The Village/Ganley saga. When Declan Ganley withdrew legal proceedings

Today 28 April [2009] Declan Ganley agreed in the High Court to withdraw proceedings he had taken against Village over the article displayed immediately below. Village paid no damages to Mr Ganley and the article remained on the shelves, despite Mr Ganley’s threats to have it removed in February. The article – among other things – quoted Minister for Europe Dick Roche saying Mr Ganley was a liar. Village agreed to publish an interview with Mr Ganley in its April edition but the chosen interviewer, Mr Bruce Arnold, submitted a piece which gave no evidence he had interviewed Mr Ganley for Village but was instead a paean to him. We published it anyway.

Below we publish Bruce Arnold’s (non)-interview and our response to that article – making three articles in total!

Declan Ganley, Snakeoil Salesman (Feb 2009 Village by Kevin Barrington)
Did y’all get snake oil at the back?

The honeymoon is over for Declan Ganley and brand “Libertas”. And the brand ‘s keeper, having being carried grinning over the publicity threshold by the positive if not sycophantic initial media coverage, is none too happy about it. In fact he seems to verging on paranoia as one of the latest “successful applicants” to join “team Libertas”demonstrates. Kevin O’Connell, a former deputy director of Europol, has been taken on board to represent Libertas in the UK. O’Connell was employed by Declan Ganley’s group last year as a “security advisor” whose role included “vetting staff and potential candidates”, as well as monitoring the press coverage that was becoming of mounting concern to Ganley. Ganley was troubled by what he labelled “conspiracy theories” surrounding his American business contracts and the funding of his Lisbon treaty campaign. O’Connell, obviously unperturbed by any possible conflict of interest, concluded that Ganley “has been the subject of a sustained and co-ordinated information campaign intended to destroy his political credibility”. “I looked into the matter and was concerned at what I found – and decided that if Libertas would have me as a candidate, I would run”, he added. O’Connell obviously passed his own vetting and was taken on board. This, however, was not the first time O’Connell had been involved with Ganley. As Deputy Director of Europol, O’Connell spoke at Ganley’s First Annual Forum On Public Safety In Europe and North America. The conference, which Ganley has hosted several times, along with the University of Limerick, generally lures big names, Al Gore being the most glittering catch so far. And in between the talks on general defence-related issue by such luminaries, Ganley and a host of senior ex-US-military Rivada Network employees, plug their own security-related communications products. O’Connell’s 2007 talk centred on how “the requirements of law enforcement and public safety professionals are falling behind the potential of the technology” – a theme very much music to the ears of Rivada’s marketing department. All a happy coincidence? Perhaps. The motivation, however, behind the conferences is not humanitarian but is the real-life actualisation of Ganley’s Entrepreneurial Rules [see previous article]. The rules are appropriate, or at least normal, in internatonal commerce. However, Ganley was entering a different battlefield with his new brand “Libertas “, a battlefield where Transparency and Accountability – the toxic Unique Selling Points (USPs), were required. We are now well used to the plummy voice of Declan Ganley railing against the “unaccountable elites” in Brussels and calling for greater transparency.

Time and time again Ganley responded to interviewers’ questions as to what he and Libertas stood for: Transparency and accountability, now wrapped in a right wing social agenda, became an integral part of the brand. The problem with such a USP is that it presupposes a standard of behaviour – in its proponents. And therein lay the start of Declan Ganley’s major problem, the potential seeds of his own destruction. Little did he realise he was now setting himself up for the scrutiny that he had avoided. And as the Celtic Tiger died so too did blind adulation for the buccaneer entrepreneur. The positive became the probing, mystery was seen as murk.

