Áras Attracta Abusive Institution is Only One of Many

If you come away from tonight’s Prime Time with the belief that the truth is out, I’m afraid you’ll be fooling yourself.

While RTÉ deserve praise and support for infiltrating Áras Attracta, exposing inhuman maltreatmment of residents, the reality is that these attitudes have never gone away.   State-owned  institutions all over the country are run by authoritarian managers whose first priority is not to provide the residents with a happy home, but to ensure that their unit runs efficiently.

And while the abuse might be more subtle that that depicted in Áras Attracta, it is still abuse.

I’m talking about emotional intimidation of elderly residents and of people with disabilities.

I’m talking about bullying, ridicule, deprivation of privacy.

I’m talking about humiliations as basic as rationing incontinence pads.

If the HSE management are genuinely so shocked by the revelations of the abuse in Áras Attracta, then they either need to be sacked for gross naivety and incompetence, or else sent to a re-education bootcamp for health professionals.

Anyone who thinks I’m inventing this needs to wake up.  This is going on in every publicly-run care institution in the  country because its roots run deep, as you would expect in such an authoritarian little country.  It’s not too long since the standard punishment for patients in our local county mental hospital  was to hit them with rolled-up newspapers.  In our local State-run home for the elderly, residents are routinely bullied in a hundred petty, vindictive ways, all designed to remove the last vestiges of rebelliousness from them.

So I’m afraid, if HIQA are serious about sending undercover investigators to inspect State-run institutions, they’ll have a major job on their hands, because they’ll have to investigate every last one of them.

Why is anyone surprised?  This, after all, is the land that gave us the Magdalene Laundries.  This is the country that relied so heavily on symphisiotomy.   This is the place where women were forced to wait for the results of their breast cancer review until the HSE had accumulated an administratively-convenient cohort.  This is the country that ran a vile, abusive  industrial school system

Does anyone seriously think such a mindset disappeared overnight by magic?

Of course not.  Some of our people have it in their blood and we need to root them out of our so-called caring professions as part of our slow trudge towards civilisation.




Business Ethics

The Make It Happen Foundation

Supposing you wanted to send a terminally ill child on the trip of a lifetime to meet Santa, what would you do?  If you had the spare cash, you might pay for the trip out of your own pocket, and if not, you might turn to what many Irish people are good at.  You might raise funds, but how would you go about that?

Well, you might see if you could get a company in your area to help, or you might take a sponsorship card and get your friends to help, organise bag packing in your local supermarket, organise a coffee morning, or arrange with a local pub for a quiz night.

What would you tell people?

I’m trying to send a very sick child to see Santa in Lapland.

Marvellous.  Everyone would probably throw in a fiver, even if they were stone broke, as we all are these days.  But suppose they asked you where the money was going, what would you tell them?

It’s all paying for the kid’s flights, accommodation and care.

Isn’t that right?  Unfortunately, the answer is no, if you do it as proposed by the Make It Happen Foundation.  Doing it their way, you’d have to explain to your generous supporters that most of the money will be used to send you on a holiday.  It will be spent on profits for the travel agents, profits for the tour operators, your flights and your accommodation.  Anything left over goes towards the cost of sending a child to meet Santa, after costs and overheads.

So there you are with your sponsorship card, shaking a bucket at the check-outs, and a big logo on your t-shirt.  Going on holiday to Thailand.  Please give generously.

I was baffled by this business model, so I turned for guidance to the official website and found this:

Here is how it works
You travel on one of our departures, selecting your chosen event, Walking, Running, Cycling or Golf and the money made by you travelling enables us to send one TERMINALLY ILL CHILD

On examination, however, no money is raised by any of the walking, cycling, running or golfing.  These are simply things you can do after you’ve raised the money to pay  for your holiday.

Can you see anything wrong with this plan?  I’m no genius, but I think I can come up with a better idea.

How about if you just stood at the check-out and you told people that every penny you raise will be spent  sending sick children to visit Santa?  There will be no free holiday for you, no profits for anyone, no administrative overheads and no middle-men.  Wouldn’t that be a lot better?  Of course it would, so what exactly is going on with the Make It Happen Foundation?

It’s not a charity, and yet it seeks donations.

It no longer claims to be working with any hospitals or other organisations, although it did at one time, and its site still suggests that it might be doing so.  At one time, this map referred to something it called Bernardos.  The reference was removed after inquiries by this interested observer, as were Laura Lynn House and Enable Ireland.

Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to ask for a precise breakdown of where all this money is supposed to go, especially since the company shares personnel with a previous venture called The Children to Lapland Appeal, which promoted a similarly flawed concept and which was finally wound up last year?  I wrote about it here some time ago.

