Tag Archives: Catherine Murphy TD

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This morning.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy (top) called for, among other things, the removal of the Angelus from RTÉ. The comments were made during Dail statements on the Announcement by the Commission of Investigation confirming Human Remains on the Site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby home.

Ms Murphy said:

“When I first raised this issue in this House back in 2014 following my reading of Catherine Corless’s research I called at the time for the site at Tuam to immediately be declared a crime scene with Gardaí, crime scene techs, forensic anthropologists and anything else needed to establish the exact details of this atrocity.

And make no mistake, it was and is an atrocity. A mass grave of 796 tiny bodies, discarded like trash.

I listened to the Taoiseach’s speech yesterday about the culpability of the State and society. But the State- for the vast majority of time since it’s foundation the State itself was Fine Gael and or Fianna Fáil.

They were the ones who presided over debates in the chamber which referred to children born outside marriage in the most disparaging and disgusting terms and who wilfully handed over their responsibility for these women and children to a Church and they knew to be merciless at best.

So when we talk about the culpability of the State and Society, know that it was not Joe & Josephine Soap who condemned these women to a life of shame and the murder or export of their children, it was the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael led State and their complete abdication of responsibility while being fully aware of the life they were consigning those women and children to.

The attitudes which prevailed were perpetuated by every arm of the state – the guards, the medical profession and the political system thus allowing the church to run free with their campaign of terror and castigating women for some perceived sin.

How utterly and tragically ironic that those same nuns who labelled those women as immoral, saw nothing immoral about neglecting a child to the point of death then disposing of their body in a septic tank.

And this is not the dark ages we’re talking about. The legacy of these acts are current or just one generation removed. The relatives of these women and children are still alive.

In 1995 when children playing on the site discovered skulls, it was not the police who were called for, it was a priest. He was called to bless the site then everybody went about their business as usual. The State once again turned a blind eye.

The horrors of the mother and baby homes cannot be properly put into words. The rumours of clinical drug trials have not been properly addressed and there was enough evidence of such trials in Tuam for the then Minister Kathleen Lynch to call for the Terms of Reference to include vaccine trials as part of the inquiry.

That didn’t happen and instead the terms referred to the ‘care arrangements including institutional practice with regard to health, safety, welfare and interests of mothers and children.’ It is not clear if possible vaccine trials were included.

A man from the area spoke to me recently of playing on the site and discovering hundreds of used vials buried in the grounds. And as we are all too painfully aware, such barbaric trials were not uncommon in other mother and baby homes.

So while there is now a collective wringing of hands – 2 years after it was first suggested publicly that there may be a mass grave in Tuam – the fact remains that the horrors of Tuam and other mother and baby homes existed because the State permitted the Church to control some of our most fundamental institutions and the sad fact is that not much has changed today.

We have got to take the Church from our schools, from our hospitals and medical care and from our politics. It is unacceptable that children are regularly discriminated against in our education system based on religion,

it is unacceptable that religious orders can hold any influence over medical institutions and the healthcare provided particularly to women; and it is unacceptable that the Dáil opens up every day with a prayer that is not representative of all elected members or citizens; and it is unacceptable that our national broadcaster, funded by the State, subjects citizens of all faiths and none to the angelus bells twice daily.”

These are relics of a bygone era and if Tuam has shown us anything it is this – the State must take responsibility for its citizens and the Church has no legitimacy in the healthcare or education of those citizens.”

Yesterday: What’s In It That’s So Frightening?

 

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Catherine Murphy, Social Democrats TD at the Newsocracy2 conference

This morning.

The Writers Museum, Parnell Square, Dublin

At the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Newsocracy2 conference.

Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said:

It’s a common misconception that my interest in media ownership issues arose because of what has now become the almost infamous weekend of so-called ‘constitutional crisis’ following by a speech in the Dáil regarding the Siteserv controversy

In fact in 2012 one of the first tasks I set my then new assistant was to write a Private Members Motion on media ownership. Now due to arrangements within the Technical Group that Motion never got the chance to be debated in the Dáil, it was a significant piece of work undertaken by my office and one that we have continued to pursue over the years.

