The Fine Gaeler who has inherited the most distinguished legal pedigree but lies about his background, worked for Big Tobacco and as a Commercial Lawyer, and broke electoral law.
By Michael Smith.
James Geoghegan went to Gonzaga. Both of his parents and two of his grandparents are Supreme Court Judges. One, Thomas Finlay, who went to Clongowes, was briefly a Fine Gael TD in Dublin South Central (1954-7) and, later, an undistinguished Chief Justice. Both Thomas’ father (a TD) and brother were senior counsel. Thomas and his daughter Mary were both auditors of UCD’s Law Society.
There has never been a Blueshirt who has inherited a more distinguished legal pedigree. Undeniably, James Geoghegan is among the most privileged 35-year-olds in the history of the state. He cannot be expected to do much about that. What is troublesome is that he has worked his entire adult life to entrench his own privilege and the privilege of people like him.
‘Voters don’t look at the opportunities a candidate has had in life, but look at how they use those opportunities’. So that, now, is what Village is doing.
Let’s be clear: James’s parents will have been paid many millions of Euro over the course of their lucrative careers as commercial barristers and as over-pensioned judges.
Money would have been no object growing up. James himself bought his house a month after his mother inherited €800,000.
He has refused to discuss whether his parents helped him with the purchase. He has said he wants to be a “voice for the generation” of people who are “locked out of the housing market”.
When, at his by-election launch, it was pointed out that he had been born into considerable privilege, Geoghegan responded: “voters don’t look at the opportunities a candidate has had in life, but look at how they use those opportunities”. So that, now, is what Village is doing.
Yet the first opportunity young James had, he decided to capitalise on his education and contacts by shilling for Big Tobacco. His first full-time job out of college was for Dublin’s Transatlantic Public Relations where one of his biggest clients was Philip Morris, the multibillion-dollar conglomerate behind Marlboro cigarettes.
Working for RENUA or FG?
Geoghegan has had a long on-again-off-again relationship with Fine Gael. He worked closely with former TD for what is now the Dublin Bay South constituency, Lucinda Creighton. Creighton sat, at various times, not only for Fine Gael, but also as an Independent and for Renua. Geoghegan has said that: “I was employed by Lucinda Creighton as her parliamentary assistant when she was still a member of Fine Gael” [thejournal.ie, 17 May 2021].
Yet Geoghegan has said elsewhere that he worked as Creighton’s parliamentary assistant from September 2013 – two months after Creighton had been expelled from Parliamentary Fine Gael and removed from its website.
The truth is he became Lucinda Creighton’s parliamentary assistant after she lost the Fine Gael whip and was looking around to form new alliances.
He has also been dishonest as to when he rejoined the party. He told thejournal.ie that: “During my time as her employee and when I was in my mid to late 20s she established this new party – ie Renua – and I stayed along on until she was no longer a TD. After that I was fully sort of re engaged with Fine Gael and I ran as a councillor in 2019 “.
As Creighton lost her Dáil seat in the February 2016 election, Geoghegan is claiming to have only re-engaged again with his ancestors’ party after that, despite the fact that he had been working for Fine Gael TD, John Paul Phelan – in competition with Renua – for 16 months by that time.
His CV, offered on his official Fine Gael website, describes Geoghegan as having been a “senior advisor to the Banking Inquiry”. The Inquiry’s final report shows that he job-shared as a parliamentary assistant to Phelan. It’s simple: assistants are not senior advisors.
These are not the only occasions on which he has given unreliable descriptions of his life and career.
His website claims that, while working in public affairs in the US, he worked “with” Democratic Congressman Richard Neal and Ambassador John Bruton but, under the heading “Experience “ on his LinkedIn site, he says that he was actually an intern for Neal and Bruton upon graduating from university. He worked for not with these eminences.
Later, according to his LinkedIn, he worked for the European Committee of the Regions as an Expert in EU Trade Policy (Jan 2016 – May 2017) and an Expert in Competition Policy and Law (Apr 2017 – Dec 2017). However, it is not clear how a primary degree in international politics and sociology and a diploma and a degree in general law would make him an expert in these areas.
Even if it was from UCD. Perhaps it was his ancestry.
Nor did he fulfil the Committee’s qualifying criteria for ‘Experts’ of having worked for “at least three years full-time in an administrative, scientific, technical or supervisory post in a public authority”. However, the periods that he lists as having worked for the committee are in fact consistent with his having held positions that the committee defines as temporary staff or traineeships.
The only thing that is clear from his CV is that he has an established pattern of allowing the misleading impressions he creates to persist.
City Councillor voting for Property interests
His short voting record since becoming a Dublin City Councillor in 2019 shows that he voted often for the interests of builders and property developers.
He voted for the failed attempt at blanket rezone industrial land across the city to allow for yet more development in the city. He has approved the rezoning a total of 14 individual applications – 4 sites in Dublin 8, a further 3 in Dublin 5, and sites in Dublin 13, Dublin 1, Inchicore, Artane, on the Malahide Road and on Harmonstown Road.
In time-honoured fashion for pro-developer Fine Gael Councillors the single example of his opposition to a rezoning proposal was for a site in what he hopes will be his new Dáil constituency.
City Councillor for Cutting Property Taxes for the Wealthy
This is not the only way that he would look after his well-heeled prospective constituents. He voted to reduce the local property tax charged in Dublin by 15% from the national rate.
The Central Statistics Office most up-to-date House Price Index values the average house price in Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 – Geoghegan country- at a half million euro more than the average home in Dublin 10. Voters in Geoghegan’s constituency would get a tax break of €209 whereas their poorer neighbours in Dublin 10 would only receive €74. Neighbours of the address where he is registered to vote would receive a tax windfall of €633.
Has He Voted for Himself Illegally?
Geoghegan’s home lies outside both Dublin Bay South and the city council constituency for which he was elected. Currently, he remains on the electoral role at the address detailed above in Ranelagh. Neither of which facts are improper or illegal.
However, having been awarded an advanced diploma in Democratic Process and Electoral Law in 2016 – a course which the King’s Inns “designed to enable participants to navigate the complexities of Ireland’s electoral and parliamentary system” – Geoghegan would know well that under section 10 of the Electoral Act, 1992 only “a person shall be entitled to be registered as a local government elector in a local authority area if he has reached the age of eighteen years and he was, on the qualifying date, ordinarily resident in that area”.
Under section 8 (1) of the Act, it would be a criminal offence for him to vote for himself in the upcoming by-election.
Unless he was playing games with his electorate by pretending to vote in Beechwood, he’s a criminal too
This prohibition of out-of-constituency voting applied on the date he posted this picture of himself:
Furthermore, someone normally resident in Clonskeagh, who voted at Beechwood polling station in the Pembroke Ward during the 2019 local elections would be guilty of a criminal offence under Section 110 of the Local Elections Regulations 1995 [below].
Unless he was playing games with his electorate by pretending to vote in Beechwood he’s a criminal too.
A journalist from ‘Ditch’ put it to Geoghegan on 26 May that he had committed an electoral crime but, though his eyes did cartwheels, he did not say anything one way or the other.
Responding from in front of a vast photo-representation of Ranelagh Luas stop to the, accurate, claim that the Fine Gael website had represented Geoghegan as living in the constituency, he deviously stated that the website does not say that and if it ever did it was “an error”.
By all accounts James Geoghegan is, personally, an inoffensive individual. Politically, he is a pallid Leo Varadkar clone. He has left a trail of dishonesty and delinquency.
He will not win in Dublin Bay South.