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Are we Helpless before the Guilty?

Over the New Year I’ve been pondering the implications of a discovery I made while researching my book on the Famine* namely that one of its principal legacies to Ireland was what the psychiatrists called ‘learned helplessness’.  The beliefs that no matter how one tried there was nothing to do in the face of catastrophe save succumb to it or emigrate. There was no possibility of getting back at those who brought about the disaster. In the case of the Famine and in today’s Ireland people are either accepting whatever burdens have been placed upon them with varying degrees of despair or they are getting out.

If one looks at the plight of modern Ireland and comments in astonishment; ‘and nobody is going to jail!’ one can be certain that the automatic knee jerk reaction will be; ‘No! And nobody will go.’  The correct response of course would be for thousands to gather in the streets outside the Dáil demanding the prosecution of the politicians, the policy makers, the regulators who did not regulate, the overseeing civil servants who did not oversee, and the decision takers in the banks and other financial institutions who indulged in spectacularly reckless trading.

The good people, the would be educators of their families, the hard workers are being lashed into carrying the nation’s burdens while the decision takers responsible for their misery ride off unscathed in to the sunset with their pay offs and their pensions and knowing smirks on their faces.

How can we punish the people responsible for Ireland’s present economic and psychological woes? Crime is up, so is unemployment and Irish suicide rates are now acknowledged to be running at 50% above the pre- financial crash levels.  On top of this the country has lost its sovereignty and stands in a Brussels dole queue while it’s young people stand in airport queues to emigrate.

The people are coping bravely and industriously with the threat of unemployment, new taxes and wage cuts but those responsible go Scott free. The government has made no effort to beef up the fraud squad whose good police work is ultimately largely rendered impotent because of a public service embargo necessitated by the credit squeeze which prevents the hiring of essential expertise; forensic accountants, solicitors, senior counsel and so on.  Thus the people who caused the embargo to be instituted escape unscathed and a government reluctant to proceed against key figures in the worlds of law, politics, the Civil service and finance is enabled to shirk its duty of rendering the mighty as well as the meek amenable to the law.

When it first came into office the government did make an effort to set up Dáil committees of Inquiry which would have brought relevant figures to the Dáil to explain themselves as is done in London and Washington. However the attempt was made valueless by the half-hearted way in which the government went about winning the referendum campaign which would have been necessary under the Irish Constitution to allow these committees to be set up.  The referendum was lost, paradoxically in part because the public had become so mistrustful of the politicians that they shrank from giving them further powers.

Moreover a phalanx of former attorneys general further discouraged the public by signing their names to an open letter stating that the proposed committees would interfere with a man’s right to his good name and the judiciaries’ right to independence.

One of the signatories to that letter Mr Dermot Gleeson, was the chairman of Allied Irish Bank.  Another was Mr Peter Sutherland of Goldman Sachs. Incidentally another referendum called for by the financial crisis was one which was necessitated by the reluctance of judges to accept the same pay cuts which other ordinary citizens had to undergo.

There is a great sense of unfairness abroad in Ireland.  As I write these words people are agonising over where they are to get the money for yet more taxes due later this year, a property tax and a beginning to Water rates with the introduction of meters. The Irish are no less patriotic and hardworking than they ever were and just as willing to accept sacrifice for the public weal, but that sacrifice should not be borne solely by the innocent people who would be far more willing to shoulder their burdens if they felt that the guilty suffered for their crimes along with the innocent. It’s time for the government to either revive their original committees proposal or introduce some new initiative to wipe the smirks off those fat cats’ faces.

Feel free to contact me with any comments, suggestions or ideas through the contact section on this website or through my Facebook page!/timpat.coogan.3



Tim Pat Coogan’s new book, ‘The Famine Plot, England’s role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy’ published by Palgrave Macmillan is available in bookshops now.


The Famine Plot*

The last number of weeks have been more than a little creepy. I found myself watching Homeland with an increasingly ominous fascination.

