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Villager – Dec/Jan 2017

News Miscellany

Meaningful surnames

Cu……sh

Barrister Michael Cush has been appearing for Denis O’Brien in some of his exhausting judicial travails. The last two letters of the senior counsel’s name suggest posh, plush, an advocate who cushions, shushingly. The first two letters suggest something altogether less generous. All in all, just what you’d want.


Map it out

Talking of what you’d want in a lawyer, Village editor, Michael Smith is facing a defamation action from Michael McLoone, former County Manager in Donegal over a 2014 article titled ‘Dodgy Donegal Planning’, published in this magazine. Smith’s legal team at the 14 December ‘callover’ to obtain a date for the High Court jury trial includes Kevin Neary and Jim O’Callaghan. Smith and Colm MacEochaidh, the judge designated for that callover, offered a reward anonymously – in 1995 – through Neary’s firm which is based in Newry. The reward for information on planning corruption flushed out whistleblower James Gogarty whose allegations led to the instigation of the planning tribunal. O’Callaghan is Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and a former counsel – on other matters – to Bertie Ahern who got into some trouble at that tribunal. McLoone is represented by Michael McDowell SC who advised Smith some years ago on a private prosecution that it was hoped would be taken on the back of the evidence Jonathan Sugarman could give about failure by Unicredit, Italy’s biggest bank, to observe the liquidity requirements of the Central Bank. In 1995 it was the advice of McDowell, then a PD TD, to Gogarty that he should seek out a criminal lawyer to look at his allegations that led Gogarty to make contact with Neary.

McDowell and MacEochaidh stood in Dublin South East in the 2002 General Election. As did Village contributing editor John Gormley. The constituency has been renamed Dublin Bay South, one of whose TDs is Jim O’Callaghan.


Trust the trust

An Taisce, the state’s biggest environmental campaigner, seems to be in trouble. It has unaddressed financial difficulties, leading to staff problems, and has just lost its Programmes and Administration Officer, Eoin Heaney, who had been earmarked as one part of a CEO team – the position of ‘Director’, effectively CEO, is mandated by the organisation’s articles of association. Sources told Villager that Heaney felt the organisation’s board of management was failing to fulfil its functions and bemoaned the absence of the articles-mandated Strategy that could guide employees and An Taisce’s unwieldy Council. The organisation’s secretary is stepping down and its chair is “rotating” after the last one resigned in acrimony. The charity, which has the advantage that it in general tells the truth about planning and the environment, has had its government subsidy cut to nothing over the years and could do with some support from the public, in funding, membership or engagement.


Red and Cross

Meanwhile there is more trouble at another worthy charity, the Irish Red Cross (IRC). Only last year it installed Liam O’Dwyer, former Director of the Society of St Vincent de Paul as its new Secretary General and indeed reinstated former FF Minister, Pat Carey, who had resigned after he was unethically implicated in unsubstantiated child-abuse allegations, as chairman. Sadly, in the end nearly everyone resigns at the IRC because it’s so badly run but O’Dwyer (who replaced short-lived former AIB Managing Director, Donal Forde – the one-time beneficiary of a €1.4m salary at the bank) have been seen as progressive and scrupulous. Like An Taisce, the IRC suffers from having an excessively cumbersome Central Council made up of geographically-representative non-professionals, a weakness promoted by the legislation governing charities and companies limited by guarantee. The Red Cross’s Central Council consists of 30 members (one per local area) elected by the various Society local areas throughout the country.

The IRC’s problems are longstanding. As long ago as 1972 and the Arms Trial it was used as a murky vehicle for transmitting most of the aid to ‘Northern Catholics fleeing the troubles’. Charlie Haughey had to ensure that no transaction involving arms should be traced back to bank accounts in the North of Ireland in case it would come to the attention of British Army Intelligence.

Thirteen years later, in 1985, the Sunday Tribune reported “Red Cross in Crisis over Funds report”. In June 2007 the Secretary General left in acrimonious circumstances. She had been pushing for reform, a dangerous pursuit in the IRC.
The discovery in 2008 of an undeclared bank account which had had €162,000 lying in it for over three years, in Tipperary under the name of the IRC, caused consternation and panic. The money had been intended for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami but was not forwarded to IRC head office as required by IRC financial protocols. The then Vice Chairman of the IRC, Tony Lawlor, was a signatory on the account.

