has the most replies of any other Contributor. Frilly Keane was the most regular and consistent cause of most of the rows, it was never trolling never, despite the hardliners’ insistence, it was never trolling.

I loved the voice Frilly Keane let me knit those columns with, I loved the gauntlet I was able to ride my own self-made views and opinions down.

Being an anon let me do that, and when that armour was removed there was nothing underneath only those same inherent reflexes, only without the accent.

I pondered on a few of those columns there in the last few days – they still stack up; OK, the comments tend to need the Irish excuse of ‘that’s what it was like here then’ to work, but what a collection of commenters assembled here under that Friday Frill-Bit [see link below]

Now, as we wake Broadsheet, lads calling around, with final columns and stuff, there is an air of a testimonial about the goodbyes and best wishes, like a lad retiring and all the former colleagues, or past pupils if you like, turning up.

But for me I won’t be saying goodbye to Broadsheet. I will always be on this ship. On its good days and on its worst days. I was here.

A constant theme within my archives here is that the internet eventually uncovers the truth. It may not be today or next year. But one day, the internet establishes the truth of everything. And for that I believe Broadsheet will be remembered only for all its good times and good works. Its discoveries, and creative instincts and initiatives. Such as Broadsheet on the Telly.

On that mention, please remember the role of Neil Curran, a man that had my back but made it look like I didn’t need it, and the brilliance of Marcel Krueger.

I would never have done any of that without  Broadsheet blagguarding me and codding me into it. I wouldn’t even pose for photos before I did that first one, now Streaming and Podcasting is part of what I’m up to now with Village Media.

I move on with friends and colleagues that came to me through this relationship.

Of all the names being remembered fondly, there is one I want to engrave with me now, Mick Flavin. I am one of the very fortunate few to have an original (above). And to be immortalised by the genius of the bould Mickie Fla’. It is very cherished, Mick. Of all the archives here, yours is the most important. Please save it.

A roll call of just some of the friends, collaborators, and confidents, that only for Broadsheet might never have collided:

Kevin Bog Lawyer Higgins and the Tuam Survivors Network, Jimmy Smyth, Johnny Green, Stephen Garland and especially my Mr Big.

And if I don’t mention Bertie [Blenkinsop] and that flaming tramp Fluff [Fluffybiscuits] I’ll be tortured until next hairdo day.

John Ryan, I owe so much to. We didn’t end well. But shur’ that was us anyway. You can safely put the price of your next artisan pizza and craft beer on us working together again. One day.

By tomorrow morning Broadsheet will be another ghostship setting out to meander for internet eternity, we will never know what search query pulls it back up to the surface. I have words here I want people to read and I have never feared a word I have ever written here.

What a wonderful thing for a writer.

So, please be uprising and lift your parting glass

The best is yet to come.

Previously: Frilly Keane on Broadsheet

At top clockwise from left: Garda whistle-bloewers Maurica McCabe and John Wilson with People of the Year awards for 2014; Tuam historian Catherine Corless with a Human Rights Award from the Bar of Ireland in 2017; Abuse survivor Louise O’Keeffe with a ‘Spirit of Mother Jones’ award in 2019; Vanessa Foran

Now where was I?

Somewhere around here; PR not journalism….

‘You are a hazard to truth, integrity, transparency and therefore – accountability, which denies Justice.’

Here is why.

Whistle-blowers are organs vital to protecting our democracy.  That is a Supreme Court proven fact.  Several times over.

I will put my hands up here and admit, that for a long time I held a very narrow outlook on who should be crowned and sainted as a whistle-blower.  A whistle-blower worthy of public documentary, bestselling books and feature length films.

This judgement was cast from those that took on the corporate giants and stony walled institutions all on their own, against resistance of all shapes and sizes.  Most of it organised maliciously and from inside every pocket of their lives, their families, neighbours, colleagues, and employers.  They faced strangers and the not so strange who were professionally engaged against them, and while always knowing the not-knowing-what-was going to happen next.

Karen Silkwood, Brigid McCole, Louise O’Keeffe, John Hanrahan, Maurice McCabe.  They should give you an idea of my whistle-blower icons.  Nothing could betray or weaken their own conviction that they were right, that they were wronged.

In addition, there are those that changed how our pillar banking institutions conduct themselves like Eugene McErlean and Padraic Kissane and put millions back into people’s pockets when they didn’t even know they were victims of a crime.  I also feel obliged to include the founders and curators of in the roll call of regulatory watchers, spotters, and catchers at a time when our actual appointed regulators were fit for nothing.  These people were (in the main) auditors, accountants, and financial advisors, not journalists.

Don’t ever allow anyone undervalue the service Vicky Phelan did for this country when she refused to sign an NDA, no victim of medical negligence should ever be forced into signing an NDA.  But it wasn’t a journalist that brought that cervical smear testing scandal to us, it was women on the steps of the High Court.

There are also those that are determined to secure justice for people many of us may never know the names of, like Catherine CorelessA local lay historian did the years of researching and requesting, the graft, the groundwork, and the digging, and then shocked the world with 798 truths still waiting to be exhumed and told.  Not a journalist.

These are the people that put the stories into journalists’ hands, to scoop their rivals and publish their books. A mere handful quoted here, but there are so many others that qualify as whistle-blowers too.

All the women that came forward to seal the legacy that men like Jeffery Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and Roger Alies deserved.

