Monday, May 15, 2023

By Cillian Sherlock, PA

Entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave has accused Tánaiste Micheál Martin of making attacks and insinuations against his reputation.

Mr Cosgrave was appearing on RTÉ’s This Week radio programme to discuss his complaint over comments made by Mr Martin under Dáil privilege which has been referred to the Committee on Parliamentary Procedures and Oversight.

Mr Martin had criticised Mr Cosgrave, who is chief executive of Web Summit, during Leaders’ Questions on April 27th over a junior minister’s role in the sale of council land in 2008.

Web Summit is providing €1 million over five years to the news website The Ditch, which first reported that minister Niall Collins attended a meeting of an area committee where the sale of council land that was ultimately purchased by his wife was proposed.

Among other comments, Mr Martin said the website is a “political organisation attacking Government” and that Mr Cosgrave is a “political opponent”.

Mr Cosgrave said it is “highly inappropriate for any politician to use Dáil privilege to attack a citizen”.

Micheal Martin
Tánaiste Micheal Martin used parliamentary privilege to make the comments (PA)

He said it was an attempt to distract from the story about Mr Collins.

“Micheál Martin was given free rein for quite a prolonged period of time to make attacks and insinuations on my reputation,” Mr Cosgrave said.

He also said he has suffered reputational damage from references to Russia in Mr Martin’s comments.

“I’m being accused of being part of some sort of Russian conspiracy to destabilise Ireland, which I think is slightly ridiculous.”

He said he was responsible for the first visa waiver for a Ukrainian refugee into Ireland, and that Web Summit had banned all Russian companies from participating.

“I think that I have done more than almost any other business person in this country for Ukraine,” Mr Cosgrave said.

“I am probably the only outspoken Irish businessperson for more than half-a-decade about what I see is the misuse of the IFSC (International Financial Services Centre) as a conduit for dark Russian money.”

Asked about Mr Martin’s comments in relation to the independence of The Ditch website from Mr Cosgrave, he described the Tánaiste as “weaselly” and a “slippery politician”.


Mr Cosgrave said: “I have an intense interest in media and the future of media and in supporting what I think is good journalism.

“I think the journalism that The Ditch has done is quite incredible.”

He also said his funding of The Ditch is “incredibly effective brand marketing for Web Summit”.

He added: “We run an event that brings together people that are trying to disrupt in different ways the existing status quo in the world, and I think the type of journalism that The Ditch does is perfectly aligned with the overall brand of Web Summit.”

He said Web Summit has also provided funding to investigation platform Noteworthy, and he has offered funding to business news website The Currency.

Mr Cosgrave said he “absolutely” wants a change of Government.

Asked about Mr Martin’s characterisation of him as a “political opponent”, he said: “I think every citizen has a right to political opinions.”

Paddy Cosgrave
Paddy Cosgrave is founder of Web Summit (PA)

He said Mr Martin should not use parliamentary privilege to make such charges if they are not also made outside of the Dáil.

“I take issue with it being eluded or insinuated that I’m somehow involved in some Russian-backed attempt to destabilise Ireland or the Irish Government.”

Describing himself as “one of the wealthiest people” in Ireland, Mr Cosgrave said he is the “overwhelming beneficiary” of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policies that allow him to enjoy “incredibly unusual tax privileges in this country”.

He added: “But I think their policies are pernicious and destructive to the interests of most people.

“So for my total self-interest, I shouldn’t want Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to change.

“But deep down I know that how they operate, I think, is wrong and not to the benefit to the majority of people in this country.

“I think doing something about that funding, good investigative journalism that exposes some of that wrongdoing, I think that’s a reasonable and good thing for Web Summit to engage in.”

Asked about a tweet he wrote which was also referenced by Mr Martin, Mr Cosgrave said his use of the term “body bag” was not a call for murder and was instead “rap slang” for using words to expose someone.

On the subject of disinformation, Mr Cosgrave said he stood by a tweet which he had previously deleted and apologised for.

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