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Posts tagged ‘Michael Lowry’

Dail Eireann and Moral Leadership

By Christopher M. Quigley B.Sc., M.M.I.I., M.A.

17th. April 2012

Morals matter. Moral leadership is fundamental. It is sad that a humble lowly citizen must make this point explicit to his government.

Following very expensive public tribunals certain people of Irish birth were found to have acted corruptly.In summary lest we forget:

Bertie Ahern was found corrupt.

Padge Flynn was found corrupt.

Dennis O’Brien was found corrupt.

Michael Lowry was found corrupt.

These individuals should beshunned by elected politicians if not privately then definitely publically.This is normal operating procedure in a modern parliamentary democracy. In particular with the case of Michael Lowrey, the latter individual mentioned above, the following point mustbe stressed. The fact that a “crook” has been elected to a parliament does not mean they should be given access to power. In Austria a group of rightwing radicals were elected. The European Commission refused to meet orrecognize this group even when they went into a power coalition. This action bythe commission forced a change of leadership of this radical group. Similar moral action must be brought to bear in the Irish house of government lest that hallowed body lose all respect from the struggling people of Ireland.

One final point. Alan Shatter, a man I have great respect for, has completely lost his moral focus.Mr Shatter is Minister for Justice and Minister of Defence. The courts look tohim for representation. The army looks to him for representation. The Garda Siochana look to him for representation yet he cannot say whether or not he gave representation to a “crook”.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Dail, please reflect on this issue. It is fundamental. If the Dail continues to be brought into disrepute by Dail members openly associating with crooks of the Lowry and the O’Brien type folks in Ireland will start to vote with passive resistance rather that with active voting. A tipping point is quickly beingreached.

Denying the O’Brien/Hogan meeting


OPINION: BARRING AN adverse ruling by the Competition Authority, the €45.5 million acquisition of Siteserv by the Denis O’Brien controlled Isle of Man-registered Millington, is a done deal.

Although only a small number of non-institutional shareholders turned up at the egm last week to vote on the deal, lingering questions remain.

To recap: Siteserv is a broadly based support services group that had revenues of €92.2 million in the six months to the end of October last and generated a pretax profit of €1.1 million. Siteserv includes companies such as Sierra, a provider of services to ESB, Bord Gáis, Sky and UPC; Roankabin, a specialist of temporary structures; and Deborah Services, a British construction services group. But it was struggling under the weight of €150 million of debt to Anglo Irish Bank built up during a boom-era acquisition spree.

The board of Siteserv called on shareholders to approve the €45.5 million bid from Millington, even though at least two other parties suggested they were willing to pay more. Siteserv’s corporate advisers have, however, suggested that there were conditions attached to the other deals, which were at a preliminary stage.

Under the deal, shareholders, including the current management team, would share €5 million, while the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, which is managing the Anglo run-down, would get just €40 million of its €150 million debt.

In many ways the involvement of O’Brien and his long-time lieutenant Leslie Buckley is a distraction. Since the publication of the Moriarty report, which found then minister for communications Michael Lowry “secured the winning” of the second mobile phone licence in 1995 for O’Brien’s Esat Digifone, media scrutiny of all his activities has been intense.

O’Brien’s bid for Siteserv came as a surprise, given that most of his investments are in media and telecoms. But Sierra’s business supplying services to telecoms and cable companies could benefit O’Brien, while Eventserv’s experience in infrastructure for outdoor events might have benefits for his radio and other media interests.

then we have this from the story

Denying the O’Brien/Hogan meeting


From the Department of the Environment press office on April 4 after a query relating to an alleged meeting between Denis O’Brien and Phil Hogan a couple of weeks ago and any mention of Sitserv as it relates to any future water metering contracts/tenders.

The Minister had no meeting with Denis O’Brien in recent weeks or recent years for that matter.  As regards, water reforms – including the Prog for Govt commitment to install water meters, this is very much a matter for Govt and the Minister will be bringing forward proposals on same for consideration of Govt in the coming weeks.

full article at source: http://thestory.ie/2012/04/10/denying-the-obrienhogan-meeting/


What do you expect from Gombeen politicians ? This stinks to high heaven! Backroom deals ???



The country is broke as a result of gambling, and what do we do we open a casino

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for a casino, 500-bedroom hotel and racetrack complex at Two-Mile-Borris in County Tipperary.

