“There has been considerable public and political unease about the fact that Mr. O’Brien has continued to pop up at various public events, most recently at the New York Stock Exchange. However, the Taoiseach was invited to attend that stock exchange event. The organisers of the event not the Office of the Taoiseach decided who was on the balcony for the bell ringing ceremony. It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals.” Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton speaking in the Dail 28th March 2012
During the usually-mindnumbing questions to An Taoiseach in the Dail this afternoon, Enda Kenny was asked about this summer’s G8 Summit in Fermanagh, and as is his wont, An Taoiseach rambled off about everything and anything, and after pointing to the large Irish investment in the United States, which apparently supports 100,000 jobs there, Enda went on to say that at the recent Davos summit, he discussed communications investment in Myanmar (Burma). Enda mentioned talks with that nice man, Bill Gates, but he didn’t once mention Denis O’Brien, who also happened to be at Davos and who is presently throwing much of his resources in securing a mobile licence in Myanmar, which in 2012 was ranked 172 out of 174 by Transparency International in their table of the world’s most corrupt countries.
Denis told a High Court hearing last week – in a case examining his claim of defamation in the Daily Mail newspaper – that he was based in Malta because 95% of his business was outside Ireland, “from Fiji to the Caribbean” He was responding to the proposition that he had a flat in Malta to reduce his tax bill on hundreds of millions of dollars. So, it is not exactly clear what benefit Ireland can derive if Denis does secure a mobile licence in Burma. And consequently, why An Taoiseach would involve himself in any venture to invest in Myanmar. Would Enda be supportive of investment in North Korea or Zimbabwe?
Now, despite the hostility on here towards Denis and his control of Irish media and the adverse findings of the Moriarty Tribunal – findings, which Denis rejects and claims have no legal standing – it seems well-established that Denis is a highly successful businessman who has built multi-billion euro businesses in the Carribbean, central/south America and the Pacific. And as he will tell you himself, he supports hundreds of Irish jobs via several companies including Siteserv, Communicorp and Independent News and Media; and although he mightn’t be a philanthropist of the stature of an Andrew Carnegie, he has a vast history of supporting charitable causes, including the Irish international football team.
On the other hand, the justice minister says An Garda Siochana is still seeking advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions over any possible action resulting from the evidence, hearings or findings of the Moriarty Tribunal, a Tribunal which reported in March 2011, 23 months ago. And whilst such deliberations continue, it seems inappropriate for the Taoiseach, who belatedly accepted the conclusions of the Moriarty Tribunal, to be potentially promoting the business interests – Enda didn’t mention Denis today, but if he is supportive of communications investment in Burma, then that should be of direct or peripheral benefit to Denis – of a man against whom a Tribunal reached such adverse findings.
UPDATE: 13th February, 2013. The transcript of what An Taoiseach said in relation to Burma is now available here. He said ” When speaking to people in Davos, the issue of the opening up of Myanmar, the former Burma, arose. It is a country of which we do not have great knowledge, although there were real connections between Ireland and Burma as it was called. That country of 60 million has a huge range of natural resources, yet some 58 million of its people have never had access to communications. That country will move from what might be termed ground zero to cloud computing and cloud access straight away. The scale of the investment there will be enormous. The scale of the investment there will be enormous. When the G8 informs us that in the next five years, an extra 3 billion people will have access to the Internet, we see the scale and capacity of what is involved.I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Bill Gates and his wife who were here recently representing his foundation. Think of the impact of the elimination of polio.”