Saturday, January 16, 2016
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
JOE O’Brien knows what it feels like to go up against the system.
He blew the whistle on what he saw as unethical practices in the public service, of which homeless people were the ultimate victims.
His story is compelling and familiar in terms of the fate of whistleblowers in this country. It also highlights that while the law can now protect those who report unethical practices, the level of protection is limited.
In 2014, O’Brien was employed as a policy officer for Crosscare, the social support agency for the Dublin archdiocese. Crosscare is involved in a range of social support activity, including attempting to find emergency service for homeless people. Most of those looking for such accommodation who come into contact with Crosscare tend to be foreign nationals.
O’Brien enjoyed his job and from his record he was good at it. As part of his work he had compiled three separate reports on policy which commented on, and were critical, of, the work of government departments. All were accepted by the departments, which engaged with Crosscare on the issues raised.
A few years ago, he and his colleagues began noticing that some of the people the agency referred for emergency accommodation to Dublin City Council’s main office were being poorly treated. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE), which is run by the council, was informed of this concern on a number of occasions. Yet nothing changed.
One of the major issues was that little effort was made to accommodate some foreign nationals referred by Crosscare. Instead, these people were passed on to another office, the New Communities Unit (NCU), which operates under the Department of Social Protection.
O’Brien decided to put together a report on the shortcomings in the system.
He soon discovered that in 2013, the homeless executive had stated that 4,613 people used emergency accommodation. Yet this figure did not include those referred on to the NCU, which numbered 2,756 that year. In other words, the figures for homelessness were being understated by up to 57%, or 2,756 individuals.
Under-reporting the level of homelessness has serious implications. It minimises a humanitarian problem, but it also ensures that resources sufficient to meet the actual level of homelessness are not being deployed.
“It was increasingly clear to me in the process of writing the report that people accommodated by the NCU were not being counted in the official figures,” O’Brien tells the Irish Examiner.
“I had submitted this question concerning possible gross under-reporting of homelessness as an FoI [Freedom of Information] request but this request was refused without reason and then refused on appeal without reason by the homeless executive (DRHE).”
He then appealed to the Information Commissioner. He says that as a result of that appeal, the commissioner contacted the homeless executive — as per process — and Crosscare was then contacted by the executive to “express anger and disappointment that I had submitted an appeal to the Information Commissioner”.
He says he was directed to withdraw the appeal. Crosscare would have good reason not to upset any element of Dublin City Council, as the council is its main funder.
O’Brien withdrew the appeal but completed the report, which included among its conclusions: “The lack of communication between local authorities and the NCU has resulted in people being placed in emergency homeless accommodation without being assessed for their social housing needs and allocated, if appropriate, ‘Homeless Priority’ status on the social housing list. This leads to an under-assessment of the funding and resources required to adequately deal with the homeless and housing crisis.”
That was in December 2014. After Christmas, he was called in by a senior manager and told the report would not be published. O’Brien was devastated.
“After being told that the report was not going to be published I repeatedly urged Crosscare management to reconsider,” he says. “I felt I pushed this as far as I could without getting formally reprimanded. After it became very clear that Crosscare were not going to publish the report I urged management to at least give the homeless executive a copy of the report. This was finally agreed to and a slightly altered version of the report was sent in March 2015.”
Other efforts to have it published failed. O’Brien grew increasingly frustrated. As far as he was concerned, this matter continued to ensure that resources were simply not matching the level of homelessness as per the official figures.
Eventually, he decided to go to the media. He approached the social affairs correspondent of The Irish Times with the report. At the same time, he sought legal advice to ensure he was covered under the Protective Disclosures Act, the law brought in the previous year to protect whistleblowers.
The story was published in The Irish Times on September 9 under the headline ‘Migrants housing rights highlighted in unpublished report’. The main thrust of what was written was the poor treatment of migrants at the hands of the council rather than the likely serious under-reporting of homeless figures.
Neither was there any reference to the obstruction O’Brien says he had encountered. “None of my supplied statements detailing the reasoning for my actions and DRHE’s acts of obstruction were used in the articles,” he said.
