Dermot Ahern on Molloy's Golden Handshake

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern spoke about Rody Molloy’s €1m slap on the back and the viablity of Mary Coughlan’s position as tánaiste on RTÉ’s The Saturday View, earlier. Click the latest show button to have a listen.

Rachael English asked him if he agreed with his Fianna Fáil back bench colleagues who called Molloy’s pension “madness”.

He opened with a complete irrelevancy and based the rest of his defence on it.

“The fact is, eh, at the particular time, eh, the board spent, eh, well over a day, eh, discussing this issue… emmm… obviously they had certain information, eh, [which] they based their judgment on…”

I do not believe this was the case. I believe the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment would have had to sign off on all this and thus she, as head of the department, was responsible.

However, if it is the case that the board made the final decision to give Mr Molloy €11,000 a year extra on top of his pension, why was it not a member of the Government? Last time I heard, a civil servant didn’t have such a mandate. So who is responsible according to Minister Ahern?

He continues, referring now to Rody Molloy’s outrageous expenses…

Continue reading “Dermot Ahern on Molloy's Golden Handshake”

Finance briefing documents

As part of my FOI request seeking the diary of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, I also sought briefing documents used by himself and the Department’s Secretary General David Doyle. My request asked for:

1. The diary of the Minister for Finance (dates given)
2. Briefing notes prepared for the Minister for Finance for an appearance before the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, and
3. Briefing notes prepared for the Secretary General of the Department of Finance for his appearance before the PAC.

Item two was refused outright.

Item three. Is largely granted but a number of records or parts of records have been refused. Furthermore, records relating to the President do not fall within the scope of the Act and accordingly, that part of the briefing material concerned with Vote 1 (President’s Establishment) has been excluded (S. 46 (d)).

In the document they outline what has been included. I am uploading these documents in parts, because it was over 200mb (800 pages) in size.

Part 1 is now available.

Help us with The Big Dig

Update: We’ve removed date of births after a question about data protection. We don’t think we’d have a problem with it but we’re being conservtive, it’s too early to ask for readers to donate to our litigation battles! We had most of the info already and kept a copy, just removed it from the public doc…

Myself and Gavin are working on a number of long-term projects looking into the financial and business backgrounds of our public representatives.

One of these projects could be thought of as the deepest dig into the business interests of Irish politcians undertaken… well, ever. We’ll be looking at all serving TDs and their business interests (not just in Ireland), whether they’re director, manager, or shareholder, and doing similar digs on other public representatives, over the next few months.

Be assured, we have some nice shovels at our disposal.

To begin, as this is a crowdsourcing experiment, we’re asking readers for help. I’ve set up a document which can be publicly edited that we’d would love some assistance completing.

The categories that require attention are:

  • TDs Name in English (if Irish used)
  • Profession (pre-politics)
  • Date of birth
  • Partner’s name (pre-marriage and/or if possible, post-marriage)
  • Partner’s date of birth
  • Obviously, we don’t expect to be able to crowdsource all this information – I suspect there’ll be almost no available data on partner’s date of birth – but each nugget will be useful. Of course, we’ll have to confirm it ourselves before we publish any resulting stories, but this is to give us some direction.

    It also saves us a fair few hours which we can use to dig about rather than spend building the foundations of the investigation.

    All the relevant information we gather will be made public and, if applicable, connected to the KildareStreet database, upon completion of the diggin’.

    And vandals, if there are any out there, we can roll the document back to X:XXpm/am at any point, ruining it is simply a waste of your time.

    Help us find out more about your TDs’ business history

    Thanks in advance.

    Liam Carroll's web of companies

    I’ve made a stab at tracking the web of companies that fall under the various Morston Investments companies. There are a number of curious facts about these companies, clues of which can be found in some of the locations and names of companies. The number after each company name is my own, to help me distinguish between the various Morstons.

    Liam Carroll spreadsheet

    I was especially curious about Morston UK. Mr Carroll does not appear anywhere on the company information for the UK firm. However, Morston UK has a Dutch subsidiary called Vantive Finance (interesting name), which in turn has an Irish subsidiary called Vantive CC (which does list Mr Carroll as a director). Why this complex structure? And who are the curious pair who direct Morston UK? (more on that later).

    Another curious name to pop up relates to Morston (4). The holding companies all contain typical directorships (Carroll and Pope), bar one. That directorship in one of the subsidiaries (Zoe OptionGrantco) is one Ms Natalia Romanova, according to company information, who is based in Dublin.

    Thoughts anyone?

    Brian Lenihan’s diary

    Following an FOI request, the Department of Finance has released Brian Lenihan’s diary appointments, September 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. I have uploaded it. It relates to the period of the bank guarantee, Anglo nationalisation and NAMA planning.

    Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s diary appointments, September 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009:

    Morris Tribunal website FOI

    I have blogged previously about my request for information concerning the Morris Tribunal website, and its disappearance earlier this year. I noticed that since my FOI was submitted, the Morris Tribunal website had reappeared. It seems this was as a result of my request.

    To recap: I submitted the following request

    Request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    In accordance with Section 7 of the above mentioned Acts, I wish to request access to the following records which I believe to be held by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (”the Department”):

    1) The contract between the Department and Fanore Software, relating to the development of the website for the Morris Tribunal.

    2) A breakdown of fees relating to the contract.

    3) All transcripts of Morris Tribunal public sittings.

    4) An archived digital copy of the website (, which was made available to the Department by Fanore after the original website was removed.

    My preferred form of access to these documents is in digital format. All transcripts of the Tribunal are held in digital format.

    It is my understanding that the contract between Fanore Software and the Department has been concluded, as such the provision of the contract and a breakdown of fees should not give rise to any problems of commercial confidentiality, particularly given the unique nature of the contract and the fact that it is no longer active.

    If you decide to request further payment I would like to be provided with an itemised fees receipt outlining precisely why an additional cost is required.

    Please find enclosed a cheque in the amount of €15 in respect of the fee for a request under the Acts. I look forward to hearing from you in the time period prescribed.

    Please contact me by email to discuss any problems which may occur with this request.


    Gavin Sheridan

    They have granted my request, and the results of my FOI are now available in PDF.

    So what new information has come to light as a result?

    We have learned the breakdown of costs relating to designing and hosting the website. It amounts to €14,474.80, for June 2002 to March 2009. Fanore software charged €1,452 a year for hosting, and charged €217.80 to register the domain. They also charged €729 to decommission the website, which has now been restored. In my personal opinion, as someone who hosts websites myself, these costs are excessive.

    The Department has said: “Given the interest that still remains in the Tribunal, the Department has decided to reinstate the website. It may be accessed at its original address Transcripts in relation to Days 429 to 686 are currently available on the site and arrangements are in hand to make the transcripts for the remaining days of the public hearings available.”

    It should be noted that as of today, none of the transcripts are available, as the links to the transcripts are broken, or the transcripts themselves are missing. I will contact the Department and make them aware of this fact.

    It should also be noted that the transcripts are held digitally in the obscure .ptx format, and not in normal formats such as PDF or TXT. This is a product of the transcription provider used by the Tribunal. I may draft another FOI to learn of the cost of these transcription services.

    And as a result of this FOI request, the Department has committed itself to placing all transcripts of public sittings on the web, along with a centralised website for storing all reports of the Tribunal. No bad thing at all.

    Minister Martin Cullen goes to London

    Other details of Martin Cullen’s expenses can be read here and here.

    These documents cover a trip to London in November of last year. Minister Cullen arrived in London late on Thursday met Lord Coe, presumably to talk about the Olympics, on Friday, didn’t have any appointments for the weekend, then attended a tourism-related event on Monday and Tuesday.

    The total expenses figure was €2,353.

    €521 was unvouched, the rest went on limousines. Much of the cost of limos was from pick-ups of embassy officials and keeping drivers on stand-by (“5 hours as directed”, “8 hours as directed”) over long periods.

    And yep, it’s Cartel Limousines again.

    Ken Foxe,  Public Affairs Correspondent with The Sunday Tribune, supplied us with these documents. His first book, REVENGE, is on sale soon.

    Oireachtas expenses FOI

    I have responded to the Oireachtas, seeking all expenses data from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2004. I have sought an estimate of how much this is likely to cost.

    The Oireachtas communications office has also been in touch regarding the letter I received, and I am happy to give them an opportunity to respond:

    “The letter which was sent to you about your freedom of information request used the phrase “there is a gap in the hard copy records” and this gave the impression that there was a gap in the records on members’ expenses held by the Houses of the Oireachtas. When it said that there was a gap in the hard copy records in respect of the period from 1st January 1998 to 31st March 1998 and for the month of May 2000, this means that these dates were not covered by previously existing FOI requests. You had specifically sought previously released information and we were simply trying to point out that not all of the periods sought by you were covered under previously released FOI requests.

    In addition, you might wish to be aware that, the period 1st January 98 – 31st March 98 is outside the scope of FOI as FOI only came into effect in 21st April 98.

    As for the three periods

    April 1999 to October 1999

    June 2000 to June 2001

    July 2002 to June 2003

    The letter said that it was unclear that the final released data is available for those periods as the material has not, as yet, been located:

    Again, this may have given the impression that our records were incomplete. But this is not the case. The requests for those periods was in the early days of FOI when everything was done manually. We don’t have ready access to those files, but they’re not missing. They do exist but it will take some time and effort to locate them. You will not be charged for the time taken to locate the files but you may be charged for the retrieval and copying of the records on them which is mandatory under the FOI Acts.”

