Tag Archives: Vanessa Foran

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

Now where was I?

Somewhere around here; PR not journalism….

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

Here is why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pics: RollingNews

Last week; A Reckoning At The Web Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanessa can be followed on twitter @akaFrillyKeane

By Popular demand.

Frilly’s Cork Battenberg

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

The basic mix per sponge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mallow Fluff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assembly

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

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

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

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

Next…

The Chocolate external coat and render

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

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

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

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

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

Tah dah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All pics by Vanessa Foran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what are they telling us about 2019 in Montrose.

Well, its now Your Public Media.”

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

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

Have a good go at these.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet RTÉ will blame Funding.

Gas isn’t it.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Yesterday: Meanwhile, In Montrose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it was not just all the Government.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

From top: Noel Fielding (left) and Matt Lucas, of The Great British Bake-Off, ‘Cork Battenburg’; Vanessa Foran

Within the last few words of Bake’Sheet Season 10, I said Bake Off could do with a bit of a shake up, but I can’t deny there was some phewing relief when they got it going this year and that it was so familiar to me; like an old friend broke through restrictions and gave me a hug.  A new location and a new presenter, yet I haven’t actually felt the loss Sandi.

Which I feel bad about, I don’t think Bake Off followers, fans or just stuck under the thumb of the remote controller watchers ever saw the best out of her. A tis what it is.

But t’was a blast from the past that made me want to put this oddball re-meander together.

You may not know this but some of my favourite Bake Offs, since this kicked off here, back then, when t’was just Frilly and all of ye, were actually shows I didn’t write up.

One of those was the Festive special just gone with The Derry Girls.  Here, treat yourselves.

Meanwhile; Sister Michael, and it must be said, and not just ‘cause the girl’s from Cork, Siobhán McSweeney’s Sister Michael boots from her own half that Father Jack off into the scruffy mound of old seat cushions that do’be corned in the suite of feckie religious cranks from the telly.

There I said it and have a Hon de Mná with it as well.

Damn right there is no denying Siobhan McSweeney’s roots when she introduced the Cork Battenburg to the Tent.

When Siobhan was describing her showstopper to the Judges I knew exactly what they were going to get.  And I was already sniggering and kinda gagging, but kinda whistful and weepy when the Hollywood was giving her his piercing blue stink eye, while Prue was the dotie dottie domestic science teacher she assumes when she’s around celebrities and non(ish) bakers. Coorke Battenburg well….

To clarify, to us tis Battenburg, just Battenburg, and the only Battenburg bhoy; and it was what our Mam’s and their Mam’s before them got in when something a bit better than a swiss roll was called for.  The early evening visit from the School Head or the Parish Priest stuff.

So you know the occasion, and naturally it’s the one that arises with eff all notice to put together some decent ham for sandwiches, a flan and some tea brack.

The Cork Battenburg was a pyramid shaped log, shaped by brown and yellow heavy dense sponge layers, with a miserable thin white spread running between.  A Thompson’s Bakery confection (since that Bakery is no longer with us,  a better more accurate provenance would be welcomed btw.)

I have no honest idea what the flavours actually were ‘cause they all tasted the same.

The lot was then slabbed, and I mean slabbed in gawkish cheap cooking chocolate, that was raked front to back top to bottom with a fork.  If it helps at all – picture a Toblerone in cake formation.

The Cork Battenburg could cap a roofing truss.

But what the Cork Battenburg’s arrival into the Bake Off tent also promised me, was that I knew we’d get see to everyone else’s Battenburg some day in the tent, and there it was – the very first challenge of the Covid Bubble Tent Bake Off.

Long windy intro, I know, but it was a flash back, even the smell of the crap chocolate type exterior came back to me so I couldn’t refuse it.

Then came 80’s week, and it all got me thinking, or as Frilly would have said back in the first Season of Bake’Sheet;  tinking

Throughout this entire series here on Broadsheet, I have stuck loyally to the principle that Home Baking is a spectrum of its own, everyone is on it somewhere, from the disasters to the Bake Off winners enclosures.  From those that burn the shop bought Apple Tart that only needed a bitta warming to the five tier Showstoppers with sugar work, tempered chocolate and home made fondant figurines.

Not even a Pandemic could this Season flop.

