Tag Archives: INM

Jody Corcoran

There are two issues which give rise for concern. First, the reaction on social media to Donnelly’s decision should be ignored by all right-thinking people. Social media is an uninformed sewer…

Donnelly’s choice, Howlin’s radicalism and the legacy of Enda Kenny (Jody Corcoran, Sunday Independent, February 17, 2017)

It was at this point that the reaction went into overdrive: So, who was really responsible for this anyway? Have a look at the open sewer that is social media

Jody Corcoran: Shrill voices raining down on heads of the homeless (Jody Corocran, Sunday Indpendent yesterday)

Reg writes:

Does Jody not realise he is working at INM?

FIGHT!

Pic via Independent.ie

The reception of Independent News and Media offices on Talbot Street, Dublin 1

Mark Paul, in The Irish Times, reports:

“Independent News and Media (INM) has recruited Deloitte for yet another investigation into an alleged major data breach at the newspaper publisher.

“It has also threatened outside IT experts, recruited under the supervision of former chairman Leslie Buckley, that it will sue them unless they co-operate, according to court papers.

“…Mr Buckley is refusing to meet the Deloitte investigators. In letters to INM’s legal advisers McCann Fitzgerald, Mr Buckley’s lawyers cite his anger at a letter sent by INM to the so-called INM 19, who were among those whose data was searched.

“That letter, his lawyers say, appears to blame Mr Buckley for “unauthorised” access to INM’s data.”

INM threatens to sue experts who ran data ‘interrogation’ (Mark Paul, The Irish Times)

Yesterday: There Were Discussions With Dee Forbes About ‘Getting Stephen A Job At RTE’

Previously: Why Did You Pay To Have These People Hacked?

INM The Thick Of It

Clockwise from top left: Sgt Maurice McCabe and Michael McDowell; Fionnan Sheahan, Colum Kenny, Terry Prone, Ian Mallon, Tom Brady and Anne Harris.

On March 25, 2014, the morning after Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s resignation, Terry Prone wrote an opinion piece for the Irish Independent.

In her article, the public relations expert said there was no need for the commissioner to have fallen on the “whistleblower sword”.

Mr Callinan had resigned in the wake of multiple scandals within the force and for describing the actions of Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson as “disgusting” at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing.

What Mr Callinan could have done, Ms Prone suggested, was simply talk the clock down with endless detail and strictly adhere to answers that fall within PAC’s own narrow remit.

Mr Callinan’s second mistake was not grasping what being a whistleblower meant in 2014.

According to Ms Prone:

“He [Mr Callinan] may not have understood, for example, that the minute the title whistleblower is publicly put on someone, they acquire a new role in society and a new status to match.

They are newly impregnable. They develop a sort of double-whammy credibility; if someone impugns their assumed virtue, the accuser will be disbelieved.

But even if it is provable that the whistleblower has the odd flaw, it doesn’t matter. What matters are the accusations and the stories they generate.”

Ms Prone would soon be advising Mr Callinan’s acting replacement Noirin O’Sullivan while also at the same time, as is her wont, advising Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Ms Prone’s assessment became a blueprint for Ms O’Sullivan’s public relations strategy in the next two years concerning both Sgt McCabe and the Public Accounts Committee.

Never again would a Commissioner trip up like this again.

Garda management would, from now on, openly praise Sgt McCabe without reservation.

And PAC appearances by Ms O’Sullivan would become contemptuous studies in futility.

Sgt McCabe was offered a job to help oversee the new penalty points system brought about because of his efforts.

Ms O’Sullivan in the words of one impressed journalist, had “metaphorically put her arm around” Sgt McCabe.

Meanwhile, It would be left to Garda lawyers and certain journalists to do what was necessary to cast doubt around Sgt McCabe,

And it worked, for a while.

But the contrast between Ms O’Sullivan’s show of jovial warmth and Sgt McCabe’s reality within the force proved too great.

The sheer magnitude of spin was unsustainable.

When it emerged that Ms O’Sullivan’s legal team had been instructed to attack Sgt McCabe’s motivation and integrity during the O’Higgins Commission, the narrative collapsed.

