Wednesday 17 July 2019

The man they couldn't ban

Besieged publisher Mike Hogan may have won the battle over In Dublin, but the war is far from over, writes Liam Collins.IT IS one thing to imagine how it must be to be pulverised publicly day after day, it is quite another thing to experience it for yourself.

Last week Mike Hogan discovered how his good friend Charles Haughey must really be feeling now.

In some ways, it has been the year when the icons have, not so much fallen, as tripped over themselves.

We saw the mask slip on grocer Feargal Quinn, when he was confronted about `hello money' from suppliers; Sister Stan experienced trial by radio over what she knew or didn't know about abuse at the Kilkenny home where she once worked; Cian O Tighearnaigh, champion of children's rights, was arrested and later resigned from the ISPCC after questions were raised concerning commission payments to charity collectors; and now Mike Hogan, the laughing boy of Irish publishing, discovered that official Ireland is concerned about what's really going on behind the facade of massage parlours and health studios, which his magazine advertised so graphically.

In a strange way, it was his past catching up on him. Mike Hogan grew up in pirate radio in the early 1980s when fortunes were made by openly flouting bad law. He worked with Chris Carey, now in jail in England, in Radio Nova and later, with the former Taoiseach's son, Ciaran Haughey, became the `Eye in the Sky' as they helicoptered around Dublin for pirate Q102.

Afterwards they went for breakfast in Abbeville, often joined by the most polished and powerful politician of his era, Charles Haughey.

They were the buccaneers of that freewheeling era, drinking in Scruffy Murphy's, dining in the Mirabeau, ordering bottles of champagne in Joy's or Annabel's nightclubs.

It was a time when the rules didn't really apply if you were bold enough, big enough and had the right connections. The self-made boy from Athy with the big ideas and the permanent smile had all the qualities.

The advent of legal commercial radio almost took the fun out of it. Hogan became the face of Capital Radio, backed by aviation millionaires and friends Ulick and Des McEvaddy, concert promoter Jim Aiken, impresario Maurice Cassidy, accountant Greg Sparks (later programme manager for Dick Spring), solicitor Liam McGonigal and the man who revived the Gaiety Theatre, Liam Conroy.

BUT it wasn't to last. The public face of the pirates found that running a legitimate station was hard work and not as much fun.

When Capital was mauled by the rival 98FM, the board asked him to leave after he admits making a ``haymes'' of the start-up. Hogan not only remained friends with them all, but showed the stuff he was made of by reinventing himself as a publisher.

His contacts were superb and he worked, as he always has done, damned hard. Picking up In Dublin from the ashes of liquidation for £8,000 brought him back into the public eye, but he already had a considerable publishing empire which now embraces current affairs, healthcare, sport and the Boyzone fan magazines.

In 1995, he married former model Mari Therese O'Leary and they live with their two sons in a splendid Victorian house in Rathmines.

They also have a holiday home near Holycross in Tipperary and, as a power couple of 1990s Ireland, the trappings that go with it, membership of the up-market Riverview fitness club, smart cars and invitations to all the right gigs.

Mari O'Leary, who is also a director of her husband's publishing companies such as Hoson and KCD Ltd (code for Keep Costs Down), has her own thriving business in public relations.

With In Dublin Mike has a magazine which is smart, informative but best known for the explicit advertisements for `massage parlours' and `health clubs', which publishing sources estimate earn it about £1 million annually. Their combined activities have led to the rhyming couplet among the smart set of: ``Mari does publicity for Coors and Mike does publicity for whores.''

But the buccaneering style so celebrated in the 1980s didn't survive into the late 1990s. In an era of tribunals, political consensus and insipid politics, it was only a matter of time before the authorities, in the form of the Censorship of Publications Board, finally caught up with Mr Hogan. When they did, his old pirate radio ways kicked in and he published the replica Dublin which he now admits was a mistake.

``It was a hard decision to take, but I had to protect my business, I couldn't afford to leave a gap in the market, I had to have some form of publication on the streets to protect myself.'' His lawyers also asked a valid question, what exactly were the Censorship of Publications Board against? Apart from sex advertising, the complaint they chose to uphold referred to some of the magazine's front covers, pictures and a photographic feature entitled `All the young nudes'. The publisher himself seems to have been confused about which aspect of the ads was offensive, the advertisements themselves or their graphics.

But by the time he arrived in the High Court last Wednesday, dressed in a Louis Copeland suit, pin-striped shirt and smart wine-coloured tie, the normally jaunty smile had been wiped from his face. ``It was the personal stuff that really hurt ... you know me,'' he said in the restaurant in the Four Courts minutes before the verdict in his favour was delivered.

The smile had been wiped off his face not so much by the Censorship of Publications Board, but by another editor, Liam Hayes, who claimed to Vincent Browne on Questions and Answers that In Dublin was ``pivotal to the prostitution trade'' and linked it to the murder of a prostitute. ``I am making a specific point, Belinda Pereira died because one magazine in London led her to a magazine in Dublin and led her to her death ... if those two magazines did not exist, she would not have died in Dublin.''

LATER in the week, Mike Hogan was not prepared to discuss any aspect of the accusations. ``I have no comment to make whatsoever on Ireland on Sunday, that is a matter for our lawyers and I have no doubt they will deal with it,'' he says.

The fall-out has included the departure of Emily O'Reilly as editor of Magill, the current affairs magazine which he bought for more than £100,000 from Vincent Browne. ``I am a businessman,'' Hogan once said, ``I am in commercial radio for no other reason but to make money.''

The same is true of his publishing. It is a simple philosophy, but in the murky world of pimps, prostitutes and the sex industry, a lot of people can get hurt. Mike Hogan has won the battle but the war is far from over.

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