The Irish Mail on Sunday
Inaccurate? Unfair? Selective? How Bus Éireann’s charges really stack up
BUS Éireann’s report into allegations of kickbacks for school routes makes very serious charges against the Irish Mail on Sunday and includes the accusation that our coverage was ‘inaccurate, unfair and selectively quotes or exaggerates the material to sensationalise the overall article’.
We stand over everything we have published and below we counter some of the assertions that Bus Éireann has made against us.
BUS ÉIREANN REPORT SAYS ‘The former contractor did withdraw much of what he claimed.’
MAIL ON SUNDAY SAYS The contractor clarified certain points but he maintained throughout the interview that he had made improper payments and that he believed he had lost his contracts because he refused to contribute to a holiday whip-round. Bus Éireann’s own analysis finds that 65% of the contractor’s claims were not withdrawn. The report’s conclusion that there is no evidence of corruption relies heavily on Bus Éireann’s assertion that ‘certain allegations were withdrawn’ without specifying which ones.
REPORT SAYS Tim Doyle, Brian Lynch and their company, Student Transport Scheme Ltd, have orchestrated and ‘drip fed’ information to the MoS to pursue a ‘commercial objective’ which is being ‘hidden behind a topical whistleblowing tag to attempt to damage Bus Éireann’s reputation’. MOS SAYS Our coverage has not been orchestrated in any way by any commercial party. We met the operators ourselves and in each case they agreed to provide the MoS with copies of affidavits.
We investigated these – and claims made by others – and independently uncovered documentary evidence to corroborate anything we have published since.
This was a long and difficult process, as for many months at a time certain whistleblowers were too afraid of the consequences for their livelihood if they spoke to us.
REPORT SAYS The MoS inaccurately reported that Martin Nolan’s letter to the PAC said that no Bus Éireann employees would be disciplined.
MOS SAYS Martin Nolan’s letter to the PAC
does say no employees will be disciplined. ‘The investigation team could find no basis for instigating any disciplinary proceedings,’ it reads. This line is even highlighted in bold in the letter.
REPORT SAYS The Bus Éireann employees against whom allegations of gifts, services or cash were made denied the allegations and there was no other additional evidence provided or available to substantiate the allegations.
MOS SAYS The original allegations contained in the affidavit sent to Bus Éireann alleged that a named operator had a credit card statement showing flight bookings for a Bus Éireann official. This document – which the MoS obtained months ago – could have been uncovered had Bus Eireann asked gardaí to investigate.
REPORT SAYS The MoS misquoted Mr Nolan’s letter to the PAC by reporting that he had written that the whistle- blower ‘had stated that the manner in which he lost his school contract was legitimate and fair’. The report says that the words ‘legitimate and fair’ are not a direct quote.
MOS SAYS The MoS quoted the letter correctly. Mr Nolan’s letter to the PAC states the following: ‘He [the contractor] further stated that the manner in which he lost the schools contract – in a competitive tender – was legitimate and fair.’ In contrast the contractor never once concedes on the secret tape that he lost his contract fairly.
REPORT SAYS The MoS incorrectly reported that the original whistleblower’s affidavit ‘alleged that brown envelopes containing cash and airline tickets were among the gifts provided’.
MOS SAYS We never reported that the original whistleblower’s affidavit says this. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland after the original article, we said we had spoken to other contractors who were making allegations of brown envelopes and airline tickets. We subsequently published these details as well as the receipts to back them up. These have now been forwarded to gardaí.
REPORT SAYS The MoS, while appearing on Morning Ireland made a ‘broad statement’ that the secret tape was significantly at odds with Martin Nolan’s letter to the Public Accounts Committee and ‘did not provide any specific examples to back this statement up’.
MOS SAYS We gave three specific examples on air: the fact that the whistle- blower on tape stood by many of his claims; the fact that he never acknowledged he had lost his contract fairly; and the fact that he did admit making improper payments in the form of gifts and services.
REPORT SAYS The MoS while on radio made the following statement. ‘In return for keeping their contracts, he and other contractors alleged that they felt under pressure to provide things, gifts, free services, free taxi rides… there are mentions of holidays abroad paid for, flights, hotels, those kinds of gifts are alleged to have been provided by Bus Éireann contractors in order for people to keep their contracts.’ The report complained that: ‘This is a very broad statement and there is only one contractor making allegations.’
MOS SAYS We stand by this statement since we had spoken to several contractors making these allegations and subsequently published them – together with documents and receipts to back up the claims.
We never represented these claims on air as being contained in the original affidavit sent to Bus Éireann.
REPORT SAYS The following quote, used in the MoS’s first story, was not ‘a direct quote form the interview transcript’. The quote was: ‘Like I haven’t exaggerated… I would say 98% of it is true and there’s even more that could be alleged.’
MOS SAYS The following quotes are on the secret tape of the whistleblower: ‘Like I haven’t exaggerated, if anything I’ve held back a hell of a lot’ and ‘I would say 98% of it is true and there’s even more that could be alleged.’
REPORT SAYS ‘Bus Éireann believes that this contractor is a vulnerable person whose personal circumstances are being cynically exploited by others… a redacted letter from his father and siblings supports this view.’
MOS SAYS Bus Éireann is relying on a letter from his father and his sister to stand over the assertion that he is vulnerable and being used by others. In another section of the report, the company reveals that the same sister is a personal friend of, and went on holidays with, one of the Bus Éireann officials alleged to have accepted kickbacks for routes.