Ironically my Siteserv investigations actually had no root whatsoever in the area of media control or ownership.  I had started questioning how the Irish water contracts had been awarded and that led me down a rabbit hole within which the two issues overlapped.

I first raised concerns regarding the contracts and the personalities involved back in September 2014 and continued asking questions throughout late 2014,  the Irish people had  become owners of a bank which cost them upwards of €30bn and the distressed assets were to be sold, I felt my role was to make sure those distressed assets were disposed of for the maximum possible amount,  in other words I was acting in the public interest in pursuing those contracts.

In April 2015  the Sunday Times broke the story on the front page.   During this time I was confronted with various cease and desist letters from Mr Denis O’Brien’s camp.

Once the Sunday Times story ran it became a snowball and my questions and FOI’s made it clear to me at least that a serious investigation into the sale was warranted.

This led to a ridiculous scenario proposed by Government that KPMG – who had acted as advisers on the sale of Siteserv – would then be charged with reviewing the sales process.

I felt strongly this was not the appropriate measure and so in May 2015 my team and I complied a piece of legislation which would give the C&AG the powers to undertake the investigation. In order to introduce that Bill I had to make a 5 minute speech explaining what the Bill was about and why I was presenting it.

In that speech I outlined my concerns regarding the sales process and why I wanted a thorough investigation.

I could not have predicted the fallout of that speech. All media outlets immediately reported everything I had said but within hours everything had changed. The Irish Times had pulled their report from their website. The Journal.ie had removed it from their site and RTÉ – the National Broadcaster was reporting the fact that they could not report the contents of my speech.

At the same time RTÉ  was in court and subject to a case involving an injunction by Mr Denis O’Brien,  who is a serial litigant,  I was not party to those proceedings and therefore could not have been aware there was crossover between the two.  The Judge had issued a blanket ban on reporting the subject matter in this case.

The only media outlet which kept the story live was the small independent online news site Broadsheet.ie. Fundamentally the issue of parliamentary privilege was side-lined by all apart from Broadsheet. A speech, given by an elected representative on the floor of the National Parliament was being erased from the news cycle and the public record was effectively being tampered with.

Citizens who rely on mainstream media were left uniformed on a matter that had been raised in THEIR parliament. It was the ultimate disservice to citizens by the media upon which they are forced to rely. One powerful individual had effectively controlled the media by the mere threat of legal action.

Unbelievably this same individual also happened to be the largest private media owner in this country. (and still is!)

A weekend of confusion ensued when legal departments in newsrooms up and down the country refused to trust Article 15:13 of the Constitution when faced with a threat from this powerful individual.

Article 15:13 enshrines the concept pf parliamentary privilege and the reporting of any utterances made in the Oireachtas. O’Brien’s threat had challenged that concept and newsrooms had been chilled into acquiescence.

There were a few instances of people printing the speech and giving it out on the streets.  Social Media was widely used to share it,  at all times it remained on the Oireachtas/Parliament Website.

Broadsheet held out and on Sunday, the Sunday times ran the story and my speech in full. Others eventually followed suit but not before an entire weekend of confusion had ensued.

The reverberations of that weekend are still being felt with journalists and politicians acutely aware of how real the threat to our press freedom is and how a gagging order on the national parliament very nearly came to pass.

The following Tuesday the judge in the injunction case against RTE clarified that the injunction could not have applied to a speech made in the Dail.

The incident reinvigorated by interest in what I see as a fundamental pillar of democracy – a free and open media, capable of speaking truth to power and objectively challenging vested interests without fear or deference.

When we are faced with a situation where any powerful individual not only owns the significant majority of our print & broadcast media but also exerts such a severe chilling effect on titles not under his control then it is very clear we have a serious problem.