A few postings on the web had alluded to Ganley’s role in Iraq around the time of the launch of Libertas. But it was after the referendum that the unsightly picture got a fuller, more public unveiling. Ganley was part of a consortium chasing the untapped and hugely lucrative Iraqi mobile-phone market. Having failed, he picked himself up and went after a police network. Assisting him was the now-disgraced Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens who had slipped his Eskimo loophole into the Iraqi reconstruction effort. Stevens had introduced positive discrimination legislation to boost the Eskimo economy by allowing them non-competitive tenders for government contracts: get an eskimo front going and you have a one-way ticket to boomtown. But Declan Ganley wanted a bigger boom for his buck, so he covertly inserted a new clause into the police contract stating it would be the first step in a move to roll out a nationwide civilian network, the very network he had just been refused. Like those he now criticises, Ganley wasn’t taking No for an answer. His covert clause, however, was spotted by vigilant officials. And the contract was rescinded. But the officials, later completely vindicated, were accused by Ganley of corruption and fell foul of his Washington big-hitter allies – forcing their resignation. But Ganley and his partners’ scheming for more money led to a two-year delay in the police network at a very critical time. “During that time thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi police officers were killed, at least some of whom could have been saved had they been able to pick up a phone and call for help”, author T Christian Miller states in his book “Blood Money. Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed In Iraq”.And in a scathing indictment of unaccountable elites, Miller continues: “The whole episode was a shameful victory of narrow business interests over a vital strategic policy”. Ganley, for his part, denies the contract was revoked and says he walked away due to murky affairs he is unable to elaborate on. Stevens’ Eskimo loophole has continued to pay Ganley dividends through “sweetheart” contracts with the US National Guard and other federal bodies. Not illegal. But the exploitation of positive discrimination legislation is hardly the foundation for his transparency and accountability platform. Further erosion to the platform is provided by the fact that Ganley’s wife Delia , operating under her maiden name, contributes to Senator Stevens. As she does to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where Rivada got lucratives communications contracts with the National Guard. Nothing wrong there either. Delia Ganley is entitled to use her maiden name and contribute to these two Senators. But what have both senators got in common? They both chart this year in the Citizens for Good Governance Top Twenty Most Corrupt politicians. Transparency/Accountability?

It seems someone out there is calling the elites to account but it’s sure not Declan Ganley. As such stories circulate, Ganley’s personal bog to mansion story comes under closer scrutiny by the day. “He’s a liar, a self-mythologiser, a snake-oil salesman”, Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche told Village Magazine. The truth was slowly emerging. There is no way Ganley can keep the lid on such a catalogue of lies and dirty deeds, Minister Roche added.

“INTERVIEWING DECLAN GANLEY (current April Village by Bruce Arnold)
A Lesson for the Uninitiated”

Declan Ganley launched his undeniably ambitious political career five years ago as a sponsor of The Forum to Debate the Constitution for Europe 2004. The two-day event, held in Galway, contains many of the seeds that sprouted into Libertas. Anyone seriously interested in interviewing Declan Ganley and finding out the main points in his career, needs to start here.

So, it was an international project involving participants from around the world and, yes, among them was Dick Roche, later to become Ireland’s Junior Minister for Europe and both a self-declared as well as an exclusive expert on the Lisbon Treaty.

Roche was later responsible for the delivery of abusive and dishonest slurs on Declan Ganley’s character and motivations, notably in Village Magazine, where he called him – without offering any basis for the slander – ‘a liar, a self-mythologiser, a snake-oil salesman’. Roche has collaborated more closely than is admitted by Village Magazine, with Kevin Barrington and was in the offices of the magazine on the morning Ganley’s solicitors delivered their legal documents.

Barrington also works as a copywriter in an advertising agency which has been awarded Government contracts dealing with pro-Lisbon material. Is there a conflict of interest here? One of several?

The articles are full of personal sneers, inaccuracies and allegations about corrupt actions that are not supported by facts and were not checked by any interview with the subject of the sustained attack. The editor, Michael Smith, who also offered in the first issue of Village Magazine to pay €10,000 for ‘verifiable information’ on Libertas funding in the Referendum – a requirement not followed in the articles – has admitted that this was wrong. I have checked the allegations and do not even consider them worthy of further consideration. They are part of the history of rumour that is used to denounce people. If an ounce or two of them had been delivered against Bertie Ahern by the brave men in Irish politics when the explanations he gave became dubious and contradictory in 2006, when first I wrote of them, we would not now be in the mess we are in.

