Friday, December 24, 2010

Julian Assange

Assange founded the WikiLeaks website in 2006. He has published material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Africa, Church of Scientology manuals, Guantanamo Bay procedures, and banks such as Kaupthing.

Most notoriously-he published classified details about US involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For his work with WikiLeaks, Assange received a number of awards and nominations, including the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award for publishing material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya and Readers' Choice for Time magazine's 2010 Person of the Year.
He has recently been targeted, with a major attempt made to supress Wikileaks, and to sideline and smear him with what remain allegations of rape

In relation to Ireland Wikileaks has shown that our politicians caved in to Vatican pressure to grant immunity to church officials in the investigation of decades of sex abuse by its clergy.
The Irish government politicians were reluctant to insist Vatican officials answer investigators' questions, the leaked cables indicate.
The Vatican did not any investigators questions - Files detailing abuse requested by the police were not handed over. That is obstruction of justice.

One thing about the Lisbon II treaty I worried about was the EU extradition warrant.
Ireland has not taken this action with people who ordered or were involved in the cover-up of child rape even though we have evidence that happened.

You and I can be now sent to another EU country with no presentation of evidence, as has happened with Assange. It requires only the filling out of  a form requesting that a person be detained and sent to another EU state with no evidence or reason.

The primary golden thread that runs through Irish and British law is the presumption of innocence, that we are all innocent until proven guilty. He is entitled to that presumption.

Assange has offered to be interviewed in the UK by Swedish investigators - but does not wish to go to Sweden as he is worried that the US then may try to have him extradited.

He has good reason to worry.

The U.S. is set to bring spying charges against Julian Assange.

Prosecutors are said to be finalising their case against the whistleblowing website.
A lawyer for Assange, Jennifer Robinson said she understands U.S. charges are ‘imminent’.

Assange, who is on bail in the UK fighting extradition hearing over rape accusations in Sweden, is likely to be prosecuted under the U.S.’s Espionage Act.

This law makes it a crime to receive national defence information if it is known to have been obtained illegally and could be used ‘to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation’.

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment.

Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed however that he had ordered ‘a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature’.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

More bad news

Well, lie after lie - mistruth after mistruth and the usual bending of words have gone on, and there is still no general outcry in Ireland.

The banks will be saved, but the state is in financial trouble due to this.

Fianna Fail, in dealing with the ECB and the IMF have created a scorched earth policy to ensure that any succesive administration will be forced into at least 5 years of unpopular decisions over which they will have little or no control.

Mass privitisation of semistate services look like they will be pushed through, and with our history in the Eircom privitisation, one can be fairly sure that it will be a mess.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Further dependency

Well, we have now a decision on the Donegal by-election, if we get that far without a general election.
However, the FF/Green machine will appeal at the cost of about half a million euro of tax payers money.

There are other elections that are needed for vacant seats, and the working majority will be reduced.
Already, FF are at each others throats.

Mary Coughlan and North West MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher became embroiled in a row about whether or not he was approached to contest the Donegal South West byelection.

Mr Gallagher who was given something like 24 hours notice to run as an MEP has said an approach was made to him by senior figures in Fianna Fáil to contest the Dáil seat he himself vacated in June 2009 when he was elected to the European Parliament.

With MEP income and perks for so little work outside the spotlight of the Irish media, I dont blame him for telling FF to F Off
After all, it was his slipping off to Europe that created the vacancy way back in 2009 I believe, abandoning those constituants who had voted for him in what can only be called a palenesqe deriliction, putting party before his own people.

Ms Coughlan told local radio station Ocean FM yesterday she did not believe the cope was approached but  Mr Gallagher responded by saying the Tánaiste, the Irish deputy prime minister was “not in the loop” about the behind-the-scenes moves.
Though no opinion poll has been taken, in the Green corner Sinn Féin candidate Senator Pearse Doherty has been installed by bookmakers as the clear favourite.
It was his successful High Court challenge against the 16-month delay in holding the byelection that has bought it on stream.
With the December budget coming on about the 7th, and 14Bn Euro in cuts proposed FF and the Greens will have a hard sell, although Green party members in Donegal broke away from the Dublin leadership quite some time ago.

In the red corner Labour is expected to run Frank McBrearty Jnr, the victim of Garda corruption, who surprisingly won a seat on the county council.

In the blue corner the Fine Gael candidate is sports journalist Barry O’Neill.

And in other bad news from Donegal for FF, Jim McDaid has resigned his seat - the same guy who was stopped driving drunk the wrong way down a main road - guess his sense of direction has improved and its good to get while the gettings good.

However, one thing I would think is that FF will run the byelection in Donegal mid-week, when students and workers may not be able to get to the polls - it gives them a higher turnout among the older population who tend to vote for them, when the cope ran up there they did not count votes - they weighed them.

But in terms of dependency, if FF lose this one, their majority will be further reduces, forcing them to depend more on Lowry and Healy Rae types.

Most dissappointing is the Greens support for the government.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Independent dependency 1 - Lowry

Partially due to an out of date electoral system, in the Irish republic we have a situation where Independents frequently hold the balance of power.
Quite often, independents like the late Tony Gregory are honourable people, with no blemish on their record and who really want to make things better for their constituency.
But other independents are frequently those who have lost a party whip, and as we saw in the case of Beverly Flynn, get back to base eventually.
Our constituency based system means local clientism is what is important, far more important than national issues. One current TD worth mentioning, who supports the current Government is Michael Lowry from Tipperary North.

Lowry had started his working life as an apprentice at Thurles based Butler Refrigeration in 1971.
He worked his way up to sales manager, a position that bought him into contact with Ben Dunne, as Butler Refrigeration installed and maintained refrigeration systems for one of Ireland's largest retailers, Dunnes Stores.
Ben Dunne, a well known Irish business man saw his family business increase turnover from IR£300M to IR£850M between 1983 and 1993.
He devised a method of gaining influence and control over companies that supplied goods and services to the supermarket chain, a system that created a series of companies which were, in effect, subsidiaries of Dunnes.

One such company was run by a Minister in the Fine Gael led government at the time, Michael Lowry, first elected to the Dail in 1987.
His contact with Ben Dunne and the financial donations he secured for Fine Gael played a critical role in his rapid rise in the parliamentary party, so much so that he was from 1994 to 1996 Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.
Lowry left his job at Butler Refrigeration soon after his election, and in addition to his work as a TD he also started up a consultancy work for Dunne's.
He then set up a company, Garuda Ltd, that traded under a different name - Streamline Enterprises - and started to conduct work for Dunnes, after Ben Dunne had told the TD he was no longer going to use Butler Refrigeration, and offered Lowry the work.

The auditors to Streamline would be Dunnes own inhouse team of Oliver Freaney and Co.
Dunnes chief accountant, Michael Irwin - on secondment from Oliver Freaney would have full access to Streamlines accounts.
An arrangement was reached whereby Streamline would work for Dunnes and be paid in a way that a modest profit would be returned annually.

The second part of the arrangement - and the most lucrative - was that Dunne would give Lowry a personal bonus.
This payment was essentially based on how pleased Dunne was with the services Lowry provided.
Lowry told the McCracken tribunal that Dunne had told him "The bottom line is, if you are good for Dunnes Stores....I will certainly make it worth your while and your company will be successful and you will be a wealthy man"
In addition to his TD salary, provided by the tax payer, he received a number of large payments from Dunne amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
These payments were given to him in such a way that allowed tax evasion, much of the money was lodged in offshore accounts.

The McCracken tribunal ruled that by accepting payments and evading tax in the way that he did, Lowry made himself vulnerable to all kinds of pressures from Dunnes Stores had they chosen to apply them.

Regardless of Mr. Dunnes actual intentions, the threat of disclosure about the offshore accounts or indeed the threat to cut off a lucrative source of income could have been used to apply pressure on a senior government politician to obtain favours.

At the McCracken Tribunal it was also revealed that Dunne had paid IR£395,000 for an extension to Lowry's home. This allegation prompted Lowry's resignation from the Cabinet in November 1996.
He also resigned from FG to run as an independent.

