On Thursday the 28th of May the independent TD Catherine Murphy, a recent campaigner against fiscal impropriety and corruption in Irish society, made a contribution to Dáil Éireann questioning the business dealings of Denis O’Brien, the influential Ireland-born entrepreneur and overseas tax-resident, following several weeks of public disquiet. Her actions were widely regarded as a response to the temporary injunction against the public service broadcaster RTÉ that the billionaire’s legal team had sought and received from the High Court on the 21st of the same month. This gag order prevented the station broadcasting or publishing an expected report on the O’Brien controversies on its network. The Kildare deputy made her allegations under the parliamentary privilege that extends to debates in the Oireachtas, as detailed under Bunreacht na hÉireann, where a constitutional clause grants TDanna and Seanadóirí immunity from litigation. This immunity has been traditionally interpreted to cover the republishing or reporting of Oireachtas speeches by third parties: i.e. the national press.
Despite the presumed freedoms outlined above, the lawyers of Denis O’Brien used the threat of the original court injunction to successfully prevent most news outlets around the country publicising the contents of Catherine Murphy’s statement to the Dáil on the 28th, thus neutering most public discussion of the matter. Since then only one online current affairs site, the broadsheet.ie, and several overseas-based bloggers have dared spell out the details of Murphy’s allegations. In addition – and with much amusement – the internet Commentariat in Ireland has protested the censorship imposed by a single individual upon the nation’s mass media by mentioning the claims in the comments’ sections of almost every article posted online, as well as across the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Quite unrelated to all this on the 31st of May the Sunday Independent newspaper published an unheralded “splash” investigation claiming that the “Official IRA” – the defunct Irish republican insurgent force which morphed into a quasi-criminal organisation informally known as Group B – was still in existence and in possession of some “5,000 AK-47s” hidden in secret arms-dumps around Ireland.
“As many as 5,000 weapons may still be concealed in secret ‘doomsday’ bunkers set up by the tiny ‘Official’ IRA group that was allegedly disbanded decades ago, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Senior republican sources said the arsenal – which consists mainly of never-used assault rifles and medium machineguns – was supplied to the leadership of the terror group in the 1980s by the North Korean government and the old Soviet KGB and were hidden in specially built bunkers.
Only a handful of top people in the organisation knew the whereabouts of the weapons bunkers.
One of the figures said to have knowledge of some of the weapons was Dessie ‘The Devil’ O’Hagan, who died in Downpatrick, Co Down earlier this month at the age of 81.
Another was Tomas MacGiolla, who was a senior Official IRA figure, leader of the Workers’ Party and TD who died in February 2010 aged 86.
Sources told the Sunday Independent that Soviet-manufactured poisons were supplied to the Officials and used in a number of cases to assassinate people…”
Unsurprisingly, the dramatic story has been greeted with much scepticism, not to mention no small derision.
However, I merely note in passing that Catherine Murphy was formerly a member of the Workers Party, the one-time political wing of the Official IRA, before joining the Labour Party (she is now an independent politician), while some of her more vocal supporters in recent days, such as Pat Rabbitte TD, are also former scions of the Workers Party and later Labour (and at a time when the OIRA/Group B was presumed to have been still in existence, albeit with some WP activists arguing that they were unaware of its presence). Likewise, one may take note of the identity of one of the larger, billionaire shareholders in Independent News and Media, the publishing company behind the Sunday Independent, at this time.
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