All the men that put Bill Kenneally, Sean Fortune, Ivan Payne and too many others exactly where they deserved to be, in prison.

The athletes, the students, the sons, the daughters, the nieces and nephews, the thousands that come forward with secrets everyone but themselves wanted kept hidden.

They might be referred to as victims, or witnesses’ or plaintiffs, even defendants, but they are bringing us truth and facts about crimes that cannot and should never go unpunished, or ever be allowed remain hidden.  Or sealed by a government whipped vote.

There are those who are in witness protection schemes, and there are those that endeavour to remain anonymous. Even those that might be classed locally as supergrasses, or where I grew up – hangmen.

We should never forget that there are also those that Leo Varadkar himself sought out with his ‘Cheaters Cheat Us All’ endeavours; the old-fashioned old school tell-tale-tattlers.

Terry Prone might say; So?  Yet anyone reading this already knows, that whoever they are, or what their story is, if they are telling a truth we need to know of, then they are to be valued, and listened to; not ridiculed, and mocked, and never undermined.

From Vatican City to our very own Police Force.  In every crevice on this dying planet there is a secret misdeed that someone or some corporate entity or some government institution does not want known.

Every day we come across lately is telling us more about the corruption that was played out under the cloak of the Covid Pandemic and Lockdowns.  Why would anyone want to make it difficult for people to come forward, from warehouse workers to Big Pharma executives?

We must always ensure there is a safe and loyal home for truth to be told.

Ireland is already feeling the pain of absurd, incompetent, and out of control Government tenders, the Rural Broadband Scheme and the National Children’s Hospital are just two.

Does anyone living on this island really think it is all going to end well?

Our mainstream media – the mastheads, news & radio, social media feeds, even light entertainment telly, the combinations of which Michael Lowry might also call a ‘cosy cartel’ who come into our households whether we want them there or not, are more intent on writing to obscure, and undermine, and not to enlighten and give shine to truth and facts.  This is what they are engaged to do, and it is a writing style we have left them away with for too long.

My first grown up experience of professional credentialed journalists writing to obscure for their own professional self-interest goes back to the Kerry Babies and Lynch Tribunal.  And here we are over thirty years later, and many more tribunals have come, cost millions and gathered dust.

Yet too many unsolved murders in Ireland remain that can be solved with truth that is currently in someone’s gift.

Corruption is endemic enough to be a laughing matter, and I hold firm on the view that accepting incompetence in the public and political sector needs to be treated as corruption.

Until we stop sneering and sniggering at it, and calling it names, like jobs for the boys, and sending it on its way with a nod and a wink, then you are assured it will continue, and white-collar criminals getting everything seized, plus their kids’ toys, before lengthy prison sentences will still be only something you see on a HBO series.

The behaviour we have become accustomed to from the Irish journalist genre alluded to here last week promises one thing; they are putting truth at risk.

No matter what they get identified as – whistle-blowers, victims, plaintiffs even disgruntled employees or out-of-pocket businessmen, whatever shape, or size they take or where they come from, or what they sound like, they may still have a truth we need to know. So don’t mock them, admire them.  And learn to form your own independent opinion of their story.

Otherwise, you are part of the cover up they are seeking to out, and journalists selling you what they have been told might just as well be lobbyists.

Along with her day job Vanessa Foran is a regular Broadsheet and Village Magazine contributor and can be followed on twitter @akafrillykeane.

Pics: RollingNews

Last week; A Reckoning At The Web Summit

From top: Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave and Village magazine on stage in Lisbon, Portugal last week; Vanessa Foran

Ten days ago, the clocks went back, and sadly so did we.

Our more mainstreamed media decided that this year’s dawning into the darkest meanest months in our year should be just that, dark and mean, when they intentionally coloured in our local news feeds with begrudging, miserly and cynically short-tempered content that got triggered by, what is to all intents and purposes, a work conference, that took place in Lisbon.

This was no bet you wish you were here wind-up for the lads back home; the Village presentation was professionally organised to be loud and staged to be provocative, yet well-spoken and resourced with determined clarity.

Paddy Cosgrave’s Web Summit 2021 curtain raiser plumed so densely over the usual suspect ranks of the elite media that they couldn’t rely on their own wits to get through it.

Even the more established household names didn’t manage any sensible reaction to what emerged on that conference stage.

It was desperate. I could understand if they were all taken by surprise and the content of that opening segment contained a newsflash, but the premise was a very public story that was already 12 months old.

All the parts and players are by now, known by name. It is a story that trended steadily throughout the last twelve months. These usual suspects with familiar faces and voices don’t live in caves.

Even so, in the days that followed Paddy’s giant “yellow slide” there was still no coming to terms or accepting the established facts of the story we all know every corner of. The weekend press delivered simple hit pieces underneath colourful portraits of the man in their ire. I will say this, Paddy Cosgrave takes a nice picture.

It remains impossible to determine whether any of the journalists and professional commenters, and their online followers and endorsers, and especially their sources – for all sorts of leaks and titbits, have ever actually come to terms with the story that formed that centre piece.

And it has been made all but impossible by their own making; by having too much to say about what a company CEO has to say at a work conference taking place in another country.

I get that Paddy Cosgrave is mouthy and is the type of success story that winds up most people, particularly certain Irish people. I get that pissing off the entire Campaign-for-Leo camp was always going to generate some scaldy reactions.

