Share, , Google Plus, Pinterest,

Print

Villager, July/August 2017

Nominative determinism

Pressman
Veteran journalist Gabe Pressman has died
at 93.

Reason
Sports Journalist Mark Reason of New Zealand’s stuff.co.nz was never as mean about the Lions as his colleagues and has been emollient about the dismissal of Sonny Boy Williams for a misconceived shoulder.

Doing Badley
Zeaphana Badley, who was engaged to Lord Mountbatten’s Eton-educated great-grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, ‘Lord Romsey’, a former drug addict, for 18 months before the wedding was called off in 2013, has been found guilty of causing GBH with intent, to two Irish people in London. Badley who has been sleeping rough has 36 offences including arson, theft and a string of assaults against members of the public and police dating back to 1999.


Thrown to a Woulfe

A defamation action currently awaiting a decision in the High Court exposed some of the tensions that have been apparent for many years between members of Wicklow County Council and its former county manager, Eddie Sheehy, who was recently exonerated from claims of corruption in another High Court case, about waste.

Last year Sheehy, who is retired, spent several days in the witness box defending himself from a claim that he defamed Councillor Tommy Cullen and former Councillor, Barry Nevin, in a press release issued by Wicklow County Council in April 2013. The council is also a defendant in the action.

The action arose from a claim in a press release that, in 2011, the Councillors had made “unfounded and misconceived” allegations in relation to the compulsory purchase (CPO) of lands close to the Three Trouts stream, at Charlesland in Greystones. These allegations were contained in a letter from the Councillors and Councillor Jimmy O’Shaughnessy, to then environment minister, Phil Hogan, who authorised an ‘Independent Review of the Compulsory Acquisition of land at Charlesland, county Wicklow’ by Seamus Woulfe SC. As a result of the review the department delayed the sanctioning of a €3m loan to the council to allow it to purchase the land under CPO.

The press release was issued by the council under the headline:

‘WOULFE REPORT REJECTS COUNCILLORS’ ALLEGATIONS REGARDING THREE TROUTS CPO’

It went on to quote from the report it received on that day, 23 April 2013, and stated that “Woulfe rejects the very serious allegations which were made by Councillors Cullen, Nevin and O’Shaughnessy”.

The press release said that Woulfe concluded that “almost all of the concerns” raised by the three councillors “are not well founded or are misconceived”. It said that Woulfe had concluded that “there was no deviation by the council from the relevant legal requirements and administrative requirements or practices”.

The press release then went on to state that “the delay in sanctioning the loan to purchase this site (caused by the need to carry out this Independent Review of the unfounded and misconceived allegations of Councillors Cullen, Nevin and O’Shaughnessy) has resulted in a loss to the Council of circa €200,000 in respect of interest foregone and administrative costs. This is in addition to the costs of the Independent Review commissioned by the Minister”.

Although the defamation claim was first rejected in the Circuit Court two years ago the decision was appealed by the two councillors to the High Court where it was heard by Judge Marie Baker last year. Although the action revolves around the claim by the councillors that they were defamed in the press release, the context of the case brings in the wider issue, as reported in Village over recent years, of the zoning and development of lands at Charlesland by well-known developers, Sean Mulryan and Sean Dunne through their company Zapi Ltd, from the early 2000s. As Judge Baker said during the hearing Zapi is “in the ether” of the case.

The outcome of the case will have ramifications for Seamus Woulfe, recently installed in the never entirely comfortable role of Ireland’s attorney general.


Will call anon

Meanwhile the most senior of legal ‘benchers’ are furious that Kenny loyalist and author of several books of history and a thoughtful essay in Village some years ago on Bertie Ahern, Frank Callanan SC, was not shooed in to the bauble of Attorney. A convocation of them alighted in Callanan’s exquisitely refurbished Fitzwilliam Square townhouse to moan about the last-minute volte face by young Varadkar, seemingly driven by the prejudices of Richard Bruton and implausible concerns that Callanan’s role of trustee of the Fine Gael party might constitute a difficult conflict of interest for an Attorney General.


Womend

A few months ago virtually all of the key positions in the legal world were occupied by women. Villager has detected a pattern that suggests that is beginning to change.

