High Court decision on INM probe due

The case follows a data breach within the firm in 2014 involving 19 people, some of whom were its own journalists

The Republic of Ireland’s high court will decide on Monday whether or not to investigate the governance of the country’s largest media group.

The move applies to Independent News and Media, which owns newspapers across Ireland, including the Belfast Telegraph.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is making the move.

It follows a data breach within the firm in 2014 involving 19 people, some of whom were its own journalists.

The revelations follow “a protected disclosure” under Whistleblower legislation to the ODCE by the former chief executive of INM, Robert Pitt.

It is understood he had serious concerns about the price that INM was being asked to pay for the Denis O’Brien-owned independent loss-making talk radio station, Newstalk.

Resigned as chairman
Mr O’Brien effectively controls INM, a publicly quoted company, with a shareholding of just under 30%.

Mr Pitt’s opposition to the sale put him at odds with the INM chairman, Leslie Buckley, INM’s chairman and a close associate of Mr O’Brien.

Mr Pitt is no longer with the Irish media company and Mr Buckley recently resigned as chairman.

In the run-up to the High Court action, it has emerged that 19 people were targeted by IT consultants hired by Mr Buckley, and paid for by a Denis O’Brien-controlled company.

Among the 19 were INM journalists who were highly critical of Mr O’Brien before he took over INM, including the award-winning Sam Smyth, who is originally from Belfast and is now with the Irish Mail on Sunday.

Many of them were seen as loyal to the old regime at INM and the family of Sir Anthony O’Reilly.

‘Robustly defending’ himself
Others include lawyers associated with the Moriarty Tribunal, which found “beyond doubt” that the former Fine Gael Communications minister, Michael Lowry, had significantly assisted Mr O’Brien in acquiring the republic’s first private mobile phone license in the mid 1990s.

Mr Lowry received large sums from Mr O’Brien in complex financial transactions.

Both men have strongly denied any wrongdoing and no criminal charges were ever brought in relation to the findings.

Mr O’Brien is a noted philanthropist with an interest in human rights and was involved in bringing the Special Olympics to Ireland in 2003.

But his critics describe him as a tax exile.

He also has a reputation for being litigious.

INM has sent a letter to the 19 people whose data has been breached confirming the role of Mr Buckley in the affair.

He has said he would be “robustly defending” himself.

So far there has been no comment from Mr O’Brien.

On Friday it was reported that INM are to appoint external experts to examine their governance of editorial data and to introduce an updated newsroom data governance code.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

Arlene (the green crocodile) Foster ‘should be held fully liable for legal costs’.

Arlene Foster was first minister at the time the decision to block the funding was taken.

A lawyer for Arlene Foster has said she should not have to pay the costs of a successful legal action against her.

Last week a judge ruled that the former first minister’s decision to block funding for a legacy inquests plan was unlawful and flawed.

The Attorney General said that as she was no longer first minister she had no ministerial responsibility.

John Larkin QC added that she should not be liable for any damages awarded to the person who took the case.

He said this was because an allegation of discrimination had been rejected by the court.

Foster decision on inquests ‘unlawful and flawed’
However a lawyer for the woman who took the case argued that the leader of the DUP should have to pay costs because she was the “main culprit”.

Brigid Hughes challenged the failure by Stormont’s executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state to put in place adequate funding to prevent further delays in holding legacy inquests.

Her husband, Anthony, was a civilian shot dead along with eight members of the IRA in May 1987 by the SAS as republicans attacked Loughgall police station in County Armagh.

Judge Sir Paul Girvan last week ruled in her favour.

He said Mrs Foster was wrong to think the decision on funding a proposal from the Lord Chief Justice for dealing with legacy inquests could be postponed until after a wider political agreement on dealing with the past.

At a hearing to determine costs and other issues on Friday, lawyers for the executive office, the justice department and the secretary of state also argued that they should not have to foot the bill.

At one point the judge said: “The long and the short of is that the various parties failed to progress this issue.”

‘Main culprit in all this’
Barry Macdonald QC, representing Mrs Hughes, rejected the arguments and said his client had won her case and was therefore entitled to have her legal bill paid.

He said those paying should include the leader of the DUP.

“The former first minister was really the main culprit in all this,” he told the court.

“She blocked consideration of the proposal, she promoted the notion that it was permissible and lawful to withhold funding for legacy inquests pending a resolution of overall legacy issues.