But what I am not prepared to get is why there has been a constructive boycott within the organised media classes to physically deny the substance of the story, and to ridicule those that made it public.

The story of Ireland now includes this story thanks to a whistle-blower. No matter who they are, it is a real-life retelling of an attempt to undermine an important public Health Care contract.

A story that told of law breaking by our then Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. A man who still retains a senior office today and leads one of the largest and embedded political parties in the Country. The same man that launched a public campaign asking for people to become whistle-blowers themselves and report Social Welfare fraud.

A story that got distracted with unseemly and silly schoolboy exchanges, nonetheless it was still a story that told of confidential information privy only to our Cabinet Ministers and Senior Department officials being carelessly circulated to people not entitled to it. A story that proved a feckless and callous attitude to probity within the very highest executive in our Republic, our Department of An Taoiseach and our Cabinet Ministers.

The facts forming this story have been established and proved and remain undisputed. That is all anyone needs to know. The character of the publisher and the storytellers does not deny one ounce of the story.

What I have established from the many that give their occupation as journalist, and the wider mainstream professional commentariat over the last week tells me that they are the menace our democracy is faced with, not crappy Politicians.

It simply cannot be denied that a very dominant cohort have set about to undermine, and mock those who had the conviction that this story was important for the Irish people to know.
The motives of those that brought it into the public domain is so far down the scale of neither-here-nor-there that no credentialed journalist with press gallery access to any level of our Oireachtas should even refer to it.

To do so publicly at least, is an attempt to obscure the full and real story with their own version, and therefore potentially alter and interfere with the straight up truth. That is PR not journalism.

That is a very dangerous position for anyone to support. I don’t care how big your following is, or impressive your employer is, or how many books you have sold or how often you appear on an RTÉ platform. You are a hazard to truth, integrity, transparency and therefore – accountability, which denies Justice.

Vanessa can be followed on twitter @akaFrillyKeane

In case you missed it.

Last night’s Broadsheet on the Telly.

With Vanessa Foran and Jimmy Smyth.

Vanessa, a former champion swimmer, writes:

Dr Patrick Earls (top right), a North Inner City GP and climate change activist, joined us to talk about his Campaign with Dr Mark Murphy to stop Dublin City Keegan‘s White Water Rafting plan for the Georges Dock site (top left), and have it reconfigured into an open air Dublin City Lido, or Public ‘bats’ if you prefer.

We swam through many of the now defunct open air swimming facilities that lay abandoned around the country, plunged into the resurge in outdoor swimming and went green with envy over the pools, lidos and swimming spots in the UK and in Europe.

Show your support by signing the petition and remind Dublin City Keegan that People still make Dublin City their home.

And yes, Dr Earls will be back on with us. Sorry the lads don’t do Speedos, but they don’t do wetsuits either. So there’s that.


Last night: Staying In Tonight

Last night.

Broadsheet on the Telly.

Featuring Neil Curran, Vanessa Foran and Jimmy Smyth.

Plus special guest, former Fianna Fáil minister Conor Lenihan.


00.00.30 Beards
00:01:38 Conor Lenihan
00:03:00 In the Public Interest
00:04:00 Official Welcome to the Executive Branch of the Dáil
00:15.50 Missing Words Round
00:19.45 Book Plug
00:26:00 Lenihan attempts a ‘t’wasn’t like that in my day’
00:35:00 Oireachtas Golf Club Gate v The Glen Boxing Club Gate
00:39:00 Government report card – spoiler alert – “weakest Government we’ve ever had”
00:47.:10 Lenihan agrees with Bodger, kinda.
00:55:00 Payroll Vote aka Special Advisors.
01:00:00 The longest question in history
01:01:45 Answer to the longest question in history
01.23:00 Good is better than being liked
01:25.00 The telly and fillums
01:29:50 Shay Healy, our very best wishes

Last night: Staying In Tonight

By Popular demand.

Frilly’s Cork Battenberg

So, let’s start with two simple everyday Madeira Bakes, in Loaf form, one brown one yellow.

The basic mix per sponge

240gms soft butter, 200gms caster sugar, 3 eggs, 210gms Self Raising & 90gms Plain Flour sieved and mixed together. One with 50 gms cocoa sieved in with flour, the other loaf with 45 gms Custard powder + 3 or 4 tbls milk

Grease and line a standard sized loaf tin, or a pair if you have two the same, and start heating the oven to 170°

Cream the butter and sugar until a nice soft fluffy ducky colour

Add one egg, and one third of the flour (+ cocoa) mix, blend gently, and repeat. That’s your brown sponge done.

For the yellow, proceed as above, then mix your custard powder with part of the milk, get it to a barely pouring consistency, and add to your sponge mix, while beating gently, and that’s your yellow sponge.

Bake for one hour but check at 50 and maybe 55 minutes with a skewer, if you are happy at either touch point do take them out, and remove from the tin onto a cooling tray. Let them go stone cold. If possible, leave overnight. They need to be proper Madeira firm lads.

Mallow Fluff

Do not attempt this unless you have a good reliable kitchen thermometer and a sturdy stand mixer, one that can go at full belt for at least 8 minutes without fuming. The alternatives are to melt shop bought white marshmallows, or buy it in altogether.