Whistleblower Noel Wardick, who described the pattern of dysfunctionality in an anonymous blog and then in this magazine, was fired in 2010 for “gross misconduct” – though he has since been vindicated and compensated.

Now its Athlone branch is causing problem according to a statement from the IRC: “The Athlone branch bank account in question, containing a small amount of money, has been temporarily frozen due to concerns that rules of the organisation with regard to the management of charity property have not been followed. It is our hope that this matter will be resolved quickly, internally.  There has been no discussion in relation to the disbandment of the Athlone branch. All monies will be used as specified and any commitments made to assist those impacted by flooding in Athlone will be honoured”. Professionalise, lads.


Cross to bear

It’s all a pity as the Red Cross does crucial work internationally. This year, in the Armageddon of Syria for example, it has carried out 55 cross-frontline operations, bringing food and essential aid to 8 million of people, and clean water to millions more.


Cross Power

Truth spoken by Power

As Village went to press the UN Security council was meeting in New York to discuss developments in Aleppo, which Russia now says has fallen to Syrian Government and allied forces.

Addressing Syria, Russia and Iran, the US ambassador to the UN, semi-Dubliner Samantha Power (and blessed with another meaningful surname), asked if the countries were “truly incapable of shame”.

“Your forces and your proxies are carrying out these crimes. Your barrel bombs and mortars and air strikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in your ever-tightening noose”, she said.

“Three member states of the UN, contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances it is emboldening you, you are plotting your next assault. Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin … is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?”.

Power noted reports of up to 100 children trapped in a building under heavy fire: “Clearly … they must be terrorists”, she said. “Because everybody being executed, everybody being barrel bombed, everybody who’s been chlorine attacked — you’re going to be told they’re terrorists, every last one of them. Even the infants”.

Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin, who had been the one to deliver the news about the fall of rebel forces within Aleppo, punched back, accusing Mount-Anville educated Ms Power of building her statement “as if she was Mother Theresa”.

“Please remember your own country’s track record, and then you can start opining from the position of any moral supremacy”, he vituperated.


€100k is enough, chaps

Villager takes the view that equality must be assessed stringently. If some notable provider of public services seeks a pay rise the thing is to assess if that is equitable. If gardaí are earning €100k on average he simply thinks that’s enough. Not in any doctrinaire way but because it must be assessed relatively. It is beyond serious dispute that public sector pensions are extremely valuable. The arrangements for public servants — a pension after full service of 50 per cent of final salary with a lump sum of 150 per cent when they retire — are unavailable and (for most employers, most notably Village Magazine) unfundable in the private sector.

But the recent Horgan report suggests that the premium pensions are even more valuable than previously estimated.

John Horgan admits that his calculations are “rough and ready”. But any more precise findings will be based on the same numbers.

He estimates that the value of the garda pensions amounts to a whopping 80 per cent of pay for the average garda. Enough.


2% please.

Villager, who admittedly gives only a tiny fig for the market, is pleased to see the introduction of rent restrictions through a 4% cap on increases in Dublin and Cork. Last year’s introduction of in effect a two-year freeze had little dampening effect on rental inflation. Annual rental inflation was 8.5% in Q3 2016 compared to 7.7% in Q3 2015. However, the two-year freeze applied only to those renewing current tenancies, while the new 4% cap will apply to new and existing tenancies. This might mean these new controls prove more binding on the market than last year’s, but it remains to be seen how well they will be enforced in the current supply-constrained market. Young Simon Coveney has signalled the measures would be fast tracked through the Dáil but Fianna Fáil, which has spent its entire political lifetime undermining rent control and other interferences with property rights, now – correctly as far as Villager is concerned – wants the measures to go further.


Fingal…something

A team involving prominent people from Village magazine was mugged by former Village art director now museum curator, Simon O’Connor, at the culmination of the Little Museum of Dublin’s annual Christmas dinner quiz. One of the highlights of the social calendar was ruined for many after quizmaster O’Connor went into a convulsion when the radiant team packed with Village contributors and hangers-on (and others) correctly answered a tie-breaker question about the (Samuel) Beckett family business: which of course was quantity surveying. O’Connor purported not to hear the answer, instead awarding the garlands to a team of fragrant and effulgent nobodies from Dublin 6 which happened – uselessly – to know all the forenames of Oscar Wilde.