It is an appalling situation that a Minister benefited from the black economy starting shortly after his election - if such a person can behave in such a way without serious sanctions, it is very difficult to condemn others who similarly flout the law.

The circumstances surrounding the awarding of the second GSM mobile phone licence to the Esat Digifone consortium in 1996 (the biggest contract ever awarded by the State to a private company) by the FG led government has been the focus of the work of the tribunal since 2007.

The tribunal is still investigating whether money changed hands prior to the awarding of the licence to Esat Digifone by then Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications Michael Lowry TD.

Denis O'Brien of Esat Digiphone has claimed preliminary findings by the tribunal effectively state that the Esat consortium was “illegally” issued with the state’s second mobile-phone licence because he had a “corrupt” relationship with Michael Lowry.

Lowry, as a TD has a current salary of €106,000 and Independents allowance of €41,000 provided by the tax payer - and this does not account for the pension rights he is entitled to.
In March 2010, it was estimated the McCracken tribunal had cost the state approximately €39 million, with final costs expected to exceed €100 million. Up to February 2010, the biggest earners are (including VAT):
John Coughlan SC: €9,046,499, Jerry Healy SC: €8,861,924 and Jacqueline O'Brien SC: €6,334,134

To date, Michael Lowry has not been charged with any offence like tax evasion.

Due to the questions about the phone licence, a number of failed bidders are suing the state over the handling of the competition process.
Payback has been limited. In early 2007, Lowry announced that he had made a full and final settlement of all outstanding payments with the Revenue Commissioners. His company Garuda had to pay €1.2 million after a Revenue audit. He also paid almost €200,000 to settle his personal taxes

However, it is clear that the ties to FG still remain. In 2009 1,400 people gathered to celebrate the political career of Michael Lowry. Prominent among them were two important public figures associated with FG. Ivan Yates, a former Fine Gael minister for agriculture and a successful businessman and Seán Kelly, a highly distinguished former president of the GAA, then a Fine Gael candidate and now FG MEP for Ireland South.

The Tipperary politician is a self-pitying cheat and a liar – yet still his career is deemed worth celebrating.
At the 1997, 2002 and 2007 general elections, Lowry topped the poll in his constituency.

Clearly, as Dunnes would say, better value politicians beat them all.
And Clearly, we have learned nothing.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Political Funding and more expenses

It is all very well and good to talk about limiting registered contributions by companies and individuals to political parties but there is a reason the old parties agreed to this system.

Now the Irish tax payer is to fund political parties on the basis of how well they did in the last election, that makes it a lot harder for new, small parties and to a lesser extent sitting independents.

Bear in mind that Beverley Flynn had to be forced to give up her independents allowance despite rejoining the FF party.

I have seen Amhran Nua ideas being lifted by FF, FG and Labour, so not only do they have a lack of new ideas, they also have an unfair advantage in funding - and it is money and media exposure that win most elections.

Why should the tax payer fund a political party, particularly when one would have profound disagreement with what they stand for, e.g. FF's NAMA support, as well as problems with FG and SF policies

That is creating a further democratic deficit, copper fastening the bottom planks of the established caste and crew on the ship of state from the people whom they are meant to serve.

They really do not want change on this Island, and unless people vote for alternative, protest, parties - there is the probability that the caste will ride out this squall

Political parties received a total of €13,603,264 in state funding for 2009, according to figures released today by the Standards Commission.

The money was paid to the parties under the Electoral Acts and under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation.

Five parties (Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and the Green Party) received funding of €5,438,385 under the Electoral Acts and those five parties along with the Progressive Democrats received €8,164,879 under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation.
The funding is not subject to income tax and may not be used for electoral or referendum purposes.
The level of funding is linked to pay increases in the civil service; however, the legislation which governs the funding is silent on pay decreases.
Qualified political parties must furnish to the Standards Commission Statements of Expenditure of the funding received.

Non-party members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann also receive funding under the Party Leaders Allowance legislation.
The amount payable to each non-party member of Dáil Éireann during 2009 was €41,152 and the amount payable to each non-party member of Seanad Éireann during the same period was €23,383.

The total paid to non-party members was €306,000. Non-party members are not required, however, to provide a Statement of Expenditure of the allowance to the Standards Commission, or to any other authority.

The Healy Rae Clan have done quite well out of expenses. The Healy Rae brothers are defending one hundred thousand euro in expenses they claimed from Kerry County council.
An Irish Independent investigation reveals Danny and Michael Healy-Rae, were paid a total of €196,000 for 2008/2009.
In the meantime TD Dad Jackie Healy Rae claims he does not have a travel pass.
This is despite the fact that Deputy Healy Rae is entitled to apply for a free pass for public transport as he is over the age of 66.
Everyone aged 66 and over living permanently in Ireland, is entitled to the free travel scheme.
Deputy Healy Rae travels to Dublin on average once a week while the Dáil sits, incurring a fee of up to 72 euro per return train journey.
Deputy Healy Rae is then claim's expenses for these journeys.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ivor Calley

Ivor Calley has been caught out on expenses, and yet he still clings on to the senate seat gifted to him by none other than Bertie Ahearn.
The only apt quote I can think of is from Oliver Cromwell
"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go! "
Not only has he caused himself grief, he has also given Paul Gogarty a chance to give himself a bit of positive veneer work to save his skin, even though he continues to prop up the Fianna Fail party.
Dan Boyle of the Green Party, another Senate Apointee, called on Ivor Calley to resign from the Seánad.
One unelected Senator calls for another unelected Taoiseach nominee to resign
Another person jumping on the bandwagon is Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke who said the controversial Senator should step down from the Seanad and stop looking for a way out of his problems.
Funny how Boyle, Gogarty and O'Rourke jump on the easy target while totally silent on the by-elections.

This follows his resignation from Fianna Fail following a Seanad Committee investigation into his expenses claims.

The Committee found him guilty of "conduct unbecoming".
There are others who sould be examined as to their expenses, Beverly Flynn in particular. RTE has failed in this regad, but at least TG4 had the guts to start looking into things.

The corruption allegations in the Calley case also draw attention away from the far more serious cuts in public services, NAMA and the fact that the people of Donegal South West do not have proper representation.
Calley is just one example of a corrupted and broken system.
Another quote from Vince Cable MP worth mentioning is that "Sometimes the best thing a government can do is simply get out of the way" i.e. let the Gardai look into fraud and corruption - like falsified reciepts

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The stroke shafts the shower

Despite his closeness to Mary Hanafin, the Stroke has struck FF in recent times. In what was called a gentlemans agreement, it was arranged to 'divvy up' the chairmanship of various comittees on Galway County Council.

There are 5 Strategic Policy Committees (SPC's). The chairpersons position is worth more than 5000 Euro per annum.

FG and independents elected chairpersons to three, FF and former FF member Stroke cut a deal to secure one chairpersons position.

For continuity it is normal for a chairperson to remain in situ for 3 years, and normally forthe full 5 year term.
But the deal was they would rotate the position between them, share the spoils so to speak.
The handover over of power, but Stokes renaged on the deal.
Of course, as it seems in every public position on this Island there is no legal mechanism in place to remove a chairperson from their position, and Fahy was reported to have said that "there's nothing in writing"
"Im not in the Fianna Fail party...I did'nt go running after them , they came after me to vote.
They said I should give after a year - but I'm not giving it up now"

His reasoning was that it is Dept of Environment and Local Government guidelines that the chairperson should remain at least two and a half years.
Who knows, maybe Michael is considering joining the Green party - if they can put up with GoGo maybe Stroke might be a change for the better.

He is also miffed that in his 32 years in the Council FF have never nominated him to the positon of Mayor of County Galway.

The FF Councillors are said to be furious , but had to admit they left themselves in a position where the Stroke could shaft, and not share.

 The fact that Stroke was FF for the majority of his political life, and is closley associated with the Hanafin dynasty makes one wonder how foolsh were the FF councillors to put themselves in such a position where they could get shafted.

Not just FF, but I think nearly all councilors agreed to a request by Fahy, who was serving his sentence at Castlerea Prison, to accept that his absence from meetings of the local authority was ‘due to illness and his attendance in Dublin’ even though he was in Jail for the period.