105gms Granulated Sugar and 170 mils of Golden syrup, or if you can get it, a light corn syrup.

If it helps, I used golden syrup only because it was already open in the press, but it does leave your ‘Mallow with a winter white complexion. If you want Cork Whiter than Daz White, then you need to use a clear light corn syrup.

Two egg whites, ¼ tsp cream of tartar
Tsp vanilla paste, ¼ tsp salt

* Into a pot over a low heat and mix to dissolve the sugar, once dissolved rack up to full heat, and have your kitchen thermometer at the ready.

Decent stirring now but do not let the syrup boil over, at 116° on the dot remove from heat immediately. (start again if you smell burn)While the sugar and syrup are heating up to dissolve, in your stand mixer, start gently whisking or beating if you like, your egg whites and cream of tartar into a light foam.

* Once your sugar syrup is at the 116° its now molten caramel, so bring it over (carefully) to your now foam’ishly egg whites, bring your mixer hup’to full speed, and slip your syrup in. Keep your mixer on full speed for 8 minutes, until its a thick white glossy fluff triumph, but importantly, at room temperature.

Tip in your vanilla paste and salt and go full speed again for about two minutes. Don’t be alarmed by the pitch black spots specked on the edge of your mixing bowl. That’s the centrifugal effect on the vanilla seeds. This is why baking is considered by many as a science – using centrifusion force to create your Battenberg is the work of champions.

Health and Safety warning, this stuff is sticky, sticky like ye’ve never made with eggs before sticky, so clean as you go with it. Have clean containers, and spatulas, and palette knives if you have them all ready. And don’t attempt to make ‘Mallow Fluff without an apron or with smallies in the vicinity.

This stuff might smell and taste lovely but has the welding power of Sudocreme and with all the allure of a marmalade made with honey and too much sugar. With sprinkles. And it goes everywhere if you let it.


Level off your Madeira Loaves, and splice into equal halves. You should have four even layers, two of each.

Start with brown, and layer of ‘Mallow Fluff, and start to bevel the long sides. say 30° on the left and 120° on the right. I used a paring knife and had a container ready for the cut offs.

Next your yellow, start the bevelling from the finish point of the base layer, when you’re happy its even and tis starting to look like the second floor of a pyramid, slather another layer of ‘Mallow Fluff.

Repeat the above to create the brown, scrawny white, yellow, brown, scrawny white, yellow of Real Battenburg. If you have done well with the cut offs, you should be able to create another layer for the sharpish apex of your Real Battenberg.


The Chocolate external coat and render

600 gms Dark (good quality) Cooking Chocolate
125 mls Double Cream

Melt your chocolate – in a bowl over just-under-the-boil water, and make sure your bowl doesn’t touch the water. Do not use a microwave to melt your chocolate. Ever.

When its runny and smooth, just gorgeous like, whisk by hand andblend in the cream. Keep whisking, and whisk every so often, as you go along like.

Paste a thin layer all over your Real but still naked Battenburg, and let it rest for about five minutes.

Then lash the rest all over, a thick as you can. Then wait as long as you can before trowelling it all over with a fork for the Real Battenburg horizontal ridges.

Tah dah!

But wait an hour or so before cutting into it. Gather around to hear that heel hit the plate. You’ll know tis all about Cork but without the ropey version of de’ Banks.

If ye don’t mind like, since Cork people don’t like to be told what they should do, especially with Cork food, and they’d be dead right of course, but I use unsalted butter.

That ‘Mallow Fluff, there’s going to be loads left, but it should keep for a week or so in the fridge for other adventures, just make sure tis in a good, sealed container that you can trust.

You might want to just use all Self Raising in the brown Madeira element as the Cocoa does hinder the rise, but only slightly. Or you could use a half tsp of Baking Powder to help it out.

You can also just take the sponge mixture on its own like, add the zest & juice of a lemon, for an old school Madeira. But do sprinkle a good tbls of Caster Sugar, or even two, on top before going into the over for the traditional Madeira crack affect your Aunty had.

Before I leave ye to it, let me tell ye, I loved planning and putting this together, yep, tis about time too since I talked about it for ages. But less of that, and more of this, Real Battenberg is a great cake to make, but give yourself the time and the attention Real Battenberg is entitled to, whether you like cake or not.

And do you know what lads, change the colours, the flavourings, even the coatings. Shur its always going to be our Battenburg anyway, we we can do what we like with it. Hon’ Cork.

All pics by Vanessa Foran

Vanessa is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on twitter @vanessanelle.


By popular demand.

Frilly’s Hot Cross Buns

You will need:

300mls full fat milk, 50gms butter.
500gms Strong plain flour, 75gms Caster Sugar, 1tsp Salt, 7gms Fast Action Yeast (standard sachet), 1 well-beaten egg.
75gms Sultanas, 25gms dried Apple bits (or two peeled, cored and chopped), zest of 1 Orange, 1tsp of Cinnamon.
85gms plain flour (plus more for dusting,etc) and water to mix a paste substance
Apricot Jam – 2-3tbls.
A good-sized bowl, light oil and cling film, wooden spoon, baking trays.


Bring the butter and milk to a just below boil, as it cools whisk to combine, let it cool to baby bottle wrist check temperature.

Mix flour, sugar, and yeast, then tip in the salt, mix again, then create a well centre.

