Donegal County Council's Budget-passing woes

A small sidebar piece on page four of today’s Sunday Tribune raised a half-smile-half-grimace from me.

Today’s edition hasn’t gone online yet, so I can’t link, quote or send traffic to, unfortunately. However, the story to which I refer is pretty much a rewrite of this piece from the Donegal Democrat. One-line summary; the 10 Fianna Fáil county councillors in Donegal passed the annual council Budget while the other 19 councilors were out of the room.

Carolyn Farrar of the Democrat reports…

Labour Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jr said that Donegal Mayor, Fianna Fáil Cllr. Brendan Byrne, has broken the trust in the council chamber by allowing a quorum of 10 Fianna Fáil councillors to adopt the 2010 budget while the remaining 19 were in a meeting down the hall.

[…] This was Cllr. McBrearty’s first budget meeting and he said he was led to believe meetings would be adjourned and reconvened several times to allow for negotiations among parties, as they had been in the past.

“Dirty tricks politics is what it is,” Cllr. McBrearty said. He said the move will affect the way he sees the chair.

Note: Labour, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and one independent are in coalition to run the council.

How does the Fianna Fáil mayor, who is also the chair – therefore, neutral – feel? Ocean FM reports… Continue reading “Donegal County Council's Budget-passing woes”

Digest – Jan 3 2010


Fiona de Londres of UCD on the Human Rights in Ireland blog, writes about the blasphemy law.

Cian O’Callaghan of Ireland After NAMA on NAMA staff being exempt from public sector pay cuts.

Belfast Gonzo of Slugger on dissident republican’s “uninspiring” New Year’s statement.

Suzy on the Green Party state board appointees.

Interesting piece on the possible non-illegalities and potential failures of the Athiest Ireland campaign of purposeful blasphemy by Colm MacCárthaigh.

Brendan Hughes of the Irish Internet Association’s Social Media Working Group on the opportunities for Ireland in 2010.

There has been a growing mistrust of all that is BIG. Big business. Big government. Big economy. Big media. Big brand. Big church. The past 18 months was particularly torrid for BIG. The corporations and institutions that dominate modern society, for increasing numbers, are no longer seen as the bastions of all that is good. The doubters are no longer just those on the fringes or with leftist leanings. Capitalists, communist and fundamentalist alike are taking a stand.

In many cases we are revolutionaries and not even aware of it. Have you transferred from a monopolistic brand in favour of a new market entrant? Have you read a blog instead of an opinion piece on a broadsheet? Have you purchased online from a foreign retailer rather than head to the local mall? There are many small acts that cumulatively and over time mark a clear shift in intention and action away from BIG organisations.

However BIG is not going away…

VonPrond on Student “Enterprise”. This raised a few questions for me. He notes that many students would be engaged in would could technically be called full-time employment. I worked about 30 hours a week while in college, I think, taking in freelancing and part-time working. I then quit part-time working (in Debenhams, oh, the glamour) and struggled freelancing for a while before taking two (unpaid) internships which led to reliable freelance work (for the time being). I should still be in college now, actually, but deferred the last year. Continue reading “Digest – Jan 3 2010”

JOD expenses OCR

When I originally scanned the expenses documents of former Minister for Tourism and Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, they were images only, and individuals pages were uploaded as individual documents. To make it easier for reference, I have combined and OCRd the expenses.

Department of Tourism

JOD Turin
JOD Manchester
JOD New York
JOD London/Ascot
JOD India
JOD Berlin
JOD Venice
JOD Stuttgart
JOD Birmingham
JOD London
JOD Paris

Ceann Comhairle

Explanatory note and schedules (21 pages)
Domestic travel and one stop shop constituency expenses (935 pages)

Taoiseach expenses, India 2006

As part of my previous FOI for the Taoiseach’s diary for 2006, I also sought a breakdown of expenses and receipts for expenses incurred by the Department of the Taoiseach as part of a trade mission to India in early 2006. I have previously sought details from Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Education for their expenses in relation to this trip.

This is not a complete breakdown, I have some more left to scan. I will add those shortly. Taoiseach8 details some expenses occurred in relation to car hire from Cartel Limos, the same firm that brought John O’Donoghue from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.

Travel and subsistence breakdown, India 2006

Database FOIs

Back in August when I got copies of Ken Foxe’s FOIs relating to John O’Donoghue one of the first things I noticed was the footers. For example, if you look at this document and look at the bottom, you will notice a web address. It’s not an internet web address per se, but it does give a clue as to how the expenses system in use by the Department is structured.