“Crosscare refused to comment on the report. While I was glad and grateful that some of the key findings of the report were now in the public domain I felt that the full story had not been told, that the DRHE were not being held to account, and that the public did not know that homelessness was being significantly under-counted in Dublin.”
There were no repercussions for him in Crosscare, as he was covered by the law. Yet, he had crossed the line known only to whistleblowers. Inside the tent, he was no longer a person who could be trusted.
Irrespective of his own position, he pursued what he saw as the real story. He approached Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who asked a number of parliamentary questions on the issue. Each time, the environment minister said it was a matter for Dublin City Council.
At council level, Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party asked a question of the chief executive, which was replied to on December 7 last.
“The document referred to is an internal and unpublished Crosscare document. The DRHE is not responsible for the production, its content or its dissemination.
“It is important to note that in August 2015, the unpublished document as referred to was given to The Irish Times and reported upon. DRHE confirmed its position that the report was considered unreliable and that no further comment would be given. The office of the CEO of Crosscare confirmed to DRHE that regretfully this action was undertaken without sanction.”
The reply resonates with the typical means of discrediting a whistleblower. The report is considered “unreliable” and was even compiled “without sanction”.
Who would get involved in such an exercise but a maverick, a malcontent, someone with a nefarious agenda? In reality, O’Brien was cleared to write the report, but was not sanctioned to leak it, something he resorted to out of extreme frustration. As for being “unreliable”, his record in writing reports speaks of somebody entirely reliable.
Neither Crosscare nor the DRHE has specified what exactly is deemed to be “unreliable” about the report.
His crime was to refuse to back down when the pressure came on.
O’Brien has since left Crosscare as it became plain to him that he wouldn’t have a future there and is now employed by another NGO. He also decided to get involved in politics, which has led him to be selected to stand in the forthcoming general election for the Green Party in Dublin Fingal.
Statements from Crosscare and DHRE
The Irish Examiner submitted a number of questions to Crosscare and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive concerning Joe O’Brien, how he was treated, and the report he compiled.
In particular a question was asked as to whether referrals to the New Communities Unit were included in the homeless figures. None of the questions were directly addressed, but both organisations submitted statements.
Crosscare said: “This report was not intended for publication but was invited as a discussion document to raise issues with the DRHE that were of concern.
"DRHE arranged to meet with our staff to discuss the issues raised in the report and have been positive in their willingness to work with us to improve the quality of services that are on offer. This work is ongoing.”
The DRHE said: “The document referred to is an internal and unpublished Crosscare document. The DRHE is not responsible for the production, its content or its dissemination.
"In August 2015, after publication of media article on same, the DRHE confirmed its position that the report was considered unreliable.
"The office of the CEO of Crosscare confirmed to DRHE that regretfully this action was undertaken without sanction.
"It is worth noting that DRHE continues to develop policy and practice relating to this area, ie, migration and homelessness.”
Nobody should have any illusion about the possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia. We will never allow this to happen.
Terrorism has no nationality or religion
Above all, such sports as judo, in my view, teach people to relate to each other. They teach us to respect a partner, teach us to understand that an externally weak partner can not only put up worthy resistance, but, if you relax and take too much for granted, may even win.
Indeed, Russia and the U.S. were allies during the two tragic conflicts of the Second and the First World Wars, which allows us to think there's something objectively bringing us together in difficult times, and I think - I believe - it has to do with geopolitical interests and also has a moral component.
History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.
I think the international community should unite to fight such inhuman phenomena as terror attacks and the murder of totally innocent people.
I'm sure corruption in Chechnya is minimal.
Terrorists-We shall fight against them, throw them in prisons and destroy them.
Yes, life in Chechnya so far looks more like a life after a natural disaster.
Anyone who doesn't regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.
One can truly enjoy his or her life only while experiencing it, and it is inevitably related to a certain level of risk.
Cromwell was just as much of a bloody dictator as was Stalin.