Under current legislation, a councillor is deemed to have resigned if they are absent from meetings of the local authority for a continuous period of six months.

However, there is provision in the of Local Government Act 2001 for the local authority to take into account if a councillor has been ill, or has missed meeting ‘in good faith for another reason’.

Councillors can pass a resolution allowing an absent colleague up to 18 months before the councillor is deemed to have resigned.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Shell and the Corrib field

The Shell Corrib field situation is unacceptable. The states natural resources are being siphoned off with little real benefit to the economy.
The Irish government claims that the favourable terms are worth it to ensure Ireland’s energy security, but there is no necessity for Shell to sell the gas to Irish consumers.
These are the economic realities.

Shell are not obliged to hire any Irish staff, or base support vessels in Ireland, Irish job creation prospects will be based in places like Aberdeen.
If Shell do sell back our own resources, we will be paying the full market price for them, the same price we currently pay for gas from the North Sea or further afield.

Shell can choose to pump oil or gas directly onto tankers and ship it to the highest bidder. The Irish Republic will be competing with China and the UK for its own resources.
The same will apply to any future discoveries, such as the Dooish project off the coast of Donegal on which Shell is willing to spend more than €100 million – on the basis that it can reap enormous profits by selling it back to us (the people who are its rightful owners in the first place).

The vast majority of countries demand that multinational oil and gas companies pay the state proportionately twice the amount that the Irish government is extracting from the Shell-led consortium that is exploiting the Corrib gas field.

Only Cameroon takes a lower share of the revenues from its own oil or gas resources than Ireland.

Ghana, for example, insists that the state-owned Ghanaian National Petroleum Corporation has a 10 per cent ownership stake in any resource find and the multinationals are also liable to a 50 per cent profits tax. Our terms were described by economist and journalist Colm Rapple as “decidedly soft by international standards”.

Ireland demands no state shareholding in any resource finds, nor does it demand royalty payments.

A tax rate of only 25 per cent applies – this only applies after a company’s exploration and development costs (and the estimated costs of closing down the operation when the resources are depleted) have been recovered - This I believe is a recent ammendment introduced by Bertie Ahearn. The Corrib gas field will probably be half depleted before any tax is paid at all.

The state, through Bord Gáis, will also pay for the pipeline to link the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy to the national grid in Galway.
The Irish government has, in addition, given Shell and its associates 400 acres of state-owned forest for the laying of the pipeline to the refinery, and expropriated private property through compulsory purchase orders.

The state also provides security, policing Glengad on behalf of Shell the Garda overtime bill alone is approx. €14m, not to mention the deployment and use of Naval Service assets

Under the 1975 Irish government strategy for energy extraction, the state would have held a 50 per cent shareholding in any oil or gas discovery, and the extracting company would have had to pay royalties of at least 8 per cent as well as tax at a rate of 50 per cent. Those terms were progressively relaxed during the 1980s and 1990s most notably under the tenure of Ray Burke as Energy Minister.

Lets not forget Mr Burke was convicted and imprisioned for corruption in public office. This is important for the case studies looked at later.

An estimate in June 2007 put the value of Corrib gas at €14 billion - this is conservative. As gas prices have fallen somewhat since 2007, it may be that the total value is now less than that, but credible estimates suggest that the Corrib and other sites currently being explored could, taken together, yield some €50 billion in oil and gas revenues.

If the Irish government were to take a 10 per cent stake in these discoveries as Ghana does then the Irish exchequer would stand to gain €5 billion. Taking a 10 per cent stake in the Corrib gas field alone should certainly gain the exchequer at least €1 billion.

Investing funds that would arise from a 10 per cent stake in the Corrib field alone would generate a revenue stream as is done in Norway.

Reclaiming even a portion of the revenues that are rightfully ours reduces the need for the severe expenditure cut-backs now occurring and would allow the stimulation of the economy to relieve the impact of the recession and boost employment.

As for investment costs - NAMA will cost an estimated €88 bn, Doolish development will cost about €100m

The process of reclaiming oil and gas revenues from multi-nationals for the state, is exactly what other governments are doing, and case studies are included.

A recent wave of resource nationalism has seen governments around the world take back control of natural resources which were previously in the hands of foreign companies. The following case studies show how this has occurred in just three countries: Bolivia, Russia and Venezuela.

In none of the cases did the affected companies (including Shell) walk away from their investments, despite their dissatisfaction with the new regimes, because the profits are too large.

Its very simple, the people who negotiated the current contract were corrupt to the core, Ray Burke was convicted for corruption.

The only thing that stops a renegotiation of the current situation is the lack of political courage, or perhaps it is something else?

The current situation is untenable, but the media have successfully portrayed objecters as the lunatic fringe.

What was particularly distasteful was the TV3 'investigative' documentary, an absolute propaganda drive by Shell. It was a joke, with snide remarks and innuendo.
We need to look at the journalist, Paul Williams.
The reporting had bias, three years before the documentary Williams had made up his mind.

Paul Williams is the son of a Garda. The Gardai have much brutality and violence to answer for in Corrib.
Williams is a crime correspondent, dependent on the Gardai for information and without whose cooperation he would be unable to function as a reporter.
He has to keep them sweet and boy, does he keep them sweet. The violent 'confronting' has all been done by the Garda - not by the residents of the area.
He has shown himself to be virulently biased in favour of Shell on several occasions. RTE's reporting of the issue has been a national disgrace and an outrageous affront to journalism since 2006 - as their recent coverage of the violent assault on Willie Corduff makes evident.

It is worth noting Mr Williams has, since his reporting started, been a corporate guest of Shell at the 2007 England Rugby match at Croke Park, part of what Shell told the Phoenix was their “stakeholder engagement list.”

Shell spends huge amount of money on PR, in 1998 “Shell spent US$30 million on contracts with PR company Fishburn & Hedges alone.”

The article “Irish Times Shell PR” in the May 22 issue of the Phoenix looks at how in Ireland Shell have successfully changed the line of the Irish Times over the last two years to the point where now the Irish Times now frequently send their crime correspondent to cover protests in Erris.
The Irish Times is not unique in this respect, media outlet after media outlet considers it suitable to send crime correspondents to cover the protests who, like Williams, depend on developing and maintaining positive relations with the Gardaí to continue to get news stories.
If they want to continue to get the scoops their jobs depend on they are not in a position to bite the hand that feeds them such stories.

Such is the success of Shell’s PR machine that when Colm Rapple, a guest on RTE’s ‘Marian Finucane’ show managed to slip in a mention of the Bolivian story that Cathal McCarthyattacked him in The Independent, threatening that “it might be unwise of RTE to allow anyone to suggest outlandish and ruinous speculative motives to what was, at the very least, the violent killing of an Irish citizen in the most dubious circumstances of which it is possible to conceive.”
The Independent is controlled by Tony O’Reilly’s, pre-crash billionaire who coincidentally holds a “40% stake in Providence Resources Plc, the Irish based oil and gas exploration and development company.”
He controls the The Independent group, the Evening Herald, Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Sunday World and the Irish Daily Star, as well as 14 regional titles and two free newspapers as well as a 98% stake in the Sunday Tribune.
None of these titles have named names on the Shell – IRMS – Bolivia story although most if not all of these titles have been happy enough to throw all manner of weird and wonderful accusations at the locals who oppose the Shell pipeline and their supporters.

Even if your not a journalist currently working for an Independent title you’d want to be careful of pissing off the family who own a 40% state in an Irish oil and gas exploration company as you may well be looking for a job at one of those titles in the future.
And its not like what it left of the Irish media has been a whole lot better with the honorable exception of The Phoenix and the Irish Examiner, both of which are sadly rather small circulation niche titles.
Another consequence of Shell’s highly successful PR offensive is the routine appearance of articles in the media that seek to portray the locals and their supporters as subversives.
Sometimes this can be quite farcical, for example the Phoenix points to the Irish Time’s Peter Murtagh getting away with publishing an article in March where he links the struggle to “ ‘notorious INLA murderer’ Dominic McGlinchy” on the grounds that “his son supports the protests.”
While there have been acres of coverage in the media on that sort of basis the facts revealed in the aftermath of the killing of Dwyer have received scant coverage.
Other than SF, no other party in the Dail has the balls to address this issue full on, corporate threats keep them in line.