The word Oracle was all over the documents, so it didn’t take long to figure out that the expenses systems in use at the Department was Oracle iExpense, part of the Oracle e-business suite – notice the “OIE_EXPENSE_” towards the end of the address (I’m not quite sure why is mentioned). Thankfully Oracle manuals not just for iExpense, but also helpful instructions for the graphical user interface, and even instructions on how to install the application are all available online.

Other bits of information were also important. Cost centre numbers, fields detailing “expense type”, “justification”, “date”, “cost center purpose”, as well as ID numbers for every expense.

So back in August, while Mr O’Donoghue was still in office, I sent an FOI to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism: Continue reading “Database FOIs”

Digest – Dec 27 2009

Quick snap Digest for you this week as I’m in work, did nothing over the pre-Christmas week and am just catching up on things tonight.

Rob Kitchin on Ireland After NAMA writes about the latest figures from the CSO on private and public sector earnings.

Slovenia still blocking Croatia from EU, The EU Observer reports. It’s almost childish by now.

Nick Cohen in The (UK) Observer on the child abuse case relating to Liam Adams and IRA secrecy. The Tribune leads today with evidence that Liam Adams canvassed with Gerry Adams in Dundalk in 1997, which contrasts with Gerry’s claims they were “estranged”. All read via Slugger.

Glen Greenwald on The New York Times‘s idea of objectivity. More good Greenwald reading here also, where he writes on the media’s reporting of air-strikes.

Again, relating to the NYT; on December 23 they published an old-news-based, poorly structured, Op-ed calling for the immediate bombing of Iran. Go read it if you’re interested in what the right side of the hawks in the Republican party were saying five years ago – because there’s nothing at all new in it.

Harry McGee, political correspondent for The Irish Times reacts to a Vincent Browne article criticising political correspondents for going too soft on the Taoiseach. My feelings on the matter are contained in my comment on the post which you can read over on the Irish Times Politics blog.

Post of the Week goes to Karl Whelan of IrishEconomy who caught the newsdump and threw it back, thank god for blogs because I would have missed the story.

In other words, their recommended cuts were in addition to the suspension of bonuses, which they recommended re-introducing at some point.

Fourth, it appears that senior civil servants are the only group in Irish society that get to count earlier cuts as part of their current cuts. For instance, the cuts to social welfare payments announced in the budget are in addition to the 2% cut related to the elimination of the Christmas bonus. Would the government consider changing its cuts in social welfare rates to take account of this?

Essentially, senior civil servants will get tiny –  or no – pay cuts while all others will be hit for up to 7%.

Also, Suzy has a great round-up of the pre-Christmas newsdumps, and there were a few this year.

New Revision has a list of the 50 best photoshop tutorials (thanks to Lauren and Josh for the share on GReader for that one).

If you haven’t read Gav’s post on Fingleton, Irish Nationwide and the wider context to the McCreevy loans, please do so now.

Marc Lynch (who formerly blogged under the name Abu Aardvark) of Foreign Policy writes about media coverage this week in the Arab world. He says, in relation to the failed bombing of a US-bound plane that “whether it’s Al Qaeda or not, nobody in the Arab media cares“. Lynch goes on to say the main story in the Arab world at the moment is about Gaza, which we’ve heard relatively little about in the West.

The Arab media’s indifference to the [aviation] story speaks to a vitally important trend. Al-Qaeda’s attempted acts of terrorism simply no longer carry the kind of persuasive political force with mass Arab or Muslim publics which they may have commanded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.   Even as the microscopically small radicalized and mobilized base continues to plot and even to thrive in its isolated pockets, it has largely lost its ability to break out into mainstream public appeal.

P O’Neill of Best of Both Worlds blogs on Irish Election about NAMA’s 6 Degrees of Separation.

And that’s all I’ve got time for this week, am knackered, have work to do, not like there’s many reading blogs this week anyway. Hope you had a good Christmas, as a late night Irish newscaster once said live on air; “good night… to both of you.”

Morgan Kelly on how we got here

I can’t really add much to Mr Kelly’s excellent analysis. What it says to me is that the next 12 to 18 months are going to be among the most difficult, if not the most difficult, time this country has faced. I encourage everyone to read the entire document.

