Barnaby Grudge: My experiences with Mr Joyce

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Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan in Mount Isa in 2016 with LNP federal election candidate Jonathan Pavetto (centre).

The events in Canberra in the past few days have been extraordinary even by the febrile standards of Australian politics. The sight of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister at public loggerheads bodes ill for both men, and is likely the end of the current Coalition and an early election – unless both leaders go. Maybe that prospect is what is driving Barnaby Joyce on as he excoriated Malcolm Turnbull for his “overreaction” to Barnaby’s own issues, leaving his wife for a pregnant mistress, while finding a comfortable job for the latter with another Minister, Matt Canavan.

Barnaby needs the salary of Deputy Prime Minister to feed his two families but even he surely knows his press conference on Friday pushed matters past the point of no return. Maybe his strategy is to take Malcolm Turnbull down with him. If so, the Twitter memes showing Labor leaders Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek trying to keep the smiles off their faces might rebound as a reborn Coalition under Julie Bishop and Darren Chester manage to look electable again.

But who knows, Barnaby always had the reputation of the maverick, however oversold. Since his election to the Senate in 2004 he crossed the floor 28 times but only three times for legislation and all three times his crossing made no difference – the bill passed each time. But what it did for Barnaby was to add to his growing reputation as an independent voice, and a voice that was heard regularly in the media. They laughed at this Queensland bumpkin who occasionally mangled his sentences Joh-style. But like Joh, Barnaby was a good “retail politician”, the journalists said sagely.

He was always Barnaby. A moniker out of Dickens barely needed a surname but “joy” was hardly it. He was a grumpy bugger. I knew him when he was a senator based in St George, already then an ex-maverick who was more disciplined as he settled in the heir apparent role to then invisible leader Warren Truss. Barnaby had a national focus so wasn’t often available for local interviews but he was a fearsome presence. And when he wasn’t around he was ably represented by his chief of staff Matt Canavan. Canavan was young but a whipsmart operator with an ability to speak matching his boss – and without the mangling.

I had a mostly hands-off relationship when I was editor of the Western Star in Roma. Roma was the territory of Barnaby’s “frenemy”, Bruce Scott, the fellow-LNP federal member for Maranoa. Scott was in his late 60s and in parliament since 1990. A decent and popular man and a former Veterans Affairs minister under John Howard, most people felt Scott’s best days were behind him.

In an editorial in 2011 I advised Scott to retire so Mr Joyce, or rather Barnaby, could run in the lower house. In this I was following the call from the local mayor and others who saw the longer-term ramifications. Barnaby was the favourite to replace Truss as party leader but convention demanded he be in the lower house and Maranoa, with its huge LNP majority, was the obvious seat. With an election due in 2013 that the LNP was likely to win as the Labor government imploded, it was important the matter was sorted quickly.

I spent the first four lines of the editorial outlining my concerns of Barnaby’s shoot from the hip personality but had to conclude it was time for Scott to stand aside we could have a future potential deputy PM representing our seat. I never heard from Barnaby whether he saw the article or not, but Scott did. When I finally got to speak with him afterwards and asked him what he thought of my editorial, he said “well, I liked the first four lines.”

It didn’t matter. Scott ignored my editorial and did not retire before the 2013 election. Barnaby was forced to move to New England in NSW, where he originally came from. There he comfortably beat Tony Windsor who paid the price of his support for Labor, among his largely National following (Windsor was an ex-National before going independent.) Joyce was subsequently elected deputy leader of the party and Minister for Agriculture in the incoming Abbott government.

His offsider Matt Canavan soon joined him in parliament. Canavan did not inherit Barnaby’s senate seat – that was Barry O’Sullivan, but he was comfortably elected as the third LNP name on the 2013 Senate ticket so on 1 July 2014 he took his seat on the red benches.  Like Barnaby, Canavan kept himself in the public eye by commenting on most issues of the day.  He was rewarded when Malcolm Turnbull unseated Abbott and Canavan was named minister for Northern Australia, after barely a year in parliament.

Truss resigned before the 2016 election and Barnaby was elected party leader and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Canavan took continued his upward trajectory taking a seat in cabinet. It was ironic that both were caught up in the citizenship saga with Canavan winning in court and Barnaby later at a by-election.

I have met Canavan in Mount Isa a few times since election to the ministry. I disagree with him on coal and on most of his social issues, but I respect him as an intelligent and honest performer. Barnaby I was never so sure of. I did meet him once again when he accompanied Canavan on one of his visits to Mount Isa. It was the 2016 federal election in 2016 and they were here to support the LNP candidate Jonathan Pavetto (who ultimately lost comfortably to Bob Katter). The trio doorstopped an announcement of $5 million worth of road improvements to Mount Isa from the NAIF. The choice of the side of the Barkly highway was appropriate but noisy and several times the conference had to be halted when a b-double trundled by.  I was keen to talk to the deputy PM and captured the entire 25 minute interview on Facebook Live for the North West Star. Looking back on it now, I see Barnaby said some things that are poignant on reflection.

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The interview began in straightforward fashion as Barnaby justified the $5 million as looking after people in “regional areas”. The low production quality of the video was shown with my finger appearing over the edge of the camera in the early stages but it didn’t matter. Barnaby was keen to fill the frame as the big picture man and Canavan filled in on the details.

They made the announcement and the ABC asked questions about it. At about 7mins I asked my first question about what the government was doing to address youth unemployment, with one in three young people out of a job in the outback. “I’m glad you asked that,” said Barnaby quickly, an answer I realised he would always use for a hard question.  He was quick to point to the money they were spending and rambled into fair trade, tourism, and back to their spending. Then he spoke about how the Labor-Greens were preventing dredging at Karumba Port.

I interjected. “Isn’t the real problem Karumba Century Mine has closed and its owners used to pay for that dredging?” I said.

Barnaby quickly turned it round to agriculture and asked that if he had “a government with vision in Brisbane” they would finance it to encourage the live export trade. When I asked him what he was doing to support Mount Isa’s industry, he passed it to Canavan who batted it away effortlessly. I swung back to Barnaby and asked what he said to local income earners doing it tough when he was giving out big tax cuts to high earners. Almost angrily Barnaby said if you don’t have small business “in the tax brackets where they can employ people, you don’t have jobs going”. He quickly went back to the laundry list, live trade, tax breaks, the works.

But he was more flippant when I asked him why we were suffering a nine week election campaign in 2016 “two months you are campaigning when you should be governing.”

“Alignment of the stars,” he said jokingly, at first. There was an uncomfortable silence and you could almost see the alarm in Canavan’s eyes. Barnaby quickly realised this was a bad answer and starting to squirm his way out on technical grounds over the need to have the election post July 1.

I interrupted him. “But surely you can understand -”

“…the anger of the people” is what I wanted to say next, but he interrupted me in return.

“- It had be approved after the first of July to get that three year term. I understand, believe you me I understand.” It was all about “getting on with the job”.

