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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nama men give masterclass in infuriating understatement


Account of bank guarantee night makes episode seem even more incredible


Frank Daly
Remember the famous iodine tablets sent to every household for use in a nuclear emergency?
The Government may have to do something similar again.
Because if the opening day of the banking inquiry’s new module is anything to go by, there’s going to be a nationwide run on blood pressure tablets very soon.
Just when you thought you couldn’t be any more annoyed by the carry-on during the banking crisis and property crash, along come two witnesses from Nama to shove everyone up to boiling point again.

This is the “Nexus phase” of the Oireachtas investigation, which is a posh way of saying that they’ve reached the nitty-gritty stage.

What Fran Daly and Brendan McDonagh had to say about events leading up to and including the night of the bank guarantee was as frightening as it was infuriating.
McDonagh, who was a senior executive with the National Treasury Management Agency during the banking crisis, became the first person to give an account of what actually happened in Government Buildings during the late-night meeting that resulted in the guarantee.

Not that he could tell us very much.
In an astonishing revelation, he explained he was summoned to Merrion Street by the secretary general of the Department of Finance, who refused to tell him why. Then this international banking expert was shoved into a side room with three other people and ignored for four hours while the then taoiseach, minister for finance and sundry senior civil servants agonised over what to do.
Brendan McDonagh knows his onions when it comes to the money business. But for some inexplicable reason, on the brink of such a monumental decision, nobody on the government side thought to ask for his opinion.

Input
As a senior representative of the NTMA – “the nation’s banker” as inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch put it – his input could have been useful.

“At 1am, we were told the government had decided to guarantee the banks,” he stated, as jaws clattered to the floor around him.
He had no idea that this had been on the cards. His little group could see through to another room where there were a lot of comings and goings, so they figured out that something was afoot.
But they hadn’t a clue what it might be.
And what was Brendan’s reaction when he was told the news?
“I was just a bit surprised.”
Not surprisingly.

McDonagh’s matter-of-fact account of his strange night in Government Buildings made the whole episode seem all the more incredible.
He drew a compelling picture. These four men stuck in a room while all hell was breaking loose next door.
His “abiding memory” was of a small portable telly in the corner, stuck on an American business channel and scrolling the continuous message that the Dow Jones index was down 700 points. It was “tanking” before his eyes.
“We could see the world was collapsing – not just Ireland. ”

And suddenly, though we weren’t there, it became our abiding memory of the night of the bank guarantee.
Both witnesses – Frank Daly is a former head of the Revenue Commissioners – turned out to be very skilled in the use of the measured phrase, giving Lynch’s committee a masterclass in the art of understatement.

Daly, despite the best efforts of Joe Higgins to have him agree that the banks were “reckless” in the run-up the collapse, said they “displayed an attitude to lending which wasn’t rigorous”.

But while the Nama chairman was “not going to take a view,” his descriptions of the banks’ unbelievably irresponsible approach to lending at the height of the boom left no doubt as to where that view rests.

Higgins tried again with McDonagh. Did the outrageous amounts lent out by the banks to people with little collateral but who were big noises in the property development business not amount “to a damning indictment” of them?

The best he could get out of the Nama chief executive was that there was “a highly unusual level of lending to a small group of individuals.”

But from the likes of McDonagh, “highly unusual” – a phrase he repeated a number of times, is as near as you’ll get to a damning indictment.

Madness
Daly spoke of the madness that surrounded the property market. There were people who were builders buying hotels and people who weren’t builders building housing developments.

It was nuts.
Then after the first layer – the builders, came “the new arrivals. A lot of the professional class”.
They hadn’t a clue. But “they were involved in golf club chat: if you’re not into property, you’re not in the game at all”.

And the banks flung money at them too.
McDonagh and Daly knew the system was going haywire. McDonagh took the NTMA’s deposits out of the Irish banks.

But the bankers kept going. It was a “herd instinct,” said Daly. Which is no excuse.
We can still see them now, strolling into the committee room in their expensive suits with their advisers and PR people in tow. Talking down to the TDs. Lying about their fundamentals being “sound”.

The cheek of the lot of them.
Idiots. Who cost us dearly.