I will emphasise his conclusion:

Despite having pushed the Irish state close to, and quite possibly beyond, the limits ofits fiscal capacity with the NAMA scheme, the Irish banks remain as zombies whose only priority is to reduce their debt, and who face complete destruction from mortgage losses. The issue therefore is not whether the Irish bank bailout will restore the Irish banks sothat they can function as independent commercial entities: it cannot. Rather it is whether the Irish government’s commitments to bank bond holders when added to its existing spend-ing commitments, will overwhelm the fiscal capacity of the Irish state, forcing outside entities such as the IMF and EU to intervene and impose a resolution on the Irish banking system.

Michael Fingleton, INBS and Mespil

Prime Time Investigates did a special into the banking and lending industry in Ireland the other night, and highlighted previously undisclosed 100% fast track loans given to politicians, including former Finance Minister Charle McCreevy.

Nothing of the programme was really surprising, but it did add extra details to the dealings of Michael Fingleton, a man with a coloured history, as I blogged about back in April.

Part of the reasons none of the details were the surprising is because there is prior form. Irish Nationwide have been giving special loans to special people for a very long time. If you cast your mind back to the Mespil Homes deal in the early 1990s, you see the same pattern.

So who else did Irish Nationwide (Michael Fingleton being one in the same, as Primetime demonstrated) provide loans for? Let’s look again at Mespil, as I blogged back in April:

The current editor of the Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, then a reporter, wrote a story in May 1993 that Michael Fingleton got a mortgage from Irish Nationwide, the society he was managing director of, towards the purchase of a 1-bedroom flat in the Mespil Estate. In all, Mr Fingleton bought four apartments. with one mortgaged from the society.

But Mr Fingleton was not the only one to buy apartments in the estate, and not the only one to get a mortgage from Irish Nationwide. Solicitor Andrew O’Rourke bought two apartments in trust for two daughters of then Fianna Fail taoiseach Albert Reynolds, Emer and Leonie.

100% mortgages were advanced to 51 customers to buy 93 apartments. These included the then Attorney General Harry Whelehan, broadcaster Marian Finucane, AIB’s Anthony Spollen, former publican Dessie Hynes and the then Comptroller and Auditor General Patrick McDonnell.

Of course Mr Fingleton had not declared the purchased of the apartment, as he was obliged to do under the Building Societies Act. He later corrected the record. The following year, further details emerged. Central Bank filings in 1994 showed that seven loans totalling £342,000 were made to people and a company connected with society chairman Peter O’Connor. Five loans totalling £163,000 were made to people connected to director John Murphy.

Four loans with a total value of £125,500 were made to people connected to Mr Fingleton, including the £110,000 loan to himself. Three loans were advanced to Peter O’Connor, son of the chairman. Mr Fingleton’s brother also took out loans.

As long ago as 1994, Mr Fingleton’s salary, then an enormous £249,000 a year, was questioned by shareholders.

In 1999, Mr Fingleton was threatened with imprisonment by a High Court judge over the employment and treatment of a branch manager in Cavan town.

All very interesting. But how does it relate back to our current questions?

Fast forward to 2000, and the Flood Tribunal is in full swing. On April 19, 2000, Frank Dunlop stopped stonewalling and after reflecting overnight, said he had participated in wholescale corruption. I myself was at the Flood Tribunal that day.

Someone else was giving evidence that day though, Michael Fingleton.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? In 2000 Mark Keenan wrote an analysis of the Mespil deal for the Sunday Tribune. He looked at it from the angle of the tenants of the apartments, elderly people who had their rented homes essentially sold from under their feet. But let’s look at it again in light of the Primetime programme.

Continue reading “Michael Fingleton, INBS and Mespil”

Today, Dec 22; over the last ten years

My little way to mark the end of the first decade of the millennium, through an Irish prism; selected news stories from the December 22nds of the last ten years. All from the Irish Times archives.

1999 McCreevy plans action on PAC report into DIRT

2000 Court fixes Lawlor case for this month

2001 Minister refuses to comment on IMMA argument (about political interference in appointment process)

2002 Ex-O’Brien accountant says letters were forged

2003 Ray Burke paid €41,492 pension as ex-minister (despite claiming free legal aid)

2004 Revenue takes €97m from tax-evaders in three months

2005 O’Brien fails to stop Bacon testifying

2006 Ahern says he was treated unfairly

2007 Tribunal raises new £5,000 sum raised by Taoiseach

2008 Bank manager supports Gilmartin’s allegations

2009 Labour seeks answer to RTÉ report (on Charlie McCreevy’s – amongst others – relationship with Michael Fingleton)

Anyone seeing a pattern?

Note: I think one is from a December 21st or 20th because the 22nd was a Saturday or something. They were collated over the course of the day whilst working on another piece.