Denis O’Brien shows that for Ireland’s elite the good times still roll


Denis O'Brien image Some rights reserved by Pat2001 via flickrJust 12 weeks after the Moriarty Tribunal found that he made corrupt payments to Michael Lowry TD in order to influence the granting of a mobile phone licence, Denis O’Brien has shown that for Ireland’s elite the good times still roll.  Digicel, the mobile phone company wholly owned by O’Brien, has announced that its net profit for the year ending March 2011 increased by €120million.  In keeping with the true lack of transparency so beloved by our super-wealthy however, Digicel refused to divulge the actual net profit figure.  What was announced was that O’Brien’s own personal income from Digicel last year was €28million, plus of course whatever income he has from his various other companies and investments.

Such a massive personal income puts into context the fact that staff at Dublin radio stations Newstalk, Today FM and Spin FM - all owned by another O’Brien company, Communicorp - were forced to take a pay cut of between 5 and 10% back in July 2009.

In early March, just before the Moriarty Tribunal report was launched, O’Brien was one of a group of 17 “leading figures” (as described by the Irish Times) who submitted a ‘Blueprint For Recovery’ to the Department of the Taoiseach.  His recipe – cut social welfare, sack 30,000 public servants and slash public spending.  As you might guess, nothing in there about making tax exiles pay their share.  Despite being described as Ireland’s second wealthiest individual O’Brien pays no tax here and his personal wealth as of March 2011 has been estimated at just under €3billion.

O’Brien is no stranger to hypocrisy.  When he spoke at the Business & Finance- organised ‘Outstanding Contribution to Ireland’ awards in late September, he bemoaned the culture of the ‘Blame Game’ which we are apparently fond of in Ireland.  “Some of our collective mistakes and our over exuberance are costing Ireland dearly,” he said, “but we can and must learn from these mistakes…”  Unfortunately he didn’t make clear who the ‘our’ he referred to was but somehow I don’t think the lesson ‘we must learn’ was that inequality and corruption are wrong.

O’Brien featured in the 1% Network’s Hallowe’en Treasure Hunt back in October.
“Then it was down the length of the road with our ever growing Garda escort to No 21 or ‘Belmont’ - the home of Denis O’Brien, which he paid €35 million for back in 2006. When we reached the gate we found two very burly black leather jacket and glove clad gentlemen inside the locked gate who on being asked what they were doing informed us they were gardeners. It was an impressive devotion to Denis that must have had them out so late in the dark no doubt planting the spring daffodils.

O’Brien himself was nowhere to be seen which was a pity as we had prepared a tax bill for him which was duly handed across the gate to his 'gardeners'.”

When are we as a class going to get organised and tell O’Brien and his ilk that their greed, corruption and money-grabbing days are over?

WORDS: Gregor Kerr IMAGE: by Pat2001 via flickr Some rights reserved