by Irvin Muchnick
It’s as good a time as any to point out, and unpopularly, that the hyped new BBC Sounds podcast Where Is George Gibney? has yet to bring itself to share with listeners the root structural corruption behind what is vaguely and passively called his “vanishing” from justice for 26 years.
That core element is the composition of the officers of the court who came up with the convoluted — and now largely walked back — legal reasoning that the two-time Irish Olympic swimming coach, charged with 27 counts of sexual assault of underage victims, could not receive a fair trial due to the passage of time.
The Irish Supreme Court panel who concocted this 1994 ruling included Justice Susan Denham, later the chief justice.
And the barrister who had argued Gibney’s case before the court? Why, that would be Patrick Gageby — Denham’s brother.
Today, thanks to the podcast by Mark Horgan and Second Captains, news consumers can access interviews of Gibney survivors, always disclaimed upfront with alerts that children and those with weak stomachs should consider donning earmuffs to protect against the strong “adult” language and situations. Additionally, we are privileged with exclusive rambling tease passages about stalking a septuagenarian in a Florida suburb and unnerving the neighbors.
But mumbling a word about the institutional cronyism that has fueled and sustained sexual abuse by powerful figures in Ireland since time immemorial, and remains unchecked and unaccounted for?
Nooo. Can’t have that.
Only one Irish news outlet has clued in the denizens of the Emerald Isle as to the provenance of the Gibney outrage. That is the alternative site Broadsheet.ie, which ranks considerably higher on the food chain than Concussion Inc. but considerably lower than the BBC and the Irish Times. Those of you imbibing the podcast series might want to take a break to browse “The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away,” April 29, 2016, https://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/04/29/the-chief-justice-her-brother-and-how-george-gibney-got-away/.
For my own 2019 ebook, repurposing and bulleting my now nearly six-year-long investigation of Gibney’s flight to America, accompanied by a report on the two-continent campaign to do something about it, I educated myself on Ireland’s unique brand of self-censorship. The explanation given to me was that the country’s legal system simply doesn’t support what an outsider would call unfiltered investigative journalism.
Maybe even that formulation is too cagey, using verbiage that tracks the syndrome itself. The way I put it is that, in basic ways, the Irish just don’t permit themselves to tell it like it is. Their news media not only are expected to modulate controversial conclusions; they also are prohibited from publishing fundamental facts and letting others arrive at their own conclusions.
One Irish journalist contact told me this:
“I can’t recall any publication airing the apparent conflict of interest in this case [Denham-Gageby]. I did bring it up with editors in the past and it was too sensitive an issue to run with. The point is a lot of people knew about it so what were we going to say? Obviously the answer to that is there was a conflict of interest.
But Irish law is not the same as in the USA. We have for example no First Amendment. If there was any imputation of wrongdoing on the part of a Supreme Court judge there would have been legal consequences. I did bring it up but it didn’t get past the door.
I have in recent months looked at it again and spoke to a number of legal eagles including a spokesman for the Bar Council. They agree that because of the size of the small population of Irish lawyers in the business, the collegiate nature of the law and the family connections, it was not that unusual. Gageby was regularly in the Supreme Court and the belief among legal people is that they are all above it.
I believe it is an staggeringly arrogant position to take and have trouble believing that there is no conflict of interest.
That said, yes it’s difficult to get anyone to run with it.”
Another emailed me:
“It would have been defamatory in Irish law to imply that there might have been any influence exerted by the sibling relationship between the judge and the senior counsel. It is arguable that lawyers for an accused person must have equal access to the courts. Defamation law here has been slightly relaxed [in recent years]…. Ireland’s defamation laws are draconian and censorious.”
The Irish media problem is part of the Irish cultural problem in confronting the Gibney legacy. I’ll be continuing to follow and report on it.