Sunday 19 November 2017

No Rabbitte from hat as bell tolls once more on NY stock exchange

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

UNLIKE Elvis, he hadn't left the building. But when the famous New York Stock Exchange bell tolled last Friday morning for Ireland Day, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was nowhere to be seen as the great and good of Irish business took their places on the balcony.

While Mr Rabbitte has never been known as one to avoid the limelight, the Labour minister appeared content to let the applause of Wall Street wash over the best and brightest of Ireland Inc instead.

Among those lined up above the stock exchange's trading floor were Denis O'Brien, Digicel chairman and the single biggest shareholder in Independent News & Media; Tony O'Reilly Jr, Providence Resources chief executive; PJ Mara, veteran political adviser and Digicel director; and publisher Ian Hyland, the president and founder of the Ireland Day summit, for which the opening-bell ceremony is an important highlight.

While Mr Rabbitte participated as part of a panel in a discussion on 'Developing Ireland Inc', immediately after the famous NYSE bell sounded, his notable absence from the balcony scene remained a mystery last night.

Numerous efforts yesterday by the Sunday Independent to contact Mr Rabbitte's official spokesman, both on his mobile phone and by email, proved unsuccessful.

Calls to Mr Hyland's mobile also went unanswered at the time of going to press. A call to the spokeswoman for Ireland Inc, Louise Delahunty, was cut short after the signal dropped. A subsequent call to her phone went straight to voicemail.

Mr Rabbitte's absence from the occasion will invariably bring to mind for many people the controversy which blew up when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appeared alongside Denis O'Brien on the New York Stock Exchange balcony for the same event last year.

Notwithstanding her own participation in a panel discussion at the Ireland Day summit, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton made her unease at the Taoiseach's sharing of such a public platform with Mr O'Brien abundantly clear.

Addressing the Dail after last year's bell-ringing ceremony, Ms Burton said: "It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals."

While the Labour minister's remarks sent shockwaves through the Government, they were endorsed by her party and cabinet colleague, Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin.

Unsurprisingly, Mr O'Brien took grave exception. In a stinging letter to the Social Protection Minister shortly afterwards, the billionaire – who was criticised by the Moriarty tribunal – accused Ms Burton of "vindictiveness" and of making a "startling" personal attack on him.

Mr O'Brien – who strongly rejects the Moriarty tribunal's findings against him – also criticised Mr Howlin in the same letter for endorsing Ms Burton's comments, accusing him of engaging in "political opportunism".

Irish Independent

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