Biddy Bitcoin writes;
Now deleted FF Tweet and response…
From top: Noel Rock TD; Ellen Coyne of The Times Ireland edition; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil on Tuesday and a segment of an email from Mediaforce Ireland to certain newspapers
Readers may know that The Times Ireland edition has been highlighting how the government’s Strategic Communication Unit’s promotional campaign for Project Ireland 2040 – involved paying for editorial content in local, regional and national newspapers.
The SCU was set up by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, after he was elected leader of Fine Gael and became Taoiseach last year.
It employs 15 people and is led by John Concannon, former head of Creative Ireland. The Government has budgeted the SCU will cost €5million this year.
Times reporter Ellen Coyne is reporting that ad agency Mediaforce Ireland, on behalf of the unit, advised newspapers not to mark the content as advertorial.
And they made the same demands during a similar campaign last summer for Creative Ireland.
Ms Coyne has tweeted a segment of an email sent to newspapers by Mediaforce Ireland, on behalf of the Strategic Communications Unit.
“Part of our deal is that we won’t have any moniker such as ‘advertorial’ or ‘special feature’ or anything like that – it simply runs as normal editorial.”
Ms Coyne has further tweeted that the bold and red highlighted sections in the twee (see above) were exactly how they were presented in emails to newspapers.
During Leader’s Questions on Tuesday, Taoiseach leo Vardkar told the Dáil:
“We have already explained how this [the paid content] works. The communications unit entered into media partnerships with media organisations. What happens there is that those organisations have editorial control over content.“
Readers may recall last Monday’s Today With Sean O’Rourke, when Fine Gael TD Noel Rock had the following exchange.
Noel Rock: “They’re [the paid content] clearly identified, from the reader’s perspective. I mean, I’ve yet to see a single example of one that hasn’t been clearly identified. All I’ve seen so far are the ones in the [Irish] Independent, in The Herald, on the Journal, which said at the top and the tail ‘sponsored content’.”
Sean O’Rourke: “Maybe if we had a copy of one of those 15 regional print and online news titles, you’d get a different impression.”
Rock: Perhaps but they have yet to be produced. All I’ve seen is a trumped-up charge and a press release.”
O’Rourke: “Oh, hold on now. Trumped-up charge. That’s a pretty loaded statement. I mean you’re suggesting that there’s fake news on the front of the Times Ireland edition today?”
Rock: “What I’m saying is there’s a complaint been made to the ASA about legal, decent, honest and truthful standards in advertising. And I’ve yet to see any proof whatsoever in that regard…”
— Ellen Coyne (@ellenmcoyne) March 1, 2018
Some articles which ran in regional newspapers last August about Creative Ireland…
From top: Denis O’Brien, Noel Rock.
In yesterday’s Sunday Business Post.
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock wrote a column about Independent News and Media (INM) and its pension cuts – some of which will amount to 70% – describing the company’s moves as “appalling”.
He also referred to the pockets of INM’s biggest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, without naming him.
Mr Rock wrote:
“… But what shifts it from appalling to repugnant is that INM is a massively profitable company, in large part because workers agreed to write down the value of their pensions by 40 per cent in 2013.
“INM announced some months ago that it made a profit of €37 million in 2015. It will have a Euromillions Jackpot figure of €87 million in pure cash burning a hole in its corporate pockets by the end of this month.
“…Sadly, and wrongly, this is not illegal in Ireland. It is in Britain.
“…While Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is investigating the possibility of intervening in the forthcoming High Court hearing on the capital restructuring of INM and asking the court to consider appropriateness of capital restructuring when it’s closing this pension scheme, it’s certainly worth asking if a “wait and see” approach is good enough, or whether we need to directly intervene.
“…[INM shareholders] also benefited when banks, including the state-owned AIB as well as Bank of Ireland, wrote off almost €140 million in INM debt. These are banks that we bailed out.
“So every single person in Ireland was involved in the indirect bailout of INM. We wrote off their debts, and they crushed their own pensioners to the tune of two-fifths of their entitlement.
“We didn’t take that hit as a society so that, three years later, the company would come back, throw its pensioners under a proverbial bus, and suck all the money out of the company for the shareholders we, effectively, did a deal with.
“Nor did we do it so that the company could use the cash it is taking off pensioners and transfer it directly into the pockets of its largest shareholder, by buying Newstalk or any other asset he happens to have.”
Nama’s chief executive Brendan McDonagh and a letter from Michael George, managing director of Fortress Capital, to Andrew McDowell, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s former economic adviser, at 3.04pm on February 13, 2014
Further to the appearance of Nama officials – including chairman Frank Daly, chief executive Brendan McDonagh and audit committee chair and member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee Brian McInery – before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday…
US investment fund Fortress was the only underbidder in Nama’s eventual sale of Northern Ireland loan portfolio, otherwise known as Project Eagle, to Cerberus.