As for those new arrivals – they were the flashiest ones in the Galway Tent. The “proper” builders tended to be a bit more low key.

They were show-offs. Expensively tanned and dressed, keen for everyone to know about their latest deal. Their champagne. Their helicopters. Their latest hotel.
Throwing the cash around. Delighted with themselves. Yet pathetically eager to have their names mentioned in the social diaries.

Nearly all of them headed straight for the tender embrace of Nama.
While frantically trying to stick somebody else with their bills.

Now, where are those blood pressure pills again?

Miriam Lord

Anglo back to haunt Kenny



The word “rotten” clung to the sticky Dáil air as the ghost of Anglo came back to haunt another government.


Siteserv was sold by Anglo Irish Bank (IBRC) at a loss of €105m, to a company controlled by tycoon Denis O'Brien

The controversy around the curious sale by the bust bank — renamed IBRC — of a firm called Siteserv at a taxpayer loss of €105m, provoked outrage on all sides of the chamber — but for different reasons.
The unusual incidents surrounding the sale feed directly into the pre-election electricity surging through the Dáil, as Siteserv was bought by a company controlled by tycoon Denis O’Brien, whose subsidiary went on to win the major contract to install the water meters.

That shareholders were given a €5m “sweetener” to approve the sale — even though the company was a broken husk — was bad enough, opposition TDs said, but the fact Department of Finance officials raised repeated red flags about the deal, only to see them ignored threw Taoiseach Enda Kenny so far onto the back foot, he might as well have been on the back benches.

“This Government got rid of the rotten carcass that was Anglo Irish Bank,” Mr Kenny repeated three times as he seemed far more concerned with sticking to a script than answering questions fired at him by Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin.

Mr Kenny insisted his Government had “not put a cent” into Anglo, which led Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher to shoot back: “You put €5m into the shareholders’ pockets though.”
Mr Kenny insisted IBRC assured Michael Noonan the deal was “in the best interest of the State”, so that’s all right then — who needs Department of Finance experts when you have a bunch of bankers telling you what to do? And why did Mr Noonan ignore the officials’ demands for an independent probe?

With no answers from the Taoiseach, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams helpfully recapped the plot for those who came late to the drama, stating: “We know Siteserv was sold off for €45m at a loss to the taxpayer of €105m. We also know that the same legal firm acted for both the purchaser and the seller, and that the shareholders and the director got a backhander of €5m. We also know the bid from Denis O’Brien’s company was not the highest one, and that the Department of Finance was concerned about all these matters and the minister was briefed in detail on them.”

This drew a furious response from the Taoiseach as he branded the Sinn Féin leader the “ultimate hypocrite” who was coy about his “goings on with dubious characters” in an apparent reference to the exact role of Gerry “Army Council? What Army Council?” Adams in the Troubles.
Hmmm, perhaps making a crude analogy with 40 years of violence was not the best way to dampen-down the exploding Anglo controversy?

Everyone agreed with the Taoiseach Anglo was rotten, but some Government TDs privately used the same word to describe his own performance in the matter.

Shaun Connolly

We Are Not All In This Together (thought for today)



The word criminals conjure all sorts of stereotypes of what that means. Closer to reality is that many people who are in jail should not be there, and many more that are free, should. 

What I mean is that this is still a strange island where if you do not pay your television license, you can and do go to prison, and those who are moneyed, privileged, and yet inherently corrupt rarely have a stay there for real criminality; it matters not what justice is morally here and legally not at all. I suspect we are not all in this together or ever were. 

It is a strange island too that you can go to jail for stealing food just to stay alive. The maths tells us there were over 400,000 people in ‘food poverty’ in 2013 in this country according to the Department Of Social Protection, and who are and still facing those risks. 

One unlucky man who did face them and lost, a 57 year old out of work actor, was caught and arrested for stealing food for his children. He was convicted, branded with a criminal record that classes him a thief, and one which in the long-term will preclude him from finding work because of that sole conviction. For him this vicious cycle goes on. 

Yet, if you were a former prime minister of this country, who ‘under-declared’ his taxes by over €2,000,000 after a tax assessment by the Revenue Commissioners, for the bribes he received from former supermarket magnate Ben Dunne, and then have it reduced to zero by an independent appeals commissioner, who is a brother-in-law of another crooked and corrupt former prime minister, Bertie Ahern, then you will know we are not all in this together. 

