The Cost: Beverley counts the cost of an epic trial
Beverley Flynn spent 28 days in the High Court in 2001 attempting to reclaim her damaged reputation. She might as well have spent 28 days in a Las Vegas casino. She could hardly have squandered more money. The only way to describe the exorbitant costs in the Flynn-RTE libel trial is to say that they are totally off-the-wall. Indeed, they are probably beyond the comprehension of most ordinary people who will hardly spend 2 million euro in a lifetime let alone in 28 days. So, where did all the money go? Well, for one thing the case was the longest libel hearing in the history of the State. In total, the seven-week trial involved 16 witnesses, more than 10,000 pages of documents and three legal teams - representing Ms Flynn, RTE and Mr Howard. Apart from the actual 28-day hearing, there was also a three-day preliminary hearing in the High Court where RTE obtained discovery of National Irish Bank documents. Employing a solicitor to contest a parking fine in the District Court costs a pretty penny but a libel trial is another matter altogether. Libel fees are generally at the top end of the range of legal fees as these cases involve high-profile specialist senior counsel. Deputy Flynn employed one of the largest firms of solicitors in the State, McCann Fitzgerald, and it briefed one of the country’s best-known libel barristers, Mr. Garret Cooney, S.C., along with another senior counsel, Mr. Hugh Mohan. They also had the services of a junior counsel. RTE employed its own firm of solicitors, Eugene Collins and Co., and briefed Mr. Kevin Feeney, S.C., another highly experienced libel lawyer, and Mr. John Trainor, S.C. The third party in the case, Mr. James Howard, was represented by Mr. Paul O’Higgins, S.C. as well as junior counsels and a team of solicitors. One barrister will relieve a person of a fairly sizeable wad of cash, but six barristers? It’s a bit like being mugged six times in the one day. Each of the six barristers in the action will have been paid a brief fee to take the case, prepare it, and argue the first day in court. Brief fes vary hugely, depending on the amount of work needed to prepare the case. A minimum figure would be 15,000 to 20,000 euro but it could be much higher, in the region of 50,000 euro.
The question of whether Beverley Flynn should ever have taken a libel case in the first place is perhaps the most important question mark over the whole sorry affair. This comes from another time - 1998 - when arrogance was particularly rife within the political system. A sense of the untouchable perhaps and not in the Indian sense of the word? The press afraid to report on wrong-doing due to the stringent libel laws which had worked so well in favour of the ‘system’ up to that point. How else could we end up with a council that has 12 auctioneers elected to an office where the main function is to decide on planning matters! Auctioneers, large site-sellers and developers involved directly in deciding on planning guidelines for the county. Only recently has the Connaught Telegraph carefully pointed out this glaring situation.
Eamon undaunted by the uphill climb ahead
A Westport man will realise a dream when he sets out on the ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ to Santiago in a few weeks time. Eamon Duffy heard about the ‘Camino de Santiago’ many years ago and longed for the day when he would follow the trail from southern France to the grave of St. James but he put it to the back of his mind until now. "I’ve wanted to do this for many years but little did I think that I would ever realise my dream. The ways of life are strange and complex and fate also takes a hand in events. In my case fate took the form of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland. "They were looking for sixty people who would raise money for their charity and who’d also take part in the 300 kilometre walk in the north of Spain, following the 1,000-year-old pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. "I have a very good friend who suffers from M.S. and I felt that this was the ideal opportunity to help out the charity and follow the ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ so I signed up and began training for the walk." The trek will begin for Eamon and his comrades in the little village of St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees on May 29th. They will follow the tiny paths over the mountains and through the famous vineyards of Rioja before skirting the cities of Burgos, Leon and Lugo. On the tenth day of their journey, after covering 300 kilometres they will get their first glimpse of the magnificent cathedral in Santiago and the final resting place of St. James.
Pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela across Europe are very ancient. There is even an archaeological find of pilgrim shells - scallops - buried near Mullingar indicating that there is a very old pilgrim route from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain – the scallop was, and still is, the icon of St. James that is carried by pilgrims. The city is an incredibly beautiful old medieval city and worth a visit whether you walk like Eamon Duffy or go by plane/train/car. A few years back I visited Santiago on business totally unaware of its history, St. Jacques or of the pilgrims. I saw the pilgrims walking into the city day after day while staying there. Some were in modern dress while others wore Franciscan style robes but pretty much all of them carrying traditional staffs with the scallop shells attached. In the tourist shops you wonder why all the scallop shells for sale? We sell shamrock souvenirs in Ireland – but in Santiago they sell the pilgrim shell or coquille St. Jacques. Santo Jago in Spanish or St. Jacques in French or St. James in English are all one and the same. The gold leaf tomb of St. Jacques has very long queues snaking through the old cathedral all day long waiting to see the old saint and hopefully obtain a cure. Definitely worth a visit even if not as a pilgrim. And if you come upon any of Eamon Duffy's fundraiser events in Mayo be generous and throw in a few euro - Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland is a really good cause - a 1000km walk is no joke so support him.
Stinging attack launched by Kelly
Knock Fine Gael candidate John Kelly has launched a stinging attack on his neighbour and political rival in June’s elections, Cllr. Michael Carty of Fianna Fail. In a statement issued yesterday (Monday), Mr. Kelly raised the political temperature in the area significantly in the first major ‘head to head’ challenge of the campaign in the Claremorris Electoral Area. John Kelly says he is "startled by the sudden surge of interest" by Cllr. Carty in the Knock Pharmacy and Bus Shelters issues. The matter arose from an interview with Cllr. Carty on Mid-West Radio last week in which he (Michael Carty) expressed his views on the pharmacy license and bus shelters for the village of Knock. "Is this the same Michael Carty that served on the executive committee of the Knock Area Development Association during my time as Chairperson? Is this the Michael Carty of the abysmal attendance record at meetings when all these matters and many more concerning his community were being mooted? "The records of K.A.D.A will show that all these ideas have been put in place by the association without a solitary contribution from the recently enforced councilor. "It was under my ‘chair’ that a letter from the C.E.O of the Western Health Board setting out reasons for a refusal of a Pharmacy License for Knock were highlighted and put into the political arena. During that same time we were in constant negotiation with the different authorities regarding the placement of shelters and stops. "Why has he not mentioned the outstanding issue of an empty fire station house without an engine or unit? This structure, built with public monies in the ‘70’s, stands almost in his back garden. Did he stand out with the traders on the morning of protest when their livelihoods were being threatened? "This of course smacks of last minute Fianna Fail pre-election roguery. Are his ideas here prompted by freebie literature from Mr. Dempsey’s department? "Mr. Carty, don’t try to steal someone else’s spotlight, well at least until you get the shoe size right," said Mr. Kelly.
Some plain talking there eh? Getting down and dirty. The election campaign has started folks so get ready with YOUR questions at the door. Don't let them talk about promises. Here are some suggested questions for a start:
- Candidate - first of all what is your occupation? Auctioneer/Developer/Farmer?
- How many acres of land do you, as a candidate for Mayo County Council, actually own in Mayo apart from your private house?
- If it was possible to get planning permission how many one-off sites would that be and how much would they be worth before and after planning permission?
- Mmmm! And can you explain why there are 12 of 31 councillors who are auctioneers?
- Can you explain to me why this is not regarded as a conflict of interest by the elected majority of auctioneers, site-sellers and site developers who decide on planning issues by changing the the county development plan?
- What sort of contributions are made to your party by local auctioneers and developers in particular?
- Why have Mayo County Council staff put a disclaimer on the council website regarding the accuracy of the information supplied regarding councillors' professions?
- Is it common practice for people applying for planning permission to pump the water out of septic tank 'trial holes' before the council inspector comes to inspect them?