Ms O’Sullivan, along with Ms Fitzgerald, would fall to the “whistleblower sword” as a result.

The first mention of Sgt Maurice McCabe in the Irish Independent came following Martin Callinan’s appearance before PAC on Thursday, January 23, 2014.

This was the occasion when Mr Callinan described the behaviour of Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson as “disgusting”.

Mr Callinan’s appearance was covered by Irish Independent Security Editor Tom Brady and its then Public Affairs Editor Shane Phelan.

There was an analysis of Mr Callinan’s performance by Mr Brady and a humorous sketch of events by Lise Hand, plus an editorial by the paper’s then editor Claire Grady.

However, Mr Callinan’s ”disgusting” remark was mentioned only once, in the seventh paragraph of Mr Brady and Mr Phelan’s article, which stated without direct quotes:

He [Martin Callinan] described the behaviour of the two whistleblowers as disgusting in opting to make unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and criminality against senior colleagues in a public forum.

However, Sgt McCabe never alleged corruption or criminality against senior officers.

On day seven of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, Chief Supt Terry McGinn, who first investigated Sgt McCabe’s allegations, gave evidence  about the nature of Sgt McCabe’s complaints.

Shief Supt McGinn said:

“In relation to Sergeant McCabe’s complaint, he particularly told me… that his complaints were not against Garda sergeants, his complaints were against Garda management and their failure to, and I summarise it here, I have other words, as I was exploring what Sergeant McCabe said to me. And he said:

‘In all of my statements and exhibits, my purpose was to highlight poor standards, poor work practices and failure by Garda management to address these issues. I am also concerned at the service provided by the Gardaí to the public. I am not alleging corruption or criminality by any members or nor have I any evidence to support this allegation‘.”

The Irish Independent‘s coverage focused on Mr Callinan’s attempts to stop Sgt McCabe from appearing before the committee the following week.

Mr Brady, in his analysis, wrote:

‘While committee members may genuinely believe they can assist in establishing the veracity of the allegations it is easy to understand why Mr Callinan should be concerned that a serving member of the force [Sgt McCabe] be allowed to hurl serious allegations of criminality against senior officers who are not there to defend themselves.’

Mr Brady added:

“He [Mr Callinan] is right in his interpretation of the move that it could seriously undermine discipline in the force if every member felt it was possible to run to a Dáil committee with a grievance.”

Dublin City University professor Colum Kenny told the tribunal that, in early 2014, Mr Brady – and RTÉ’s crime correspondent Paul Reynolds – told him Sgt McCabe was being investigated for child sex abuse. (full report on RTE’s coverage of Maurice McCabe here)

Mr Kenny claims this conversation came about because he had approached them to ask why they weren’t asking questions about a computer which had gone missing from Garda custody – with the disappearance having been blamed on Sgt McCabe.

Mr Kenny said he felt Mr Brady and Mr Reynolds were telling him to “cop himself on” and to “not take Sgt McCabe at face value”.

The professor also claimed the two journalists encouraged him to go and talk to gardai “up there”, which Mr Kenny took to mean gardai in Cavan/Monaghan.

Mr Kenny said the two journalists definitely did not indicate that the child sex abuse allegation was the Ms D allegation of 2006 which had been categorically dismissed by the DPP in 2007.

Mr Reynolds, who knew of the Ms D allegation and the DPP’s directions in 2013, and Mr Brady, who also heard of the Ms D allegation and the DPP’s directions in 2013, say they never had such a conversation with Mr Kenny.

Mr Brady did recall one time that he spoke about Sgt McCabe with Professor Kenny.

He said this was at a pensions protest meeting in the Alexander Hotel, Dublin in November 2016 – at which point the protected disclosures of both Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor would have been reported upon.

Mr Brady said:

“I had a discussion with him, most of that discussion centred on the pensions and then we went on to talk about my career, had I retired, what I was doing then. I told him and he mentioned Sergeant McCabe, he said something about either had contacted him or was going to contact him.

“I said I’d written nothing about Sergeant McCabe from a personal viewpoint, that any stories I did was to do with the fallout from what Sergeant McCabe had said and the various stories that arose from it.

