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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Photo Minute: The beautiful lake district-second to none

This political ‘powerhouse’ has its price

                                                                                                      Dig Out Bertie

IF those walls could have talked, they would have saved us a fortune. The walls belong to a tidy, little red-brick house, St Luke’s, which has facilitated historic peace talks, visits from world leaders and globe-trotting rock stars (yep, Mr Bono), and kept from prying eyes the most curious exchanges of huge wads of cash. What more could you want from a well-proportioned des res?

St Luke’s was put on the market last week, going for a snip at €595,000. In the heart of Drumcondra, on the northside of Dublin, it was, for more than two decades, the power-base, the retreat, the refuge — at one time even the bank — for one Bartholomew Ahern.

Its walls have witnessed more intrigue than a box-set of House of Cards. Whatever about modern appliances or aspects of the Tolka River, this little baby is steeped in history.

Fianna Fáil will not look back fondly on the planning tribunal. A virus of corruption, that welled up from deep within the maw of the party, was exposed at the long-running inquiry. But there is one thing for which the party can be grateful. If it wasn’t for the tribunal, they may never have got their mitts on St Luke’s. Such was the mystery of its origins, it’s far from clear that it would have reverted to the party once Bertie had hung up his political spurs.

The house was bought in 1987, through three individuals: Des Richardson, Tim Collins and Joe Burke. These were ‘made men’ in what came to be known as the Drumcondra ‘mafia’, headed up by Bertie Ahern. Only one of them, Burke, was a member of Fianna Fáil. This was a purchase on behalf of Ahern rather than the party. If this history had not been thrashed out at the planning tribunal, it’s unclear as to who might have laid claim to the premises, or a part thereof, once Ahern had left politics.

The financing of the purchase is unclear. A meeting was called to gather parties willing to throw in a few bob. This was the first of a series of whip-rounds for Ahern, as if the poor craytur hadn’t an arse in his trousers.
The meeting took place on December 3, 1987, in the Gresham Hotel. There is no record of it. Nobody present has been identified. Many party activists in the Dublin Central constituency weren’t even aware it had taken place. Like another fabled whip-round seven years later, among displaced Irish millionaires in Manchester, this one is shrouded in mystery. One way or the other, a report decades later would refer to the gathering as the ‘St Luke’s club’.

Over the following 20 years, ‘the club’ was the centre of Ahern’s world. Rarely would a day go by, even when he was Taoiseach, that he didn’t put in an appearance. The ministerial Merc parked up on the pavement was the giveaway. Frequently, there would be a second Merc in attendance, as Bertie often summoned one of his ministers to the lair.

Then, there was the matter of upkeep. This gave rise to an annual fundraiser where the great, the good, and an army of developers, gathered to pay homage, often forking out north of £100,000 between them.
If there’s one thing the walls could sing about, it’s the bobs. Oh, man, did money flow through the place. Back in the day, when Ahern was the minister for finance and didn’t have a bank account, he cashed his cheques in a pub and stored the cash in St Luke’s.

By 1993, he had upwards of £35,000 in punts there and another £15,000 in sterling. Over the following year, the cash piled up, particularly the sterling. Where did the Irish minister for finance get all this money?
People just gave it to him — friends, acquaintances, the odd millionaire. At one point, anytime he visited Britain, he returned with a bundle of cash, to be deposited in St Luke’s.

He had a particular fondness for sterling. Back in the mid-1990s, he used to exchange punts for sterling with a Manchester-based hotelier, in bars, and cars, and whenever he got the notion that he wanted to top up. And he won even more of it backing horses.

What secrets lie buried beneath the floorboards of St Luke’s? Maybe a few betting slips could be retrieved, perhaps the odd souvenir five-pound sterling note nestles under a joist.

Then, there were the drop-offs. On one occasion, a man by the name of Michael Wall, who had driven over from Manchester, came into St Luke’s to deliver a briefcase with £30,000 in cash. Just like in the movies. The money was for something or other, but nothing dodgy.

On another occasion, Ahern was handed the proceeds of dig-outs from friends, again in cash, during the course of a get-together at the premises. There was also the time he drove his partner, Celia Larkin, to and from O’Connell Street, where she withdrew £25,000 in cash. That moolah was deposited in the St Luke’s ‘bank’.