That is why today the Social Democrats will introduce the Media Ownership Bill 2017 into the Dáil and host a debate in Private Members Time on February 8th. The Bill sets out to retroactively apply the guideline which states that anything above a 20% shareholding in a media business may not be in the public interest.

Change is long overdue and we feel strongly that our Bill is a vital first step  in bringing about change in this area.

FIGHT!

Yesterday: Free Tomorrow?

catherine murphy

Tonight.

The text of Catherine’s Murphy’s contribution to the Siteserv private members’ bill debate.

Grab a large tay.

Firstly I want to thank Fianna Fail for tabling this issue and for allocating me some speaking time. While Siteserv is at the centre of the current controversy, there is also a much wider issue.

I want in the first instance to refer briefly to an article in the Sunday Times from this week.

In the summer of 2011 – around the same time a decision was made to sell Siteserv – Sierra Support Services, a Siteserv subsidiary, started preparing to bid for contracts to install water meters. Siteserv already had a contract with Bord Gais to service boilers. According to Sierra’s managing director, the company began hiring water-metering specialists in mid-2011.

Remember Siteserv was a company that was haemorrhaging cash – it owed IBRC and the taxpayers €150million – and yet here it was planning for the future involving water metering.

On July 26 2013, a Sierra joint venture, GMC Sierra, won three contracts to install meters for Irish Water worth €62m each.

To understand it, you have to go back to June 2011when a sales process for Siteserv – led by Siteserv itself rather than an examiner– was commenced.

IBRC appeared to take a hands-off approach despite being owed €150million.

A sales team was assembled. This comprised Walter Hobbs, four Siteserv executives and board members, Davy Corporate Finance and a KPMG team.

Somewhere along the way a decision is made to exclude trade buyers. 50 candidates were whittled down to 9 expressions of interest in November 2011.

On the 11th November 2011 those interested parties were contacted and asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

Once they were signed, an information pack about Siteserv was sent to the potential bidders. This allowed for a due diligence period with a deadline of 5pm on December 7th set for submission of 1st round bids.

December 7th – remember that date, it’s important. Parties are informed that the sales team want the entire process concluded by mid-January. A very hasty timeline it seems.

We now know that Millington (who was the eventual successful bidder) was not incorporated until December 7th 2011 so given that the entity did not exist – how could it have undertaken the 3 week due diligence period required of other bidders?

Millington could NOT have signed a confidentiality agreement in November 2011 nor could it have received a Siteserv information pack – because it did not exist at the time.

So…if Millington was able to make a bid later in the process than all other bids – how did it come by the information it needed to make that bid?

It’s not something you just do on the back of an envelope, it would have required information.

Is it possible that Millington used a proxy – perhaps Island – to obtain the information on behalf of Millington? If so how does that sit with the confidentiality agreements?

So given that Millington only came into existence on December 7th – the same day of the deadline for the 1st round of bids – can we find out how soon after that did Millington actually submit a bid?

Did that bid follow the 16 point checklist required of the other bids? Or was it the 3 page submission that Mr Dukes referred to when he confirmed that Mr O’Brien had advance knowledge of the sale?

Various sources involved in the process have indicated to me that they always felt that all bidders were not playing from the same starting line.

In the information pack sent to prospective bidders who had signed confidentiality agreements it stated that it should be assumed that the company will be “acquired on a debt free and cash free basis, yet I have had indications that when Siteserv was sold to Millington it actually had €10million on its balance sheet in a combination of cash & debtors.

We know now that Millington paid €40million to IBRC and €5million to shareholders of Siteserv in order to get them to agree to the deal.

Yet others involved in the process were clearly saying they’d have paid more, while independent commentators say that the rushed sale possibly resulted in a less than ideal final price.

Indeed, Ray Nielson from Altrad a potential trade buyer who were excluded from the bidding process; commenting on the need for confidentiality he said
“If you look at any of the acquisitions we have made we keep everything in total confidence. “

He went on to dismiss claims by Siteserv that there was only a “slim” chance that Altrad would stick with its higher bid.

