| 7.5°C Dublin

Michael O'Doherty: Johnny Ronan's apologised, but it doesn't buy him an ounce of class


Johnny Ronan

Johnny Ronan

Paddy Cosgrave

Paddy Cosgrave

Steve Coogan

Steve Coogan


Johnny Ronan

Poor Johnny Ronan.

Having been vilified in the media for his use of the phrase "Arbeit macht frei" - notoriously used by the Nazis at concentration camps - Johnny has been forced into an apology, acknowledging its inappropriateness to describe his own dealings with NAMA.

This matter has unfortunately taken away from the substance of Ronan's statement to the Banking Inquiry, a savage take-down of NAMA's behaviour towards his former company, detailing decisions which will allegedly end up costing the Irish taxpayer billions.

The jist of his commentary on NAMA did nothing to dispel the widespread stereotype that many diminutive people possess a 'Napoleon syndrome', as Ronan seems to be a little man with a very big grudge to bear.

Raging against NAMA's unsuitability in managing property portfolios - most of its staff are civil servants - Ronan certainly seems to have a point.

What he conveniently forgets, of course, is that NAMA would never have been needed if property developers hadn't borrowed huge sums of money to pay astronomical amounts for sites, in the belief that the demand for property would never end. Property developers such as Johnny Ronan.

What is most distasteful, however, is Ronan's complaint that developers dared not speak out against NAMA, as the agency "was granted an endless financial budget to engage legal, public relations and other professionals to ensure that it would always have the financial muscle to win every argument".

One might suggest that the accusation that NAMA could stifle legitimate claims by being able to fight expensive legal battles is a bit rich coming from Ronan. After all, this is the man who, when confronted with the prospect of having to lower the astronomical rent on the Grafton Street property which he owned, home of the famous Bewley's cafe, engaged in legal action to fight the claim.

Having lost in the High Court, the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, racking up further legal expense - after which the disgraceful €1.46m annual rent was eventually upheld.

Ronan may well have a legitimate claim that he has been unfairly treated by NAMA and that, as a poster boy for Celtic Tiger excesses, he was made an example of.

But perhaps he might like to reflect on why he, rather than any of other property developers, was singled out.

Headlines surrounding the 'Rumble in Ranelagh', a chauffeur-driven Maybach, the 'Pink Palace' in Ballsbridge, private jets to Marrakesh etc may well provide a clue...

Johnny's crass, self-pitying use of an expression which reminds us of a time when genocide was perpetrated on six million people, in stark relief to one property developer having his company taken away, suggests that he still doesn't get it.

Good luck with your future work, Johnny. It may well make you rich, but sadly, there's one thing it won't do.

It'll never give you an ounce of class.


Nerd-fest moves on, to bore another country with its corporate tech speak


Paddy Cosgrave

Paddy Cosgrave

Paddy Cosgrave


As widely predicted, the Web Summit will soon hold its final nerd-fest in Dublin (for the foreseeable future) and, after a five-year tenure in the capital, will move to Lisbon next year.

Following last year's much-publicised fiasco, at which the wi-fi in the RDS broke down, as well as ongoing complaints about hotels cashing in by increasing their room rates by up to 500pc, there had been much speculation that the event might seek a different home.

Many other, bigger companies seem happy to come to Dublin to stage their conferences, with most delegates speaking positively about their time in the capital, so it was hoped that what was, after all, an event started by three Irish people would remain true to its roots.


Ultimately, of course, there is one simple factor that made the organisers move, namely the revelation that the Portuguese government are paying them €1.3m to hold the event in Lisbon.

The media, and indeed the Web Summit founders themselves, can bang on all they want about the desirability for change and the need to grow but one might respect them more if they simply admitted what everyone suspects, which is that money talks.

One might point out that the change of venue to a foreign country might provide some language barriers but, judging by the mid-Atlantic corporate speak that founder Paddy Cosgrave has recently embraced (he talks about the importance of the "attendee experience" at the Web Summit, which he describes as "an important pillar of the global startup ecosystem") being based in Portugal be too much of a problem.

After all, by the sound of him, Paddy stopped speaking English a while ago.


Honoring talent? That's just crazy

Continuing its august history of patronage, Trinity College's Philosophical Society has bestowed another of its gold medals.

This time around, they have chosen to honour comedian Steve Coogan (inset), and in so doing one could argue that the Phil has at least chosen someone with a modicum of talent, having previously given away medals to such Hollywood half-wits as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

Perhaps next time they might like to go even further and, rather than honour someone for their ability to get a few column inches, as seems to be their primary concern, instead acknowledge a person for their literary or philosophical achievement?

Crazy, I know...


We need more Tommy Tiernan

If Johnny Ronan wanted a lesson in how to say the unsayable, and get away with it, he could do worse than to watch Tommy Tiernan's interview with Ray D'Arcy on his new Saturday night show.

Fat shaming has increasingly become taboo, Tommy (left) pointed out, before shocking the audience with his cure for obesity - "we need to bring some excitement back into obese people's lives, and this can be done by hunting them".

And how did Tiernan get away with this? By being funny, thoughtful and most of all self-deprecating, unafraid to make fun of himself, revealing a self-awareness that a certain Mr. Ronan might take note of.

Welcome back Ray. And, in particular, welcome back Tommy...