The view from The Ditch: Matt Barrett’s new pad; Des O’Malley’s legacy; Dublin funerals; Paschal's new adviser

Matt Barrett does a deal with vulture muscle

It’s generally accepted you don’t want the vultures, or the funds that bear their name, circling over you. Luckily for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s partner Matt Barrett, he seems to be on good terms with some vulture funds’ hired muscle.

Barrett has just purchased his new €845,000 Dublin 8 luxury pad from one of Ireland’s most well-known vulture fund enforcers: Jonathan Hanly, CSC Global managing director.

Hanly has directed 229 Irish companies, with his speciality being calling in vulture funds' bad debts. One he's directed is Cerberus, which in 2017 purchased an apartment block at Robin Hill in Sandyford from NAMA and immediately began evicting dozens of its tenants. Fortunately for the Tánaiste and his partner, eviction is not something they need worry about.

The Tánaiste’s biggest property-related concern is what he should do with his own Castleknock apartment: rent or sell?

The prophetic Fiona O’Connor

With the recent departure of Ed Brophy, finance minister Paschal Donohoe was in the market for a new special adviser. Thankfully for Paschal he didn’t have to look beyond his own constituency – nor party for that matter. The successful applicant is chair of the Fine Gael National Executive, Fiona O’Connor, who has canvassed for Donohoe since the 2016 general election.

The former Paddy Power marketing executive has worked for communications firm Drury for the past five years. In a 2011 tweet, she jokingly expressed concern that if Taoiseach Enda Kenny abolished all the quangos then she would never be able to get a job with one. Thankfully for Fiona, the jobs for the boys (and gals) culture is alive and well.

No one can question Fiona’s grasp on Ireland’s corporation tax rate. In a 2012 tweet, responding to the news that Apple’s Beats by Dre was locating their global financial HQ in west Cork, she wrote “is that not just because of low corp tax?”

She might have to break it to Paschal.

It’s not disinformation when I do it

When Leo Varadkar was minister for social protection and running for the leadership of Fine Gael, he ran a campaign on welfare fraud. ‘Welfare cheats cheat us all’ was the slogan, the ‘us all’ on the promotional signage underlined for effect. Launching the campaign, which aimed to recoup fraudulent welfare payments, Varadkar told us “nothing upsets people more than someone else cheating the system at their expense.”

You would’ve thought the campaign would bring in big money.

It cost almost €164,000 and returned €300,000 – let’s call it a net €136,000 to the exchequer. Maybe the welfare cheats who cheat us all weren’t doing a very good job. Maybe the problem wasn’t as widespread as Varadkar thought. Maybe it was disinformation on his part, used for his own (populist) political gain.

Varadkar over the weekend gave an interview to the National LGBT Federation. In it he described Twitter as a “sewer” and said it “has a case to answer in terms of their own level of editorial and not shutting down accounts when people are multiple offenders when it comes to hate and discrimination”.

There must be different kinds of disinformation. Maybe when Varadkar, also during his leadership campaign, suggested setting up anonymous Twitter accounts to tweet under positive news stories, maybe that was a different kind of disinformation too.

Three bad men were laid to rest

Three men, three bad men, were buried in west Dublin last week.

Carl Freeman, Graham Taylor and Dean Maguire in death became semi-household names for a week, with their funerals covered across the broadsheet, broadcast and tabloid press in Ireland and Britain. We know they were bad men because of the hundreds of convictions they’d amassed between them for burglary, assault, dangerous driving and endangerment, as well as the obvious tastelessness of their respective funerals. During one particular eulogy, a mourner said, in the church, “Rest in peace, you fucking legend.” The Irish Times censored “fucking” in their report.

The three men were aged from their mid-20s to early-30s. Had they lived long lives – well into their 90s, maybe hitting their centuries – of the kind of petty crime they specialised in, it’s fair to guess their influence wouldn’t be felt beyond their unfortunate direct victims. They were three men who would’ve contributed nothing to the enduring structural problems that continue to define Ireland.

Also last week, five ex-Davy Stockbrokers executives came into some money. They were five of the so-called Davy 16, a cabal who’d played both sides of the table for their own personal gain on a deal involving Anglo Bank Irish Bank bonds. The Central Bank fined Davy €4.1 million for this scam. Some of the executives resigned.

Now five of them have benefited to the tune of €180 million from the sale of Davy to Bank of Ireland. Ex-CEO Brian McKiernan got €79 million for himself. It’s important to note that none of these men – unfettered speculators – are criminals. That’s sort of the point.

They weren’t discussed on Joe Duffy, like the three dead in west Dublin. UCD engineering graduate McKiernan could however plead his case with the Business Post, which he did last weekend, saying, “There was a gross misunderstanding of the nature of the (Anglo Irish bond) transaction and the public perception and some commentary on it went way, way beyond anything that the Central Bank actually.”

That clears that up. He’s not a bad man.

The beatification of Des O’Malley

The level of adulation afforded by establishment media to the recently deceased former Progressive Democrat minister Des O’Malley would have you think that anything less than beatification would be an insult to his memory.

Although, to be fair, beatification may not be necessary as O’Malley is already considered the Irish patron saint of Thatcherism.

There has been much discussion over the past few days about the integrity displayed by O’Malley when he stood up to Charles Haughey and faced down the IRA.

Many commentators seem happy however to gloss over the fact that O’Malley served under Tánaiste Frank Aiken, a man responsible for the unmerciful sectarian slaughter of south Armagh Protestant civilians while serving as an IRA commander during the Irish War of Independence.

They also ignore that O’Malley led his party into government with Haughey, just five years after he fell out with him.

It’s a fresh take on “integrity” anyway.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors