Jerry walking in Michael Davitt’s shoes

IS Paul Howard an evil genius who manufactured the siege of Vico Road for his own ends? Howard is the prolific author of the Ross O’Carroll Kelly columns and novels.

Jerry walking in Michael Davitt’s shoes

The current saga involves the squatting former billionaire solicitor Brian O’Donnell and his psychiatrist wife. It is located in salubrious, south county Dublin; it involves a mansion; a brood with names like Bruce, Blaise, Blake and Alexandra, of whom Blake spent some of last week sulking in the High Court.

This is the stuff of the fictional character the country knows as Ross.

Brian and Mary Pat flew in from their new home in Surrey to claim they could not be turfed out of the Killiney mansion, though they no longer live in it.

Broadcaster Vincent Browne has a walk-on role. (Always good to throw in a minor, real-life character). Then we had food being ferried in through the guarded gates in a Mini Cooper, past the salivating media hordes.

And among the little nuggets of drama, we had Brian returning from a foray in the High Court, mistakenly driving over the foot of one of his praetorian Land League guards.

That same man, a Mr John Martin, had a torrid week: he alleges that he was assaulted by Browne when the latter moved past him to claim right of entry to “the bank’s property”.

Browne then led a procession of media people through the grounds, as if they were recently liberated citizens overrunning the vacated, opulent mansion of a deposed dictator.

If Howard didn’t manufacture this saga, then he can kick back and enjoy the view, because his fertile imagination has been made redundant for Ross’s next outing.

The other surreal element to this yarn is the presence of those who claim lineage to 19th century nationalist and Land League founder, Michael Davitt. Gorse Hill, the mansion at issue, was guarded through the week by foot soldiers of the New Land League.

They claim their purpose is to prevent evictions, without fear or favour, just like Mr Davitt’s revolutionary organisation. No eviction too big, no TV camera too small.

That’s not their mission statement, but it should be.

At first glance, you may think the ‘new’ is to distinguish the group from the original. Unfortunately, the term is to distinguish it from an offshoot, the National Land League.

The two leagues are quintessentially Irish, as ‘the split’ was the first item on the agenda.

Heading up the ‘new’ faction, he who would wear the shoes of Davitt, is a man named Jerry Beades. Jerry is a gas man. Well, that’s one description for him.

Back in the day, when the Celtic bubble was being blown goodo, Jerry was known by the term ‘Fianna Fáil developer’.

(He has claimed that he was a “Fianna Fáil builder”, but the distinction will be lost on most people).

This was due to his position on the Fianna Fáil national executive, and his role as a serious developer. He was also great buddies with Bertie Ahern. Some observers whispered that he was a ‘made man’ in the ‘Drumcondra Mafia’, under capo de tutti capi, Ahern.

Truly, the world has been turned on its head when a ‘Fianna Fáil developer’ has transmogrified into a champion of the dispossessed, standing up against the banks, which had a good thing going with both Fianna Fáil and developers, back in the day. But Jerry is no ordinary Joe.

He first came to national prominence when the country, and Fianna Fáil, were going down the tubes under the stewardship of Brian Cowen.

Jerry stepped forward with a plan to save the party. In March, 2010, he suggested that Cowen should clear out the Cabinet and bring in new faces.

This, back then, would be akin to a backbench Sinn Féin TD today saying that Gerry Adams is better off staying schtum on matters economic, because he doesn’t know his sums.

Cowen ploughed on, but Jerry wasn’t for lying down. By September of that year, he had set about introducing ‘the split’ as a solution to the party’s woes.

On RTÉ’s Drivetime, he told Mary Wilson that he was setting up “Fianna Fáil Nua”, in a manner similar to “what Tony Blair did with New Labour in England”.

He also claimed that the FF Cabinet ministers had taken control of the party away from the grassroots members.

How prophetic his proposal was. While the New Fianna Fáil effort didn’t get off the ground, in time Jerry would set up the New Land League. If nothing else, Jerry can claim to be a new man.

He didn’t have a good recession. In November, 2011, the Kerryman reported a district court case under the headline ‘Bertie’s Millionaire Pal Left Unpaid Races Bills at Listowel’.

It turned out that Jerry had hired a private box at the Listowel races for €1,600, but failed to cough up the readies for it.

“This man has entertained the good and the great at Listowel Races for years, somewhat like the Galway tent,” the court was told. Perhaps Listowel Races was to Fianna Fáil builders what the Galway Races was to Fianna Fáil developers.

Worse was to come. In 2012, Judge Peter Kelly granted a judgment against Jerry from Ulster Bank, on foot of a series of loans valued at €11.4m between 2005 and 2007, when the balloon was really stretched.

During the court hearing, Judge Kelly asked Jerry whether he had taken out those loans. “I refuse to answer that question,” Jerry replied.

Kelly is a sensible man, not given to displaying a big ego.

If he had been so disposed he could have pursued an answer all the way to a contempt ruling, but the judge has been witness to buckets of foolishness from the great and the good laid low since 2008.

His ruling also referred to numerous allegations of fraud and deception that Jerry made against the bank and various solicitors, none of which was backed up with a scintilla of evidence.

Enough of all that. There are second acts in Irish lives, and Jerry’s transmogrification into champion of the dispossessed is one of the more colourful character trajectories we have seen.

Some people with no sense of humour, or history, have suggested that Jerry Beades has a cheek to present himself as Davitt’s successor, and to do so by defending the trophy home of a solicitor who made his fortune gambling on property.

That school of opinion misses the point.

Jerry is rightly front and centre in the story of the Siege of Gorse Hill.

His whole persona, his journey from Fianna Fáil whatever to defender of human rights deserves to be part of this story. In fact, without it, a huge kaleidoscope of colour would be missing.

All we can hope is that he will continue to bring the remainder of the New Land League with him, or the country will be introduced to the New New Land League, and there’s only so much of that a nation can take.

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