Tip in the milk and butter solution, then the whisked egg. Blend with a wooden spoon to form a sticky dough ball.

On a floured surface, and well-floured hands, start your knead. This is a stretch knead – heel of one hand holding down one end and stretching out t’other. Fold over back on itself, and repeat for 5 mins. You will see it smoothing out and getting more elastic. When you achieve this, it’s ready for its first proof.

Lightly oil a good-sized bowl, and a stretch of clingfilm (I usually do that bit first, I layer the clingfilm over the back of the bowl and swipe it all over with a pastry). I use a light thin rapeseed. You do this so the dough won’t catch the sides as it swells, and the oiled side of the cling film cover is to prevent a rind forming.

Sit your dough ball in and cover the top of the bowl with the oil side down sheet of cling film, make sure there is loads of head room between your dough and the cover, so use a pasta pot if you have to.

Sit it somewhere cosy for a good hour, let it double in size, there is no rush, let it do the work for you. Don’t be a dough watcher You’ll know its ready for the next stage if it’s boldly doubled in size.

Keep your dough in the bowl, and tip in your Sultanas, Cinnamon, *Apple and Orange Zest. Or whatever your combination of fruits, fresh, dried or even candied, and spices are.

* Now I use dried apple purely for convenience and sourced from one of my best lockdown round 1 finds.

If you use Fresh Apple, just watch the colour and the moisture. Dough recipe can cope with 50 gms candied peel and an extra tsp of spices, mixed, nutmeg, whatever, doesn’t have to be cinnamon.

Knead the fruits and spice into the dough while still in the bowl. Cover with your oiled cling film again, and leave it back in its cosy spot for another hour, or till its doubled in size again.

When you’re happy with it, weigh the dough ball, and decide how many you want out of it, 12 – 15 is about right.

Cut into equal portions, and form balls, this can be awkward because of the sultanas, etc., but they don’t have to be teacake perfect.

Sit each of your bun balls onto lined baking trays and cover again in lightly oiled cling film, or even a clean tea towel. You don’t want a rind forming, and this is its last proof btw. So give it another hour.

Meanwhile, make your paste, take the plain flour and start to mix tbls of water at a time, until you have achieved a wallpaper paste consistency – pour or edge your paste into an icing bag, if you have one, if you don’t improvise with some freezer bags or parchment paper rolled into a cone shape.

When your dough balls are nicely swollen, dispose of the cling film and criss-cross away.

To the oven:

Hot oven – preheated of course: 200º fan or 220º/ Gas mark 7

20 minutes – don’t flinch here at the strong golden-brown colour that will come over them

While they rest on a cooling tray, loosen up your jam by warming it up, sieve if you have to, it needs to be glossy smooth, and while your glaze is still warm brush over your buns.

A couple of hints:

All dough needs is patience – arrange your prep around errands chores telly etc, and you’ll not even notice, you might even forget. You can never proof dough too much, but not enough proofing is a mistake you can’t get your bake back from.
Also, by letting the buns go a deep brown you are getting yourself a proper Hollywood handshake crust
This bake is way easier to do, than reading and following the recipe. I promise.

Text and pics by Vanessa Foran

From top: RTE Annual Report 2019 released yesterday’ RTÉ Player streams reached 50million views that year; Vanessa Foran

We are about to take a walk through the annual report for RTÉ for the financial year that ended before Covid 19 even began.  It is also the year I had this to say in the month before it closed.

“The failure is both Financial and Operational; and it was all under the jurisdiction of its strategic level decision makers, its board of directors.”

14 months later Chair Moya Doherty introduced the report you are about to read some more about with the following;

The current funding model is broken, and RTÉ will face a material uncertainty about its capacity to provide the same level of services in the medium term if it is not resolved quickly and definitively,”

The feted, styled, and heavily promo’ed leader of the organisation, the Chair of the Board of RTÉ, is telling us its Funding that is to blame.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t an organisation relying on charitable donations or volunteers, nor is it a scrappy start-up looking to escalate its second round of finance; this is a comfortable, well-resourced, staffed, and established entity that has had the benefit of significant finance, external expertise and assistance for decades.   It even has an Orchestra.

There are no exciting new productions, or script options, or talent hires, or digital opportunities, or major investment announcements or commercial ventures, or simple cutting its cloth; not even a nod to the revised strategy of November 2019 – It’s the Funding Model.

Moya Doherty is attempting to frame the Funding Model, because it requires very little change in how RTÉ run the business of RTÉ, or what the plans are for the future of RTÉ.

This is the poor mouth being staged under theatre lights.  Its Fiction.

So what are they telling us about 2019 in Montrose.

Well, its now Your Public Media.”

That’s how RTÉ introduces itself to the readers of this report.  Your Public Media.  Even more cosmetic covering up of its failure as the National Broadcaster.

I reach page two to be presented loudly with flash; Mission Vision & Values.

Have a good go at these.

To campion Irish culture…. Cultivating Ireland’s talent   … To enrich Irish life with content that challenges, educates and entertains

As an organisation and individually, we will be outward looking, creative, respectful, sustainable, and accountable, collaborative, and transparent.

And tell me which one explains the expenditure of over €23m on Acquired Programming from Overseas versus just over €3m on Local Produce?

Programming expenditure is really where RTÉ tells you what they do there all day, and in fairness, there is a healthy spend on indigenous programming, across their spectrum from the flagship RTÉ 1 down the line to Online Services and wherever that ends up.

