Why we should thank John Gilligan

13 Jun 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 12 June 2016

The photographs of a smiling John Gilligan at the Four Courts last week suggest that the convicted drug dealer revels in his unrelenting crusade to challenge the legality of every piece of legislation that has ever crossed his path.

We should thank him.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) is constitutionally robust as a consequence. Cab’s powers of civil forfeiture mean that assets from the proceeds of crime can be seized on the civil burden of proof rather than the usual burden in criminal matters of beyond reasonable doubt.


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Poverty is not the cause of gangland murders

09 Jun 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 5 June 2016
Individual responsibility is being overlooked in a simplistic narrative

It was the Sunday night before Christmas 2004.

The phone call came through within minutes after 19-year-old Ryan Lee was shot in the right hip and the groin.

Since Eddie Ryan’s murder in the Moose bar in November 2000, the bar staff in the Limerick pubs would ring one another with warnings about the latest development in the gangland feud between the McCarthy-Dundons and the Keane-Collopys. Ryan’s death was the first of 20 gang-related murders in Limerick.

Lee was a barman who refused entry to Wayne Dundon’s 14-year-old sister. A furious Dundon put an imaginary gun to Lee’s head and said, “fuck you, you’re dead,” before leaving. Thirty minutes later Lee was shot.

Lee’s pub was five minutes from the pub I was working in. We closed the pub early.

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Ross must take charge and give our watchdogs some teeth

31 May 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 29 May 2016

A love letter to the “outsider” who is now an “insider”

This is a love letter to Minister Shane Ross. The “outsider” who is now an insider with the well-intentioned motive to reform the “rotten” judicial appointment process by creating a new judicial appointments commission. Please don’t repeat the same mistakes as your predecessors. Here’s why.

The Irish response to crises over the past 20 years is the establishment of new independent oversight bodies. These regulatory agencies will magic away whatever controversy has demanded their creation.

We called this the Three Ps principle when I worked at the United Nations. Every country tends to do the same thing. (1) Print the legislation. (2) Put it up for everybody to see. (3) Pray to God it works. Here are four examples of the Three Ps principle in Ireland.



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State should pay whistleblowers

27 May 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post, 8 December 2013

For historical reasons, Irish whistleblowers face being labelled as informers. But elsewhere they are rewarded for information that nails white collar criminals, writes Elaine Byrne.

Whistleblowers are the lifeblood of every investigation. The more complex the crime, the more necessary their insider information becomes.

The Mahon Tribunal was established because environmental campaigner Michael Smith and barrister Colm Mac Eochaidh co-sponsored a IR£10,000 reward for information leading to convictions for planning corruption. James Gogarty’s response brought others out of the woodwork.


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Irish Motorists still Avoiding Penalty Points

25 May 16

First published 22 May 2016 in the Sunday Business Post

What was the purpose of the Guerin, Fennelly, O’Higgins and all the other Garda inquiries? Here we go again. The Irish disposition to disremember. This inability to bridge Ireland’s implementation deficit.

What was the Beef Tribunal about? Something to do with the bad blood between Des O’Malley and Albert Reynolds was the response by an overwhelming majority of respondents to an Irish Times/MRBI opinion poll two weeks after the report was published in 1994. The original motivation for establishing the inquiry was lost on a public that didn’t care anymore.

The lessons were lost and Ireland repeated the same sorry saga of tribunals all over again for the next 20 years. What was the O’Higgins inquiry about? Something to do with the Garda Commissioner questioning the motivation of Sgt Maurice McCabe is probably the answer the public will give.




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Election outcome could put ball in president’s court

25 Apr 16

First published by the Sunday Business Post 3 January 2016

Article 27 was designed for deadlocks between both houses of the Oireachtas

The Oireachtas arithmetic after the next election could well see President Michael D Higgins using a constitutional provision that has never been employed before. The President has power under the Constitution to reject a bill passed by the Oireachtas. It has never been invoked, but was almost tested in 2014. The President can refer a bill, other than that to amend the Constitution, to the people in a referendum.

Under the Article 27 procedure, a majority of senators and not less than one-third of TDs may petition the President to decline to sign a bill into law, “on the grounds that the bill contains a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained”.


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What exactly are we commemorating?

14 Mar 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 22 April 2015
Confusion surrounds plans for the Rising’s centenary. Perhaps that is strangely appropriate

I don’t know what we are commemorating. Is it the execution of 16 men? Or the Easter Rising itself? The moment when the collective Irish mindset transferred expectations from Home Rule to independence? Or is it the Proclamation of Ireland as a Republic? “We have chosen to commemorate this time as marking the birth of our sovereign nation.” So said the Taoiseach at the launch of the 2016 Centenary Programme in Collins Barracks last week.

But the birth of our sovereign nation was Wednesday, December 6, 1922.


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My five point plan for political reform

14 Mar 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 13 March 2016

These weeks of uncertainty provide an opportunity for clarity. Don’t stop at Dáil reform.

Political reform is not an altruistic exercise. Reform invariably means giving away some power. Abstract, idealistic principles of selflessness tend not to be the primary motive for change which involves losing political control. Rather, it is the pragmatic response to circumstance.

Why else would Fianna Fail agree to the first anti-corruption legislation in the history of the Irish state? The Beef Tribunal had just ended when Brendan Howlin made his Ethics Bill a precondition for Labour in its 1992 coalition negotiations with Albert Reynolds, a central protagonist before the controversial Tribunal.


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Minority rule – get used to it

07 Mar 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 6 March 2016

Elections are no longer a competition among centre parties

Fianna Fáil’s strategic objective from the outset of the campaign was to put the option of a minority government firmly on the table. The party’s preparations for this eventuality were evident last Monday when it set the agenda early for talks by publishing a detailed shopping list of political reforms. Fianna Fáil had wised up to the changing electoral landscape in Europe.

Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands have had minority governments since the global economic crisis began in 2008. All these countries, like Ireland, have proportional representation electoral systems. Hung parliaments are not unusual in countries with a hybrid form of proportional representation such as New Zealand, Germany, Scotland and Wales.


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Are Irish judges on the path to celebrity?

07 Mar 16

Frist published by the Sunday Business Post 28 February 2015

Our judiciary are, in general, not public figures – but that may be about to change. Is the Irish Supreme Court becoming more like the US Supreme Court?

Oh no, say the innocent. The Irish judiciary may not be as political as its American equivalent but recent developments suggest that ideological differences are now dividing the Irish Supreme Court.

The recent death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has left the conservative-controlled nine-member court evenly divided.


Hardiman J 2014


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