“Costs are appropriate against her.”

Last week the judge also ruled that the secretary of state and relevant Stormont departments must now reconsider the issue of funding for Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan’s plan to deal with all legacy inquests within five years.

Lawyers for the secretary of state, the justice department and the executive office argued he should not issue a court order compelling their clients to reconsider.

Image caption
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan called for extra funding for inquests
They said there was no need to do so as they were public authorities and would therefore comply with his judgement.

But Mr Macdonald insisted there was a need for an order because the response of those named in the legal action demonstrated that they had “failed to recognise their responsibilities”.

“An element of compulsion is necessary because any party failing to act would be in contempt of court,” he said.

‘Lack of transparency’
The judge also referenced comments by the head of Northern Ireland’s civil service, David Sterling, who earlier this week revealed there was a policy of not taking minutes at some meetings.

Speaking at the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme he said this was so the details would not be available under Freedom of Information, and to avoid potential embarrassment to DUP and Sinn Féin ministers.

Discussing Barry Macdonald QC’s submission that there should be an order compelling compliance with the judgement issued last week, Sir Paul Girvan said: “Unless you have a more intrusive order you will end up with a perpetuation of nothing happening – in a context where there’s a lack of transparency of how decisions are reached because it might embarrass somebody.”

The judge will deliver his ruling on costs and the next steps to be taken by the relevant authorities later this month.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

 

MEPs to call for no reduction in the North of Ireland’s ‘democratic rights’

The European Parliament is expected to approve a resolution on Wednesday calling for no reduction in “social and democratic rights” in NI after Brexit.

The resolution is part of the parliament’s assessment of the progress of the Brexit negotiations.

It is understood that Sinn Féin pressed for the language on democratic rights to be included.

The party hopes it will leave open the possibility that NI can still have representation in the parliament.

People in Northern Ireland who have Irish citizenship will all also remain EU citizens after Brexit.

Guy Verhofstadt suggested Irish citizens in the North of Ireland could elect MEPs in the Republic of Ireland.

Last year, the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt suggested these people could elect MEPs in the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

However that idea has not gained support in the parliament.

When Mr Verhofstadt first suggested the measure it was dismissed by the chair of the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.

The parliament’s Brexit resolution also welcomes the publication of the EU’s protocol on Ireland which sets out the controversial “backstop” option for avoiding a hard border.

Sinn Féin is a member of the GUE/NGL group in the parliament, one of the five major groups represented on the parliament’s Brexit steering group.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

Fred Holroyd: ex-intelligence officer who says he was forced to leave the British army when he raised concern about a shoot-to-kill policy.

Fred Holroyd: Ex-surgeon backs ‘false mental illness’ case

A former military surgeon is backing legal action by an ex-intelligence officer who says he was forced to leave the Army because he raised concerns about an alleged shoot-to-kill policy.

Fred Holroyd said he was falsely diagnosed with a psychiatric illness for political reasons.

These allegations have now been backed by Dr Hugh Thomas, who was working in a hospital where Mr Holroyd was admitted.

The Ministry of Defence is expected to robustly contest the claim.

Fred Holroyd, is suing the Ministary of Defence (MoD).

Mr Holroyd, a former Army captain who served in County Armagh in the 1970s, is suing the Ministry of Defence.

Who is Fred Holroyd?
He has said he was unlawfully detained in the military wing of Musgrave Park Hospital in south Belfast and an Army hospital near Southampton in May 1975.

“I have evidence, through the recent disclosure of my British Army medical file, of a tortuous malicious conspiracy to unlawfully detain me in a military psychiatric institution and to force me to resign from the British Army,” he said.

He has said he was targeted because he made allegations about collusion between Army units and loyalist and republican paramilitaries, and alleged some soldiers were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

Former Military Surgeon Dr Hugh Thomas will give evidence in the case

Dr Thomas, a major with the Royal Army Corp who was based at Musgrave Park, said he believes the Army ordered doctors to diagnose a mental health condition.

“I think it (the Army) had made its mind up to have a diagnosis that they wanted,” he told the BBC.

He remembered the day Mr Holroyd was admitted because a consultant with no psychiatric qualifications complained that he had been ordered to diagnose a psychiatric condition.

“The first I knew about it was when a senior physician colleague of mine came into the theatre and sought sanctuary, and he sought sanctuary because he had been ordered to section Fred, and had found that an abhorrent request, which it was,” he said.