The 800-acre project is supported by the Independent TD, Michael Lowry, who welcomed today’s decision. The board, however, refused permission for a 15,000-seater music venue at the site.

source: http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0613/casino-business.html


This monstrosity will be and is been view as a monument to Parish Pump Politics, Gombeeniesem and Irish political cronyism. This has been enabled by one local politician selling out the rest of the country to generations of debt slavery

Who exactly does these investors believe is going to frequent in this glorified temple to gambling?

What is going to happen when this is abandoned and ends up as a great big white elephant?

No doubt they will expect the taxpayers to bail them out too.

This is parish pump politics gone mad!

“You will be assimilated resistance is futile”

Has anybody noticed that every time bad news comes out regarding new charges or taxes, we get the same old spin from the reverent Minster that it is in the program for government and it was agreed with the EU/IMF agreement? So it was this afternoon when Phil Hogan decided to come on the radio and tell the people of Ireland we are going to have to pay for our water. So to recap the EU and the IMF are now dictating domestic policy. What Taxes we pay, what laws we must abide by. So what use are the likes of Phil Hogan and the rest of his sell out band of stooges in the so called new Irish Government to the Irish people? None! .There are no more than “Implementers of Policy” for our new masters in Europe .Last night I watched a documentary on Roman History and their use of hostages. The similarities are striking. Established Roman policy of drawing subjugated people’s into the administration of their own territories by Roman influenced natives was highly successful, the populations were thus Romanized and made compliant to the Roman imposed taxes and laws in this way.

Aren’t we now in the same situation?

We get Government ministers quoting IMF and EU agreements, (that were forced on us in the first place) as justification to impose new taxes and austerity measures on our people and our voice in Europe at the same time diminishing by the day. Listen to Minster Hogan here http://www.rte.ie/player/#v=1099645

Our country and its resources are been carved up and we are just sitting back and looking on while collaborators in the Irish government enrich themselves .

Surprise! Surprise!

Looking for a surprise? then look no further

Having destroyed the country, sold us out the their buddies in Fianna Fail who in turn spent billions baling out the toxic banks and having used  foul language in the Dail ,dumped hundreds of thousands onto the dole queues  and closed thousands of hospital beds and told Emmet Stag to F***off in the Dail  we now have to put up with this c***  from Paul Gogarty . This guy displayed  the inner thug inside Please tell me this is an April fools joke!All we need now is a Michael Lowry, Dennis O Brine and Ben Dunn band to announce their point dates .

Not “one red cent” Mr.Kenny!

The government says it will not put “one red cent” more into the banks until we know the size of the overall requirement.