Somebody somewhere it appears did not want me to visit the United States to publicise my book on the Famine.  It was suggested to me that some securicrats in the U.S. embassy had decided to do a good turn for their buddies in the British ‘Spookdom’ by blocking my attempts to enter the United States on a Book Tour.  I had been applying fruitlessly since September but inexplicably had two separate ESTA Visa waivers turned down and finally after much unhelpful gobbledegook from the U.S. Embassy, had to apply for a Non- Immigrant Visa.

Days and weeks passed and eventually my book tour in the United States, which was scheduled to begin yesterday, was cancelled.

Led by the Irish- American leader, Niall O’Dowd, publisher of The Irish Voice and creator of The Irish Central website, the most important Irish website outside the country, a huge protest movement built up.  There had already been a great deal of complaint s from the Irish- American community about the increasingly rough handed approach in the Dublin Embassy towards Visa seekers and my case proved to be the last straw.

Amongst those who were approached on my behalf were Hillary Clinton, Senator Schumer, reckoned to be the second most powerful member of the U.S. Senate and the chairman of the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Peter King. As a result word was conveyed to me from Senator Schumer’s office that I would be getting my Visa.

Today, November 27th, the day after the date on which it was originally proposed that I begin a book tour in the U.S., I received a call from a gentleman in the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, he told me that he could not give me his name ‘for security reasons’ but confirmed for me that I was to be granted a Ten Year Visa, with multiple applications but with a sinister sounding addendum that this would involve stamping my passport with an annotation to the effect that the visa had been granted following scrutiny by security agencies.  This sounded a bit Scarlet Letter- esque to me.

However the other part of my anonymous caller’s message I found even more sinister he told me that my two earlier Visa waiver applications had been blocked by Homeland Security. Had it not been for a short but vigorous and extremely well focused campaign mounted on my behalf by Niall O’Dowd with the support of the Irish- American community I would not have received either my phone call or the Visa.

The embassy phone call marks a great advance on the attitude over my ESTA applications and I would once again like to thank very sincerely all those who supported me.  The episode again underlines the great strength of the Irish American community when they decide to combine on a particular issue. Daniel O’Connell’s famous message to the Irish was, ‘Organise, Organise.’ That message is as relevant today as ever and Irish-Americans should be vigilant to ensure that the hard won concessions they secured on Visa dispersement are not eroded by the action of any segment of the bureaucracy. Remember Lincoln’s warning about the price of liberty being eternal vigilance.

In today’s recessionary world Lincoln may be taken as speaking not merely to Irish-Americans, but to the Irish Diaspora worldwide.


* The Famine Plot, England’s role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy is published by Palgrave Macmillan and available in shops now.

Never a Dull Moment

Never a Dull Moment

It’s been heartening to see the amount of support I have received following the breaking of the news that my planned American Book tour to publicise my recently published book ‘The Famine Plot, England’s role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy’ had to be cancelled  because I was refused a Visa.

To judge from the incandescent reaction on the Irish Central website the Visa story has become the current hot button issue amongst Irish – Americans and the case has been taken up by the second most powerful member of the U.S. Senate, Senator Schumer. Nothing remotely resembling the controversy has been seen in the U.S. since the great debate over the Gerry Adam’s Visa issue.  I’ve been travelling around the U.S. for over fifty years at every level of society, attending the Whitehouse  on a couple of occasions, once to interview President Reagan and was welcomed a the U.S. Supreme court at a luncheon given there in my honour.  At the moment no-one can explain the reason for the Visa refusal.

Suggestions have been as bizarre as the occurrence itself, one high ranking American diplomat, opined that ‘Mr Coogan may have the same name as someone on the wanted list’. This raises the possibility that there is a haroun El Racid Tim Pat Coogan running around Tehran or somewhere. Another theory is that the increasingly heavy handed securicrats in U.S. immigration segment of the Dublin U.S. Embassy were doing a favour for some of their British counterparts who don’t want to see my research reaching the American public.

For myself I can’t add anything to any theory but I think I’d better stop watching ‘Homeland’, just to be on the safe side!

However the book itself has been extremely well received and I have been invited to join two of Ireland’s leading artists, Robert Ballagh and Brian Friel as patrons of the forthcoming major Famine Tribunal being staged at Fordham University next April.

Below are some recent articles on my new book and the Visa debacle.—americas-greatest-friend-in-ireland-insulted-by-the-us-embassy-180684371.html–180497001.html

Tim Pat at the American Irish Historical Society in New York on 27th Nov [Postponed]

To celebrate the publication of Tim Pat’s new book, The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, a passion project that has been in the pipeline for a number of years, he will be hosted by the American Irish Historical Society in New York for a reading and discussion on 27th November 2012.

» Read details [Event postponed]

Tim Pat interviewed on The Famine Plot by RTÉ Radio 1 and Newstalk FM

There have been two radio slots today, available as podcasts, with Tim Pat interviewed about his new book The Famine Plot

Today with Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1

Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk FM (2 mins 35 into segment)

Tim Pat to speak in Cork on The Famine Plot – Tuesday 20 Nov

Tim Pat Coogan will give a public lecture at UCC on Tuesday 20 November, introduced by UCC historian Dr Larry Geary.

» More information

Hello Again

Hello again everybody, apologies for the long silence but the illustrations appended herewith form part of the explanation. I have been writing a book about the Famine and these graphic images, created by my granddaughter Caoimhe Pendred in Skibereen where the Famine hit hard are based on potatoes, the crop which so sadly and disastrously failed. The book is due to be published in November by Palgrave Macmillian and I’ll be visiting some American cities.

Somewhat shamefacedly I will be going back over some of the emails, which amazingly still come to my website despite my silence and in the meantime I am posting herewith an article which contains my thoughts on the present state of Ireland.

With firm promise of more output in the future, best wishes to all my friends.

Tim Pat Coogan


Women and Children First.

In these situations it’s always women and children first said the senior civil servant soothingly as I complained bitterly about the first major Government response to the Debt crisis which Fianna Fáil and the decision takers of the hour had visited upon the country. Infamously as we know the action took the form of attempting to take medical cards away from the over seventies.

Some several years down the line under a new coalition the watchword is still women and children first as wheelchair bound sufferers are forced to piss into cans outside the Dáil as they mount an all-night vigil in protest at cuts in their Homecare packages.

Modern Ireland deserves a damn sight better than it is getting. An unfortunate overtaxed people are striving as best they can to pick up the pieces of the bank’s crash.

They are coping with a factor not sufficiently acknowledged, vastly increased suicide rates, emigration, unemployment and a murderous crime wave which is visibly out of control.

And all this for what? I had an experience recently which made me question the validity of all the financial measures that both this and the previous government have taken. I applied for a replacement for a lost Share Certificate through the large financial services company Computershare and as I was advised by a stockbroker, had my local bank authenticate my application however I got a letter back form Computershare stating that ‘Bank of Ireland are not recognised by Computershare Investment Services as authorised to conjoin Letters of Indemnity’. And for good measure the letter also ruled out Allied Irish Bank, IBRC (the bank mopping up the affairs of Anglo Irish Bank)

When I rang Computershare to seek further information I was told ‘these banks do not meet our criteria’

How many billions have we poured into our reckless, corrupt and negligent banks? Is this the reality of Ireland’s real credit rating behind the posturing on the deal of debt forgiveness which our government expects to get from Europe? Is this the reality for which our people are being scourged?

Given the stoicism and effort which we Irish have traditionally exhibited it is not surprising that we are coping quite gallantly with our challenges. But we face a monstrous, inhibiting factor, it is the gross unfairness of modern Irish society, the women and children first syndrome.

George Bernard Shaw spoke truly when he said that all professions are a conspiracy against the public. The lawyers, the bankers, the stockbrokers, the accountants and the political class of Ireland brought crisis and tragedy upon their people but they escape justice while the people pay for their crimes.

Not one of the aforementioned categories of professionals have suffered for the misdeeds they committed during the boom years, the reckless lending, the hyping of shares, the covering up of criminal balance sheets, the blind eye turned to regulatory negligence, the political cover given to the disgraceful inertia of the Department of Finance and the Central Bank.

Yet as this is written public spirited people are patrolling the banks of the Shannon, approaching worried looking citizens to enquire are they thinking of a walk or of suicide. No one has gone to jail. No one has even been asked to give a public account of their failures on watch.