The retired consultant believes military law and medical ethics were breached and he said he was willing to go to court to give evidence on Mr Holroyd’s behalf.

“It was an appalling thing to ask someone to section someone for a political reason, and I believe this was a political reason,” he said.

Captain Fred Holroyd, pictured in 1974 ‘I was in the way’ Mr Holroyd resigned from the Army in 1976.

He has claimed on many occasions that he was victim of an internal war between elements of the British intelligence services.

Lawyers representing Mr Holroyd in his writ against the MoD say his claims are supported by military medical records released in 2016, which state he “presented without any material psychiatric symptoms and remained entirely rational at all times”.

When asked why be believed the military authorities would act in the way he has alleged, he said they wanted to get rid of him.

“To keep me quiet about my complaints about what had been going on in Ireland,” he added.

“I was in the way and I think the policy was eased in over me and I had to be got rid of.”

Mr Holroyd is claiming damages from the MoD for unlawful detention, and is also seeking compensation for loss of pay and military pension.

His lawyers claim that no one with any qualifications in psychiatry assessed his mental condition.

‘Inappropriate to comment’
“I have always said that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was not mentally ill,” Mr Holroyd told the BBC.

He is also seeking an apology.

“All I’ve ever said is just say ‘we made a mistake, we’re sorry, and what can we do to make it right’. They’ve never said that.”

In a statement the MoD said that “as legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage”.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

DUP states: “Stormont unlikely to return soon” – DUP

“I wonder why? Are the DUP and the Conservitive government in bed with each other??

There is a “lot of distrust” between the DUP and Sinn Féin, said Nigel Dodds
It is “highly unlikely” that power sharing will be restored soon in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds has said.

A budget for the region must be set within two weeks to keep public services running, he added.

Northern Ireland’s devolved executive collapsed in January last year after a bitter row between the governing parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The latest talks aimed at resolving the crisis ended in failure this month.

Stormont deadlock: Need to know guide
Disputed Stormont ‘deal’ pages leaked
Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme on Sunday, Mr Dodds said he “confidently” expected that UK government ministers would soon take decisions on public spending in Northern Ireland.

“It’s unfortunate the talks have come to an end – we now need decisions taken on spending and on budgets,” said Mr Dodds.

Nigel Dodds “Confidently” expects that UK ministers will soon take budget decisions for the North of Ireland.

“There needs to be a budget within the next fortnight and there need to be decisions taken in order to spend that money.

“The budget can be set at Westminster and clearly Parliament can authorise ministers to take whatever decisions are necessary for the good governance of the province.

“That’s clearly what should happen and I confidently expect that it will happen.”

This week, the Northern Ireland secretary committed to providing clarity on the budget for public services but declined to immediately impose direct rule from Westminster.

‘Bad blood’
The DUP and Sinn Féin blamed each other for the breakdown of the latest negotiations to end the deadlock, saying there was disagreement over legislation for the Irish language.

Sinn Féin has demanded agreement on an act that would give official status to the language, but the DUP has said it will not entertain such a measure.

Direct rule for the North of Ireland “isn’t acceptable” to Sinn Féin, said Michelle O’Neill

The parties still disagree on whether or not a draft agreement was on the table before the talks broke down.

It is “difficult to say” when talks to restore the Northern Ireland Executive could resume, added Mr Dodds.

“There’s a lot of distrust, there’s a lot of bad blood.

“We need a reaching-out process – we need Sinn Féin to get back to situation where they’re actually wanting to work with unionists.”

Sinn Féin’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill reiterated her party’s view that direct rule “isn’t acceptable”.

Speaking in Belfast on Sunday at a march for survivors and relatives of those killed by loyalists and the security forces, she said the DUP “walked out on the talks”.

“They’re not interested, it appears, to want to get the institutions up and running.”

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

Michelle O’Neill says ‘legacy deal’ still stands – according to Sinn Féin – Who do you beleive??

Several thousand people gathered in Belfast to call for action on legacy issues.

Sinn Féin’s northern leader has said an agreement with the government to release money for Troubles-related inquests still stands.

Michelle O’Neill said the funding would be forthcoming despite the collapse of power-sharing talks earlier this month.

Ms O’Neill was speaking at a march for survivors and relatives of those killed by loyalists and the security forces.