Again, he had an explanation for this cash, but, really, the convoluted detail would make your head hurt, and the tribunal wasn’t impressed by the whole thing.

St Luke’s was also the location for Bertie’s ‘poor me’ interview with Bryan Dobson, when he gave a tearful account of how he came into all the money. It was enough to get him past the following year’s general election, but, unfortunately, a tribunal lawyer subsequently blew his tears out of the water.

Oh, those walls. What they could have told former US president Bill Clinton, the day he dropped in. Bill, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Bono was another visitor, popping in a with some whiskey on his way to play Croker, listening to Bertie explaining how he was all in favour of saving the world, just in case Bono got any notions of bad-mouthing him on stage, in his own backyard.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness brought the peace process tour there, delivering the whiff of cordite that was all that was missing from the historic building. If only those walls could have talked, we could have been saved millions at the planning tribunal, all those secret rendezvous and drop-offs verified independently. Now, all that history, intrigue, and those tales of ordinary madness are about to be privatised, most likely snapped up by some tech millionaire in search of a trophy property. There’s only one man who can save this jewel for the public. Jerry Beades, hero of Gorse Hill, main man of the New Land League, once-upon-a-time member of the Drumcondra ‘mafia’ himself.

Get thee down to Drumcondra, Jerry. Barricade the place. Make a few speeches. Do it for Bertie. Preserve the legend of St Luke’s, so future generations can remember that this is how we lived once upon a time.

Michael Clifford

Friday, March 13, 2015

Photo Minute: It's a family affair

Seven men acquitted on membership of an organisation that does not exist anymore

                                                                   The unbalanced scales of Irish justice

Seven Dublin men have been cleared of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court today after the prosecution case against them collapsed following a court ruling on evidence. They decided that the evidence of the head bogger in the investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwin, was just too much cabbage and not enough bacon in it. It was a non-jury trial, which by itself was all kangaroo anyway, and those that did attend fell about the place laughing at the ‘evidence.’

The ‘evidence’ was solely a belief, a fantasy really,  and one for the pub on a Saturday night. But it is a modern look at Irish justice, well, Irish style. Kirwan, the head of Security and Intelligence at Garda Headquarters, which is a stretch I know for all concerned, previously told the court that he believed, on the basis of confidential information, that all seven accused were members of the IRA.

He claimed privilege in relation to the sources of the confidential information but during cross examination he admitted that it was based on human sources and telephone intercepts. In 'intelligent' lay man terms that meant he got the info down at the pub as well with a few dodgy phone calls in between. The judge ruled it a cock and bull story otherwise known as a bunch of lies, which makes Kirwan a red faced liar.

The seven men have now been happily restored to their families though it is suspected all of them have now joined Sinn Fein as an act of protest. Their addresses where they live were printed in full in the newspaper as another act of intimidation but sure everyone knew where they lived all along, even them. 

In case there was any thick who did not know who the IRA ‘were’ the paper even filled in the blank spots with this: An illegal organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA.

Evidence was solely based on Garda ‘observations’ and the opinion evidence of Chief Superintendent Kirwan for their sum and total evidence of the facts. Next time either of this squad of bog-necks gives you an opinion, even on the weather, it is better to actually see is it raining outside first.

Barry Clifford 

Photo Minute: Misty mornings around the world

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You can stop a thief but you cannot stop a liar; The Gerry Adams smear continues

Gerry Adams is, as usual, being blamed by the Irish Independent for everything from gun running, money laundering, fuel smuggling, the cover up of paedophiles, and the Irish weather. The latter may well be true. When the roads are well and truly smeared against him and Sinn Fein, the politicians usually fill in whatever dirt they think will hold in the crevices left over. It is the sheer and relentless hate filled volume of their apoplectic and vicious accusations that is now working against the Independent and what passes as a government in this land. Gerry, it must be said, has shown the patience and conviction of a man that will not be broken, for he has survived and endured much worse than this . 

You can stop a thief but you cannot stop a liar. It is that liar that can do much damage by accusation in the form of a question; by innuendo, by suggestion and all without accountability before the courts. Carefully crafted, just to ask a man is he a paedophile or has covered up for one by association in anyway, directly or indirectly by itself, you are not liable for slander because it has been posed as a question. The question itself is the guilty verdict. So where  does that leave Gerry Adams and Enda Kenny in this no win and very grey area? There is hardly a frame of reference that will do any good to begin with. Of course the real point is to distract and blame Gerry for anything to hide what is really going here.

Enda Kenny is soon to join Ahern and Cowen on €3000 a week pension, while those who elected them continue on in existential and unchanged poverty that passes as our new ‘economic recovery.’ Kenny, and ‘his’ covenant between the people has long been broken and gone, strides across his stage today paying cohorts lip service by varying degrees of cronyism. Yet he only throws mud at Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein without once answering the hard questions of corruption that has defined this country’s political malaise, and one that is so entrenched we have nothing left to bargain with now except how far lower can we go to prostrate and prostitute oneself on bended knees to the EEU that now rule us.

The EU are the natural decedents of a long line of rulers that have altered the DNA structure of Irishness. There were the Vikings before them, then the normans, and then England followed just before the Catholic church. By then we were pliable for almost anything where corruption replaced pride and courage. I suppose it still was the EU all along back in those days, except they were loose mercenaries within the looser federation of ancient history. It is Sinn Fein today, the natural descendants of a leftover gene, that thankfully remained unaltered in the main, who represents that part of Irishness that was never altered or will allow itself be and enshrined in one word: courage. 

When Kenny said: “We can’t have a situation that known paedophiles were moved around the country for political purposes and God knows how many children have been in danger as a result” it was his subconscious thoughts that were brought to the surface. He really was talking about the Catholic Church and it’s institutions where it’s bulwark were the successive craven governments that served it well including the one that is serving them now.

There would have been more of a chance at justice being served against a rapist or a paedophile at the hands of the recently de-commissioned and stood down IRA before the peace agreement than there ever would be now in our non-transparent and non-accountable government. The reality is the kangaroo’s with wigs have long since served at the four courts in Dublin. The facts are indisputable and it’s record against children still drips in blood and cover-up.

In fact, it’s gerry Adams embrace of the peace agreement and it’s existing government supports that is naive, for if he believes that victims will get justice at the hands of a thinly veiled democracy that is called the Irish Republic, then I will read him a bedtime story that starts with the line: Once upon a time….. 

It is this state that is a history of cover up’s. Joan Burton said that if Gerry Adams were a bishop he would be asked the hard questions. The reality is that the government have always been asked the hard questions and yet, 93 years on as a banana republic, we are still waiting for the answers.

Barry Clifford

Monday, March 9, 2015

75 years: Abuse files to be secret

A child abuse survivor has criticised the Government’s decision to lock the personal witness statements victims gave to state investigations away for 75 years as “very extreme” and “odd”.
                                                                  Government Buildings

Andrew Madden made the remarks after the Cabinet confirmed it is to withhold the evidence for privacy and legal advice reasons.

The decision not to make the files publicly available is based on recommendations in the Ryan report. It was put forward yesterday by Jan O’ Sullivan, the education minister, and will see the files withheld for almost twice as long as State papers are normally kept.

The Labour TD is now due to draft legislation based on the decision to keep the records private for 75 years, although she has stressed she is open to making some of the information more readily available if reasons are given.

Mr Madden told the Irish Examiner last night that he does not understand why the information would not be released until 2090 as the facilities involved are indemnified from legal action.

He also questioned why the Government believes that those who spoke to the Ryan report about their personal experiences would be against making the information public, as they have previously criticised arguments that if they accepted a settlement they could not speak about what happened.

“It is really a personal decision, but 75 years is a lot of time to not publish this. I find it quite odd that the records would be withheld for this long,” he said.

In a statement last night, a spokesperson for Ms O’Sullivan said the move is based on the Ryan report recommendations. “Certain records of archival value will be sealed for 75 years from this year.

“The legislation will relate to records held by Commission to Inquiry into Child Abuse, Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Review Committee,” said the spokesperson.

Fiachra O Cionnaith

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Irish And Independent View Of Children

8,000,000 children go missing each year around the world and 800,000 of those are in the United States alone. Correspondingly so, 18 children go missing in Ireland every day, with over 50,000 of them missing in the last ten years.