We are fully within legal rights to renegotiate the Shell deal, and should do so

A recent wave of resource nationalism has seen governments around the world take back control of natural resources which were previously in the hands of foreign companies.
The following case studies show how this has occurred in just three countries: Bolivia, Russia and Venezuela.

In none of the cases did the affected companies (including Shell) walk away from their investments, despite their dissatisfaction with the new regimes, because the profits are too large.

In Bolivia the nationalisation was initiated during the 2003 ‘gas war’ in which thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand the state take back control of the nation’s gas reserves.

The country came to a standstill and the army was dispatched to clear the streets, leaving 60 unarmed protestors dead.

General outrage at the massacre of civilians forced President Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada out of office.

His successor, President Carlos Mesa, held a referendum which would allow citizens to express an opinion on the ownership and exploitation of the country’s natural resources.
Citizens voted in a referendum to take back control of the states national resources.
The Mesa administration dragged its feet on the issue of enacting enabling legislation, sparking further protests in 2005 which forced Mesa out of office.
It is worth noting that when Eamon O Cuiv was asked about the possibility of a referendum he answered, "We dont need to - the Government owns the resources" - I thought they belonged to the Nation??

Eventually President Morales issued the decree of nationalization.

International commentators expressed displeasure, complained the EU Commission but there was no international backlash and the Bolivian government proceeded cautiously, paying out compensation and rewarding compliant companies with fresh investment opportunities.

Foreign companies, including Shell, agreed to the new terms.

Vladimir Putin tackled the issue from a different angle, picking out breaches of regulations - including corruption legislation - to halt and review operations and ultimately retake majority ownership of key fields.

In December 2006 Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources published a 600-page dossier – prepared by environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor (RPN) – which listed alleged environmental violations by Shell and its project partners at the giant Sakhalin oil and gas field.

More significantly, the Russian government announced that in the light of Shell’s improper activities, the terms of the deal, signed ten years previously, would have to be renegotiated.

The report gave legal and political cover to what was effectively a heave against Shell in the name of energy security.

Shell took the blow well, realizing that even a lesser stake in a large field is better than no stake at all.

Gazprom agreed to pay $7.5 billion for a 50 per cent-plus-one-share stake, leaving Shell with a 27.5 per cent stake, down from 55 per cent. Shell’s chief executive, Jeroen van der Veer, described talks with Gazprom executives as “constructive” but the Russians were more direct, saying that Shell had become cooperative after the company was threatened with having its operating licence withdrawn.

The Russian government also moved on BP to surrender control over a Siberian field, again citing environmental violations, similar to what we have seen in Mayo.

With the multiple violations of planning and environmental laws by Shell - in addition to the involvement of Ray Burke, Bertie Ahearn and Frank Fahy in the current deal it is a possible model.

Standard Oil and Shell had seized control of 85 per cent of the industry.
Opposition to foreign control over oil resources prompted nationalization in 1976 but little changed as foreign companies enjoyed decisive influence over policy at state energy giant PDVSA.

In 1998 Hugo Chavez was elected President. The price of oil soon tripled in value and in 2001 Chavez approved the Hydrocarbons Law which reclaimed state control over PDVSA.

In March 2008 Chavez had announced a windfall tax on ‘extraordinary oil profits’ to help expand the provision of healthcare services (a similar law has been enacted in the UK I believe)
Increased health provision raised the number of doctors, rising from 20 to 60 per 1,000 people.

In May 2007 the Chavez administration nationalized the Orinoco River Belt oil reserves, insisting that the state hold a 60 per cent stake in the region’s oil projects.

Italian energy company ENI accepted compensation in return for a lesser stake in the area but Exxon rejected an offer based on the value of the company’s stake at the time of nationalization.

Exxon demanded it be given projected profits from the ‘Cerro Negro’ project, which company lawyers estimated at $5 billion.

A London Court ruled in favour of Venezuela and Exxon was ordered to pay PDVSA’s legal fees.


Lessons for Ireland
Could it happen here? Yes, it could, and a variety of legal reasons can be advanced as to why the terms of the Corrib gas deal should be renegotiated so as to ensure that a fairer share of the resources accrue to their rightful owners – the Irish people.

These reasons include breaches of environmental and planning law and a possible investigation into corruption by officials

Namely the right to protest and the right to a private family life (art 8 sec 1 & art 11 ECHR)- European convention of Human Rights) perpetrated by Shell and its partners.

The well founded suspicion that Shell’s private security force is engaged in such illegal practices should be sufficient reason to halt work at the site pending an independent investigation.

Shell’s private security agents – Integrated Risk Management Systems (IRMS) – have engaged in surveillance operations against local people, aledgedly filming children as they undress on the beach at Glengad and aiming cameras into the kitchen of a nearby home as well as assault.
These security guards previously included Michael Dwyer, the Irishman shot dead by police in Bolivia in April. Dwyer worked for Shell at Glengad with a Hungarian colleague who invited him to visit Bolivia and connected him with Eduardo Rozsa Flores, a mercenary in Croatia with links to fascist groups.

Pseudo Paramilitary Crests issued by Shell Security staff

Flores hired Dwyer as a bodyguard and they spent several months in Bolivia. Government troops closed in on the group, alleging an imminent plot to kill the President Morales.

It is still not known exactly what happened when armed troops moved to arrest the men, but the operation left three of the five men dead, including Dwyer and Flores.

On any of these grounds, an Irish government could call a halt to the project and launch an independent review to reconsider both the wider issue of ownership of natural resources and the operation of this particular project.

The damage is ongoing. For example, in 2007 Shell engaged in unauthorised drilling on a protected habitat in north Mayo, breaching the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997 which obliges any such work in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) to be authorised in writing by the Environment Ministry.

Also, in 2007 concerned locals occupied the proposed refinery site at Bellanaboy due to the apparent contamination of local water supplies when a brown-coloured liquid seeped out of the site.

Local streams feed into Carrowmore Lake, the source of drinking water for thousands of homes in the Erris area.

Shell E&P Ireland, the subsidiary established to operate the Erris project, admitted a leak had occurred.

More recently, Shell has undertaken work at the landfall site at Glengad without the required notices of consent.

AN wants a full review of environmental, legal and economic dimensions.

The project should only be allowed resume on the following bases:
1. Local people should not be forced to live with a high-pressure pipeline carrying unrefined gas through their community – the gas should be refined offshore or at a location acceptable to the local community.

2. The Irish state must receive a substantially larger share of the revenues accruing from this project; the evidence from other countries proves that such renegotiated terms would not cause Shell or any other firm to discontinue the project or deter investment in the future.

3. Revenues gathered from a renegotiated contract should be used to develop a national investment portfolio to generate a manageable revenue stream - much in the same fashion as pension funds. AN should be very wary of allowing any future Government direct access to the funds, as FF proved, they can be squandered very quickly with no long term benefit.

Legally it is already possible to negate any existing contract rapidly within current legislation, there is no need to apply a new law retrospectivly.

Evidence from other countries proves that such renegotiated terms would not cause Shell or any other firm to discontinue the project or deter investment in the future.

The licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration, development and production, available on the website of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website, state that

The Minister may, for such period as the Minister deems necessary, require that specified exploration, exploitation, production or processing activities should cease… subject to conditions which the Minister may specify, in any case where the Minister is satisfied that it is desirable to do so in order to reduce the risk of injury to the person, waste of petroleum or damage to property or the environment. No claim for compensation may be made against the Minister on foot of any such requirement”.

This clause can be invoked to serve the needs of the Irish state and people.

Otherwise we are simply giving away our gas with little benefit to the State.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FG - FF, same old, same as!!

Well, I glanced at today's Indo to see that Dep. Lucinda Creighton TD has upset the dear leader Enda Kenny as FG took bribes - sorry - "donations" from NAMA backed developers

These are the same unscrupulous people who bent the rules, paid off unaccountable officials and due to their greed - and that of the banks - have led this country to the verge of collapse with NAMA, empty hotels and ghost estates.