Barry  Clifford

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Temperature is set to rise in anti-water charge campaign


Anti-water charge protesters take to the streets of Dublin on Saturday. The campaign is transforming Irish society and politics as we know it.

IT MIGHT appear to some that some of the political heat has evaporated from the Irish Water debacle and that the Government has won the “water war” by its acceptance of its mistakes, the water charge reductions and extension of registration deadlines.
However, the results of research into the views of water protesters, research I undertook recently, suggests that this battle is far from over.

A large majority (70%) of the 2,556 water protesters who completed the online survey (developed and analysed by myself and some of my students in the department of geography in Maynooth), believe that the campaign will be successful.

Some 92% stated they do not intend paying for water charges and 90% felt the tactics of the Right2Water movement have been effective. This indicates a high level of confidence and determination among protesters that the water charges and Irish Water will be abolished.
It is also very supportive of the Right2Water trade unions, political parties and grassroots “says no” groups. Survey respondents believe the protestshave brought the water charges to the top of the political agenda and made the Government “take stock and realise that the people of Ireland have had enough” and that “they are not taking this one lying down”. Protesters intend to extend the campaign to boycotting the water charge.

Respondents explained that their opposition to the water charges is motivated by anger at the cumulative impacts of austerity (which was the most cited reason for protesting), and the bailing out of the banks, developers, and the European financial system at “the expense of the vulnerable, working and middle income people in Ireland”.

They highlighted that they could not afford the charges because of pressure from household bills, rent increases, illness, reliance on welfare such as disability, being a student living off loans, and facing repossession and homelessness. Some explained they were going without basic necessities such as food.

They also described feeling “betrayed”, “let down”, and ‘ignored’ by the Government and highlighted that the people were “citizens” and not just “consumers”. The water protesters believe “the peoples’ natural resource [water] is being given away to the governments’ corporate friends in the golden circle”.

They criticised corruption and cronyism and claimed the Government is “putting the interests of big business, corporations, Europe, bankers and bondholders, before the interests of the Irish people”.

The protesters do not trust either the Government or Irish Water, and believe that charges will increase in the future and that Irish Water will be privatised unless “the people” stop it.
Respondents felt the protests have been successful because they were “a genuinely grassroots and local movement and [have] mobilised every village, town and city” and “rallied Irish people from all walks of life”.

A majority of respondents (54.4%) stated that they had not participated in any previous protest. Indeed the water protests are the largest and most sustained social movement in Ireland since independence.

At a local level, communities have been engaging in protests against water metres for over two years. At a national level, there have been five demonstrations that have drawn between 20,000 and 150,000.

The respondents explained that, in their view, they have the power to stop the implementation of the water charges through large-scale protest, non-payment and protest at water meter installations. This is different from other austerity measures such as the household charge where people did not have the same power to protest as it was enforced by revenue or cuts were made directly to wages and public services.

Media portrayal of the anti-water movement was criticised with 86% describing it as “negative”, being “biased”, and acting as “government supporters”. Some 82.6% said they were most informed about the campaign from social media while 6.4% relied on traditional media outlets.
There was an overwhelming desire expressed for a fundamental change in politics. Very significantly, 45% said they voted for establishment parties (FF/FG/Labour) in 2011 but indicated that they are changing their vote to the opposition Left parties and independents in the forthcoming election.

One in three (31.7%) said they would vote for PBP/AAA, 27.5% said for left-wing independents, 23.9% for Sinn Fein and only 5.6% for right-wing independents. Some 77% of respondents said they believed the most effective way of getting change was through protesting, while only 28% saw contacting a political representative as effective.
This suggests the water movement represents a new form of “people-empowered” politics. Also 79% of respondents stated they would vote for candidates affiliated to or endorsed by the Right2Water campaign, again highlighting the important role water charges could play in the coming election.

Despite the strong support for leftist parties, a large proportion (79%) want to see a new political party formed. They want this new party to be anti-austerity; anti-corruption, anti-cronyism; for radical political reform involving a “clearing out” of “establishment” political parties and for a democracy where “government acts for the people and not the elite or golden circle”.

