Subscriber OnlyPoliticsMiriam Lord's Week

UCD debate about RTÉ causes legal big-hitter Arthur Cox to have a minor Lit and Hissy fit

Former politician Shane ‘Winston Churchtown’ Ross and NUJ boss Seamus Dooley were the two headline speakers

Fully recovered from all that Golfgate unpleasantness, the Oireachtas Golf Society travelled to Kerry during the summer for its annual President’s Prize competition.

The event proved a resounding success with no subsequent resignations or recriminations or involvement from the An Garda Síochána, the courts, the president of the European Commission, taoiseach, tánaiste, ceann comhairle and incandescent Liveline listeners.

Host for their big outing to the Mahony’s Point golf course in Killarney was former tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring. More than 60 current and former Oireachtas members competed for the Phil Hogan Perpetual Cup. (Honest to God, we’re not making this up.)

The winner was former Fianna Fáil TD and secretary of the society, Donie Cassidy. Big Phil was on hand to present the trophy to the overjoyed Donie.


Members report that the former EU commissioner, one of the biggest casualties of the Golfgate controversy, was in great form. He said he was delighted to see the society back in full swing.

Some attributed his mellow mood to the fact that he recently became a grandfather, but others thought it might be because his high-level consultancy business is making buckets of money.

President Spring made a presentation on behalf of the committee to Peggy Coghlan, widow of the late Fine Gael senator Paul Coghlan, a society stalwart who welcomed his golfing colleagues on many occasions to his beloved Killarney.

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny made the trip from Mayo, but he didn’t the stay for the dinner as he had an early morning engagement in Northern Ireland the next day. Enda didn’t stay for the dinner either on that fateful night in Clifden three years ago when Big Phil won a George Foreman Grill during the prizegiving but lost his job as commissioner a week later.

Dick Spring’s nephew Arthur Spring, a former Labour TD for Kerry, also played while former Fianna Fáil minister Noel Dempsey and another Fianna Fáil blast from the past, Beverley Flynn, enjoyed meeting up with former colleagues long since retired from active politics.

Mayo Senator Paddy Burke didn’t figure in the prizes this time but he made up for it a few weeks later when his team from Castlebar Golf Club triumphed at an All-Ireland club competition at Woodenbridge in Wicklow, beating Malahide to take the prestigious JB Carr Cup.

The next big item on the agenda for the revitalised Oireachtas Golf Society is an important meeting in the Members’ Bar to finalise arrangements for the hotly contested Turkey Competition.

Lit and Hissy fit

It seems legal big-hitter Arthur Cox, sponsor of UCD’s Literary and Historical Society, had a minor “Lit and Hissy” fit last week when posters advertising the society’s next house debate went up around campus.

And very arresting posters they were too, featuring three of the biggest names from the controversy of the year – a flip-flop furore which continues to rock our national broadcaster.

The proposal for discussion was writ large above photographs of showbiz agent Noel Kelly, his defenestrated client Ryan Tubridy and former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes, who remains hors de combat.

“This House Does Not Trust RTÉ” was the motion. Arthur Cox includes RTÉ among its many corporate clients.

And in an amusing, if somewhat unusual, twist to the ongoing Montrose entertainments, the firm instructed the student debaters to remove the company’s name (printed in very small letters in the bottom right-hand corner) from the promotional literature.

Author and former politician Shane “Winston Churchtown” Ross and National Union of Journalists boss Seamus Dooley were the two headline speakers, with Ross speaking for the motion and Dooley against. The international law firm was quick off the mark because the physical posters only went up on the morning of the debate, although it had been on social media for a few days before that.

Arthur Cox was airbrushed out of the online version while a couple of students had to dash around to all the notice boards with a scissors cropping the sacred Arthur and the precious Cox.

“I thought it was very odd,” said Ross, who is interested in all matters to do with RTÉ as he is in the middle of writing a book about the broadcaster. “Some of the guys told us what happened with the posters, that Arthur Cox made them take them down and change them.”

