Trinity Student Witch Hunted by Fianna Fáil
Sunday November 02, 2003 15:35 by Alex Bryant
FF rocked by scandal
Fianna Fáil once again has shown its preference for secrecy and lawbreaking in an internal investigation.
Ogra Fianna Fail has been rocked by the shock resignation of National Youth Policy Co-ordinator John McGuirk, a SF Bess student here in Trinity. McGuirk’s resignation was handed in on October 4th, following in the wake of claims from Fianna Fail headquarters that he had leaked information of a highly sensitive nature to members of the national press - information that he became privy to having signed the State Secrets Act during the course of his summer work in the Civil Service. McGuirk, who has maintained his innocence throughout the affair, has a long history in the youth branches of Fianna Fail, having sat on numerous national and European youth committees.
Bertie's government presently has a severe problem with party members leaking sensitive information to the media, whether these leaks are backbenchers, senior TDs, or young leaders of Ogra Fianna Fail. This summer, an email account under the name of firstname.lastname@example.org was established by a senior member of Ogra Fianna Fail, from which information was being sent to 'The Phoenix', a journal of political commentary. This information, while being emailed to 'The Phoenix', was simultaneously being blank carbon-copied to Ogra National Committee members - in this way, certain members of committee received the 'FF insider' emails while at the same time remaining unaware of which others of their fellow committee members had or had not received them, thus protecting the identity of the actual 'FF insider'. These emails became increasingly more vindictive and explicit, revealing at one point the story of a senior Youth Committee member who had allegedly racially taunted and insulted an elderly Romanian lady – this senior member of Ogra Fianna Fail happened to be a candidate for local elections in Co. Clare at the time, and was given a number of days by ‘FF insider’ in which to resign, unless he wished the ‘Clare Champion’ to be informed of the malicious incident. At this stage, relations within the Fianna Fail National Youth Committee had reached such a head that the party headquarters saw fit to freeze all activities being carried out by the Committee and to suspend their meetings – according to McGuirk, “anything that Ogra Fianna Fail may have hoped to achieve was put in jeopardy by these leaks”.
However, it was, of course, McGuirk himself who was suspected of being the now notorious ‘FF insider’. On Tuesday October 7th McGuirk was called in to Fianna Fail headquarters and made aware of the allegations against him – he states that he was “shocked and appalled – I haven’t been allowed to present a defence. Fianna Fail ignored the fact that on several occasions when ‘FF insider’ emails were sent from IP addresses in Dublin, I can conclusively prove that I was, in fact, in Co. Monaghan”. It seems that the party’s main aim in dealing with the leaks crisis was to quickly pin it on one person who may, among many others, have had access to the particularly sensitive information that was leaked over the summer (this information is so highly accusatory as to be rendered unprintable for fear of a libel case), while quietly ignoring critical evidence that would suggest his innocence.
There is quite an amount of evidence to suggest that somebody high up in the party wished to pin the name of ‘FF insider’ on McGuirk – while attempting to put together a case for his defence, a friend assisting him with his IT discovered that his Ogra email account was actually being ‘bugged’ by Fianna Fail. On examination, McGuirk realised that all of his emails sent to this account, both party-related and personal, were being forwarded on to a Mr. Brian Alexander, head of IT in Fianna Fail. Not only were emails being ‘bugged’, but McGuirk also claims that after his implication, Fianna Fail began to completely block all emails, whether personal or otherwise, being sent to this account – “There are emails of mine that I’ve never read, and they are in Fianna Fail headquarters in the possession of Alexander”. A spokesman in the Ogra Fianna Fail press office denied all knowledge of McGuirk’s claims, stating that he couldn’t comment as he “knew nothing about it”. An investigation was promised – however, at time of going to press, Fianna Fail had failed to get back in touch with me as promised.
The entire Fianna Fail Ogra leaks scandal has been one botched job after another. The implication of McGuirk, a second year here on campus, in the writing of ‘FF insider’ emails that were regularly sent from IP addresses located hundreds of miles from where he was based at that time, has a strong scent of the ludicrous about it. It cannot be denied that Ireland’s largest political party at this time has a very serious problem with leaks to the national press – it seems that shadowy figures high up in Ogra wished to close the ‘FF insider’ affair as quickly as possible, hopefully scaring any other potential young leaks into submission in the process. McGuirk, who has always vehemently protested his innocence, resigned from his position as National Youth Policy Co-ordinator two days after he was implicated, stating that “there is no way I can prove my innocence until someone else is found guilty”. Hopefully his fellow TCD Ogra cumann members will stand by him, however the reaction of various National Youth Committee members whom he “once considered as very good friends” does not bode well, reinforcing the adage that in politics, even at student level, there are no friends – merely political allies.