Getting no satisfaction there I brought up the fact the Nationals and Liberals were one party in Queensland but were in three-cornered contests with Libs and Labor in other states. He dismissed the question, “They are separate parties,” he said. I asked what did that mean and he started talking about “an open seat” when I interrupted him again.

“Have they got separate agendas?” I asked. I waved me off about the need for both parties to campaign and said he was happy to talk about Damien Drum and his other candidates in those contests because “they were doing a great job”. Still unhappy I said “what’s the difference between the Liberal and the National candidate, have they got different agendas?”

“You’ll have to talk to the other candidates,” Barnaby replied.

“I’m glad you asked me about Damien Drum” he pressed on (he had mentioned Drum, not me) and proceeded to tell me how good a candidate he was.

Still unhappy I interrupted again. (This is the best part of the video – exactly 16 minutes in.)

“Barnaby what are you, a Liberal or a National?”

“A National,” he replied.

“But you are called Liberal National Party in Queensland.”

“No, no, I’m a National, called a National.”

“I’m Barnaby, called Barnaby, I’m Joyce called Joyce, I’m a national called a national.”

Barnaby, called Barnaby, ploughed on saying the party was called the CLP in the Northern Territory and in New South Wales where he was it was the Nationals and then there was “poor Tasmania” which didn’t have a National Party at all.

It was at this point my colleagues from the ABC lost patience with the way the interview was going and wanted Barnaby to talk about the announcement again. Which he was more than happy to do.

He ranted for another five to eight minutes batting off an ABC question about the dairy industry recovery loan system, “we’re looking after Australians first”.

He lost his train of thought talking about citizenship and he smiled as he remembered his Dad was a Kiwi, “I was always a bit suspect of him,” he laughed. (This was a good 12 months before his dad’s birthplace would come back to haunt him).

Then ABC mentioned Johnny Depp’s “inbred tomato” comment and sheepishly asked him did he have any tomatoes in his family.

“He would know, very wise man,” Barnaby retorted.

“I’m very happy with the family I’ve got.”

No one had any idea how those words would sound in 2018 but prim and proper “serious journalist” me interrupted again.

“On a more serious note”, I said sniffily, “the Internet is appalling in our region. The NBN is a ‘poor man’s NBN’, how was the government going to rectify this?”

Barnaby retorted in vague specifics. There was  “1000 megabits” there were people “happy with the 25 megabit package, at Fibre to the Node we are getting 100 Megabits down I think and 40 megabits up, with cable we are getting 100 Megabits down and 40 megabits up, with wireless we are getting 50 down and 25 to 20 up and with satellite that’s 25 down and 5 up.”

He said Netflix used 5 down “which goes to show you how powerful what you deliver back up”. He said their concern was cutting the cost and Labor were never going to implement a full FTTP, not out in the bush anyway, and it would have taken and extra six to eight years to implement and they were winding it back. Again he reiterated most people wanted 25 down and FTTN can provide that.

He finished with a flourish they (the government) were “not a suggestion box, not a complaints box” but were out there “fighting and delivering”. Thank you, he said, and walked away from the cameras, taking no further questions.

Senator Matt Canavan rushed in to have the last word saying the Turnbull government had opened more slots on the sattelite by buying more bandwidth.

The interview petered out and looking back on the comments on the video, I saw I copped some criticism from my live audience for interrupting. “Calm down, Derek” said one viewer.

But I couldn’t calm down. Here was the deputy prime minister in town and talking twaddle. I was angry and determined not let him get away with that. That’s what journalists do.

The sad thing was I neglected most of the content in that interview. In the rush to get stories out I missed out reporting on most of the issues and Barnaby escaped to his next assignment. I never replayed the video in full again until this week.

In the last few days I’ve been editorialising again about Barnaby and my opinion gone full swing from 2011. “Barnaby Joyce must resign“, I said, for once giving him his full name. The master bullshitter has been caught out once too often and unlike what he told me in 2016 it turns out he wasn’t happy with his family after all.  It is the probity side of the scandal that bothers me not the sex, and to that end Canavan is not smelling of roses either. But he survive, though his former boss is toast.

It’s time for Barnaby to go. But I will say this much for him. At least he has had the balls to come to Mount Isa and answer my questions. The gutless wonder Malcolm Turnbull has steered well clear. It’s a shame he will likely be out of a job before he gets here. I would have liked the opportunity to ask him questions too.

 

 

 

 

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Nearby Waterford

Being in Waterford for Christmas is fun but not the best time of year for outdoor activities. But the weather was occasionally pleasant enough to get out of town for social activities. They included this run in Tramore on New Year’s Eve. I’m in it, somewhere among the runners hurtling down Tramore’s long beach on the the North Atlantic coast 10km outside Waterford.  Tramore comes from the Irish Trá Mhór, “big strand” and it felt big enough when you have to run all the way down to the pebbly beach to the end at Saleens, then around the back of the sandhills and home via the back strand. The race used to have the colourful name of the Baldy Man for one of the sandhills which bore resemblance to the pilgarlic in question. The name was changed this year for reasons unclear but it still was an attractive course. The weather was good too. It proved tough but I was happy to do the 8km course in just under 43 minutes.

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The race starts from the Promenade and in summer this area is packed with visitors. It’s not so busy on December 31 even with the attraction of the Baldy Man. The view of Tramore is dominated by the two churches on the hill, the smaller Church of Ireland on the extreme left and the bigger Gothic revival Catholic Church of the Holy Cross centre-right. The Building News said of the church in 1861, “standing as it does on the highest ground in Tramore, is naturally a remarkable object for miles along the east coast of Ireland, and attracts a great deal of attention. On the 14th of September, 1857, the Bishop of Waterford laid the foundation-stone of the new edifice, and the works having been steadily and carefully proceeded with, in July last the church was opened for divine service.”

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The view over the Metal Man, Newtown Cove and the Guillamenes to the west of Tramore Bay. The Metal Man statue and his two sentries are older than the church, dating to 1823, thanks to Lloyds of London. On a stormy night the hazardous Tramore Bay can look deceptively like the nearby safer Waterford Harbour, as many ships found to their cost. In January 1816 three ships were caught in a gale off these waters. The Sea Horse was in a convoy was carrying members of the 2nd Battalion of the 59th Regiment of Foot and their families from Ramsgate home to Cork at the end of the Napoleonic War. The two other ships, Boadicea and Lord Melville carried the rest of the battalion and members of the 82nd Regiment of Foot.  The weather had deteriorated as they approached Ireland and at the Sea Horse’s mate, John Sullivan, the only officer familiar with the south Irish coast fell from the foremast and died. Captain Gibbs could not locate the Kinsale lights and attempted to reach Waterford harbour, but the ship ran aground in Tramore Bay. Only 30 men, including the captain and two seamen, survived from the 394 people on board. The other two ships also foundered near Cork with great loss of life. As a result of the tragedy Lloyds installed the Metal Man and two towers across the bay on Brownstown Head as a warning for shipping to stay out.