By namawinelake |

 The expression “one red cent” is gaining a lot of currency here in recent times. The origin of the expression is said to be the copper-ish red colour of the lowest unit of currency, the cent, in the US in the early 19th century and is used to betoken the smallest sum of money possible – to not pay “one red cent” means to pay nothing. Not only did Denis O’Brien unconvincingly – in the sense that most respondents to an opinion poll published in last weekend’s Irish Independent, didn’t believe him – claim that he had not paid former Minister Michael Lowry a “red cent” in return for favours in awarding a mobile telephone licence in 1995, but it was only a month ago when then-Opposition parties were eager to tell us that they would not be putting “another red cent” into Irish banks until the results of the stress tests became known in March.
Well, here we are one month later, and the stress test results will be published tomorrow but as this is Ireland, we seem to have had a healthy dose of leaks already which has caused Irish Life and Permanent to suspend trading of its shares until 1st April and the consensus is that the stress tests will indicate that a further €20bn will be needed by the banks to meet stringent capital requirements. This is €15bn less than the €35bn allotted to resolving our banking difficulties in the EU/IMF bailout, though it’s not clear which contributor to the bailout – EFSF/EFSM/IMF/domestic resources – will see a reduction in their contribution. However if the additional cost of capitalising the banks is put at €20bn then that will still mean that the cumulative bank bill will rise to €66-71bn. The table below is from the Department of Finance last September 2010 and shows the commitments at that time.
Anglo was to have cost us €29-34bn and unless we get an update on Anglo’s needs tomorrow (remember the stress tests didn’t touch Anglo or INBS) then we will probably have a range of values tomorrow also.
So what next? Will the stress tests be debated in the Dail and will options be explored including default? Will the Coalition simply stump up the €20bn without debate? Is it imperative that we act on the results of the stress tests immediately or have we the freedom to ponder our options over the coming weeks? Is now the time to re-open the “burning the bondholders” debate
– remember this was the bondholder position in Irish banks in February 2011, although there has been a massive redemption of bonds since the guarantee in September, 2008 there are still substantial sums that can, theoretically, be burned. Here are a few scenarios for the next few days.
(1) The government tells our bailout partners, particularly the ECB, that when we accepted the bailout in November 2010, the understanding was that the maximum additional sum required for the banks would be €10bn – after all, that is what one of the key negotiators, Central Bank of Ireland, Patrick Honohan was saying – and now that it is €10bn more, this is an appropriate time to discuss burden sharing. Might the ECB be supportive of burning the €16bn of unsecured unguaranteed senior bonds, maybe by paying them 50c in the euro.
(2) The government accepts the €20bn additional cost for bailing out the banks, but requires the ECB “medium term” facility to be set at €190bn, not €60bn. In that way, Irish banks will have a strategic certainty which they presently don’t have – the ECB, which is providing exceptional liquidity support, might unilaterally pull the plug. No country should allow its banking system to operate on this hand-to-mouth basis, especially since the “hand” is the ECB and beyond the nation’s control.
(3) The government accepts the €20bn additional cost for bailing out the banks but requires the EU to provide its element of the bailout at a cost interest rate, that is 2.8%. The 3% saving would amount to some €10bn in interest savings over 10 years. Given the Irish nation is taking on 100% of the banks’ liabilities, including those to shaky banks in Germany, France and the UK, then the least that can be done is to provide these funds at cost.
(4) The government accepts the €20bn additional cost and seeks a stimulus grant from the EU to allow our economy to grow so that the debt can be repaid and we don’t default. The stimulus might be used to fund capital programmes in broadband and communications, energy, transport, education, health, security including prisons. It happened before in the 1990s. Surely we now need it more than ever.
(5) The government accepts the €20bn additional cost but seeks an extension of the term over which the EU loans can be repaid. If the EU element of the bailout has to be repaid by 2018 and repayments start in 2015 then that means we need find €10bn per annum which might still be costly to secure from the market.
(6) The government chooses the nuclear option and takes the position that not only is the additional €20bn not sustainable but the €35bn of promissory notes already created last year for Anglo and INBS will not be honoured. The government disowns the guarantee, perhaps justifying itself on the basis that the guarantee was founded on incorrect information. A bank resolution process is put in place which protects depositors to €100,000 or €20,000 and beyond that, the banks are wound down as would normal commercial companies. No-one realistically believes the nuclear option will be pursued but it should surely be made clear that it is an option.
I have a feeling that tomorrow’s stress test results will be a bit of an anti-climax but regardless we are likely to have an official point estimate of the “final” cost of rescuing the banking system and the moment of truth will have arrived for our new government. sourceURL: http://wp.me/pNlCf-1da


Not only do I expect this Government to brake this promise I would also expect that they will add another corrupt toxic bank (Irish Life and Permanent )on the list of banks the taxpayers of this country will be lumbered with. This corrupt Financial insider trading institution has been fleecing its own customers out of millions in a hopeless attempt to fill the black hole at the centre of its toxic bank and at the same time Directors who are responsible for the worst financial meltdown of this state have continued to benefit from the perks of their lottery salaries and pension entitlements. So far this new government has done nothing to rectify this criminal activity and are turning a blind eye to this outrageous exploration of all Irish bank customers. It would appear that the new government is content in allowing the Irish banks to exploit their own customers in attempting to top up their diminishing deposits. Instead of shoring up these toxic brands, the new government should immeadely wash its hands of these criminal intuitions and start afresh with one new commercial bank. It certainly would be the cheaper option .I personally wouldn’t trust any one of the current Irish banks, they are damaged goods and thrust is long gone .Close them down now!  I am holding the Government to their promise “Not One Red Cent”

Irish Times columnist Sarah Carey resigns

The Irish Times reports that it had told Ms Sarah Carey that her credibility as a columnist had been damaged by the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal and its aftermath. In order to protect the reputation of the Irish Times, her position as a columnist was untenable. Earlier  this past week the Irish Times columnist appeared on Prime Time (see video below) and defended the reputation of Denis O’Brien, relying on the sworn evidence of civil servants that there was no political interference in the decision to award a mobile phone license to Digifone. Yeh! In the name of God should we the taxpayers of this country believe her or a high court judge? Should we just forget and ignore the dubious financial transactions that were found to have taken place? Should we just take her word for it that Denis O’Brien plays snap with Mother Teresa, Ben Dunn and Michael Lowry every Thursday night? I think not! I think the Irish Times got this one right!  

To quote Sam Smith

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

LABOUR has denied claims of cronyism !

Spotted this to-day

By Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

Monday March 28 2011

LABOUR has denied claims of cronyism after the daughter of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was asked to represent the State in a legal case.

