Fergus Finlay and the maternity hospital ‘gotcha’ trap

Illustration by Tom Halliday

By Anthony Sheridan

HSE board member and Irish Examiner columnist Fergus Finlay is so strongly in favour of the current arrangement for building the National Maternity Hospital that he took the unusual step of breaking board confidentiality rules to support the Government’s plan for the project.

In his column he clearly stated where he stands on the issue. 

Here’s my bottom line. As a citizen, campaigner, and advocate; as a husband; as the father and grandfather of women and girls; there are simply no circumstances under which I would support the development of a new national maternity hospital in Ireland that was influenced by anything — anything — other than the public interest and the interests of women.

He then went on to outline the enormous amount of work he and his colleagues on the audit and risk committee put into checking every aspect of the deal to ensure that nothing was left to chance.

We devoted many, many hours, over many months…examining and analysing the huge set of documents that had been developed to give legal underpinning to the project. We worked with senior management colleagues and had the benefit of legal advice at every stage.

Given all that, it would be reasonable to assume that Mr. Finlay is familiar with all aspects of the project and would have no difficulty in answering questions put by those who are deeply concerned about the entire project.

Such an assumption would be badly mistaken. 

During a discussion on RTE radio with Prof. Louise Kenny, who has serious question on the issue, Finlay was unable to answer even the most basic questions. 

For example:  Why is St. Vincent’s so determined to hold on to ownership of the site?


Well, you would need to ask them that but I would hazard a guess:  I think they see it as a great act of generosity and they don’t understand why they should be asked to go further.  The rest of the world would like them to gift the land to the state, but they haven’t. 

St. Vincent’s have claimed that ownership of the land is required in order to facilitate integrated care.

Prof. Kenny refutes this.  It doesn’t stack up, she said.  There are many hospitals across the UK  and Europe where the leasehold has no effect whatsoever on care integration.

Incredibly, Finlay agreed, contradicting his core claim that everything has been checked,  that months of forensic investigation with the best legal minds has answered all the questions:

I think you can work out arrangements for integrated care without owning the land…I don’t think that’s a good reason.  My hunch is that it’s about tradition, it’s about history, it’s about pride in their own ownership. 

So here we have  a member of the HSE board, the authority that will decide whether the project proceeds or not, guessing and expressing hunches surrounding the most fundamental questions being asked by those who are deeply worried about the consequences if the project is allowed to proceed in its present form.

Finlay was equally befuddled when asked about the worrying inclusion of the term ‘clinically appropriate’ in the contract.  Kenny said the term was incredibly vague and open to interpretation.  It could mean a doctor having the power to override the wishes of a woman seeking a particular service. 


I think that phrase has been misinterpreted and I wish to god we could find a better phrase that wouldn’t be open to misinterpretation.

When asked if lawyers should come up with a better phrase Finlay did a lot of muttering before lamely concluding with the by now standard excuse of those defending the project – it would involve further delay.

In addition to his ignorance of the facts Finlay’s attitude was also patronising and insulting, not just to Prof. Kenny but to all those who have genuine worries about the Byzantine conditions surrounding this project.  Effectively accusing Prof. Kenny of being a conspiracist, he asked:

Is it that you really believe that somewhere in the background there’s someone waiting to leap out and say ‘we gotcha now’?

Clearly Finlay is unaware of or not concerned about a number of clauses in the contract.  For example, the strong possibility that the apparent generous €10 per annum rent could mushroom into an astonishing €850,000 per annum if certain conditions are not adhered to.

Given the shady and convoluted shenanigans surrounding this whole deal, only the most naïve would believe that it will not eventually turn into a very, very expensive ‘gotcha’ trap for Irish taxpayers.

Sensational news: Government to prosecute tax evaders


By Anthony Sheridan

Sensational news from acting Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton in response to the Panama Papers scandal.

Cheats using offshore bank accounts to evade paying tax here will be vigorously prosecuted.

