VILLAGER May-June 2012

Bono as bauble

Bono was asked to meet Prince Waleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family, on his yacht in the south of France by Derek Quinlan when he wanted to finalise a £230m deal to sell the poshest hotels in London, the High Court there has been told. Bono clearly added decorative value.

Derek Quinlan, disclosed details of the meeting in the bitter legal dispute between Paddy McKillen, the no-longer-never-photographed former DC Exhausts king and not entirely insolvent property developer and the billionaire Barclay Brothers who are fighting over the future of the Savoy and Claridges Hotels.

“I suggested that Mr McKillen’s very close friend of 20 years, the singer Bono from the band U2, should join us”, Mr Quinlan wrote.

“I recall that I sat beside [the] prince and Bono sat next to me. Mr McKillen, on the other hand, sat at the other end of the yacht”. This mirrors accounts of Mr McKillen’s eccentric isolation during Bono-led discussions over their attempts to re-develop Dublin’s Clarence Hotel. Quinlan also noted in his affidavit that Sir David Barclay, one of the two billionaire brothers who own the Ritz and the Telegraph newspaper, “has continued to support Siobhan [his wife] and me” and “transferred funds to enable us to support our children”. Covenient that for a man under scrutiny from Nama.

Mr Quinlan added that he became friends with the Barclay brothers and in the summer of 2010 would regularly meet them for morning coffee in the Café de Paris in Monaco “shooting the breeze over a cup of coffee and a cigar”. Villager thinks it’s lovely that one of our own could rise so high. Quinlan said that Sir David Barclay offered him a loan in 2010 and told him that he “would like to know if I was ever selling my shares in the company [that owned the hotels]”. That’s the way it’s done. Villager guesses. Mr McKillen’s High Court action alleges that Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay infringed his “pre-emption rights” to have first refusal on stakes put up for sale by investors.

Bankrupt but Fashionable

Economics laureate Paul Krugman’s blog tells us all we need to know about how Ireland’s chic – once reserved for our Music but now transferred to our financial management, overrides reality in the eyes of a smitten world.

“Wow”, he writes. “A reader directs me to this interview with John Peet, the Europe editor of The Economist, who declares:

And of the countries that were in trouble, I would say Ireland looks as if it’s the best at the moment because Ireland has implemented very heavy austerity programs, but is now beginning to grow again.

From Ireland’s Central Statistical Office:

See the return to growth, there at the end? Me neither.

To be fair, Peet isn’t alone. The legend of Irish recovery has somehow set in, and nobody on the pro-austerity side seems to feel any need to look at the data, even for a minute, to check whether the legend is true.



The unDev

Last month’s Village Idiot, Former Fianna Fáil deputy leader Eamon O Cuív has launched his own campaign for a “No” vote in the referendum on the European fiscal treaty and is threatening to throw his legal toys out of the pram if FF removes the whip from him for this.

The Galway TD, who resigned from his deputy seat in February after falling out with leader Micheal Martin over the party’s pro-European stance, said the Government and Fianna Fáil’s reasons for supporting the deal were weak. He told RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta that even if it accepts the treaty, it will be unable to meet its terms if it is to carry the bank debts. Meanwhile he’s been and gone and described Sinn Féin as his party’s natural coalition partners: “the most compatible is the republican part because we are a republican party ourselves”, he says, although their “economic policies at the moment aren’t in the real world” according to worldly Mr O’Cuív. He then answered the one question only a Dev could answer to Villager’s satisfaction, “What’s the difference between Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil when it comes to it, except that it took them 70 years to recognise the Dáil”. 70 years doesn’t seem such a big thing to Villager who from now on will just think of them as absolutely the same. Éamon Dev would not be happy.


Mattie and the Big Man

Another recent recipient of Village’s Idiot award is Mattie McGrath (Village’s editor isn’t exactly rural –friendly). Villager, who’s no Dub, thinks that while Mattie’s an eedjit, he’s no idiot. Here he is in the Dáil on water-privatisation, taking a stern line on, and no nonsense from, Phil Hogan: “Bord na Móna and Bord Gáis were lobbying strongly for the administration of the water service. Why does it have to be the preserve of such people? I wish to see ordinary people, contractors and plumbers getting the work on the ground, not big conglomerates who might be friends of the Minister that he might meet on golf courses. I do not frequent such places. I refer to the K Club and other such places and some place in Kerry where the Minister was caught for intemperate language. This is a fine mess the Minister has created again. We should call him the messy Minister because what he is doing is not necessary. I agree with water metering but I object to the Minister’s cavalier attitude. An important referendum is coming up. I said to the Taoiseach the other day that he should send the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to a foreign country on a six week long trip to return when the referendum is over, otherwise it will be lost because they annoy the people. They are like a nest of wasps which one wants to kick out of one’s way. They belittle the people. It ill behoves the Minister, Deputy Hogan, who has been in the House for a long time. He is elected by the people of Kilkenny whom I am sure [Tipperary] will meet on the hurling field before the year is out and we will play them fair and square. The Minister does not play fair and square here. He uses bully-boy tactics which are unacceptable to me. While I am here I will be keeping watch on the Minister. People tell me I would want to be careful of big Phil”. Here Junior Minister Michael Kitt replied with a Demosthenic “Thank you, Deputy” to which Mattie replied elusively, the more so since Minister Hogan was not in the chamber, “Minister big Phil. I say it is easy to climb a tall tree when it has knots so bígí cúramach”.


