Richard Bruton’s delay over Paul Appleby retirement

RICHARD Bruton waited an astonishing four days to tell the Taoiseach that Paul Appleby was retiring.

Despite being told the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s shock decision last Friday, the Enterprise Minister waited until the Cabinet meeting at 10.30am Tuesday to break the news to his shocked colleagues.

Mr Appleby will stay in his €146,000-a-year job – and keep the €225,000 lump sum and €75,000-a-year pension he should have seen reduced.

After announcing on Tuesday morning that he was to retire this month, Mr Appleby backtracked on the bombshell decision following negotiations with ministers.

The same day was the deadline for the Government’s early-retirement scheme under which civil servants can claim pensions based on their salaries before recent rounds of public sector pay cuts.

Continuing beyond this date would have reduced Mr Appleby’s pension by around €4,000 a year and his lump sum by around €6,000, to €219,000.

But there were red faces as the Government had to make an exception for Mr Appleby – who is heading the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank – within hours of Tuesday’s deadline.

Last night, when asked for the time and date when Enda Kenny was first personally made aware of Mr Appleby’s decision to apply, a spokesman said: ‘It was at that Cabinet meeting.’

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin insisted on Tuesday that he, too, had just heard the news.

But it has been assumed that – at the very least – Mr Bruton might have phoned or even sent a message to the Taoiseach to tell him about the imminent retirement of the man heading up the largest investigation of its kind in the history of the State.

Indeed, it now appears that it was only after the Taoiseach was told of the matter that it was resolved and Mr Appleby was persuaded to stay on at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath warned that there were ‘more Paul Appleby’s’ waiting to happen.

He said: ‘The whole Paul Appleby story just undermines the ham-fisted way the Government has approached the retirement of public servants. People in senior positions, particularly in sensitive roles, should have been required to inform the Government several months in advance what exactly their intentions were.

‘Clearly that didn’t happen and now the Government is fire fighting.’

He added: ‘We will see more cases like Paul Appleby where the Government is just going to have to make this up as they go along.’ Mr Appleby was appointed to the role in 2001 to tackle the pervading culture of non-compliance with company law following banking scandals and tribunal disclosures.

His resignation had sparked fury, with one caller to RTÉ’s Liveline saying, ‘A man in such a high position should have the good of the nation as his top priority, like the captain of a ship should.

‘For God’s sake, see this investigation through.’ Last night, it was confirmed that a deal has been formally agreed and that he will be appointed as acting director of the ODCE.

A spokesman for Mr Bruton said last night: ‘The minister’s focus at all times has been on the investigation into Anglo, and the solution reached reflects the importance the Government places on this investigation.

‘It has been confirmed that Mr Appleby will be appointed as acting Director of Corporate Enforcement for a period of six months at his current salary level, subject to the normal abatement rules.

‘The minister is satisfied that it will now be possible to ensure a smooth transition to a successor for Mr Appleby and also to maintain the impetus in the investigation.’

And he added: ‘The minister is happy to confirm that he has received sanction for the recruitment of a successor to Mr Appleby.’

When asked why the minister had waited so long to tell the Taoiseach, the spokesman replied: ‘Mr Bruton met with Mr Appleby on Monday to discuss the matter and then raised it at Cabinet on Tuesday.’

Last night, the ODCE declined to make any comment. Mr Appleby’s resignation statement was still posted on the office’s website last night, without any reference to Tuesday’s U-turn.

Senior RTE chiefs step aside over Kevin Reynolds Prime Time Investigates libel row

TWO of the most senior figures in RTÉ’s current affairs team stepped aside yesterday as the broadcaster tried to calm public anger over its libelling of Father Kevin Reynolds.

Ed Mulhall, the managing director of its news and current affairs division, and Kevin O’Shea, its editor of current affairs, will be off-duty while the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland carries out an investigation into the controversy.

Aoife Kavanagh, the Prime Time Investigates reporter who falsely alleged that the priest had raped a teenage girl and fathered a child in Africa, will be taken ‘off air’, as will the programme’s executive producer Brian Páircéir.

The damage-limitation exercise came the day after RTÉ announced it was suspending Prime Times Investigates as Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte ordered an independent probe into how the priest was defamed.