“On a personal basis, I had written nothing other than at one stage I checked out a rumour about sexual abuse allegations made against him, and I established that that was historic, that had taken place in 2006 and that it had been fully investigated with the Gardaí, a file to the DPP and the DPP rejected it all.

“And that was as much as I knew about it and I didn’t do anything else in connection with that or in connection with Sergeant McCabe, whom I have never spoken to either in person or I have never phoned.”

Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, asked Mr Brady about his knowledge of his colleague Paul Williams’ articles about Sgt McCabe and Ms D in April and May 2014 [full report on this in Part 1].

Mr Brady said he was aware “from talk in the newsroom” that Mr Williams was working on “some story” but that, at the time, he wasn’t sure “what exactly it was”.

Mr McDowell asked Mr Brady if he was consulted – given he had heard about the Ms D allegation in 2013, checked it out and satisfied himself that the DPP dismissed the matter – by his editorial staff in March/April/May 2014 about the decision to publish Mr Williams’ articles.

Mr Brady said no.

Asked if he was “surprised” when the Irish Independent ran the series of articles, Mr Brady said

“No, I wasn’t surprised. I’d heard the story was being done.”

Mr McDowell and Mr Brady then had this exchange:

McDowell: “We have heard from Mr [Ian] Mallon [former Group News Editor at INM] that in 2014 the Ms D allegation was widely spoken about in the Irish Independent or in INM at the time, I’m just trying to work out how you fit into the scene, knowing what you say you knew about the matter, how a story of that kind was published in those circumstances?”

Brady: “Well, I wasn’t involved at all. Nobody asked me to get involved, so I didn’t. Paul Williams worked mainly outside the newspaper, he worked on his own, he worked on quite a lot of stories, he was working on the Anglo tapes and I wasn’t involved in any of his stories.”

McDowell: “Yeah. I mean, without seeming to flatter you or cajole you in any way, I think you had a very strong reputation as a person who wrote with some degree of authority on matters to do with security in An Garda Síochána at the time, would you agree with that?”

Brady: “Well, I have a lot of experience perhaps of this.”

McDowell: “Yes. And it was generally believed that if you wrote something, it was well sourced and well regarded as likely to come from close to the top in An Garda Síochána rather than relying on station gossip and things like that?”

Brady: “Well, my practice was to go as high as I could in relation to any story, Chairman.”

McDowell: “Yes. And I’m just trying to work out, in those circumstances, you having checked it out and you having satisfied yourself there was nothing in it, how your newspaper decided to run a story which is — which was trailing a coat, so to speak, for the Ms. D allegation?”

Brady: “Well, I don’t think there was anything in the story that conflicted with the little bit of information that I had. It didn’t suggest that there was something to the allegation or suggest that…”

McDowell:Well, I understood you to say that the DPP had dismissed it, and that wasn’t simply a phrase which includes was unhappy with the evidence, it’s more than that; the DPP had said there was effectively nothing in it?

Brady: “Nothing in it, yeah, no crime.

McDowell:” And then how was it newsworthy that an allegation of no substance was or was not properly investigated?”

Brady: “Well, it wasn’t my decision, it was based on whatever Paul Williams had established from his inquiries and I was not privy to what exactly he had.”

McDowell: “Are you surprised that you weren’t consulted…”

Brady: “No.”

McDowell: “…in relation to the publication of this story?”

Brady: No, Chairman, no.

Then they later shared this exchange:

McDowell: I”‘m suggesting to you that the decision to publish the Williams stories, the articles, was in the circumstances one which revisited an issue which you had investigated and had found to have no substance whatsoever in it?

Brady: “Unfortunately, I wasn’t privy to all the information that was there. Obviously all the information that Paul Williams and perhaps others had gathered wouldhave been considered before a decision was taken. I was never consulted, I was not asked to any of the meetings, and without being privy to all the information that they had, I can’t really say.”

While the daily paper published Mr Williams’ articles about Ms D and increasingly favourable coverage of Ms O’Sullivan, the group’s Sunday edition highlighted Sgt McCabe’s version of events and his struggle to be heard.

