Less Justice and more just us… aka the continuing Justice Seamus Woulfe saga

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on October 5th and follows the publication by of the review into Mr Justice Woulfe’s attendance at the infamous Clifden #golfgate event. The review included a transcript of the interview Mr Woulfe had with the author of the review, the former Chief Justice Susan Denham – I look at some of the juicier remarks made by Mr Woulfe and wonder if these are indicators of his supreme judgement?

FILE PHOTO Archive (LtoR) Charles Flanagan TD and Chief Justice, Mr Frank Clarke and Seamus Woulfe SC

An accused youth is slouched in the District Court dock, noisily chewing gum. “Tell him to stop masticating” says the judge to the court officer. Dutifully, the officer marches over to the accused and says: “The judge says for you to get your hands out of your pockets” 

Sorry. Wrong old joke.

Another accused, an old lag this time, is standing in the same District Court dock. “Do you plead guilty or not guilty”, asks the judge. “Do you mind if I listen to the evidence first?” comes the reply.

This joke kept popping into my head as I read extracts from the testimony Mr Justice Woulfe gave to former Chief Justice, Susan Denham. The transcript of his testimony appears as an appendix to Ms Denham’s report.

Ms Denham had been asked to “review” Mr Woulfe’s attendance at the now infamous Oireachtas golf society dinner in Clifden. “Review” appears with inverted commas as Mr Justice Woulfe and his counsel were keen to stress (taking up about 8 of the 140 page transcript) that the process was a review and not an inquiry, an adjudication or a determination of anyone’s rights.

Continue reading “Less Justice and more just us… aka the continuing Justice Seamus Woulfe saga”

Nothing special about taking good advice

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Sept 28th. It stems from my Sept 23rd appearance on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne discussing pay increases for TDs, the appointment of special advisers for 10 junior ministers and how this news was playing out as it came on the same day as the government announced a cute in the rate of PUP for many of those put out of work by Covid-19. You can hear the discussion here:

The Irish Examiner also reported on our discussion:

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40053431


On Wednesday I appeared on RTÉ Radio One’s Today Show with Claire Byrne. I had been invited on to discuss TD’s pay and the cabinet decision to give 10 junior ministers their own special advisers.

You’d have thought that this was something better discussed, if not defended, by a loyal Fianna Fail backbencher. Oddly there didn’t seem to be too many of them around on Wednesday to take the call. So, yours truly made a coffee, sat by my phone and waited to head bravely into the breach and make the case for special advisers. Joining me To debate the issue were Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, TD and the former Independent TD and junior minister, John Halligan.

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Biden will win. #Bigly. Trump is going down… but not in a way he’d like!

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Oct 12th 2020. Here I take my courage in my hands and predict – three weeks out from the official US Presidential polling day – that Joe Biden will win the presidency… and win it comfortably.

This is less based on polling, though national polls continue to show Biden with a clear 7 – 9 pt lead over Trump, and is more predicated on the evidence from the Trump side that it knows its man is beaten and is now focused on challenging the authenticity of the result. The Trump campaign is spending billions so Trump can sit in his Maralago golf resort this time next year and tell himself: I didn’t lose, I was robbed!


When trying to forecast an election result a few weeks out from polling day political pundits protect themselves by saying well, this would be the result if people were voting tomorrow, but there are still a few weeks to go and anything could happen.

But, when it comes to this American presidential election, people are voting tomorrow, just as they were voting today, yesterday, last week and even back to mid-September.

According to Vote.org, 27 States are already voting in person and/or have totally mail-in ballots. 9 out of the 50 States have been open for early voting from six weeks before the November 3 polling date, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and New Jersey. Early voting started in California a week ago.   

Over 9 million Americans have already voted, this is 8 – 10 times as many as voted this early in 2016. In five states the number of ballots already returned is more than 20% of the 2016 turnout.

Continue reading “Biden will win. #Bigly. Trump is going down… but not in a way he’d like!”

