“Ireland’s ranking shows how little faith investors have in our ability to prevent the abuse of power. Our failure to hold people to account for wrongdoing is also having a negative impact on international perceptions of Ireland. There appears to have been very little action taken on foot of the publication of the final Moriarty Tribunal report, while The Taoiseach’s decision to make public appearances with Denis O’Brien after the publication of the report will have done our international reputation no favours” Transparency International, 5th December 2012
The man who owns 29.9% of Independent News and Media, the country’s biggest private media group and who is widely seen as controlling the group with a long-term associate installed as chairman and two nominated directors on the board, is also the man who controls the country’s largest private radio group, Communicorp and indeed his so-called “right hand man” Paul Connolly owns 50% of Elevation Media Limited which in turn owns 100% of F5 Communications (Ireland) Limited which produces the premier domestic business magazine, Business and Finance – this man is Denis O’Brien.
And this morning, he is mentioned twice in the release which accompanies the publication of the annual Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, an index which tracks countries worldwide in making their countries more honest. The 2011 Index has Ireland falling a record 11 places to be the 25th cleanest, most honest country in the world – in 2010 we were regarded by Transparency International as being the 14th most honest country in the world, six places ABOVE our neighbours in the UK; today, the UK has leapfrogged us and we are today one place BELOW the UK.
Our deterioration is blamed on what Transparency International’s Irish chief executive, John Devitt, says is “our failure to hold people to account for wrong doing”.
The statement accompanying today’s publication of the index states “The poor results come after a succession of political controversies. The Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals published negative findings against politicians and business people after 15 year-long investigations into corruption and payments to government ministers. There was further controversy a year after the publication of the final Moriarty Tribunal report when the Taoiseach shared a platform at Wall Street with Denis O’Brien, a leading businessman linked to clandestine payments to the former minister for communications, Michael Lowry. Mr Lowry was found to have influenced the award of the second mobile phone licence to Mr O’Brien’s consortium in 1995.”
This is the scene at the New York Stock Exchange on 19th March 2012 and the Sunday Independent previously claimed that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny knew that Denis O’Brien would be present 12 days in advance of the event in New York which formed part of the traditional Irish visitation to the US as part of the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Denis O’Brien and Michael Lowry have consistently disputed the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal, an Irish mechanism whereby a judge was appointed, initially to examine the finances of politicians but is probably best known today for examining the circumstances in which a mobile phone licence was awarded to Denis O’Brien in the mid-1990s when Michael Lowry was the Fine Gael communications minister. The Tribunal sat for 15 years and its ultimate cost is yet to be settled but is likely to be in the hundreds of millions, and it concluded, according to Elaine Byrne writing in the Sunday Independent in an article which I don’t believe is subject to libel proceedings “Judge Moriarty concluded that O’Brien donated almost IR£1m in “clandestine circumstances” to Lowry who, according to the tribunal, “not only influenced, but delivered” the licence.””
The latest update from Government on dealing with the Moriarty Tribunal report, from our soporific justice minister Alan Shatter appears to have been in May 2012 when he responded to a parliamentary question by saying “I am informed by the Garda authorities that following their examination of the report of the Moriarty Tribunal, they are consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether aspects of it may be pursued from a criminal point of view.”
Last year, Michael Lowry lost a libel case taken against former Independent News and Media journalist Sam Smyth with the judge in the case stating “But of course tribunal hearings and findings may be reported upon by the media and tribunal findings may certainly provide a roadmap or trail for other bodies or persons with an interest in the subject matter of inquiry, be it the Oireachtas, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or litigants who engage in private litigation. Shorn of this characteristic, the function of tribunals would be rendered totally nugatory and pointless. The critical consideration in the cases cited above is that tribunal findings do not of themselves constitute material of probative value in such proceedings. They may however point to sources of evidence which may then be accessed in that separate context.”
It seems that only does Denis O’Brien operate in some of the most corrupt countries on the planet according to Transparency International – countries like Haiti – but he is now associated with the reputation of this country deteriorating, though it should be said that he hasn’t been charged or convicted of any crime, disputes the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal and welcomes the forthcoming court case taken by the failed bidders for the mobile phone licence as an opportunity to vindicate his position.
UPDATE: 9th December, 2012. The Irish Times yesterday carried this story with reaction from Denis O’Brien who has apparently issued a statement which said “When contacted by a representative of Mr O’Brien, Mr Devitt revealed that he had included Mr O’Brien’s name in the press release even though Mr O’Brien’s name was not mentioned, referred to or raised in any of the documents on which the index for 2012 was based..when asked who took the decision to introduce Mr O’Brien’s name he [John Devitt, Transparency International] responded: ‘I would have taken the final decision’” The Irish Times also reports “But a statement released by Mr O’Brien last night said Mr Devitt had admitted earlier yesterday there was no reference to the businessman’s name in the surveys used to compile the index. “This is despite a number of mentions of Mr O’Brien in the press release” on the index, the statement said.”
There was also