Woulfe has taken over from Máire Whelan at the Attorney-General’s office. Whelan has gone to the Court of Appeal where she is one of only two female judges among a gaggle of men.

Frances Fitzgerald is no longer Minister for Justice having been replaced by the manly Charlie Flanagan.

Susan Denham, the Chief Justice, is due to retire shortly and the shortlist for her successor appears – at the moment at least  – to consist only of men.

Eileen Creedon, who served as Chief State Solicitor, has been elevated to the bench of the High Court.

The prospects for Nóirin O’Sullivan, the incumbent Garda Commissioner, are precipitous.

Otherwise the last women standing include Judge Mary Ellen Ring, who serves the Nation under the unintentionally sexist Scandanavian-derived tile of Garda Ombudsman; the DPP Claire Loftus; the Chief Prosecution Solicitor Helena Kiely; and the Head of the Directing Division in the DPP’s office, Elizabeth Howlin.


Jobwelldonestown

Aided by the tail wind that the prosecution chose a charge that did not stand up to scrutiny, false imprisonment when egress was clearly and reasonably possible, the lawyers acting for the Jobstown water protesters accused of falsely imprisoning Joan Burton managed to turn the table on the DPP in several ways.

By putting Joan Burton’s political record under the microscope. The inconsistencies between the promises she had made in Opposition and her record in office were exploited to the hilt. In addition, the conduct of the gardaí was put on trial. It didn’t harm the defendants’ prospects either that their lawyers were able to drop a  few tinctures of humour into the mix every so often; just the tonic for those labouring through the gruelling marathon ten-week trial.

Ray Comyn SC, a courtroom maestro, drew a few smirks when he likened the management skills of the Garda to those of the “Keystone Cops”.

Gentle sarcasm was deployed at another remove to undermine Burton’s claims that she had been unable to hear the chanting of political slogans while she was sitting inside her car. The point at issue was how much of the noise made by the protesters was political and how much vulgar abuse. She claimed to only have heard abuse. When pressed to explain why this was so, she divulged that she had struggled with hearing difficulties since childhood. This, no doubt, could have engendered not a little sympathy from the jury. Then, with rapier-like speed, the redoubtable Roisin Lacey SC (an international fencer begod) asked how this rather curious impairment managed to blot out political chanting only but not vulgar abuse. This deft parry drew blood, causing the public gallery to erupt in laughter.

Self-deprecation was there too. The urbane Kerida Naidoo SC found himself denying he was trying to butter up the females on the jury; pointing out that he was actually hoping to butter up everyone on it.

Ridicule was evident too during the closing speeches, led by the feisty Ms Lacey again. Her client, Scott Masterson, had been arrested in front of his children while he was preparing their school lunches in the family kitchen early one morning. There was a dispute over whether he had been handcuffed in front of the children or not. During her closing remarks to the jury, Lacey insisted he had been and stated that it was ridiculous to suggest that he needed to be handcuffed.  “What was he going to do? Stab himself with a butter knife? Run off with the school lunches and survive on cheese strings while on the run?”.

On a more serious level she asked: “Is this heavy handedness indicative of why we are here? Is it cracking a nut with a sledgehammer? Is it all over the top and indicative that this investigation and this prosecution is unnecessary and unjustified?”.


Dank, shook but innocent

It comes as no real surprise to Villager that the former Labour MP and anti-paedophile campaigner, Simon Danczuk was not re-elected during the recent British general election. During the campaign the British media reported that an unnamed woman claimed he had raped her during a visit to Westminster. This story – coming after years of tittle tattle in the red tops about his private life – was more than enough to derail his campaign. A few years earlier a man had made a separate claim that he had been raped by Danczuk, something the politician denied with vehemence. It would appear some of the mud stuck.

What a surprise it is then to learn that the British police will not now be following up the anonymous woman’s Westminster rape allegation and that the case has been closed.

The real losers here are the sex-abuse victims for whom Danczuk campaigned so vigorously and effectively. It was he who did most to expose Sir Cyril Smith MP and – just as important – the protection he had received from the British special branch acting on orders from MI5. His book, ‘Smile For The Camera’, is well worth the read.