And I’m loving it so far, but not for the Bakers, my favourite two to watch are gone anyway (Lottie the Panto Producer and Rowan the Panto Queen.)  Although I’m going to lay heavy on Hermine for the outright win.  BTW Lottie was robbed.

I’m loving it for the challenges.

This year they really have made it about everyday home baking.  The resurgence in home baking that lockdown activated; although I question the wisdom of sourdough bread being the first adventure with flour and an oven. Homemade proper bakes is the one ongoing theme of Bake Off’s eleventh season.

This time last year no-one would have ventured a bread week featuring Soda Bread? Or Brownies, or Quiches – the rightly honourable baked beans have even made it into the tent.  All deserving and not a bit out of place.

And that’s what’s triggered me out of my retreat from Bake’Sheet.

So many of this year’s challenges are all about the Home Baker.  The everyday Baker.  The Budget Baker.  The Bedsit Baker to the all Mod Cons plus latest gadget room for a pony Baker.

There was even a Technical that was just pancakes, albeit Hipster flavoured crepes if you don’t mind stacked between a filling you can put together while sitting in traffic.

It might suggest the influence of their sponsors this year, Aldi.  But I don’t care, this year’s season is less showstopper and technical, and all about the basic mainstream of bakes, the bakes that 99.99% of bakers all turn to.

So this is where I am reaching out to all of ye, there is no point in me putting together recipes and hints and mince.  Let’s have a tent of ye.

Broadsheet Things that look like …. Soda Bread, Brownies, Quiche, Loaf Cake, posh Visitor Cake, Occasion Cake, Baking with Mammy Daddy Blended Family Cake, Tray Bakes and Biscuits.  Trifles, Tarts and stuff you can do with Baked Beans.

I’ll start by tidying up Soda Bread with Notions, a Beat Back Covid with Turmeric bikkies and a Flexi Cookie Pastry ye’ll love so much ye’ll hate me for.

Before I go, if I still have ye like, just to say I’m glad to see more balance now between Matt and Noel in the presenting, general chit chat and continuity bits and pieces.  And Covid wouldn’t stop the Hollywood Handshake.

One whinge and that’s that the Producers this year are a bit mean with the recipes they are making available, but one they did release might be worth a Bank Holiday effort, Peter’s Blackberry & Lemon Tart. Now don’t be put off by the skill level its set at, that’s only the bitta sugar work they stuck in to impress The Hollywood.  And if you’re like me you’ll recognise that as the faff stuff that can be left out.

And its called Jelly Art btw, give it a lash here for a fiver – Shop bought Jelly – shur don’t we all………….

And if you’re not wobbling about Jelly, and can split the faff from the full recipe; go for Lottie’s finest moment. No doubt Wobble Cakes will be a challenge in a future Series anyway, so no harm to get ready to judge them like the all the rest of us armchair amateurs.

You all know how and where to get involved in Broadsheet Bakes that look like (working title)

so lets have ye.

Recipes to broadsheet@broadsheet.ie marked ‘Recipe’.

Pic: Channel 4


From top: John Delaney; Accountant and FAI VP Paul Cooke (left) and FAI President Donal Conway at the Football Association of Ireland Annual accounts publication for 2018 last Monday where it was disclosed that the organistaion has current liabilities of more than 55M Euro; Vanessa Foran

Before Kick Off, allow me revise my own FAI Year in Review from earlier this year.

I realised as I was running the rule over the 2018 accounts, that I had no choice but to go back into the now Revised 2017 year to try and establish the real financial story from its corrected opening position.

The first and most obvious observation in the Revised 2017 Financial Statements and Report is how stark, contrite and austere it is to the heady days of March 2019. And its rosy Audit Opinion.

In the same month the flamboyancy of the original Report of 2017 was making its splash , its Financial content was already ordered (by ODCE) to be Revised.

I get that, it’s not uncommon and the report did flag the loan from a Director.  But within a month again, April 2019 – Deloitte’s admitted (and what I had already warned) “proper accounts and records had not been kept.”

Also subsequent to the Balance Sheet date and before March 2019; a mighty Revenue Audit that caught VAT and what I consider to be the scummiest of all employer behaviours – underpayment of Employer Taxes. The expression used is “significant underpayment.” 

Yet further down into the report (detailed fully on page 38 (ii)) we find the still only estimated charge is €2,712,721.00, and the payroll taxes are attached to the former CEO’s PPS number, so at least they weren’t deducting the canteen staffs payroll and spending it on birthday parties.