Ballynomun

Ballymun Shopping Centre: dilapidated

Environment Minister Simon Coveney declared some months ago that the redevelopment of Ballymun was ‘complete’. But it isn’t, The area’s depressing 50-year-old shopping centre was bought by Treasury Holdings in 2005 with a view to demolition and reconstruction for a vast shopping centre with cinema and 800 apartments. When Treasury burnt out and died the poor shopping centre lost heart, and even Tesco upped sticks. But Dublin City Council bought the centre and, as always with that erratic body, something may or may not happen. In particular it appears to be on the verge of offloading the site to developers. The Ballymun for Business group claims there is enough land in Ballymun for 2000 housing units – once services are installed. “The economic revival hasn’t happened at the pace of the residential development”, they say.


Ethicilliteracy

The suspension by Fine Gael of Kildare Councillor Fiona McLoughlin Healy went ahead despite last month’s article in Village showing that the complaints she levelled centring on the failure of then-Councillor Fiona O’Loughlin (FF) to absent herself from a vote on the Bluebells and Blues Festival which was chaired by her brother merit a complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO). None of the local or national media have grasped the story, which mirrors the ethical illiteracy of Dublin City Council some years ago when then-Councillor Oisín Quinn voted on resolutions promoting high-rise even though he had a share in a valuable office block that might benefit from passage of those resolutions. In Dublin too, none of the local authority officials wasany difficulty with the approach. In the end, however, SIPO found it unethical.


The Gal way

Doubts have been thrown by the Department of Heritage and Galway City Council at plans for the restoration of a block of derelict buildings on Quay Street and Quay Lane in Galway City – to become an upmarket shop for Aran sweaters, of which Galway, the capital of craic and knitted jumpers, cannot get enough.

However, the Department has voiced its objection to any plan to restore the building to an appearance as “at some notional date in history”, while the Council has ordered a redesign.

GlenAran Ltd, which is owned by the McCarthy family from Glengarriff in West Cork, bought No 25 Quay Street and numbers 2 to 5 Quay Lane at the end of 2015 for over its €600,000 guide price. A previous owner had pursued a plan for a €10m bar, restaurant and upmarket hostel premises in the buildings which were built as a warehouse in the Seventeenth Century, but converted to residential units in the 1830s.

“The practice of ‘restoring’ a building or structure to an appearance at some notional date in history, as is proposed to No. 25 Quay Street, is entirely contrary to internationally accepted best practice”, asseverated the Department.
“On the other hand, in the case of the buildings at Numbers 2-5 Quay Lane, the original roofs of these buildings were only removed in recent years and the Dept believe there is sufficient documentary and photographic evidence to restore the roofs to the original profile.

Yet here it is proposed to construct an entirely false ‘medieval style’ roof. In our opinion, the type of works proposed in this application would serve to confuse the evidence of the historic buildings”, the Department’s submission reads.

Meanwhile, the City Council has ordered a redesign of the proposals and further archaeological investigation of the site. Good enough for them. Galway, least serious of all Ireland’s metropolises, has transfigured so much of its medieval heritage.


Wuthering Lows

Wutheringly wonderful

Kate Bush has described fellow leather-trouser-model Theresa May as “wonderful” in a Canadian magazine interview. Villager does not like anything that complacent people describe as “wonderful”.

Speaking to Maclean’s magazine, Bush said that having a female prime minister is “the best thing that’s happened” to the UK for a long time. “I actually really like her”, she added – implausibly, Villager would guess. Bush previously wrote a song for a sketch on a 1990 episode of TV series The Comic Strip, about the former Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The lyrics included: “Look to the left and to the right. We need help and there’s nobody in sight. Where is the man that we all need? Well tell him he’s to come and rescue me. Ken is the man that we all need. Ken is the leader of the GLC”.


John Coyle RIP

The figurative painter John Timney Coyle has died. He was born in Scotland in 1928 and educated at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and the Glasgow School of Art. He first exhibited in Cork in 1948 and has exhibited in most public exhibitions in Ireland since then. Coyle was head of the Art Department and subsequently Vice-Principal of Blackrock College in Dublin, where he famously provided sanctuary for anyone who could see that all of life was not found in an oval ball, and lectured in the National College of Art & Design and Dun Laoghaire School of Art. A gentle man, he was famous for carrying a roll of masking tape in his pocket. In case of emergencies.

He and Gary Coyle were the only father and son to be members of the Royal Hibernian Academy. Gary’s work embraces various media, including Drawing, Photography and Spoken word/Performance.

In a eulogy in Glasthule Church, Gary said he was confident that after his death his father would finally achieve the recognition he deserved.

 

John Coyle