Let us move on. In 2007 Declan Ganley launched the Libertas Website. His approach was businesslike, clearly focused and it emphasised the seriousness of the main issues facing the ordinary people of Ireland in coming to terms with what Ganley thought of as a huge European swindle contained in the incomprehensible Lisbon Treaty. Whether he was right or not remains to be seen, but he took up vital public issues over the planned Referendum, which only Ireland was holding.

The first of these was the Government’s outrageous changing of the law in order to stop the Referendum Commission from issuing a booklet telling voters what the for-and-against arguments were, in the case of the Lisbon Treaty a crucial requirement.

The Ahern Government is guilty of extraordinary and deliberate confusion over Lisbon by this quite improper change in the Referendum legislation. As a result, the Commission never did deal with this satisfactorily. Instead, it offered a superficial babble about the Treaty. This was far from being fair and balanced. The Commission is likely to do exactly the same again, the second time round. Ironically, even if it wanted to, it cannot easily rectify its position and tell the truth because the law stops it from being fair and balanced.

Ganley also attacked the use of State and Government resources in promoting a Yes Vote. The Government view in favour was all right. State funding was not. Ganley was also sharply critical of Dick Roche. Roche had attacked ‘bringing in people from outside to influence the referendum campaign’. This attack was made nonsensical by Brian Cowen. Quite improperly he invited President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to help the Yes Vote campaign, thus starting a process that looks as though it will thoroughly abuse the use of outsiders and their money if the Referendum is run again. It seems when the government brings in people to support its policies it is all right; when others do the same it is condemned as disloyal or improper.

Ganley went on, in the early months of 2008 to deal with the subjugation of the Irish Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty – itself a new and supreme ‘Constitution’ for Europe – and raised repeatedly unanswered questions on tax reforms that would damaged investment here and the loss of Ireland’s World Trade Organisation veto. The first of these issues was subsequently reinforced by the French Finance Minister’s confirmation that France would push for equalisation of European tax positions.

By April the early salvoes on the EU democratic deficit – the simple fact that the Lisbon Treaty confirmed the creation of a European Federal State without democratic authority – was receiving unintentional support from Barroso and the Commission Vice-President, Margot Wallstrom.

There was a leaked Department of Foreign Affairs email. It was becoming increasingly evident that concealment was going on. The Referendum Commission was not being even-handed. The Government were appalled at the fate of Bertie Ahern at the hands of the Tribunal into his money. He was unlikely to win the Lisbon contest, and was disposed of by the Party.

It became clear – thanks to a gaffe by Dick Roche – that the Referendum would be Ireland’s last on Europe. That is, of course, so long as the vote was Yes. But Dick Roche and the Government got the wrong result.

At the beginning of May 2008, the campaign was distorted into one about how much gratitude we owed to membership of the European Union, with the implicit and dishonest message that we would lose out. Here was a Treaty no one understood, here were taxation threats, a WTO veto that the Forum on Europe confirmed was removed, farmers and workers getting jittery and the new and untried Taoiseach taking up the cry that a No Vote would be disastrous. We would learn, soon enough, that it is politicians who are disastrous.

Declan Ganley confronted this with his Libertas campaign. He won. He carried the popular vote. Others helped but he was the mainspring of analytical and forceful political opposition. Not for the first time, do I assert that, in a world of turbulence that was to lead into crisis during that turnaround year of 2008, he was the most successful Irish politician.

At the very least, this was the material for major interviews by anyone interested in the phenomenon of an Irish politician with a new organisation, no political party machine to back him but a set of unarguable convictions that weighed with the Irish voting public.

Instead, there were several serious, if inept, attempts to undermine his credibility with a mire of untried, untested and often inadequately researched allegations, some of which contained deliberate obscuring of the true facts.

The government continued to contribute to this negative approach by floundering its way into European Summit negotiations which contained public relations ‘performance’ by Michéal Martin and Brian Cowen, who tried to pass off a few opinions about what might be done before a second Referendum Vote as ‘massive achievements’.