As we saw in the Watson/Reingling report, the crisis was home grown - due to overly light regulation and political mismanagement rather than the credit crunch.

The only phrase that springs to mind is Avé! Duci novo, similis duci seneci! - or in modern terminology, same crap, different day

One feels rather than Allons it is actually Allors! enfants de la Patrie, and we see the constant infighting and divisions within FG still, despite the brave face and the unified front after the last headless chicken act.

Lets face facts.

1) Despite what they say about clearing house and unity FG is in disarray, fragmented and disjointed, with a built in self destruct function due to infighting

2) Despite what they say about honesty and integrity, they are accepting funds from the same crooked shower as FF. FG director of elections Phil Hogan has already said the party would oppose plans by the Government to introduce legislation banning corporate donations.

3) Despite what they say about New Era FG (most ideas lifted from Amhran Nua) is as dynastic, gombeen and post civil war as FF - and there will be little or no change.
We saw after the heav"heave" against Dep. Kenny in FG, most of the rebels were dropped from the front bench - other than those with dynastic ties.

We saw the stalwarts from FGs Old Guard like Dep. Noonan called up to the front, the Praetorians replaced the progressives, and those who have remained on the front bench are there for cynical political reasons.

In a future, probable FG government, those token few will end up on the back benches making up the votes.
In a way it is our own fault, both FF and FG depend on us, the voters, to return them to office because we look at local politics first, and party politics second. Our local TD will agree with us on our problems with the party, but have no doubt that other than an extreme case of political survival, they will tow the party line.

The so called 'rebels' who lose or drop the party whip, will in 99% of cases still vote with the Government.
They are less maverick than John McCain FFS!!!

If there is any people in FG it is Dep. Creighton - who did not cow-tow to Kenny after the failure of the so called heave, and has maintained her integrity at least.
"It is not a good image for any political party to be in receipt of donations from developers who are associated with NAMA, full stop," She insisted that there could be no room in Fine Gael for "cute-hoor" politics, which she said had "defined and tainted Irish public life like an incurable cancer".

Where I would disagree with Dep. Creighton is that it is not the cute hoor that is the worst part of Irish politics, it is what causes cute hoorism - that is the dynastic constituency driven system that we ave, perhaps suitable for the 19th century - but not the 21st

Dep. Creighton, like Dep Varadkar are a new wave for FG, they are young, non-dynastic and have been elected on their own merits.
However, by joining a party so deeply steeped in the dynastic post civil war traditions of the first 60 years of independence, she should perhaps consider - as should Dep Varadkar - looking at another way.

They need to consider their political futures, and as I have said before, they have little to loose.

This is because given the probability of an FG led government after the next election, there is no way I can see them anywhere other than the back benches.
After the heave, we have seen FG leadership go back to the Christian Democrat stalwarts.

It is for that reason, rather than accept the status quo people of their calibre should drop the party whip, leave FG and help real change by joining Amhran Nua.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

FG Deal Politik

Fine Gael’s newly appointed deputy leader James Reilly insisted in the Irish Times the party had emerged “much stronger” from the recent challenge to Enda Kenny’s leadership.

He's Back
You have got to be joking, the parliamentary party heave, and its fallout show how ill-prepared for Government the FG party is.
Dr Reilly - no doubt now deputy leader as a reward for his loyalty to Enda said the new bench is a “proven performers and new energy”.
It would be truer to say it is a mass marriage of convenience based on gender and geography.

Kenny could not fire East Coast deputies, as they are at risk from Labour, and had to keep a few token women in the front rows of the FG team, even if it meant keeping those who have publicly stated they have no confidence in his ability or leadership.

Michael Noonan is the new finance spokesman while Richard Bruton, who led the recent heave against Mr Kenny, is appointed as spokesman on enterprise, jobs and economic planning.
How can he plan our economy when he plots for his brothers former job?

Two others involved in the heave, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar, were retained on the front bench.
Coveney is a dynastic politician who is importat in the FG power struggle.
Varadkar - who on Primetime stated he had no belief that Kenny could take them over the line next time out is kept on because he is a modern, friendly face for FG - but I doubt very much either would be in a FG cabinet post election.

FG's attempt at damage limitation has been ineffective “There was always going to be a change or a freshening of the front bench,” Dr Reilly told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, suggesting the leadership struggle had merely brought the changes forward.
“We now have a new, exciting, energetic mix on our front bench that has the required qualities to bring this country back from the brink"
Well, I for one very much doubt any of those who heaved against Kenny would be in a cabinet portfolio, it will be the stalwarts in the mold of Noonan, the old reliables

Dr Reilly also said Kenny had the “decisiveness and incisiveness” to lead the country of the morass it finds itself in.
This when he could not even foresee or control his own front bench, most of whom declared no confidence in him and ran around like headless chickens after one bad poll - so much for quality leadership!

Asked if former finance spokesman Richard Bruton has lost his credibility in the recent heave against Mr Kenny’s stewardship, Reilly said: “I believe that Richard believed he was the best man for the job at the time. He went to the party, to let the party decide, and he lost"

We have seen in the past that an individuals political survival is far more important than the state of the nation. We are in crisis and should have a government that picks the best person for the job - and at a time of crisis we should perhaps look at a government of national unity.

However, as usual, loyalty to a leader is more important than competence. Horse trading is the most important part of the Irish Economy

With this in mind Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter, Jimmy Deenihan and Michael Ring along with Reilly are certainties for ministries.

Others who may well make future Ministers are Noonan, Catherine Byrne, Deirdre Clune, Andrew Doyle, Frank Feighan, John Perry, David Stanton and Paul Kehoe.

Speaking of Richard Bruton Reilly said “He understands perfectly well he has a huge important role to play in the future of this country and he will be in the next government and he will be a minister in the next government,” he said.

I really think that's a non-starter, If FG manage to become the leading party in the next election, Bruton will be on the back benches, in the good company of Charlie Flanagan, Coveney, Varadker, Bruton, Olivia Mitchell and Fergus O’Dowd.

Revenge, as they say - is a dish best served cold.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Banking Scandal -and its not even a headline

If Fianna Fail had one bit of good news in the past few weeks, it was FGs melt down. The media management has been magnificent..
The entire medias eye was off the ball, and FF will get away with the biggest failing in the political history of the Island.
The two reports dealing with a disasterous financial meltdown that lay the blame squarely on the Government.

Dermot Ahearn said the crisis was no ones fault, and the mantra is repeated.
The FF/Green manta is the crisis is outside our control - it was due entirely due to external factors.

This is a lie

The Watson/Reingling report states the crisis was home grown - and due to overly light regulation and political mismanagement.

Governor Honohan said in his report that the collapse of Lehman Brothers did not cause the Irish banking crisis.

The financial regulators were disfunctional, 'intrusive demands" from line staff were set aside when senior regulators were approached.

To quote the Watson Reingling report “internal procedures were overridden, sometimes systematically.”
The regulators did not do their jobs, and on the basis of political and business favours they were overlooked.

Having light touch regulaton is one thing, but the shelving of investigations is to me criminal, and someone needs to answer that.
The excuse that the crash was unforseen is untrue - there were some very serious people who warned of the crisis.
In April 2007 Prof. Morgan Kelly warned we were heading for a recession with a hard crash because we had a classc set up for a property bubble bust.
Bertie in response to this and other warnings said that sitting on the sidelines moaning and cribbing - and was surprised that people who warned of a potential bust did not commit scuicide.
Regling / Watson said that by the middle of the decade, the financial and property boom in Ireland presented features that should have sounded alarm bells loudly.
Domestic financial stability reporting by the Central Bank had failed in this regard.
Brian Lenihan emphasised that the reports were "preliminary, scoping reports", which would point the way to a more detailed examination by a Commission of Investigation.
One wonders who is going to be in charge of it? Perhaps a tame high court judge or Fianna Fáil Senator Ivor Callely?
It will investigate the banks, but not the government, this is pointless - the politicians were as responsible as the bankers.
In the banks already a few token heads have rolled.
But the people who have been bought in to run our banks were alreeady senior members of those boards.

