Is RTE afraid to cover Fyffes/DCC story?

RTEs Today with Pat Kenny describes itself as a current affairs programme that

“assesses the main news stories of the day and goes behind the headlines to bring you the very latest.”

Today’s programme led with a story about a man who operated a sheebeen from his home in Limerick.

Yesterday, a settlement was reached between DCC and Fyffes bringing to an apparent end the biggest corporate scandal in the history of the State.

The programme that claims to provide listeners with the very latest in news and current affairs has ignored this major news story, giving priority instead to an obscure story about an alleged breach of the licencing laws.

See previous post for a proper, no punches pulled analysis of this major corporate scandal.

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Today with Pat Kenny

A rotten and intrinsically corrupt state

According to RTEs economic editor, (8th item) George Lee, the Fyffes/DCC saga finally came to an end this afternoon – He’s wrong, it did not. We are also constantly told by George Lee and other so called experts that this is a complex case – It is not.

In 2000, Jim Flavin of DCC illegally traded in Fyffes shares making a profit of €85 million. Fyffes took a civil case against DCC to get their money back.

It’s likely they took a civil case because if they took a criminal case they would have had to answer questions about their own dodgy behaviour. For example, Fyffes issued options to senior executives and allowed a senior executive to sell shares when they should not have.

Fyffes lost their case in the High Court but went to the Supreme Court where they won. One of the judges, Mr. Justice Fennelly was crystal clear:

To trade on the use of inside information is recognised for what it is. It is a fraud on the market.

There’s nothing complex about that. It’s a simple case of greed and fraud.

But Flavin’s fraud pales into insignificance when compared to the real scandal surrounding this case – The absolute failure of any State agency to take any real action against this fraudster.

It is also an absolute disgrace that RTE has completely ignored this aspect of the scandal. Hence George Lee’s assertion that this saga has come to an end when in fact the real scandal has never even been addressed.

In functional democracies, insider trading is a very serious crime. When it is uncovered there is immediate and strong action by all relevant law enforcement authorities.

I have already cited the recent Nacchio case in America. Joseph P. Nacchio, former chief executive of Qwest, was sentenced to six years in prison, fined $19 million and ordered to forfeit $52 million he earned from illegal stock shares in 2001 – That’s real law enforcement in a real democracy.

Let’s be absolutely clear about what has happened here in this corrupt Republic.

Jim Flavin has been exposed as a fraudster in a case involving millions of Euros and nobody, absolutely nobody is going to act against him. The law will not be enforced; the law is being deliberately and consciously put to one side so that Flavin can remain a free agent.

In effect, the State has decided that this fraudster is to be treated as if he deserves the same status of innocence and respect as all law abiding citizens.

Let’s also name the so called State enforcement/regulatory agencies that have, to date, failed in their duty to enforce the law, to do their duty, to act as they should in the best interest of the State and its citizens.

The Director of Public Prosecutions
The Financial Regulator
The Stock Exchange
The Revenue Commissioners
Institute of Chartered Accountants (The fraudster is a member of this organisaton)
Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM) (Which, allegedly, oversees corporate governance in listed companies)

The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, made a pathetic attempt to get some of those involved in the fraud disqualified from acting as directors; his plea was rejected out of hand.

He now has to decide whether to pursue a petition through the High Court. If he decides to go ahead the case will take years and consume a large portion of his meagre resources and finances.

Considering his options he must be aware that he hasn’t a hope in hell of succeeding but even if he does it won’t matter a damn because Flavin the fraudster retires in two years time anyway.

This case is very important not just because it is such an outrageous scandal, not just because the State blatantly refuses to take any effective action, not just because there is no doubt and virtually no argument concerning the facts of the case but because the scandal exposes and confirms the indisputable fact that the Republic of Ireland is a rotten and intrinsically corrupt state.

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Director of Public Prosecutions.
Financial Regulator.
Irish Stock Exchange.
Irish Revenue Commissioners
Institute of Chartered Accountants
Irish Association of Investment Managers
Director of Corporate Enforcement
DCC
Fyffes
RTE (News)

RTEs reporting of the Rossiter case

I was puzzled and to some degree I’m still puzzled by RTE’s coverage of the Brian Rossiter report.