The broadcaster said of yesterday’s staff moves: ‘These decisions have been agreed in order to remove any possible doubt about the objectivity and impartiality of RTÉ’s news and current affairs services at this time and are taken without prejudice to any party.’

RTE’s decision to air the allegations about the priest in the face of his denials is estimated to have cost the State-run broadcaster – and therefore the taxpayer – between €1million and €3million.

It came under particular criticism for refusing the priest’s offer to take a paternity test – something that would later prove his innocence.

The broadcaster was also roundly criticised last week for the hurried way an apology to Fr Reynolds was read out on air.

After the libel judgment went against the broadcaster this month, it promised an internal inquiry into ‘editorial procedure’.

However, Mr Rabbitte decided this was not enough and asked the BAI’s Compliance Committee to examine if RTÉ had ‘met its statutory responsibilities around objectivity, impartiality and fairness’. The investigation is expected to last two months.

In an edition Prime Time Investigates entitled A Mission To Prey, Miss Kavanagh approached the priest after he had conducted a first Holy Communion Mass, and wrongly accused him of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Kenya in 1982.

She also wrongly accused him of fathering a child with the woman. The reporters’ allegations against the 65-year-old parish priest of Ahascragh, Co. Galway, were broadcast to an audience of 519,000 on May 23.

They were repeated the following morning on Morning Ireland, when 338,000 listeners tuned in.

RTÉ director general Noel Curran has said the libelling of Fr Reynolds was one of the gravest editorial mistakes ever made in RTÉ and serious errors were made.

On the way into the launch of a book on the history of RTÉ by John Bowman last night, Enda Kenny said: ‘I welcome the fact that RTÉ have announced publicly that they are going to co-operate and cooperate fully with the inquiry into the Fr Reynolds libel.

‘Obviously the fact that RTÉ have made a decision themselves that certain personnel will stand down for the duration of that investigation is obviously a decision that RTÉ have taken in the light of what’s happened here.’

Earlier, the Taoiseach had told the Dáil: ‘I respect completely the independence of the Press Ombudsman, Mr [John] Horgan.

He is carrying out an investigation and I have no question over his independence in his role.

‘Following the initiative taken [by Pat Rabbitte], I thought it important that the Government act in the best interests of the highest standards in journalism and the rights of every person in this matter.’

On Morning Ireland Mr Rabbitte said: ‘The issues involved are very grave. I don’t recall a lapse of this magnitude before in the history of RTÉ… But my impression is the management of RTÉ understands the gravity of it and it’s that public disquiet that has to be allayed.

‘It has traditionally adhered to very high standards and it is in the interest of the broadcaster as well as in the public interest that the questions that remain around the Kevin Reynolds case be cleared up.’

RTÉ said Prime Time Investigates has been suspended for December and that Mr Páircéir and Miss Kavanagh ‘will not be involved in any on-air programming for this period and as with all other relevant members of staff, they will be engaged in assist-ing the RTÉ and BAI inquiries’.

At the High Court this month, Jack FitzGerald SC, counsel for Fr Reynolds, said: ‘Following the broadcast, Fr Reynolds was a priest removed from public ministry, out of home and labelled a criminal, a paedophile and a rapist.

‘Fr Reynolds suffered irreparable damage to his reputation. His life was utterly altered and he was removed from his home and his community. He was cast under a cloud of suspicion.’

The priest denied all allegations and, four days after Miss Kavanagh confronted him, his solicitors wrote to RTÉ to repeat the denials and asked the broadcaster not to screen the accusations.

However, RTÉ ignored the letter. On May 18, Miss Kavanagh emailed Fr Reynolds to say the broadcast would go ahead and claimed to have evidence to back up her claims.

The priest’s solicitors wrote back with further denials and his bishop in Africa emailed Miss Kavanagh to tell her the allegations were untrue.

Mr FitzGerald said RTÉ broadcast the allegations ‘in the teeth of firm denials’.

Fr Reynolds stood down but on September 12 he was restored to public ministry after a paternity test showed that he was not the child’s father.

Presidential candidates at RTE Frontline debate

Melanie Verwoerd issues statement to mark one year anniversary of Gerry Ryan death.