We are leaving foxes in charge of the henhouse
I believe we need someone like Eva Joly, a Norwegian born French judge with an outstanding history investigating corruption by politicians and vested business interests.
She finished her work quickly in Iceland.
We need to know what senior regulators failed to investigate concerns, we need to know what politicians were involved in getting tax breaks for regulators.
We need to uncover and prosecute those guilty of corruption and incompetence - otherwise they will do it again.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

FG Dynastic squabbles

Well, again we see the headless chickens running the coop, or ruining the coup perhaps, as Enda Kenny has fired one of the most popular deputies on his bench.
It also shows that FG, after a few polls not favouring Kenny, hit the panic button and head for self destruct.

At the age of 24 Enda Kenny - like Brian Cowen - was elected to the Dail to replace his father Harry died.
Kenny is currently the longest-serving TD in Dáil Éireann still in office, and is the incumbent Father of the Dáil.

He was challenged as leader by Richard Bruton, the brother of a former leader who - unlike his brother John - seems popular with people, and is very bright.

We want change in this country, we need a change in the way things work - but yet again, in the main opposition party, we see the same names and the same families and that will not deliver change.

With the set up that we have, dynastic politics are here to stay, and make no mistake about it - it wont change, as that requires legislation, so politicians voting to reform the way things are done on this Island is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

It is laughable when FG talk of reform, the same clans have been in politics since the foundation of the state.
They are as culpable as FF for the current system, which is not fit for purpose.

This jittery response also took the attention off FF and the banking reports published by Klaus Regling and Max Watson, which are far more serious issues than the internal squabbles of dynasties within FG


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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Politicians Expenses - Beverly Flynn and how its done

Well, can you say you were surprised! And this is just the start, and its not the first time either

With the leaking of politicians expenses, we are beginning to see a buildup of this topic, as we saw in the UK.

However, our politicians are so overpaid that corruption on expenses will not be such an issue.
I still believe that Taoiseach Cowen is a fundamentally decent and honest man, but the FF party are corrupt to the core, and that is something he cannot deal with effectively

Some politicians really do take the micky, in particular those with a dynastic sense of entitlement.

Another example of the faults in Ireland's dynastic system is the bauld Bev Flynn.
Elected to her fathers seat in 1997 she is a good example of what is wrong with our system.

And don't think this is an anti Bev rant, she is just an example of what one can get away with in constituency based politics.

Flynn has had a complex relationship with Fianna Fáil.
She resigned from the party in February 1999 because of the allegations against her but rejoined November that year.

In April 2001, she was expelled from the party but was allowed to rejoin Fianna Fáil again before the 2002 general election.

She was expelled again in May 2004 after the results of her libel case were made public.

She successfully contested the 2007 general election as an independent and was readmitted to the Fianna Fáil party April 2008, and that's an important date in relation to expenses.

On a national level she is best known for the libel case cost that the tax payer a fortune.
RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird claimed that while at National Irish Bank Bev had assisted clients of the bank in evading tax by funnelling undeclared income to schemes in the Isle of Man.

Flynn denied the claims and sued for libel in the High Court in 2001.
The jury found the allegations were found to be substantially true - that RTÉ had proved Flynn had encouraged people to avail of illegal investment schemes.

So we have a sitting TD, guilty of advising people to illegally avoid tax.

Thus, despite Flynn technically winning the case, she was awarded no damages, along with costs being awarded against her. Flynn then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Ireland, where she lost.

Flynn at first offered to settle with RTÉ for €590,000. RTÉ rejected this and moved to have her declared bankrupt in 2007.

Being bankrupt would stop her being a TD

Her lawyers were granted a postponement on proceedings to allow her to challenge the constitutionality of legislation which bars bankrupts from Dáil membership.
It was a litigious frolic in her own interest. She subsequently abandoned plans to challenge the legislation.
In June 2007, Flynn announced that she had reached a final settlement with RTÉ, with Flynn paying €1.24 million of the outstanding €2.4 million.

That leaves the tax payer with a bill of €1.16 million for RTE's legal bill as RTÉ, Ireland's public service broadcaster, is part-funded by a television License fee.

It also shows a two tier law system, a person fined 600 Euro could not say to the courts 'I'll pay half of it' - she essentially did.

Other funds that are questionable

In 2008 she rejoined Fianna Fáil, but still claimed an entitlement to a tax-free allowance available to independent TDs.

However, upon her return to Fianna Fáil there were questions about whether or not she continued to qualify.

She responded that, in addition to her €106,000 basic salary, she still qualified for the €41,000 allowance as she won her seat as an independent TD.

After meeting with the Taoiseach Brian Cowen January 2009, she stated that she would no longer claim the allowance.
In 2004 she claimed enough mileage last year to drive around the circumference of the Earth two times over.

She even claimed over €8000 in mileage for a period when the Dail only sat six times.

Bev Flynn was a member of the Western Health Board from 1999 until 2004. I did try to find out how much she claimed in expenses for that period from the WHB - which is declared separately from TDs expenses, but was told I would have to pay €200 for administrative purposes - so much for freedom of information.
She was also a member of Mayo County Council from 1996 to 2003, one would also like to find out what her expenses were during this period, which overlaps with her work as a TD for 7 years.

In last weeks municipal elections in Iceland, voters sent the old party system a clear message.
Reykjavik, saw the new Best Party take six out of 15 council seats and more than a third of the vote.
The new party won the elections by protesting against a system it says has failed.

I can only hope that Amhran Nua can achieve the same thing.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Stroke strikes again

Well, gombeenism is still alive and well in Galway East. I wrote about Michael 'The Stroke' Fahy - Galway coco councillor before.
After being released from Prison on appeal he was allowed - how I dont know - to stand and win a seat at the council as an independent.

On his return to Galway coco Cllr Fahy did not refer to his own absence - but noted other developments such as the green light for the re-opening of the Athenry-Limerick railway line.
"It lifted my heart last Friday when I arrived back near my own home to see the work started on the railway line. It will be a huge boost for south Galway"
And we should have seen this as a warning shot of his intentions.

So, the Western corridor opened, and the Stroke pulled off another one, using his position to benefit himself from public finances.

He was jailed in 2007 in relation to fraud and attempted theft in connection with a fence constructed on his property during a road expansion in his area.
He was sentenced to a year in jail and fined 75,000, in a retrial in 2008 he was again convicted fraudulently obtaining benefits from the Council, convicted and fined 30,000.
He is appealing this.

But not to lose the big picture, while he is costing the tax payer money in apeal after appeal, he now has had a railway bridge constructed on his property, worth in the region of 2 million Euro.

A spokesperson from Irish rail would not confirm the cost on the grounds that individual prices paid for such strucures were sensitive commercial information that could predudice future transactions - so we cannot find out how.

The Councillor is one of only four farmers to benefit from the use of an overbridge on the railway line, he described its costruction as a coup.
A level crossing was not good enough for him.

This waste of resources, when 100,000 euro has been removed from the Galway west budget is a disgrace.

On the main Clifden Galway road, major roadworks are underway, and yet the people of South Connemara are not to get a traffic filter at the Recess cross road, which with the increase in speed on the road is becoming increasingly dangerous, with high road usage.

However, Cllr Fahy has managed to have an expensive structure built on his farm during the construction of a new railway line!

This has to be taken in context when we see that Representatives of Iarnród Éireann and of its parent body, CIE, appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee after media reports claimed that fraud and malpractice at Iarnrod Eireann could have cost the company close on €9 million.

Iarnród Éireann Chief Executive Dick Fearn broke down the €665,000; €271,000 related to collusion with a contractor, €363,000 to the illegal sale of railway equipment such as sleepers, and €30,000 to invoices for work not done.Three employees were dismissed as a result – but not, apparently, tried for fraud or jailed for what might well be described as theft.

Although the Stroke resigned from FF he is still close with senior members of the party, Mary Hanafin TD, daughter of Sen. Des Hanafin in particular - does this nepotism ever end!!
Sen Hanafin senior was a very conservative FF member, oposing divorce, and his son continues in that vein with his opposition to gay marriage.

