Denis O'Brien has an opinion piece in today's Irish Times defending himself (and by extension his journalists) against the charge that he "despises" journalism. He cites, as evidence of his support for quality journalism, the fact that he has spent €20m on Newstalk radio.
Readers will know that I have been following the looking-glass world of Your Country, Your Call for some time. I've lots of posts with facts and figures about the company. But there was a report in the Irish Examiner by Colette Browne recently about the competition which prompted me to write about the aims of the competition as I perceived them.
Throughout the Your Country, Your Call competition we were promised information would be made available later. When we asked who the donors were, were were told it would be released in a few weeks. When we asked for details of the competition’s finances, we were told that wouldn’t be released until after the results were announced.
€2 million (Per An Smaoineamh Mór Chairman Dr. Laurence Crowley) minus €300,000 (gov money not paid) minus €150,000 (hard costs such as taxis and couriers) minus €200,000 (cash prize money already given out) ___________________________ €1,350,000 (Monies remaining) Like the Cotton Eye Joe sung of in days gone by, I keep asking myself “Where did it come from, where do it go?” ..
As your official Your Country, Your Call news source I feel it my duty to draw to your attention the latest twist in the tale, brought to us by the Irish Times. It involves the spouse of the President contacting the then serving Taoiseach about the payment of public money to a private firm.
The key document released to Rossa McMahon following his FOI appeal to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation was An Smaoineamh Mór's proposal document for the Your Country Your Call competition. It is valuable because it exposes more than just this particular set of proposals. It reveals the relationship between Fianna Fáil's public, elected, face and its much larger invisible manifestation.
Rossa McMahon made a request under FOI for documents from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation regarding the Your Country, Your Call competition. Mostly, it was refused. So, being a curious sort, he appealed.
I have received a reply from the Standards In Public Office Commission regarding my request for an investigation of An Smaoineamh Mór Limited, the company running the Your Country, Your Call competition and lobby group. You can read the text of it below.
Re: Ongoing examination of An Smaoineamh Mór Ltd under the Electoral Acts Dear Sirs, I write further to our previous correspondence on the above topic. I note your confirmation that the Commissioners have had this issue brought to their attention.
A few weeks ago, prompted by this article in the Irish Times on the announcement of the final 5 candidates for the €200,000 Your Country, Your Call cash bonanza, I emailed the Press Office the following question; Thank you for the confirmation that there has been no change in the situation regarding the payment of monies since the press reports of last week.