Tag Archives: Fergus Finlay

From top: Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardo’s Ireland and a HSE Board member; Anthony Sheridan

HSE board member and Irish Examiner columnist Fergus Finlay is so strongly in favour of the current arrangement for building the National Maternity Hospital that he took the unusual step of breaking board confidentiality rules to support the Government’s plan for the project.

In a column last week he clearly stated where he stands on the issue, writing:

‘Here’s my bottom line. As a citizen, campaigner, and advocate; as a husband; as the father and grandfather of women and girls; there are simply no circumstances under which I would support the development of a new national maternity hospital in Ireland that was influenced by anything — anything — other than the public interest and the interests of women.’

He then went on to outline the enormous amount of work he and his colleagues on the audit and risk committee put into checking every aspect of the deal to ensure that nothing was left to chance. He stated:

‘We devoted many, many hours, over many months…examining and analysing the huge set of documents that had been developed to give legal underpinning to the project. We worked with senior management colleagues and had the benefit of legal advice at every stage.’

Given all that, it would be reasonable to assume that Mr. Finlay is familiar with all aspects of the project and would have no difficulty in answering questions put by those who are deeply concerned about the entire project.

Such an assumption would be badly mistaken.

During a discussion on RTÉ Radio with Prof. Louise Kenny, who has serious question on the issue, Finlay was unable to answer even the most basic questions.

For example: Why is St. Vincent’s so determined to hold on to ownership of the site?

Finlay replied:

“Well, you would need to ask them that but I would hazard a guess: I think they see it as a great act of generosity and they don’t understand why they should be asked to go further. The rest of the world would like them to gift the land to the state, but they haven’t.”

St. Vincent’s have claimed that ownership of the land is required in order to facilitate integrated care.

Prof. Kenny refutes this. It doesn’t stack up, she said. There are many hospitals across the UK and Europe where the leasehold has no effect whatsoever on care integration.

Incredibly, Finlay agreed, contradicting his core claim that everything has been checked, that months of forensic investigation with the best legal minds has answered all the questions:

“I think you can work out arrangements for integrated care without owning the land…I don’t think that’s a good reason. My hunch is that it’s about tradition, it’s about history, it’s about pride in their own ownership.”

So here we have a member of the HSE board, the authority that will decide whether the project proceeds or not, guessing and expressing hunches surrounding the most fundamental questions being asked by those who are deeply worried about the consequences if the project is allowed to proceed in its present form.

Finlay was equally befuddled when asked about the worrying inclusion of the term ‘clinically appropriate’ in the contract. Kenny said the term was incredibly vague and open to interpretation. It could mean a doctor having the power to override the wishes of a woman seeking a particular service.

He said:

“I think that phrase has been misinterpreted and I wish to god we could find a better phrase that wouldn’t be open to misinterpretation.”

When asked if lawyers should come up with a better phrase Finlay did a lot of muttering before lamely concluding with the by now standard excuse of those defending the project – it would involve further delay.

In addition to his ignorance of the facts Finlay’s attitude was also patronising and insulting, not just to Prof. Kenny but to all those who have genuine worries about the Byzantine conditions surrounding this project.

Effectively accusing Prof. Kenny of being a conspiracist, he asked:

“Is it that you really believe that somewhere in the background there’s someone waiting to leap out and say ‘we gotcha now‘?”

Clearly Finlay is either unaware of or unconcerned about a number of clauses in the contract. For example, the strong possibility that the apparent generous €10 per annum rent could mushroom into an astonishing €850,000 per annum if certain conditions are not adhered to.

Given the shady and convoluted shenanigans surrounding this whole deal, only the most naïve would believe that it will not eventually turn into a very, very expensive ‘gotcha’ trap for Irish taxpayers.

Anthony Sheridan is a freelance journalist and blogs at Back Garden Philosophy


Earlier: Boylan Point

From top: Miriam O’Callaghan (left) and Katherine Zappone; Fergus Finlay

This morning.

Further to Merriongate…

…via Fergus Finlay in the Irish Examiner:

On July 18, I heard Katherine tell Miriam O’Callaghan on the radio that she would probably live in the US for the rest of her life. She’d visit Ireland, of course, but she had put her house on the market and was severing her connections with her adopted country. (The house is indeed on the market, with lots of promotional material about the work done by Dermot Bannon to modernise it, and an asking price of €750,000.)

She wasn’t asked hard questions in that interview and, as far as I know, it was the last interview she gave. She certainly didn’t mention that she was in conversation with senior ministers about work she might do for Ireland in the US. I wonder what kind of an interview it would have been if Miriam knew then what she knows know.

Then suddenly it was announced, unknown to most of the Cabinet, that she was to be appointed as “special envoy on freedom of opinion and expression” to the UN. No advertisement, no competition, no interview. She wanted it and she got it.