Released through the Press Association, Ms Verwoerd said: “I feel extremely blessed to love and have been loved by Gerry. It was an extraordinary privilege to have shared the last years of his life with him. Even though it was a very difficult time for him, we shared so much happiness, contentedness and fun.
“The 30th of April will always be filled with horrific memories and sadness for me – as it will be for all those who loved Gerry. However, I also want to remember the happy times and above all the great man that Gerry was – funny, clever, generous, kind and gentle. His insistence on living life to the full meant that he gave himself completely to everything and all that he came in contact with – leaving no one untouched.
“On this anniversary of his death, my heart goes out to all those who loved Gerry, but in particular to the children that shared his life. He was a great father figure not only to his five children but also to my two children. I know that they all miss him beyond description.
“Just over a year ago I pointed out a cherry blossom tree in full bloom to Gerry. I reminded him that even in the darkest times there is beauty around us and I assured him that the horrible time he was going through will also pass. Then we made a promise: next spring when the cherry tree flowers again, we will have champagne under the tree, laugh about the difficult times of 2010 and celebrate a new future. He died two days later.
“Over the last few weeks the tree has been flowering again, but instead of champagne and laughter there is only heartbreak and silence, left by his passing.
“The cherry blossoms will forever remind me of Gerry. It is impossible to describe the void his death has left in my life. I will always love him. I will always miss him.”

Ryan Tubridy ‘dummy’ planned by Dublin Wax Museum

HIS success on both radio and TV has yet to be replicated here.

But while Ryan Tubridy may have broken the broadcasting mould, it seems – in one walk of life at least – the Late Late Show host can be copied.

Dublin’s Wax Museum Plus has invited the Dubliner to sit for one of the world’s leading wax modelling experts for his own dummy.

Tubridy told his Twitter followers: ‘The Wax Museum wants to make a wax me. And so the jokes begin… two candles and a box of matches should do the job.’

Museum owner Paddy Dunning said he hoped that the TV presenter’s alter-ego will be in situ within months.

‘We’ve asked Ryan if he’ll do it and if it all goes to plan, we’ll have him in here before Christmas,’ he added. ‘We get a lot of people asking for him.’ 

Tubridy is one of the ‘top five most requested names’ at the museum, according to Mr Dunning, who said the TV host beat Christy Moore and Séamus Heaney in the rankings.

If Tubridy does accept, he’ll be stealing a march on RTÉ colleague Pat Kenny whose dummy is ‘in storage’.

Mr Dunning said: ‘There isn’t enough room for him at the moment. He is damaged from a flood we had a while back and he needs some work done on him.’

A Tubridy waxwork would certainly be in good company. U2, Phil Lynott and Ronan Keating are among the attractions at the museum in Dublin’s Temple Bar, and there are also plans for a Sinéad O’Connor piece.

And one of the popular features that has kept visitors gripped is the Chamber Of Horrors.

PJ Heraty is the museum’s wax sculptor and is regarded as one of the finest in Europe. His most recent commission was actor Liam Neeson.

Cathal O’Shannon outs himself as serial womaniser

VETERAN broadcaster Cathal O’Shannon has outed himself as a serial womaniser who cheated repeatedly on his wife.

The shock revelation will be aired tomorrow night in a documentary about him by family friend Paul Cusack – one of actor Cyril Cusack’s sons.

As well as paying tribute to his wife, the late Sunday Press social diarist Patsy Dyke, he tells of his deep sense of regret at having been unfaithful to her during their 50-year marriage.

In the RTÉ documentary, Cathal O’Shannon: Telling Tales, the journalist – whose interviews include a well-known session with Muhammad Ali in 1972 – admits to several affairs.

Although his wife found out, they stayed devoted to each other till her death from cancer in 2006.

He said: ‘She deserved more of my attention. She was a wonderful woman. And died very bravely. With great f****** courage.’

Of his infidelity, he said: ‘When Patsy discovered it, it was right that I admitted it and it’s right that people should know.

‘I was a s***e and it should be known to people that I was not just the happy laughing boy.’

He said that he decided to come clean in the documentary because it was ‘an honest thing to do’.