Mary Hanafins Mother Mona, and Brother - Senator Hanafin  - were among a select group who welcomed him home on his release from prison.
Since then Sen. John Hanafin has been appointed to a very plum position on the permanent delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

And there is the issue that despite the fact he could not attend meetings because he was jailed County Councillor Michael Stroke Fahy kept his council seat and pay.
Galway County Council approved a request by Cllr Fahy that ensured he would not lose his sea
A resolution proposed by Cllr Michael Regan (FF) and seconded by Cllr Tomás Mannion (FF) meant that the local government act did not apply to Cllr Fahy for missing meetings in March and April because he was "sick and in Dublin"

These actions allowed Fahy to keep his seat and further benefit himself at the publics expense, at a time of cutbacks, reductions in public spending and increased hardship for the average citizen, the Stroke got his bridge to nowhere.

Tribal loyalties and ties to FF still hold strong, despite corruption and gombeenism.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Sorry for such a delay between blogs folks.

We live in a Republic, that means Res Publica - of the people, but we have develped a political caste verging on feudalism.
Robert Emmet once said something about accidents of birth in a dock while on trial for his lif - for the crime of looking for self determination for all the people on this Island, and as Citizens of this Republic it is something we would do well to remember remember.

I have written in the past about the FF and FG dynasties on the Island, and it would be unfair of me not to look at the other parties.

The now defunct PDs had some of the basest nepotism.

Dessie O Malley, known as the man from UNKLE as he came from a Limerick FF dynasty which started with his Uncle Donogh O Malley.
Dessies daughter Fiona is still a Senator, still being paid from the public purse.

Dessies Cousins, Tim O Malley and Patrick O Malley were also PD TDs

So, next stop is Labour. Well, even in two parties that I have always admirted there is dissappointment.

The dynastic streak in Irish poltics was highlighted in a speech by the SDLPs new leader Margaret Ritchie at the Labour conference in Galway
"the next election in the Republic would be a great day for the Labour Party. “And on that night I will be watching a TV, in Downpatrick, looking out for one particular result. The name Spring, restored to its rightful place, heading the poll in Kerry North.”
Dick Spring was preceeded in Kerry by his father Dan, and it appears his Nephew is to succeed.

Seeing Labour develop this type of dynastic mentality with the Sherlocks, Quinns and the Springs, where other local candidates are sideligned for family members it is getting obvious that now Labour are also becoming acolites to this blight on Irish politics.
And the leader of the SDLP, the party of Mallon and Hume, a party based on fairness, honesty and equality should not be supporting this tribal mentality.

One positive thing about SF was a lack of dynastic castes, but we see its development in Kerry.
When Martin Ferris went to Dail Eireann in 2002, his daughter Toiréasa was to replace him in Kerry CoCo.

Although he failed in his attempt to gain a seat as an MEP, Toiréasa was put forward in the last Euro elections, by virtue of the fact she was his daughter.
No doubt, when it is his time to step down as a TD, she will be the leading contender to replace him as the SF candidate in Kerry.

Kerry seems very susceptable to gombeen politics. Even so called independent, Jackie Healy Rae, seems to be grooming junior to take over as TD after him, down to the trade mark hat.
Even cosmopolitan Dun Laoire can throw up a Green from a political dynasty. Ciaran Cuffe the new clean and keen Minister for State from a party that rides itself as a break from the past does not really publicise the fact that his Granduncle was FF TD Patrick Little.
It is also reflective of the Greens U-Turn that as a Minister of State in an FF led administration he wrote after the general election of May 2007 in his blog: that "a deal with Fianna Fáil would be a deal with the Devil. We would be spat out after 5 years, and decimated as a party" - well, at least her got that one right - but he will have secured a ministerial pension at that point.

And this does not take into account councillors who are related to TDs and Senators

Roll on the electorial list system

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tribunals and corruption

The Mahon Tribunal is the longest running, most expensive legal process in the history of the state.
It was established back in 1997, dealt with bribes and payments in relation to planning issues

The Moriarty Tribunal, established in 1997, investigated payments by Ben Dunne to, among others, CJ Haughy - who is dead, and Michael Lowry , ex FG TD - still in office and now supporting an FF Government.

By the time this is done, no-one involved at a senior level will still be in office. Final reports keep being delayed, and their is no end in sight with little or no accountability.

People like Ray Burke, the man who gave away our most lucrative natural resource, Bertie Ahearn and several politicians from the two main parties have been implicated.

However, it is my opinion that unless reports are published soon, and prosecutions are bought, the Tribunal has outlived its usefulness and is simply an overpriced quango.

I do think it was an astute political move to establish the Tribunals as they drag out and run into each other.
It leads to a wave of informatio that overwhelms the public, and is confusing with different references to different tribunals in the media.

What we really need is an anti-corruption office, dealing with these issues as they arise.
Tribunals should be given strict time frames when they are established.

What bothers me most is that we should simply apply existing anti-corruption legislation.
We have an established legal system, the Tribunals are being used to circumvent this, action is not taken as it is said this will affect the outcome of a Tribunal.

Why do we have a court system then?

The greatest detererent to corruption is to ensure that anyone in public office found guilty of corruption, or recieving illegal payments, or using their office to enrich themselves, should be disbarred from public office and lose pension rights earned while in public service.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eoin Ryan EBRD, and the usual crony corruption

FORMER FIANNA Fáil MEP and minister of state Eoin Ryan got a great runner up prize from Brian Linehan - a gift from one 3rd generation politico to another.
He has been appointed as an alternate director on the board of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Eoin lost the European Parliament seat he first won in 2004 lost in last year’s election to Joe Higgins, of the Socialist Party.
This despite being the top spender in the elections in the Republic, with expenses of almost €215,000.

He will now serve a three-year term at an annual salary of €125,614.

He replaces the very impressive Anne Counihan, UCD graduate, a solicitor both in Ireland and England, a graduate of the advanced management programme at Harvard Business School, a former member of the Irish Aviation Authority Board and the board of Bord na Móna for five years.
She is also president of the Corporate and Public Lawyers Association, the main Irish association of in-house lawyers.

Eoins main qualification is that he comes from a family steeped in Fianna Fáil.

His father was a Senator, and FF's director of elections in the 1977 general election.

His grandfather was a cabinet minister in various Fianna Fáil governments.

Eoin was educated at St. Mary's College, Rathmines, College of Commerce, Rathmines and Kildalton Horticulture College, County Kilkenny.

He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1985.
In 1989 he was elected to Seanad Éireann.
In 1992 he was elected to Dáil Éireann and again in 1997.
In 1999 he was made Minister of State with responsibility for National Drug Strategy.
In 2004 he was elected to the European Parliament for the Dublin constituency.

The bank in was established in 1991 to help develop a new private sector in the countries of the former Soviet bloc - i.e. outsourcing to cheaper wage zones.

We have economists, and unemployed trained bankers in this country - people far more qualified for the position.

Why can we not have Oireachtas approval hearings?

We should at least to ensure that important appointments will be for the benefit of the state as opposed to party hacks.
But for Eoin it is a nice little earner

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

George Lee/ Alex White = No Change

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - Different Day, Same Shit

George Lee, the former RTE economics reporter ascended into the Dail as an FG TD little over 9 months ago.
In a blaze of uncritical media coverage, he got through on the first count, sat in Dail Eireann and learned the sad truth - that FG is little different than FF. Two cheeks of the one arse.
If his brief egoride achieves anything, it will be to show how broken the 90 year duality is.

Both the leader of the opposition and the leader of the Government succeeded their fathers in by-elections.

Now we have one former RTE worker being replaced by another, who are for all practical purposes of forming the next Government in the same party - just different labels.

However, rather than become an independent voice to fight the perpetuation of a two party system, and break the mold of the political caste, he spat the dummy and left in a petulant fashion, but its OK - unlike the unemployed people, many of his constituents among them, to represent them as promised - he will walk back into his RTE job.
That, in my opinion, is dereliction of duty.

Another option would have been to join a new party like who look like they offer a real third force, potentially, in the future.

George I think felt that the FG party should treat him as the messiah, hold him up - why not make him leader? After all, he was going to single handedly save the economy.
But the boys - and girls - of the FG club did not see it that way, many grumbled at the parachute candidate.