…If it was needed, there should have been a competition for it [the UN envoy role]. We have a large number of men and women in Ireland who would have made excellent candidates. If she was the best, the competition would have established that.

The proof of her sense of entitlement, sadly, lies in the fact that she never gave a single interview about the controversy. This was compounded by the fact that, when the next controversy arose — about her party in the grounds of the Merrion Hotel — all she could do was issue a terse one-liner telling the media to contact the hotel….

Did her party comply with the guidelines? You’d have to be there to know (I wasn’t)…

Fergus Finlay: Ireland deserves better from arrogant Government ministers (Irish Examiner)

Earlier: Cash For Cronies


Former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork; a memorial created by the artist Jill Dinsdale in the grounds at Bessborough last weekend

Following on from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission concluding that more than 900 children died in the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork or in a hospital after being transferred from Bessborough…

And the commission only being able to establish the burial place of 64 of those children…

Fergus Finlay writes in today’s Irish Examiner:

It’s very hard to understand why members of the order have not, at this stage, been interviewed by the gardaí.

Campaigners have in the past called for the area being demolished to be treated as a crime scene, and that too is easy to understand.

If you stop for a minute and just think, it’s an overwhelming fact that an order of nuns, funded by the State, has disposed of hundreds of dead babies and is unwilling to tell anyone where they are.

How? Why? What are they hiding? What are they ashamed of?

Sisters, for the love of God — tell us where the Bessborough babies are (Fergus Finlay, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: Bessborough: ‘There Are 900 Bodies After Going Missing’ 

Top pic: Fergus Finlay

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Fergus Finlay and Dusty the dolphin in Inis Oirr

The Herald reports:

The former Labour adviser was swimming around Inis Oirr harbour with his daughter and two grandchildren when the dolphin, known as Dusty, head-butted him full force in the upper thighs.

The dolphin was known for erratic attacks when she was in Co Clare, and since a move to Inis Oirr last year signs have been put up around the harbour warning swimmers to be careful.
“She came straight at me and sort of rammed me with her head into what I’d politely call my upper thighs and knocked me off my feet,” Mr Finlay told the Herald.

Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay ‘lucky’ after dolphin attack in Aran Islands (The Herald)

Pic: Fergus Finlay

N15036336892846.jpgtweetsFergus Finlay (Top) and recent tweeatge (above).

Counter productive.

Or counter intuitive?

YOU decide.

Judith Goldberger writes:

So Fergus Finlay admits the billboards for his Diageo funded ‘Out Of Control Drinking’ campaign were created by UK based Goddard Global, the same guys who lobby for the tobacco industry. Nice industry to be hanging out with given they are threatening to sue the Irish government.

Then again, maybe they’re the right people to be hanging with as after all the tobacco industry know all about designing intentionally ineffective adverts which create the illusion of responsibility but are either counter-productive or go towards actually promoting their product.


Previously: ‘The Drinks Industry Can Turn Nasty When You’re Not On Message With Them’

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Last night, Fergus Finlay, chairman of the the Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign – which is being funded by drinks company Diageo – was on Prime Time with Senator Jillian Van Turnout, a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, to discuss the issues around a drinks company funding a campaign to curb problem drinking.

Here’s what was said..

Jillian Turnout: “My difficulty is that we actually have plenty of reports in Ireland, you know, on what we need to do and we need to get about doing it. And that’s why I wonder why this organisation and grouping is about. We have this Strategic Task Force and Alcohol Report from 2002, the Substance Misuse Strategy Group which the drinks industry frustrated, delayed, tried to stop that report coming out. And eventually the report came out in 2012, what does the drinks industry do? Produce a minority report. The Public Health Alcohol Bill is now on the table, I want to see that into legislation. That’s about pricing, that’s about availability..”

Fergus Finlay: “So do I, so do I, Gillian, so do we.”

Van Turnout: “But the reality is Diageo in Scotland are taking the Scottish government to court over minimum pricing. So, my belief is, with this campaign, which Diageo initiated, they’ve funded, they’re sitting on the board of it. My belief is, it’s great because Diageo can say, when minimum pricing comes in, but we’re trying to do this great thing, let us do this.”

Miriam O’Callaghan: “OK, let Fergus come in. And the Scottish point, they are part of that class action.”

Finlay: “So I believe, I don’t know how long that is going on. They have, you know, I hold no truck with them, I don’t support it, I am totally in favour, as is our campaign of the alcohol bill that Leo Varadkar produced. And I’ve said that, I’m on record as saying that.”

Van Turnout: “Not everybody on your board is in favour of it. Because Diageo are on the board of the campaign, Fergus, that’s…”

Finlay: “One vote in 12, if we ever have a vote, Jillian.”