The presenter of Today with Pat Kenny (See previous post) clearly said to Philip Boucher Hayes, who had seen the report:

“You’ve seen the report; the rest of us will not get to see the full report.”

I think the crucial word here is ‘full’. It seems that some of the report has been published but because the former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, insisted on setting up the inquiry under the arcane Metropolitan Police Act, 1924, sections of the report must remain secret because the act offers no protection from defamation on publication.

For me, the most disturbing aspect of the report’s release is how RTE news dealt with the event. Admittedly, I’m only making comment here on one programme, Six One News, but the impression given, I think, was that the Gardai had little to answer for.

Viewers were not informed that the arcane legislation this inquiry was set up under would seriously compromise its publication. My understanding is that only a summary of the report has been published. Viewers were not told that they were only getting a small part of the story.

RTE news placed great emphasis on the unreliability of witnesses who were hostile to the Gardai.

While reporting that Brian Rossiter was unlawfully detained overnight by Gardai, RTE emphasised that Hugh Hartnett SC, the reports author, was not satisfied that Brian Rossiter was assaulted in Garda custody.

Viewers were not informed, however, that the report also found there was a statistical probability that Brian Rossiter sustained his fatal injury while in Garda custody.

I’m puzzled here because of the apparent contradiction, perhaps an expert witness came to the conclusion regarding the statistical probability. In any case, RTE did not make any of this clear to viewers.

The overall impression given was that the report was fully published, that all the details of the case were available and that the Gardai were, in the main, innocent of any wrongdoing.

The Rossiter family does not agree and are very unhappy with the report. I tend to agree with them

The Great, 'Dear Leader, is installed

Standing outside Dail Eireann, RTEs chief correspondent, Charlie Bird was reporting on the great event when, suddenly, a significant development occurred. Members of the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party had left the Dail and were heading towards the nearby Royal College of Physicians.

Charlie, craning his neck, excitedly exclaimed – Yes, yes, I can just see the great man, surrounded by party members, family and well wishers. Yes, they’re just making their way towards the college now and will be entering very soon where all is ready for the great event.

Excitement had begun to build within RTE as far back as Sunday when Sean O’Rourke introduced a special edition of The Week in Politics by describing the great man:

“He’s a vastly experienced politician, Fianna Fail to his core, clever, cautious and with the common touch.”

On the same show Fianna Fail senator, Mary White, clearly near fainting with admiration and love, said that when the great man speaks it is ‘quite magical’.

On Morning Ireland (1st item, 6th report), to the accompaniment of appropriate music, the nation was informed that the great leader enjoyed a pint of Guinness but in the summer he goes for lager or cider. He prefers cooking to eating out and steak and chips is a particular favourite.

The media was warned that his name is not spelt Cowan but Cowen and, darkly, all were warned not to call him Biffo; at least not to his face.

On Wednesday morning all normal programming was cancelled. The one o’clock radio news (which was entirely dedicated to the great new leader) began around 11.30 am and the historic event was covered live on television from early morning.

A long line of Fianna Fail supporters, family and commentators trooped through the RTE news studio hailing the great man as being super intelligent, a man not to be tangled with, modest, a great leader, humble, his own man and so on.

Suddenly, Brian Dobson, who was interviewing some hack or another, immediately cut the interview short as word came through that the great man had indeed reached the Royal College of Physicians and was about to enter the great hall.

Live coverage immediately switched to the RCP where the great man could be seen walking down a hallway towards the great hall followed by a large retinue of supporters, minions and hangers on.

He paused at the door until all the excited chatter within the hall was silenced before making his grand entry. As he regally made his way to the rostrum to speak to the nation he was greeted by a tremendous and wildly enthusiastic crowd of reporters and party members.

Later, although tired and almost overcome with excitement, the RTE news team broadcast (4th item, 5th report) a special dedication to the glorious new leader that would surely have made North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’, Kim Jong-il, green with envy.

The dedication consisted of a series of generous compliments from friends, family, colleagues and even some opposition politicians all spoken against the background of a gutsy rock n roll number.

