Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Declan Ganley is the victim of a shameful smear campaign

'Dick Roche is still looking. He has found nothing'

Declan Ganley was the most successful Irish politician of 2008. He won the Lisbon Treaty referendum, throwing the Government and opposition into chaotic confusion. He did this democratically. This irritated the losers, particularly Dick Roche. As Minister for Europe, Roche was significantly at fault for the defeat. He was well-versed in EU Lisbon Treaty intricacies, so this was inexcusable.

The campaign points made by Ganley throughout 2008 have been consistently ignored; instead, personal attacks have been launched. Among actions taken was an unbalanced, ill-researched and, in my view, malicious 'Prime Time' programme. The 'Irish Times' has published exclusively negative stories. There have been 'Village' magazine attacks, the latest of these provoking legal action by Ganley, now partly resolved.

Dick Roche was a significant contributor in 'Village' magazine, quoted as saying: "Declan Ganley is a liar, a self-employed mythologiser, a snake oil salesman".

Two smears have been applied, the first the US Funding Smear, the second an Irish Funding Smear. These have been conflated by the European Parliament's smear, where MEPs have used flimsy allegations and employed dubious procedures. Evidence in favour of Ganley has been ignored, as have his fundamental rights.

Democracy is undermined when public institutions are used in the ways adopted by Irish ministers and European parliamentarians.

RTE's 'Prime Time' programme, on November 27, 2008, was supposedly a profile of Ganley. The Sunday Independent said the programme was "an artful hatchet job, a televised internet conspiracy theory that hoovered up a fair chunk of the licence fee. RTE set out to throw mud, not to shed light, an approach that is the antithesis of public service broadcasting".

This was evident when Miriam O'Callaghan described Ganley as an enigma, asking whether his "incredible life story actually stacked up". She said there were more questions than answers, then delivered further questions,and answered none of them -- 'If [Libertas] isn't a front for spooks, is it a tool for the neo-cons?'; 'Was Ganley linked to Russian organised criminals in his early business dealings?' No answers came.

'Was public money used for this mud-slinging against Mr. Ganley?'; 'Who was behind this?'; 'What are the implications for the future?'

Lucinda Creighton alleged that Ulick McEvaddy and Ganley, whom McEvaddy supports, sought to derail political union in the EU out of self-interest connected with business dealings and their US paymasters, supposedly opposed to EU integration. No evidence has come out supporting this.

Lucinda Creighton criticised McEvaddy's description of the Lisbon Treaty as "unintelligible drivel".

She said: "There is no way this Libertas money is coming from donations." Further smears came from Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell. He asked rhetorically: "Are they getting it from the CIA, the UK Independence Party or their friends in the US military?" He offered no evidence. Stories on Libertas's compliance with electoral laws ran in Irish newspapers last September. Ganley replied on RTE radio that he had made a loan of €200,000 to Libertas. He stated that the money had not come from US government sources.

Environment Minister JohnGormley made a statement that Libertas acted lawfully under funding rules. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called for changes in electoral law. The papers reported the content of Mr Ganley's radio interview the day before. There were further questions about Libertas funding legality.

Smearing shifted to the European Parliament, where Daniel Cohn-Bendit revealed " ... a link between those who funded the 'No' campaign in Ireland and the Washington Pentagon and the CIA". He took this from Irish newspapers.

Cohn-Bendit claimed Ganley had concluded military procurement contracts with the Pentagon worth about $200m.

He said: "We must continue to keep close tabs on these things, and the facts must be put on the table. We cannot allow Europe to be damaged by people who demand transparency but are not prepared to play by the same rules themselves." This was greeted with applause.

Cohn-Bendit said Dick Roche had "made it his personal responsibility to investigate these matters. I warmly encourage his systematic pursuit of the truth". Dick Roche is still looking. He has found nothing.

The allegation that Libertas accepted CIA funding is a criminal allegation and the parliament's use of press reports for a criminal allegation is disproportionate. Mr Ganley's rights have vanished.

The truth is, Ganley won. The others lost. The Government made a mess of the campaign.

While Cowen and Roche fumbled their way towards defeat, Ganley focused on what was wrong with the European Union. He mounted an unwavering campaign. He led the 'No' vote groups in a detached way, making no alliances, dismissing ideas that were central to other 'No' voters.

The Cowen-led government then made an extraordinary mistake, indicating they would seek to reverse the decision. Brian Cowen advised Gordon Brown to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. This approach, relayed to Europe, was supported by Martin.

'No' vote activity might have declined, with the Government achieving their objectives in a subtle way. Instead we had angry confrontation. Motivation for trying again should have come from Europe, with a reluctant Dublin Government sticking with the democratic choice. Hearts and minds would have changed. Instead, the Dublin Government led the charge, insulting 'No' voters, siding with defeated.

This astonished Europe. The French presidency responded warmly, Nicolas Sarkozy visiting Dublin to seek the second referendum. This move had further negative effects. Sarkozy's new form of EU democracy was what Declan Ganley's Libertas opposed.

There was a campaign against Ganley's political credibility. The allegations to destroy him have not been established. From the start they served a political purpose, to divert responsibility for the Irish 'No' vote into stories about political funding.

What Ganley has said on Europe's democracy is never reported. The December Summit dealt with peripheral matters, ignoring his criticisms. This lack of fairness and balance is reprehensible. We should be ashamed of ourselves.