Meanwhile, the victims’ commissioner said a political deal was desirable but not necessary for progress on legacy.

Since the latest round of talks collapsed, the two main parties – Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – have blamed each other for the breakdown, saying there was disagreement over legislation for the Irish language.

While not in the so-called draft agreement, Sinn Féin said they had a separate “commitment” from the government to put inquest funding and other measures to deal with the past out to public consultation.

Victims’ commissioner Judith Thompson said there was not a big gap between the parties on legacy issues.

The legacy inquests include some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles, and Northern Ireland’s most senior judge previously asked for money to deal with the backlog of outstanding cases.

The DUP has said it was not aware of the deal between Sinn Féin and the government in the absence of an overall agreement.

The government has said that all its discussions were in the context of how it would respond to an overall deal.

On Sunday, Ms O’Neill said: “I am crystal clear that we have an agreement with the British government that they would release both the legacy inquest funding and a consultation on the legacy mechanisms.

“That position still stands – I met with Theresa May last week and I put that to her that they need to not play fast and loose with victims.”

‘Million miles’
Ms O’Neill was among several thousand people to turn out for a rally in Belfast city centre on Sunday.

Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord, who was at the rally, said the event was a step in the right direction but legacy issues should not be politicised.

“I want to see an even bigger event. I want to see Royal Avenue flooded with victims and the general public,” he said.

“And victims from unionist and nationalist communities standing with each other.

“Sinn Féin is heavily involved here and I want to see an event with no political parties whatsoever for all victims.”

The march – under the banner Time for Truth – took place in Belfast city centre

Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson said the parties were “not a million miles apart” on how to deal with the past but any consultation must not be marred by political fighting.

“There are people marching in Belfast for truth,” she said.

“People who have waited four decades for inquests and investigations, and the same people exist in every constituency.

“It’s really important we deal with this stuff and an argument between our parties about a political context, which is clearly very difficult right now, must not get in the way of things they are broadly in agreement with.”

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story

Belfast International Airport role in DUP event ‘raises questions’ over its impartiality!!

Belfast International Airport said it engages with political parties that organise events that benifit it.

Sinn Féin has criticised Belfast International Airport over its involvement in a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) event in County Antrim.

Its chairperson Declan Kearney said the airport needed to clarify its role in the DUP’s annual North Antrim constituency dinner in Ballymena.

At the event on Friday, DUP MP Ian Paisley interviewed former Conservative minister Priti Patel about Brexit.

The airport said it is campaigning for the removal of air passenger duty (APD) on its flights.

A spokesman for Belfast International Airport said it supports “all our political parties where it is clear the events they organise or are a part of are to the benefit of the airport”.

In a letter to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, a public relations firm said the airport was “sponsoring the dinner”.

The correspondence said the council’s participation “would add a significant dimension” to the evening, which would partly assess “the potential” of Brexit for business.

The airport’s sponsorship would raise questions about its support for the DUP, said Declan Kearney.

It did not state the event was a DUP dinner, but mentioned that Mr Paisley would “interview” Ms Patel.

Tables for 10 people cost £1,500.

The DUP MLA Paul Frew tweeted about the event, saying there had been “great support” at it, while MP Sammy Wilson said it was “great” to have “strong ally” Ms Patel in attendance.

‘Partisan relationship perception’

Mr Kearney said a “huge issue of public interest” had arisen from what appeared to be “financial sponsorship by the airport for this DUP gala dinner”.

Report

“The airport has enjoyed the political backing in the past from the [Northern Ireland] Executive,” he said.

The airport’s involvement in he event would mean “perceptions will arise about having a partisan relationship” with the DUP, he added, saying that he would write to the company that owns it.

“I intend to ask the owners of the airport whether they consider that it is tenable for one of their subsidiaries to be financially sponsoring activities of one political party.”

Mr Kearney acknowledged that he had met the management of the airport “in the past”.

Report

A DUP spokesman said: “All income and expenditure arising from the event will be handled in accordance with our rules and regulatory obligations.”

The airport’s spokesman said it is privately owned and does not receive government subsidies.

He also said it is campaigning for the removal of air passenger duty (APD) – a tax on the majority of flights from Northern Ireland – and “that means engaging with senior government figures to get our points across”.

“We will continue with our efforts to remove APD and to engage with all politicians from whatever party to achieve that objective,” added the spokesman.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

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