Finally, as the great historic event came to an end, the national broadcaster treated the nation’s peasantry to a fine rendition of ‘The Town I Loved so Well’, sung with gusto by the great man himself (One News, 4th item, 6th report).

A somewhat puzzled tourist from Upper Mongolia stopped a tramp outside Dail Eireann and asked: What’s going on, why all the excitement?

Oh, said the tramp; Brian Cowen has become leader of Fianna Fail

(Warning – Some of this post is exaggerated – but only some).

Appalling vistas and creeping censorship

On the 19/20th March last, the most disgraceful and alarming event in recent Irish history occurred when Grainne Carruth gave evidence before the Mahon Tribunal.

Carruth’s evidence to the Mahon Tribunal has raised the appalling vista that the current Taoiseach of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, may have lied under oath.

To my knowledge, only one media outlet, The Irish Independent, made any direct reference to this event.

“It has been apparent a number of times before in evidence that the Taoiseach of the country has been lying under his own sworn oath.” (Senan Molony, March 21st 2008).

To my knowledge, there has been absolutely no in-depth reporting or analysis of this event by any Irish media outlet and, in particular, by the national broadcaster, RTE.

I have no idea why RTE, and in particular, the station’s flagship news and current affairs programme, Prime Time, have decided to completely ignore this extremely important story.

Is it out of fear of the station’s political masters? Is it because the decision makers in RTE are incapable of facing the appalling vista that a sitting Taoiseach may have committed perjury?

Whatever the reason, the fact that RTE has ignored this important story is a scandal in itself.

On Thursday 20th March, when the full implications of Grainne Carruth’s evidence were clear, Prime Time remained silent on the matter.

The programme reported about standards in cosmetic clinics and the bulk of the show was given over to the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Do the Prime Time producers really believe that there was even a tiny minority of Irish citizens glued to their television sets as, once again, RTE analysed to death every detail of the Good Friday Agreement?

Did it ever occur to the decision makers within RTE that the majority of Irish citizens were expecting in-depth reporting and analysis of the dramatic and shocking revelations at Dublin Castle?

Are the decisions makers within RTE aware that they have an obligation both as national broadcaster and as media/news professionals to report on the most important and immediate events particularly when those events are likely to have profound implications for the Irish people and a serious impact on the quality of Irish democracy?

I watched this Prime Time programme with a mixture of amused derision and growing anger that RTE cannot or will not accept the possibility that a sitting Taoiseach may have perjured himself.

As this massive elephant rampaged around the room, Prime Time and every other RTE news programme on radio and television studiously ignored the reality of what had happened.

On Tuesday 25th March Prime Time covered primary school education and yet another story on Northern Ireland – the Omagh bombing.

On Thursday 27 March the programme reported on the increasing pressure on Ahern to clarify his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal but the real story of possible perjury wasn’t mentioned.

Anyone with even the slightest interest in what was revealed at Dublin Castle would want to hear discussion of the possible implications if Ahern is ultimately found to have perjured himself. What is perjury, has anyone else committed perjury in a tribunal, how is the crime dealt with in other jurisdictions – Silence from RTE.

In the meantime, Bertie Ahern announced his resignation. Again, RTE and the media in general have practically ignored the obvious reason for his resignation – the smoking gun produced by Carruth’s evidence; the evidence that has possibly exposed the Taoiseach as a perjurer.

The matter has now been practically forgotten about as the media concentrate on Cowen’s succession.

This scandalous failure to meet its obligations has also raised another disturbing development regarding RTE. It now seems that politicians are free to dictate the conditions under which they will deign to be interviewed.

RTEs This Week programme had a prior arrangement with Bertie Ahern (before his resignation announcement) to discuss the Good Friday Agreement. He only agreed to go ahead with the interview on condition that the theme remained substantially the same.

Listening to the interview, it was obvious why Ahern insisted that RTE comply with his demands. We were subjected to a self congratulatory account of how Ahern, single-handedly brought peace to Northern Ireland

It is now common to hear RTE broadcasters inform viewers that Government ministers or spokespersons are ‘not available’ to answer questions and then turn to a reporter for a cosy chat on crucial issues that have consequences for every citizen in this state.