Perhaps if you live in one of the areas mentioned on the map, you might choose to contact your local hospital and try to establish what precisely its relationship is with the Make It Happen Foundation.

As the website says

You will have a wonderful time on your chosen destination knowing by joining us you will send a little one on a trip of a lifetime in their all too short lives.

Please find a place in your heart to MAKE IT HAPPEN

Surely it would make a lot more difference if you could find it in your heart not to go on holidays, but instead to hand over all the money so that several little ones could have the trip of a lifetime.

As I said, this company is not a registered charity.


By comparison, why not have a look at an established registered charity called the Make A Wish Foundation?


The following exchange is a screenshot of the Make It Happen Facebook page.

The Make It Happen Foundation’s Facebook page states that they have no connection with Children to Lapland and yet, both directors of Make It Happen are associated in some way with the now-defunct charity.

Mags Davis (46) is a former employee of United Travel, which was closely associated with the Lapland  charity.  As she says in her Linkedin profile:

I travelled extensively all over the world to contract hotels and secure rooms for future Irish clients. Countries travelled mostly to UAE (DXB and RAK)/Thailand (Pattaya) /Egypt (Luxor/Hurghada)/Japan(Tokyo)/Hong Kong/Italy/Switzerland and also Lapland (Finland) to take the terminally ill children to meet Santa in Lapland.

Jenny Russell is a former committee member of the Children to Lapland Appeal.

Con Murphy, owner of United Travel and director of the Children to Lapland Appeal now appears in many of the photos on the Make It Happen Facebook album.

Given such a close association between the two companies, why would Make It Happen deny any connection?



These are some of the holidays your fundraising will send you on.


Thailand Charity Experience — €699 per person.  Full details HERE.

Day 1  Fly to Bangkok.

Day 2 Travel to Pattaya.

Day 3 Hang around Pattaya.

Day 4 Embark on your first charity experience in the surrounding area of Pattaya.  Hang around in the afternoon.

Day 5 Embark on your second charity experience in the surrounding area of Pattaya.  Hang around in the afternoon.

Day 6 Embark on your third charity experience in the surrounding area of Pattaya, or visit the elephant village.  Hang around in the afternoon.

Day 7 Embark on your fourth charity experience in the surrounding area of Pattaya.  Hang around in the afternoon.

Day 8 Hang around Pattaya.  Have dinner.

Day 9  Go to Bangkok.  Hang around.

Day 10  Hang around Bangkok in the morning.  Go to the airport.  Go home.


Philippines Charity Experience  €899 per person.  Full details HERE.

Day 1  Fly to Manila.  During the flight, you can eat and drink.

Day 2  Go to your hotel in Manila.

Day 3 Fly to Boracay.

Day 4  Go for a walk.

Day 5 Go for another walk

Day 6 Go for another walk.  After breakfast, go on a tour or just hang around.

Day 7 Go for another walk.  Then go on a boat or else just hang around.

Day 8. Go on your last walk.  Then go shopping and go to bed.

Day 9  Fly to Manila

Day 10 See Manila.

Day 11 Go home



Ethics Law

High Court Strikes Down Fee Claim For Suicide Abatement by Galway Solicitor, Patrick M Keane

I don’t know if Galway solicitor Patrick M Keane is the same Paddy Keane I used to know years ago, but if he is, he hasn’t lost his black sense of humour.  I could tell you stories about Paddy’s exploits as a student that would put the hair standing up on your head, but of course, my lips are sealed.  What goes on tour stays on tour, as they say.

I always liked Paddy.  In our student days, he educated me about such abstruse concepts as the incorporeal hereditaments, something that often came in useful later in life when confronted with ravening drunks at a taxi rank.  He told me what a tort was, and he informed me about Lord Denning’s frolics.  He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and never less than great company.

What’s more, he always had a skewed take on life, which I greatly enjoyed, but he really has excelled himself with the latest caper.

Paddy is a solicitor, and a damn good one by all accounts, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.  He was always a bright sort of fellow, but to the best of my knowledge, he never studied anything but law, apart from his primary degree which was in some Arts thing.  He certainly never became a counsellor, and for my authority here, I rely on Mr Justice Nicky Kearns of the High Court,  who said as much when rejecting Paddy’s claim of €14,000 for 70 hours of what he called suicide abatement.

The background is this.  A seven-year-old boy was hit by an uninsured  car, with consequent physical and mental trauma.  He was badly broken up in body and mind.  The victim sued the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which handles claims against uninsured drivers, and eventually, in 2009, the parties settled for €800,000 plus costs.  Paddy claimed  €406,069 in fees, which presumably included barristers’ costs, expert witnesses, doctors’ bills, travelling expenses, photocopying and all the rest of it.  But it also included a most unusual item, headed suicide abatement phone calls, which Paddy estimated at 70 hours, for which he charged €200 per hour.  Reading between the lines, it seems that the unfortunate victim spent long hours on the phone to Paddy talking about his despairing feelings and Paddy in turn was only too willing to listen, at three times the rate that a professionally-qualified counsellor would charge.