Anne Harris, then Sunday Independent editor, told the tribunal that she first heard of the Ms D allegation from a freelance journalist at an editorial meeting in May, 2013 following a major story in her paper on the penalty points scandal.

Ms Harris said:

… I used my own sources and I set about inquiring what — if this had ever reached any sort of further currency or further — if there had been anything further on it, and I discovered that the DPP had looked into it and had discovered that this matter had been groundless.

So I was satisfied with this and I was more than happy to continue with the, with just proper, appropriate and prominent coverage of Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s concerns.”

In September 2014, following an editorial meeting, Ms Harris said Fionnan Sheahan, then group political editor, raised the matter.

Ms Harris said:

“At the end of the conference, towards the end of September, everybody had left, he’d gone out the door, he turned back, came to the office and said, because the last conversation had been about, at the conference, had been about Sergeant Maurice McCabe and he said he’s a paedophile, McCabe’s a pedophile. And I was — I was shocked.”

Mr Sheahan, now editor of the Irish Independent, denied this in the strongest terms.

He said the charge did not stand up against the work he did around the Maurice McCabe story and disputed it was even something that he would ever say.

Mr Sheahan challenged Ms Harris on a specific time and date and questioned whether he was in the country when the comment was alleged to have been made.

He said Ms Harris was driven by a grudge against him and certain editors that had begun when Denis O’Brien ousted Tony O’Reilly as INM’s largest shareholder.

Mr Sheahan said he heard about the Ms D allegation in ‘2013 going into 2014’.

Asked by Darren Lehane BL, for Anne Harris, why he had not pursued the veracity of the allegation then, Mr Sheahan said:

“I have national media awards sitting on my desk because I pursued stories as a journalist which started off with basic hard facts.

So I know the difference between gossip, rumour, innuendo and ephemera and actual hard facts that are verifiable and can be chased down and put out there into the national media…”

In a letter to the tribunal before his appearance, Mr Sheahan had actually instructed lawyers for INM to threaten defamation proceedings against Ms Harris.

However, Mr Sheahan was reminded during the tribunal that statements made at the tribunal are protected under privilege, which is itself protected in the constitution, as his paper’s majority shareholder recently discovered.

Mr Lehane asked Mr Sheahan:

“So you’re saying that Ms. Harris is abusing this Tribunal, established at great cost to the taxpayer, to ventilate a private grudge against you?

Mr Sheahan responded:

Yeah, I’m basically saying that. I also think she is quite confused, because she can’t actually specify when exactly she claims these comments were made…”

Ms Harris said she bore no ill will or grudge toward Mr Sheahan and admired, in particular, his political journalism.

Asked why she couldn’t specify a date when the alleged remark was made, Ms Harris said she believed it was late September, 2014 and could only “date it to my recollection of matters associated with it”.

In this way she recalled a moment involving Mr Sheahan prior to the alleged remark.

Ms Harris said:

“It might sound ephemeral and inconsequential to the Tribunal, Chairman, but I’ll mention it because it is an associative thing for me as I said. 

A measure of how well I got on with Fionnan Sheahan at that time was, he had an idea for a feature.

Now, features were nowhere near his interests, but he’d suggested a feature on men marrying up, and he said it’s a new phenomenon, men marrying up, George Clooney has married up, Amal, she’s a great kind of catch for George Clooney.”

Allowing for rare levity in a grim module, Justice Charelton intervened.

Charleton: “Do you mean men marrying women who are much more intelligent than they are?”

Harris: “…Exactly, that is the point he was making, you’ve got it, Chairman.”

Charleton:“I did that.”

Ms Prone, for her part, has fared better than most out of this scandal.

In September 2015, her company The Communications Clinic secured the media training contract for all senior gardai.

Between June and November 2016 alone, it was paid €92,955 for this service.

A Garda spokesman said:

“Media training programme for senior officers and managers enables An Garda Síochána to provide more spokespeople to the media in order to keep the public informed about how An Garda Síochána prevents and tackles crime.”

He added that 100 officers had availed of the training.