Facebook threatens to quit the EU? As if…

I wrote this article for BEERG‘s weekly newsletter on Sept 23rd. The Newsletter goes to approx 1,000 senior HR professional across the EU and US.

I have been deeply involved in monitoring the development of the data privacy and protection issue since first working on the early legislative passage of the General Data Protection Regulation through the European Parliament and Council. This article features a link to an article I wrote for the EurActiv news-site in late 2012 on the complexity of GDPR’s employee data provisions.

I have added some extra paragraphs in this version that are pertinent to the Irish domestic situation and – not for the first time – I finish an article with my favourite LBJ saying/quote

This was the week when the stark reality of the Schrems II judgement became clear. When the rubber hit the road.

In last week’s BEERG Newsletter I portentously observed that the already complex position around Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) and other methods of transferring personal data to the US was about to become more complex. Little did we realise how quickly that would happen.

The Irish Data Protection Commission made a preliminary move to halt Facebook’s use of SCCs to cover the transfer of data from the EU to the US. Facebook has some 400m+ user in Europe. Facebook went to court.

Within days, the text of Facebook’s affidavit to the Irish High Court appeared online. Its contents fueled headline speculation in respected broadsheet newspapers and reputable media outlets that Facebook was threatening to quit the EU unless its concerns were addressed.

Continue reading “Facebook threatens to quit the EU? As if…”

#Covid19: It’s About Numbers, But It’s About Balance Too

In this column looking at the State’s Covid-19 response, specifically the recent government decision to place Dublin at Stage 3 restrictions. Was this decision 100% evidence based? I suspect the public is moving ahead of the policy and decision makers and that there a developing public sense that a new balance – an acceptable level of risk – should be struck between preventing infection spread and imposing social restrictions.

It first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Monday Sept 21st 2020

2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19

Have you noticed how we talk about numbers when we talk about Covid-19. Daily infection figures, R numbers, hospitalisation rates, daily and weekly testing rates, App download (and deletion) rates.

All these numbers are important. They are key measures of both the threat posed by the infection and our effectiveness in combating it. They inform our responses, both national and personal.

They provide the basis for key public policy decisions and so, if the State is to succeed in supressing the virus while maintaining some economic and social continuity, we need evidence-based decision making. Decision making in which people can have confidence.

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Of dead cats and ducks, ‘tis of thee we sing

This week’s column first appeared on Broadsheet on Monday September 14th. It primarily looks at Boris Johnson’s threat to roll back on commitments made in a the Withdrawal Agreement and to undermine the workings of the Good Friday Agreement

It was a week of dead cats and ducks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson slammed his breaking international law in a very specific and limited way dead cat on the table, in the hope that others would be so horrified they’d forget entirely that his government hasn’t the slightest clue what happens when Brexit transition ends.

As for the dead duck… well, as I discussed that at length last week, I will comment briefly on its 10% rating later.  

The dead cat drop is an old political ruse. You only do it when you are in deep trouble. You reach for the dead pussy when your back is against the wall. You hope everyone focuses on the festering, fetid, defunct feline and forgets about your bigger problems.

The “dead cat on the table” tactic is proof that Johnson and his confederate Cummings are still more consumed with campaigning, not governing.  

Continue reading “Of dead cats and ducks, ‘tis of thee we sing”

We Need To Talk About Micheál

This opinion piece appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Sept 7th and continues a set of themes I have addressed in previous op-eds, namely (i) the problems of a rotating Taoiseach, (ii) the paucity of government’s communications and messaging and (iii) the lack of identity and vision dogging a Fianna Fáil led by Micheál Martin

Tánaiste and Taoiseach at Convention Centre…. or joint Taoisigh?

“The office makes the man” is a phrase heard many times before Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny became Taoiseach. It stems from the notion that you cannot properly envision someone as a Taoiseach (or Prime Minister or President) until they assume the office, as the trappings of office and the authority that come with role help increase their stature.

Afterall, very few people, apart from Gregory Peck, Martin Sheen or Oprah Winfrey, can truly act and sound presidential without being it. 