Whenever FF decide on a by-election (and perhaps they will not delay this one as long as others - Dublin South has a lot more economic and social media clout than Donegal) the most likley candidate to win is Senator Alex White of Labour  - is the leader of the Labour Group in Seanad Eireann ( the leader of the Labour group adds over 6K to his annual salary in a senate with no real power)

A former producer with RTE, and trade unionist for RTE's luvvies.
Another party machine product he was elected to South Dublin County Council in 2004.
He was Deputy Mayor and a member of the Sports and Recreation, and the Transportation Strategic Policy Committees.

He contested the 2007 general election in Dublin South, and in July 2007 he became the first senator elected on the Cultural and Educational panel to Seanad Eireann.

It is clear the two main parties that have failed, FF the entire country and FG Dublin South, its time for a change - but Labours Alex White is another product of a broken political system.

What has made me unhappy with the Labour option in recent times is that they have become FG lite - much in the same way the PD's were the monkey to the FF organ grinder.
How can the Senator be taken seriously when in 2007 he voted for coalition with FG in 2007, surely it is wiser to wait and see who offers a better coalition partnership deal after an election.
His election to the senate is credited to a voting pact with Sinn Fein (
There is also the expenses issue - with a salary of nearly 75K Euro per annum - why cant he pay his own phone bill? it's an allowance of over 4K extra per annum.

Alex White may be a great candidate, he may well be a good guy for Dublin, but this is more of the same old closed shop machinery that drove George Lee out of politics

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bank Enquiry Fluff

Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done. We the People are expected to accept - in good faith - the word of the Government, accept paycuts, levees, cutbacks and increased direct and indirect taxes to bail out bankers and developers who paid a lower rates than mid level earners at the height of the boom.
Thats all well and good - until the media (finally) start to ask questions.
Then answers are refused under the so-called freedom of information act.

A private enquiry is of no use, a tribunal is too expensive, what we need, and what we deserve is a DIRT style enquiry now. And dont think for a minute that it will be any different under FG
There are too many of them involved in speculation and land deals to be any less wary.
How much more of this do we have to put up with - seriously FF/FG are two cheeks of the one arse, and we need a change.
Voting for FG to replace FF is like turkeys voting for Christmas - it is not in our best interests.

One poster at boards found many Fine Gael politicians engaged in significant property development and the usual dynastic traits.
Sean Barrett FG - investigated by the Mahon Tribunal - with a portfolio of interests is registered in Jersey
Frank Feighan FG has properties in France, Bulgaria and dotted around Ireland.
Deirdre Clune FG - succeeded her father Peter Barry and Grandfather Anthony Barry as TD
Simon Coveney FG - succeeded his father Hugh Coveney as TD
Michael Creed FG - succeeded his father Donal Creed as TD

Now we learn that Herr Klaus Regling, a former IMF economist, has been appointed to investigate the crisis.
Mr Regling will publish a report on the crisis in tandem with Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan.
Lets not forget that Mr. Honohan's central bank, with lack of oversight and regulation allowed us to sleepwalk into the current crisis, and people involved in the investigation may not want all details to come out.

The two preliminary inquiries are due to be completed by the end of May,
Neither report will be subject to a public hearing.

Already Herr Regling has said this timeframe is not likley without a 2nd assistant.

Only after the initial investigation will a Commission be established and asked to report by the end of the year.

Its terms of reference will be set by the Oireachtas but its proceedings will be conducted in private - which regardless of what Mr. Gormley says, is secret.
Yes, if we are to have an enquiry there must be terms of reference, but will this be a drawn out investigation to see FF - and other partys - through to the other side of a General Election?

A cause for concern is that people from inside a bureaucracy often do not ask the right questions, as the UK Iraq War inquiry is showing. Focus on procedure can stop questions on how decisions were actually made, and who made them.

This might also repeat the mantra that there is no alternative to NAMA, and a drawn out investigation into the past avoids debate into NAMA alternatives and how to deal with the future
I do not doubt Herr Regling's integrity but we need someone, outside the system, with a focus on dealing with corruption, not mechanism.

I would also like to see full and frank disclosure of Herr Reglings financial interest in Ireland in relation to his work managing funds.

And we need someone with no vested interests in the Irish financial or political systems - like Herr Regling and Mr Honohan

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Irish Bank Enquiry

As readers well know, Ireland is a small country.
As readers will know, and as I have written about here, we have a political and business caste, with dynastic politics.

We need a full, public and open investigation into the banking crisis.
It was this crisis that has created NAMA and put our National Debt at levels that are almost incomprehensible.

It also needs to be set up in a way that does not allow political interests to be catered to, and it must be limited in terms of time and cost - not to be milked by the legal eagles as the Tribunals have been.

Iceland has taken steps towards this with the appointment of Eva Joly, a Norwegian born French judge with an outstanding history investigating corruption by politicians and vested business interests.
Her work investigating corruption is impressive, taking on, among others, former minister Bernard Tapie and the bank Crédit Lyonnais.

Her most famous case was that of France’s leading oil company – Elf Aquitaine. Despite death threats, she carried on the case to uncover several cases of fraud.

With that CV she seems ideally suited to investigatig the banks scandal.
We have seen the results of the Tribunals arranged by the Irish Government, little truth, little accountability, few prosecutions and all of this done in a protracted and costly manner.

Our systems are not working, so it is time to take a fresh approach - but will any Government have the courage of their convictions to actually really try to find the truth?
Props to, which details her work in Iceland well

A fuller profile can be seen at

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heres to You Mrs Robinson

Regardless of what a relief it is to see a headline with teenage boy and sex in it without mention of a Bishop or Priest, the recent events in Northern Ireland are making waves in the press for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, Iris Robinson had at least one affair, which was hypocritical considering her public pronouncements that that "the government has the responsibility to uphold God's laws"

Yes, the use of political influence to help a lover was not the most astute thing to do for a politician

And Yes, acting in the capacity of a lobbyist/consultant and alledgedly accepting the sum of 5,000 without declaring it was wrong.

But these are human failings, greed and lust.
The sum - IF the allegation is true, is petty in comparison with the corruption of the Republics politicians, or Britains MP expenses.
Politics aside, it has tragicly resulted in her attempting to take her own life, and one hopes she and her family can come to terms with what is an essentialy private matter.

In fairness, a cafe owner out of his depth in a field of international political intrgue sounds more like an episode of Ello Ello

What is worst is that these relativly minor transgressions have threatend the Peace process.
At a time when the declicate issue of transfer of power in relation to policing from London to Belast is at issue, one has to ask who leaked the story and why?
Within the DUP - as in Republican circles - there is a break, those who want to move forward, and those who wish to remain in the past

There is another factor that has been overlooked in the salacious gossip.
It is apparent is that the current system engrains a sectarian, tribal, apartheid system.

Martin McGuinness is the Deputy Leader in a powersharing agreement, however - leadership has not been transferred to the Deputy but to a minor Minister, Arlene Foster, chosen for her loyalism (if you pardon the pun) to the leader of the DUP.

It is also tragic that what I would consider an actual threat to the peace process, the horrific bomb attack on police officer Peadar Heffron which has left him in a critical condition.

This was not a target of opportunity, this was carefully planned. Heffron is Catholic, a fluent Irish language speaker and a GAA Player.

He represents a positive, inclusive future for Northern Ireland.

This as opposed to the usual nepotism and tribalism of politics. In April 2009, both Iris and Peter Robinson came under fire after Commons MPs' expenses accounts were leaked to the press. The couple were branded "swish family Robinson" after claims that they were receiving £571,939.41 a year in various salaries and expenses, with a further £150,000 in salaries being paid to four of the couple's family members.
They seem to have combined the republics nepotism with the UK's expenses culture.

With this in mind - why is it that the politicians still insist on segragation, where only one of the Northern Groups can hold the position of leadership - and the sad thing is that if it were a UUP/SDLP coalition, one doubts very much the 6 week arangement would be any different.

Can they not move on, past the tribalism and the quagmire of the past and sort out more pressing issues, policing and the economy are two that spring to mind.
With all the good will in the world, from the EU, Britain Ireland and the US - this can achieve nothing if the leaders cannot move on from the past.

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