    For me though, the broader point is this: expenses data should be published online as a matter of course. I should not have to FOI this information, nevermind the costs issue.

    Tax defaulters list published by Revenue

    The list of tax defaulters for April 1st to June 30th of this year was published by the Revenue Commission today.

    First eye-catching name, Colm Carroll, who was fined a whopping €2,200. Carroll is a retired solicitor who had a very interesting career.

    He was a principal partner in Dublin firm, Roger Greene & Sons with Henry Colley (son of late FF deputy leader George Colley), which the regulatory department of the Law Society began investigating in 2003.

    What came thereafter was detailed by Carol Coulter in The Irish Times far better than I could: accounting shortfalls of €197,000, liabilities “disappearing”,  €32m lodged over 3 years into undisclosed bank accounts, swiss bank accounts, these boys had it all. I encourage you to read that link when you get a chance.

    They didn’t do it to get one over on their clients but to rather facilitate the under-declaration of income and tax. On the taxpayer, so.

    Following the investigation they were suspended and came before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) charged with misconduct. Notably, in the interim they sued the HSE for unpaid fees of €3.2m. The Law Society wanted them struck off. SDT ruled otherwise. The Society took it to the High Court.

    I believe that somewhere around this point they made a settlement of €7m with Revenue and each paid €50,000 to the Law Society Compensation Fund. Thanks lads.

    In the High Court Mr Justice McKechnie noted “multiple and extremely serious” breaches of  regulations, their “deceit” towards the Law Society, and at least 50 “orchestrated, intentional and conscious acts of misconduct”. But he refused to strike them off too. Why? Well, in short, because they admitted it all.

    The Law Society, fair play to them, took it to the Supreme Court for the first time in the history of the State. However, the Supreme Court cannot overrule a High Court judgment unless the High Court judge had made a mistake in the law. The judge had not made a mistake.

    So they weren’t stuck off.

    They then sought costs totaling €100,000 from the Law Society for The Supreme Court case, and won.

    That was a few months ago. Mr Carroll is retired, I’m not sure what Mr Colley is doing.

    Further reading, all from The Irish Times

    Solicitors blocked efforts to get data on accounts

    Law Society appeal refusal to strike off solicitors

    Solicitors sue HSE over unpaid fees

    Supreme Court refuses to strike off solicitors

    Solicitors win order on costs

    If you note any other interesting names in the list do feel free to send them on to tips @ thestory DOT ie

    Junket John and the public perception of politicians

    John O’Donoghue wants only to save his own skin.

    He cares not about apologising – or even attempting to justify himself – to the people who pay his wages, allowances, mileage, phone bills, unvouched expenses, advisers’ salaries, second residence upkeep and maintenance bills, hotel bills, office administration costs and limosine bills. Clearly.

    Even when Paschal Sheehy of RTÉ doorstepped him – the first unplanned doorstepping I’ve seen here in years – he outright refused to apologise.

    O’Donoghue is chair of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission which is tasked with overseeing “ongoing expenditure” and “paying all salaries and expenses and keeping and publishing accounts”. He started this job two years ago, following five years seemingly spent bathing himself in taxpayers’ cash. It has now been proven, mainly by Ken Foxe, that he is and was unqualified to fulfill such a role.

    He should step down.

    Yet he refuses even to give his employers – the taxpayer – the respect of a straight response. He dodged Paschal Sheehy’s question today and as Elaine Byrne points out in The Irish Times, his letter was addressed to fellow TDs, not the Irish people. Even in that statement he inexplicably refers only to the expenses he has incurred since becoming Ceann Comhairle, not his stark disregard for our money while Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

    The excuse for this silence? I quote the man himself:

    The nature of the position of Ceann Comhairle as impartial chairman of Dáil Éireann under the Constitution prevents me from becoming embroiled in public controversy in the media or on the floor of the House.

    One the many reasons he should step down?

    The nature of the position of Ceann Comhairle as impartial chairman of Dáil Éireann under the Constitution prevents them from becoming embroiled in public controversy in the media or on the floor of the House.

    I’m no fool, obviously Junket John won’t step down of his own volition, this is Ireland. And I know the gutless Opposition won’t force him out at this point because they’d have to fill his (Italian leather?) shoes with one their own.

    But the truth is that unless he goes he will continue to corrode the general perception of our public representatives from the core.

    Remember politicians, no matter who wins the next election, Junket John will be in the Dáil. He taints you all.