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Legal firm kindly volunteers its services to Irish Government department ahead of Covid inquiry

Plus: Mayor of Limerick’s ‘erroneous’ planning arguments; Nigel Farage’s Irish teacher; and Neil Jordan’s strange Garret FitzGerald anecdote

Taoiseach Simon Harris: multinational law firm Fieldfisher earlier this year wrote to the Department of An Taoiseach generously volunteering its services in Ireland. Photograph: Sam Boal/Collins

The UK’s Covid inquiry has turned into a right beano for lawyers. Some £26.2 million (€31 million) has already been spent on legal fees by the state, with the final cost expected to be a multiple of that once the various participants, including hospitals, nursing homes and victims apply for their costs. So it’s little surprise that briefs on this side of the Irish Sea have been taking a keen interest in our own forthcoming inquiry.

One of the most enthusiastic seems to be Fieldfisher, a multinational law firm with more than 50 lawyers based in its Dublin office. The company has been providing legal advice to the Cabinet Office as part of the UK Covid inquiry. Earlier this year it wrote to the Department of Taoiseach generously volunteering its services in Ireland. In the correspondence, released under the Freedom of Information Act and sadly heavily redacted, the company highlighted the many inquiries it has been involved in, from Hillsborough to the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

“You will recall from our previous engagement and correspondence that the public and regulatory law team at Kingfisher has significant experience in the management of statutory inquiries,” it told John Shaw, an assistant secretary in the department.

The company highlighted how the UK had moved to using external legal support for inquiries during the Hutton inquiry in 2003 to remove any perception that the lawyers involved would not be independent of the State.


“While the cost of servicing the work of an inquiry in-house may appear economically advantageous, the experience of external lawyers who practise in this area can result in significant cost efficiencies. Ensuring that inquiries conclude within the agreed time frame and within budget will assist in maintaining public confidence in the manner in which inquiries are held,” it added.

Their generosity knows no bounds.

John Moran is elected mayor of Limerick. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mayor of Limerick’s ‘erroneous’ planning appeal arguments

It was all celebrations for John Moran as he was elected Limerick’s first directly elected mayor last week. But a decision by An Bord Pleanála last week may have put a fly in the ointment of his victory. Moran and his partner, Damien Duggan, appealed to the board last year about plans by St Vincent de Paul to renovate and convert a building on Hartstonge Street in the city’s Georgian quarter into a €3 million community support facility.

Moran and Duggan, who are restoring a house nearby on Pery Square, weren’t enthused, claiming the existing St Vincent de Paul facility was already attracting prostitution, rodent issues, antisocial behaviour, public urination and “panhandling”. They claimed the local council’s decision to grant permission for the facility last year was “capricious, biased, arbitrary and on the whole unreasonable”.

A planning inspector rejected the couple’s suggestion that the Georgian heart of the city wasn’t an appropriate location for the facility, saying many of their arguments were “erroneous”.

“I do not consider that the proposed development contravenes any objective or policy in the development plan,” she determined.

Sounds like Moran may need to start swatting up on the local development plan, one of the key responsibilities in his new role.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage taking part in ITV's UK general election debate. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA Wire

Nigel Farage’s opportunity to improve his knowledge of Ireland

Nigel Farage’s Reform party is hoping to unseat Jacob Rees-Mogg in Somerset North East and Hanham in the forthcoming UK election. And they have chosen an Irish man to do it: Paul MacDonnell, who worked on regulatory affairs for Insurance Ireland before co-founding Open Republic, an economic policy forum in Dublin. MacDonnell, who has a degree in medieval English literature and philosophy from Trinity College Dublin and an MBA from UCD, has pledged to stop “out-of-control migration” and free the UK state from “unelected activists”, while restoring freedom of speech and shrinking the government.

Farage might consider using him as a sounding board on Irish affairs and prevent another gaffe like the one when Farage issued a birthday greeting to an Irish man on the Cameo personalised video app by proclaiming “up the RA”.

Garret Fitzgerald: dry sense of humour. Photograph: Eric Luke

Did Garret the Good’s joke fly over Neil Jordan’s head?

Strangest row of the week goes to Neil Jordan who claims in his forthcoming memoir, Amnesiac, that Garret FitzGerald sought payment from Warner Bros for an article in The Irish Times praising Jordan’s 1996 biopic of Michael Collins. Jordan recounts meeting FitzGerald and thanking him for the warm endorsement. “That reminds me, I must send in an invoice, I still haven’t been paid,” FitzGerald apparently said. “By The Irish Times?” Jordan asked. “No,” FitzGerald supposedly replied, “by Warner Bros.”

Although Garret is not around to respond, Mark FitzGerald, his son, has already rejected the claim, telling the Guardian there was “no conceivable way” his father would have shaken down a film company for money. “There wasn’t a pound note in his head,” he said.

The most likely explanation, of course, is that Jordan simply didn’t get FitzGerald’s dry sense of humour.

Controversial Cavan dog breeder bitten by taxman

One of the more familiar names that popped up on the tax defaulters’ list last week was that of dog breeder Raymond Cullivan from Poles, Co Cavan. Cullivan, who paid €108,155 in back taxes, including penalties, turned up on a BBC Panorama investigation into puppy farms in 2016 with conditions on his farm described as “horrific” by reporters who carried out secret recording.

A subsequent attempt by Cullivan to apply for planning retention permission for buildings on his puppy farm was opposed by animal rights activists and celebrities including Louis Walsh, Linda Martin and Sharon Ní Bheoláin. Cullivan won the planning battle but they can take some comfort that the taxman caught up with him. Every dog has its day.

Google search results in talks with pub operator to run Boland’s Quay bar

Big-tech workers in the docklands concerned about lay-offs may soon have somewhere to drown their sorrows: Google’s complex on Boland’s Quay. The tech giant has asked Dublin City Council for permission to convert the ground floor of one of the old flour mill buildings from a proposed retail unit/cafe to a pub after cool interest from cafes and retailers in the space. Google say the complex, which includes a food market, is due to open soon and it’s keen to avoid any empty space on the ground floor.

An unnamed pub operator has expressed an interest in the location, it says, arguing that a bar will “add positively to the mix” in the development and contribute to the “evening economy”. Not sure if your columnist will be rushing to Google for a pint, though. The barman will probably be a know-it-all.

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