And page 3 lives up to its reputation – it also reveals a number of cracks in the Governance structure, such as no Internal Audit, no Procurement Policy, and the one that takes my breath away “There was no policy or standard protocol regarding business cases, options appraisal or business justifications.”

In other words, the Board, the Council and the Staff could use the FAI’s cash to buy, pay, spend, acquire, promise, guarantee and dispose without any control mechanisms and safeguards, like purchase orders or even a tender procedure.

This would explain why their former CEO’s additional payroll benefits (see pg 38 (i) but have a stiff drink first) were never documented or fully costed or even approved.

By page 4 is what I suspected here all along, yet big pockets Deloitte’s signed off anyway “… it was noted that not all relevant audit information had been provided to the Association’s statutory auditor.”

And for how many years did Deloitte’s provide the assurance of their External Audit opinion, and the other Assurance Services to the Stakeholders of the FAI?  Answers on the back of a beermat.

Note this: the Board nor its elected Treasurer or its Finance Department or its External Auditors noticed John Delaney was costing an additional € 428,571 per year since 2014 and NOBODY thought to budget for it until 2022.

And yet it was all there, in front of the senior Management, the Auditors and the Directors.  Even today, look at what the FAI think the function of Governance is.

You’d want to be a Siberian Nomad to not be aware of the decades of messing at the top of the FAI, but John Delaney’s employment contract rolling out like this, apparently agreed and signed off without the Board having anything to do with it, is for me anyway, when the Board officially lost control of the organisation.

The established scatty environment already embedded in the FAI allowed his ego to prosper when he joined, so it was only a matter of time before the Board would be answering to a man that dictated his own terms.

It never made sense to me, and I may have commented here or there about doubting John Delaney’s claims that he would be paid likewise in the private sector, it’s sad that nobody really challenged that until it came to this point.

John Delaney brought few skills to and had no capacity to enhance the organisation.  His appointment was flawed from the start.  And people knew that then; yet here we are.

Whatever happens next between all the external investigations, from Revenue, to CAB,  to the next Audit team, the very fact that he held posts that required both the very best of Fitness and Probity standards from himself, it also required he, along with his Chair, had oversight of the Fitness and Probity regime;  yet he still allowed his real cost to his employer be under reported by €428,571 a year.

But John Delaney’s finally finalised total renumeration cost is not what has the FAI in the trouble it is in today; it was his incompetence to run a high-profile multi-activity and very publicly enfranchised organisation.

He got away with year on year failures, by pandering and promises, back-pats and unhampered power building. A blind eye was cast by more than just the Board, but it is the Board that is responsible.

They failed to protect the organisation, they failed to ensure the growth and prosperity of the organisation; and they failed the primary duty of a Director, that of Independence and being Free from Influence.

They abandoned stewardship of the governing body of a sport that contributes to the identity of millions of Irish everywhere.

They were supposed to be the curators of Irish Soccer for their terms of office, yet they humiliated it by not giving it the respect and attention the FAI deserved from its Directors; they mutilated its reputation – and treated it like roadkill.

The Directors over the years they allowed John Delaney to run the organisation into insolvency, may well think they should have been able to trust the endorsement of their External Auditors, with their annual nothing-to-see-here Audit Opinions.  Wrong.

They, and I can respect the role of a Volunteer Director as I walk in those shoes, so I take no pleasure in this, they – those directors should be rightly ashamed of themselves.

For reasons I’ll not disclose, I do sincerely believe that Donal Conway is a man who held the interests of the organisation and the grassroots of Irish Soccer dearly, yet he cannot deny he allowed himself to be influenced and persuaded.

I regret this has happened to a man whose volunteerism and passion for the game he himself nurtured in so many young players will not be the legacy he deserves.

Yet despite all the above, and all around the media, and all the lads liking each other on twitter, I would not be as pessimistic about the FAI’s future and its recovery as everyone else seems to be.

I am of the view that it can trade its way out, it has a unique market and they have it all to themselves; they are still capable of earning over 45 million a year just even at a standstill, and they do get so much right outside it’s Blanchardstown Headquarters.

Therefore, I would propose an order seeking to put them into Administration but then, I’m not sure an Independent Board and an Administrator can be secured.

