Yesterday, in the Irish Independent Dan O’Brien wrote an article claiming that there was no room for giving Irish people overseas -he used the racial-biological term ‘the diaspora’- the vote in constitutional referenda.
It was because they did not pay tax, and there could be no representation without taxation. He said that ‘non-tax paying citizens would have a huge influence on the outcome’.
Later yesterday, the man -also called O’Brien- who controls the newspaper in which Dan O’Brien wrote the article, issued a demand.
Denis O’Brien, who lives in Malta so that he does not have to pay tax in Ireland, demanded that the parliament withdraw remarks concerning him from its record. His spokesman claimed that remarks made by Catherine Murphy TD had been based on ‘stolen information’.
Denis O’Brien’s spokesman also disputed that there was anything improper about using Millington -a company set up in the Isle of Man to avoid paying tax- to purchase a firm that had racked up vast debts with Anglo Irish Bank, an entity that was subsequently rescued by taxpayers in Ireland, at immense cost to the public purse, and, as a consequence, to the public welfare.
Denis O’Brien uses the Isle of Man to avoid contributing to the public welfare in Ireland. He lives in Malta to avoid contributing to the public welfare in Ireland. Denis O’Brien -and it is never just Denis O’Brien, he is just the most prominent face- uses tax havens to avoid having to pay towards things like public hospitals in Ireland. Though Denis O’Brien owns private hospitals in Ireland, unlike most people, and he gets former Taoisigh to work for him, unlike most people.
In Ireland, there is no constitutional right to health care. It is hard to see how Denis O’Brien, the owner of private hospitals in Ireland, would want one. Ireland’s courts, which have served Denis O’Brien so well in recent days, reject the existence of such a right. But the European Parliament, which reported on the impact of the economic crisis on fundamental rights, noted that a right to health is ‘part of Ireland’s international human rights obligations’.
Funding for public health services dropped by €3.3bn from 2009 to 2013. You never hear much about the threat to human rights from these cuts to health, or austerity more generally, on Newstalk, the radio station owned by Denis O’Brien, or in the Irish Independent. You will, however, come across plenty of features devoted to the virtues of private health operators.
For Denis O’Brien, who supports different human rights charities, human rights are a family affair. In the 1980s, his mother had protested outside the US embassy at the murderous activities of US-backed forces in Nicaragua. The Contra war had been launched against “a cancer, right here on our land mass”, according to George Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. The US-backed forces launched a terrorist war killing tens of thousands, to eliminate the cancer of democracy.
Decades later, state telecommunications companies had been privatised across the globe. It had been part of the neoliberal restoration spearheaded by Ronald Reagan. O’Brien used the anecdote about his mother as part of his sales pitch to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Ortega sent his mother a signed photo.
There are thousands of people streaming back to Ireland today to vote in the marriage equality referendum, because they care about what happens to people who live here. Many of them were forced to leave on account of policies pursued in the benefit of the business elite in Ireland, of which Denis O’Brien is a prominent part. And Dan O’Brien, writing in Denis O’Brien’s newspaper, says they should not have a say in how life in their home unfolds.
We shouldn’t be too surprised, since, truth be told, Independent News and Media doesn’t think too many people here at all should have a say in how life on this island unfolds, apart from a vote every four years that should have little bearing on the rule of a financial and economic elite. And Denis O’Brien himself appears to believe that even the meagre possibilities for democratic institutions to discuss public affairs freely should be removed. Because people –people who matter, no doubt- might think he had acted improperly.
To sum up, O’Brien the media baron, who lives in Malta so he does not have to contribute to the public welfare in Ireland, who profits from the privatisation of public services, whose newspapers call for the democratic rights of others to be taken away, claims to have been misrepresented in a parliament where, according to the very newspapers he controls, he has no right to representation. That, mes amis, is fucked up. Let us be grateful that not everyone is a model citizen like Denis O’Brien.