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Villager – October 2014

villager_oct8Times past, times present
Villager loves Irish offshore billionaires who take on the free press, or preferably own it. Dermot Desmond has gratifyingly extracted an immense and humble apology from the Sunday Times for a 1998 defamation. That year, a Mr Tom Doyle wrote to the Moriarty Tribunal stating that the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) was his idea not Dermot Desmond’s. He stated that he made a formal proposal to the Department of Finance in 1985 outlining a plan for such a centre in Shannon, County Clare. He also expressed concern that his idea was leaked to Desmond who then proposed the creation of the IFSC in Dublin and was rewarded for this with an option to purchase an office block there at a favourable price.
In 1998, the Sunday Times rehearsed these defamatory claims of Doyle. They also pointed out that Desmond had paid significant sums of money to Charles Haughey, who enacted the legislation which implemented the IFSC plan. In 1998 Desmond issued separate legal proceedings for defamation against both Doyle and the Times. The parties exchanged communications regarding those proceedings until October 2000. Desmond took no further action until December 2005, when he served each of the defendants with a Notice of Intention to Proceed, claiming that the delay was on the advice of Senior Counsel and was to allow the Tribunal to issue its report.
In 2008 Judge John MacMenamin ruled while there was inordinate and inexcusable delay by Mr Desmond in advancing the action, that the Sunday Times had not shown that the delay had resulted in more than  marginal or potential prejudice to the defence. On appeal to the Supreme Court Judge Liam McKechnie considered that the documentary evidence of Doyle was entirely unsatisfactory.
Doyle claimed documents existed in 2001 which confirmed his assertion that he had come up with the idea for the IFSC. He could however provide no proof that these documents existed, and correspondence showed that Doyle was not even sure if the documents existed. The Supreme Court upheld the McMenamin judgment.  After that the Sunday Times has caved in, apologised and made a payment to charity.


Rocking the anti-establishment
Past pupils at rugger-loving, unisex, fee-paying Blackrock and Belvedere Colleges have written to alumni urging them to campaign against the Education Bill which is intended to remove “soft barriers” to admission by forcing schools to publish entrance policies. The Belvedere students’ union has circulated a smug sample letter directed against Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, claiming the bill was “a stealth tactic, to destroy private institutions like Belvedere College”.
The bill would also allow schools to prioritise siblings of past or present students and the children of staff, but only as part of a transparent process that is subject to external review. But the privileged ones are most enraged by a provision that would limit schools’ rights to guarantee places to children of past pupils. Blackrock’s campaign is fronted by Shane Murphy, senior counsel and giant who was a charismatic auditor of UCD’s L and H debating society thirty years ago, and who subsequently spent a spell as a French Tridentine novice, immersed in the ascetic pleasures of the Latin mass. Murphy could argue his way out of a plastic bag, but he  should champion causes that deserve him. When publishing the draft bill, former minister for education and Rockman, Ruairí Quinn proposed 25 per cent of places could be reserved for such pupils but an Oireachtas committee has since recommended no such quota be allowed.


Exemplary perksvillager_oct4
Apple and Facebook are competing neck and neck in the latest stage of the Silicon Valley “perks arms race”: Employees at both companies will now be able to freeze their eggs under their employee health plans. The companies will cover up to $20,000 in costs, typically enough to pay for two rounds of egg harvesting. The future is now.


Unlawful Society
At a hearing before its President in October the High Court upheld the nine findings of misconduct against Fergus Appelbe that were made against him by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal of the Law Society  in February of this year.
The findings included fraud and forgery.
Appelbe is a former member of the Law Society Conveyancing Committee. It was in pursuit of complaints by him that Cork Solicitor Colm Murphy was struck off. Appelbe was the subject of two ‘Today Tonight’ investigations into his conduct.
Appelbe and his various companies are indebted in a sum in excess of €100 million. Much of this loss will have to be borne by the state.
Colm Murphy had written letters to the Law Society and swore Affidavits in 2003, 2004 and 2005 pointing out that Appelbe was committing various wrongs but the Law Society failed to investigate him and instead prosecuted Colm Murphy on foot of Fergus Appelbe’s complaints. Until now.