Terrorists are always a threat to someone. If we'll be scared of them, it means they have won.
Libya is divided into tribes and clans.
Russia doesn't negotiate with terrorists
We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them. Our Air Force’s military work in Syria must not simply be continued. It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that vengeance is inevitable
If you want to become an Islamic fundamentalist and be circumcised, come to Moscow. We are multi-confessional. We have very good specialists.I can recommend one for the operation. He’ll make sure nothing grows back.
Cover page of The Magazine of Natural History in 1835
Extract from article “Observations made during a visit to Connemara and Joyce’s Country, Ireland, in August 1835” by Charles C. Babington found in The Magazine of Natural History or Journal of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Geology and Meteorology Volume 9.
From Galway we proceeded nearly due north-west through a rather flat, and far from interesting country, which, however, became gradually more and more hilly as we approached Oughterard; and, although for the most part totally devoid of trees, it was plain, from the excellence of their growth near to several gentlemen’s seats, that the climate and soil were not the causes of their deficiency. On both sides of the road the country consists wholly of low rocky hills and bog, but several views are obtained of that extensive sheet of water denominated Lough Corrib. This lake is more than thirty miles in length, extending from the centre of the Ma’am Turk Mountains to within a few miles of Galway; and is about eight miles in width between Oughterard and Cong. The gilaroo trout is found in it; a fish celebrated for having a strong muscular stomach, resembling the gizzard of birds. It is generally considered to be a variety of the common secies (Sálmo Fário).
At about three miles before reaching Oughterard, the road is carried over a natural bridge formed of carboniferous limestone. By following the stream from this spot, for rather more than a mile, the geologist will be gratified by seeing a most curious seccession of natural arches, apparently forming part of a once continuous cavern through which the river flowed. The fields on both sides of the stream, judging from the abrupt depressions of the surface which occur in many places, are probably supported by a succession of similar caverns. This singular structure appears to terminate at a point which is wel marked by a fine old castellated tower in pretty good preservation. This building is very interesting from its architecture, but still more so from its situation, being built over the river, upon the last and loftiest of these natural arches. Judging from the state of some of its outworks, it appears not improbable that this castle was built before the surface of the land near to it had sunk in the manner described above. The river must then have been quite hidden, and the site of the castle have appeared as a slight elevation in a flat country. At a short distance beyond the natural bridge, and close to the road, a small quarry of black marble is worked in the carboniferous limestone.
Overhanging rock over the Drimneen River once forming part of a continuous cavern through which the river flowed.
Oughterard is pleasantly situated near the shore of Lough Corrib, upon a small river, which, just above the town, is broken by a succession of rapids nearly approaching in character to a waterfall. Near the centre of the town stands a new and handsome Roman Catholic chapel, just below which the upper bank of the river has a highly interesting structure, the limestone of which it is formed presenting the appearance of half an elliptical arch over the water, of which the other part has been destroyed by the action of the stream. Here the Daboe’cia polifólia (Menziésia polifólia) first shows itself in its full beauty, ornamenting every dry rocky spot of ground with its large elegant flowers and conspicuous foliage. It may be as well to observe, once for all, that this plant first appears at the distance of a few miles to the east of Oughterard, in very small quantity, but is plantiful throughout all the country to the west of that place, as far as the Atlantic.
In the neighbourhood of Oughterard, the banks of Lough Corrib are quite devoid of grandeur, being bounded by a vast extent of bog, out of which rise a few low rocky hills, partially cultivated: still, an expanse of water, eight miles in width, and studded with numerous small islands, can never be totally without interest. The shore of the lake, and its islands, consist of carboniferous limestone, having a very bituminous odour. The upper part of this stratum is full of organic remains, such as Euómphalus O’strea, encrinites, and corallines. Good specimens of most of them may be obtained by the road side, near to a house belonging to Mr. Martin of Ballinahinch, and commonly denominated his “gate-house,” being the point where the road enters his property.