Van Turnout: “Yes, but they hold the purse strings.”

Finlay: “Look, Jillian, we are a group of independent people.”

Van Turnout: “I have no doubt. But get behind the campaign, get behind the public…”

Finlay: “Well, I’m not sure you’ve no doubt, I’m not sure you’ve no doubt.”

Van Turnout: “I do, Fergus. I’ve never questioned that but get behind the public health experts. We see the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland today, the alcohol…”

Finlay: “You see the problem, there is a particular problem and, with the best will in the world,  with all the activists, all the campaigns, all the things that we’ve been involved in now down through the years haven’t cracked this problem.”

Van Turnout: “Has got us to the stage of this bill. This bill will make the difference, we’ve got there.

Finlay: “We haven’t cracked the problem of  out of control drinking and this bill won’t do it on its own.”

O’Callaghan: “People would say… the Out of Control Drinking, it’s almost the result of out- of-control marketing, as somebody said to me today. And what the drinks industry, maybe, is trying to do is make it look like it’s not their responsibility what’s happened. In fact, it’s the responsibility of a couple of crazy out-of-control drinkers. Nothing to do with them.”

Finlay: “You see, what we’re doing, what we’re doing, I’ve just come from a public meeting. A hundred ordinary people gathered in a room, full of ideas…”

O’Callaghan: “Well intentioned, I don’t doubt that.”

Van Turnout: “Absolutely.”

Finlay: “Stop being so patronising. They are decent, ordinary people…”

O’Callaghan: “They’re being funded by Diageo.”

Finlay: “They’re not being funded by anybody. The people who came up to that meeting tonight are ordinary members of the public and they came up, full of ideas about how we can change this. We’re going to produce a plan. And I really, really…”

Van Turnout: “But we’ve plenty of plans.”

O’Callaghan: “Just let him say this and I’ll bring you back in.”

Finlay: “I really think it’s kind of unfair, at this stage, to be rushing to judgement, before anybody sees the plan.  We want to produce a plan that will challenge people, challenge Government, challenge the industry, challenge all of us, to do something once and for all, about a problem that is destroying Ireland.”

O’Callaghan: “Can I just say there is irrefutable, scientific evidence that upping the price of alcohol reduces consumption. Diageo and the drinks industry are against that?”

Finlay: “There’s irrefutable evidence aswell…”

Van Turnout: “Maybe I could have an opportunity to speak…”

Finlay: “Sorry. Yes, of course.”

Van Turnout: “My difficulty is, Fergus, that we already have plenty of reports. My experience is that the drinks industry love us to have reports and to discuss about having reports because then they can delay and stop us actually taking action – where we should be putting all our energies and resources. My difficulty with the campaign is that the credibility, the reputations of the organisation are a smokescreen. And I really believe, we, as civil society, should be getting behind public health experts.”

O’Callaghan: “Should you give him the benefit of the doubt?”

Van Turnout: “Well, I’d love to be doing that and maybe, Miriam, I would have done that 10 years ago but I’ve written two European reports on alcohol-related harm. And, at the first stage, the drinks industry met with me. They were charming, they said all the right things, they said everything. When I started producing the reports, based on evidence, they changed their tactics, they personally tried to undermine me, the organisation I worked for, the European Economic Social Committee, they can turn nasty, very, very quickly when you’re not on message with them.”

O’Callaghan: “Ok, let Fergus come back on that.”

Finlay: “We’re going to be on message with the people of Ireland and we’re going to be on message with our own campaign. Do you know, Gillian? The thing I’ve always admired most about you, when you left an independent job to become a Senator, you vowed that, notwithstanding taking a Senate seat from Fine Gael, that you would retain your independence and you’ve done it. You’ve been absolutely independent and honest and open and I utterly respect that. And I think you have to respect the independence of people, many of whom you know and worked with, who are sitting…”

Van Turnout: “I do and I love your energy behind the public health professionals, the doctors, the practitioners, they’re the people…”

Finlay: “Our energy is behind anything that will work…”

Van Turnout: “They’re the people, they’re not in that campaign, the doctors, the practitioners.”

Talk over each other

O’Callaghan: “Whoever pays the piper plays the tune, don’t they?”

Finlay: “Well, let’s see, Miriam, let’s see.”

O’Callaghan: “Do they talk to you at all about this controversy? About what you should say? Have you had any discussions with Diageo?”

Finlay: “I had discussions at the very start with Diageo. I said we’ll…”

O’Callaghan: “During the current controversy?”

Finlay: “We’ll do this campaign, we’ll do this campaign on the basis of a guarantee, an absolute guarantee of independence and no interference. I’ll be honest with you. I’m not going to apologise to anybody for spending as much of Diageo’s money as I possibly can with my colleagues, to try and reduce the harmful effects of alcohol abuse.”