                                                                      Sinead Moriarty

To put this on a more personal perspective, I lived in New York for ten years. My mornings there usually consisted of milk. Within a family of five, that was usually at least two to three litres a day. On those revolving and changing cartons of milk every week, were the photos of  bright and innocent faces of children that went missing every month and for many years. Behind those faces were the invisible ones that tracked the trail of tears from the bereft and inconsolable parents of those children who would never make it home, ever. For some parents, the knowledge of their child’s death would have been easier to live with that the imaginings of the horrors that might have befallen them if they had lived, even for a short while, under the hands of a paedophile or murderer. 

The attached photograph (above) from Sinead's article shows two children around ten or eleven years old walking alone in the woods.

I write all this to remind us to be on guard against the dangerous musings of Sinead Moriarty, who headlined her advice in the Irish Independent on how to protect children: ‘Parents are playing it too safe with their children’ just two days ago. 

Her narrow unknown research on this matter did not include the above statistics, which claimed that Irish parents are over protective and are stunting their children's development by not allowing them to have more independence when they are out and about.  The world has changed if it has not always been the same and Sinead needs to change with it. This is part of the narrative in her piece that gives a glimpse of the world she lives in presently, albeit an Alice in wonderland one: 

....“This boy (who had an over protective father) grew up to be someone who is extremely independent and makes friends easily. Granted, he could have been beaten up, flashed at or just ignored for the afternoon, but it all worked out well. As a parent I can't even begin to imagine doing this in the Ireland we live in today. I'd be terrified of paedophiles lurking in the bushes, kidnappers waiting to whisk my child away or bullies hunting for new prey. It’s ridiculous. The chances of any of these things happening are almost non-existent…"

Later in the article she slipped a bit by admitting that flashers were the ones to avoid in her local park and even witnessed a few, yet in her innocence, considered them harmless enough, while piling on more of that wide eyed naive world view of hers by declaring that children are now paranoid by the ‘bad person’ in a white van attempting to kidnap them as taught by their parents.

The next day, after this highly ignorant article was published, in a small village in Cork in Ireland a ‘bad person’ did pull up, not in a white van but in a stolen jeep, alongside a eleven year old girl and tried to kidnap her. The quick thinking of her ten year old brother saved her. 

Whatever the future holds for Sinead, who is also a mother, she will not get the mother or the babysitter of the year award while she still has those doe-eyed views of hers. And if she has a future as a scribe, it needs to be backed up by real research and not dangerous mis-information. 

Then again, we are talking about the Irish Independent and their particular brand of reporting and what they allow to be reported.

Barry Clifford

Photo Minute: Family Day Out

Photo Minute: Beautiful Argentina

Jerry walking in Michael Davitt’s shoes

                                                                               Jerry Beades

IS Paul Howard an evil genius who manufactured the siege of Vico Road for his own ends? Howard is the prolific author of the Ross O’Carroll Kelly columns and novels.

 The current saga involves the squatting former billionaire solicitor Brian O’Donnell and his psychiatrist wife. It is located in salubrious, south county Dublin; it involves a mansion; a brood with names like Bruce, Blaise, Blake and Alexandra, of whom Blake spent some of last week sulking in the High Court.

This is the stuff of the fictional character the country knows as Ross.

Brian and Mary Pat flew in from their new home in Surrey to claim they could not be turfed out of the Killiney mansion, though they no longer live in it.

Broadcaster Vincent Browne has a walk-on role. (Always good to throw in a minor, real-life character). Then we had food being ferried in through the guarded gates in a Mini Cooper, past the salivating media hordes.
And among the little nuggets of drama, we had Brian returning from a foray in the High Court, mistakenly driving over the foot of one of his praetorian Land League guards.

That same man, a Mr John Martin, had a torrid week: he alleges that he was assaulted by Browne when the latter moved past him to claim right of entry to “the bank’s property”.

Browne then led a procession of media people through the grounds, as if they were recently liberated citizens overrunning the vacated, opulent mansion of a deposed dictator.

If Howard didn’t manufacture this saga, then he can kick back and enjoy the view, because his fertile imagination has been made redundant for Ross’s next outing.

The other surreal element to this yarn is the presence of those who claim lineage to 19th century nationalist and Land League founder, Michael Davitt. Gorse Hill, the mansion at issue, was guarded through the week by foot soldiers of the New Land League.