Tweeting from the hip

An insight into the mindset of the Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has been provided thanks to the very active Twitter account of former Irish Times editor, Conor Brady, who finished his term as one of the three commissioners last December. The April issue of Village revealed how, in relation to the ‘rape tape’ incident, GSOC pursued the people who made the recording public, including Jerrieann Sullivan and her university lecturers, treating them as suspects over the removal of an older research file from the camera containing the infamous recording. When GSOC’s final report into the matter appeared recently, Brady showed little sympathy, tweeting: “GSOC officers seek and follow evidence. If its interfered with that’s a crime. So called academic prviliege (sic) is a canard” and: “Nobody – including academics – can take the law into their own hands. They’re very lucky not to be facing charges”. Not quite what you’d expect to read in the Irish Times, Villager notes.


Not pretty

Brady was similarly taciturn a few weeks earlier in response to another incident involving a Rossport campaigner and a video camera. In late February, the atmosphere in north Mayo was illustrated when gardaí stopped the car of local campaigner, John Monaghan, close to his home. While he was a little slow in responding to the Garda demands, their response is terrifying. Within less than two minutes, one of the Gardaí had smashed his car window with a baton and then threatened to pepper-spray him and drag him out of the car.

Monaghan posted his video recording of the incident on YouTube. Brady’s tweeted response was: “They entitled halt car, see licence etc. he obliged to comply – they enitled (sic) use reasonable force. takes two to tango!” and: “If you refuse a lawful police instruction thats what happens. Not nice not pretty but …”


Spam Féin

Villager no longer receives spam dressed up as press releases from Sinn Féin. Until some months ago he received up to six vituperative, mis-spelt and oft-later-retracted unsolicited emails daily – without ever receiving any edification at all. He thinks it may have been some form of revenge following a row the editor had with the then SF press officer over a Mary Lou McDonald article that read like it had been copied from the internet. Anyway, it turns out the sending of spam is an indictable offence, carrying a possible maximum penalty of €250,000 or up to 10% of a company’s turnover. Until recently there was an exemption for political direct marketing – one which was arguably incompatible with the requirements of the ePrivacy Directive. This has now been changed. In its recently-published 2011 Annual Report the Data Protection Commissioner notes intriguingly: “arising out of the Presidential Election, I have already issued a warning to a political party about the sending of unsolicited marketing text messages in the course of the campaign. A second such incident is likely to lead to a prosecution”. The Sunday Times has named Sinn Féin as the offender. While Villager will not miss being clogged by SF, he’d prefer also if the ULA eased up a bit, or at least found some better adjectives to describe the enemy, in spam. Remember, more than two angry communications a week is too much. Over ten is rude. You know who you are.


Haven’t we been here before?

The recently-permitted Athlone Trading Hub is the first stage of a proposal of staggering size and scale that the promoters claim will be the greatest commercial and trade centre in Europe, and an exciting fourteen times the size of the Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley Shopping Centres combined. Both An Bord Pleanála and its planning inspector declined to consider the negative energy and climate impacts of the proposed development which is intended to attract carbon-spewing, air-borne international visitors too stingy to fly to China, to see that country’s wares a little closer to home.


Sam, Vincent and Michael

The launch by Michael McDowell – Enda Kenny turned it down, apparently, of Elaine Byrne’s book on corruption, the Crooked Harp, attracted the politerati to a fine house on Merrion Square. Byrne’s biographical notes insist on saying, “older men don’t get on with her very well”. Certainly she once accused a venomous Vincent Browne of being soft on unethical politics; and a righteous Eamon Dunphy of being “middle-aged”. Surprising then that so many of them turned out for her. You couldn’t get away from them.


