Saturday 16 December 2017

Anton Savage: Davitt and Parnell must be spinning in their graves over New Land League

John Martin from the New Land League speaking to media at the gates of Gorse Hill in Killiney, Co Dublin
John Martin from the New Land League speaking to media at the gates of Gorse Hill in Killiney, Co Dublin
Jerry Beades of The Land League pictured speaking to media outside Gorse Hill, Killiney, the home of solicitor, Brian O'Donnell. Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Jerry Beades

It's hard to imagine anything odder than the 'New Land League' protecting Brian O'Donnell.

This is a group styled on an organisation sent up more than a century ago to protect poor tenant farmers from eviction at the hands of wealthy, powerful landlords.

The original Land League protected those who had neither the understanding nor money to protect themselves legally in the face of an astonishing power imbalance. It's a fair bet they'd be spinning in their graves at what their modern namesakes are at.

The 'New Land League' explain their interventions on behalf of the O'Donnells by saying that their namesakes would have protected their president, Charles Stewart Parnell if he had been evicted. The short response to that is; no they wouldn't.

They long response is that's as daft as saying 'if my granny had wheels, she'd be a bike'.

Even if Charles Stewart Parnell was not a High Sheriff of Wicklow, he was still highly unlikely to have been evicted from his lands by an unreasonable landlord - because his family were the landlords.

Brian O'Donnell is entitled to be protected by the law, and is entitled to argue his case through every court in the land - and he may well win that case. But the idea that he is the modern equivalent of a peasant farmer, powerless and disenfranchised from legal recourse, is laughable.

The man was one of the country's biggest landlords - he owned properties in America, Sweden, Ireland and the UK. Included among his tenants was the bank Morgan Stanley, finance house Credit Suisse, the Swedish tax authorities and (to heap irony on Davitt and Parnells' memory) the British Government's Department of Education and Skills.

His private houses in France, Galway, London and Dublin were worth in excess of €30m. Nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, you could argue that it points to an industrious and successful man who fell on bad luck in the recession. But you could not argue any similarity with an 1890s tenant farmer.

Maybe the New Land League might say that he deserves protection as an investor who was ignorant of the nature of the contracts into which he entered. Except the opposite is true. He is a former Managing Partner of one of Ireland's top corporate law firms.

He later left to set up his own firm, specialising in banking, finance and acquisitions. In other words, he's one of the country's leading experts in his own problems.

Again, nothing wrong with any of that - in fact it's a tribute to his legal training and capacity as a lawyer.

But if you added it all together and went back a century to present him as a possible client to Michael Davitt and his colleagues in the Land League, I'd be willing to bet you would get a pretty rapid dismissal. Maybe the modern version should take a deep breath and rethink either their client list, or their name.


Snow blow no go

Channel 4 Newsreader Jon Snow smoked skunk and hash on British TV during the week...and said he really didn't like it.

It's unsurprising that a powerful narcotic might turn out to be less than pleasant, but the context in which he did it can't have helped; he took the drug wearing a hospital gown in front of a camera crew who filmed him being stuffed in an MRI machine.

In that environment, even a cup of tea would be a horror.

Scott's not so hot

Scott Disick,  the Kardashian in-law famous for showing up at events late and drunk, may be facing legal proceedings from the organisers of an event in Manchester. Apparently he showed up late and drunk. Kinda begs the question: what were they expecting?

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