On one side of the town furthest from the lake rises a hill consisting of quartz rock, and covered up to its top with large boulders of granite. The range behind it formed of mica slate and quartz rock, has no granitic boulders; nor did we observe them in any other part of the district. The base of all these hills appears to be mica slate underlying and passing into quartz rock. The boulders are made more interesting by the fact, that the granite does not rise to any great elevation in this part of Ireland; its highest point, in these districts, being near Roundstone, where it reaches, as we were informed, the height of 200 ft or 300 ft. The broad valley, stretching inland from Oughterard, consists of bog, having granite, and, in some spots, primary limestone, appearing through it. My friend, Mr. Ball, mentions his having noticed old red sandstone near to the lake, at the distance of a few miles west of Oughterard,
No traveller, who is interested in architectural remains, should leave Oughterard without visiting the ruins if the old church, in which are several windows of forms which I have never before noticed. Not being skilled in architecture, I am unable to describe them, but may add that they have great similarity to several which occur in the old castle noticed above. It may be as well to observe, that Connemara is considered to begin at Oughterard, that town not forming part of it.
By Charles C. Babington (August 1835)
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Does a dark personality actually help you get to the top of business? The truth is more complex.
Don Draper in Mad Men. Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. When we think of success, we often picture rather brutal characters who will happily trample over others’ feelings in the pursuit of fame and fortune. It’s not hard to imagine how such individuals could win in a cut-throat world.
However, there’s more than one way to be bad. As psychologists have recently identified three traits that might describe the most ruthless people. They are:
- Machiavellianism: characterised by cynical manipulation
- Narcissism: how self-centred you are
- Psychopathy: a combination of risky impulsivity and callousness
Occasionally, all three corners of this “dark triad” converge in a single person, who is vain, scheming, and unfeeling, but sometimes you can score highly in one characteristic but not the other.
So, to get ahead, does it matter what ‘type’ of ruthless you are?
Previous evidence had suggested that psychopathy is more common among CEOs
Previous evidence had suggested that psychopathy is slightly more common among high-flying CEOs than the general population – the so-called "snakes in suits". The idea was that cool, ruthless and somewhat risky behaviour is occasionally demanded in the office. But it was unclear how the other kinds of dark personalities fare in the workplace.
The 'dark triad' of personalities: Machiavellian, psychopathic and narcissistic (Credit: Thinkstock)
Daniel Spurk at the University of Bern in Switzerland has now attempted to answer these questions with a comprehensive study that compares all three of the traits of 800 German employees from all kinds of industries. Using an online survey, he asked them to rate statements such as “I lack remorse” or “I like others to pay attention to me” and also quizzed them about their careers to date.
His results, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, were surprising.
Despite the previous findings on “snakes in suits”, Spurk found that the psychopaths in his sample actually performed worse on his measures of success: they earned less than their peers and tended to have lowlier positions on the career hierarchy. As you might expect, given these findings, they were also less satisfied with their lot.
Spurk thinks it could be down to their aggression and risk-taking. “Psychopaths are really impulsive – they have real problems with controlling behaviour.” Although their willingness to take risks could be a boon in some industries, their impulsiveness may mean that they are less productive in the long run, skiving off work as the mood takes them. The determining factor, Spurk thinks, may be intelligence: a smarter psychopath might be able to temper some of those excesses, allowing them to win out in the long game.
People with manipulative tendencies did tend to rise to leadership positions, but they weren’t the highest earners
Machiavellianism was more strongly associated with success – people with these manipulative tendencies did tend to rise to leadership positions; you don’t have to be Don Draper to realise that pragmatically pulling other’s levers will put you in a position of power. But it was the narcissists who earned the most money, overall. This may be because their sense of self-worth makes them better negotiators, helping them to swing more benefits.
“Individuals high in narcissism have good impression management, so they can convince their colleagues or supervisors that they are worth special advantages,” Spurk says. Or as Gordon Gekko put it, there’s the belief that “What's worth doing is worth doing for money.”
