Tánaiste takes aim at The Ditch website, describing it as ‘political organisation’

Micheál Martin claims news site is not an ‘independent media platform at all’ and questions who is funding it

Micheál Martin has hit out at The Ditch website that broke the Niall Collins land purchase story, calling it a "political campaign." Video: Oireachtas TV

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has described investigative website The Ditch as “a political organisation” that wants to attack and undermine confidence in the Government.

Mr Martin told the Dáil on Thursday that he didn’t see the website as an “independent media platform at all” and that he would “love to know who’s funding The Ditch in its entirety”.

The Fianna Fáil leader also claimed that there was a “political campaign” being conducted by The Ditch.

The Ditch first reported details of Minister of State Niall Collins’s wife’s purchase of a property from Limerick County Council in 2008. Mr Collins was part of a local area committee of the council that recommended disposal of the property in 2007 when he was a member of the local authority.


After an open market process that concluded after he had ceased to be a member of the authority, the property was bought by his wife, who had previously approached the council about selling.

Mr Collins has been sharply criticised for his apparent failure to declare his wife’s interest in buying the property or recuse himself from the local committee’s decision-making process.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions and in advance of Mr Collins’ statement to the chamber, the Tánaiste said “this has been going on for quite some time, there has been attempted character assassinations of many politicians in this House, of many political parties, if they’re not the same political orientation of those who back On The Ditch.

“The selective and distorted way that stories are originated and presented leads an awful lot to be desired.

“This is a political organisation. That’s my point. The whole agenda is create the campaign, get to the paid ads, get it trending, attack media if they don’t cover it and then we’ll get into the Dáil for questions and answers.”

Mr Martin said that The Ditch was partly funded by Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave while Chay Bowes was a founding member of the website. He said both were political opponents of the Government.

He said if you read the tweets of Mr Cosgrave and Mr Bowes it was clear that their agenda was to “take down the Government”, which was fine and something they were entitled to do, but that he would not facilitate it “every week”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said what really alarmed him was that the Russian Embassy in Ireland had praised Mr Bowes with a tweet on an essay he had written “blaming the West for the war in Ukraine”. He said Mr Bowes had also been on RT India on April 9th where a caption referred to him as “Russia Today correspondent”.

“That’s what’s behind On the Ditch lads,” the Tánaiste said. “And I’d pose the question to the entire Dáil, is it our function to slavishly follow its agenda, all of the time? I’d ask for reflection on that.”

Mr Martin was responding to Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns and People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.

Mr Murphy said without The Ditch, Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy would still be a minister as would Fine Gael TD Damien English.

“No wonder you’re attempting to undermine the Ditch because the Ditch has been quite successful in exposing corrupt, unethical practices by ministers in your Government and in your party,” he told the Tánaiste.

Mr Murphy said it was “crystal clear” that Mr Collins’ wife had a pecuniary interest in the matter of the land being put up for sale and that Mr Collins did not disclose this interest and he did not withdraw from the meeting.

The People Before Profit TD asked how could Mr Collins remain as a Minister of State. He said he had used his position on the council “not for the benefit of the public that elected him, but for the enrichment of his own family”.

“It smells like the same old sleveen behaviour and same old stroke politics of Fianna Fáil, starring a brazen gombeen always with his eye on the main chance,” he said. “Bertie [Ahern] is back and this old muck is too and that’s why you’re trying to cover it up.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times