A spend of €235.1m is quoted, which breaks out into a rough 80:20 split between In-house and Commissioned.  So at least they are using their gifted facilities for something.  But within that €235m, €2.7m was charged under Religious.

€2.7m was spent by “Your Public Media” on religious programmes in 2019.  Add that to the Papal extravaganza’ed over indulged exuberance from the year before.

Unless its News; like a Priest getting sentenced, religious programming is not a matter for “Your Public Media”.  If Religious groups want stuff on the telly, they should buy advertising or pay for product placement in the same way they buy PR and Crisis Management Services.

My old reliable with the RTÉ annual, Acquired Programming.  Again, across the range of RTÉ’s output, €26.7m worth of content was bought in, and in, again roughly, an 87:13 relationship between Overseas: Local Produce.

Or, €23.4m of Licence Payers funds was spent acquiring content like Ally McBeal, and € 3.3m for the locals.

€23.4m plus € 2.7 is a handy enough start into that promise on page 2, Cultivating Ireland’s talent.

I am not persuaded by the disclosures and detail presented on the page labelled 106, because like all the previous RTÉ annuals I’ve done here, it’s all about the presentation, and the staging.

Here its staged that RTÉ 1, RTÉ2, R1 & 2FM return a surplus to the organisation.  However I will ask ye to look at it from a public service value-for-money point of view, a place where not everything is a financial decision, so what do you now think of this – RTÉ 2 and 2FM, required almost €77m for their content in 2019.  €77,000.000.00

Yet Lyric plus TnG plus RnaG (net of Lyric’s half a million ish surplus btw) only needed € 25.3m.

The point here is, the National Broadcaster is going to cost money, nobody denies that.  Nobody pretends it shouldn’t.

But why does it need funding for anything if they can maintain 2FM, or use funds to acquire The Simpsons or Home & Away or Big Bang Theory, all of which have their own 24/7 channels somewhere.

I understand there was a need one time for a strong buying-in policy, like in the 80s shows such as Dallas were must see TV.  There is nothing charged to Acquired Programming from Overseas that I or anyone else reading this report cannot access from a half of dozen different Public Media outlets.  Or can acquire independently, like an old fashioned DVD or box set, without imposing on the Tax Payer.

I have no problem in Acquired Programming, like the big big movie stuff.  But why can’t RTÉ look also at developing or co-developing its own big big movie stuff? I see no evidence of that even being a Strategic Goal.  Anywhere within the organisation.

Likewise, I do not accept that the RTÉ are acquiring a library or reusable inventory either.  Neither do they either as it happes;  values of acquired content are written off on the second repeat (pg 101).

And that’s where I struggle again with RTÉ.  There is far too much space given to the day-to-day P&L operational level stuff, like Dee Forbes’ payroll (same as 2018 btw) and canteen costs.  I’ve done it there myself picking apart programming.

If we are serious about calling out RTÉ we must insist it goes back to where its all going wrong.  Its Strategy, albeit Revised Strategy, its Strategic Level Decision making, its Governance and its Culture.

It is devoid of any ambition or creative courage.  It just wants to keep the same show on the same road.  Their Board composition continually renews terms and all from the same backgrounds.  There is no willingness to look outside their own comfort zone and familiar settings.

A goal of strict aggressive Change Management is currently impossible in RTÉ.  The world changed since that Year End Report, but RTÉ hasn’t.  If it had that’s what we would have heard from Moya Doherty yesterday, not The current funding model is broken, and RTÉ will face a material uncertainty about its capacity to provide the same level of services in the medium term if it is not resolved quickly and definitively,”

Why or how could any organisation be considered for Taxpayer Funds, additional or otherwise, like grants If they have no Strategy that recognises a very different future.

This report is titled Your Public Media Yet RTÉ has no idea what it must deliver under that title.  Go to page 64.

A portion of a middle of a three-column page is given to its Player, which is its best opportunity.  Don’t believe me?  Check Channel 4s outreach on their player or the numbers engaging RTÉ Player for Sports content that they already secure through licencing.  This is content that will always have a streaming and on-demand market, and it’s a market that will always have Paddys abroad creating an even bigger market for and regenerating it.

That €23 plus million spent on Home and Away and the like probably doesn’t taste as nice now.

This report itself tells you that RTÉ’s own Content is the most accessed for the On-Demand audience, and they’re hiding it.  They treat their Player opportunity like they are uncomfortable with it; it’s not Weekends on Radio 1 with all the pals around and canteen brunch for afters, or Friday night in Studio 1.

This report, incidentally, gave more air to its Board composition by gender and diversity lines, than it did to the RTÉ Player.

You know what RTÉ needs – it needs a Strategic Director with years of the experience of the BBC, CNN, Discovery Channels, Shondaland, Netflix etc.  Or someone who has worked in the dept of Foreign Affairs – and knows how to work a Grant Application.

The former can create value, promise independence, innovation in every colour and create a commercial appetite, plus all those things quoted on page 2 of this report.  A Real National Flagship that can qualify for what ever funding it needs.

The other just buys you another five years just the same as the last five years.