Narcissists may seem charismatic to begin with, but they can become wearing with their constant need for attention
But before you consider cultivating a darker streak to further your career, Spurk points out that these people may lose out in other ways. Narcissists may seem charismatic to begin with, but they can become wearing with their constant need for attention. “Although people who don’t know them very well think they are charismatic, in the mid-to-long term there might be situations where people are no longer fascinated by their behaviour.” So even though they may be earning more money, they might suffer socially. And Machiavellian manipulators may come undone if their particularly ruthless or dishonest machinations are exposed.
If that’s not enough to persuade you, there is now an abundance of evidence showing that kindness may not make you money but it pays in other ways: more generous and honest individuals tend to be happier in life,and even have better physical health.
Steely ambition will help get you so far in life, but it alone can’t take the place real talent. For every real-life Gekko, Draper or Priestly you may come across, there will be others lurking in the shadows, without a job – or a friend.
By David Robson
Monday, January 11, 2016
Sisters are obliged to fork out for a ‘gender tax’ – not only for products they have to buy
In ranges packaged differently based on gender, women have to pay more for being women. Illustration: Getty
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman and it can certainly be much more expensive. When the cost of all those products and services that most men are unaccustomed to spending money on are totted up, women can quite easily be worse off by more than €1,000 each year.
Does that sound like a lot? The numbers add up very quickly. We priced a year’s supply of multipurpose cleansers, moisturisers, exfoliators, sunblock (outside of the summer holiday stuff) body lotions, hair products, wax treatments, make-up (lip gloss, blusher, eyeshadow, eyeliner and the rest), tampons and bras.
Now, obviously, not all women use all these products – although some will use them and more. And some men use some of these products and services. Such caveats aside, when we tot up the bill – and for our list we deliberately avoided particularly high-end products – the cost still comes to €1,024.
But does the buck stop there? It certainly doesn’t seem to if recent evidence from the US is to be believed. In the run-up to Christmas, New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs conducted what it said was the “first-ever study of the gender pricing of goods in New York city across multiple industries”.
The report, From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer, found all sorts of price discrepancies; the widest was in hair products. Shampoo and conditioner marketed for women cost 45 per cent more than those aimed at men.
The study also highlighted other dramatic discrepancies, including one between two nearly identical children’s scooters. One was red and marketed at boys, whereas the other was pink and aimed at girls. The boys’ scooter cost $24.99, whereas the girls’ one was $49.99.
The agency compared nearly 800 products with clear male and female versions from more than 90 brands sold at dozens of New York City retailers. Alongside the average price discrepancy of 7 per cent, it also published category breakdowns.
Girls’ clothes were 4 per cent more expensive than boys’, while women’s clothes were 8 per cent pricier than men’s.
Women’s personal care products cost an average of 13 per cent more. In just five of the 35 product categories analysed, products for female consumers were priced lower than those for men. Across the sample, the study found that women’s products cost more 42 per cent of the time, whereas men’s products cost more 18 per cent of the time.
“Over the course of a woman’s life, the financial impact of these gender-based pricing disparities is significant,” the report says. “In 1994, the state of California studied the issue of gender-based pricing of services and estimated that women effectively paid an annual ‘gender tax’ of approximately $1,351 for the same services as men,” it continues.
The New York study does not estimate an annual financial impact of gender pricing for goods but its findings would indicate American women are paying thousands of dollars more over the course of their lives to purchase similar products as men.
“Though there may be legitimate drivers behind some portion of the price discrepancies unearthed . . . these higher prices are mostly unavoidable for women. Individual consumers do not have control over the textiles or ingredients used in the products marketed to them and must make purchasing choices based only on what is available in the marketplace,” the report states.
“As such, choices made by manufacturers and retailers result in a greater financial burden for female consumers than for male consumers.”
But that is New York. What is it like in this part of the world? Could it be much different?
We had a quick look at personal hygiene products and compared a range that is packaged differently based on gender. It seems that women have to pay more for being women here too.
Boots sells a range of own-brand shaving gels, some of which are clearly aimed at men and others at women. Its Essentials Shaving Gel (200ml), a non-gender-specific product, costs €1.99 while the cheapest of its “feminine” gels cost €2.49.