And Mr O’Shannon – who worked on the flagship BBC news programme, Tonight, in the 1960s – added: ‘My wife discovered it, to her great hurt. So I deserve for it to be known; it serves me right.’

He says his affairs were ‘flirtations’ that led to ‘bedding’ but he never had any intention of splitting from his wife.

In the programme, Mr O’Shannon – who made the renowned 1976 documentary on the Spanish civil war, Even The Olives Are Bleeding – talks about his childhood, and his politician father Cathal Sr, who was in the IRB and was arrested for his part in the 1916 Rising.

The broadcaster tells how, after a strict and brutal Christian Brothers education, he ran away in 1945 ‘to become a Spitfire pilot’ with the Royal Air Force.

He was posted to Burma with the RAF for two years and it was from here that he started his journalistic career. .

Cathal O’Shannon: Telling Tales – RTÉ One tomorrow at 10.40pm.

Brian Ormond and Mezzalie McGarry

You’re A Star presenter Brian Ormond is dating the widow of a Sligo club impresario. Mezzalie McGarry, 36, has turned to him after the sudden and tragic death of husband, Philip, eight months ago.

He died of a stroke in April, aged 43, leaving behind his wife of 10 years and the couple’s eight-year-old son. Since he died, Mezzalie has taken over the running of two nightclubs in Sligo town, Envy and the recently opened Velvet Room, which her husband had set up. They are jointly worth at least E4.5m.

Ormond, in a self-penned newspaper column, said of the relationship: ‘I’ve been seeing my new girlfriend Mezzalie McGarry for a while now and we’re getting on great. We’re very happy.’ And he added: ‘She regularly comes up to Dublin to stay with me. It’s great. We love seeing each other.’ The 27-year-old RTÉ presenter – who briefly dated actress Tara Leniston – met Mezzalie in September, just five months after her husband died.

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Last Wednesday, the pair were spotted at the famous Tobernalt Holy Well site a few miles from Sligo town – a romantic spot frequented by courting couples. They have also been seen out at more public events – like the recent opening night of the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly play, The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger, at Dublin’s Olympia.

Former croupier Mezzalie – or Mez to her friends – met her late husband Philip about 13 years ago while on a trip around the world. She had visited Australia before taking what was supposed to be a fleeting trip to Sligo.

At that time, Philip was running the town’s Envy nightclub. Shortly after Mez met him, they started dating and she began working at the club as a barmaid. She soon became a fixture at the venue but stopped working there shortly after her marriage in June 1997.

The birth of the couple’s son followed two years later. When her child was six, Mezzalie began selling therapeutic shoes from their Carrowmore home for the Swedish MBT – Masai Barefoot Technology – franchise. She soon became their biggest-selling agent and opened one store with Philip’s help.

In 2006, he achieved the ambition of a lifetime when he opened his trendy night spot, the Velvet Room – a move that cost him more than E3m.

The club was a favourite haunt of celebrities, including his close pals from Westlife, Shane Filan and Kian Egan. Both singers were at his widow’s side at his funeral in May. Philip was born with a defective neck vein, which is believed to have caused his fatal stroke.

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A former work colleague of Mez described the go-getting business-woman last night, saying: ‘When she sees something worth doing, she goes for it and invariably does very well. She’s very astute, very driven.

‘I don’t know very much about Brian but he’s certainly going to have to work hard at keeping her impressed and interested. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly.’

Mez is also said to enjoy her nightlife and has an eclectic circle of friends. Her friend revealed: ‘Mez has quite a few close gay and lesbian friends. She’s very open-minded.’

Some of Mezz’s friends at a party in the basement of his house.

With the help of her 70-year-old father, Per Ekberg, she has ploughed her energies into running the clubs. Until recently, Philip’s brother Niall was a director of Philip’s companies Irish Nightclubs & Leisure Ltd and Rowan Heath Ltd. He resigned from both companies after just a few months. Mr Ekberg has since been appointed a director of the companies.

However, control of another of Philip’s companies – Vallicelli Ltd – remains in the hands of his mother, Noreen. She is listed as the only surviving director of the company, which appears to own Philip’s palatial house, which is valued at more than €820,000.