They want it to stand for fairness, equality, social justice, and the right to housing, health, water, education and protection of the poor and vulnerable. It should also stand up to Europe (particularly on the debt), and “take back” Irish natural resources (gas, fisheries, etc) “for the people of Ireland”.

The opinions, values, and language used by the majority of respondents could be classified as broadly left-wing but only a minority of respondents used this term. A new political party aiming to involve and represent water protesters is, therefore, more likely to be successful if it develops an inclusive anti-austerity, rights and equality-based platform, that attempts to reflect the diversity of excluded groups, from the rural to the urban, the poor, working and suffering middle classes. Interestingly, respondents also made reference to the failure of the establishment parties to live up to the ideals of the Republic.

A new Podemos-type party calling for a new republic could be well placed to build in this space. Whether this happens or not, what is clear from this groundbreaking study is that the water protests have catalysed a process of empowering significant numbers of Irish people who had not been involved in protest or anti-establishment politics before. They are becoming politicised and active citizens. The Irish Water movement is indeed transforming Irish society and politics as we know it.


By Rory Hearne who is a lecturer at the department of geography, NUI Maynooth

Brian Lenihan family’s intervention is simply bonkers


The recent move by the aunt and brother of the late minister for finance Brian Lenihan to represent his views would make a joke of the banking inquiry, writes Michael Clifford

Brian Lenihan in 2009 unveiling how Nama would target land and property development loans of the six banks covered by the state guarantee. Picture: Billy Higgins

WHO put Brian Lenihan on trial? Recently, we have somehow been given the impression that his reputation, and legacy, are on trial at the banking inquiry.
Last Friday, a solicitor’s letter was dispatched to the clerk of the inquiry on behalf of Mary O’Rourke and Conor Lenihan, respectively the aunt and brother of the late former minister for finance.
Apparently, they want to have an input into the inquiry in order to ensure that somebody is there to represent the views of the deceased man.
Mrs O’Rourke told RTÉ that Brian Lenihan “confided” in both her and his brother Conor. And now, they want to ensure his legacy gets a fair shake when the inquiry deals with the night of the bank guarantee in particular.

This is bonkers. There is no other word for it but bonkers.
Notwithstanding the totally understandable protective instinct of a bereaved family, the notion that an aunt and brother of Mr Lenihan should have an input would render the inquiry a joke.
Is their request based on the fact that they are both retired politicians? Many elected representatives confide their most inner political thoughts to those close to them who have never run for office. What if one of the other principles from the night in question had since died?

Would it then have been incumbent on the inquiry to invite in a widow or offspring to tell what the deceased man thought — or confided — about the events in question?
At a time when some are attempting to popularise notions of “political insiders”, this kind of stuff is the last thing that the political establishment surely needs.

Then there is the substance of the matter at issue. The banking inquiry is bound by strict rules in light of a 2011 referendum. Nobody can be found culpable of any wrongdoing. No adverse finding can be made on anybody. The inquiry’s brief is to come up with a narrative of what exactly happened, ostensibly to learn lessons for the future. Nobody’s reputation is on the line.

One thing that may well have prompted the intervention of the two Lenihan family members is a revelation from the governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan when he appeared before the inquiry in January.
On that occasion, Honohan said Brian Lenihan had told him that he, Lenihan, had wanted to have Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide nationalised on the night of the guarantee. Probed further at the inquiry, Honohan said the former minister added that he had been overruled.

The only figure senior to Lenihan on the night in question, and empowered to overrule him, was then taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Cowen has disputed this version of events. He did so publicly last Friday, hours after the Lenihans had contacted the inquiry, but sources close to Cowen had indicated sometime ago that he would dispute it.

On Friday, Cowen did deny anybody was overruled.
“Obviously, Brian [Lenihan] had some views. We discussed them. There were problems with nationalisation and there were problems with guarantee.
“There was no one who could say there was one correct thing to do. If that happened, everything would have been a lot different.”