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Some shipping still managed to ignore the warning and I remember trips to Tramore in my teens to look at the rusting wreck of the MV Michael which ran aground in 1975. The wreck has long since been removed and these days Tramore has a reputation for surfing and windsurfing and kiting, as well as other watery sports. In this photo the low New Year’s Eve sun in the southern sky blazes over over Brownstown Head and a solo windsurfer.

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On the other side of Brownstown Head is Dunmore East and the real entrance to Waterford Harbour.  It’s a beautiful town, with many resemblances to Brittany.  It is full of smuggler’s coves, dangerous cliffs, and thatched cottages and is a haven for seabirds. Dunmore East is in the barony of Gaultier, which means “foreigner’s land”. In this case the foreigners were Danes or Ostmen (Norse Gaels) expelled by the English from the city of Waterford in 11th century ethnic cleansing.

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Dunmore East is also one of Ireland’s most important fishing ports serving the Celtic Sea. There is a home fleet of five vessels and 30 half-deckers catching crab, lobster and shrimp as well as mackerel. Boats from other ports such as Cork, Greencastle, Kilmore Quay and Castletownbere also use Dunmore East as do French vessels. The harbour is crowded during the autumn herring and spring fishing seasons, and also busy during the summer when the harbour is visited by many leisure craft, and increasingly cruise ships, which hover off shore in the warmer months.

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In 1814 the Post Office chose Dunmore to be the Irish terminal of a new Mail Packet route from Milford Haven. Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo designed and built the new harbour using local old red sandstone. His design included a magnificent lighthouse which took the form of a fluted Doric column with the lantern on top of the capital. The lighthouse was operational by 1825 though an early report said the keeper and his family were living in remote lodgings as the accommodation at the lighthouse was not habitable due to dampness. The Milford mail service ran to 1835 when it was moved to Waterford. Initially run on oil lamps, the lighthouse was converted to acetylene in 1922 and finally electricity in 1964.

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This beach is Councillor’s Strand, a safe and popular beach in summer, but it disappears entirely at high tide. The view from the beach shows the other lighthouse at the entry to Waterford harbour, Hook Head in Co Wexford. Much bigger than Dunmore’s it is usually easily visible from across the harbour.

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To get to Hook Head via the Suir bridge at Waterford and the Barrow bridge at New Ross would be a journey of 100km. But it is made much shorter by the car ferry 14km up the harbour from Dunmore at the appropriately named “Passage”. Passage East is its proper name to distinguish it from Passage West in Cork, though few in Waterford think that distinction important. Passage is near St John the Baptist church at Crooke, which may or may not have inspired Cromwell to say he planned to conquer Waterford in 1649 “by Hook or by Crook” indicating he was willing to attack either via county Wexford or Waterford. Also nearby is Geneva Barracks, built to house a colony of Swiss Huguenot artisans and when that didn’t happen it housed the British military who played an important role in defeating the 1798 rebellion across the river in Wexford.

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The car ferry takes only a few minutes to get to Ballyhack on the Wexford side. My late grand-aunt had a lexicon of bizarre non sequiturs she used on occasion. One famous one was “Ballyhack Dirty Butter” which she would exclaim apropos of nothing. It seems there was always something unsavoury attached to the name of Ballyhack in the popular imagination of the surrounding district; and Ballyhack ” dirty butter ” was a derisive epithet often used against those who came from the village. I can’t comment on the quality of the butter, but Ballyhack has a 15th-century Norman castle which belonged to the Knights Hospitallers and a nice pub to wait for the ferry.

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We didn’t hang around in Ballyhack or nearby Arthurstown along the river (where you can see how far you are from your ferry when returning). We went to Duncannon Beach where we looked back across the harbour to Woodstown beach and Creadan Head – the most easterly point in Waterford – just upstream of Dunmore. Duncannon was strategically vital as its fort commanded the bay and was centrally involved in wars and sieges during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1652), the fort at Duncannon was occupied by English soldiers and used as a base for an attack on nearby Redmond Hall.

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Redmond Hall was our next stop, now known as Loftus Hall. Raymond (or Redmond) FitzGerald nicknamed Le Gros (“the Fat”), was a Cambro-Norman commander during the Norman invasion of Ireland, and Strongbow’s second-in-command. He built the first house here in 1170. A second castle was built in 1350 which was attacked in the Confederate Wars in 1642 by English soldiers loyal to Charles I. Irish Confederates routed the English but Duncannon forces attacked the hall defended by 68-year-old Alexander Redmond, his sons and workers. The attackers were delayed by fog and Irish Confederates returned to save the day. The Redmonds were eventually evicted in Cromwell’s invasion in 1650 and ownership passed to the Loftus family of English planters. In 1666 Charles Tottenham came look after the mansion with his wife and daughter Anne while the Loftuses were away on business. During a storm, a ship arrived at Hook. A young man came to the mansion and became romantically entangled with Anne. One night, the family and mystery man were playing cards. The man dealt each three cards apart from Anne who he only dealt two. Anne bent down to pick a card from the floor which she thought she dropped. When she looked under the table the man had a cloven foot. She challenged him and he went up through the roof, leaving behind a large hole in the ceiling. Anne became mentally ill and was locked away until she died in 1675.  Her ghost still haunts the building.

Meanwhile the Redmonds disputed the claim of the Loftus family in court without success but in 1864 were compensated with lands at Ballaghkeene, Co Wexford. They became a wealthy banking family whose most famous member was Irish Political Party leader John Redmond.

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Hook Lighthouse is a few kilometres south of Loftus Hall at the end of Hook Head. It is “the great granddaddy of lighthouses” and the second oldest working lighthouse in the world after the Roman-era Tower of Hercules at La Coruna in northern Spain. Hook Lighthouse dates from the 12th century, though tradition says the missionary Dubhán established a beacon there in the fifth century.  In Irish the headland is Rinn Dubháin (St Dubhán’s Head) but the Irish word ‘duán’ also means a fish hook, hence the English name. Strongbow’s son-in-law William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, built the tower to safeguard his upstream port of New Ross. The first lighthouse keepers were monks who lit warning fires and beacons to warn sailors of the dangerous rocks on the peninsula. The limestone tower is four stories high with walls 4m thick and a stairway of 115 steps. In the 17th century lighthouse keepers replaced the monks. They used coal burning lanterns, then whale oil, then paraffin oil and finally electricity in 1972. Hook became automatic in 1996 and opened as a tourist attraction five years later.

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The car ferry to Hook is not the only boat crossing over Waterford harbour. The second is further upstream on the Suir after it split from the other two Sisters. It links Waterford with Little Island (or simply The Island) using the ferry Mary Fitzgerald which used to ply the Passage-Ballyhack route. The Island divides the Suir into two channels, with shipping taking the main shorter channel to the north. The free ferry is on the longer Kings Channel detour that shapes the island into a rough heart.