“The reality is that with the level of synergies we’d have with Siteserv, €60m would have been a very low bid for it.. That was our opening bid. If they’d allowed an open fight as we would see it, where they’d allowed in people with synergy, then I think it could have gone for well in excess of €60m.”

Another point that leads to questions is the share activity. At the start of November 2011 the share price for Siteserv is 3 &1/2 cent yet over the course of the month – as the supposed confidential sales process intensifies – the purchasing of Siteserv shareholders increases 53 fold.

In the course of my research a number of names as to who may have been purchasing shares have come across my desk and I will now provide those names to the Director of Corporate Enforcement for review.

The review you’ve commissioned, to be undertaken by Kieran Wallace of KPMG cannot be considered independent no matter how you try to stretch the imagination.

They led the sale. They represented personal interests of many of the key players involved in the sale and Kieran Wallace himself actually led the liquidation of Siteserv PLC.

The Siteserv special liquidators report signed by Mr Wallace is where the disbursement of the €5m to Shareholders was officially signed into reality.

A map of almost of all the key players in the Siteserv saga all leads back to one place and that is KPMG. Let me read you a list:

Hugh Cooney –the Chairman of Siteserv during its sale is a consultant & Company Director with KPMG

Robert Dix – non executive director at Siteserv was a partner in KPMG for 10 years

Walter Hobbs – the ‘independent’ adviser appointed by IBRC to oversee the sale was also a director with KPMG

Des Carville – worked for Davy’s corporate finance leading the Siteserv sale. Managed the Denis O’Brien account at Davy’s. Currently heads up Shareholder Management unit in Dept of Finance and…you guessed it…former KPMG employee

KPMG – specifically Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson were sued by Mike Aynsley and Tom Hunnerson following the winding up of IBRC.

KPMG’s own global code of conduct states specifically that they “must maintain independence and objectivity and avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest’

By having KPMG undertake this review, the Minister has undermined it from the very outset andnobody in this House or outside can have any confidence in this review.

We also know that KPMG work closely on other businesses affiliated to the the person behind Millington including Topaz, Communicorp, INM & the Beacon Hospital.

Siteserv is not the only issue of concern here Minister and I am concerned that the Terms of Reference include a get out of jail card.

It has been widely reported that the review will involve any transaction which resulted in a capital loss of over €10 million but what has been less widely publicised is the proviso that the special liquidator can pick and choose which transactions are reviewed whether they resulted in a €10million loss or not.

There are other elements to the Siteserv transaction that need to be explored and which the terms of the review don’t cover.

For example in the Sunday Independent asked the CEO at the shareholders’ meeting on April 5, 2012 whether the CEO has significant personal borrowings from IBRC. I think it is essential that in any inquiry a look is taken at how those loans played out, given that there was a large benefit from the payout.

The ultimate buyer of Siteserv was one of the largest debtors of IBRC. His loans had expired and he had apparently written to Kieran Wallace in his role as Special Liquidator seeking the same terms IBRC had allowed him which was to pay off his loans in his own time and at the same low interest rate.

My understanding is that it was costing IBRC 7% for their money, significantly higher than the 1% NAMA were borrowing at.

Even if Denis O’Brien’s loans were eventually paid off in full, the interest rate represented a subsidy.

I can’t understand why that was not a factor given that more money would have to be borrowed to purchase the company; as I understand it, it was the state owned AIB that put up most ofthe money for the O’Brien owned Millington to purchase Siteserv even though he had huge loans.

So surely it’s clear minister, that the proposed review is not only conflicted, it is simply not wide enough to provide a true picture. I would call on KPMG to recuse themselves – as per their own code of conduct – and ask you to reconsider the premise of the review and go back to the drawing board.

*thud*

Earlier: Serv’d

Update:



Yesterday: Giving Back To The Few

Thanks Anne-Marie McNally