No mercy shown to those found to be evading paying tax here.

Obviously if there are offences of Irish law discovered in this, you can be absolutely sure they will be vigorously prosecuted.

So there you have it folks, straight from the horse’s mouth.  Tax evaders are to face the full rigours of the law.

It’s an historic first for our tax haven/banana republic.

Ah no, I’m only joking. Bruton is a liar just like the rest of them. Nobody will be prosecuted…I mean, the very idea.

Denis O’Brien: Are the sharks moving in for the kill?


Cliff Taylor of the Irish Times writes an article with the headline:

The question is, why has Denis O’Brien sold Topaz now?

Taylor doesn’t actually give an answer so here’s my take on O’Brien’s decision to sell.

I’m no expert on the markets but I suspect Denis O’Brien is in trouble after his failure to successfully float his company Digicel.

While Denis is fabulously rich to ordinary folk like you and me, on the Stock Market he’s just another billionaire shark swimming around looking for a kill. But great danger lurks here; when a shark attempts but fails to make a kill the other sharks immediately sense weakness and move in to attack. Financial market sharks are a species that have a particular taste for cannibalism.

And really, ‘poor’ Denis has only himself to blame for his predicament. He must have thought he was dealing with bog standard extremely obedient Irish politicians when he presented his fellow market sharks with the following terms and conditions.

Despite the company running at a loss with massive debts of $6.5 billion Denis was intending to:

Retain 61% equity stake in the company and 94% control. Ordinary investors were being offered A shares but he held on to B shares with 10 times the voting rights of every A share.

He’d have the right to decide which directors were appointed to the board, and have control over decisions such as mergers and acquisitions, sale of assets, salaries, dividend payments, and the entire direction of the company.

I imagine, after recovering from fits of laughter, the market sharks quickly got down to the serious business of sharpening their best butcher knives.

So, I think ‘poor’ Denis’ decision to sell Topaz is a desperate attempt to get in some cash, to reduce his massive loans and liabilities before he’s torn to shreds by his fellow market sharks.

Nothing personal you understand, but I hope they get him first.

Government introduces fake legislation on media mergers

I wrote recently about how our state is populated by fake regulatory authorities created to give the impression that Ireland is a functional democracy while at the same time allowing white-collar criminals free rein to plunder and rob at will.

Another device employed by our corrupt political/administrative system is the creation of fake legislation to give the impression that fake regulators have the power to bring white-collar criminals to account.

The latest, and most blatant example of this legislative fakery; is the recent announcement of plans to regulate the area of media ownership.

A report in the Irish Times tells us all we need to know about the fakery of this legislation.

The report reveals:

One: The legislation is based on guidelines. In other words, powerful media moguls will be presented with the guidelines and politely asked to abide by the non-enforceable principles contained in them.

Two: The guidelines will not be retrospective. This means that the enormously powerful and dangerous media mogul Denis O’Brien can retain the massive power and influence he already wields in the media sector.

Three: The 20% limit on ownership of media outlets is a joke. The Minister tells us that the like of O’Brien would find it more difficult to carry out mergers. ‘More difficult’ is a meaningless measure that will be laughed at by the likes of O’Brien.

Four: The guidelines are expected to say it is ‘undesirable’ for one person to hold excessive influence. Again, this is an utterly meaningless measure. Again, it will be laughed at by the likes of O’Brien.

Five: In an RTE interview (Drivetime, 49′) the Minister, Alex White, peddled the lie that it was not possible to make legislation retrospective, that to do so would raise very, very significant constitutional obstacles.

Six: In the same interview, as the Minister insulted and patronized the intelligence of listeners, he announced that it will be the minister who will make the final decision on whether a merger may go ahead or not.

It is this last aspect of the legislation that really makes it fake. Alex White operates within a corrupt political system that places the interests of powerful people far above the interests of the country or its citizens.