There are too many moving parts, conflicts and personalities in this story; Shane Ross, the Sports Council especially its Chair-for-Hire Mulvey, even John Delaney and UEFA themselves, the Players past present pro, semi-pro or the now pundits, the Fans, the Volunteers, the Clubs the Leagues the Sponsors and the Employees.

Nor can I ignore the reach of Deloitte’s and the Mainstream Media, or the goo-goo eyes of Politicians of every rank and file.

Before I go, if you are wondering why I haven’t gone into the 2018 accounts for ye; well I just didn’t bother. But at least the opening balances are presented with some confidence.

The year was hit with some exceptional one-off charges, such as the costs of the various investigations and John Delaney’s payroll costs, and you’ll see all these including his severance again in 2019.

I am also mindful that its future will be in the hands of a different CEO who will be allowed build their own team, and a Board that will be ideally experienced Independent Directors who will not be recruited from within.

Running the Governing Body of Irish Soccer is an important responsibility, so let’s make sure we get the best people to do it.

The FAI let us down, but they will always have the Irish Support,.

They just need to deserve it.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

Top from left: Mike Murphy with Ryan Turbridy (back) Pat Kenny, Moya Doherty, John McColgan and Joe Duffy on a special live edition of The Late Late Show broadcast in tribute to Gay Byrne last Tuesday night on RTÉ One; Vanessa Foran

This might surprise you, but I am opening this RTÉ special with something I wrote about INM from back when;

The most important asset I have as someone who works in professional practice is my independence which includes the perception of that independence.

As a director you are responsible for the welfare of the company, followed by the shareholders, and you must make decisions in the best interests of the company, at all times, and you must never allow that be questioned or mistrusted.

Over the last day you have being caught up into a spin cycle about Dee Forbes and RTÉ operations, cuts, sell offs, closures and NUJ crying games.

Yet all I see is a cloud of silt rising from the boots of shop floor employees as it poises a murky veil around the failure of its board.

You may think that it’s current board weren’t around when ridiculous salaries were being signed off, and their mandate for news and current affairs programming got riddled with propaganda, and you might be inclined to rebut me with it’s not their fault.

Yet you would be wrong, the board and every single one of its directors assume the responsibility of Stewardship and Governance when they accept the baton in a Going Concern entity.

Stewardship and Governance of both a State Asset and a Responsibility.  RTÉ got the gift of their infrastructure and their licence to operate as they liked for free.  RTÉ are responsible for public service broadcasting, specifically news reporting and current affairs; and its board of directors are responsible for RTÉ.

They have failed.

Over the weekend just past, I attended an event where the PRA and the Central Bank gave presentations about Governance and the roles and responsibilities of both Directors and Board Oversight/ Supervisors.  I accept regulated financial institutions are not the point here, but Governance is, and one very simple but significant point the PRA were keen to establish was about Relatives.

Relatives on a board of directors, or relatives of senior management, or indeed employees at any level within the operations of the organisation, or relatives of material suppliers, contributors and stakeholders on a Board of Directors is bad Governance.

It is harmful Governance and it puts organisations at risk, and way beyond what we should accept as a naturally occurring consequence of our feckless attitude to Conflict of Interest.

The jobs-for-the-boys norm we’ve all adjusted to can be blamed for the damage to this Country and its future, yet in RTÉ we are being charged a licence fee to watch it from our own front rooms.

RTÉ is not a family business.

Stop whimpering over job losses and the end of an era, it is time to accept that its failure, and it happened on our watch, that its failure starts and ends at its Governance level.

I don’t care how sexy it is to talk about Dee Forbes’ salary and car allowance, its board of directors at some point bred a Celtic Tiger culture into the organisation that it hasn’t shifted, it’s like the crash was only something that happened to other people, so they just tipped their hat at it by reporting it as it unfolded for ten years.

Over this week we are been fed reels and reels of archive footage containing Gay Byrne and maybe some of us might have dawdled some thoughts about what RTÉ might have been without him.  Or indeed this Country.  We could still be watching reruns of the Papal Visit while Fr D’Arcy hosts the Late Debate.

So let me say this; those great moments in television and the trigger for change they were to become don’t deserve to be used as cover for the abject and shameless failure of RTÉ.

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

They agreed the current Strategy while Dee Forbes is employed to implement it.

Look up and note again what I said about relatives; Renewing RTÉ for the next generation was doomed to fail by page three; RTÉ will be outward looking, creative, respectful, sustainable and accountable, collaborative and transparent.