Other gels aimed at women with sensitive skin cost €4.29, or more than twice the price of men’s gels.
Gillette might be the best a man can get, but the company also has a lot of blades that target women. The one that caught our eye was the Venus Embrace. This “Goddess of Closeness” is, the product description tells us, “the only five-bladed razor for women surrounded by a ribbon of moisture. Shaves you close so that you can get as close as you want to.”
A pack of four such blades will set you back €15.99. Manly Fusions also have five blades, but a pack of four will cost €14.99.
The news is slightly better when it comes to shower gels. In Tesco, Dove Pro Age Body Wash (250ml), costs €3.50. Dove Men+ Care Hydrate Balance Shower Gel, a product that has been “developed specifically for men’s skin” and comes with “micromoisture” to lock in “natural moisture, leaving your skin hydrated and balanced”, costs €3.85.
Tesco sells Just for Men “hair colourant” – or dye – for €7.65, whereas Excellence hair colourant, which is marketed as “just for women”, costs €10.29.
The situation is more gender-balanced when it comes to deodorant. Tesco sells 250ml of Sure Men Quantum anti-perspirant deodorant for €5.35, the same price as Sure Women Cotton anti-perspirant deodorant. Whether it is better to smell of cotton or, erm, Quantum, is up to you.
It is not just in the area of personal hygiene where price discrepancies are to be found. We contacted several hair salons looking for the price of a haircut for a man, with long hair, and a woman, also with long hair. Prices for men are about €30-something, whereas the cost for women is routinely more than €60. The price discrepancy between short-haired men and short-haired women was more pronounced. A woman could quite easily spend more than €400 a year on haircuts, whereas a man can get away with spending less than €80 with no great difficulty.
Some peculiar price gaps also emerge in relation to toys. Inspired by the New York study, we looked at children’s scooters in Argos. A blue and green “Rollers by Zinc R2 Balance Bike to Inline Scooter” has a price tag – on sale – of €45.99, whereas its pink equivalent – also on sale – costs €51.49. The full price of both is €58.99.
Captain Kate Hanrahan with the Proclamation outside the GPO during the commemoration to mark the 99th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
You'd have to wonder what the executed leaders of the Rising would make of it all.Thomas J Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraig Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.
Men willing to die for their country; for liberty, sovereignty and economic freedom.
They wrote the Proclamation swiftly, under life-threatening conditions in Liberty Hall on the night before the Rising.
"We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible," they proclaimed, before taking up arms.
Mac Diarmada was in poor health. His hip was bad. He walked in pain and with the aid of a stick, travelling the country, as the Irish Republican Brotherhood's principal organiser.
On the day of the Rising, Clarke went into the GPO to fight alongside his comrades, even though he was almost 60 and suffering from a bullet wound to his elbow.
Across the city, on Mount Street Bridge, where a handful held off the Crown forces, a 28-year-old carpenter turned lieutenant, Michael Malone, sent his youthful troops home in order to save their lives.
The lack of weaponry juxtaposed with the sheer bravery displayed on the day has oft been commended by historians.
Fast forward 100 years and Ireland has "changed utterly", as W B Yeats predicted.
But in ways they could never envisage.
Our risk from foreign adversaries has changed from the very real threat of the enemy at the gates to intimidations of a different kind in the financial sector.
Today's leaders never had to take up arms to protect their people. And yet the stark language of warfare has been conjured up at every turn.
Unlike the rebels who fanned out across the city on Easter Monday in April 1916 facing artillery from all sides, today's governments have only had to deal with the metaphorical "loaded gun" while Trichet and the ECB threatened financial Armageddon to let a "bomb go off" in the Irish economy unless Finance Minster Michael Noonan met their demands.
And yet the sheer lack of courage to go toe-to-toe against these foreign threats would leave you wondering where Kenny and his comrades would cower if they found themselves in a plume of smoke 100 years ago as the British closed in.