Barrister Grainne Gilmore (28) was asked by the new Attorney General to be part of a legal team in a High Court case taken by objectors attempting to stop the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline.

The new Attorney General, Marie Whelan, was appointed by the Labour Party earlier this month.

But the party has denied allegations of a cosy relationship, pointing out that Ms Gilmore turned down the offer to work for the new AG and had carried out work for a previous AG under the Fianna Fail-led government.

It is understood Ms Gilmore, a barrister specialising in environmental law, worked for the former AG on “several occasions” when her father was on the opposition benches.

“She has undertaken work for the State during the period of office of the previous Attorney General,” a Labour Party spokesman said. “She was offered a brief in this case but declined it as she had offered advice to other parties potentially involved.”

The case involved attempts by objectors to stop the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline. The lawyers appointed to represent the State in this case are Niamh Hyland and Michael Cush.

Ms Gilmore currently teaches environmental law at Dublin Institute of Technology, having qualified as a barrister in 2008.

She previously completed a Master of European Law (LLM) at the College of Europe in Bruges and worked as a judicial extern for two US federal judges as well as a trainee at the European Commission‘s Legal Service (Internal Market and Environment) Unit.

She also taught EC Law, Environmental Law and Constitutional Law at NUIG.

legal Row muddies waters

– Aine Kerr Political Correspondent


Irish Independent

Then we have this

By Sam Smyth, Tom Brady and Aine Kerr

Monday March 28 2011

GARDAI are investigating if the Moriarty Tribunal judge’s personal phone line was tapped just a week before his damning report was published.

The Irish Independent has learned that specialist detectives examined the landline phone in Mr Justice Michael Moriarty‘s office at Dublin Castle.

An investigation was ordered by the garda authorities after they received a report outlining tribunal concerns that a landline used by the tribunal judge had been compromised.

One line of inquiry being pursued is the possibility that Mr Justice Moriarty’s most sensitive calls on his private phone line were monitored and recorded.

The garda investigation began in the days leading up to the publication of the report, but was shrouded in secrecy.

Detectives were still working on the phone probe all through last week.

But details of the investigation only emerged last night, amid ongoing fallout from the mammoth report into the circumstances surrounding the awarding of Ireland‘s second mobile phone licence in 1995.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night moved to defend his special adviser after his links to disgraced former minister Michael Lowry were highlighted over the weekend.

And Fine Gael faces another onslaught of questions in the Dail this week about the tribunal report.

Aside from the political fallout, the phone-tapping allegations only added to the growing intrigue.

Officers from the garda communications and technology unit were sent to Dublin Castle to check out the building complex used by the tribunal.

They carried out a comprehensive sweep of all telephone lines used by the judge and his staff and also checked out other equipment such as computer outlets.

But they found no evidence of any interference with the lines.

It is understood that the line was traced through a number of intermediary stages back to the telephone exchange after an incident on the phone in Mr Justice Moriarty’s office first aroused suspicion.

Checks are to be made in the next few days on external phone access points to find out if attempts had been made there to bug calls.

The publication of the report last Tuesday surprised everyone involved at the tribunal through its 14 years, including the legal teams.

Mr Justice Moriarty decided not to follow the tradition of publishing tribunal reports by having them bound and printed. The 2,230-page report concluded that businessman Denis O’Brien passed money to former Communications Minister Michael Lowry, who was found to have helped secure the telecoms mogul a mobile phone licence 16 years ago.

The Taoiseach last night launched a staunch defence of his special adviser Mark Kennelly, who worked for Mr Lowry during the period examined in the tribunal findings.

Mr Kennelly worked for Mr Lowry from 1995 to 1996, during the period when the multibillion euro mobile phone licence was awarded.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Mr Kennelly’s part during his time working for Mr Lowry.

But his recent appointment as a special adviser to the Taoiseach now leaves the party open to accusations it has failed to move on from past controversies.

“Mr Kennelly has been working for Fine Gael for the past 21 years. Only one brief period was spent with Michael Lowry,” Mr Kenny said. “He (Mr Kennelly) denies all knowledge, role or involvement whatsoever in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence.”


Mr Kennelly is not mentioned in the Moriarty Tribunal report, having previously confirmed to the McCracken Tribunal he had no knowledge of the dealings between Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien.

Mr Lowry also last night told the Irish Independent that Mr Kennelly had “absolutely nothing to do with the issues relating to the licence”.

“I think it’s a sad twist that anybody would infer that Mark Kennelly’s career should be in any way tied into this episode,” he said. “Mark Kennelly is a person of the highest integrity.”

