Sunday 18 March 2018

Taoiseach was told Denis O'Brien would be at NY Stock Exchange


Taoiseach Enda Kenny was told 12 days before Ireland Day at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that businessman Denis O'Brien would be at the event, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Mr Kenny got a 'background note' from the Consulate General in New York on March 7, which identified Mr O'Brien as being among 14 named business people and other individuals at the event, which involved more than 300 executives.

Controversy erupted when Mr Kenny was photographed at the NYSE alongside several business figures, including Mr O'Brien, against whom adverse findings have been made by the Moriarty tribunal.

The publication of the photograph drew criticism in Fine Gael from Minister of State Lucinda Creighton and also from Labour ministers Brendan Howlin, Pat Rabbitte and Joan Burton.

At the Fine Gael Ard Fheis on March 31 last, Mr Kenny dismissed suggestions that the photograph was inappropriate. At the time, The Irish Times reported: "I had no idea of who was going to be there. I pressed the bell. Obviously Mr O'Brien was on that platform. I am not in a position as Taoiseach to vet the lists of attendees of any particular function that I intend."

On May 3 last, Fianna Fail submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of the Taoiseach relating to the event in New York, including records from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Released records included a 'background note for the Taoiseach' prepared by the Consulate General in New York. It states: "The second annual Ireland Day will take place at the New York Stock Exchange on March 19, 2012. The event is organised by Ian Hyland, publisher of Business & Finance, under the auspices of the Irish American Business Association.

"At the event, Mr Hyland will launch 'Ireland Inc', which is described as "an organisation created to strengthen the economic relationship between Ireland and its global trading partners, particularly the US.

"Following the ringing of the opening bell, the format for the day's conference will see three sessions on the themes of 'Global Challenges, Global Opportunities', 'Innovation and Competitiveness', and 'Global Financial Markets'."

It continued: "The complete guest list for the event is not yet available, but according to the Ireland Day website, the event will involve more than 300 executives from leading international firms, including Fortune 500 companies, venture capital firms, entrepreneurial start-ups, and financial and life sciences organisations from the US, Ireland and around the world."

The note then identifies 14 Ireland Day participants and panellists "thus far included", including "Denis O'Brien, chairman of Communicorp", and several other business people as well as a diplomat, a lawyer and an academic.

Asked if Mr Kenny should have declared the content of the 'background note' last March, and whether he had left himself open to the accusation that he had misled the public in his subsequent comments, a spokesman for the Taoiseach said yesterday: "I am rejecting the premise of the question.

"As the Taoiseach has made clear, when it comes to events organised by third parties to which he is invited, he has no role in organising guest lists. That is true of all aspects of the events at the New York Stock Exchange in March."

Sunday Independent

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