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Villager (June 2011)

Canapés and gobbleydegook for pampered ex-pats
The Government is to host a second global Irish economic forum at Dublin Castle in October, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.
“The forum will provide an opportunity for the Government to meet directly with many of the most influential members of our diaspora and discuss our priorities for economic renewal, job creation and the restoration of Ireland’s reputation abroad,” he told the Dáil. More than the previous forum in 2009 held at Farmleigh, he said, “will be less on what we should be doing and more about action”. The first forum remember was billed as an “Irish Davos” think-in of our business élite and cost €300,000. David McWilliams promised five business plans out of the beano; and Dermot Desmond outlined a brilliant and original plan for a university of the arts. Eighteen months on, Where is the brilliant and original plan for a  government-backed “recovery” bond that would be marketed to the 60-70 million Irish diaspora? Or for the  “super”-website, “selling the country and linking with, say, the top 1,000 Irish movers and shakers abroad”? Or the plan for nationalising Eircom advanced by Denis O’Brien (may the Gods bless him and make fecund his tribe)? According to Gilmore, Farmleigh “led to the implementation of a series of significant initiatives across a range of areas, including business network development, innovation, tourism, the promotion of Irish culture and diaspora engagement”. “Diaspora-engagement”, Eamon?

Ubiquitous waving
Villager doesn’t like queens. They expect to be called Your Majesty, to be fawned over and not to be elected. In the particular case of Her whom we still anomalously know as “the” queen she notably never says or does anything progressive either. Still she did a good job here and seemed to enjoy her outing, at least more than such chores as royal weddings and variety performances, if the unusually radiant smile was any indicator. The folk in the Village office couldn’t look out of the window for a week without yer wan’s white glove oscillating up at them. She leaves a strange legacy of luminescent yellow spanner outlines over every drain and man-hole-cover in Dublin city centre. 21st-Century Security.

Where are you, youth?
Internet activists Art Uncut say they will be holding up a large, illuminated “Bono Pay Up” sign during the band’s set at Glastonbury and will also float an oversized bundle of fake cash across the crowd; from an Irish Tricolour on one side to a Dutch flag on the other – all, of course rehearsing the self-righteous but capitalistic band’s controversial 2006 decision to move part of their business to the Netherlands to lessen their tax burden following the Government’s decision to put a cap on the amount of tax-free earnings available to artists here. Very solicitous of them but why do the British do youthful political activism so much better than here. The last stunt in – politically-disploded – Ireland came courtesy of … Mick Wallace!

Denis, Gavin, Brian and Dermot; and Michael
Denis O’Brien, Independent News and Media’s largest shareholder, said Gavin O’Reilly and Brian Hillery (soon to be INM ex-chairman as well as ex-chairman of Unicredit in Ireland and general all-purpose FF ex-Senator) were “delusional in their total denial of the extremely chronic financial situation” at the group. Denis O’Brien, remember, is the non-delusional paragon who said, “I never made any payment to Michael Lowry”. Interesting to see his arriviste Esat mucker Dermot Desmond, now the proud owner of 2% of INM, backing him up here. Desmond made over €120 million out of Esat , benefiting from whatever largesse Lowry cast Esat’s way as a result of the goodies paid to him by O’Brien – allegedly.

Chief Justice
John Murray is retiring as Chief Justice. Apart from a limited number of jurisprudential gems he is most notable for being from Limerick, serving as president of the Union of Students in Ireland in 1966/7, marrying former Supreme Court judge Brian Walsh’s daughter Gabrielle, being twice Attorney General under Charlie Haughey and working as a Judge in the European Court of Justice. Funny with all that he never really caught on as a force for anything much. Anyway the push is on to succeed him. Fine Gael lost out on the Attorney Generalship, with Frank Callanan in particular, historian of Parnell, scourge of Bertie and a staunch Endaite the most disappointed. The Labour/Fine Gael dynamic will determine the next Chief Justiceship which is said to be a call between Susan Denham, elegant and progressive daughter of former Irish Times editor, Douglas – with Labour leanings; Niall Fennelly, ex-Clongownian former European Court of Justice Advocate General – with Fine Gael leanings. Two Fine Gael-leaning High Court judges are also in the mix: Frank Clarke of the High Court, one of the sharpest judges on the bench and Mary Finlay Geoghegan who began her career as a solicitor. Adrian Hardiman, the photographic-memoried Jeremy Clarkson of the bench brings PDish views that are too strong for the squeamish and the soft-minded and has little chance. John Rogers, who served as Attorney General under Dick Spring and engineered the recent ascent of the formidable Máire R Whelan to the attorney generalship in teeth of derision from Michael McDowell and his mouthpiece, Sam Smyth, is a possible last-ditch parachuter in (now the endless hearing at An Bord Pleanála over the Slane Bypass to which he is passionately opposed, has come to an end).

Deputy Chief Justice
While he’s at the bar, Villager salutes Declan Costello, another one-time Attorney General who died at the beginning of June. He was a disciple of Thomistic philosopher, Maritain. As a politician he was progressive architect of Fine Gael’s influential Just Society document. Later as a High Court Judge he was too inclined to believe that the State represented that Just Society and should not be judicially reprimanded. This led to some hard decisions like his – overturned – 1992 judgment in the X case injuncting the 14-year old rape-victim from leaving the country for an abortion

Chief Planning Adjudicator
And another tone-setter for good decision-making in Ireland is to be decided. Since the demise of the Ray-Burke brigade Bord Pleanála’s head is chosen by a cross-sectoral committee which included the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, the President of the High Court, the Presidents of the CIF and ICTU and the chairman of An Taisce. They recommend three names to government – usually at least one of them will appeal to the Minister for the Environment whose man on earth often plays a key role in determining the interview process. John O’Connor had been assistant departmental secretary with responsibility for planning (despite having no planning qualification). He is perceived to have done a solid job faced with overwhelming Tiger pressures but stated his biggest regret was not stopping more poorly designed and ill-placed rural housing estates, based on bad zoning.
He has been somewhat more ambivalent about another unsustainable typology that may haunt a future generation – the one-off house, though he did raise questions about them in his valedictory address to the planning institute. A number of eminent barristers thought they were in the running for the position but criteria such as ‘experience running a large organisation’ and the reality a lot of people in An Bord Pleanála don’t rate the technical expertise of lawyers vis a vis that of planners as highly as the learned friends thing they ought – militated against them, so they have been disappointed