Irish Scandal Index

November 2005

October 2005

Planning at hotel beside Trim Castle controversy
Land registry official corruptly accepting cheques
Prison land in North Dublin bought for €30 million
PPARS/FISP – €150 million wasted on computer system that did not work
Solicitor overcharging allegations on radio, Law Society investigation
Frank Shortt awarded just €1.93m for miscarriage of justice

September 2005

Irish Ferries lay-offs dispute
Frank McBrearty Jnr settles with State for €1.5m
Man dies in Garda custody after apparent suicide
Parents of Brian Rossiter criticise inquiry

Index

Idea: make a brief note of every scandal to hit Ireland, catalogue them, link back to archives and articles, making Irishcorruption.com a clearing house for all scandals.

Shortt awarded €1.93m for wrongful conviction

It sounds like a massive amount, but really, it seems incredibly small for the trauma Frank Shortt went through. It really is staggering that in an apparent modern democracy that these kind of abuses took place. Instead of quoting the article in IT, let me paraphrase.

In 1995 a 60 year old man, Frank Shortt, married father of 5 children, was convicted in relation to alleged sale of drugs on his premises at the Point Inn nightclub in Donegal. While in prison he had 6 other charges hanging over him. Before he had the chance to sell the nightclub it burnt down, leaving him with nothing.

Det Garda Noel McMahon and Supt Kevin Lennon of the Buncrana division suppressed evidence, planted evidence and perjured evidence was relied upon during the original trial.

Frank Shortt served over 2 years in prison, released in 1998, for crimes he was framed for. The Gardai involved did not expect Shortt to get a jail term but did nothing to remedy the situation subsequently.

Shortt, now 70, was cleared. He received €806,221 for losses related to Point Inn, plus €550,000 for loss of profits. He was awarded damages of €500,000 under the Criminal Procedure Act. He was also awarded costs plus a substantial exemplary damages put at €50,000.

He is right to appeal, it essentially ruined 10 years of his life, and he deserves far more having suffered such an injustice at the hands of the State.

Fact checking Willie O'Dea

Well the question was bound to come up on Questions and Answers, and it took a good bit of waffle before we could down to the meat of the question.

Enter random audience person with very specific question (18th minute):

…last week the Taoiseach, when he was accused of rip off and mismanagement, stated and I quote, that the accusations were erroneous, not true, unfair and incorrect. If they guy at the top doesn’t think there’s a problem, what’s the story there?

Those words were used by the Taoiseach on October 4th during Leaders questions. To quote him:

…I will just touch on some of the issues. The PPARS system started off first in the mid 1990s when the health boards decided they needed a better payroll system because they did not even know how many people were working for them at the time. They looked at setting up a payroll system for a number of the health boards at the time and the estimated cost was €9 million or €10 million. Early estimates changed over the three-year period from 1998 to 2000 to €17 million. The highly respected Hay organisation undertook a full appraisal and review of the level of investment that would be required to finish the project properly, during its transition from a payroll system to a whole human resource management system that would be unlike what was envisaged or presented at the outset. The initial payroll system became a system dealing with personal information, pension payments, recruitment, time management and rostering. It became an entirely different system. The Deputy’s suggestion that the projected cost of the system increased from €10 million to €150 million is erroneous and unfair and should not be entertained.

[Emphasis added]

Now enter Willie O’Dea, master political tactician – but only recent recipient of cabinet level post.

O’Dea: I think, I think in fairness now, I have to refute that last comment. He wasn’t talking about a waste of public money. He was, he was, he was talking about some of the arguments advanced in the Dail, some of the other examples used. I mean he wasn’t referring directly to this. The Taoiseach came into the Dail, the Taoiseach came into the Dail and admitted, quite freely, quite freely, that there was a, quite freely, that this was just quite frankly unacceptable.

[Emphasis added]

That is contrary to the facts. Go look. The answer given by the Taoiseach was in direct reply to a question specifically dealing with PPARS, and nothing else. And after looking through leaders questions from last week I have yet to find anywhere the Taoiseach ‘quite freely’ admitted it was unacceptable, if anything the tone of the Taoiseach was denial.

I guess one could say that Willie O’Dea lied. But that language might be too strong, might it not?

Warning over 'huge' cost of excavating prison site

Back to that story about the over-priced land purchased to build a new prison in North County Dublin. Frank McDonald writing in today’s Irish Times notes:

The 150-acre site in north Co Dublin selected for a new prison complex to replace Mountjoy could cost millions more to excavate than the €30 million paid for it, according to leading archaeological experts.

Ten days ago the High Court granted leave to objectors to commission their own geo-physical survey of the site. If this confirms what is already known from aerial photography, an archaeological excavation “would cost an absolute fortune”, one expert said.

Dr Mark Clinton, who headed a similar excavation of the Carrickmines Castle site in south Co Dublin, said the Thornton Hall site was part of a known archaeological landscape extending back to prehistoric times and “can’t be isolated from it like an asteroid floating in outer space”.