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Pride of place on The Island is Waterford Castle. The island was home of a monastic settlement but was given to the Fitzgerald family for their role in the Norman invasion of Waterford in 1170. In 1865 descendant Gerald Purcell-Fitzgerald commissioned architect Romayne Walker to give the old run-down building a new Gothic-style facade using unrefined rubble stone in great Irish style. In 1980 developers bought the building and turned into a hotel.

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The 19-bedroom luxury hotel is for guests only, but Little Island has its own rewards for other visitors with a lovely hour-long walk looping around the island with great views of the Castle and the Suir from many angles. It also has important sloblands for bird habitats. This photo is of the eastern end of the Kings Channel looking downstream to the 150m Minaun Hill near Cheekpoint where the Three Sisters meet.

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Out and about in Waterford

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Waterford’s history was predicated on its position in the south-east of the island and its proximity to the sea and to Britain. Like Dublin and Limerick it was one of many Irish ports founded by the Vikings who saw similarities between the great entrance of Waterford Harbour and the fjords of their own coastline. About 20km upstream they founded a port at what the Irish called Port Láirge (Lárac is an Irish word meaning limb or thigh). The Vikings gave it an old Norse name Veðrafjǫrðr (Vedrafjordr) meaning windy fjord or ram-fjord.

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Waterford is situated mostly on the south bank of the river Suir. You get a good view of the river as you arrive by train. The station is one of the few places on the northern side of the river in Co Waterford, along with Ferrybank to the east and Sallypark to the west. The Port of Waterford further downstream and even Waterford Golf Club high above Mount Misery which guards the station are both in Co Kilkenny. The cliffs across the river with the power lines are at Bilberry, the original home of the Bilberry goat, a species now close to extinction. Downstream of the cliffs is the beginning of the Quay, the mile-long river front main street. Waterford may mostly be south of the Suir but it could never be accused of turning its back on the river.

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The Suir is one of the three sisters, and when it joins the Nore and the Barrow downstream they empty out into Waterford Harbour.  The river is tidal past Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford’s prominent position made it an attractive proposition for invaders through the centuries. The Viking Age in Ireland lasted from the first recorded raids in 795 until the Angevin English invasion of 1171. During this period the major Irish ports were formed which brought Ireland into closer contact with Viking colonies across Europe. Waterford Vikings used the port to launch attacks on other parts of Ireland but the upheaval hampered trade and Waterford transformed from a “parasitic entrepôt” into part of a supply-network dependent on inland trade, raw materials and exotic imported goods.

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I’m back in Waterford for Christmas and Winterval has just ended, a Christmas festival complete with its own Waterford Eye ferris wheel on the Quay.  It certainly adds a bit of colour to what was once “the most noblest quay in Europe” now looking a little drab, especially since the port moved downstream. The bus station just under the Eye is particularly soulless. I’m hearing there are plans to house the bus and rail station together further downstream with access via a footbridge and I hope this comes to pass.

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Just back from the Quay is a now pedestrianised Bailey’s New St. It used to be famous for the front of the Back O’ the Munster (which if you walk through becomes the Munster Bar opening out on the Mall) but now has an amazing 23-metre long tree carved into a sword which landed there only days before I arrived. Carved by local men John Hayes and James Doyle, the sword has 18 panels which tell the story of Waterford from Viking days.

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City walls are a big part of that story.  The city of Waterford is 1100 years old and was fortified from an early date. Around the start of the 13th century King John extended the city west with three new gates as Anglo-Norman settlers were starting to create a suburb. The Watch Tower here at Manor St dates to the 13th century and guarded the southern exit to the town.  By the end of the middle ages a complete circuit of stone walls and towers existed. By 1705 the Quay walls were demolished but six towers and large sections of city wall still survive one of the largest remaining walled cities in Ireland.

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The most famous part of the walls is Reginald’s Tower on the strategic corner of the Quays and the Mall, commanding the view downstream.  Reginald is from the Irish name Raghnall, itself derived from the Old Norse Røgnvaldr.  Ragnall mac Gillemaire, was the last Hiberno-Norse ruler of Waterford and the tower dates between 1253 and 1280. But there have been towers on the site since the 10th century. A little upstream at Woodstown excavations of an actual Viking site has yielded remarkable finds that show the importance of Waterford as a busy port a millennium ago. Archaeologists have found ship-nails, locks, and balance-weights (some decorated with Irish ecclesiastical metalwork), a pagan warrior-burial and hacksilver. It was also a world centre of trade. At Woodstown they also found a ninth century Kufic dirham (a silver coin from the Arab world) and a fragment of a Hiberno-Scandinavian arm-ring of similar vintage.

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Most of the Viking relics are in the Waterford Museum of Treasures but I was keen to check out the new Medieval Museum which charts Waterford’s growth in the 14th and 15th century. Most of its stories are from the Great Charter Roll of Waterford, a historic legal document created by the Anglo-Norman rulers of the town in the 14th Century. Its story show the power of English kings in Ireland. Henry II made Waterford a Royal Port which meant it could levy tolls but with nearby port New Ross wooing Edward III for favouritism, Waterford hit back with the Roll, drawn up in a pictorial and colourful style showing the city’s relationships with Edward’s ancestor kings for centuries. The flattery worked and the king reinstated Waterford’s monopoly as a Royal port.

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In the basement of the Chorister’s Hall inside the Museum is the Mayor’s Wine Vault. It is the oldest wine vault in Ireland, dating to 1440 and built by Peter Rice, a wealthy wine merchant and mayor of Waterford. His son James followed in his father’s footsteps both as wine merchant and mayor of the city – the latter an astonishing eleven times so there was plenty of celebrations to drink to. James Rice gave this wine vault and the house above it to Dean John Collyn in 1468 who transformed it into a priest’s hostel.

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By then Waterford was a solidly Catholic town. It built churches like this Franciscan priority also known as Greyfriars Abbey, and most famous as The French Church. It is the oldest church in Waterford, built in 1241 on what is now the corner of Greyfriars and Bailey’s New Street (Okay, so the street wasn’t just about the Back O’ The Munster).  This friary was one of the first in Ireland, founded by Anglo-Norman Sir Hugh Purcell.

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Behind the imposing Bishop’s Palace is Waterford’s Protestant cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral. The Vikings built the first cathedral on this site in 1096 and in 1170 it hosted the marriage of English knight Strongbow to Irish princess Aoife fatally bringing Ireland and England closer. The Normans built a new Gothic cathedral in 1210 which was demolished in 1773 to make way for the current structure. It was designed in neo-Classical Georgian style by John Roberts who also designed Waterford’s Catholic Cathedral.