To which the only response can be — So what? So what if Lenihan did push for nationalisation? It happened within months of the guarantee anyway.
So what if Lenihan did say that to Honohan? Brian Lenihan bravely worked himself to the bone through a fatal disease. The unfortunate man knew he was dying, and that he had been thrust into a key role at a time of historic upheaval.

Would it not have been natural to attempt to shape his legacy in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be around when the long view of his actions were being analysed? Is it possible that such knowledge might have prompted him to make claims that he might perceive to cast him in a better light? In reality, it doesn’t really matter what he said to Honohan because that is not evidence of anything that actually happened.
So what if there is dispute over the precise details of who said what on that night? The bank guarantee is one element of the banking collapse which is the subject of the inquiry, but the significance attached to the decision taken that night has been blown out of all proportion.

By September 28, 2008, the goose was cooked. The disastrous policies followed since 2002, the lack of regulation, the greedy and reckless lending, had all long ensured that the country was facing into an economic nightmare. Mistakes were most likely made that night, particularly in the reach of the guarantee, but none of that had a major impact on what ultimately transpired in the country.

Honohan himself said as much during his second appearance at the inquiry last month.
He told the inquiry that 80%-90% of the overall hardship that was subsequently endured was “already embedded in the situation” irrespective of what decision was taken.
“The bulk of these costs could not have been avoided by a different course of action on the night of the guarantee,” he said.

To that extent, those wishing to defend Lenihan’s legacy can legitimately claim that he arrived at the inner circle less than six months previously, when the ship was already on the rocks. Irrespective of what Lenihan did or said on the night in question, his culpability in the grand scheme of things fades noticeably when set against the actions of Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevy, all of whom manned the bridge and set the course for disaster.

If anything, the long view is likely to be kinder to Lenihan than any of the other players in the political, regulatory or banking sectors.
Over the last six years, as the effects of austerity attacked society, it has been fashionable, and politically expedient, to apportion blame for the whole thing to what happened in Government Buildings on that night. Such a view makes for a handy political message but does precious little for any attempt to understand what actually happened, and guard against a repeat.


Irrespective of that fallacy, the idea that Lenihan’s closest relatives should appear to defend what he did on the night in question is still nothing short of bonkers.

Michael Clifford

Rats, fish and yet Enda can’t smell a thing


‘The Taoiseach sniffed the air. Nothing. He would have to go off and get a bit more detail.’

At this stage the flatulent rat was snoozing in the Taoiseach’s breast pocket.
                                                                    Enda Kenny

It is not widely known, but the first person a new taoiseach encounters upon entering Government Buildings after a general election is a doctor.
The doctor carries out a simple medical procedure which involves fitting a special peg inside the incumbent’s nose. It is not visible to the naked eye. This prime ministerial peg (PMP) immediately knocks out the wearer’s ability to smell certain things. It remains in place indefinitely. Boffins developed it specifically to guard against the harmful effect of rats and fish on the holders of high office. It is a very useful device.

Take yesterday in the Dáil, for instance. On two separate occasions, Enda Kenny relied heavily on his PMP. Micheál Martin brought up the strange tale of IBRC’s sale of Sitesery to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien. It was sold off for €45 million, incurring a loss to the state of €105 million. Questions about the process have been simmering away for some time now, with Independent TD Catherine Murphy doggedly looking for answers.
Documents have now come to light which reveal that officials in the Department Of Finance had serious misgivings about the conduct of the sale. The Sunday Times ran a front page story about it this week.

“There are huge potential conflicts of interest all over this deal” said the Fianna Fail leader. “Let us remember we are talking about a company whose subsidiary, Sierra, went on to win the largest contract to install water meters and has now become a very profitable company in itself.”

Martin wanted to know if the Taoiseach would initiate an inquiry to get to the bottom of this story.

Most people in the chamber could smell a rat. A dirty great big rat, which couldn’t have stunk more had it fallen into a vat of Lynx on its way home from the sewer. The Taoiseach sniffed the air. Nothing. He would have to go off and get a bit more detail before he could give a satisfactory answer. Maybe . Micheál might table a question to the Minister for Finance. And no, said Enda, as the rat dabbed Chanel on its throat and reclined coquettishly on the ledge in front of him, he didn’t read that report on the front of The Sunday Times.
Did nobody think to bring the story to his attention, asked Micheál. At this stage, the flatulent rat was snoozing in Enda’s breast pocket after a feed of rotten eggs.