Another full year has passed and been completed by Montrose.  With no change in Montrose at any level.  So, between now and when that Annual Report comes out, remember this, most of their content was handed to them last year, from Covid Briefings, round the clock hysteria, their ‘big stars’ in their sheds, Luke O’Neill moving in, and the best Paddys Day coverage ever.  For Free.

The biggest year for Video On Demand and Streaming services was 2020.

Yet RTÉ will blame Funding.

Gas isn’t it.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Yesterday: Meanwhile, In Montrose

From top: The Board of the Football Association of Ireland has approved the 2019 accounts for the Association of the FAI AGM on December 29; Vanessa Foran

A year to the day ‘ish, since the last Broadsheet kickabout

This is a bit that didn’t make it past the gaffer;

It needs a new Strategic Plan, and a new Leadership team, and I would be more helpful when I get to consider Years ending 2020 and 2021, when we have an opportunity to see what the FAI can really achieve if it is run properly and is taken care of in the manner any organisation tasked with flying the Irish Flag should.

The purpose of re-entering it up front now is because the first half of your YE 2019 FAI Annual here on Broadsheet will focus more on the Governance & Assurance Year the FAI had, so I might as well pick up the pieces of last year’s.

My basis then was an already revised set of statements and by now we are well into extra time with even more injury time to be added with another 2018; restatement on the restatement.

For any year end review to be any use at all, you have to start with an opening balance that is safe, and with a relevant or peer comparison ie 2017.  Both these financial years have now been through the hands of Deloittes, Mazars and now Grant Thornton (Audit.)

For so many numbers of reasons, these restatements must be done.  But I will introduce you to just one, how do you measure your performance without knowing where your starting line is?

I am not going to ignore the restatement just by passing it – the full background is presented sensibly, and in fairness to Grant Thornton, in a clear and efficiently enough to get through it on a phone screen (pg44.) 

You will see there the adjustments go back beyond 2018 and 2017.  Now this would normally be a very touchy trigger for me, especially as there was a well got, resourced and togged out firm originally engaged to take care of the FAI’s financial statements.  This might make you want to wonder but why bother, you don’t get to play the same match twice.

Look forward

Besides, what is probably now a very mundane chore for the new Board and Management, the costs of the old FAI have to be charged into those historic accounts.  How else can they measure their own progress with the organisation.  More importantly, how will you and I know they are getting it right?

That is what the FAI today need to focus on.  Their next five years, not the last five.

Of the 164 recommendations within the Governance Review Group Report, 65 that tackled the more ingrained culturally embedded dugouts were already closed off by YE2019, namely around Board Composition and Board Officer Roles.  (pgs 4 & 5 btw) 

Speaking from experience, these legacy rumps are the hardest to change.  Particularly for the better.  Note to all volunteer organisations – If your rules are not protecting and enhancing your reputation, get them scorched from your rule book, then come up with better replacements

Which if you take a tighter look at last year’s Annual Review – Governance and Strategy – well the complete lack of any presence of Governance and Strategy was where it all went wrong.

That was where it was always wrong, they could have been bringing hundreds of millions in through their doors.  It was not all about generating enough money to stay solvent. (Now you see why I reinstated that first paragraph.)

All that time, year in year out, for decades in fact, being allowed the impression they were in the cosy cradle of signatures from their former external Auditors is all the more disappointing.  But only playing forward …..

Today the FAI is such a very different organisation.  In just one year of facing facts, facing truth and cleaning house, no matter how uncomfortable they made the residents of that former Board, they got it done.  And that’s something.

Now where these 164 came from might be a question; were they from the KOSI Audit that Sport Ireland commissioned, or GT’s Forensic Audit, or Mazars redoing of the previous year-ends that Deloittes finally entered their own doubts over, or a blend of them all.

One way or another that was one hell of a taxi meter running between all these professional billable-hour firms since many of them were obvious, and replications from other well run Volunteer led organisations. Ahem

But for what it’s worth, as a professional courtesy, I am inclined to think there was a strong influence from the Grant Thornton Forensic Investigation myself, only because I know how they work, and I know the type of Report their engagement produces.

One way or another, no matter the architects, the Board obviously adopted the report and pursued its recommendations without lingering. But it does present an opportunity to flag the importance of Independence at Governance and Assurance levels, and since the external Auditors are now Grant Thornton themselves, for everyone’s sake, lets keep it to one engagement at a time.  Just saying.

One of the more remarkable things the 2019 Annual is in the opening pages – in the Chair’s opening line.  The will to turn it around could not get any more protruding than that.  But for doubters, again jog straight up to pg 6, Governance.

This time last year, there was chanting from too many seats in the stands calling for the FAI to be shut down.   The Irish Times claimed death’s door and only the big brilliant Government could save it.

I advocated then, that the FAI was worth saving.  And I still do.

But it was not just all the Government.

I will insist that most of the heavy lifting has come from within the FAI itself.  A whole new board with a vastly different emphasis on its composition has proved that.

Remember this is a Volunteer type board, which is a very hard thing for experienced Directors to empathise with and understand.  It takes years, if not decades to develop an orderly organisation that functions with a Volunteer type governance.  Because Volunteer directors all have different motivations for being there, and it takes time, planning and patience to synchronise all those motives into one strategy.

When it came to it, the bailout that is, the Government were just a part.  Their lenders, Bank of Ireland, who by their very operational nature do not take risks, were very quick to step in, and so did UEFA with a five bar interest free loan.  (pg 23 Going Concern.)

