A year to remember

A. ADAM, the posh member of U2.

The great unwashed received an insight into the lifestyle of a super-wealthy rock star in June when Clayton’s former PA went on trial for stealing €2.8 million from his personal accounts.

Carol Hawkins had been Clayton’s PA for 17 years, enjoying his “absolute trust”, and then abusing it by spending his money like it was going out of fashion.

She engaged in a “veritable orgy of spending”, as she threw his money around on an apartment in New York, race horses and their costly maintenance, designer shoes and handbags, clothes, jewellery, exotic holidays, and fancy restaurants. Adam, who was busy recording and gigging with U2, hadn’t a clue that he was being robbed blind.

Giving evidence, he dismissed the defence suggestion that Hawkins had been buying expensive items on his behalf. “I bought the things I like to have around me, she bought the Corn Flakes,” he told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Hawkins was convicted on 181 counts of theft and sentenced to seven years in prison. Clayton’s accountants are chasing down the horses.

B. Ballyhea. This year was the first full year of the Ballyhea Bondholder weekly protests which began on Mar 6, 2011. The protest is based on the simple, logical principle that the Irish people are paying back for the gambles of bondholders in Irish banks on the property bubble.

The protest was supposed to be a spark igniting passions across the country, but so far only nearby Charleville has joined the cause. Throughout the year, the main man behind the protest, Irish Examiner sports journalist Diarmuid Flynn, has made many passionate efforts to spread the word, including at least two marches on Leinster House. Next March, a D-day of sorts arrives when the latest €3bn bond for Anglo Irish is due. If justice prevails, it won’t be paid, and Flynn and his colleagues are entitled to credit for keeping the flame alive. May the road rise to meet them in the coming year.

C. Con Houlihan. A light went out in the worlds of journalism, sport, and literature when the death was announced on Aug 4 of one of Ireland’s great writers. A native of Castleisland, he was a big man, both physically and with a pen in his hand. His love of life, sport, and literature, allied to a mind hewn from early classical studies, saw him carve out a unique style of writing, most notably on the back page of the Evening Press for two decades.

Unlike most writers of note, he dedicated his talent nearly exclusively to newsprint. His legacy contains no opus, no work of memoir, nor of fiction, but lives on in the memory of his legions of readers who sought out his observations and answers through the pages of newspapers.

A fellow wordsmith, President Michael D Higgins, put it best in his tribute: “He was a most original writer, with a unique style based on his extensive knowledge of literature, politics, life, and sport.

“As a sportswriter, who engaged us over the decades, he had that special quality and ability to identify with the passion, pain, and celebration of Irish community life.”

D. Donegal. The often forgotten corner of the state made a name for itself in 2012 on two fronts. The county’s Gaelic football team stormed the parapets of the elite franchises to win a glorious All Ireland title in September.

Their triumph was laced with romanticism. Three years ago, the county team was viewed as a bunch of wasters and also-rans.

Yet Jim McGuinness worked his magic and last September, Sam Maguire went to the homes of Donegal for the first time in 20 years. McGuinness was rewarded with a job working in professional sport with Glasgow Celtic.

Later in the year, Donegal hit the headlines again, when both of the county’s constituencies voted against the children’s referendum on Nov 10. The result was interpreted not as a stance by Donegal people in relation to the referendum, so much as an expression of disaffection with the attitude of the powers that be to this sometimes ignored corner of the State.

E. Enda Kenny. In October, the Taoiseach reached a new peak in his career when he was on the cover of Time magazine. Kenny was heralded as leading a nation out of debt-laden perdition into a bright, new dawn.

The story was lapped up by the austerity hounds of the ECB, Germany, and other corners of Europe, but back home it was greeted with hoots of derision. Pointy-headed economists and their ilk said irrespective of how ludicrous the story was, it would do good things for investment in the country.