“I don’t get the opportunity to read every newspaper article that’s written about matters of current affairs across the vast spectrum of various elements of the media,” declared the Taoiseach. (Which is why he pays people handsomely to do it for him.)
“This is all going on under your nose and you’re just oblivious to the whole thing, if we’re to believe you today. Oblivious!” shrieked Micheál, before the rat scuttled out. The Siteserv rat-pong lingered.

Judicial skirts
Next up was the Fennelly’s Skirts Affair. The Opposition was very concerned about the sewing of fish into the lining of Nial Fennelly’s judicial skirts, which the Taoiseach is currently hiding behind.

Enda sees nothing wrong with this and is fully satisfied and happy with himself on the issue of hiding behind the judge’s skirts, which are hanging in a large wardrobe in Government Buildings.
Apparently somebody, possibly sources close to the former Garda commissioner, sewed a heap of mackerel fillets into the lining after their man wasn’t sacked by the Taoiseach, who is unanimous with himself on this point. However, Enda has refused to explain what happened at a meeting between himself and two very senior civil servants which led to one of them paying a night-time visit to former commissioner Callinan’s home, who promptly, er, retired the next morning.
It’s very simple really. What happened at the meeting?

But every time that question is asked, Enda makes a run for Fennelly’s skirts and hides behind them. Thanks to his PMP, he can’t smell the fish.
Of course, he would love to tell, but he can’t because this would be in contravention of the skirts commission’s rules. But a report will be published some time.

Might it be published before the next election, asked Micheál Martin? Well. Enda wasn’t having that. “You’re actually calling into question the competence of a very fine judge here,” he told the Fianna Fáil leader.
“No, I’m not,” said Micheál. No, he wasn’t. 
Gerry Adams predicted Enda would talk down the clock without saying much about his dealings with the commission. He was right.

Second time
Adams wanted to know what problem Kenny has with saying whether he was called a second time to talk to the judge.

Enda was not at liberty to say. That would be offence. “That’s patently untrue,” harrumphed Micheál. Why not just say what happened at that meeting?

Actually, said the Taoiseach, he wouldn’t have a problem with this except the Justice Committee requested that the matter be shoved into a Commission of Inquiry. What was a party leader with a majority on a committee to do? ”


“Nobody believes you, Taoiseach” shouted Róisín Shortall, as Enda brazenly defended himself from behind Fennelly’s mackerel infused skirts. All very fishy. Not that Enda cares. He can’t smell a thing.

Miriam Lord

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Video minute: This is why I love Ireland !!!

NY judge to consider claims that chimpanzees are ‘legal persons’


Supreme Court Justice issues order requiring university to defend right to keep primates

An animal rights group has been granted a court hearing in which it will argue that two chimpanzees who live at a New York state university cannot be held captive because they are autonomous, intelligent creatures. Photograph: Thinkstock.


An animal rights group has been granted a court hearing in which it will argue that two chimpanzees who live at a New York state university cannot be held captive because they are autonomous, intelligent creatures.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe in Manhattan issued an order late Monday, called a writ of habeas corpus, requiring the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island to defend its right in court to keep the primates, Hercules and Leo. A writ of habeas corpus requires a person to be released from unlawful imprisonment.
In what it said was the first case of its kind in the world, the Nonhuman Rights Project claims that because chimpanzees are autonomous, intelligent creatures, their captivity amounts to unlawful imprisonment under the law.
They want the pair of chimps, who are used in research on physical movement at the university, to be sent to a sanctuary in Florida.

Under the law, such orders can be granted only to “legal persons,” so Ms Justice Jaffe would need to find that chimpanzees have at least some limited rights traditionally reserved for humans.

The judge did not explain the reason for issuing the order in Monday’s brief decision.
The university did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.
The hearing, in which the university will be represented by the New York state Attorney General’s office, is scheduled for May 6th.

In separate cases, the group, founded by Boston attorney and animal rights activist Steven Wise, sued the owners of two chimpanzees who live in upstate New York. State judges tossed out both lawsuits, and separate appeals courts upheld those rulings.