You mayrecall the following sequence of events, as outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the sale:
Nama approved a proposal to sell Project Eagle at a minimum price of £1.3bn over two meetings on December 12, 2013 and January 8, 2014.
On January 8, 2014, Lazard and Company Ltd were appointed as the loan sale advisor for Project Eagle.
On February 13, 2014, it was reported in the press that Pimco had approached Nama, back in 2013, to buy the whole Northern Ireland portfolio and, a day later, selected bidders were allowed to access information on the loans in a data room.
On March 12, 2014, Pimco withdrew from the loan sale process – after informing Nama of a £15million success fee arrangement involving a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Frank Cushnahan, London law firm Brown Rudnick and Belfast-based Tughans solicitors.
On April 3, 2014, Nama approved the sale of Project Eagle to Cerberus who also used the services of Brown Rudnick and Tughans solicitors.
You may also recall reports that Fortresss had to make a representation to the Department of the Taoiseach on February 13, 2014, before it was invited into the bidding process some five weeks after it had begun and Nama’s denial of the same.
During yesterday’s PAC meeting, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock had the following exchange with Brendan McDonagh.
Noel Rock: “When were Pimco initially informed there was going to be a sales competition?”
Brendan McDonagh: “Pimco were told, I think, post the board meeting in January 2014. We’ve always maintained to Pimco, that there was never going to be an exclusive off-market sale directly to them.”
Rock: “Okay. All right. Do we have the minutes for that board meeting?”
Rock: “And it says that in it? Okay. Fortress, it was said earlier on, I don’t know if it was yourself of Frank said it, that there was no email to Enda Kenny from Fortress seeking…”
McDonagh: “None. No. There was reporting effectively that Fortress had, it was reported in the media that Fortress had to email the Department of the Taoiseach, the official Department of the Taoiseach to get access to the thing. That’s actually completely untrue. I know the managing director, senior managing director of Fortress. I met him a number of times I think in 2009 and we stayed in touch over various things. He emailed me on the 13th of February 2014. My email is available to the, there’s nothing in it. Basically saying, ‘Brendan, how’s it going?’ Talked about the rugby match at the weekend and said, ‘I just heard through one of my colleagues that the Northern Ireland portfolio may be on the market, it’s something I’d be interested in’. I forwarded the email to my colleague and said, ‘please let this guy, get Lazards to contact him because, you know, I met this guy, and I had no issue with him. I would know Fortress in my previous life. And it was, Fortress were brought, they were contacted by Lazards, I think that evening on the 13th of February. They were sent an NDA, an non-disclosure agreement and they were sent the NDA on the 14th of February and then they didn’t return their signed NDA, because you can’t get access to the data room until you supply the NDA, they didn’t return their signed NDA until the 26th of February, I don’t know why it took them 12 days to sign it. Maybe they had to go through their own internal compliance or whatever it was but they were invited into the process, on the evening of the 13th of February, but certainly on the 14th of February when they were sent the NDA.”
Rock: “I’m familiar with your emails. I’ve seen a copy of those. On the same day though, they did email the Department of the Taoiseach. Why do you think they would have done?”
McDonagh: “There was no, I don’t know what email the Department of the Taoiseach, I haven’t actually personally seen that email…”
Rock: “I’ll forward it to the secretary so you can be provided with a copy.”
McDonagh: “But I saw the media report but I was a bit surprised by that because I had got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress on the 13th of February myself and I arranged for Lazards to get in contact.”
Rock: “Okay, all right. Thank you. In, I think it was yourself Brendan, in a previous appearance before the PAC, I’m just going to quote this here if you don’t mind: ‘We appointed Lazard, then Lazard approached the nine biggest funds in the world, the guys who would have fire power and capital to be able to buy a portfolio like this. Then you listed the nine firms, including Fortress that you said had been approached. But it obviously seems, based on the discussion of the email with the Department of Taoiseach and indeed to yourself, that it wasn’t the case that they were approached; they, in fact, had to approach you. Do you accept this quote is now inaccurate, in effect?”
McDonagh: “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s inaccurate, deputy, because Fortress were one of the people which were considered to be approached by Lazard anyway so, as I said, there’s a league table in terms of, you know, people, division one, division two, division three, so as people drop out, we were pushing Lazard to get more people into the process.”
Rock: “Right. So. So, like, I’m finding this hard to understand. Did Lazard approach Fortress? Or not? If so, why did they [Fortress] need to approach you?”
McDonagh: “Well, all I can say to you, deputy, is as follows: On the 13th of February, I got an email from the senior managing director of Fortress, I got one of my colleagues to contact Lazard to say, ‘contact these guys in Fortress, find out if they’re interested or interested or not’. I don’t know personally when Lazard were going to contact Fortress or not, but I do know what happened on the 13th and 14th of February.”