Copy to:
Minister White

Noonan: As ruthless as ever

The liquidators of the Irish Nationwide/Anglo Irish Bank mortgage book, Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG, are only doing their jobs when they push for maximum profit from any deal.

This from KPMG:

We can only do the best we can in the circumstances. Be aware of the fact that our ultimate objective is to get the best price we can for the assets of the bank.

The Minisiter for Finance Michael Noonan, does, however, have a responsibility towards the thousands of mortgage holders who are likely to find themselves at the mercy of ruthless vulture capitalists in the near future.

Indeed as a public representative and senior minister he posses the power, given to him by the people, to decide the ultimate fate of these desperate citizens.

But Mr. Noonan is a ruthless and callous individual and, to date, he has given no indication that he’s going to help.

Indeed, it seems that Noonan and KPMG are attempting to throw these people to the vultures while, hypocrically, trying to give the impression that they’re doing everything they can to help.

We had the recent announcement by KPMG that bidders had agreed to protect homeowners. In other words, they had voluntarily agreed to abide by the Central Bank’s code of conduct on mortgage arrears.

If true, it would be like putting a paedophile priest in charge of a children’s school while giving assurances that all would be well.

And, of course, that’s how it turned out when it was revealed that the so-called agreement was nothing but a puff of air.

There was nothing in writing, no supervision, no Central Bank involvement, no sanctions, no acces the the Financial Ombudsman and no guarantee that mortgage holders could buy out their own loans.

Noonan’s promises were just as hypocritical and just as useless.

Legislation to protect mortgage holders in such circumstances would be introduced – sometime next year.

Or, in other words – long after the vultures have picked the bones of their victims.

Copy to:

What the bankster thought of the gangster

From the Attic archives.

When the criminal politician and traitor Haughey died in 2006 various ‘pillars of society’ were asked to assess his record.

The following is the assessment of the bankster Sean Fitzpatrick taken from the Sunday Tribune, 18 June 2006.

He was a big picture man, who certainly had his faults. There were two era’s. The first era he was off beam, when he did huge borrowing and got us into financial deficit.

The second time he had learned a lesson and the true Haughey came through. I can’t think of any modern politician who has done as much.

Haughey was exceptionally different to other politicians of the time.

There was just no hope, things were very bureaucratic and done at a snails pace. There wasn’t the entrepreneurial sense there is now. Ireland was dark and we were losing our best to emigration.

He was there at the time and set the foundation for us to come through.

O'Brien's victory likely to result in a media cowering before the shadows

I’m truly astonished that a jury found an article in the Irish Daily Mail had defamed Denis O’Brien.

In what appears to be a contradictory decision the jury accepted that the article was based on the honest opinion of the writer but that it was not an opinion based on fact and was not in the public interest.

Not in the public interest – Feck.

O’Brien is a man who had very serious adverse findings made against him in the Moriarty Tribunal report, findings that could potentially cost Irish taxpayers several millions in compensation. It was in connection to this tribunal report that the article was written.

In response to the jury’s decision O’Brien said that while freedom of expression was part of our democracy everybody had a right to his or her good name.

So what are we to make of the comments by O’Brien after the Moriarty Tribunal report was published?

There’s a ring of steel around Moriarty because they knew, the judiciary knew, that he was never up to the job, he’s a Circuit Court judge.

You’ve got to separate the wider judiciary from Justice Moriarty. I believe I was stitched by Justice Moriarty but I’m not in any way critical of the wider judicial community.

Look, do you know a lot about the legal profession, the judiciary and the Law Society. There’s a code amongst them all that they don’t take each other on, they don’t criticise each other.

Are these comments based on fact?

Judge Moriarty was never up for the job? This is O’Brien’s opinion of which, I’m sure, Justice Moriarty would not agree.

I was stitched by Justice Moriarty. Is this fact or just O’Brien’s opinion? Would a jury conclude that it was just opinion or defamatory?