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The Clock Tower, halfway up the Quays is another famous Waterford landmark. It was built in the 1860s in Gothic revival fashion. In the mid 1800s Waterford was Ireland’s busiest industrial port with the largest shipbuilding yards in the country (before Belfast surpassed it).  To reflect its civic pride, Charles Tarrant designed the clocktower and public water fountain, with water troughs for horses. Built by public subscription, it was completed in 1861 with a clock costing £78-10s donated by the Corporation and installed in 1864. Because of the horse troughs, it was originally known as the Fountain Clock.

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A few steps north along the Quay is the Granville Hotel. This elegant hotel is one of Ireland’s oldest and dates from the early 1700s. The Newport merchant and banking family built the hotel and subsequently sold it to another prominent merchant, Thomas Meagher, who traded between Waterford and Newfoundland. His son Thomas Francis Meagher was born in the hotel in 1823. Meagher (junior) designed the Irish flag in 1847 but was transported to Tasmania a year later for his role in the failed Young Ireland rebellion. He escaped to the US and became a Brigadier General in the Fighting 69th and The Irish Brigade in the American Civil War. He went on to become Secretary to the territory and Governor of Montana before disappearing in the Missouri River. The Granville was also the headquarters of Charles Bianconi’s coaches, the first public transport system in Ireland.

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There is another link to Meagher and the American civil war in the graveyard attached to Ballybricken church on the hill overlooking the river.  Captain Patrick Clooney was a native of Waterford and a military adventurer. In 1860 he fought at the Battle of Castelfidardo with the battalion of St Patrick in aid of the Papal States against Italian reunification. He travelled to the US a year later as the Civil War broke out.  He enlisted as a private in “Meagher’s Zouaves”, Company K of the 69th New York State Militia, and fought at First Bull Run. He raised a company for the 88th New York Volunteers which became part of the Irish Brigade. The Brigade and Captain Clooney fought through the the Maryland Campaign in 1862 until it reached the bloody slaughter of Antietam. There Clooney received a severe gunshot wound in the knee and refusing to leave the field he was killed by a rifle bullet, aged 27. A year later Waterford locals erected a memorial to him in Ballybricken.

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There are a few stark memorials to a later conflict that was closer to home including this one on the walls of the old Barracks on Green St. The 1921 Irish War of Independence mostly passed Waterford by apart from a failed ambush at Pickardstown near Tramore. But Waterford was besieged in the subsequent civil war in July 1922, something I’ve written about before. Three months later, the Dáil passed a resolution providing for the death penalty for terrorist offences, following trial by military tribunal. The government executed 75 rebels in the six months from November 1922 to April 1923, all by firing squad at various locations including Patrick O’Reilly and Michael Fitzgerald in January 1923. According to Terence O’Reilly’s book Rebel Heart, the two men from the Anti-Treaty 1st Cork Brigade were captured in Waterford a month earlier and “went to their deaths bravely” singing as they were marched from Ballybricken prison to the Barracks parade square, “even sharing their cigarettes with the firing squad”.

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It is likely the military tribunal would have sat at the old courthouse which dates to 1849. The grand courthouse has recently had significant restoration works including the demolition of the vacant fire station next door and further restoration to the original building designed in classical style by John B Keane. The building was disused in 1977, and partly derelict but was extensively renovated and extended in the early 1980s and resumed work as a courthouse.

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Another sign of recent rejuvenation was the mirrored roof put over the Apple Market at the end of Michael St.  The large-scale triangular canopy, designed by locals dhb Architects, is made up of stainless steel, glazed edges and a reflective underbelly. The square is the beating heart of Waterford, packed when the big screens were showing Waterford’s run to the All Ireland hurling final in 2017.  Another superb addition to the landscape is the Deise Greenway on the old Waterford-Dungarvan rail line, now the longest rail trail in Ireland. I did get out to take a look but I was out for a run and did not have my camera with me. Which was a shame as a fox ran past me, heading down to the river for a drink.

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With so much new stuff around Waterford, it is heartening to see old shopfronts like An Siopa (Irish for “the shop”) survive. Also in the Apple Market, An Siopa is deals in gold and antique jewellery. There must remain room for old and new in Waterford. I remember growing up and walking home from school down Castle St past its amazing medieval towers. But the city walls were neglected, the street was decrepit and the area smelt of urine. It was as if Waterford was ashamed of its past. Hopefully those days are gone. The old Viking city must wear its history with pride while embracing whatever excitement the future brings.

 

 

 

 

In Dublin and Howth

It was a Friday, three days before Christmas and day two of my return to Dublin, This also was the day I’d planned a long walk in the mountains – weather permitting. It was overcast and 11 degrees so weather did permit and I took up my Dublin mate’s suggestion for a day trip to Howth. That required a visit to Tara St railway station in the centre of town and as we walked along the Quays there across the river was another of Dublin’s great buildings: the Custom House.

dublin20James Gandon, who was also the architect of the Four Courts architect designed this building. A masterpiece of European neo-classicism it is considered his greatest work. It took 10 years to build, completed in 1791.  Initially the headquarters of the Commissioners of Custom and Excise, by the 20th century it was the home of council staff.  It was burnt to the ground on 25 May 1921 in the Irish War of Independence and restored by 1928, with further restoration in the 1980s.

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We didn’t have long to wait at Tara St station for the DART to take us to Howth. The  Dublin Area Rapid Transit system has been a splendid rail service for the city since 1984. Initially criticised for only servicing the mainly wealthier seaside areas, it also serves Kilbarrack the working class suburb mythologised by Roddy Doyle in the Barrytown Trilogy. Our destination was the end of the line at Howth, Co Dublin.

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Howth’s heart is still a fishing village but it is now mainly a wealthy suburb of the city. Howth is on the peninsula of Howth Head and the name dates back to the Viking, derived from the Old Norse Hǫfuð (“head” in English, so it’s Head Head). As seen on the train the Irish for Howth is Binn Éadair, (“Éadar’s peak) possibly named for Edar, a Tuatha Dé Danann chieftain who was buried there, while others say that it was from Edar the wife of Gann, one of five Firbolg brothers who divided Ireland between them.

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The Irish mythology reminds us there is evidence of humans here long before the Vikings. As we walk away from the station we quickly climbed into the grounds of Howth Castle. Our first destination was a huge megalithic monument, a collapsed dolmen known locally as Aideen’s Grave. It would likely date to neolithic times 4000-2500BC.  The slipped quartzite capstone weights 75 tons – the second biggest in Ireland – and the portal stones 2.5m high. Folklore says this tomb is the burial place of Aideen, wife of Oscar, son of Oisin. Oscar died at the battle of Gabhra and Aideen is said died in grief at her loss, so Oisin buried her at Howth and set a cairn over her, a burial usually reserved for great warriors or kings.

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Moving through rough country away from the dolmen, we climbed on to the highest point at the Ben Howth and looked back west towards the narrowest point, or tombolo, of the peninsula at Sutton. A tombolo, derived from the Latin tumulus, meaning ‘mound’, is a landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land.