They were no such things. Government strategy almost completely ignored all the Libertas issues. Instead they sought to persuade the relatively small group of voters in the first Referendum who had fears over neutrality, abortion and other social or moral issues, and presented this as ‘an achievement’, and ‘a landmark day for Ireland’ in which ‘after intense negotiation’ Ireland’s position in the European Union, which of course was never in doubt, had been ‘secured’!

The Government, represented by Micheál Martin and the Taoiseach, secured nothing whatever to satisfy doubts about democracy in the EU. They did little better over taxation and other issues raised during the campaign.

Declan Ganley had made the running on these issues, which had produced such a convincing No Vote six months ago and they were set aside in an adroit and entirely meretricious way. The truth is that Michéal Martin has buried a hatchet in his own head on the Lisbon Treaty since he has not addressed any of the major issues. One of the reasons is that they cannot be addressed. This was my considered view at the time and continues so to be. It will cause any Yes Campaign, however much European money is poured into it, to unravel.

What happened then, in terms of Declan Ganley’s level of political achievement, was that he began to make history with his impact in Europe. For the first time in the political annals of this country, one of its more dynamic figures has spread his own political impact over more than half the countries in Europe. Declan Ganley now has 50 candidates for Libertas in Germany, more than 30 in France, 72 in the United Kingdom, eight in Latvia, three in Malta of all places, and 50 in Poland. He has groups working for the election of Libertas candidates in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. This too has been the subject of further attempts to rubbish him.

He argues – in the interviews I have had with him about this – that the achievement and its potential impact on the European elections, is what interviewers should be asking him about. I agree with him on this.

Instead, as the last issue of Village Magazine showed, enormous energies are being expended in trying to find out things about Declan Ganley that, if they were true, would be decidedly detrimental to everything he has done. Any old slur will do.

This displays a tortured and relentless animosity, damaging, because people like to hear bad things about other people, and they are often easier to deliver than good things. This line of journalism, taken by Village Magazine and also by the RTE Prime Time Programme on Declan Ganley, was, in my personal view, not only unfair and unbalanced but malicious as well.

Declan Ganley, Liar? (April 2009 Village by Michael Smith)
Village and Declan Ganley

Village published material about Declan Ganley in its February-March edition. Mr Ganley initiated proceedings for defamation, saying he wanted to get all copies of that magazine taken off the shelves. In the end he agreed to an adjournment of his action until after the publication of this, current edition which meant the February-March edition stayed on the shelves. In return Village and he agreed a statement:

The Statement

Village Magazine strongly upholds the right to engage in vigorous investigation and comment on matters of public interest. Mr. Ganley not only supports, but advocates this right. The Village however acknowledges that, given the opportunity, it would have been preferable to have interviewed Mr. Ganley before publishing serious allegations about him. It has now been afforded this opportunity and will in the next edition record and publish accurately the answers given by Mr. Ganley in a wide ranging interview relating to both the issues giving rise to these proceedings and to other issues of interest to Mr. Ganley and to the public.

Attempts to get an interviewer

We attempted to commission a number of Ireland’s most respected journalists including Fintan O’Toole, Keelin Shanley, Michael Clifford, Justine McCarthy and Olivia O’Leary to carry out this interview but for contractual or other reasons they could not do it. We also suggested Frank Connolly, Harry Browne and Damien Kiberd who were willing to do it but Declan Ganley was unwilling to be interviewed by them. He was willing to be interviewed by Vincent Browne or me but Vincent could not do it and I, as editor, felt I should preserve some distance from this legally-driven interview. Declan Ganley wanted to be interviewed by Bruce Arnold. He suggested a list of seven names including George Hook, Jason O’Toole, David Quinn, Eamon Dunphy, Matt Cooper, Richard Waghorne and Hermann Kelly. We were happy with Eamon Dunphy and he generously agreed to do the interview but in the end could not, for contractual reasons. Time was moving on so we felt the best thing in the circumstances was to hear from Mr Ganley in close to his own terms, from a journalist of integrity who is well disposed to him. Bruce Arnold it was.