Kenny didn’t have a bad 2012 in general. He kept the Government intact, and he threw shapes now and again in Europe, pointing out that the citizens could no longer bear the burden of bank debt that has been thrust on them. His other great success was getting through the year talking in sound bites that gave the impression he actually knows what’s going on.

F. France. Tour of the pharmaceutical wonders of cycling. On Oct 11, the US doping agency issued a report labelling Lance Armstrong a “serial cheat” who led “the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme sport has ever seen.”

He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and having been banned for life, his whole career and legacy lies in tatters.

His had been a compelling story of triumph over adversity, having returned to the sport after suffering cancer.

He went on to raise hundreds of millions for cancer research, but the suspicions that had always surrounded him have now hardened into evidence. He was great alright, a great chancer if ever there was one.

G. God’s messenger on the island of Ireland. Cardinal Sean Brady suffered a fresh attack on his record in May when a BBC documentary highlighted his involvement in covering up child sex abuse.

The case concerned an investigation Brady had conducted as a priest in 1975 into the activities of the notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.

Victims came forward to note that Brady had failed to inform parents of the evidence given by their sons in regard to the activities of Smyth.

The ambitious priest merely passed the results of his investigation on up the line and washed his hands of the affair.

Calls for his resignation were made by politicians, media and a few church figures, but he held tough.

Later in the year he signalled his intention to step down in the near future.

H. is for Household Charge. Of all the austerity measures brought in, the €100 household charge hit the most tender nerve among the populace.

The property tax introduced on Dec 5 last was actually Son of Household Charge. The deadline for payment of the dreaded HC was Mar 31, but by then less than half of the estimated 1.4m households had coughed up.

A campaign run by a collection of left-wing entities claimed that the populace were resisting the payment.

A more prosaic reason might be people holding out until they were put under pressure.

By year’s end, over 70% of households had coughed up, and the campaign of resistance appeared to peter out. Whether there will be greater resistance to the property tax remains to be seen.

With the average property tax coming in at over three times the HC, the political fall-out will be interesting to observe.

I. The iPhone 5 was launched in October. Nerdy computer types breathlessly pointed out that it was the most anticipated launch of an Apple product since, well the iPhone 4.

This was a new world order for Apple following the death of its founder, Steve Jobs in 2011. It was promoted as the “thinnest, lightest, fastest iPhone” since, well, the one before it.

Maybe the spirit of Jobs was laughing down at them, because it didn’t all go according to plan.

A week after the launch Apple’s CEO Tom Cook apologised to users who had complained about the phone’s unreliable maps app, which had replaced Google Maps.

“We strive to make world class products that deliver the best experience to our customers,” Cook said. “We fell short of this commitment.”

J. is for Judge, J is for jail. Heather Perrin became the first member of the Irish judiciary to be convicted of a serious offence when she was found guilty of deception at Dublin Circuit Criminal court on Nov 20. Just eight days later she became the first former judge to be imprisoned, having resigned from the district court bench two days before sentencing.

Perrin had doctored the will of an 80-year-old client and lifetime friend, Thomas Davis, to make it look like he wanted to leave half his €1m estate to her two adult children. The deception was uncovered by the solicitors who took over her north Dublin practice when she took up her appointment to the bench in 2009.

She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, which Judge Mary Ellen Ring told her, would have been three and a half were it not for some serious health issues she is suffering. Her victim had actually bequeathed €2,000 to each of Perrin’s offsprings in his original will, and after the deception was uncovered, he continued to do so.

Reports from the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy suggest she is having some trouble adapting to prison.

K. is for Kean, Gerald, and his former partner, Lisa Murphy. The devastating news was conveyed by the Sindo on Nov 17 that Ireland’s first couple of celebrity, Gerald Kean and Lisa Murphy had broken up. Truly, this was the lowlight of the celebrity world in 2012.

The end of any relationship is a time of sadness for both parties, but in the case of a couple who have scaled the heights of celebrity, a little piece of all of us dies when the bright lights dim and ultimately darken.