O’Callaghan: “But have they talked to you, Fergus, about this controversy that’s going on right now.”

Finlay: “Which controversy?”

O’Callaghan: “The fact that people, like Jillian and a number of people have written letters..”

Finlay: “No, no.”

O’Callaghan: “They haven’t.”

Finlay: “No.”

O’Callaghan: “Ok.”

Finlay: “No, they’ve they haven’t…I mean, you know, I’m working around the clock with my day job and this…”

Van Turnout: “Yeah, but it’s interesting that Diageo won’t provide a spokesperson to be on any of the programmes that I’ve been on. They won’t provide somebody…”

Finlay: “You’ve been attacking the campaign and I’ve been trying to defend that campaign.”

Van Turnout: “Attacking the involvement of Diageo in a public health campaign.”

O’Callaghan: “Thank you for coming in. Fergus Finlay, I appreciate you coming in too.”

Listen back in full here


Why are you marching about water.

When you could be marching for other things.

Fergus Finlay writes:

“Who will march for Ivy McGinty? Or Mary Garvan? Or Mary Maloney? Or the hundreds of other Ivys and Marys who live lives of seclusion, trapped in a system in which they have no rights, no voice, nobody to speak for them? Or march for them?”

How is it possible that up to 100,000 of us are willing to protest about a tiny charge to fix a broken water system, but nobody can be bothered to march for the most defenceless people in Ireland? How can we get so angry over things that aren’t going to destroy anyone’s life, and yet we can watch frail, elderly women being pushed and verbally abused in a public service and not march on Dáil Éireann? How can we be so triumphant about bringing the Government to its knees over water, and yet there are no banners for Ivy or the two Marys?”


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No more reports on intellectual disability — it’s time to finally act after Aras Attracta (Fergus Finlay, Irish Examiner)

Gavan Titley

Previously: ‘You Could See Her Cowering In The Chair’

The Flowing Tide

Pic: Random Irish Photo


tv3 tv32

[Above: The Children’s Referendum debate, TV3, October 31, 2012 with from left: Kathy Sinnott, John Waters, Frances Fitzgerald and Fergus Finlay. Top: debate host Vincent Browne]

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos CEO, writing in in today’s Examiner:

A few minutes before the [TV3] debate ended, John Waters suddenly turned on me, and launched into a tirade about my motives, and those of the organisation I work for, in being involved in the campaign at all. Browne eventually interrupted him, and told him that he had directly impugned the integrity of a decent and respectable organisation, and that I had to have a right of reply.

Taken aback by the ferocity of Waters’ verbal assault, I stumbled through a couple of sentences, and the programme came to an end. When the cameras had stopped, Browne remonstrated with Waters. “You simply can’t say that sort of thing, John,” he said. Waters grinned, and replied that it was just the give and take of a robust debate!

I went over to him, and told him he was a disgrace (I may not have been quite as polite as that). A few minutes later, I noticed Browne in huddled conversation with his producer. They told me that they were considering editing the last few minutes of the programme, because there had been a pretty clear defamation. I said I believed it was important the debate be broadcast in its entirety, and gave them both an assurance that Barnardos would take no action on foot of the broadcast.

In the end — actually, immediately — they decided to cut the programme short by what they said was two and half minutes, because Waters had been so (allegedly) defamatory that anyone who worked for Barnardos could consider taking an action….

We can’t let fear get in the way of backing same-sex marriage (Fergus Finlay, Irish Examiner)

Earlier: “With The Megaphone Comes A Duty”


Fergus Finlay on the “extraordinary decision of Eddie Hobbs to use the Wall Street Journal to undermine his own Government”.

Hobbs, described in the WSJ as a financial writer, finished his diatribe this way: “So, while Time magazine and others eulogize the plucky leader of the Irish people, the truth is that Enda Kenny leads a Vichy government — captive externally to creditors that still insist on loading bank debt onto the sovereign, and internally to a tribe of insiders led by union godfathers in a deal that protects the Government’s own excessive pay and pensions…”
Truth? Someone who uses a term like that to describe his own country doesn’t know the meaning of truth.
“The deliberate comparison of our Government — successful or not —to Vichy is disgusting.
So, that’s what I’ve learned these past few days. On our streets, there are thousands of people who are struggling, but are decent. They deserve enormous respect. And then there are a few who are comfortable and self-important. And deserve no respect whatever.


And then irony died.

The Decent People At the Bottom Will Save Us, Not The Indecent At Top (Fergus Finley, Irish Examiner)

Previously: Hobbs: Some Gaulle

Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Salaries

Also: Finlay: RTÉ’s Future Is Safe In The Hands Of Honest And Skilled Tom Savage

(Photocall Ireland)