Quashed zonings

The Commercial Court has quashed all the Z15 zoning aspects of the Dublin City Development Plan. The decision affects 780 hectares of land. A Z15 designation allegedly treated privately-owned land as resource to be used for the benefit of the community, though -following lobbying by the religious so-called do-gooders of CORI and landowners, it does in fact allow residential development, and only requires that 25% of the land should be kept as open space. Embarrassingly, Village favourite, Councillor Oisín Quinn, a senior counsel, had proposed the now-quashed zoning some years ago. Lawyers for the Sisters of Mercy which was seeking to redevelop a 3.5-acre site on Grosvenor Road, Rathmines, including to demolish a Victorian house and a chapel, had argued that the Council had applied that designation to lands almost exclusively owned by religious institutions meaning that future uses such as 100% housing development were not open for planning consideration with adverse implications for the Sisters’ ability to sell off land to fund their activities. A good thing, Villager, would have said. Nevertheless Judge Frank Clarke ruled he must quash all of the Z15 zoning aspects of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 due to the failure to give adequate reasons for such “highly restrictive” zoning. RTÉ has a separate challenge to the Z15 zoning in relation to lands at its Montrose complex at Donnybrook. Dublin City Council had anyway some years ago depressingly reinstated private housing as a permissible type of development for the City’s already brutally depleted stock of long-term institutional lands


Coughlan up?

Why has the Clerk of the Dáil. Kieran Coughlan, spent 18 months denying there is anything to be concerned about with former Fianna Fáil TD, Ned O’Keefffe? O’ Keeffe was recently arrested by the Fraud Squad following an Irish Mail on Sunday investigation into TDs’ expenses claims. Coughlan repeatedly claimed that O‘Keeffe’s allegedly bogus invoices for €3000 were merely a “clerical error” but the Gardaí, who, unlike the Oireachtas, operate to the higher criminal standard of proof, are vigorously pursuing inquiries.


Turf Cuter

Independent Roscommon TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flannagan has been enjoying being a scofflaw. In spite of having forsworn smoking cannabis “for the sake of my family”, he since told the ‘Star’ that he was growing his own. He was quoted as saying: “Was David Norris not breaking the law by having homosexual sex back when it was illegal? Or the TDs who used condoms when they were illegal? At least I’m being open and honest about it”. Ming has long used the republican banner to incite Turf Cutters Rallies, drawing an analogy with the protests again the closure of their turf banks by the Congested Districts Board in 1915. His own father gave a revealing insight into the thinking behind many of the rural campaigns during a Miriam Meets RTE Radio program with his son. Scoffing at those environmentalists who wanted to protect the bogs,

Ming’s father asked Mariam Finucane ‘Whenever did flora and fauna make a sandwich?”.

Signs protesting at the turf-cutting ban have sprouted up beside others opposing the water charge and the property tax. The Irish Independent suggests 12 of the 52 protected bogs have been cut this year to date. Conor Skehan, the Phil-Hogan-appointed Chair of the Peatlands Council, is now reviled for having promised the cutters “they and their children” would be able to cut forever as the Government’s Cessna FR172H spotter aircraft fly across the bogs taking photographs with which to damn the generations as they cut away.


Turning gamekeeper

Frank Flannery, former chief strategist for Fine Gael, has begun working for a public relations and lobbying firm, Insight Consultants, but will not disclose what clients he is representing. The principals in Insight Consultants are Michael Parker, a former general secretary of the Progressive Democrats, and Michael Keane, a former editor of the Sunday Press. Meanwhile, presumably at the other end of the political rainbow, former Labour Party parliamentary director and (Democratic Left) Assistant Government Press Secretary, Tony Heffernan, now labours part-time with DHR Communications. He will be working with Catherine Heaney a former Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, and former Press Officer with the Labour Party. Peter Cassells is the Chairperson of DHR and was of course formerly General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Villager will be watching the lobbying bill to see that it provides for information on whether these characters get aggrandised access to their former buddies in government.


Too shy to call

Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary says his party will co-operate fully with the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in their investigation into the political donation former Minister Padraig Flynn took from developer Tom Gilmartin. It has been reported that the initial examination of the case by CAB has concluded that it will be difficult to prove that Flynn obtained the money by fraud or deception because Fianna Fáil has not made any claim to it. Dara Calleary told The Mayo News that they will assist CAB’s investigation. However, he said the party has not been contacted by CAB. They have his number.



A feel-bad counterpoint to the Irish Times’ “bottom-quivering” search for the best place to live in Ireland is’s quest for the shitest place. Comments on the website included: “I’ve never seen anyone smile in Balbriggan. Ever” and Mallow, Co. Cork? Thousands of people individually engrossed in themselves, made stagnant by the lack of anything, colliding with each other forever in the same physical plane, which, coincidentally, also has the highest natural occurrence of radon in the world. Broadsheet is normally the most entertaining Irish site on the web (Village’s web editor, please copy). They say if you contribute to and the thread goes beyond four comments someone’s going to get called a Nazi but with Broadsheet someone will correct your grammar. But Broadsheet has yet to decide on the shitest place. Villager believes it’s Letterkenny.