Tomorrow: Maurice McCabe And Associated Newspapers Ireland

Yesterday: Maurice McCabe And INM: Part 1

Maurice McCabe And RTE

Maurice McCabe And The Irish Times

Maurice McCabe And The Irish Times: Part 2

Maurice McCabe And The Sunday Times

Pics: RollingNews

Denis O’Brien (right) with former INM chairman Leslie Buckley

Today.

The legal team for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement began making it’s application to the High Court for inspectors to be appointed to Independent News and Media.

It’s understood Brian Murray SC, for the ODCE, will continue making his submission tomorrow morning.

It follows claims in April that computer specialists which monitored the networks of INM, without the knowledge of the company’s board, were paid by a Denis O’Brien-owned company, according to claims in an affidavit filed in the High Court by the ODCE.

The ODCE said it uncovered emails containing a list of names which were to be searched for in the ‘data interrogation’.

Approximately €60,000 was paid by Blaydon Limited, an Isle of Man company owned by Mr O’Brien, to Trusted Data Solutions (TDS), an American company based in Wales, according to Ian Drennan, of the ODCE.

Former INM chairman and O’Brien associate Leslie Buckley told the ODCE that he gave TDS access to the INM networks as part of a “cost-reduction exercise” so he could “find out more detail about the awarding by INM of a professional services contract”.

Further to this…

Orla O’Donnell, of RTE, reports:

“Mr Murray [Brian Murray SC, for the ODCE] told High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly that the board of INM had believed Mr Buckley’s explanation that the data interrogation related to a “cost reduction exercise” concerning a contract with INM’s then solicitors.

“But he said the board was now saying that if what the Director of Corporate Enforcement is alleging is true, then the board was misled by Mr Buckley about the circumstances and purpose of the interrogation.

“Mr Murray said the board of a public company was now declaring that it was “hoodwinked” or lied to by its chairman in relation to matters of critical importance to its business.

“He asked how that could stand without some form of investigation. And if the board had been hoodwinked about this issue, the question of what else it had been hoodwinked about, became critical.

“Mr Murray said it was concerning that INM was claiming the issues were a small number of historic events which were individual and isolated.

“He said they were bound together by common features – Mr Buckley, Mr O’Brien and an actual or proposed act intended to confer an advantage on Mr O’Brien at the expense of the company as a whole.”

ODCE application to have inspectors appointed to INM (RTE)

Previously: Life’s A Breach

‘I Heard Nothing Whatsoever From INM’

Rollingnews

From top: Ian Drennan, Director of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE); Chief Executive Michael Doorly and Chairman Murdoch Mac Lennan at the Annual General Meeting of Independent News and Media (INM) last month

Independent News and Media has lost its challenge to a decision by the State’s corporate watchdog to apply to have inspectors appointed to the company.

INM had argued that it should have been given an opportunity to respond to the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s concerns before he made the decision.

This morning Mr Justice Seamus Noonan dismissed the judicial review.

He said the argument that INM should have to be consulted first is “novel and without precedent“.

INM loses High Court challenge to ODCE decision (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

Editor-in-chief of Independent News and Media Stephen Rae

Small violin to hand?

When asked to confirm Mr Rae’s departure, INM declined to comment.

It is the latest development in a period of tumult at the media company, which has recently undergone a major change to its board membership and is fighting efforts by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to have inspectors appointed to the business.

INM has lost both a chief executive and a chairman in the past year.

G’wan the Gemma, Maurice, etc., etc.

Independent group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae to step down (Irish Times)

Previously: Discerning Fakes

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

“Since 2013 I have had the privilege and honour to lead the editorial department at INM.

“Now having completed by five-year term as group editor and following a transformation of the group into a digital focused newsroom and content hub, I am to leave the publishing business in a strong position and hand it over to a team of strong and dynamic editors.

“I leave the business at a time when all print titles are market leaders, in addition our online platform independent.ie has become the nation’s go-to news source.

“During my 25 years in INM I feel greatly fortunate to have worked with many extremely bright and exceptional people and to have guided the coverage on some of the biggest news stories our country has seen.”