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Our walkway was away from the tombola through the middle of the golf course where signs warned walkers to “keep quiet”. But there were right of ways the posh golfers grudgingly had to admit the hoi-polloi walkers in.

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If it looked fresh and misty up on top of the hills it still looked glorious out on Dublin Bay. The sun shone through a small gap in the clouds and the now-closed Poolberg power station and Wicklow Mountains shimmered in the distance. This was indeed a lovely walk.

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Looking back north and beyond the Castle and Howth Harbour is the island of Ireland’s Eye. Originally named for a woman named Eria, it became confused with Erin, the Irish for Ireland. The island is uninhabited though cruises go out from Howth in the summer. In the distance north behind is Lambay, the largest island on the east coast of Ireland. It was known to Ptolemy in the 2nd century and is privately owned by the Baring family trust.

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The sunny spot was getting stronger as a ship pulled out of Dublin port. This was not weather I was expecting in Ireland in December but it was glorious.

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We went back down to sea level for the next part of the walk. Behind us towards Sutton is a Martello Tower. Fearful of the French in the 19th century, the British built small defensive coastal forts across the Empire. Fort Denison, Sydney is the only one in Australia, but there’s dozens on the Irish east coast including this one in Howth. Joyce set the opening scene of Ulysses in another one on the other end of Dublin Bay (Sandymount).

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We set back north to complete the loop back to Howth and amazingly it didn’t rain. But there had been rain in recent days and the path was muddy and a bit dangerous in parts, sometimes with a serious drop to the cliffs below.  A fishing boat accompanies us as the path meandered along the coast towards Baily Lighthouse on the southern end of Howth Head. A lighthouse has been here for 350 years with the current building dating to 1814. Sadly it and the point are out of bounds for the public.

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It was a good 15km walk around the peninsula back to the village of Howth. After some lunch at the Bloody Stream (named for the stream under the pub) next to to the railway station. it was swiftly back into town via the DART.  I needed to do some Christmas shopping so ventured into the huge throng at Henry Street, the principal shopping street on the north side of the Liffey. There are over 200 shops on the street and with just three days to go to Christmas there must have well over 20,000 people on the street.

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Having survived my shopping, I celebrated by popping in quickly to the Brazen Head back on the other side of the river. Traditionally the pub is supposed to be the oldest in Dublin.  Some say they’ve been boozing here since 1198, though the first licence to sell ale was not granted until 1661. After a quick Guinness, it was home for a night in ahead of the journey to Waterford on the Saturday.

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From Dubai to Dublin

After a couple of days in Dubai, it was time for a couple of days in Dublin. That was one of the reasons I was flying Emirates in the first place. I could fly DXB to DUB direct without descending into the seven levels of Heathrow hell.

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As we arrived I saw the comforting sign of Baile Atha Cliath at the old Dublin airport terminal but we were whisked to the impressive new Terminal 2 where local radio were interviewing people home for Christmas. I was not required so bought an Irish SIM, got some Euros and boarded the appropriately numbered 747 bus to the city (though to be true to the Emirates plane it should have been 777). After taking a long tunnel, the bus suddenly appeared by the side of the Liffey in Dublin’s Docks.

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When I lived in Dublin in the 1980s there was no Terminal 2, no airport tunnel and no development like this on the Docks. In those days this was a rough industrial area.

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Now it’s been opened up by bridges and riverside walkways and gentrified into Ireland’s hi-tech financial centre. Companies like Google have their headquarters here. The docks, like Ireland in general, was hit hard in 2008 but is making a good comeback with signs of another boom afoot.

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My 747 abruptly turned away from the river towards Connolly Station and Talbot St. I thought that was central enough for me, and I disembarked to wade through the busy Christmas shopping traffic.

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From Talbot St I veered left into Dublin’s main street – O’Connell St. Crossing the wide road brought me to the GPO, the general post office and iconic headquarters of the 1916 rebellion that eventually led to the 1921 Irish War of Independence (and the Civil War that followed). The building was badly bombed by the British and was largely rebuilt though bullet holes at eye level still remind shoppers of its history. There is now a 1916 museum inside.

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I continued down O’Connell St as busy as always it has been, now with the light rail Luas adding public transport options to the ever-present buses. Looking back north I see the statue of unionist Jim Larkin (unlike those two gentlemen in the front of the photo who are more interested in the statue just out of shot). Larkin is almost bisected by a Luas pole and the 120m Spire of Dublin behind him, aka the Monument of Light, is totally obscured. The Spire is built in the spot where Nelson’s Column was blown up in 1966 – the 50th anniversary of 1916. History takes very direct actions on O’Connell St.

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Near the traffic lights at the Liffey is the monument those two gents in the last photo were staring at – the Daniel O’Connell statue. It may have been because of the seagull atop or may have been in acknowledgement of the Liberator, and the man who got Sackville St renamed for him. O’Connell is the third name for the street. It was built as a narrow street in the 17th century named Drogheda Street (for Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda – Henry and Moore Sts are also named for him). In the late 1700s it was widened, and renamed Sackville Street (for Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset). One of the first acts of the new Irish government in 1924 was to rename it for the 19th century nationalist who campaigned for Catholics to be elected to Westminster (hence the Emancipist or Liberator).

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Looking the other way is a view almost unchanged from my time in the 1980s. The bridge from O’Connell St across the Liffey leads to the junctions of D’Olier and Westmoreland Sts. Westmoreland (right) like Talbot St is named for the British leader of the pre-independent era – the Lord Lieutenant – in this case John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1789 to 1794. D’Olier St (left, under the hideous Stalinist high-rise) named for Jeremiah D’Olier (1745–1817) has a more interesting story. Isaac Olier was a Huguenot martyr who escaped to Holland during the Edict of Nantes. Wishing to have his French descent recognised, he assumed the d’ prefix. In 1688, he followed the Prince of Orange to England and went to Ireland where he became a merchant and married Martha Pilkington from Westmeath. Their son, Isaac, was a goldsmith and a member of Dublin City Council. Isaac’s third son, Jeremiah, became one of the first governors of the Bank of Ireland in 1801. One thing has changed from the 1980s – The Old Lady of D’Olier Street has gone. That was the nickname of the Irish Times which moved to Tara St in 2006.

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I did not cross O’Connell St Bridge whose name celebrated O’Connell before the street did – when it was built in 1880. The new bridge had “sandstone balustrades, the pretty garlands embellishing the piers, the charming Parisian lamp standards and the stone steps to the river quaintly tucked away on the westerly quay walls.”  I preferred the simpler but more iconic Ha’Penny Bridge immediately upstream. I stayed on the northern bank, turning west along Bachelor’s Walk towards the Ha’Penny Bridge. This cast-iron pedestrian bridge is exactly 100 years older than the 1916 rising that brought British war ships down the Liffey. Because it was built to replace the ferry shortcut to Crow Street Theatre on the southside, it was a toll bridge, fare one ha’penny.  Over 30,000 people still use the shortcut to the Temple Bar every day, though the toll and the Crow St theatre have long gone.