They claim their purpose is to prevent evictions, without fear or favour, just like Mr Davitt’s revolutionary organisation. No eviction too big, no TV camera too small.

That’s not their mission statement, but it should be.

At first glance, you may think the ‘new’ is to distinguish the group from the original. Unfortunately, the term is to distinguish it from an offshoot, the National Land League.

The two leagues are quintessentially Irish, as ‘the split’ was the first item on the agenda.

Heading up the ‘new’ faction, he who would wear the shoes of Davitt, is a man named Jerry Beades. Jerry is a gas man. Well, that’s one description for him.

Back in the day, when the Celtic bubble was being blown goodo, Jerry was known by the term ‘Fianna Fáil developer’.

(He has claimed that he was a “Fianna Fáil builder”, but the distinction will be lost on most people).
This was due to his position on the Fianna Fáil national executive, and his role as a serious developer. He was also great buddies with Bertie Ahern. Some observers whispered that he was a ‘made man’ in the ‘Drumcondra Mafia’, under capo de tutti capi, Ahern.

Truly, the world has been turned on its head when a ‘Fianna Fáil developer’ has transmogrified into a champion of the dispossessed, standing up against the banks, which had a good thing going with both Fianna Fáil and developers, back in the day. But Jerry is no ordinary Joe.

He first came to national prominence when the country, and Fianna Fáil, were going down the tubes under the stewardship of Brian Cowen.

Jerry stepped forward with a plan to save the party. In March, 2010, he suggested that Cowen should clear out the Cabinet and bring in new faces.

This, back then, would be akin to a backbench Sinn Féin TD today saying that Gerry Adams is better off staying schtum on matters economic, because he doesn’t know his sums.

Cowen ploughed on, but Jerry wasn’t for lying down. By September of that year, he had set about introducing ‘the split’ as a solution to the party’s woes.

On RTÉ’s Drivetime, he told Mary Wilson that he was setting up “Fianna Fáil Nua”, in a manner similar to “what Tony Blair did with New Labour in England”.

He also claimed that the FF Cabinet ministers had taken control of the party away from the grassroots members.

How prophetic his proposal was. While the New Fianna Fáil effort didn’t get off the ground, in time Jerry would set up the New Land League. If nothing else, Jerry can claim to be a new man.

He didn’t have a good recession. In November, 2011, the Kerryman reported a district court case under the headline ‘Bertie’s Millionaire Pal Left Unpaid Races Bills at Listowel’.

It turned out that Jerry had hired a private box at the Listowel races for €1,600, but failed to cough up the readies for it.

“This man has entertained the good and the great at Listowel Races for years, somewhat like the Galway tent,” the court was told. Perhaps Listowel Races was to Fianna Fáil builders what the Galway Races was to Fianna Fáil developers.

Worse was to come. In 2012, Judge Peter Kelly granted a judgment against Jerry from Ulster Bank, on foot of a series of loans valued at €11.4m between 2005 and 2007, when the balloon was really stretched.
During the court hearing, Judge Kelly asked Jerry whether he had taken out those loans. “I refuse to answer that question,” Jerry replied.

Kelly is a sensible man, not given to displaying a big ego.

 If he had been so disposed he could have pursued an answer all the way to a contempt ruling, but the judge has been witness to buckets of foolishness from the great and the good laid low since 2008.

His ruling also referred to numerous allegations of fraud and deception that Jerry made against the bank and various solicitors, none of which was backed up with a scintilla of evidence.

Enough of all that. There are second acts in Irish lives, and Jerry’s transmogrification into champion of the dispossessed is one of the more colourful character trajectories we have seen.

Some people with no sense of humour, or history, have suggested that Jerry Beades has a cheek to present himself as Davitt’s successor, and to do so by defending the trophy home of a solicitor who made his fortune gambling on property.

That school of opinion misses the point.

Jerry is rightly front and centre in the story of the Siege of Gorse Hill.

His whole persona, his journey from Fianna Fáil whatever to defender of human rights deserves to be part of this story. In fact, without it, a huge kaleidoscope of colour would be missing.

All we can hope is that he will continue to bring the remainder of the New Land League with him, or the country will be introduced to the New New Land League, and there’s only so much of that a nation can take.

Michael Clifford