Letter via Mick Wallace
— Noel Rock (@NoelRock) February 20, 2016
A tweet by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock in February
Newly elected TD Fine Gael was a Dublin City Councillor prior to him winning his seat in the Dáil on February 26.
He won his Dublin City Council seat in June 2014.
During his campaign for his council seat, he made a ‘no expenses pledge‘, saying he wouldn’t taken any unvouched expenses as a councillor.
However, Mr Rock is now claiming all the unvouched expenses that he is entitled to as a TD.
Louisa McGrath, in the Dublin Inquirer, reports:
…Rock said by email that he is taking a different approach to expenses as a TD.
In theory, by not taking expenses as a councillor, Rock’s unclaimed money was going back into the council and therefore into the community.
But he says it was probably just being used to to pay the expenses of other councillors, and he was often approached by community groups asking if they could use some of this money.
So this time, he wrote, he is claiming all the unvouched expenses that he is entitled to as a TD and — along with the expenses claimed by Norma Sammon, his replacement on Dublin City Council — this money will go into a community fund for the north side of the city.
This shameful 47 days and counting delay is obstructing and impeding us from doing the urgent work we were elected to do. Although in a different time, this delay, this level of obstructionism would put in the ha’penny place, the obstructionist tactics deployed by Irish parliamentary MP Joseph Biggar in the House of Commons in the late 19th century.
Whereas the obstruction then was due to excessive talking, the obstruction now is due to a refusal to talk, a refusal to seek solutions. The stance adopted by political parties in refusing to even consider forming the most stable government to serve the people has been disingenuously represented by some as being somehow linked to being in the national interest.
How can the current strangulation of representative democracy, a choking of the workings of Dáil Éireann be in the national interest.
The reckless approach cares little for the tackling of the unprecedented crisis of homelessness, the escalating rental crisis, hospital waiting lists and climate justice. In case any party has forgotten, perhaps it is important to remind ourselves of the obvious, no one party won the general election but unfortunately it seems as if the people have lost.
Some political parties refuse to face up to and accept this new political reality, refuse to accept the change for which the people voted for in February. We should remember the words of George Bernard Shaw who said, ‘progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’.
A Ceann Comhairle, it is all too easy to make noise, to instil division, to create dissent, to divide, to score points. The contrived party policy differences and the point-blank refusal of some to even consider talking to others, who also have a democratic mandate is simply unacceptable.
Enough is enough, the only losers in this charade are the people. It behoves political parties to act in the true best interests of the people of Ireland, not themselves or their parties.
While some members have worked very hard and displayed some political courage, others certainly have not. Instead, choosing to sit on their hands for the past seven weeks.
TDs are not elected to be silent or to run for the hills to take cover when the going gets tough. Now is the time when members should step up and speak up for the people who elected you. Put people before party politics…
Green Party TD Catherine Martin speaking in the Dáil during her maiden speech yesterday.
Deputy Enda Kenny has made every effort and shown his commitment since the general election to form a stable Government. The offer would have brought together the two largest parties in the State in an historic partnership and was, I believe, a bold offer and one worth making.
I regret it has not been accepted to date, but Deputy Enda Kenny remains determined to ensure Ireland will have a stable Government to address the many challenges facing the country and work to improve the lives of the people.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” We have taken on the responsibility of doing something.
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock speaking in the Dáil yesterday, as he nominated Enda Kenny for Taoiseach for the third time.
On March 10, during Mr Rock’s first nomination for Mr Kenny, he said:
When I was younger the Taoiseach gave me the advice of Thomas Jefferson – “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
I will stand with him today and always. He brought this party back from being written off. Far more important, he brought our economy and our country back when many had written us off. We should not lose sight of that.
As we mark 100 years of independence, we can look forward to a brighter future. I believe Deputy Enda Kenny is the man to bring us towards that brighter future. I am proud to nominate Deputy Enda Kenny today.
On April 6, during Mr Kenny’s second nomination, Mr Rock said:
Unfortunately, there are those who wish to take their seats in here while permanently committing themselves to hugging the Opposition benches tightly and pursuing their so-called ideological perfection instead of the reality of compromise and governance. Good for them. However, the reality is this country needs a government.
As Robert F. Kennedy once rightly said, “one fifth of the people are against everything all the time”.
I think the public can rightly guess which fifth of the people in here that phrase might describe. Let us hope they stay at that level of just one fifth.
Parliaments simply cannot afford too many passengers. We need decision-makers and people who are serious about forming a government.
Loving the election lit! Good luck to all who have the guts to run! But should Noel Rock be using Seanad envelopes! pic.twitter.com/fgduw0mz07
— john nisbet (@panagyria) May 20, 2014
Read his lips:
— louche (@louchenightout) May 21, 2014