Mr Wise has asked the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, to hear the cases. He has said a victory could spur similar cases on behalf of elephants, dolphins, whales and other intelligent animals.

In a more traditional animal welfare case in December, a judge in Argentina said an orangutan who lives at a zoo could be freed and transferred to a sanctuary.
The group behind that case made similar arguments to those presented by Wise, but the judge did not go so far as to grant the orangutan, Sandra, the rights reserved for humans.

Reuters

All hands on deck as pub opens in shipping container



He serves pints in his London shipping container, where customers can exchange football stickers for pints.



But for this enterprising Cork man, owning his own sports bar is a dream come true.
Carrigaline native Sebastian O’Driscoll moved to London after graduating from college in 2008. Despite working for charities as a programme manager, he harboured other ambitions.
“I always wanted to open a bar,” he said, and the would-be publican spotted his opportunity in a novel community for start-up businesses.

Artworks is a project on Elephant Road in central London that rents refurbished shipping containers to new retailers, restaurants and start-ups. Over 50 of these containers have been refurbished and rented out to a community of new businesses, including a Mauritian tearoom, a Caribbean take away, stores and even a library.
“It’s ideal for a start-up as the economies mean it won’t absolutely break you to have a go. I wanted to open a pub in the area where you could go to watch sports, a place that wasn’t a dodgy bar or part of a chain,” O’Driscoll explained.

The appropriately-named Six Yard Box opened in January, a traditionally quiet time but the kick-off of the Six Nations saw an upturn in business.
The small pub has been packed since and regularly hosts events such as Fifa video game tournaments, Fr Ted bingo and screenings of all major televised sports events.
Having roped in some friends to put in the hard work required to turn the empty container into a bar, O’Driscoll saw potential in the unit’s low ceiling.
“We had collected World Cup stickers over the summer and thought ‘why not cover the ceiling with them?’ In reality the stickers we had barely covered half of it.”

And with that, pounds sterling were replaced with Panini stickers.
“For the first few weeks people would bring in their football cards and stickers and we’d give them a few pints for them. It became a sort of currency and was great for getting stuff for the ceiling. Soon word spread around about the bar,” he said.

The Artworks community is a temporary project, but O’Driscoll has ambitions that stretch beyond the flat-pack shopping centre’s five- year life span: “I want to open a place with five-a-side pitches and a bar. A sort of social sports place. So many people in their 20s and 30s move to London and don’t know anyone here. I want to create a social hub where people can meet, go for a kick around and a pint after.”

Until then his customers will have to content themselves with a kick around on the tabletop football within the cosy environs of the Six Yard Box.

Joe Leogue

Adams: Royal visit will 'promote reconciliation, respect and understanding'




Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams hopes that the visit of Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to Ireland next month will "promote reconciliation".

Clarence House had earlier confirmed that the prince and his wife will visit the Repulic of Ireland and N. Ireland between May 19 and 22, with the trip including a visit to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, where Charles' great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed in an IRA bombing in 1979.

Mr Adams said that this visit, and the visit of the Queen of England to the Republic of Ireland four years ago, would help to mend relations between the two countries.

The Sinn Féin President said: "The visit by the British Queen to the Garden of Remembrance, her words of reconciliation and the subsequent meetings with Martin McGuinness demonstrated the potential of these events.

“I am conscious that Prince Charles is the symbolic head of the British Army's Parachute Regiment and the grievous wrong they have done including to the people of Derry and Ballymurphy where I grew up.

“However, I am also conscious that the British Royal family have also been directly affected by the actions of republicans.


“I hope this visit will be an occasion to promote reconciliation, respect and understanding.”

US donors gave Fianna Fáil nearly $1.3 million


Donors to party between 1984 and 2000 included businessmen, clergy and unions

Businessman Galen Weston donated to the party. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Pamela Duncan, Simon Carswell, Erin McGuire


Donors to Fianna Fáil’s US fundraising arm over almost two decades included well-known businessmen, monsignors, unions and companies including the US Tobacco Company, Tara Mines and Waterford Crystal.

