Saturday 22 October 2016

The Punt: Whiter than White

Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30

Communications Minister Alex White
Communications Minister Alex White

Energy Minister Alex White was quick out of the traps yesterday to praise ESB International's contract with Saudi Arabia to project-manage the construction of a gas-fired power plant in a remote region of the kingdom.

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The four-year project will see 40 staff from ESB International working in the region and bring 15 engineers from Saudi Arabia to Ireland for training.

ESB boss Pat O'Doherty was also cock-a-hoop, singing the praises of the 750-strong ESB International which is based in the same building as the former Anglo Irish Bank HQ.

While the Punt can understand the ESB's glee, it was still a tad strange to a Labour minister and would-be party leader, pictured below, celebrating a deal which will help one of the most discredited governments on the planet.

Things are changing to be sure, and the recent purge within the royal family has brought about improvements, but torture is widespread.

The flogging of a Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, who was convicted of insulting Islam in Jeddah (sentence 1,000 lashes) is only the latest atrocity to be conducted in the glare of the international media.

Let's hope the ESB's men stay away from blogs as well as drink and a church.

Spinning for Irish Water

ONE of the least enviable jobs in public relations could be up for grabs; head of communications at Ervia.

Not quite sure what Ervia is?

You are not alone.

Ervia is the new name for the owner of the former Bord Gáis Éireann and also has responsibly for that most unloved utility, Irish Water.

Former government spokesman Eoghan Ó Neachtain has jumped ship following three years at Ervia to become director of public affairs at Heneghan PR.

The rapidly expanding public relations company counts the holding company of this newspaper among its clients.

Ó Neachtain is unlikely to have left Irish Water because of the recent kerfuffles and PR fiascos.

The former army commandant and one-time head of the force's press office appears to love a good fight and has dealt with much bigger fish than a few water protesters over the years.

Uniquely, he served as press secretary to three governments and Taoisigh including the media-hating Brian Cowen.

Ó Neachtain was also head of public affairs with the ESB for five years and is a regular rugby analyst on TG4.

Mannion of Brunei

The Irish diaspora extends to every corner of the Earth including the small, wealthy country of Brunei where former Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion earns a crust as deputy chairman of the local airline.

These days, Mannion's new airline, Royal Brunei Airlines (RB), resembles Aer Lingus during his tenure at the Irish airline.

In a move that will be familiar to Aer Lingus watchers, RB announced yesterday that it is preparing a new five-year business plan after completing a company restructuring and renewing its widebody aircraft fleet.

Irish airline bosses appear to be experts at restructuring airlines around the world except, strangely, back home in Dublin where it took a German to knock Aer Lingus into shape.

Royal Brunei's current five-year plan began in April 2011 with a major restructuring project and the airline is once again expanding.

Analysts say that the key challenge for RB is posting a profit as the government no longer has the stomach for subsidising new routes.

Unlike most airlines, RB does not publish results so we have no idea what is happening there.

Still, as one of the few governments in the world with no debt, the oil-rich sultanate can probably sleep easy no matter how much RB loses.

Irish Independent

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