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It was the only pedestrian bridge in Dublin until 1999 and this photo was taken from the second one, the Millennium Bridge. This pedestrian bridge is easier to cross wheeling a case because it is flat. This view looks back at O’Connell St and the Ha’Penny Bridges and also Liberty Hall the crumbling third largest building in Dublin. Long the home of the union movement the current building dates to the mid sixties and was the tallest until superseded by two dockside buildings in the 2000s.

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Continuing down Merchant’s Quay I pass the Dublin City Council Buildings (just out of picture up the stairs). I remember the controversy over the building in the 1980s due to the destruction of the Viking artifacts at Wood Quay and it took away the view of Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest and only one of Dublin’s three cathedrals visible from the Liffey. There has been a cathedral on this site since the 11th century but the current building mostly dates from the 1870s. Christ Church is claimed by Catholic and Protestant but has acted as a Protestant Church of Ireland cathedral since the Reformation. dublin12

The next building of interest was the Four Courts, home of the Irish legal system, north of the river. Its impressive dome is hidden under the scaffolds in a four year restoration project. I joked with my friends, “I see the Rebels have bombed the Four Courts again”. Dublin’s most famous architect James Gandon built the stately courts between 1786 and 1802 but when the Republicans decided to make a stand there in the Civil War the building was almost completely destroyed by fire and the original timber dome collapsed. The dome was rebuilt in the late 1920s. In 2011 they found a steel ring encircling the concrete dome had rusted and eaten into the capital.

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My bed for the night was near the Four Courts so after freshening up and some food, it was time for Irish nectar. It was cold and wet outside that night, but I was nice and warm and drinking Guinness at the cosy Lord Edward pub – barely a mile from the brewery. Cheers.

2017 Media Personality of the Year: Daphne Caruana Galizia

daphneMurdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is my Woolly Days Media Personality of the Year. Caruana Galizia died in a car bomb explosion in October. A pre-trial hearing into the murder trial of three suspects heard the bomb was an  “organic explosive” detonated via mobile phone message, after an operation lasting three months. Caruana Galizia was murdered because she got too close to the truth, paying the ultimate price for her journalistic work, and in an era of contracting media and “fake news” I can’t think of anyone more genuine and deserving for the ninth iteration of my award.

Since 2009, it is my look back at media events, people and incidents of the year, The award reflects who I think has stood out in the field in the calendar year. There is no black tie event, no actual award and the winners themselves are totally oblivious and would have probably been unimpressed anyway (apart from Clementine Ford in 2015 who did notice and was kind enough appreciate it). And sadly for the second year in a row the award is given posthumously.

The nature of the award has changed over the years. The first award went to ABC boss Mark Scott in 2009 for standing up to the dominance of Rupert Murdoch in the Australian media. Scott impressed not only for taking on the behemoth but also putting the Australian national broadcaster firmly in the digital domain.

Twelve months later a newcomer had taken that message of digital journalism to heart. Julian Assange‘s early work with Wikileaks opened up huge possibilities for whistleblower journalism. Wikileaks was as flawed as Assange’s personality particularly over the lack of masking of private data but it also asked uncomfortable questions of big companies that inspired the later NSA and Panama Papers leaks. Assange’s descent into irrelevancy began with his asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid Swedish sex charges. He remains a “guest” five years later though given the turn to the right in South American politics, one wonders how much longer that will a safe haven. Perhaps it explains his own switch to the right over the years.

Assange’s global impact showed my award should have a wider focus. When I returned to the theme of Murdoch in the 2011 award, I gave it to two British journalists The Guardian’s Nick Davies and his editor Alan Rusbridger for their work staring down the police, the government and the right-wing press in publishing allegations in the phone hacking affair. Judge Brian Leveson took it further in 2012 overseeing the painstaking testimony in the inquiry that followed. That included Rupert Murdoch himself calling it his “biggest humiliation” (though he quickly and shamelessly moved on).

In 2013 Edward Snowden won the award for his audacious reveals of NSA work. His disclosures revealed global surveillance programs, run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with help from telecommunication companies and European governments. Like Assange his willingness to reveal items of national security endangered his life and like Assange Wikileaks tried to get him to Ecuador. Like Assange he remains in hiding in legal limbo but in Putin’s Russia.

My 2014 award went to jailed Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Basher Mohamed for their bravery in standing up to the Egyptian legal system although their meddling Qatari employer was not blameless. In 2015 it went to Clementine Ford for her feminist truth bombs and 2016 went to David Bowie, mainly for being David Bowie and dying early in the year.

His death set off a meme that 2016 was the worst year ever. Arguably 2017 is worse still what with conflation of “false news” and false news by the master of both types, Donald Trump. People have seen many worrying parallels with the late 1930s as Trump and Putin encourage the rise of totalitarianism and legitimise far right-wing groups. As Hannah Arendt noted in 1951 totalitarianism does not need convinced Nazis or dedicated communists “but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists”.

As extreme right wing politicians increases power across the world, the wealthy and powerful continue to do what they always have done – accumulate power and wealth illegally. They also continue to use all means including murder to keep their dirty work secret. This is why public interest journalism remains so important even if the media that employs them is rapidly denuding. Daphne Caruana Galizia, was one of the best in the business, a prominent Maltese investigative journalist and blogger who moving away from her earlier employment with newspapers to get the word out by her investigative blogs. She paid the ultimate price for her courage.

Caruana Galiza was killed on October 16, 2017 by a car bomb as she left her home near Valletta. At her funeral in November at Malta’s biggest church. Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who led the funeral mass, told journalists present not to be afraid. “I encourage you never to grow weary in your mission to be the eyes, the ears and the mouth of the people … We need people in your profession who are unshackled, who are free, intelligent, inquisitive, honest, serene, safe and protected.”

Like Caruana Galizia I am a 53-year-old journalist and from time to time I’m the eyes, ears and mouths of my people – but that is where resemblances end. Whereas the worst I have to put up with is the occasional insult to me or my paper, Caruana Galizia paid for her craft with her life. Along with Tetyana Chornovil, Anna Politkovskaya, Veronica Guerin, Galizia was a fearless female journalist not afraid to put herself in danger for her work. According to the CPJ, she was one of 42 journalists killed across the world in 2017, including eight in Iraq, seven in Syria and six in Mexico.

Caruana Galizia was most famous for reporting on Maltese political links to the Panama Papers.  An anonymous source first leaked the papers in 2015 to a German newspaper. They are 11.5 million leaked documents from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca that detail financial and attorney–client information for almost a quarter of a million offshore entities. This entry into the shady world of tax minimisation (especially in Panama) and sanctions avoidance is a logical next step of the big data journalism pioneered by Wikileaks and Snowden’s collaborations with the Guardian and the NYT.