Keane of Tikrit
Village doesn’t do sport but Villager will say that Roy Keane looks and behaves too much like Saddam Hussein for Villager’s liking. And Roddy Doyle who now resembles Mahatma Gandhi should have known better than to be his cypher. Neither of them has had an idea in a generation, they debase the discourse and the language. Have you ever tried reading ‘The Giggler Treatment’ to a child?


Janey Delaney
Also, how did FAI mogul, John Delaney, a figure of fun the last time anyone thought about him, manufacture so much space in the Sindo for himself some weeks ago, on the Sindo’s Brendan O’Connor’s ‘Saturday Show’ and in Independent.ie which ran a ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentary, hosted by spittle-licker Barry Egan. Implausibly Denis O’Brien confided in the newspaper which recently published an apology to him – but over which he exercises no control – that Delaney could run UEFA or “anything”. But it was left to others, led by Delaney’s glistening new girlfriend, to recognise that he is a “teddy bear”.
Denis O’Brien stumps up a nosebleed-inducing 70 per cent of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane’s  pay packets – €910, 000 of the combined €1.3 million wages. Maybe he wanted – in an uncontrolling way – to ensure the man who signs the cheques, and who like O’Brien does a line in getting debts written off, receives the credence he deserves.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent – which he doesn’t control – recently reported that “Mr O’Brien says he wasn’t a good player as a child but now loves the game. The craic is just great. The people you meet. The slagging is lightning. The same kind of fun as rugby but different”. Gelsenkirchen will only have encouraged him.


Murph and Turf
Electing Paul Murphy who stands against Water Charges and Michael Fitzmaurice who stands only for turf-cutting, wasn’t just a vote against the governing parties, it was a vote against the opposition parties too. Tellingly too, there was a higher turnout for the anti-Water Charge march on the day of the count than in the two by-elections combined.


Changed Plansvillager_oct1
As the economy improves the number of planning applications grows. Unfortunately some of the best brains in public-interest planning have emigrated. James Nix who writes for Village is leaving An Taisce, where he was Director of Policy, for the position of Director of Green Budget Europe which promotes Environmental Fiscal Reform Instruments in Europe. Alice Charles who is advisor to NAMA, former head of Buchanan Planners Irish office and who was once elected to the Vice-Chair role in An Taisce, is now head of urban planning at the World Economic Forum in Geneva. Gavin Daly, a former special advisor to Ciaran Cuffe as Minister for the Environment and former Chair of An Taisce’s Built Environment Committee is now working for ESPON, the European Observatory for Territorial Development and Cohesion in Luxembourg. Jeremy Wates, former head of the precursor of Friends of the  Earth is head of the European Environmental Bureau which tracks the EU Commission’s environmental policy.


Utilitarianism
Tring Tring it’s your utility or phone company. Then just when you’re congratulating yourself for even taking the call, they’re asking you for your date of birth and mother’s maiden name. How did that become normal?


Pressing a point
The Irish Times made seven mistakes in its court report of Mark Dearey’s defamation action against Village last year, including that Village had actually defamed him (which it had not) and that he was seeking damages, when he wasn’t. Under pressure they corrected two of them. Village then took a case to the Press Ombudsman. In negotiations the Irish Times agreed to change another three of the mistakes. Village decided that the Irish Times and the Ombudsman needed to address the additional outstanding two points properly as well. So the Ombudsman decided against Village on the basis it was unreasonable to ask to have all the mistakes addressed. Village then appealed the decision to the Press Council.
In an extraordinary decision in September the Press Council upheld one of the outstanding two points and decided against Village on the other one without saying why.  But it again stated that Village should have accepted the offer to resolve three of the five outstanding mistakes. In other words Village should have accepted an offer that didn’t address a point that the Council itself found was a mistake and which it ordered the Irish Times to correct.
The mistake was in saying the article over which Mr Dearey sued was “about” him when in fact he was referred to once in a 1,700-word article.


Obangthemup
Gabe Rottman of the American Civil Liberties Union rehearses the well-known statistic that the Obama administration has prosecuted more national security “leakers” than all other presidencies combined, eight to three. More remarkably still when it comes to sending “these folks” to jail, the Obama administration outranks every other presidency combined. It secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution. It’s important – and telling – to note that the bulk of that time is the 35 years in Fort Leavenworth handed down to Chelsea Manning.