The defendants referred the costs to the taxing master, James Flynn, who reduced them to €324,000.  Still not satisfied, the defendants referred the matter to the High Court where Mr Justice Kearns said that Paddy should never have made the claim in the first place since solicitors are not qualified to counsel anyone.  He went on to say that Mr Flynn didn’t analyse the costs properly and should never have allowed them.  Interestingly, Flynn is a former solicitor, while Kearns is a former barrister.

Now let me ask you this.  If you were feeling suicidal, who would you call?  Well, maybe if you thought you were on good terms with your solicitor, you might call him up.  But would you spend 70 hours on the phone discussing your suicidal urges?  Maybe you would, if you had been so emotionally traumatised as the victim in this case.

Turn it around a different way.  If you were a lawyer, or a dentist, or a plumber, or an interior designer or a journalist or a bricklayer and one of your customers called you to say they were feeling suicidal, what would you do?  You’d probably do the right thing as a human being and you’d listen to them.  But would you spend 70 hours listening to them, and would you set your money-clock ticking as you did so, or would you steer them in the direction of a qualified professional and gracefully withdraw?

Taking the most charitable interpretation of it, I can imagine a lawyer being called at all hours of the day and night.  This happens.  I know it from other people in the profession, but there are ways of dealing with these things that don’t involve taking careful note of the billable minutes as they add up.  And besides, even if you found yourself having your ear bent, would you submit a bill for services you are not qualified to provide?

I can’t imagine Paddy charging for, let’s say, assessing the structural stability of a foundation, or measuring the stopping power of a car’s brakes, or assessing the toxicity of a pollutant in the drinking water, although if he’s the same man I’m thinking of, he would be well versed in farming matters.  So what on earth did he think he was doing charging for counselling, at a rate no qualified counsellor would ever dream of applying, and is he happy to have it working both ways?

I wonder how Paddy would feel about a counsellor with no legal qualifications offering legal advice at a third of the rate he himself charges?

Of course, I could be wrong.  It might well be that his fees reflect the level of his counselling qualifications, despite what the High Court has to say on the matter.  For all I know, he might also be qualified in heart surgery, orthopaedics, architecture, craft brewing, chiropody, horticulture and botany.  He might even be a doctor of divinity, for all I know.

Blame Mr Justice Kearns if I got it wrong.



Lawyers’ Fees Reduced by 80%


Business Ethics

Vita Cortex Discarding Unwanted Workers

What do you do if you don’t want an old bicycle any more?

You throw it away, don’t you?  And if you have no further use for an old suite of furniture?  Take it to the dump.

What about if you no longer have any use for certain people and you happen to be Jack Ronan, owner of Vita Cortex?

Simple.  You divide your company into different sections, let one go bust, throw your loyal workers on the scrap-heap and plead inability to pay redundancy, though you personally happen to be a vastly wealthy individual.

When your workers refuse to lie down and allow themselves to be dismissed like so much unwanted machinery, what would a normal man do?  Well, if you’re Jack Ronan you ratchet your moral compass down another notch and resort to immature and cynical emotional blackmail.  How?  You tell these desperate people, many of whom have worked loyally on your behalf for forty years, that their protest is threatening the remaining jobs in your artificially-created “group”.

Why do you have a “group”?  Simple.  So you can claim that the closed factory has no money to pay redundancy, while the others continue to operate unhampered.

I think the attitude exemplified by Jack Ronan and his co-owner, Seán McHenry, is despicable.  I think their approach represents everything that decent business should not be.  I think what they have done with the  Vita Cortex workers betrays utter contempt for their fellow human beings, and perhaps even a view that the workers who made them wealthy in the good times are somehow less than human, nothing more than components in a machine, to be taken out and replaced at a whim.

The 1913 lockout was the nadir of industrial relations in Ireland and after that everyone thought we could never sink as low again, but the worldwide depression has provided an opportunity for employers such as Jack Ronan and Seán McHenry once again to treat their workers as if they have no human worth.  Did anyone ever teach either of these men what it means to be a caring, considerate employer with a sense of obligation to their fellow man?  If they did, it wasn’t a very effective education, for both of these characters have earned themselves an F in the final exams.

As with so many others in Irish life, Ronan and McHenry seem to know a great deal about their rights, but understand almost nothing about their responsibilities.  The Vita Cortex workers are expendable.

What a wonderful republic we’ve built for ourselves.

Dog eat dog.



Vita Cortex Workers blog