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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What on earth has happened to the Fine Gael campaign?

26 Feb 16

First published in the Sunday Business Post 21 February 2016

‘We didn’t help ourselves at the start.” Understatement of the year by Jamie Heaslip, who seemed dazed and confused in his post-match interview last October.

The expectations of a historic Rugby World Cup semi-final weighed heavy on Irish shoulders. It was not to be. Argentina stormed to a 17-0 lead inside the first quarter of an hour. Ireland had again choked on the big stage.

“Ireland were too narrow in defence and attack,” Gerry Thornley wrote in his Irish Times post mortem. Their performance was characterised by bad decisions and poor execution.

Well, hello there, Fine Gael election strategy! Why is the party screwing up its re-election?

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Sinn Féin’s audience is deaf to official Ireland

15 Feb 16

Published by the Sunday Business Post 30 August 2015

Does it matter if the Provisional IRA hasn’t really gone away?

It matters to Michael McDowell, Micheál Martin, Frances Fitzgerald, newspaper editors and the Marian Finucane radio panel. But the deeply uncomfortable truth is that Official Ireland does not penetrate Teflon Sinn Féin.

Members of the Provisional IRA have been implicated in the rape of children and the murder of innocents. But none of the allegations of cover-ups, obfuscations and denials by Sinn Féin has damaged its electoral support.

This is nowhere more obvious than in Limerick. An electoral legacy of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe’s death was that working-class Limerick once preferred to elect a notorious gang leader than a Sinn Féin representative.

I canvassed for Fine Gael in Moyross, Southill, Thomondgate and King’s Island during the 1999 local elections. Although not known as Fine Gael strongholds, to put it mildly, Sinn Féin was simply not on the radar. Instead, Michael Kelly, a man with 38 convictions, whose surname provoked fear throughout the city, topped the poll in Ward Three. Kelly’s violent reputation was preferable to a party associated with McCabe’s death.

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Fine Gael – Fianna Fáil coalition

10 Feb 16

Des O’Malley’s volte face for Charles Haughey in 1989 shows that an FG-FF deal is possible
Published in the Sunday Business Post, 7 February 2016

The opinion polls suggest that Ireland is on course for a hung Dáil. The current political landscape does not present the same obvious coalition choices as before.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath first recognised this last August, when he said his party should not rule out entering government as a junior coalition partner. Dermot Ahern’s intervention last week was more explicit. The former justice minister suggested that Fianna Fáil could have no option but to support Fine Gael in government after the election.

The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have categorically and unequivocally ruled out any such coalition. That said, anything can happen in the time between an election and the formation of a government. Pragmatism almost always wins over principles when power is at stake.

Lesson one: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela.

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