Down through the years of their relationship, Gerald and Lisa were rarely absent from the society pages. A month rarely went by without each or both of them sitting before an interviewer and opening up about their lives, or at least that section of their lives that hadn’t been covered since the last interview.

Now that it is all over and love has torn them apart, the nitty gritty of the break-up is what consumes the great unwashed.

In particular, everybody wants to know: Which of them will get custody of the Sunday Independent?

L. Libel. In May RTÉ was fined €200,000 following a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland report into a Prime Time Investigates report in 2011 in which RTÉ aired a programme claiming Fr Kevin Reynolds raped a girl in Kenya and fathered her child. It was completely false, and it quickly became apparent that an awful wrong had been perpetrated.

Worse still, the station prevaricated in righting the wrong. It took the priest’s lawyer two months to get an admission out of RTÉ, during which time his client’s reputation lingered in the basement. Eventually, RTÉ fessed up and paid up, and Fr Reynolds’s good name was properly restored.

The reporter on the story, Aoife Kavanagh, resigned, and head of current affairs Ed Mulhall took early retirement, but nobody in the upper reaches of the organisation accepted that their positions were untenable. This was in sharp contrast to events that unfolded later in the year in the BBC when resignations went all the way to the director general over a major libel. Then again, resigning is usually not considered an option right across Irish public life.

M. is for Mahon. On Mar 22, an era came to an end with the publication of the report of the Mahon Tribunal. The inquiry ran for 14 and a half years, since it was established to look into planning corruption in north county Dublin. In the course of its work, many reputations were binned, many forests sacrificed for newsprint, and not a few lawyers made into millionaires. In homes throughout the State, it has been inculcated in little children that if they ever in their lifetimes come across another Mahon Tribunal, it must be shot on sight.

The final report hammered one more nail in the reputation of Bertie Ahern. The three judges didn’t believe his tales of dig-outs and whiparounds, and winning small fortunes on horses. This leaves open the question as to where exactly he got over €200,000 which was discovered by the inquiry, in accounts associated with him. Little has been seen of Bertie since publication, although he does a few speeches from time to time, none of which end with a whiparound.

N. Nidge, main man in RTÉ drama, Love/Hate. In a poor enough year for RTÉ, the success of Love/Hate was notable. The series, based on gangland figures in Dublin, is now being flogged to other stations abroad.

Written by Stuart Carolan, (once upon a time he was ‘Navan Man’ on Eamon Dunphy’s radio show), the series is well plotted, shot, and acted. Nidge is played by Tom Vaughan Lawlor, and he has developed into one of the great villains of Irish TV history. The third series was shown in November and December, with a fourth already commissioned.

O. Olympics Through a dismal summer, when it rained twice — once for two months and once for the rest of the season, a ray of sunshine shone through in the person of Katie Taylor.

On Aug 9 the 26-year-old Bray woman defeated Russia’s Sofya Ochigava to win a gold at the London Olympics. It was the first gold medal that the country has won since Michael Carruth’s boxing success in 1992. (Michelle Smith, of course, won four medals in 1996, but we don’t like to talk much about that on account of her subsequent urine issues.)

Taylor’s victory was supplemented with the silver for John Joe Nevin, and bronze winners Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon, all in boxing. There was also a bronze for Cian O’Connor in the equestrian event.

Taylor’s personality, her back story, and even her commitment to her faith all combined to propel her into the collective heart of a nation.

True to her nature, she declined to go professional, despite some lucrative offers, and intends to defend her title in four years time.

P. Pensions. Nothing made the blood boil among the restless many like revelations about pensions being paid to retired bankers, politicians, and senior civil servants. The latest figures illustrating the gravy train available to these people was published by the Examiner in early December.

These figures showed that 167 former bankers from the bailed out institutions were receiving pensions in excess of €100,000; 84 retired civil servants are also getting over the tonne as are 28 former government ministers or judges. On top of that, a total of 171 former public servants are on pensions of between €70,000 and €80,000.