Neither is it unusual to be told that a politician or official will only participate on condition that they are not challenged by any other interested party or they will only answer specific pre arranged questions.

Apparently, the national broadcaster has no problem with what is, in effect, creeping censorship and manipulation of information.

Copy to:
Prime Time
All other RTE News and Current Affairs programmes

Greens: How high do you want us to jump Bertie?

It really is incredible that RTE has yet to realise the gravity of what happened at the Mahon Tribunal last week. The station seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that a sitting Taoiseach has apparently lied.

Even if we allow that the station is ultra conservative; that it is cautious to the point of panic in case it offends its political masters, it still doesn’t explain why the most important and serious political event in decades is being effectively ignored by the broadcaster.

There has, of course, been plenty of peripheral discussion surrounding the fact that the Taoiseach apparently lied under oath but no mention of perjury, alleged perjury or possible perjury, not even an explanation of what perjury is – Nothing.

Saturday View serves as a good example of how frightened RTE is of facing the reality of the situation (My comments are in brackets).

Politicians on the panel were Fianna Fail TD, oops; I mean Green Party TD, Mary White and Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar.

The RTE presenter, Rodney Rice started off by moaning,

“Once again we cannot avoid examining the Taoiseach’s travails.”

His first couple of questions left listeners in no doubt that RTEs policy of studiously ignoring the reality of the situation was going to continue.

White was asked the totally irrelevant question – Were the Greens forced into making comment on Ahern? This was followed up by an even less relevant question to Varadkar – why haven’t we heard from your leader (Enda Kenny)?

Varadkar – to his credit, wasn’t going to be sidetracked.

“It’s not good enough (for the Taoiseach) to give clarification, the Taoiseach swore an oath in the tribunal that the monies lodged in his building society account were salary cheques and swore on oath that he never dealt in sterling.”

Rice quickly jumped to the Taoiseach’s defence.

“But the one place he can do that again is back in the tribunal and he will do that presumably.

(The obvious question here is; how many times does the Taoiseach have to apparently lie before RTE accepts the reality?)

Varadkar – “What he can do, perhaps for the first time, is come in and tell people the truth… The fact is he swore under oath at the tribunal that the money was salary cheques and he didn’t deal in sterling so he has to come into the Dail now and admit that he perjured himself in the tribunal.”

(No doubt in Varadkar’s mind as to what has occurred).

“If he does not do that then anything he says in the Dail has to be unacceptable and I want to know from the Greens…if what he says in the Dail contradicts what he said under sworn oath in the tribunal will that be acceptable to the Green Party?”

White – “Mahon was set up by all parties and we shouldn’t prejudge it and while revelations coming out are certainly getting up people’s noses around the countryside we will await the outcome of the Mahon Tribunal.”

(Pure Fianna Fail speak).

Varadkar – If it’s still your view that we have to wait until the tribunal makes its report what is the purpose of asking the Taoiseach to make a statement?

White – “Well, I think when Ms. Carruth appeared at the tribunal I think the level was lifted up about public interest in the tribunal…and a little bit of clarification would be no harm at this stage…in any coalition it’s good now and again to clear the air and that was the reason for the intervention.”

(So for the Greens this has nothing to do with a Taoiseach lying, nothing to do with ethics in public office, nothing to do with the truth. It’s all about ‘a bit of clarification’, to placate those pesky citizens who are jumping up and down, demanding accountability).

Varadkar – “It’s becoming increasingly clear that what the Taoiseach has said in the tribunal and what he said in the Dail and what he said to the public hasn’t been true.” “There are things that we can be certain of that are separate from the tribunal. We can be certain that the Taoiseach is a liar.”

Rice – (Intervention). “Well, now that’s un-parliamentary language. You would be asked to withdraw that in the Dail so why don’t you withdraw it here and be polite.”

(Clearly, RTE has adopted the truth avoiding strategy so successfully employed in our National Parliament – You can say what you like but straight talking is forbidden).

Varadkar – “I won’t because it’s the truth.”

Rice – “Why won’t you be polite?”

(About the serious matter of a Taoiseach lying under oath).

Varadkar – “Because it’s the truth.”