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My 2020 summer political reading list

Welcome to my fourth annual summer political reading list. This year’s list first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on August 10th 2020. It is somewhat later than planned as I have not been able to plan my own summer break until now.

With my previous lists I tried, where possible, to pick books you can download onto your tablet or eBook reader. Who wants to stick 6 or 7 heavy tomes into the suitcase and pay Euros to Willy Walsh or Michael O’Leary for the privilege of flying them with you? So, while this is not as big a concern this year, many of the titles I have picked are, happily, available to download, indeed at least one is available for free download.

As in past years the titles are factual. The list reflects my own tastes and prejudices – though I do genuinely attempt to include some books that challenge them.

The list is in no order, though it does start with books prompted by the sad death of one of the greatest men I have ever been honoured to meet and hear speak: John Hume. Feel free to disagree with any of my choices in the comments section below (as if some of you need a license to disagree with me!) but if you are going to disagree then suggest what books you’d include instead.

Screenshot (118)
John Hume, In his own words Edited by Seán Farren
John Hume, Irish peacemaker Edited by Seán Farren & Denis Haughey
humebooks-300x223

My first entry offers you a choice of two books on the one subject: John Hume.

In the first one: “In His Own Words” Hume’s great ally and colleague, Sean Farren, gathers extracts from some of Hume’s most significant speeches, articles, and interviews. Together they give a comprehensive overview of Hume’s political thoughts on the complexity of relationships within and between our two islands. You see, in Hume’s own words, the origins of his implacable opposition to violence and how he developed his proposals for resolving the Northern Irish conflict. Proposals that underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

Continue reading “My 2020 summer political reading list”

But aren’t all junior ministers super?

This column appeared on Broadsheet.ie on July 27th. Here I look at the unforced error that was the super junior saga – the article appeared just before the government caught up with public opinion and decided to back down. 

ff tds

When this new government was cobbled together… sorry, let me start again… when this new administration was formed, Fianna Fáil’s primary political imperative was to show that this government would be very different.

The assumption was that Micheál Martin and his train of attendants would move quickly to banish the political tone deafness and indifference that characterised Leo Varadkar’s time in office and replace it with the attentive and determined approach of a Taoiseach with his finger on the public pulse.

Four weeks in and all the evidence so far points more to continuity than change. To be fair to Martin, it is not the full picture. As the new Taoiseach has repeatedly said in interviews, the Dáil has rarely been so productive in producing legislation.

The problem is that he has made this point in a series of incredibly low energy TV and radio interviews that have lacked any core message beyond proving that Martin knows his facts.

Continue reading “But aren’t all junior ministers super?”

Ministering on #Data or #Cyber Defence

This column which looks (eventually) at Ireland’s ongoing political/policy neglect of data protection and cyber security and why the Defence Forces have a vital role to play in defending Ireland’s vital national infrastructure from cyber attacks. This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on July 20th 2020

biotech-670x310
Nice graphic via https://businessandfinance.com/news/infographic-why-ireland-for-cyber-security/

Since I wrote my last Broadsheet column, An Taoiseach Michéal Martin has sacked a cabinet minister and reassigned three junior portfolios. According to his supporters this action, a mere 17 days after his first round of appointments, is proof of An Taoiseach’s cool decisiveness and a major rebuff to those who consider him a self-interested ditherer.

They may well be right, but either way his unplanned reshuffle does afford us the chance to look again at the choices made by An Taoiseach on June 27th and July 1st when he chose his team of senior and junior ministers.

Technically, of course, An Taoiseach did not choose most of them. Martin himself only got to name 5 cabinet and 8 junior ministers. 13 out of the 32 positions to be appointed. The rest, 6 Green and 13 Fine Gael were chosen by their respective party leaders and, we are told, beyond the allocation of portfolios, there was no consultation on the identities of any of those to be named.

So let’s look at some of those decisions. Actually, let’s not.

Continue reading “Ministering on #Data or #Cyber Defence”