Saturday 20 December 2014

Ronald Quinlan:The stories we might not have been able to tell

Published 06/01/2013 | 05:00

Politicians accepting donations behind closed doors at private clubs for the rich and powerful; a government minister struck down by a serious illness at his country's hour of greatest need; the former chief of a bank that brought a nation to the brink of bankruptcy takes refuge in a luxurious mansion overseas as the developers he bankrolled continue to live it up, owing the taxpayer billions.

These are just some of the stories that have been published by the Sunday Independent since the financial crisis began. But would stories like these make it into print in the future if politicians were to get their way and tighten the laws on privacy.



* When the crash came, Derek Quinlan went to live in Switzerland and then to London, leaving multimillion-euro debts behind him. When we first caught up with him in Lausanne, we stood accused of invading his privacy. As the Irish taxpayer pays the price for Derek and his ilk, the former financier still lives the high life.



* Bankrupt developer Bernard McNamara's companies owe Nama and the banks more than €1.5bn. But it will be the Irish taxpayer who foots the bill, as the Clare-born builder counts down the clock in London to the clean financial slate he will have come November.



* When the Sunday Independent published details of the two mansions former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm acquired in the US in the days leading up to the bank guarantee, he wrote a letter to us claiming we had invaded his privacy. The real reasons for Mr Drumm's upset became obvious soon after.



* While Environment Minister Phil Hogan was withholding the payment of management fees for his Portuguese apartment, here at home he was insisting that we all pay our household charges. "Would you pay a charge if you were unhappy with the service?" he asked when questioned about his own situation.



* When the news leaked out that the late Brian Lenihan, above, was suffering from cancer, there was outrage at the insensitivity of the media's reporting of it. But shouldn't we have a right to know about the health of our leaders when our fate is in their hands?



* As the Government debates the extent to which the State funds private education, how many politicians send their own children to private schools? However little we might know now, we could know much less in the future.



* Had businessman Ben Dunne, above, not been prosecuted in the US following his drug-fuelled dalliance with a prostitute, he could well have argued -- successfully -- that what he did in the privacy of his hotel room was his own business.



* When Fine Gael held a golf fundraiser in the K Club in Kildare in July 2010, they were on the cusp of getting back into power -- a likelihood that certainly wasn't lost on the developers, bankers and consultants who took part. The Sunday Independent was there as an uninvited guest.



* Whenever Nama developers have transferred properties to their wives and children, newspapers have faithfully reported it: while Nama itself cites the right of its borrowers to confidentiality in their dealings with them.



* When developer Johnny Ronan whisked Rosanna Davison, pictured left, off to Marrakesh on his private jet on the spur of the moment, he was already in Nama. Had the matter gone unreported in the press, would the buccaneer still be flying high?

Sunday Independent

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