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How much control has media tycoon Rupert Murdoch exerted in Ireland?
This question is partially answered in this interview with a Dublin businessman, whose identity we safeguard so he can tell you….
“I attended the launch party of the Irish News Of The World in Dublin’s famous Shelbourne Hotel back in the 1990s. The Shelbourne being a fine old lady in St Stephen’s Green naturally attracted Irish business people, local celebs and a bucket load of business suits from News International to the launch. The NOW editor Phil Hall had flown over for the launch party. He became NOW editor in 1995 until 2000 when he was sacked by Rupert Murdoch for publishing a story on the writer, convicted criminal and Conservative politician Jeffrey Archer that Mr. Murdoch did not want published. Also I noticed, well everyone did, flame haired Rebekah Wade also sipping champagne and nibbling at canapés. She is now called Rebekah Brooks and until last week was chief executive of News International. News International reporters Paddy Clancy, John Moore and local freelance journalists also attended. The happiest group congregated around singer Finbar Furey who was regaling them with funny stories. The then Taoiseach John Bruton was to attend but did not make the party on the Shelbourne’s second floor. I was called into a side room with four NI / News Corps suits, with the most plumy-ist voices I ever came across. Phil Hall nor Rebekah Wade were called into that room, only the suits and myself. The suits stood nervously about, fidgeting, obviously on the edge of panic. The senior suit, a tallish, grey-haired man, held a mobile phone in his right hand. Mobiles were still a rarity in those days and Irish mobiles then looked more like lumps of turf than the slim ubiquitous communications tools of today. But his mobile was sleek, up market. He addressed me directly, stating they had a problem; the Irish prime minister had not turned up for the launch. John Bruton was Taoiseach from 1994 to 1997, leading a coalition of his Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Democratic Left Party; a government that was credited with turning Ireland’s economy around. The grey-haired suit asked me what other politicians were in attendance. I told them Mary Harney, leader of the small Progressive Democrats pro-business party was inside enjoying their hospitality and as I had walked to the inside room I had noticed Bertie Ahern walking up the stairs to the party. I had to explain to the NI / News Corp suits that Bertie Ahern had become leader of the opposition Fianna Fail Party (1994). Then we stood in silence until the mobile rang. The senior suit answered: “Hello, Rupert.” We could all clearly hear that commanding Australian voice ask how the launch of his new Irish version of the NOW was going. It sounded like he was on some jet, on some trans ocean or trans continental flight. The senior suit was very very nervous and he began to shake when Mr. Murdoch asked what the Irish premier had said. The senior suit explained: “Prime minister Bruton has sent his apologies. He cannot attend because of business of State.” There then followed a silence so thick that a hacksaw could not cut a way through it. Then came a sterner voiced Mr. Murdoch asking what politicians were present. The senior suit looked at me like a wee boy pleading for help before he peed in his pants. I again stated that Ms Harney and Bertie Ahern were present and explained who they were. The senior suit replayed, as I spoke, repeating word for word into the mobile. Again there was a silence before Mr. Murdoch said this Bertie Ahern will be the next premier of Ireland. The suits all nodded in agreement as if taking an order from God on high. The three to four minute mobile call ended and we all trooped back to the party which ended that night, still downing champagne, in Dublin’s most exclusive night club, Lillie’s Bordello. But at that moment I never attached a significance to the mobile call but as history unfolded Bertie Ahern within a short time became ‘premier’ of Ireland, and some could say it was in no small thanks to NI newspapers (the Irish Sun, Irish News Of The World, Sunday Times, The Times and of course Sky) backing Fianna Fail in the 1997 general election. Bertie Ahern became not just ‘premier’ of the Republic of Ireland but subsequently also became a columnist with the News of the World and his youngest daughter landed a book deal that propelled her into international fame and onto the best-seller lists. I never released the import of that mobile call. Thanks to Mr. Murdoch, Bertie Ahern became ‘premier’ of Ireland and went on to bankrupt the country. I wish I never had walked into that room.”