Radio phone-in shows in particular turned the airwaves red with rage as details of these pensions dribbled out. For the greater part, most of those on the obscene pensions were to the fore in running the country into the ground through the years of the property bubble. Whether they were bankers or politicians throwing money around or public servants charged with keeping an eye on things, the havoc they wreaked is being suffered in homes up and down the county. Meanwhile, they sit back in luxury and survey the damage from their elevated perches.

Q. Quinn, Sean — Come all without, come all within, you’ve not seen nothing like the brass neck of the Quinns. Former billionaire Sean Quinn spent time in Mountjoy (although released for a few days over Christmas), serving a sentence for contempt of a High Court order.

On Jun 26, Judge Elizabeth Dunne found Quinn Sr and Jr, along with Peter Darragh Quinn, to be in contempt of an order restraining them from moving assets beyond the reach of the bank formerly known as Anglo Irish.

The family owe the bank €500m, along with a further disputed €2.3bn, and all the evidence suggests the family was attempting to squirrel away assets beyond the reach of the bank, which is now owned by Irish citizens.

Sean Jr got three months in June, his daddy got nine weeks in November for what the judge called “a serious and outrageous” contempt of court. Peter Darragh Quinn crossed the border where he remains beyond the reach of the High Court.

Up in Cavan, many see the whole affair as a conspiracy involving the banks, politicians, the media, and even the judiciary.

Meanwhile, Quinn emerges from prison soon, and while he is officially bankrupt, few believe that the family haven’t managed to store away a few million for a rainy day.

R. Reilly, James. The health minister had a really annus horribilis Apart from having to get to grips with the portfolio formerly known as Angola, he managed to trip up at every turn.

In June, he became the first serving cabinet minister to have his name appear in Stubbs Gazette, as a result of failure to pay a €1.9m debt on a nursing home investment. He rode out that storm, but it was his stewardship of his portfolio that came back to haunt him on the far side of the summer. In the days after he successfully negotiated a no confidence motion in September, it emerged that he had been playing fast and loose with a list of proposed care centres. Out of nowhere, two locations in his own constituency were brought into a priority list.

He claimed it was all above board, but his junior minister, Róisín Shortall, wasn’t buying that and she resigned.

Making it to the end of the year with his career intact has been an achievement for bearded Jim, but nobody is betting that he’ll still be in situ in 12 months time.

S. Star turn. The Duchess of Cambridge had an eventful 2012. In September, she was caught on camera bathing without a top during a break in a French villa. To publish, or not to publish the royal boobies, that was the question for many editors in the tense stand-off that followed. The Brits demurred, but the Irish Daily Star gave it full coverage.

All hell broke loose on the far side of the Irish Sea, with part-owner and former pornography publisher, Richard Desmond, declaring himself outraged. He threatened to close down the Irish Star, but eventually got over himself.

The paper’s editor, Michael O’Kane, couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

“She’s not the queen of Ireland,” he said. He stepped aside, and resigned his post on Nov 24. Many see him as a scapegoat.

Then, in the first week of December, Kate declared that “we are expecting a baby”. The world oohed and aahed, and the boobs have been put to bed as Britain awaits a new heir to the throne.

T. Trapattoni, Giovanni. Once upon a time, not so long ago, he walked on water, but through the course of 2012, his reputation began to sleep with the fishes.

The Italian led the Republic of Ireland to the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine last June, all the way to three defeats and an ignominious exit for the tournament. All hell broke loose among the soccerati. Then in Oct, a 6-1 hammering by Germany in the World Cup qualifier led to a cacophony of calls for his removal. He hung tough, letting the FAI stew, because firing him would have meant a major pay-out. The football boys are strapped, not least because they insist on paying chief executive John Delaney €360,000 pa, so they sat on their hands.

He has a superlative record in football, but the coming year will most likely be hazardous for the football team and Trap.