MI5 officers are reported to be still dancing the conga in the basement of their Orwellian HQ at Thames House at the election result in Danczuk’s Rochdale constituency. Danczuk, who had to run as an independent, instead of under his old Labour banner, polled only 883 votes compared to his tally of 20,961 in 2015.

Keith Vaz, another anti-paedophile campaigner, however, managed to retain his seat in Leicester East with a whopping 35,116 votes.


Kohl family ununified

Helmut Kohl, architect of German reunification, has died and received a fractious, non-State funeral reflecting his resentment at Angela Merkel whom he blamed for his fall from political grace; and the fact that his first wife committed suicide and he remarried, to Maike Kohl-Richter, who was 35 years his junior, dividing his family. Kohl had some issues with corruption but was a big charmer.

Only with Margaret Thatcher did it not work. When she came to his favourite resort, St Gilgen, where he was holidaying he cut short their meeting, citing “unbreakable commitments”. Walking down the street later, Britain’s leader saw Mr Kohl in a café, gorging himself on a large cream cake. Their relationship never recovered. A book published against his will and culled from 600 hours of taped conversations revealed that Thatcher would “doze off” during international summits. Kohl said the Iron Lady “would then nearly fall off her chair, clutching her handbag” during meetings.

“Idiotic marriage”

Kohl also savaged the “blockhead” Duke of Edinburgh and the “idiotic”marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana, though he added that had Diana become queen she “would have done her bit in bed”.


Tricky Hickey (don’t translate into Portuguese)

Independent-group reporter, Paul Williams, interviewed former president of the Olympic Council of Ireland Pat Hickey, on his podcast.

It was odd that Williams failed to ask any questions about Hickey’s ongoing issues with the Brazilian judicial system over his involvement in the ticket sale scandal last year. They were ruled out of bounds for legal reasons.

Odder still was Hickey’s claim that Vladimir Putin, a long-time mate apparently and fellow judo black belt, tried to secure his release from the “notorious Bangu prison” in Rio de Janeiro where he was held for ten days before being forced to hang out in the tourist area of the city for many weeks. Venturing any further risked being “murdered” or “slaughtered”, he told listeners. Hickey managed to pack in a veiled threat to anyone in the media who says anything that might be used by Brazilian prosecutors in the case they are building against him for allegedly illegally reselling tickets for the games.   Oddest was not the shock for the listener of learning that policemen with dark gear, masks and machine guns arrived at his room in the Hotel Windsor Marapendi where he immediately suffered a heart attack as he was being taken away. No, what was really peculiar was that the heavy gang were accompanied by “members of the media”: “The policeman thought he was in a movie. The media pay for everything over there. They paid the police when they arrested me in the morning, so that they could have the cameras up front and everybody saw me opening the door in my dressing gown”.

Newmarket, USA

Williams will have required calming medication to get over the notion that the police and media would act in such a collaboratively predatory fashion, anywhere.


Old Ideas for New Market

Planning permission “is in the process of being lodged” for a €2oom development in the Newmarket area of Dublin’s Liberties. The scheme will “regenerate part of the liberties” and will extend to over 400,000sq ft when completed. The regeneration element of the project includes the demolition of the hideous 1970s enterprise centre as well as work on Mill Street. “We believe now is the time to transform the old enterprise centre into a residential and retail hub, with an iconic hotel and other attractions”, rehashed a spokesman for Newmarket Partnership, the company behind the development, determined to use both the hub and icon clichés in one sentence. To Villager it looks like another clumsy lost opportunity to resurrect the artisan spirit of a city of markets.


Captaen Spéirling

Jack Fennell politely admonishes Village for having no readers’ letters page and in return Villager has agreed to print his concern that the report by Richard Howard of his views on Cathal Ó Sándair’s heroic sci-fi spaceman Captaen Spéirling, that he is “nothing more than a Gaelgeóir Buck Rogers or Dan Dare” constituted a poor choice of words on his part and sounds more dismissive than he meant it to be. “In fact I argue that this was a positive thing, demonstrating to Irish children of the time that there was no reason why Ireland should be excluded from the thrilling, techno-utopian future of those serials”.