For people in my game, that level of support and endorsement is not nothing.  It speaks to the potential of the Organisation.  Not its past. It should also highlight the level of trust this new Board can command.

Further proof that the FAI was worth working with, and I did back this up last year, was that the FAI has an ability to earn significant income for itself, when it can.

For instance, given the reputation it owned when they opened 2019, its sponsorship income only dipped 5% (€7.6m from €8m.)

For this review I’ll opt to discuss Income deliberately, because I think it is unfair, as well as meaningless for future comparisons on the FAIs progress on how it runs itself.  But only until all the back office functions are running as they should be.  There is a whole lot of operational day-to-day restructuring still to do. So, let’s let them get on with it for now.

But there is something else you can tell from just using their Income value – is how their activity measures up against their rivals/ competitors.  In this case the GAA and Rugby.  A flyby observation will tell you the FAI just is several divisions below our other national sporting brands.

Of course that may level off in 2020 and the year of the COVID-19.  So that’s the ould’ GAA excuse in early.  But there will be no 2019 Annual Report that doesn’t have Covid-19 as a post balance sheet event.

Yet I would have to say this, that FAI have the advantage this year of new streaming fees from wider platforms.  Soccer was always had a natural fan base that didn’t object to subscription fees and pay-per-view arrangements to follow their chosen sport/ team, something that the GAA itself has always struggled with.

Likewise, Rugby has never had the Club structure that promised a fan base that naturally regenerated within its own grounds.

Leaving all that aside, what was in front of the FAI when this year started was the one time opportunity they will never get again, a second chance, and the opening to make a fresh faced clean hands appeal to big ticket sponsors; the FAI were not in a position to market themselves to anyone this time last year.

As for going concern, since I have flagged it here and on the Telly over the recent months, it is now firmly confirmed and signed off, and without qualification.

But there is a Grant Thornton warning, albeit subtle and throughout, a very typical Grant Thornton fingerprint actually; there remains material uncertainty- another GAAesque getting the excuses in early maybe, but it is their signature, a function of professional practice I take very seriously myself.

So consider this signed; The FAI has better days ahead, it is still all to play for in the second half.

On a final note on yer man.  Consider this everyone; Page 32 Employees:  The Staffing complement went from 200 to 199 over the year that was 2019.  (.5%) Costs to the P&L went from € 13,241,183 to € 9,926,896.  That’s 30% of a drop or a saving if you like.

Consider that again.  A half of a percent in head count represented 30% of their costs to the organisation.  How’s that for a Value for Money comparison.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Grant Thornton. The report Grant Thornton delivered to the Board of the FAI last weekend was exceptional, and a template on how to produce financial statements.  It was clear, understandable, and business like.  It focused entirely on the business of the FAI and not on the personalities it engaged, there was not one ounce of spin or flash or PR.  So take note RTÉ.

Before ye get the knives out lads.  I can promise ye there will be one department in GTs that will be laughing at that, while another one will be spitting feathers and probably a few bots out too.  Neither are the Audit Dept.  And for the record, in my own history of Financial Control and other Governance roles I have never actually worked with Grant Thornton’s External Auditors.

Two more disclosures that relate to Conflict of Interest.  I do know the former Interim CEO Gary Owens in a personal and private capacity, but I have not had any engagement with him since he stepped into the FAI.

Likewise with Niall Quinn; our previous association was entirely linked with my role in my own Credit Union, and his role with his former school boy club Manortown United, and limited entirely to that relationship.

All that’s left to say is: Hon Ireland.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.


Caribbean Rum Cake

By popular demand.

Bring de rum.

Janet writes:

Just in case you’re dreaming of the sun and turquoise waters this is a Christmas favorite from somewhere a little warmer, boozy and lush but not as heavy as puds, transform that dusty bottle of maybe not great rum at the back of the cupboard into something that lasts 24hrs max in our house.

Janet’s Caribbean Rum Cake


125 g fine semolina
1 liter of milk
75 g caster sugar
15 sugar cubes or 15 tsp ( for caramel)
3 eggs
75 g of blond raisins
4 tbsp. dark rum ( I like to use a spiced ginger one, I just add ginger and cinnamon to the bottle ( sometimes red chilli) and let it rest for a week or so).


In a saucepan with a thick base, put the pieces of sugar on a medium heat.
Let it melt, shaking the handle of the pan often.

As soon as the caramel turns blond, pour it into a mold (preferably high and fluted, but a loaf tin works grand, silicone is handy for the turnout), tilt it in all directions to evenly distribute the caramel on the bottom and the edges.

Preheat the oven to 160 ° (th 5/6).
Put the raisins in a bowl with the rum, let them swell.

Break the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks. Put the yolks aside for now.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Heat the milk and powdered sugar in a saucepan.
When simmering, throw the semolina in and stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, so that the semolina swells.

Off the heat, add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring thoroughly with each addition.
Add the raisins , mix again.

Then add the egg whites delicately.
Pour the preparation into the caramelized mold and bake for about 30 minutes.

Take the mold out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then turn out the semolina cake on a serving dish and let it cool. Serve warm or cold. It’s nice with ice cream, or fresh cream and stewed peaches or pineapple.

Feel free to pour on a little more rum.


Previously: Millie’s Chrismas Eve Brownies

Janet’s Steamed Clootie