U. US presidential election. Yes, we can. Can’t we? Can we? No folksy slogans from Barack Obama as he strove to be elected president of the US for the second time.

Earlier on in the year, the Republican party tore itself apart through the primary season, out of which emerged the last man standing, Mitt Romney.

As a candidate Mitt was nothing to write home about, a square jawed, wooden millionaire; born with a silver spoon in his mouth — he wasn’t going to inspire anybody. The Republicans saw him as an empty vessel into which they could pour policies to suit a wide spectrum of views.

It was Obama’s to lose, and then on a rainy October night in Denver, he set about trying to do that by putting in a dismal performance in the first debate.

Thereafter, he got his act together and passed the post by a clear head on Nov 4. Now for more of the hard work.

V. Very Shameless plug. Yes folks, I couldn’t resist. In a turbulent and chaotic year for much of the world, your correspondent managed to have a debut novel placed on bookshelves. Ghost Town was published last May to the sound of one hand clapping. The paperback is available in all good bookstores now.

W. Wallace, Mick, TD for Wexford. The shine came off Wallace’s fabled pink shirt on Jun 7 when he admitted that he had made a false Vat return worth €1.4m in 2008 when his development company was failing.

Wallace had been one of a raft of TDs swept into Leinster House on a ticket of new politics in the last general election. He was supposed to represent a departure from the feather bedding and staid modus operandi of politics that had landed the country in the mire.

Then it emerged that this scourge of the elite had actually messed around with his own taxes. Once his sin became public, he declared he would only take half his Dáil salary, putting the remainder towards paying off the Revenue settlement of €2.1m.

Wallace had a further impact on the political system in October when Clare Daly couldn’t agree with her Socialist Party brethren over its stance on her good friend and she left the party, rather than smite Wallace. Like Parnell before him, Wallace will thus go down in history as being responsible for “The split”.

X. X CASE On Oct 28, 34-year-old Savita Halappanavar died in University Hospital, Galway following complications in a 17-week pregnancy.

Her husband Praveen says that she repeatedly asked for her foetus to be aborted once she was told that it wasn’t viable, and he believes that the failure to do so contributed to her death. While the facts of the case remain the subject of two inquiries, the death sparked a great wave of public emotion, ultimately washing through the gates of Leinster House, where, for 20 years, there has been a failure to address the abortion issue.

Around the time of the tragic death, an expert group reported on the Government’s options for addressing the X case, which the European Court of Human Rights had ruled must be addressed. Suddenly, it’s all go on the abortion front.

The cabinet decided on its course, and Enda Kenny has promised legislation in the New Year.

Y. Yates, Ivan. The former government minister began 2012 with his broadcasting career blossoming, but ended it in exile in Wales. In the last interview he gave back in September he said he no longer takes an interest in Irish current affairs, the very diet which was meat and drink to him for most of his life.

Yates resigned his post as co-host of Newstalk Breakfast last March, leaving the show on Good Friday.

He relocated to the UK in order to declare himself bankrupt after being unable to reach agreement on repaying his €3.7m debt to AIB, due from his collapsed bookmaking business.

The bank pursued him — to what end is unclear — through the courts, attempting to have his UK petition declared void. In late August, the High Court sided with Yates. Little has been heard of him since, but don’t bet against him getting back into the groove in the coming year.

Z. as in Z Jay, or Jay-Z, and his missus, Beyoncé, left. For some, the birth of a child is a major life event, bursting with emotion, hopes, and dreams.

For this pair of singers, it’s also a major commercial event.

In January, Beyonce gave birth to their daughter Blue Ivy. (She was never going to be called Nora.)

Soon after, they filed papers to protect the child’s name as they intended launching a range of baby products and clothes called Blue Ivy, which would have added to their fortune, estimated at $1.1bn.

Unfortunately a US court told them to take a hike in November. At least they will be entitled to child benefit for Blue Ivy, although how they’ll manage after the latest cut to the payment is anybody’s guess.


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