The Irish Times has digitised US department of justice filings made by Friends of Fianna Fail which show the party raised almost $1.3 million between 1984 and 2000 ranging in donations of between $5 and $27,000.

The highest cumulative donations were made by Irish-American businessman John Sharkey who donated a total of $37,000 to the organisation in two separate donations in 1996 and 1999. Businessman Declan Ganley donated $25,000 to the organisation in 1996.
Billionaire businessman
Lesser amounts are listed for individuals including billionaire businessman Galen Weston, the late founder of the Central Remedial Clinic Lady Valerie Goulding and deceased New York pub and restaurant owner Eamon Doran.

Donations to Friends of Fianna Fáil 1984 to 2000
Donations received by Friends of Fianna Fáil between 1984 and 2000. The organisation stopped filing returns with the US Department of Justice in 2003 having reported no donations from December 2000 onwards. 

Figures exclude two loans from Bank of Ireland, one for $40,000 reported in July 1987, and another for $20,000 recorded in March 1989, which were listed among the donations. Bank interest is also excluded.

A $5,000 donation in the name of Dermot Desmond is recorded in December 1990, while two further donations totalling $6,000 and made in 1988 are listed under the name “D Desmond”.
Attempts to contact the financier to confirm whether these donations were made by him or on his behalf were unsuccessful.

US-based Irish publisher Niall O’Dowd made two separate donations totalling $500 in the late 1980s.
Two of the publications he founded, the Irish Voice newspaper and Irish America Magazine , are also listed as contributing $10,700 in total.
When contacted Mr O’Dowd said the latter donations were for tables at dinners hosted to mark Albert Reynolds’s role in the peace process. He said contributions in his name were for attendance at private Friends of Fianna Fáil events at which no press facilities were offered.
A $2,000 donation in 1997 is listed in the name of Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív.

When contacted Mr Ó Cuív said the donation was not made by him but by an individual based in Canada which he forwarded to the party.
Individual donors also include members of the clergy including the late Monsignor James Murray who donated $1,500 in two donations and the late Monsignor Daniel J Bourke who donated more than $1,300.
The United States Tobacco Company made a $3,750 donation in 1988, the same year in which Tara Mines made a donation of $3,703 and Waterford Crystal donated $1,500.
Unions including branches of the Bricklayers Local Union, a branch of the Excavators Union and the Transport Workers Union of America donated a total of $1,600 between them.

A total of $1.27 million was raised by Fianna Fáil in the years covered by the filings (this figure excludes revenue raised from bank interest and two loans totalling $60,000).

This compares with the $12 million raised by Friends of Sinn Féin between February 1995 and October 2014, the last period for which the latter organisation reported donations with the US department of justice.

In that time the parties shared some of the same donors: Structure Tone and its founder, Pat Donaghy, are listed as having donated $14,000 and $3,000 respectively to Friends of Fianna Fáil up to 1996.
Friends of Sinn Féin have received more than $200,000 in donations from Mr Donaghy and his associated businesses: more than $63,000 in personal donations, $87,000 from Structure Tone and $56,000 from Favour Royal.

Coca Cola Corporation
The late Irish-American businessman Donald Keough, a former Coca Cola Corporation president/chief operating officer, made a donation of $10,000 to Friends of Sinn Féin and an equivalent donation to Friends of Fianna Fáil split over two contributions in 1996 and 1999.

Friends of Fianna Fáil stopped filing returns with the US department of justice in 2003 having reported no donations from December 2000 onwards.
Since 2001 Irish political parties had been prohibited from accepting foreign donations under the Irish Electoral (Amendment) Act.
Other Irish political organisations have been far less successful in raising funds in the US than Friends of Fianna Fáil and Friends of Sinn Féin.

A group called Friends of Fine Gael raised $140,000 from a dinner in November 1995 while another group, Supporters of Fine Gael Inc, set up in 2007, raised $28,350.
It has not raised any money since then and has not lodged a filing to the Department of Justice since 2011.

Friends of the Irish Progressive Democrats LLC raised $45,771 at two fundraising dinners in the six months to the end of March 2001, the last filing made by the US wing of the now defunct party.

An entity linked to the Labour Party, Friends of Irish Labour in America, was established in 1996 but carried out no fundraising activity in the US.