It’s hard to know if they had their fingers crossed when adopted it into the minutes, or whether they were laughing, or whether they were just too full of themselves for their next appointment to know it never stood a chance.

I commented on their Financial Statements here for Year Ends 2016 2017 and 2018 ; and I think I can get away with saying that everything I flagged here over those three columns is coming home to roost today.

Yet that expensive looking strategy wasn’t just a road map for RTÉ and DG Dee Forbes, it was also a promise to us, the Licence Payer, The Viewer, The Citizen, that they were going to get it right and do right my us.

We’ve all been had. 

And there is no gaudier example than the Late Wake Tribute last Tuesday; the current Chair of the RTÉ board and her husband, right in the centre of proceedings.

I don’t begrudge them a bit of their success so don’t pick on it.  But I do take their very presence on our national screen to lick themselves while Moya Doherty chaired the organisation into what ye are seeing today; and she was paid to do it.

I am particularly irritated by an itch that can’t be scratched; RTÉ served all those it employed and engaged, fattened flattered and flaunted, far better than it served any of us, its strategy or is mandated function.

RTÉ are supposed to answer to its Licence Payers and its viewers, and most of all its Public Broadcasting Mandate.  And it doesn’t.

So when DG Dee Forbes says the future of public service broadcasting is at risk, I find myself insulted. Do not blame the source of over half your income (YE18 56%) the Licence Payer,  for the collapse of the organisation both financially and operationally.  

Look again at that Renewing RTÉ for the the next generation , the most important Strategic Plan in the lifetime of the organisation, that within two years has been replaced by “A Plan.”

So even when it was developed, adopted, and probably got a fancy launch; it never stood a chance.  You really have to ask what sort of projections they were playing around with when the Board developed that Strategic Plan and signed it off.

The weekend ahead is going to be filled with Gay Byrne eulogies and RTÉ crisis management spin; and most of it from people who would either qualify as Relatives or Related Parties.

So from this someone, who is a no-one really, but can promise you independence that you could stir your tea with; here is my RTÉ Reboot Receipe

  • All Board and Board Oversight (if any) should be Voluntary

  • All Board and Board Oversight are banned from any programming, unless it is Board / Governance related reporting

  • All Department Heads have to go, and agree not to seek further opportunity from the organisation

  • Relocate the entire facility in Montrose out of Dublin 4

  • Immediately ban News and Current Affairs staff/ contractors from appearing in any Entertainment Division programming, and vice versa.

  • No outside employment for any staff member engaged in any programming department and or division

  • Future HR Ban on employment of Relatives and Related Parties unless signed off by external Auditors

  • Salary Cap of 145K for senior management

  • Dump everyone on over €100k on the wireless, and cap Names; Tubridy, O’Callaghan etc to €225K

  • Move all sports, both News & Current Affairs, and Special Events onto Network 2 & 2fm; SpórTÉ or something

  • Ban on all purchased content from other Television Networks.

  • No series renewal unless export market identified

  • RTÉ 1 and Radio 1 to be main news and current affairs, and special event telly, ie Debates, Toy Show, Elections; introduce more music.  Ban on employees working both divisions, unless engaged in special event, and signed off by two senior producers and DG.

Can it be done; of course it can.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

Yesterday: Everything Must Go

From top: Great British-Bake-Off  2019 Winner David Atherton with Paul Hollywood (left) and Prue Leith; Vanessa Foran

Here we are, finally final, where the 2019 Season’s Baker’s dozen shifted down to three.

My tent pole since Cake week, Steph Blackwell’s final can be summed up by the state of her Technical – the girl just completely slumped like that congealed smelly cheesy mess; except her fringe.

If anyone knows how her hair managed to stay so imposingly straight and perfect, please do let me know.  I only have to boil a kettle to have my own hair turn to candy floss.

The most awkward baker to watch this year, Alice, made the final even more uncomfortable with her own personal drama running alongside her, the only support I could summon was an impatient Grow Up ffs.

And the one I couldn’t get behind all season, like I barely had a decent word to say about the lad, David Atherton is the 2019 Bake Off champion. But I’m happy to reintroduce a quote from Jimbo here last Sunday; winners are always grinners

There was so much off about this year’s final, yet there was so much right about it too.

I’ll run with the good bits first, mainly the integrity of the Judging.

