Category: Archive

Dublin Report Tribunals, not reporters, blew lid off Ireland Inc.

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

Dirt piles on dirt in the isle of saints and scholars, so much so that the beleaguered public is bewildered by the astonishing daily revelations. The big danger is that they may become so sated with scandal as to ignore all of it.

Yet, there seems to be a new spirit abroad in the land, the spirit of revenge. The public wants to see somebody punished. And the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has fueled the fire by declaring that he does not care who goes to jail.

One who certainly could is his former boss and taoiseach, Charles Haughey, who faces a serious charge of misleading the court. The maximum sentence on conviction is a £10,000 fine and/or two years in the slammer.

It is not a very pleasant prospect for a man who is now moving well into his 70s. Coupled with the public opprobrium that has already befallen him, as well as the salacious publicity heaped on him by his former mistress, Terry Keane, the Squire of Kinsealy cannot be a happy man.

Neither is George Redmond, former Dublin City and County assistant manager. He was the most powerful planning director in Ireland and one who did more than many to form the modern Dublin.

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He is a small, wiry, permanently tanned old man, in his mid-70s. He confessed to the Flood Tribunal into planning and politicians that he accepted a gift of £25,000 from James Gogarty, a former executive in the large construction firm Joe Murphy Structural Engineering.

The money was handed to him in a large envelope with the words, "That’s for you, George." It was the financial acknowledgment for his help in selling JMSE land to a builder, Michael Bailey.

It was not the only such donation he accepted for his "advice," as he described it.

When his bank accounts were checked by the Criminal Assets Bureau, formed specifically to investigate tax frauds, it emerged that he had over half a million, mostly stashed away in the tax-free haven of the Isle of Man.

Gogarty lives in prestigious Castleknock on the fringe of the Phoenix Park. And he drives a humble 1988 car.

He was certainly one of the most influential men in Ireland’s "Golden Circle," and he now faces serious charges of tax evasion. His punishment may be similar to Haughey’s. He can be jailed or fined.

Whatever about that outcome, the reputations of both men are in ruins. When he was asked at the tribunal if he regretted his acceptance of the £25,000, he confessed that it would be an understatement to describe it as such.

Not very far away from Dublin Castle, where these revelations have been made, directly opposite the National Museum, sits another inquiry.

Conducted by the Dail subcommittee on Public Accounts, slightly similar to a Congressional hearing, the DIRT inquiry, as it is appropriately labeled, has heard how Irish banks systematically enabled tax evasion to favored clients through the establishment of carefully hidden offshore accounts.

They would have remained untraceable but for the determination of the Tanaiste Mary Harney.

More than any other politician, the feisty Mary Harney has pushed for full disclosure of the Ansbacher deposits lodged with a non-Irish bank in tax-free offshore accounts. They were set up by a former genius of a financial guru, Des Traynor, who flitted through the corridors of power like a latter-day Midas.

Everything he touched turned to gold. All those he favored became even wealthier through his efforts.

And they paid no taxes, even though many were worth millions, earning their wealth in the Irish economy, buttressed by workers paying ridiculously high tax rates. The rates led to a massive protest march. More than a million workers wound through the streets of Dublin.

It has now emerged that hundreds of millions were salted away to the extent that the Irish Exchequer might now be owed more than a billion. The extent of the scam is that astonishing.

One who used Traynor’s wizardry to the ultimate extent was Haughey. Traynor looked after virtually all of his financial affairs.

The former taoiseach was not his only client. He also zealously supervised the accounts of his favored friends. And he operated what was virtually a private bank from the headquarters of Cement Loadstone Holding, the company in which he was a chairman. It operated a virtual monopoly of the lucrative cement supply in Ireland.

More than half of the directors availed of the Ansbacher service for offshore accounts. They were only a fraction of Irish businessmen, all fortunate members of the Golden Circle, that virtually ran Ireland Inc.

Haughey was not joking when he flippantly described it as "A great little country."

For some, it was indeed.

Some must wonder just what Irish journalists were doing all of this was happening. Why did it take so long for the dirt to surface?

The answer is that many suspected. Some even knew.

But the truth was often suppressed most often through the operation of draconian libel legislation that is still on the books.

It was also imposed through that most sinister submersion of all, self-censorship. Many editors were simply afraid to enter the murky depths. Others, often with the encouragement of proprietors, were not at all eager to interfere with what was described as "progress."

If the truth be told, as it is now emerging, some publishers just did not want their editors to publish facts that might adversely affect their advertising or personal business interests.

Truth emerged slowly and often accidentally, through the most seemingly innocuous stories, in much the same fashion as in the Watergate saga.

For example, many years ago, a financial journalist, Des Crowley, broke a story in the Evening Press that revealed that Haughey was deeply in debt to Allied Irish Banks. The then editor, Sean Ward, had the courage to print it.

Naturally, it was followed by a denial from the bank.

Since, it has featured significantly at the Moriarty Tribunal. There is no longer about doubt about the awful truth.

Many politicians knew the truth. Of course, they did. It was precisely because they knew that they did nothing. Nobody wanted to rock the boat.

It is being well and truly rocked now. The fall-out will be very painful indeed. Many will fail to tread water.

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