Currently an effort is being made to bamboozle the public by holding hearings of the Public Accounts Committee of the Dáil which enquires as to how public monies were spent. It’s a meaningless exercise, the money is gone and retribution is inevitably far to seek.

However a proposal which might have helped the people to understand what happened and to provide consequences was nipped in the bud in the early days of the present ‘reforming’ Government taking over from Fianna Fáil. This was the holding of a referendum, to change the Constitution so that the Dáil could hold committee hearings, like those conducted by the US Senate or the UK parliament into matters of public interest and make findings of fact.

The Referendum was defeated for two reasons, one people didn’t trust the politicians to hold such hearings lest they used them for private, star chamber purposes and two because a group of ex attorneys general ( of all parties ) gave a powerful jolt to public opinion by writing to the papers saying that such a referendum would take away a man’s right to his good name, and the independence of the judiciary.

One of the signatories to that letter was Dermot Gleeson the chairman of Allied Irish Bank during the Celtic Tiger era, another Peter Sutherland of Goldman Sachs, a further defender of the individual’s right to his good name was Michael McDowell who followers of Irish Central shall remember from Frank Connolly’s article [insert date please] gave confidential documents from his department to the Irish Independent which formed part of his case outlined under privilege in the Dáil that Connolly had visited Colombia on a forged passport to see his brother, who at the time was in jail as a member of the Colombia Three.

In the uproar that followed McDowell’s manoeuvre a noble work by one of the most valuable men to ever visit Ireland, Chuck Feeny was destroyed. This was the public enquiry institute of which Connolly was the chief journalist and distinguished figures like Mr Justice Fergus Flood, the chairman. At the time Bertie Ahern said on television that no country, not America, not France could stand for such an outside agency supplying information to its public.

Ahern, conveniently overlooked the activities of Sky Television, CNN, The BBC and the Murdoch press when he said this but he subsequently took a job on losing office with the scummiest publication in the English language, The News of the World which Murdoch was forced to shut down and the Irish public never read the results of the story that Connolly and his team had been working on- an investigation of Ahern’s finances.

Given this background and the traditional Irish deference to the authority of both Christ and Caesar it is not surprising that the professionals have managed to keep the rich and the venial from appearing before the bar of justice. But given the disturbed, near mutinous state of Irish public opinion it is not unreasonable to speculate that unless the state acts to prosecute those responsible for the wheelchairs outside the Dáil the willingness of the Irish taxpayer to submit meekly to the horrors predicted for the next budget and those yet to come may be soon coming to an end. I certainly hope so.

“Michael Collins & the Bankers” Lecture at Glasnevin Museum

Tim Pat will give a lecture entitled ‘Michael Collins and the Bankers’ on 19 August in the Glasnevin Museum as part of the Glasnevin Trust lecture series. Tickets for the event cost €10. All monies raised will benefit the upkeep of the cemetery.

The lecture, which starts at 2.30pm, will consider what Ireland’s first Minister for Finance might have made of the present day banking crisis.

Within days of being appointed Minister for Finance in 1919, Michael Collins set about raising the funds necessary for Dail Eireann. Writer Frank O’Connnor said of him: “He was a born improvisator, and from the moment he was appointed … the Department of Finance began to function, within a few weeks his mighty Loan was under way and even today when we have forgotten or can no longer imagine the preposterous conditions under which the department worked – censorship, imprisonment, confiscation, murder – one is filled with respect for the variety and thoroughness of the work performed.”

Tim Pat to deliver Mac Lua Memorial Lecture – “Why Is No One In Jail?”

Tim Pat will kick off a series of debates on Ireland’s economic woes when he delivers the annual Mac Lua Memorial Lecture for Irish Writers’ Month in Hammersmith, London.

The event, with a Q&A to follow, will take place on Wednesday 6th June, 7pm.

» For full details go to

‘Griffith Would Have Jailed Them’ – lecture Wed 28 March

Tim Pat  will be making an address entitled ‘Griffith Would Have Jailed Them’ in Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff, on Wednesday 28 March at 8pm.

This will be the third annual Arthur Griffith Lecture.

» Read More