I have never been shy about vouching for the Hollywood’s view of the world, but I can’t provide any better proof than this year’s final outcome.  And in fairness Alice even out of all her own anxiety about her Mammy and Daddy, summed it all up best when she said David just blew them away.

He wiped the floor with his fellow finalists over every step of that Final Weekend, even if his Signature was considered too boozy, it was up against two other cakes that didn’t set off any fireworks either.

David is the first finalist not to have a Star Baker to stand on, and he cleaned up.  Even his apron was immaculate.

Neither Paul nor Prue flinched in favour of the previous weeks or demonstrated any favouritism or sentimentality.

This is why I know Bake Off will always be safe, despite the many criticisms of this year’s season in the Tent, and I have a few myself, but for sure and for absolute certainty, we can always trust the Judges to remain free from bias and judge only what is put in front of them.

Before I introduce some of my own moans about Season 10, I want to mention a few highlights, particularly from the final.

I must stand up for the best chocolate feature cake anyone can bake, the BFG.

The 70’s gave us the fillums Jaws and Saturday Night Fever, back-to-back heatwaves, Concorde, LCD screens, even the Bay City Rollers.

Who the hell is anyone, and even Paul Hollywood is at it, think they are to sneer at the Black Forest Gateau like it’s a bad school photo?

I bet those same people don’t look down their noses at Charlie’s Angels; (and just for my pal Neil off the Telly) what does Star Wars remind ye of?  Strikes, Corporal Punishment in Schools, The Pope’s ’79 visit; my ass it does.

Looking down your nose at the BFG is a snide dig at those of us that don’t need high-brow foodies to tell us what we should like’ and besides, the BFG’s inventor lived well into his 90’s so there must be some goodness in it.

I am thrilled that I can pin up here Steph’s own signiture BFG.  It’s a fabulous recipe and it’s even set to easy.

Also, don’t go mad running around and spending money on Kirsch, just drop into your nearest Polish Supermarket and you’ll have your pick from plenty cherry liqueurs for under twenty quid; enough for twenty BFGs.

I am also thrilled this year’s final gives me another great home bake standard recipe to pin up onto Bake’Sheet; Lemon Pound (kinda) Cake.

This was the main sponge in David’s Picnic Basket Showstopper the other night.  Ok – I don’t know what lemon spice is either, but you have an immediate work around.  I can’t recommend a better home bake loaf cake standard, and I’m kinda glad it came from the Bake Off final and from the winner I had no time for all the way through.

So, the season, overall.  You know I hate to say it, but I think it could have done with more scrappy ah shur’ its only cake Selasi and Norman style bakers.

There were far too many distractions this year, between Henry’s Ties, the silly skits from Noel and Sandi, and all the tears, week in week out bloody tears; too much frump and feck all craic.

In my own opinion, I think the producers interfered a bit too much with the atmosphere, especially placing more scenes of the Hollywood looming and prowling silently around the tent at the bakers in the final cuts, and the miserable level of the Handshakes (four in total btw) we got to cheer about.

I also think the age profile, while no demonstration of skill or ability, didn’t help, it is after all light entertainment even if its a form of reality telly, it’s still telly.

There were no carefree happy go lucky give it a lash jacks, the young ones this year were all too serious, high achieving and you know what?

Humdrum pretty much sums up the majority of the bakers this year.

But to repeat what I said earlier, I think Bake Off while still in the hands of Hollywood and Prue is safe; but it does need a shake up in the format; I personally would love to see guest Judges for a segment like the technical element; specialists like a chocolatier or a regional speciality we may not be familiar with; Russian Cream Crackers or something.

Maybe it’s time to reintroduce the History Segment, I particularly loved being introduced to the Red Cross Doughnut Dollies in WW2, especially when I followed it up myself and learned that many were Irish girls, it actually joined the long finger of script projects.

I wouldn’t touch Noel and Sandi either, but I would reduce the skittish slapstick two handers; there are totally unnecessary and cut into the time available to the producers that were at the expense of Sandi’s natural gift for elegant sartorial continuity joiners that we want to see, and for Noel’s comfy shoulder to cry on.

In the GAA we say there’s always next year, so until then, or maybe not, I will leave ye with what also came attached to what Jimbo said above Who care’s if they’re insufferable …..

Its cake.