“I am now looking forward to taking on new digital projects which will focus on my core interests of developing new revenue models for journalism along with the hugely important editorial fight against fake news.”

Statement released by Stephen Rae this afternoon.

This morning.

Independent News & Media CEO Michael Doorly (above left) and Chairman Murdoch MacLennan (right) at the company’s AGM.

Of the data breach allegedly ordered by previous chairman Leslie Buckley, Mr MacLennan said:

“The board believes that any person who facilitated or exploited such access should be required to account fully as to how and why they obtained access to such data, for what purpose and what use was actually made of such data.”

However…

MacLennan said the appointment of an inspector would have a “damaging impact” on the company and its stakeholders, including its shareholders, employees, readers and customers.

Good times.

INM chairman says company ‘horrified’ by data breach (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

From top: Stephen Rea, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan

Yesterday.

In the Seanad.

Former Fine Gael Minister for the Environment and Carlow/Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan – who became the European Commissioner for Agriculture in September 2014 amid a string of controversies at the time – addressed the Seanad.

Readers may recall how one of these controversies concerned an Irish Daily Mail front page story in 2012 about how the then Environment Minister had written to some of his constituents in Kilkenny, telling them a Traveller family – Patrick and Brigid Carthy and their seven children – would not be moved to a house near them.

Phoenix magazine later reported that former Irish Independent journalist Eimear Ni Bhraonain had the story for 10 days before the rival paper but her editors held off from printing it and only did so when the Irish Daily Mail was on the verge of publishing it.

Further to this…

Yesterday.

During his address to the Seanad, Mr Hogan spoke about “fake news” and praised the Group Editor-in-Chief of Independent News and Media Stephen Rae who was recently appointed to the European Commission High Level Expert Group on Fake News.

Mr Hogan was speaking about Brexit when he praised Mr Rae.

He said:

“The EU institutions have been shaken from their slumber. It is noticeable that there is a new energy and a new desire to get things done. In a world of rising nationalism and retrenchment, the EU is occupying the space that has been vacated by others to lead from the front across multiple policy areas.

“The EU is now the unquestioned global leader in promoting open and fair trade that is based on rules. As the Cathaoirleach mentioned, in the past two years we have signed important new deals with Canada, Japan and Singapore. Earlier this week, I was delighted to announce an agreement with Mexico.

“Many of these deals are immensely positive for our agrifood producers and our pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors. This is very good news for Ireland. Size matters in trade. As the world’s leading trading bloc, the EU is in a position of strength to build mutually beneficial agreements with our global partners.

“We are driving the global agenda on climate and sustainability, which remains the single greatest challenge of our time. This country urgently needs to step up its contribution to meeting this challenge. We are trying to relight the flame of Europe’s enlightenment values by making truth and reason relevant again in a world of mistruths and fake news.

“Again, Brexit is important in this context. EU membership was a successful policy in the UK and was accepted as such by the majority of politicians and commentators. That did not stop a majority of people voting to scrap it. That is strange because one thing the Brexit story has shown is that the UK does not – by a long shot – have an alternative policy to EU membership.

“Even Brexiteers are happy to keep one foot in the EU, for example by continuing to participate in security and transport agreements and certain EU agencies. The fact remains that people in the UK voted to leave. As politicians, we might think successful policies always commend themselves, but that is not always the case.

“Successful policies need to be defended, articulated and communicated. Brexit has taught us all a sharp lesson in this regard. We need to understand this and incorporate it into our political lives as part of our stocktaking. We cannot take it for granted that people will vote for the EU, or like the EU, just because it happens to work.

“As I mentioned earlier, this has been a wake-up call for the European institutions. We have to look at how we can do things better in this regard. That is what we are discussing with member states and, through them, public representatives and people. Perhaps we can go a stage further by asking how everyone failed to spot that a disconnect was arising between citizens and their representatives.

“This disconnect dominates so much of our politics today. How did we allow our public discourse to be dominated by fake news and half-truths? How can we begin to remedy things and stop it happening here? Here again, Brexit should be a lesson, because another thing the Brexit story has shown us is a brand of politics in which concern for people’s real well-being has gone out the window, the soundbite has become more important than the truth and people can groom a majority to act against its own welfare. In short, we now have a brand of politics and commentary that, all too frequently, misleads rather than leads.

