A Declaration Of Interest
Some time in 1985 or 1986 I was editor and chief executive of the Sunday Tribune. The newspaper had gone through difficult times and a substantial debt was owed to the Revenue Commissioners. We managed to raise additional finance but needed the agreement of the Revenue Commissioners to phase in payments to them. Although we had made such arrangements previously with the Revenue Commissioners and had adhered to them, on this occasion we could not even get a meeting with them.
I contacted the then Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, and asked him to arrange a meeting. He contacted the then Minister for Finance, Alan Dukes, who in turn contacted the then Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Séamus Paircéir, and a meeting with Mr Paircéir was arranged.
I attended the meeting at Dublin Castle, along with the then financial director of the Sunday Tribune, Martin Dobey. The meeting seemed to be going well. Mr Paircéir told us he read the newspaper every Sunday, liked it a lot. Then he said, "I am going to miss it". He explained advertisements had been placed in the national daily newspapers for the following morning, advertising the winding up of the Tribune company and, he assumed, that would be that.
I asked if he would agree to withdraw the advertisements. He said there was nothing he could do. I said if I secured the withdrawal of the advertisements from the newspapers would he go along with it in return for an agreement on our part to repay the full amount owing, plus interest and penalties and do so over a stated period of months. He said that would be acceptable to him for, obviously it was in the Revenue's interest to get paid in full and to keep enterprises going, but the withdrawal of the advertisements was impossible. I asked him to allow me to try to have them withdrawn. He agreed.
I returned to the Tribune office and from there telephoned the advertising managers of all the morning newspapers. I said the Revenue Commissioners were agreeable to having the advertisement withdrawn (I told them how they could check this), asked them to withdraw the advertisement and not to inform their editorial departments of what was happening – news that we were in such extremis in itself probably would have scuppered us at the time. They all agreed and none of them informed their newsrooms. The advertisement was withdrawn. We survived and we paid the debt in full, plus interest and penalties and did so in advance of the agreed time frame.
For the record: I did not subsequently employ Seamus Paircéir as a tax adviser or in any capacity. I did not give any money to Garret FitzGerald or to Alan Dukes then, subsequently or beforehand.