Mr Kennelly was unavailable for comment last night.

But with opposition parties preparing to grill Fine Gael on past donations and fundraisers, the appointment of Mr Kennelly has cast a light again on party links to Mr Lowry.

TDs are preparing for a special Dail debate this week on the Moriarty Tribunal report which opposition parties will use to try and embarrass the party.

– Sam Smyth, Tom Brady and Aine Kerr

Irish Independent


and then this

EOIN BURKE-KENNEDY and PAUL CULLENMinister for Education Ruairí Quinn has rejected suggestions there was a collective failure on the part of the then-government in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s consortium in 1995.

Mr Quinn was minister for finance at the time of the licence competition and was a member of the cabinet subcommittee on telecommunications which recommended opening exclusive negotiations with Esat Digifone.

Asked on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland  if he felt the government of the day fell down on the job, Mr Quinn said: “No, I don’t”.

However, he declined to enter into a detailed discussion on the matter in advance of tomorrow’s Dáil debate on the Moriarty report.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty’s report, published last week, concluded that Independent TD Michael Lowry, then minister for communications, interfered with the competition process for the licence and secured the contract for Mr O’Brien’s consortium.

“There is a very clear record of my account that I gave to Mr Justice Moriarty in his very voluminous report, and I have no problem with the manner in which my comments have been described or, indeed, with his conclusions,” Mr Quinn said.

Asked if he thought Mr Lowry should resign following the damning revelations in the report, Mr Quinn said he supported Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore’s call for Mr Lowry to step down.

Meanwhile, former taoiseach John Bruton has expressed disappointment and regret over the licence process.

Making his first comment since the publication of the Moriarty report last week, Mr Bruton yesterday defended his actions as a member of the government that made the decision.

He said he was still in the process of reading the 2,400-page report and “would prefer not to make specific comment until I have further satisfied myself as to all the facts”.

But he added: “One has to look back on this matter with great disappointment and regret.”

He was responding to claims by Persona, which lost out to Mr O’Brien in the competition for the licence, that politicians in the then-governing rainbow coalition had failed to heed its concerns on the result.

Persona chairman Tony Boyle said yesterday his consortium contacted the Democratic Left leader Proinsias de Rossa and Mr Bruton about its reservations. Mr Bruton wrote back that the government “fully supported” the decision taken by then minister for communications Michael Lowry, Mr Boyle claimed.

In the letter, Mr Bruton wrote he was “fully satisfied that the process conducted by the minister and independent consultants was absolutely fair, objective and non-discriminatory”. He responded to Mr Boyle’s claims, citing a number of reasons why the cabinet subcommittee on telecommunications recommended exclusive negotiations be opened with Esat Digifone for the licence.

He pointed out yesterday that civil servants who assessed the bids had recommended Esat, as had an external consultant. Mr Bruton said it was the committee’s understanding that Mr Lowry was not involved in the process.

“We were also greatly reassured by the fact that civil servants from more than one department were involved,” he told The Irish Times. 

In 1995, the members of the committee were Mr Bruton, tánaiste Dick Spring of Labour and Proinsias De Rossa of Democratic Left, along with Mr Quinn.

The tribunal report stated it was “perhaps not surprising” that the four men “were left with the impression that there was a clear, unconditional and unequivocal outcome”, given the content of the documents Mr Lowry presented to them at a meeting in October 1995.

Mr Lowry bypassed consideration by his cabinet colleagues to deliver the result in favour of Esat, it said. He misled the coalition party leaders and sought to “overreach” Mr Bruton by claiming the government had no discretion in the decision.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was a matter for Mr Lowry to decide whether or not to resign as a TD.


The new government is in power a wet week and we have all this promises have been broken and waffle is the order of the day .It won’t be long before we will not know whether or not the promise not to put another cent (any colour of cent ) into the toxic banks will be honoured !

Another few months of this kind of business and we the Irish public will be asking ourselves whether on not we got any real change in the Dail. One thing is for sure the signs are not encouraging and I am now dusting off my demonstrating gear for possible use outside the Dail again !

Lowry divides Coalition parties


Divisions have emerged between the Coalition parties in their respective positions on the political future of the Independent Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry in the wake of the Moriarty report’s damning findings against him.

Fine Gael pointedly declined to respond to the comments of Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday that it was his view Mr Lowry should resign from the Dáil following the publication of the report.

“It’s my view that any public representative, any TD, who is the subject of the kind of criticism that Mr Lowry has been subject to in the Moriarty tribunal . . . should consider resigning,” said Mr Gilmore.