“It is remarkable that a successful UK economy is determined to be divergent rather than convergent with its neighbouring countries in Europe. If we look a little more widely, we see it is not only Brexit. Our political arguments are becoming coarsened and are having knock-on effects on our behaviour. One sign is the trigger-finger readiness of so many people to play the immigration card, even the race card.

Much of this is the result of fake news and the way in which what we used to call tall stories and gossip no longer goes from mouth to mouth but from one set of fingers to a million sets of eyes, with a tap on the keyboard.

“Brexit shows us how vulnerable we are in that regard. That is why the Commission is alerting member states to the dangers and advising them to set up an infrastructure that can counter what is happening.

The respected Irish Independent editor-in-chief, Mr [Stephen] Rea, is making a sterling contribution to this work, having been appointed to the European Commission’s high level expert group examining the issue of fake news. Next year’s elections to the European Parliament gives this added significance and urgency. We must be on our guard.

“My final thought on this issue is to underline the difference between bad publicity, contrary opinion and fake news. As politicians we all know about bad publicity and contrary opinion. It comes with the turf and we deal with it, but we do it in the world of truth. We have been slow to recognise that fake news is something else. It is not bad publicity, it is not contrary opinion, it is not in the world of truth. It is a fiction – a harmful fantasy.

“It is urgent that we find the way to reveal it for what it is, namely, political mischief and a wrecking ball.”

Read his address in full here

Previously: ‘Friendly Towards Hogan’

Had Your Phil Yet?

Phil In The Gaps

From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley

Earlier today.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was asked again about his contact with lobbyist for Independent News and Media Eoghan O’Neachtain in November 2016, in relation to INM’s proposed takeover of the regional newspaper group Celtic Media.

At the time, the minister told Mr O’Neachtain that he planned to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This discussion was then relayed to Denis O’Brien in an email of November 12, 2016.

This was two months before the minister’s plans were made public.

In addition, on December 6, 2016, Minister Naughten told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley he had not yet decided if he was going to refer the proposed takeover to the BAI.

Minister Naughten never took a note of his mobile phone call with Mr Ó Neachtáin, he didn’t tell his officials and Mr Ó Neachtáin didn’t register the approach with the Lobbying Register.

Further to this…

In the Dáil this morning:

Brian Stanley: “Are there two types of meetings with your department? And two types of contacts? Both official and unofficial? And how many of these do occur?”

Denis Naughten: “We do comply with all of the standards and the legislation, as set out, as I’ve said. I’ve discussed this with my secretary general and he is reviewing the situation to consider if there are further changes. I, for one, won’t be taking any phone calls from lobbyists in the future, I can tell you that for nothing. But the reality is that we do comply with it, and as you know, if you look at the register I think, there are, I think 951 occasions in which my own name is mentioned in relation to various interest groups that have lobbied me since I was appointed minister. I think that’s an average of about 50 a month, covering a wide range – right from the environmental sector, right through to communications, energy, broadcasting media, right across the spectrum. So it is a very busy department, a very complex department – many aspects that are very technical and, as I said, I have discussed this with my secretary general.”

Timmy Dooley: “Look, if we could try and bring this thing to a conclusion, rather than having it, dragging it on, it doesn’t suit any of us. But I think we all have a responsibility to this House to try and get it tidied up. So, for me, there’s a couple of straight questions that you need to answer.

“And if you first accept that you provided confidential information, in other words, an insight into what you were, what you were ultimate intentions might be or your future intentions, and let’s not dance around the head of a pin and that, three weeks later, you came in here and misled the Dáil, albeit inadvertently, I would suspect, but nonetheless, you mislead the Dáil. There’s potential for all of us to do it. It’s just a matter of addressing it and getting beyond it. And that your actions amounted to wrongdoing.

“I don’t  bear you any ill will whatsoever. I have considerable sympathy for you, to be honest in this instance. The way you wandered into such a firestorm, but nonetheless minister, you’re responsible to the House. So there’s three things I think you need to do.

