Posted: March 25, 2011 in Welcome

Denis O Brien became a very rich man because he used his connections with Fine Gael to get access to state resources. In a devastating report, the Moriarty Tribunal has shown that Fine Gael operates exactly the same as Fianna Fail when it comes to favouring its big business ‘donors’.

Look at the facts:

* Between March 1995 and June 1996, O Brien or his companies supported 14 Fine Gael Fund raising events.

*He or his companies donated £22,140 to Fine Gael at this time.

* His mobile phone company, Esat, working with its Norwegian partner, Telenor, gave a further $50,000 to Fine Gael. The party never informed the Moriarty Tribunal of this donation and the judge noted that it was made with ‘false and misleading documentation’. It was also given in a manner that was ‘secretive, utterly lacking in transparency and designed to conceal that fact of such payment’.

In 1995, Irish state could have awarded its mobile phone licence to Telecom Eireann, the state owned phone company. Had it done so, Telecom would have expanded, prospered and paid vast revenues to Irish society. Instead, the company was weakened and sold off to a series of vulture capitalists who asset stripped it and refused to invest in its infrastructure. Today, Ireland has poor broadband coverage as a direct result to sabotage of this state company.

Instead the mobile phone licence was awarded to Denis O Brien who eventually sold it on to British Telecom for €2.4 billion. He made a personal profit of €300 million from this transaction. Yet instead of showing any gratitude to a country that impoverished itself in order to enrich him, he declared himself a tax exile. He claimed to be a resident of Portugal – in order to avoid paying capital gains tax.

The real significance of the Moriarty report could be lost amidst a ferocious media assault to discredit it. Summaries tend to focus on the individual Michael Lowry rather the party which gave him such power- Fine Gael.

Yet Lowry was the chairman of the trustees of Fine Gael and an account holder on behalf of the party. He worked with Phil Hogan – Enda Kenny’s current enforcer – in clearing off the party’s debt in record time. Hogan was on the organising committee of a golf classic in the K Club where O Brien made a €5,000 donation.

Another figure who used his connections to Fine Gael was Ben Dunne. In the nineties Dunne made covert donations to Lowry (and before him Haughey). In 1995, he telephoned Lowry and the latter then sought to deploy his influence with Mark Fitzgerald, a fellow Fine Gael trustee, to get a rent review on a building Dunne owned. Dunne’s building was Marlborough House and Telecom Eireann was renting offices there. In other words, Lowry sought to increase the flow of funds from a company that he was responsible for as a Minister in order to benefit his financial benefactor.

Two key elements emerge from the Moriarty report.

The richest Irish capitalists periodically turn to the state to get extra resources to make profit. O Brien is no different than many others who have donated to politicians and who, by an apparent co-incidence, benefit from the state’s largesse. Sometimes this largesse takes the form of special tax breaks; at other times it is linked to property deals and state rental income; on other occasions, it comes from the privatisation of state assets.

Despite the endlessly repeated mantra that ‘entrepreneurs create jobs- not the state’, the truth is that Irish capitalists try to milk the state to enrich themselves. Despite their cries about ‘market competition’, they are as addicted to state support as addicts are to their fix.

Newstalk and the Independent Group of Newspapers – who are owned by Denis O Brien – run regular campaigns against a ‘bloated’ public sector which is stifling private enterprise.

But Moriarty confirms again that Irish capitalism is dependent on state handouts. The corporate elite are weak compared to their global rivals and so demand that the state must bend to their requests for help. The flow of money to the political elite helps to lubricate the process but the end result is always the same: Irish society loses out as it lifts its local gombeen men into the status of global entrepreneurs.

Second, Moriarty demonstrates that there is nothing clean or transparent about Fine Gael. It operates the exact same strategy of running ‘golf classics’ to hide corporate donations as Fianna Fail. It also tries to hide and conceal how it doles out favours to its business backers.

Today Fine Gael has far outstripped Fianna Fail as the recipient of corporate donations. We have just been given a reminder of what they expect in return.

It is time to get organised to put an end to this charade.


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