Pic: Channel 4

 

Steph (top) who was Star Baker on last night’s Great British Bake-Off on Channel 4, watched and reviewed by Vanessa Foran (above)

Heatwave week in the tent; and I can honestly say I was sweating with them.  I nearly had the teenager get me a wet tea towel just so I could join in with the bakers.

An unusual look back this week – well unusual to the format ye might have come to expect here on the Bake’Sheet, and in two respects; one the Technical, I thought it was brilliant, whereas I’m normally meh and I’ll leave it up to yourselves about it.

I never heard of the Warka /Brick pastry before, I thought until I started putting this together earlier that it was the Hollywood’s gentle scouser accent for Water pastry.

Before I go on, let me record a bias with ye; I actually do have an personal interest here because I use Filo pastry a fair bit, Frilly’s Chicken Pie is all about it in fact.

As ye well know I follow the word of Mary Berry like a die-hard true believer – I buy my Filo, but you know what? I’ve every intention of giving this a go.

OK, so we saw they had some specialist kit, but both items, the flat pan and the broad flat pastry brush are easily improvised from what we have in the press anyway; most of us that would be glazers probably have a collection of pastry brushes, and shur who doesn’t have some from of pizza tray?

A word of advice about last night’s Moroccan Chicken pie, Paul Hollywood’s recipes must be followed to the exact mill, degree and second, don’t even think about deviating. But I found loads of stuff on YouTube plugging Warka pastry How-To’s that will take you through it so you won’t be alone.

The other element that wouldn’t be the norm for me, was who went home.  I wasn’t predisposed to picking out any of the three on that step; Rosie , Alice or Henry the Tie man, whereas I’d normally be more inclined somewhere.

In many ways a case was there for any of the three, and with what has been broadcast so far, Rosie could be considered likely as she is the only one without a Star baker notch, and yet I could never deny that she is as good as any other Baker to reach a Bake Off Semi final.

I didn’t have high hopes for Henry at the start of the season, but he was a great contestant, and full of personality. Last night, even in the heat he didn’t wilt, or fail to be a great addition to the Bake Off alumni.

Nonetheless lads, Henry is leaving with both a Hollywood handshake and a Star Baker, so in keeping with the programming technical conditions applied last week, he is currently second runner up GBBO Season 10.

So what harm to him, besides, I’d say he’s going to be great craic on Friday night’s Extra Slice.

I only land on it occasionally, and the part I like the most are the its meant to be a insert etc cake and they ended up with this.  But I will be setting the box for this one.  I think a star has been born.

Hon’ the Steph, and wasn’t she there in it again from the Signature. You know what she does so well? She gets the most out of an ingredient.  Like last night, she wrung out those shallots for everything they had to offer in her Tarte Tatin.

The girl has a flair for pastry, its so naturally inherent that she doesn’t even recognise it.  I don’t for a moment consider her self doubts about her prospects for Pastry week as a blaggard to lower expectations.  She’s just naturally gifted, and shur didn’t we see evidence of this hidden talent back twenties week.

This is a good time to chip in a bit about Tarte Tatin, at home here, it’s a use up stuff before it goes off bake, and there’s no work in it.  But I never considered a savoury version.

So this is another plug for a bake that any level home baker can accomplish.  Buy your puff, and onions which are always included in your shop anyway, come fully loaded with sugar and will naturally caramelise.  I’ve done Onion Tarts before but not in a Tatin formation. I will now tho’

Having dumbed down the Tarte Tatin there, let me strut now for a bit; from the intro to the Judges and the fancy drawings, I already had my fingers crossed that Henry’s Crab and Spud recipe would be put up; and it’s our lucky day.

Especially as only two recipes were given away to us this week, the technical is a formality and lucky us, goodbye Henry’s; which I suspect will be hacked by many, and not just the home bakers, but chefs and bakeries up and down this Country will be having it too. 

I’m not going to bother pestering ye with commentary about last nights Showstopper, only to say that we’ve seen stacked pies before, and S8 finalist Kate’s recipe for Potato Curry Pie deserves to be plugged again.

David has finally broke his streak with a win at the technical, and yeah, he is an alright semi finalist; but I’ve been with Steph all the way from Cake Week, so it would probably break my heart for it to end.

It looks like a Patisserie Semi Final, and do you know what?

I expect Steph and Rosie to progress while David and Alice rattle those stools with their squeaky bums.

So same time same place; ’till then Bake!

Pic: Channel4