Here’s how legal expert Professor Gerry Whyte of Trinity Law School responded to O’Brien’s criticisms:

If criticism of the judiciary went so far as to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice then we’re talking about an offence called scandalising the court.

This case has potentially serious consequences for press freedom.

Every editor, every journalist will be looking over their shoulders to check for the shadows of very powerful individuals before they express an opinion.

It is very likely that many will decide to cower before the shadows.

Yuk factor complacency

The so-called Yuk factor seems to be an accepted rationale in the ongoing horsemeat scandal.

The Yuk factor stems from the fact that horsemeat is not generally on the menu in Ireland and is therefore seen by most Irish consumers as a yuk food.

The general thrust of media coverage seems to be that while horsemeat may be a yuk food for the Irish it is perfectly safe and won’t damage their health.

This assumption only stands up if those (criminals?) who are illegally importing the horsemeat into Ireland have a world class processing plant where the highest EU standards in food production are strictly observed.

Somehow, I think this is unlikely.

It’s more likely that the horsemeat is sourced from anywhere they can get it for a knockdown price such as knacker’s yards or from farmers wanting to get rid of rotten carcasses.

And who’s to say it’s just horsemeat? It could quite easily be a mixture of roadkill and abattoir waste from a whole range of animals, wild and domesticated.

Mmmm… I think the yuk factor could be a lot more yuckier than people realise.

Freeza Meats: That meat was just resting in our storeroom?

One of the very funny running jokes in the Fr. Ted series refers to some dodgy accountancy by Fr. Ted in a previous parish.

Fr. Ted, whenever the matter is raised angrily retorts:

That money was just resting in my account.

The joke came to mind after hearing the explanation provided by Freeza Meats for the presence of 80% horsemeat in a product stored at their plant in Newry.

They claim they were approached last August by a meat trader who offered to sell them meat. They declined but, as a goodwill gesture to the meat trader, they agreed to store the meat at their plant.

They claim they never purchased the material, it was never their material, it was kept in a separate area, it had nothing to do with them.

Or, in other words – That meat was just resting in our storeroom.

Larry Goodman: Still putting the fear of god into broadcasters

George Lee in company with Barry O’Halloran of the Irish Times and Pat Burke a partner at Grant Thornton discussed the continuing fallout from the horsemeat in burgers scandal (The Business).

Tesco, Burger King, Asda and the Co-Op supermarket chain in the UK all dropped their contracts with Silvercrest Foods in Co. Monaghan. The Burger King and Tesco deals alone were worth €45 million.

What was interesting about the discussion was the fear shown by all when it came to talking about the owner of Silvercrest, the notorious Larry Goodman.

Initially the discussion centred on the possibility of litigation against Goodman.

When one of the guests said that Goodman could indeed face litigation George Lee quickly realised the danger of upsetting the great meat emperor.

Or at least Silvercrest Foods rather than Larry.

The panelist quickly fell into line.

Silvercrest Foods, the individual operator which is a small part of the Goodman Empire.

This ‘clarification’ was followed by a bout of nervous laughter from everybody.

Thereafter all reference to the great Larry and the word litigation was dropped.

As with most RTE broadcasters Lee was very gentle in his treatment of Goodman.

Larry Goodman is quite a survivor. He has been in the wars before. He’s a very media shy person; he would hate this, so this kind of thing is very damaging for him.

Lee, a public service broadcaster, didn’t see the need to provide his listeners with even a brief mention of the ‘wars’ in which Larry was involved.

So here’s some of what the Beef Tribunal Report had to say about Larry’s companies.

The Goodman Group is found guilty of flagrant fraud at Rathkeale. The Goodman meat plants are also found guilty of widespread tax evasion and of offering employees illegal under-the-counter payments (Irish Examiner, 19 July 2003).

I have to say, in case an angry Larry hunts me down, that the Tribunal also found that neither Larry nor any of his senior executives had any notion whatsoever that such nasty things were happening right under their collective noses.