He said the archaeological excavation at Carrickmines involved a core area of three to four acres. The cost came to €6.5 million by the time it came to an end in 2003.

John Maas, an expert in analysing aerial photographs, said the much more extensive Thornton Hall site contained “layer upon layer of archaeology from continuous habitation, probably dating back to around 7,000 BC” and the State had “a duty under law to excavate it”.

And McDowell’s thinking on this issue?

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell is on record as saying that he would not be put off building a prison by any “guff about fairy forts or architecture”.

McDowell is a dangerous man with regard to the heritage of the Irish nation. Do you agree?

Irish/Italian accountability

The ongoing case involving the Bank of Italy’s governor, Antonio Fazio makes an interesting comparison with how things are done in the Banana Republic of Ireland.

Fazio is facing questioning by magistrates for allegedly abusing his position by favouring Italian banks over foreign banks. If Italian standards of investigation and accountability were applied in Ireland, there would be dozens if not hundreds of Irish executives and politicians in jail.

Let’s just compare the Italian case with one of the hundreds of corrupt practices uncovered in the Banana Republic in recent years.

Irish banks and other financial institutions robbed hundreds of millions from the State through a well organised fraud involving DIRT tax. The Central Bank, Dept of Finance, Revenue Commissioners and various Ministers for Finance all knew that this fraud was in operation. Indeed, Revenue actually facilitated the fraud by issuing a memo that specifically prevented its own officials from checking the banks.

When the media (the only effective regulator in Ireland) uncovered the fraud, the banks were only required to pay back a portion of the money stolen, with some interest. No police, no magistrates, no courts, no jail, no accountability.

In Italy, Fazio is merely accused of favouring an Italian bank over a foreign bank in a takeover bid. For this he could be facing a three year jail sentence. In Ireland, this kind of activity would attract praise and promotion.

But most astonishing of all for Irish citizens, used to living in a state without integrity or accountability, is to witness the Italian Economy Minister, Domenico Siniscalco, resign in protest over the scandal saying that Italy’s reputation was being damaged.

Two Laws

Every once in a while a case/report appears in the media that crystalises how things are done in the Banana Republic of Ireland. Last Saturday’s Irish Times reported on the case of a Land Registry official who is facing charges of corruptly accepting cheques. The Department of Justice issued the following statement.

“A number of irregularities came to light in the Land Registry during 2003 in relation to the processing and payment of fees for certain services.”The gardaa­ were duly notified and they undertook an investigation into the matter. The matter is now before the courts. No further comment can be made at this stage as it is subjudice.”

In today’s Irish Times we read

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin has directed that information amassed in an inquiry into three companies linked to the Ansbacher affair be passed from his department to a number of other public bodies.

The ordinary official is in court on corruption charges two years after his alleged crime but according to the Irish Times report involving the Ansbacher scandal

the findings of the investigations into Hamilton Ross, Guinness & Mahon Ireland and College Trustees remain secret, some seven years after they were initiated

(Just allow me to repeat that – remain secret some seven years after they were initiated)
The case of the ordinary official in the Land Registry office is a good example of how real democracies deal with alleged corruption – Investigation: charges: trial: appropriate punishment. (All carried out efficiently and applied to the rich and powerful as well as to ordinary citizens)
This system results in respect for justice, respect for law and order, a sense of equality in society, and international respect for our democracy.

The Ansbacher criminality primarily involves rich and powerful citizens. None of those involved will face criminal charges, none will see the inside of a jail. Deals will be done, arrangements will be made, secrecy will be maintained.
This system results in cynicism, loss of respect for law and order, loss of respect for democracy, international contempt and the deserved title – Banana Republic of Ireland.

Only one event at centre this year is equestrian

Everyone remembers the controversy surrouding State funding for this center in Kildare, then Charlie McCreevy’s constituency. It seems now that all that taxpayers money was given away for nothing, as we all expected.

Just one event taking place in the controversial Agricultural and Equestrian Event Centre in Punchestown this year can be described as either equestrian or agricultural, an Oireachtas Committee heard yesterday.

During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) the €15 million State-funded centre was described by the Department of Agriculture as meeting a need in the agricultural and equestrian sectors for such a facility.

The department was presenting a review of the project which claimed it was properly sited at Punchestown and provided a positive economic and social benefit.

Pac chairman Michael Noonan of Fine Gael questioned the relationship between a series of events taking place at the centre this year and the agricultural and equestrian sector. These included a chilled food show, the Oxegen Rock concert, a car show, a house and garden exhibition, a Christmas trade show and a commercial truck show.

He said that of the 10 events at the centre this year, the only event that appeared to be linked to agriculture was the Kildare Growers’ show, a horticultural show taking place at the moment.

“There seems to be a divergence between the theory and the practice,” Mr Noonan said.