Project corrupted?
Fraudster Johnny Ronan was reported earlier this month to be among the final five bidders to buy Project Cherry, a portfolio of 400 acres including office blocks and land for development in Cherrywood, south Dublin from NAMA (est. price €220 million). He’s also been linked to the revolting Dundrum Town Centre and the chunk of the North Docklands, at least in the Sindo. Interesting that, since the original rezoning of Cherrywood was found by the Mahon Tribunal to have followed corrupt payments by then landowner, Monarch Properties.
The adjoining land was seized by CAB on the basis of the corruption of the rezoning so why have those who profited from the corrupt rezoning of Cherrywood not been forced to yield their tainted profit to the state too?villager_oct7
Ronan apparently plans to buy himself out of NAMA for the full €400 million he owes us – backed by UK property fund Development Securities. In June a “source close to the developer” was quoted in the Sunday Independent which lionises Ronan as saying: “This will be the first time a guy has paid back everything at par”. Still, it’s not clear where discussions stand.
Ronan’s messing at Treasury Holdings whose co-owner was China-based Richard Barrett, however, may yet haunt him since the liquidator of that business – which he owned with Richard Barrett – will decide shortly whether to seek an order restricting both of them from being company directors.
Treasury was liquidated by Nama after it lost faith in the dodgy and litigious pair in 2012. The liquidator, Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton, accused Ronan and Barrett of carrying out two asset-stripping transactions – as Treasury writhed in its last throes leaving behind debts of €2.7 billion, including €1 billion owed to NAMA – that in effect defrauded the company’s creditors.
One of these involved the sale by Treasury to Barrett of two other companies which managed its Chinese properties for something around a fifth of their real value. McAteer ended up agreeing to a proposal to repay him €47 million, with Barrett bagging €5 million for putting the deal together, and he and Ronan getting €36.3 million each in cash from the sale of the shares they held directly in Treasury’s Chinese operation.
Judge Peter Kelly in the High Court approved the deal as being in the best interest of creditors but ventilated disquiet at payments to Barrett who he described as “ a defendant against whom there is an allegation of fraud”.


Dodgy Donegal again
The Standards in Public Office Commission will hold a public hearing shortly into alleged contraventions of the Ethics Acts by former Donegal County Councillor, Dessie Larkin. The alleged contraventions concern travelling and subsistence claims by Mr Larkin who is a colourful fellow who joined Fianna Fáil in 2006 alongside Niall Blaney.
During a football match in 1993, playing for Bonagee Celtic in the FAI Junior Cup poor Dessie suffered severe burning to his scrotum and inner thighs, despite the judicious application of Sudocrem to the wounds. The damage was caused by the lime used to mark the pitch. In 2006, he successfully sued the Football Association of Ireland for €9,000.
Intriguingly, former environment minister John Gormley appointed Larkin to the Private Residential Tenancies Board in 2008.
Earlier this year, after SIPO started its investigations, Larkin resigned his seat on the Council, declining to be drawn on the exact reasons for his decision but citing the abolition of Letterkenny Town Council and, impressively, the “way politics is at the moment” as key factors.
The news brings to an end a political dynasty that stretches back over a century in Letterkenny. In July Dessie, who clearly offers a fine business mind, was appointed Manager of Letterkenny Town Centre.
SIPO recently also found Donegal County Councillor Padraig O’Dochartaigh from Gweedore offended ethics legislatiion including by claiming double expenses from Údarás na Gaeltachta for attendance at the Association of County and City Councils’ Annual Conference 2007 at The Park Hotel, Dungarvan and later also claiming the expenses in respect of attendance at the same Conference from Donegal County Council.
Donegal County Council had referred files relating to Councillors David Alcorn, Dessie Larkin and Padraig O’Dochartaigh to SIPO which found no wrongdoing in the case of Fianna Fáil’s Alcorn.