You need to accept that there was confidential information, because you did give insight into where you were, where you might ultimately go, you can put the caveat on it. The issue of misleading the Dáil and accepting it was wrongdoing.

“It doesn’t require you to resign, minister. Nobody has been really demanding that. But it requires you to be answerable to the House. And then I think, you know, this issue gets off your desk and gets off everybody’s desks.”

Naughten: “No, I did not give confidential information and I’m quite categoric in relation to that. The conversation that I had, and I sincerely regret that conversation, and I acknowledge that it was a political mistake to have that conversation and I’ve learned form my experience and I apologise for that. And I sincerely apologise for that.

“But I did not give confidential information, because I did not have any information available to me at that stage. The information that I had was the information that everyone else in this House had or was available on Google and yes, I do regret giving my opinion in relation to it at that point and the reality was that three weeks later, when I was here in the House, I had an active file in front of me at that stage, and it was a very different situation at that point.

“And I’ve been at pains to try and point out that. And I do sincerely regret it.”

Stanley: “Minister, just in relation to your reply. The problem arises that I asked you in October of 2016 about this and I asked you again on the 6th [of December] in a Priority Question here, in this seat, and you sitting over there in relation to what was your intentions regarding that merger and what you intended to do and you told me, and the transcript is there from that debate in the Dáil between you and I, that you had absolutely no idea, I remember you, I think you shook your head, as to what you were going to do with it. And you can say that in relation to, that you didn’t have the file in front of you at that point, that you hadn’t entered the process, and I know how that works, I’ve looked at all of that in detail.

“And I was following that very carefully at that time because we had huge concerns about that and I was raising it with you for months before that. But the problem, that’s where the problem arises.

“I accept the fact that you have apologised, what we wish to do now is to make sure that we tighten up all of this area…Would you agree that unofficial contacts with lobbyists, for ministers, has to stop?”

Naughten: “Look. Deputy Stanley, in my initial reply to you, to your supplementary, I said, look, I won’t be taking calls for lobbyists. I’ve said to you that I have discussed it with my secretary general and he will be reviewing the situation to see if there are other changes that, in procedures. But procedures are set out very clearly in relation to this and as I say, look, I have apologised for it. I do sincerely regret it. And look, I just want to get on, focus on the job and work that’s in front of me, the very demanding job, it’s a very demanding department and I know that all of you here want to do the same thing. And look, there’s nothing more that I can say in relation to this.”

Dooley: “I want to let you on with your job, I want to get on with mine. But I’m still at a loss as to understand, why you regret taking the call? Why you’ve apologised for taking the call? Why you’ve asserted that you’ll never take a call again – if you did nothing wrong in the first instance?

The facts remain, minister, that you fail to understand, by providing an insight into your thinking, a personal opinion, whatever it might be, that was confidential information. It’s the confidence of your own personal information that’s at play here – not access to some information in relation to your officials.

Because you had a hunch as to where this thing was going. And you gave that information to the lobbyist and he passed it on. Which is now the result, or is now forming part of evidence which the Director of Corporate Enforcement is using as part of his campaign to appoint investigators [into INM]. So it was confidential information, minister. That’s what you need to accept. That’s what you’ve identified as being regrettable for taking the call, that’s what you’ve apologised for. You need to start at the beginning and just accept that you provided confidential information, that it was wrong, it was on  a relatively low scale and it can be addressed within this House.

“Will you just please, just bring this to a conclusion, minister?”

Naughten:One, I did not give any confidential information. Two, I made it crystal clear that I would be guided by whatever advice that I got from my officials and the file shows clearly that’s exactly what I did. And the reason that I regret and apologise is this is the fourth day in a row, in this House, that we’ve been discussing this issue here regarding a 30-second conversation that I had giving an opinion that I sincerely regret giving and that’s why I’m apologising to this House and to the public out there. That his House has been preoccupied about this for four days in a row.”

Previously: ‘He Didn’t Do Any Favours For Denis O’Brien’

Naughten To See Here

Denis Denis