Monday 22 July 2019

Joyceans get in a twist at exec's blog bloomer

LAURA BARNES: 'If anybody had written about him in the way he wrote about us, he would not have seen it as humorous.'
LAURA BARNES: 'If anybody had written about him in the way he wrote about us, he would not have seen it as humorous.'


BLOOMSDAY is past, but that doesn't mean the odyssey is over for James Joyce Centre director Laura Barnes.

American-born Ms Barnes and her partner, senior Arts civil servant Niall O Donnchu, are set to lock horns with a high-flying executive from Iona Technologies in the High Court, over remarks he made about them in an anonymous internet blog last December.

Writing under the pseudonym 'Ardmayle', Iona's director of information development and design, John O'Sullivan, posted a series of comments, which he himself now admits could have been viewed as "tawdry innuendo".

While the Sunday Independent cannot repeat the allegations contained in Mr O'Sullivan's original blog, it is understood they were published as part of wider claims made by a number of parties in relation to the National Library's purchase of one of Joyce's Finnegans Wake manuscripts from Ms Barnes in 2005. The library acquired the manuscript through the AIB Group.

The €1.17m price tag netted the American woman €777,000, based on the €400,000 price she had paid for it less than a year earlier.

Questions in the Dail about the circumstances surrounding the deal saw an inquiry ordered by former minister for arts, sport and tourism, John O'Donoghue, in January.

The resulting probe, headed by recently-retired arts department secretary general Philip Furlong, was completed within the last week. The Sunday Independent understands that Ms Barnes and Mr O Donnchu will be found to have acted correctly at all times, once Mr Furlong's report is published this week.

But the long-running saga won't end there. Two separate High Court writs served on John O'Sullivan by Laura Barnes and Niall O Donnchu mean the drama may well be only beginning to unfold.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, the Iona Technologies executive appeared to be prepared to face any charge they have to level against him, in court. "On the one hand, I'm reluctant to go to court, as you never know what way these things can go, but on the other hand I would love to bring it in front of a jury, to expose these people as, at best, humourless, and at worst vindictive," he said.

He revealed that Ms Barnes's legal representatives, Ivor Fitzpatrick and Company, had written to his employers at Iona Technologies, "asking them if I had used their equipment or their time to post my blog. But I have been with the company long enough and they know this is just spuriously vindictive. They share my thinking. This is bulls**t".

Asked about the apology he had already published in relation to Ms Barnes and Mr O Donnchu on his 'Ardmayle' blog last December, Mr O'Sullivan said: "I published the apology using the exact wording supplied to me by Ivor Fitzpatrick solicitors. The only word I substituted was 'inaccuracy' in place of 'defamatory'. It wouldn't be very wise to say something you wrote was defamatory, now would it?

Contacted by the Sunday Independent last night, Ms Barnes responded in the strongest terms to Mr O'Sullivan's claims that she and Mr O Donnchu were being either humourless or vindictive. She also rejected a claim he made that the case might not even make it to the High Court.

"If anybody had written about him in the way he wrote about us, he would not have seen it as humorous," she said.

"He is now going to have to stand up and handle it appropriately through the courts. This is not about money. This is about people being held to account."

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