Lying liars tell lies

Writing in the Mail on Sunday Ken Foxe revealed that a Freedom of Information Request showed that Simon Coveney and his officials knew that Departmental figures on housing completions were out, by up two thirds as it turns out, because they relied unduly on ESB-connection figures. Minutes of a meeting betewen the Housing Department and CSO shows the parties knew the figures were debased in February, though they used them up until May, confirming Village’s nasty April cover alleging Coveney was lying about housing completions.

and Village called it a lie!

 


Hopsters tire

Anheuser Busch has acknowledged for the first time that the market for craft beer has slowed down in the US. There are now more than 4656 breweries in the US more than at its high point in innocent 1873. However, the volume of beer produced is growing at less than half the 18 percent rate it boasted two years ago, according to the US Brewers Assocation. Hipsters’ natural position is brewing their own.


Hipsters tour

The main appeal of Leo Varadkar was that he always appeared to be fresher and more honest than politicians, an outsider really. He’s managed to retain that sense though partly through reprising Enda Kenny’s silly hand gestures and awkwardly finding inspiration in trashy and foppish movies, on visits to our poe-faced international partners.

Though he’s historically not been a great deliverer, and insists on all that stuff about early rising, whose sincerity we’ve yet to see tested, he has been striking a modern tone on climate change, corruption, buyers’ grants and the health service.

 

We’ll see how he gets on in the youth-off with Justin Trudeau. It’s a balance between hipster humility and the aggrandised rhetoric of a New Generation and not every pop leader should try to pull off the thirty-something stuff about Renaissances, favoured by the admittedly more intellectualised, Emmanuel Macron.


Something about Fine Gael

Meanwhile, Simon Harris’s eyebrows are on permanent turbo-arch, even for a Fine Gaeler. He is also nineteen going on fifty-nine.


Inconvenient

Ireland’s welfare and tax system is the third most redistributive in the OECD while its Personal tax and PRSI systems are the second. While this is certainly inconvenient for the Left, many of whom are evidence-immune, it doesn’t rule out the reality that in this society there are pockets of blatant and avoidable inequality, and scandalous poverty.


Limerickity planning

14 storey tower: acontextual

The proposal for a €150m scheme for Limerick City’s misnamed Georgian ‘Opera Site’ proposes  “regeneration” of the 500,000 square-metre historic site, bringing three tall office buildings, the highest towering up to 14 storeys, and a vast amount of retail. The scheme incorporates zero residential use – no affordable, no key-worker, no executive rental, no student residential, no social, no elderly, none, just offices and retail and token cultural in the old Town Hall, and a gated central plaza. It’s been designed by engineers. Architects were presumably too costly. As was community stakeholder consultation.

It will be interesting to see what the dynamic ‘Liveable Limerick’ campaign which includes all Limerick humanity from the Rubberbandits to John Moran and which stands against car-driven development and mediocrity have to say about this acontextual behemoth which fails to recognise that the point, the selling-point, of Limerick is its history. Several Georgian buildings face the wrecking ball and the car-parking allocation at 150 is a multiple what planners in Dublin are now allowing for similar schemes. Some residential use on the site might generate activity after dark, and help plug a serious mismatch between a rising demand and a lag in supply in the city. Meanwhile the Limerick Leader is scraping about the scheme being Limerick’s ‘Silicon Valley’. No Silicon. No Valley. No homes. No architects. No imagination. Yesterday’s mistakes today. Like the Terry Wogan Statue.

100% mono-use (commercial/office) in the pursuit of the City’s revitalisation Zone.


My enemy’s enemy: my enemy

Environmental activists Friends of the Irish Environment are objecting to Ryanair’s introduction into its (climate) case against the third runway at Dublin airport, which is focused on the inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement.


Screenygreenyproducery things

Generous Village contributor and former Green Party leader, John Gormley, who is managing director of ‘ScreenGreening’ has just been made chairman of Screenproducers Ireland, the voice of independent film, television, animation and digital producers in Ireland, whose CEO Elaine Geraghty is married to Tom Vavasour who worked for Village under editors Michael Smith and Vincent Browne, whose right-hand man he is.


Summer shadows

Villager reads that Vincent Browne is giving up his cacophonous TV show. He’s also bought back the title to Magill magazine through which he made quite some noise some decades back. Could we be looking at an exciting relaunch in the autumn? Village’s editor says he’s looking forward to the holidays. Back in September, if we’re lucky.