The Panama Papers named 12 world leaders including Malta’s. Caruana Galizia’s blog, Running Commentary with its investigative reports and commentary on politicians, was one of the most widely read websites in Malta and Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was the subject of many of her reports. Caruana Galizia’s reports about Muscat’s connection to the Panama Papers scandal forced him to call early elections in June 2017, after criticism from the European Parliament.

The Panama Papers linked Muscat minister Konrad Mizzi, and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to shell companies in Panama. Mizzi’s wife, Sai Mizzi Liang, Malta’s trade envoy to China and Consul General for Malta in Shanghai was also named as beneficiary, together with their children, of a trust based in New Zealand holding Mizzi’s Panama shell company. Caruana Galizia alleged Muscat and his wife’s offshore company received over US$1 million from a Dubai company owned by Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

Caruana Galizia also upset Malta’s opposition leader Adrian Delia. Delia filed four lawsuits after her articles claimed he laundered $US1.3m from prostitution in London through offshore accounts in his name. Delia said the account belonged to his client and he had resigned from the company that owned the property where the prostitution took place after becoming aware of the way in which it was being used. In February a court ordered Caruana Galizia’s bank accounts to be frozen until a libel case verdict that two government officials had filed against her. A public fundraising campaign later raised enough cash to satisfy the court’s demands.

These were all dangerous people to be upsetting and all had a motive to harm her. Caruana Galizia told police two weeks before her death she had received death threats. When she died Muscat condemned the attack “on press freedom” and said the FBI would assist local police in the investigation. “Everyone knows Ms. Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way,” Muscat said. Delia also denied involvement.

On December 4, Maltese police arrested 10 suspects in connection with the murder. Seven were released on bail pending the investigation and three–Vince Muscat (no relation to the PM) and brothers George and Alfredo Degiorgio–were charged with murder on December 5. The trio are all known Maltese criminals but pleaded not guilty. More importantly even if guilty they were likely to be hit men. As Malta Today reported “the command structure of the criminal operation is understood to have been very loosely connected and the assassination is thought to have been sub-contracted and then sub-contracted again to make the figure who ultimately ordered the killing harder to trace.”

The Caruana Galizia family criticised the lack of communication about the arrests saying they were not contacted in advance and learned about the developments at the same time as the press. The manner in which the arrests were communicated, the family said, indicated “serious institutional deficiencies which are cause for general public concern.” The family has taken legal action against Maltese police, saying the investigation cannot be impartial because Caruana Galizia wrote critical articles about the chief investigator and the government minister to whom he is married.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” her son Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is also an investigative journalist, wrote. “But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”

In her last blog post, written just before her death, Caruana Galizia issued a now haunting warning in her final line. “There are crooks everywhere you look,” she wrote. “The situation is desperate.” It is of little consolation to Daphne Caruana Galizia or her family but she is an inspiration to journalists everywhere and a most deserving media personality of 2017.

Stopover in Dubai

En route to Ireland for Christmas, I included a two day stopover in Dubai, where I can handily fly direct to Dublin, avoiding the nightmare that is Heathrow Airport. When it comes to airports Dublin gets the DUB code as the older established airport while Dubai gets DXB. You get the feeling that if those codes were being given out now rather than in the 1930s (when Dubai was just a tiny village in the desert), they would be reversed. As an example of relative importance, in Instagram, there are 60 million posts tagged with Dubai and just seven million tagged Dublin. Dublin might have the history but Dubai has the future.dubai1

After emerging from DXB’s monstrous airport I grab a taxi to my hotel in Al Kharama district. After a shower and a change I’m ready to check out the ‘hood and see that the world’s largest building the Burj Khalifa is walkable from here. First I pass the huge Dubai Frame, the city’s newest attraction which opens in January.

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I’m heading south-west towards the Trade Centre and downtown area. The Burj Khalifa is in the distance between the two buildings on the left. The weather is pleasant, low twenties in the afternoon. December is a good time to visit to Dubai, warm but not scorching hot. Certainly not by Mount Isa December standards.

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I’m downtown and in the shadows, the Burj looming larger. The Burj Dubai opened in 2008 at the height of the GFC but deep in depth, Dubai needed the help of the oil-rich Khalifa emirs in Abi Dhabi and so the name of the tallest building had to celebrate them not Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is 829m high, has 163 floors and 24,348 windows which takes 36 workers four months to clean.

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It proves quite difficult to get to thanks to Dubai downtown’s pedestrian unfriendly layout with wide and dangerous roads to cross and few pedestrian crossings. I eventually find the entrance to the building not through the street but through the Dubai Mall.

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I can take or leave malls but this was opulent. This is the fashion wing and also the entrance to the Burj. However there was a three hour wait to get to the top and with darkness falling, I decided against it.

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Instead I went outside to check out the lake and the (overpriced) Souk.

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There were nice views of the Burj Khalifa though its 830m could not be captured in one photo frame.

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Getting across the wide roads was occasionally to take your life in your hands but was often necessary due to the lack of overpasses or pedestrian lights.dubai9

On the second morning, I decided on a long 19km-each-way walk to the Burj-Al-Arab Hotel. Near the port I saw this wall mural.

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Dubai’s Airport might be one of the largest in the world but Dubai remains a major maritime centre too. Established as a fishing village in the 18th century, Dubai’s port of Jebel Ali is the now world’s ninth largest.

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As I set off on the long walk west to Burj-Al-Arab, I passed the Etihad Museum, UAE’s national museum. It was 9am and the museum did not open until 10am so I didn’t see inside.

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Dubai may be a modern cosmopolitan city but its roots are still traditionally Muslim. You are reminded of this five times a day at prayer-time when the muezzin’s calls echo from the hundreds of minarets and mosques across the city.

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I headed towards the shoreline with its long jogging paths linking the slew of beaches on the Persian Gulf. I went in for a quick dip and the waters were refreshing and clean.

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About half way into my journey (about 10km so far) I hit the Dubai Water Canal. This iartificial waterway opened in 2013 with great views to downtown and the Burj Khalifa. It meant a few hundred metres of doubling back to the pedestrian bridge.

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This is Tolerance Bridge, opened on 16 November this year to mark “International Day for Tolerance”.

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View of downtown from Tolerance Bridge.

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Burg Al Arab takes shape north of the canal but still some way distant.

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Along the way were these small libraries dotted along the waterline. First opened this year they contain books in multiple languages to help people unwind by the shore.

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After 19km I got to Burj Al Arab. The Burj is a luxury hotel, the third tallest hotel in the world and stands on an artificial island 280k from Jumeirah beach.

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I turned around and had lunch near here. In the end it was an exhausting 40km round trip killing my feet but it was a lovely day and a lovely walk.

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Brightly coloured ice cream van near the beach at Dubai. I was sorry later I didn’t partake.