However, when asked about Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s view on Mr Lowry’s position in the wake of the adverse finding, his spokesman in Government said that he would not give a “knee-jerk response to the question now”. He said the Taoiseach would fully deal with the matter next week when the report was debated by the Dáil over two days.

He said it seemed the views expressed had been Mr Gilmore’s personal views. However, a Labour spokesman later made it clear he had been speaking on behalf of the party. He said that while no formal position had been adopted, Mr Gilmore was party leader and Labour’s chief spokesman.

The Fine Gael spokesman said Mr Kenny had given “two emphatic responses” to the report yesterday by referring it to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Commissioner on the one hand, and also by greatly expediting the holding of the Dáil debate.

Mr Kenny had also described the 2,200-page document as a “serious report”, he said, while also fully accepting it was “wrong” of Fine Gael to accept a donation of $50,000 from Telenor, a member of the consortium that was awarded the second mobile phone licence.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night strongly criticised Fine Gael’s refusal to comment on Mr Lowry’s position, repeating his claim that the Government’s response to the report was a “deafening silence”.

Mr Martin told The Irish Times  that Mr Kenny’s position on Mr Lowry was entirely consistent with his approach in the Dáil yesterday – “to keep the head down, try to pull down the shutters and hope that with the European summit coming up the agenda moves on. We are not going to allow it,” he said.

Earlier yesterday Mr Martin called on Mr O’Brien to “withdraw” from attacking the judiciary and warned of the danger this represented to democracy. “Given the interplay between the media, politicians and the judiciary, going down that path is very dangerous for our democracy. We must respect and honour the independence of the judiciary.”

Mr Lowry said last night he had no intention of resigning his Dáil seat despite calls for him to do so.

He also told The Irish Times  he was pleased the report was being referred to the DPP.

“There is a huge difference between the evidentiary trail that will be applied by the DPP’s office, as well as the burden of proof that is required. I think it is grossly unfair that an opinion of one individual can actually damn as many members of the public service and myself as Moriarty has done in this report,” he said.

In a similar vein, businessman and Esat founder Denis O’Brien, also the subject of adverse findings in the report, said he welcomed the referral to the DPP.

“I believe the desperately flawed nature and troubling modus operandi of the Moriarty tribunal will be quickly laid bare when subjected to an independent examination by a proper authority. The sooner that this is done the better,” he said.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan dismissed as groundless Fianna Fáil demands for him to consider his position in the light of the report’s findings. At the public hearings, there was a conflict of evidence between Mr Hogan and auctioneer Mark FitzGerald, the latter insisting he had been present at a meeting attended by Mr O’Brien.

Mr Hogan said he could not recall having been present. Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said it was clear Mr Justice Moriarty accepted the evidence of Mr FitzGerald over Mr Hogan. But Mr Hogan said the judge was silent on this matter and did not come to any conclusion. “It clearly showed that I had no influence over the licence process and had played no hand, act or part in awarding the [phone] licence,” he said. Mr Kelleher’s claims were “semantics from a political party that had been hammered in the elections”.

Denis O’Brien and the “Little People

Esat Digifone logo

Image via Wikipedia

Denis O’Brien and the “Little People”

Author: Donagh of Dublin Opinion

Published: March 23rd, 2011

Section: Articles, Politics

I’m updating this article which was first published on November 22nd 2008 and reposting it after the publishing of the final report of the Moriarty Tribunal. I felt it was necessary to complete Denis O’Brien’s story as related here, particularly as this article is getting a bit of attention today due to google searches for the term “Denis O’Brien”.

In a letter to the Irish Times on the 16th of August 2008 written in response to Denis O’Brien’s opinion piece in that paper prescribing what the Irish government should do to rectify the downturn in the economy, Macdara Doyle of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions wrote the following:

“Madam, Not even the combined talents of Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift would have been capable of generating the high farce which The Irish Times delivered on Thursday: a billionaire businessman who refuses to contribute a cent towards running the country is given space in your pages to lecture the rest of us on how it should be done.

Mr. Denis O’Brien is worth more than €2 billion and chooses to absent himself from this country for the bulk of the year in order to avoid paying tax here.

Consequently, it is the view of Congress that he should not be afforded a public platform from which to lecture and hector those of us who do contribute.”

High farce indeed. Many of the absurdities in the piece have already been laughingly torn to shreds by Michael Taft in the ILR and on his own blog, but there are a couple of points mentioned by Macdara that are worth looking at further.