Bruce Arnold and the interview

We forwarded to Bruce Arnold the affidavit which included Village’s defence to the libel proceedings. Much of the substance of that affidavit is outlined below. Readers will make their own minds up about how well Bruce Arnold has delivered on the requirement, agreed between Village and Mr Ganley to “record and publish accurately the answers given by Mr. Ganley in a wide ranging interview relating to both the issues giving rise to these proceedings and to other issues of interest to Mr. Ganley and to the public”. He informed me that he had conducted a telephone interview with Mr Ganley but there is no evidence in his filed copy that he did in fact conduct the interview. For this and other obvious reasons, Village will not be paying him the €500 fee he sought.

Mr Arnold also delayed publication of Village by a day by spuriously claiming he had not been sent a copy of the February-March article.

What Village said about Ganley and the truth

This is the substance of what Village said about Mr Ganley and the Truth in my affidavit, which was not opened in court:

Dick Roche, Minister for European Affairs has maintained that he was accused by Declan Ganley of telling untruths to the general public regarding Mr Ganley’s nationality. However, since those accusations have since been proven to be untrue, it is clear that it is Mr Ganley who has a most unhappy relationship with the truth.

Mr Ganley confronted Minister Roche, live on air during RTE’s News at One in September 2008 accusing him of falsely stating that Mr Ganley had, on occasion, chosen to describe himself as a British national. While Dick Roche acknowledged that there was nothing wrong with being a British national, he considered it odd that Mr Ganley, who sought to proclaim himself as an Irish businessman should choose to describe himself as British, on documents filed with the British Company Registration office. For his part, Mr Ganley denied ever having described himself thus, and accused Minister Roche of spreading falsehoods.

Minister Roche subsequently obtained photocopies of documents filed with the British Company Registration Office, to prove his position. When confronted by Irish Times journalist, Colm Keena for comment in relation to this, Declan Ganley responded that he must have “ticked the wrong box”. In fact, that portion of the relevant documents is either typed or written, showing beyond doubt that either he, or his wife, if she filled out these forms, knew that he had described himself as a British national on the relevant documents.

The foregoing example, where Mr Ganley’s vigorous denials and accusations against Minister Roche ultimately rang hollow, demonstrate his cavalier attitude to the truth, transparency and moral conduct. Indeed, Minister Roche maintains that there are many examples which cast a similar shadow on the Mr Ganley character.

In particular, Minister Roche points to Mr Ganley’s claims that he became Foreign Economic Affairs Advisor to the first Republic of Latvia Government. It has since been shown, including during a lengthy and detailed “Prime Time” programme on RTE television, that Declan Ganley held no such position.

Minister Roche has also pointed to Mr Ganley’s claims, throughout Libertas’ campaign on the Lisbon Treaty, that a “No” vote in the Lisbon referendum would entitle Ireland to retain its Commissioner. This was manifestly not the position since a “No” vote under Lisbon would pave the way for the provisions of the Nice Treaty to apply, wherein Ireland’s Commissioner would be lost in 2009. In fact, had the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, that date would have been pushed back to 2014.

Similarly, and by way of further example, Minister Roche has pointed to Mr Ganley’s claims, through Libertas, that the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty could lead to the legalisation of abortion in Ireland. Once again, this was, and is, manifestly not the position. In fact, this very point was addressed by Judge O’Neill, chairman of the referendum commission, during a speech dated the 4th June, 2008 where he stated:

“In regard to abortion, Protocol no. 35 to the Treaty of Lisbon on Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution of Ireland states that nothing in the Treaties or in the Treaties or Acts modifying or supplementing those Treaties, shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution of Ireland.

Protocols have full legal force – they have the same legal status as an Article of the Treaties. This Protocol is EU Law and it explicitly excludes Article 40.3.3 of Irish Constitution from any other EU law. This means Ireland’s constitutional position on abortion would not be affected by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty”.

The foregoing examples, taken together or in isolation, are stark reminders of Mr Ganley’s deplorable attitude to the truth, transparency and moral conduct.