No shame on the horizon
As if there were any doubt, after the debacle with the Spaceship Clarence Hotel, that members of jet-setting, album-foisting U2 don’t ‘get’ the environment – preferring the joys of free-market land-development – guitarist The Edge has been pushing to build five “eco-friendly” houses – including one for himself in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, an area that really doesn’t need to become more eco, since 2006. After years of shady machinations and a lawsuit he’s now obtained the support of the California Coastal Commission staff who recommended the CCC elected members approve the project with a few changes, at their next meeting, now deferred until January.
The Edge submitted plans for the five houses separately, under separate names, which CCC staff originally took as an attempt to skirt environmental rules, according to the LA Times. They also noted the scheme “would scar a steep, undeveloped ridgeline visible from much of the coastline, cause extensive geological disturbance and destroy environmentally sensitive native vegetation”.villager_oct2
A few months later, after the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy effected a volte face after the loadsamoney  Edge stumped $750,000 in cash, $250,000 worth of work by a consultant, and 97 acres of land for conservation. Later The Edge’s “extensive team” started lobbying for a pro-development, anti-environment state bill that would underpin the project though, after passing the Californian Assembly, it was rejected by the Senate.
The five houses range from 8,786 to 14,980 square feet and would be accompanied by a new 20-foot-wide access road. The State Senator – Fran Frawley who represents almost the entirety of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area – said the sprawling homes would require 40,000 cubic yards of grading, result in “potentially disastrous consequences” for wildlife and have an unprecedented “jarring visual impact” on “one of the most beautiful ridgelines along the Malibu coastline”.
Jack Ainsworth, the commission’s senior deputy director, told the LA Times he would rather not see any development at all on that ridge. But property owners have a right to build in that area, so the staff negotiated the best deal that it could, requiring houses to be clustered on a lower, less visible plateau than was originally planned, with less ecological disturbance.
Wilderness is too esoteric for this busy music mogul, and land speculator.


We forgot
The Environmental Pillar which represents environmental NGOs welcomed the Budget’s provision for €2.2 billion in social housing but is calling on the government to ensure this housing is of the highest energy efficiency.
Discreditably, in its rush to get a submission out quickly the Pillar entirely forgot to mention planning considerations.


Tomies Wood
The attempt by the burghers of Killarney to drive a new asphalt road into the heart of the lushest part of Killarney National Park at Tomies Wood continues with an unsuccessful attempt in September to prescribe a right of way throught the historic forest. Peregrine falcons and merlins frequent the Wood and for the first time, in 2013, a pair of white-tailed sea eagles nested in the area. The status of Killarney as a National Park depends on “maintenance of the respect for ecology that resulted in the original designation”.villager_oct6


Tender care
The legal dispute over the tendering process for the fire-safety consultancy at the new €650 million children’s hospital follows another row over the contract for architectural work, controversially awarded to the company which submitted the plans thrown out by An Bord Pleanála for the Mater Hospital site. FCC Fire Cert is seeking a judicial review of the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board’s decision not to award it the €400,000 contract for fire-tendering services at the hospital to be located at St James in the south inner city.
Several weeks ago the local TD, Aengus O’Snodaigh, raised questions about the award of the contract for the mechanical and electrical engineering work to Arup after it emerged that there were serious flaws during the tendering process for the even more lucrative €10 million contract. It seems that, among other contentious issues, basic mathematical errors were committed in calculating the scores awarded to the various tenders during the selection process.
The NPHDB confirmed that the errors were made but after a further delay in the decision, the award of the contract to Arup was confirmed.


Rich Richman
Villager’s theory that meaningful surnames reflect something important about the bearer strikes again with Mark Reckless who has just defected from Britain’s Tories to UKIP. David Cameron branded him a “fat arse”.
Elsewhere New England’s Hartford Courant newspaper reported recently that President Barack Obama visited the $16 million estate of Ellen and Richard Richman in the ‘Conyers Farm’ development, where the minimum lot size is 10 acres in Greenwich’s famed “backcountry” Tickets cost as much as $32,400 per person, which includes a VIP photo reception or $10,000 for dinner without the VIP treatment.


Not bus-iness as usual
An EU commission investigation concluded in mid-October that Ireland’s School Transport Scheme is not compatible with EU rules.
The scheme was agreed decades before EU competition rules came into force so the offending subsidies will not need to be refunded, but the regime will now have to be changed. Bus Éireann bravely states that it “looks forward to assisting the state in their dialogue with the Commission about this matter”. The commission began looking into the matter in 2007 after a complaint was made by a group representing private bus operators who’ve been all over the pages of Village for the last year.


Trevor Murtagh, RIP
Trevor Murtagh, a feisty, gregarious and generous-spirited young man who interned in sales with Village last year has died tragically. Villager extends the condolences of all at the magazine to his family.


Village goes on some more
It’s exactly 10 years since Vincent Browne established Village in tigerish times. To celebrate, we’re going monthly from this month. •