John Moran changes his tune on lobbying as he runs for Limerick mayor

Web Summit’s Lobbying Register absence; why Simon Harris won’t lodge in the Phoenix Park; and more bad news for EV drivers

John Moran, an Independent candidate for the role of directly elected mayor of Limerick in the June 7th election, has said he is stepping down from the board of Shannon Airport and the Limerick Economic Forum to avoid any suggestions of a conflict of interest as he campaigns for the top job in town. He has also stepped back from roles with local organisations including the UL Foundation, Liveable Limerick, Narrative 4 and the Hunt Museum.

“As secretary general of the Department of Finance, I introduced new practices in this area to ensure greater transparency, and I shall be doing likewise if elected as mayor,” Moran told the Limerick Post last week.

Moran added that Limerick should introduce “a culture of transparency and integrity” even more “stringent than the rules imposed on candidates by the Government”.

Could this be the same John Moran who, while working as a lobbyist for cab company Uber, claimed special access to the then minister for finance, Michael Noonan, including being able to drop documents into his house? At the time Uber even suggested that text it wrote was used in Fine Gael’s February 2016 manifesto as a result of Moran’s lobbying campaign.


Leaked files at the time showed some engagements by Moran were not listed in the Lobbying Register. The files also suggested that the company hoped that opening a base in Limerick would give it an opportunity to exercise “political leverage” and encourage the Government to “lean on” regulators and legislate for Uber to operate in Ireland.

Web Summit is selective about who it talks to

One organisation that has long been conspicuous by its absence on the lobbying register is the Web Summit, with no record of any lobbying by the tech conference or its voluble co-founder, Paddy Cosgrave, since the register was established in September 2015. At the time of the register’s establishment, Cosgrave was in regular correspondence with the government over the final conference to be held in Dublin in November 2015, complaining about everything from hotel costs to traffic.

While the tech conference subsequently moved to Lisbon, Cosgrave has frequently spoken about having meetings with politicians and State agencies in the intervening period. Some of them were even amicable. In August 2017 he spoke about attending a U2 concert earlier that summer with the new taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, before their relationship soured, describing how the pair “spent a good deal of time chatting”.

In 2018 eyebrows were raised when Cosgrave was afforded a private meeting with John Concannon, the then head of the government’s Strategic Communications Unit, about its work. Cosgrave subsequently tweeted that he had been privy to the “wider plan” for what became known as Leo Varadkar’s spin unit.

Last year journalist-turned-lobbyist Sebastian Hamilton joined the Web Summit as head of public affairs. His role is to lead the Web Summit’s “engagement with editors, journalists, media, policymakers, influencers and tech community leaders in Ireland” but he has yet to get up to any lobbying, it seems. We asked him why the Web Summit had never been listed on the lobbying register. But answer came there none.

Simon Harris, no lodger he

There is a new taoiseach on the horizon but it doesn’t look like Steward’s Lodge, the four-bedroom house in the grounds of Farmleigh House that was refurbished in 2006 for use as a taoiseach’s residence, is to get a permanent resident.

Simon Harris, who lives in Greystones with his wife, Caoimhe, and the couple’s two young children, has no plans to swap Wicklow for the Phoenix Park in the immediate future, we hear. The house, which underwent a €600,000 upgrade in 2006 and further improvements in recent years, has been used sparingly by various taoisigh over the past 18 years. Bertie Ahern couldn’t be shifted out of Drumcondra, while Enda Kenny and Brian Cowen, both of whom had apartments close to Leinster House, only used it on a handful of occasions.

Leo Varadkar spent the most time in the house, moving in during one of the Covid-19 lockdowns, but he subsequently left to live with his partner Matt Barrett in Dublin 8. Leaving it empty during a housing crisis doesn’t send a great message, although Harris, who has a three-year-old and a five-year-old, may choose to spend the odd night in the Victorian lodge, if only to get a good night’s sleep.

Ubitricity pulls out of Ireland

More bad news for EV drivers. Ubitricity, which has more than 10,000 charging points worldwide, has told local authorities in Ireland that it is pulling out of the country. The Shell-owned company, which uses lamp-posts as charging points and has more than 7,000 charging points in the UK, began a pilot programme with Fingal County Council in 2021, setting up a handful of charging points in Malahide and Castleknock. But the company recently told Fingal and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, with whom it was also in talks about a pilot project, that it is withdrawing from Ireland.

Ronan tower divides opinion

Johnny Ronan’s plans to redevelop Citigroup’s HQ on North Wall Quay into a 17-storey tower has received mixed reviews. The Gaiety School of Acting, which is hoping to get space for a teaching school in the development, has written to Dublin City Council praising the developer’s “excellence and innovation” but the residents of the nearby Clarion Quay apartment scheme were less enthused.

The scheme’s management company, representing 186 apartments, said it was “shocked” by the tower’s “size and scale”, claiming Ronan has not considered the effect it may have on Clarion Quay’s 300 to 400 residents, including 37 apartments occupied by Dublin City Council tenants. They also questioned why a “fully functioning” building is being torn down.

In more positive news for Ronan, Wicklow County Council has granted his daughter, Jodie, and her husband, John Savage, permission to extend the Goulding Summerhouse, a floating glass box on the river Dargle designed by Ronnie Tallon that has graced many architectural magazines, where the couple and their children plan to live.

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