Over the past two governments, leaders have kowtowed again and again to foreign interests.
The bank guarantee, a willingness to honour bondholders debts and the submissiveness shown when the US government blocked an attempt by the previous Irish government to burn €20bn worth of bondholders has been staggering.
The last person to oversee the country in such a crisis was Charlie Haughey. For all his flaws, it is hard to imagine him ever allowing the Irish taxpayer to be screwed by Europe like that. He may have been crooked but he was smart. And he would never have rolled over like a pair of schoolteachers.
Our politicians skinned the country for the interest of global financial institutions, saddling the nation with €9,000 debt for every man, woman and child.
And when there was "blood on the streets", as Steve Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone said when offering his views on buying up Europe's distressed assets to an audience at Goldman Sachs in New York in 2010, they let foreign vultures swoop in.
Afterwards, Schwarzman's company bought €2bn of Irish loans and property, including the Burlington hotel, a 25pc stake in Eircom, offices and a €1.8bn par value of loans linked to developer Michael O'Flynn, bought from Nama at a discount for around €1.1bn.
The state agency - which was given unprecedented powers in a bid to get credit going - sold loans secured by prized assets to foreigners, like Claridges and Battersea Power Station, while the Irish could only stand and watch.
What a turnaround when our forefathers had always fought to protect our land from foreign interests and keep the welfare of the Irish people at it's heart.
But hey, this year the Government has been busy handing out free flags and copies of the Proclamation and the nation is expected to get in the spirit.
No doubt Kenny will give a tall speech too at Dublin's GPO this Easter, waxing lyrical about the true meaning of patriotism. The same man who sat in front of the Irish flag to deliver his State of the Nation address four years ago upon taking up office.
He told the country: "I want to be the Taoiseach who retrieves Ireland's economic sovereignty" and even evoked the spirit of the "founding fathers of our nation".
So you'd have to wonder what they would make of our leaders 100 years on.
My guess is, come Easter, you can forget resurrections, the only movement up on Arbour Hill will be some real patriots turning in their graves.
THERE was a distinctly Irish flavour to the James “Whitey” Bulger trial. Bulger’s heritage was invoked on day one, and the names of those who featured in the trial suggested it could have been taking place in Dublin or Cork, rather than Boston.
James Whitey Bulger in 1953
The legal personnel included figures like Jay Carney, Hank Brennan, and Brian Kelly.
Former FBI agents such as Bob Fitzpatrick, Ed Quinn, and John Morris featured, as did former prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan and convicted murderer and former agent, John Connolly.
Among the murder victims were Paul McGonagle, Arthur Barrett, John McIntyre, Tommy King, Brian Halloran, and Michael Donahue. A man called Jimmy Flynn had been charged and acquitted of murdering the last two. One of the key witnesses was Kevin Weeks, a former associate of Bulger’s, who partook in a number of murders. And the most prominent reporter at the trial was Boston journalist, Shelly Murphy. Most of the personnel were from what had traditionally been an Irish enclave of the city, south Boston, or Southie. It was that area that Bulger ruled, ensuring that nothing moved without him getting his cut. The Bulger trial, and all that emerged from it, was straight out of the darkest recesses of America, but it had plenty of echoes from the old country.
One of the big features of the trial was the role of informants. At the outset, Bulger’s lawyer, JW Carney, invoked his Irish heritage. The defendant was charged with 19 murders, two of which were of women who were well known to him. He was charged with racketeering, running protection rackets, and other assorted crimes, which amounted to terrorising the south Boston area.
Surprisingly, for a lawyer, Carney was primarily concerned with defending something which isn’t even a crime. His 83-year-old client, Carney told the court, had not been an informant. It has long been known that for 15 years prior to 1995, when Bulger absconded, he had been supplying the FBI with information about the Italian mafia in the Boston area. He had been, in the parlance of the street, a rat. That position, more than anything, allowed him and his erstwhile partner, Steve Flemmi, to build their own organised crime empire.