Rice – “He (Ahern) has said some things that you regard as contradictory and which may or may not be irreconcilable.”

(The evidence is incontrovertible – Ahern’s words are on record under oath, Carruth’s words are on record under oath and the tribunal has produced signed bank receipts that confirms both of them are liars).

Varadkar – “He said he never dealt in sterling, he said he didn’t have any bank accounts, he said that he consulted the tax authorities on his affairs. None of these things are true. If you want me to rephrase I’ll rephrase in parliamentary language; peddling untruths. He’s been peddling untruths; he’s a fraud, he hasn’t paid his taxes and he’s a thief.”

(Again, no ambiguity here).

Rice – “So you want him to go.”

Varadkar – “Of course, if those things are not red lines, what are red lines?”

Rice asks White – “What do you need?”(From Ahern).

White – “We’re not going to grandstand and jump up and down and wave green flags and we’re not going to prejudge what the Taoiseach of our country is going to say on Wednesday. We will listen.”

(Yes, Mary, and when you’re done listening, Ahern will instruct you and your party to jump and the only question remaining will be – How high Bertie, how high do you want us to jump?)

Copy to:

Mary White
Leo Varadkar
Green Party
Fianna Fail
RTE (Saturday View)

Editor's choice (2)

The RTE News Editor was in a quandary. Two stories, but which one to broadcast as a lead on the flagship News at One programme.

The first story concerned dramatic revelations at the Mahon Tribunal that could have far reaching consequences for our country and could even bring down the Government.

The second story concerned a minor development in a bank robbery that occurred nearly four years ago in another country.

The editor opted for the second story.

(See here for previous editor’s choice.)

Copy to:

News at One

Hutch and Haughey – Two of a kind

Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch hasn’t been convicted of any crime for the last 25 years but anyone listening to Prime Time last night would find that fact difficult to believe as RTE Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds accused him of being involved in at least one armed robbery.

“Why do you say you didn’t do the robbery when you know you did and everybody else knows you did?”

So much for the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.

It’s interesting to observe how RTE treats people like Hutch in comparison to more ‘respectable’ criminals. For example, Miriam O’Callaghan introduced the piece by telling us that people are often outraged at how some individuals seem to be almost immune from prosecution.

For years I’ve been outraged at how politicians and white collar criminals seem to be immune from prosecution and yet I’ve never witnessed any of them get the grilling that Hutch received.

It’s also interesting to observe the parallels between Hutch and the most corrupt politician of all, Charles Haughey, a criminal who was always treated with the highest respect by RTE.

Hutch claims he made his money from shrewd investments in the property market. How many times did we hear Haughey supporters make the same claim – and expect us to believe it?

Hutch denied any knowledge about the source of dodgy money in his bank account. Haughey was just as barefaced in relation to dodgy money in his accounts.

Hutch was asked:

“The money that you made, the figures just don’t add up, the compensation doesn’t really wash, the evidence is there in the figures that don’t add up because one minute you’re a guy who has no money, you get a compensation claim and now you’re a multi-millionaire. – Do you really expect people to believe that?”

Haughey was a guy who initially had no money and then suddenly he was a multi-millionaire. His figures never added up but somehow he was never asked the hard questions.

Hutch said he didn’t care what people believed. Haughey adopted the same attitude.

Hutch claims that he was ignorant of tax laws but when he realised the error of his ways he was more than happy to settle with Revenue. Haughey also claimed ignorance of his tax obligations and also made a deal with Revenue.

But by far the most interesting comment was made by Detective Superintendent John O’Mahoney of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

“There are people out there who would have you believe that a certificate of tax clearance meant that people were innocent of criminality. A certificate of tax clearance is just that, it is not a certificate of innocence.”

Couldn’t agree with you more Superintendent.

Copy to:
Prime Time

Sean O'Rourke – Great radio

I’ve always felt that RTEs Sean O’Rourke doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.

He’s always well briefed on his subject and has a uniquely forceful and penetrating technique of interviewing.

He’s also always scrupulously balanced as evidenced by his excellent interview with Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd on yesterday’s News at One (2nd item).

He put O’Dowd through the wringer over the allegations concerning Ahern’s tax affairs. Great radio.