Dooley pointed out during the debate that the poster was irrelevant anyway because none of the three people featured on it work in RTÉ. Forbes, by the way, had a little crown drawn above her head, while Tubridy was given a jester’s cap and agent Kelly’s hat looked like a cross between something worn by a burger-flipper in a chipper and an old-fashioned convict’s cap.

By all accounts, the debate itself was rather dull, although both Ross and Dooley told us they were on the winning side.

There was a reception afterwards, presumably funded by the legal firm. Slices of pizza and a few sausages.

This Thursday the L&H debated the motion “This House would turn Trinity College into a hotel”. We hear there were no objections from Arthur Cox, which will come as a disappointment to Trinity.

Meanwhile, hotshot hack Hugh Dooley, who is co-editor of College Tribune, was on the case. He reported that members of UCD’s oldest society (founded in 1855) had admitted that sponsor Arthur Cox (founded in 1920) contacted them requesting the removal of their logo from posters and social media.

Dooley approached the L&H for an official comment which was issued after the society took a number of days to consider its response.

Auditor Ayman Memon said: “Arthur Cox has been a loyal supporter of the L&H for some years and as a part of such association on occasion, the L&H uses the Arthur Cox logo subject to prior approval in promotion of selected events. On this occasion prior approval was not sought and the logo was removed once the oversight came to light.”

Those posters were up in public for a few hours. About 30 people turned up for the debate.

An international law firm can never be too careful.

But back to Winston Churchtown, who tells us he began his RTÉ opus before the current commotion began. “I was already contracted to do the book – it’s coming out next year. I won’t lie; the present troubles are a bit of a bonus. My publishers are telling me to get on with it now.”

He will wait until the various reports on RTÉ have been published before signing off on the book. “I’ll have the inside story on the Tubridy scandal,” he declares with his trademark humility.

He can call the chapter on the UCD Lit and Hissy fit “Back in yer box, says Arthur Cox”.

And what about running for the Dáil again now that his Dublin-Rathdown constituency has gained an extra seat?

“I’m torn between divorce and ambition.”

‘Turf Them Out’

The far-right National Party was among the small shouting cohort of protesters outside Leinster House on Wednesday. It posted a photograph of two members with their faces covered unfurling a long narrow banner across the road in a traffic-free Kildare Street.

“Will They Shut You Up?” it said, the mufflers and banner presumably a comment on the proposed hate crime legislation.

Visitors to the National Ploughing Championships in Laois on the same day will have seen different messages from the National Party adorning telephone poles on the narrow approach roads to the Ratheniska site.

The first was a run-of-the-mill poster featuring James Reynolds, who took over the leadership after co-founder Justin Barrett was recently ousted after a bitter row over gold bars allegedly stolen from the party’s vault.

Neither Reynolds nor Barrett were present at the Dublin protest.

At the Ploughing, “Save Rural Ireland!” was a suitably vague slogan from a man eyeing up his election prospects.

The party’s other offering was far from anodyne. It was downright sinister.

Set against a dark background, the provocative image of a sparking sod of burning turf held high on a pitchfork jumped out from thickets of promotional material lining the way.

“Turf Them Out!”

Doubtless the people behind the poster will explain that “they” are the politicians; all politicians bar, perhaps, one or two who might pass muster with the type of protesters who showed such distain for democracy outside Leinster House this week. But they’ll be lying low for a while until the public anger passes.

That burning material on the pitchfork prongs also sent out a dog whistle loud enough to confuse the Collies across the fields in the sheepdog trials.

The professional Great Replacement grifters, cynically whipping up hysteria among gullible, vulnerable people and hopeless tin-hat conspiracy victims from the margins of Wednesday’s chaotic disturbance, will have known exactly what that poster meant.

It was a far cry from Sinn Féin’s “Time for Change” billboards, the smiling “Welcome to Laois” posters from local TDs and political parties, and the Irish Farmers’ Association banners on the grass verges excoriating the Minster for Agriculture every few hundred metres.

“Minister – Sort the Farming Mess!”

“Minister – Increase the Ewe Payment!”

“Minister – Fix the Suckler Schemes”

Real politics.

The crowd on Wednesday didn’t want to know.

They want to strangle it. Don’t let them, or their political sneaking regarders, get away with it.