Firstly, his reference to Swift suggests viewing O’Brien in the light of one of the satirist’s most famous works, Gulliver’s Travels, in which the shipwrecked Gulliver finds himself as the saviour of the little people of Lilliput. This is especially apt considering that at the moment Dennis O’Brien is CEO of Digicel, which is making a fortune selling phones to poor people right across the Islands of the Caribbean: Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Fuji, Timor and Papa New Guinea.

The history of the rise of Digicel is summarized in a 2008 Forbes magazine article about O’Brien and his mobile phone business. His business dealings in Ireland are well known: the setting up of 98FM and Communicorp; his buying up of radio stations in Ireland and throughout Europe and his winning of the mobile phone license by making payments to then Minister of Communications Michael Lowry who the Moriarty Tribunal confirms in a report that took 14 years to conclude that Lowry “not only influenced but “delivered” the result that led to Esat Digifone being licensed“. This allowed him to establish Esat Telecom, with the help of that other Irish billionaire and advisor to various Irish politicians and governments Dermot Desmond, who was brought in to the deal by O’Brien after Michael Lowry had revealed to him that “Esat Digifone was in pole position in the competition but warned him of concerns about the company’s financial footing . The subsequent selling of Esat to BT earned him a personal profit of €300 million. It is this money which Macdara is complaining about because, controversially, O’Brien chose to leave Ireland after that and was able to avoid the subsequent substantial tax bill he would have to pay if he remained resident in Ireland.


Having accumulated this whopping lump sum, O’Brien put part of it to use buying a mobile phone license in Jamaica. The attraction for O’Brien was that there was very little mobile phone ownership in the Caribbean country up to this point. As Forbes puts it:

“…the real pull was that this was a country where only the elite had access to phones. In a place like that, he could get the masses to love him.

He paid $48 million for a license and rolled out a battle plan he would use on other invasions: spend lavishly on the network (1,000 towers in Jamaica), build clean stores with cheery staff (a rarity in many developing countries) and lure customers by offering new services like per-second billing and big discounts from the competition (80% less for phones and 50% less for calls).”

Leaving aside, for the moment, the militaristic, colonialist and indeed imperialist language used to describe this entrepreneurial act (‘battle plan’, ‘invasions’) the business model seems to be: get as many customers who so far have not been able to afford mobile phones as possible by offering them cheap handsets and rapidly build new networks using borrowed funds so that they can use them. This has allowed Digicel to take the market share in each of these countries even when governments in some of them are doing everything they can to stop it.

And it is in this respect that O’Brien is like Gulliver, who on his arrival in a conflict-torn country is not attacked, but is championed by the little people. In the account provided by Forbes, the countries that O’Brien has moved into are considered some of the most dangerous on earth, yet his business manages to flourish.

“In an April riot in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the mob not only spared Digicel stores from its burning and looting but even gathered in front of a few of them and cheered. Says a jubilant O’Brien, as he reads an e-mail on the news, “They’re calling us the Company of the People.””

While in Fiji

“…Commodore Frank Bainimarama had just seized power and subjected Digicel’s chief there to a four-hour interrogation. Would the $20 million Digicel spent there go down the drain? No. A week after the coup O’Brien was sitting on a veranda with the new ruler, sipping tea. “Everyone was saying, ‘Don’t go. It’s unsafe,’” he says. “But that’s exactly the time to go in.””

obrienwithphone.JPGIs his audacity breathtaking, the entrepreneur as adventurer and hero, or should he be seen in another guise, as the colonial orientalist carving out the resources of a foreign land for personal profit? The difference is that unlike previous empire builders, the profits of his endeavor will never be repatriated. The Forbes relates an event during a whistle stop tour of four Islands which O’Brien commutes around in one day using his Lir jet. He is in Tonga and he has been told of plans to get the King of the Tongo to officially open a store. However, there is no time to dwell on the King, the Forbes’ piece says:

“O’Brien has to fly to three more countries today, and his next meeting is in Vanuatu, 3,200 miles away. “Every man for himself,” he yells to two dozen young staffers as they rush to vans heading to the airport.”

And this call seems to extend to his business philosophy.

There is another point made by Macdara that is worth highlighting in relation to the O’Brien’s business dealings, especially in Papa New Guinea. In his Irish Times piece O’Brien mentions “My own businesses overseas have benefited from the expertise of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs“. Macdara responded by saying:

“Unfortunately, Mr O’Brien failed to furnish an address where we might forward the bill for the services of which he availed, at our expense.”

But it is not only the services of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs that O’Brien is able to avail of, free of charge.

