24 July-August 2023 July-August 2023 PB
Leo Varadkar as Minister for Trade
and Employment was well placed to
help Arthur Cox solicitors by providing
testimonies for high-net-worth non-
nationals seeking to obtain citizenship
It could hve been you
The bar, Fine
Gael in wigs?
Actually it used to be more blatant, though
attending fundraisers is still controversial
since politicians determine legal preferment;
and Village wonders who attended the recent
one for Varadkar in Castleknock
By Suzie Mélange
ine Gael has always been the party of
lawyers, if not always of law and order,
and indeed the Law Library is the only
place where the old nonsense about
spotting a member just because of the
way they walk down the street still approximates
truth. Former Party trustee Frank Callanan, a well-
liked senior counsel, once said that it was very
“un-Fine Gael” to be implementing measures to
cut legal costs.
Big law firms like Arthur Cox like to hedge their
bets between the big parties, especially when
Fine Gael are enduring wilderness years and the
largesse is being dispensed by Fianna Fáil. In
2012, an article in Village noted its then managing
partner, Pádraig Ó Ríordáin was a key advisor to
the Fianna-Fáil-led-government [and even
obtained some untendered work], during the
financial crisis, though Ó Ríordáin noted, “I had
never met Brian Lenihan or Brian Cowen before I
started working for the State. I’m not party-
political at all”.
Anyway, in recent years it appeared Fine Gael
was back in the ascendant in Cox’s, with
discomfiting pressure on its ranks of solicitors to
buy rae tickets, the favoured fundraiser these
unglamorous SIPO-constrained days for Fine
Gael. Leo Varadkar, as Minister for Trade and
Employment, was well placed to help the firm by
providing testimonies for high-net-worth non-
nationals seeking to obtain citizenship.
Not that Cox’s will ever supplant McCann
Fitzgerald, the most Fine Gael firm having been
founded by Alexis FitzGerald, a Fine Gael
Actually, the Fine Gael Party and its leaders
now tend to be represented by a small firm, Kevin
O’Higgins, led by a scion of the family of the
namesake Minister for Justice murdered in 1927.
In December last year, the Taoiseach held his
annual constituency dinner to boost his election
war-chest and, with well over a hundred
supporters in attendance and admission at €200
a plate, it was lucrative.
Miriam Lord reported in the Irish Times that “a
large contingent from lobbying and PR firms
forked out for the occasion along with a big
turnout from members of the law library.
At a similar dinner in 2021, the presence of so
many barristers was put down to the fact that the
then Tánaiste was reverting to being Taoiseach
and would have to pick an attorney general
though actually it was already sewn up for Rossa
Fanning, only the second Fine Gael attorney
general in the last 25 years (after Séamus Woulfe
who didn’t work out too well).
A recent Irish Times article by John McManus
described Fanning as “not seen to be political”
but when, for example, Village broke the story
about Varadkar unlawfully leaking the heads of
terms of the NAGP contract it was Fanning who
for some reason contacted Paddy Cosgrave to
pressurise him to keep the reportage civilised.
Anyway, a lot of judicial appointments were in
the ong and attendees were not deterred by
what happened the last time there was a dinner
of potential M’Luds.
Because in June 2019 Phoenix Magazine
named the dozens of barristers who attended
aFine Gael fundraising dinner. The cost for the
nosh-up was €600 (senior counsel) or €400
(junior) in racey Suesey Street restaurant.
Justice minister Charlie Flanagan presided at a
table with Pat McCann (the main organiser),
Jonathan Kilfeather, Patrick Leonard, Frances
Meenan, Michael Binchy, Martin Fitzgerald,
Conor Lehane, Frank Callanan and Conor Bourke.
Michael D’Arcy (since transformed into
the chief executive of the Irish Association of
Investment Management) headed a table with
Garrett Cooney, James Cross, Elizabeth Donovan,
Patrick McGrath, Niall O’Driscoll, Jarlath Ryan,
Terence Coghlan, Rossa Fanning and John Ferry.
Those at table three were Gareth Robinson,
Margaret Nerney, Paul O’Neill, David McGrath,
James Nerney, Ian Boyle Harper, Gerard Meehan
and Paul Murphy.
The other three tables featured Cian Kelly,
Ciarán Toland, Tony McBride, Paul O’Grady,
Bernard McCabe, Paul Hutchinson, Mark Dunne,
Robert OReilly, Miriam Reilly, Séamus Clarke,
Lorcan Staines, Joseph O’Sullivan, Peter Shanley,
James O’Donnell, Shelley Horan, James
Geoghegan, Hugh McDowell, Aisling Mulligan,
Julie O’Leary, Barry Ward, Shane O’Callaghan,
Daragh Breen and Rob Lowe.
To the best of my knowledge none of these
eminences have been appointed to the High
Court in the subsequent four years. And that is a
credit to Fine Gael and potentially healthy for our
It is also worth stating that those who attended
the Castleknock dinners risked, if outed, being
less likely to be considered for career
advancement because of a possible perception
of nepotism.
It appears the patriotic new breed just love Fine
Gael for its Fine Gaelness.
Still, It would be good to get the names of those
seated for the more recent fundraiser, just for
completeness and the record. Lines are open.


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