Now, two years after his capture in California, Bulger, on whose life and crimes the movie The Departed was based, obviously wanted to put the record straight. He may have been a murderer and violent criminal, but he wasn’t a rat. Carney told the court that Bulger couldn’t have been an informer because it was “the worst thing that an Irish person could consider doing”, as a result of the 800-year strife between this island and its nearest neighbour.
“James Bulger never, ever — the evidence will show — was an informer,” Carney told the court. The lawyer was obviously ignorant of the last years of the Troubles in the North, when the IRA was riddled with informers.
As it was to turn out, the evidence at Bulger’s trial showed that he was an informer, a price he paid in order to be allowed by corrupt elements in the FBI to continue his reign of terror.
His only other beef with the charges was the idea that he had killed two women, Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey, though the killing of the former was ruled by the jury as not proven.
The former was Flemmi’s one-time girlfriend, while the latter was Flemmi’s stepdaughter.
Again, testimony in the trial from at least two former associates, showed that Bulger had murdered the two women with his bare hands. According to Flemmi’s testimony, Hussey was lured to a house, where Bulger was waiting for her.
“Jim Bulger stepped out from behind the top of a basement stairs and grabbed her by the throat and started strangling her,” Flemmi told the court. “He lost his balance and they both fell on the floor, and he continued strangling her.”
Flemmi disposed of the body, as he did with a number of the victims.
More than anything, the trial blew out of the water the myths that Bulger and some of his family had cultivated. (His brother, Billy, was for years the president of the Massachusetts senate, the most powerful position in state politics). According to this version, Whitey was just a guy from a tightly-knit Boston Irish family who had strayed into the world of crime, but retained basic attributes, like respect for women and a code of honour. Instead, all the evidence pointed towards a ruthless killer, who was so relaxed about murder that he usually took a nap after personally killing somebody. Also, apart from the depravity of his crimes, he was a grade-A rat.
The comparison that most aptly suits Bulger is with the former IRA man, Freddie Scappattici. The Belfast native was outed in 2003 as the British agent who was code-named Stakeknife. He had been a paid informant of the British security forces for up to 15 years, while his role in the IRA had been deputy head of the internal security unit. The Nutting squad, as it was known, questioned, usually tortured, and often murdered suspected informants in the IRA and wider community — and the man doing this work was himself an informant all that time.
Just as it was with Bulger. The trial heard that a number of those he murdered met their ends because Bulger had suspected them of “co-operating” with law-enforcement agencies.
One such victim was Brian Halloran, who was suspected of co-operating with the FBI. In May 1982, Bulger and an associate, Kevin Weeks, staked out a restaurant where Halloran and his friend Michael Donahue were eating. When they emerged from the eatery, Bulger sprayed them with automatic gunfire, killing the two men. Donahue was a completely innocent victim, who had no involvement in crime.
Another “rat” whom Bulger felt compelled to dispatch was John McIntyre. A fisherman, McIntyre had crewed the Valhalla, a ship that crossed the Atlantic to deliver guns to the IRA in 1984. The arms were transferred to the Marita Ann in Irish waters, but that boat was intercepted by the Irish authorities. Among those arrested on board was Martin Ferris, the current Sinn Féin TD.
Back in Boston, Bulger got word that McIntyre may have been the informant. He was invited to a house on the pretext of a party, and showed up with a slab of beer. Once inside, Bulger tied him to a chair and questioned him. McIntyre admitted he had co-operated. The trial heard that Bulger brought him down to the basement and tried to strangle him, but the rope he used was too thick.
He then asked McIntyre did he want “one in the head”.
“Yes, please,” McIntyre was reported to have replied. Bulger shot him, went upstairs, and took a nap while Flemmi and Weeks cleaned up the mess.
It amounted to one more “rat” dispatched by the man whom Weeks told the court “was the biggest rat of them all”.
In the end, the smidgen of salvation that Bulger reached out for was beyond his grasp.
He wasn’t a man of the warped honour that might sometimes prevail among thieves.
He was a rat, and one that had no compunction in killing because they knew the real Whitey.