While discussing the development of his business interests in Papa New Guinea, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, and which is notoriously corrupt, the Forbes article mentions the problems that he has had to overcome:

“Government officials in Papua New Guinea weren’t so amenable at first. Soon after Digicel won a license in an auction in 2006, telecom minister Arthur Somare invalidated it on a hazy procedural ground. Lawsuits quickly followed, and O’Brien kept his license. (We should point out here that Somare is a son of the prime minister.) In any case Somare then submitted a bill to parliament to nationalize O’Brien’s operations. The fight got so bad that the man who oversaw the original auction, Thomas Abe, received anonymous threats against his family and had to move houses several times.

Digicel had a lot to lose. It had erected dozens of towers and poured concrete for dozens more. O’Brien used this to his advantage. He brought members of parliament into Digicel’s main office to show them a wall map of PNG with pushpins representing planned cell sites in villages that never had a landline connection. The plan to nationalize Digicel was defeated.

Somare wasn’t through. A few months later he decreed that Digicel could not beam microwave transmissions from its towers, potentially rendering them useless. O’Brien’s response: He launched his service on the sneak, selling phones for a heavily subsidized $6, one-fifth the state monopoly’s price. He gave away a chip that allowed state phones to run on Digicel’s network. He also gave away $6 prepaid phone cards–250,000 of them in only ten days.

Within five months Digicel had 350,000 customers, 200,000 more than the state firm, and letters began to pour into newspapers ridiculing the state for threatening a rival. “Childish and pathetic,” sniped one letter. An editorial called for competition to shake up the water and electricity monopolies, too. O’Brien contacted friends in foreign embassies to lobby the government to not touch the company. “The EU funds PNG. So do Australia and New Zealand. So we used diplomacy,” he says. A former PNG army commander was quoted ominously in a magazine saying governments that ignore the people’s will are often toppled by coups.”

On the surface, we can see that the story Forbes magazine is telling here (let us assume they are based on facts) is inevitably one told very much from the pro-Western, neo-liberal point of view. If PNG is a country that relies on money from different Western countries, including the economic might of the EU, it suggests that its attempts to prevent O’Brien’s business taking hold were based on national self-interest. If O’Brien was successful in acquiring a majority share of the market then over time the majority of the profits accrued from that market would leave PNG. Capitalist production has always required an ‘expanding’ market into which to sell. Control of the means of production in itself is not enough. It also has to ‘capture’ the markets and control them by using its greater financial power to keep out ‘foreign’ competitors.

What is worth highlighting here, however, is the access that O’Brien has within the diplomatic services of Australia, New Zealand and the EU. That an individual business man can bring pressure to bear on a government (which incidentally has a Minister who happens to be related to the nation’s leader – how banana republic is that?) by using the paymasters in these Western Governments is staggering.

What hope has a small Third World country in those circumstances? And again, it’s worth emphasizing, Denis O’Brien pays no tax in any of these Western jurisdictions. Instead he is encouraged by these countries to exploit the resources of a country that is fighting, perhaps by stretching the procedural legislative mechanisms available to it, and which, we should note, are often imposed by Western governments under the guise of the ‘normal Representative Democracy‘ required if aid is to be given in the first place, against that exploitation. And why are they fighting? To line their own pockets? Perhaps, but it seems more likely that they are merely resisting the significant economic power that the Irish tax payer, in part, has afforded Denis O’Brien, in their own national self-interest.

In the face of such pressure, however, it seems inevitably that some governments don’t even bother to resist. An Economist article from last year inform us about Digicel’s Haitian operation:

“Digicel’s critics say it has used underhand tactics, such as giving away free phones to journalists (though other firms do the same), and breaking industry rules by treating Haiti as part of Jamaica in order to offer cheap roaming. Haiti’s regulator, Conatel, found Digicel to be in violation of international standards, but was overruled by the government. Such rulings have also led to allegations that Digicel has undue political influence in some markets.”

“Undue political influence”; sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But that’s globalization for you. “Every man for himself and feck the begrudgers”. In the same article it is reports that:

“Mr O’Brien claims he has grown used to all the criticism, and suggests that jealous rival operators are behind it. “The problem with them is that they are too flat-footed,” he says.”

Denis O’Brien is perhaps not the tallest man in the world, but through his businesses in Ireland he has turned into a capitalist colossus. In the conclusion of his letter Macdara notes:

“…perhaps he really does believe that taxes are for “little people”.”

In Gulliver’s Travels the little people of Lilliput charged him with treason when he refused to help them; they attempted to tie him down, and ultimately, blind him. They failed. He broke his binds and skipped the country. There were other islands to conquer.


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