8 June 2004

Scared writless

Still no word from the County Council regarding my request that the District Audit Service (DAS) report into the Hall/Ryan caper should be made public.
Perhaps this tendency for secrecy will be swept away after Thursday's elections!
Even more surprising is that Dr Ryan's solicitors haven't been in touch.
They wrote to me just before Christmas warning of imminent court action unless I apologised within 14 days for the "completely unfounded" allegations I had made against their client.
As well as the apology, the solicitors demanded £3295.57 to cover Dr Ryan's legal costs to date "...together with additional expenses to be confirmed by our client shortly."
I understand that Cllr Michael Williams received an almost identical demand.
As both of us declined to either apologise, or cough up, it means, as the mathematicians among you will already have worked out, that Dr Ryan is almost £7,000 out of pocket.
Bearing in mind that this solicitor's letter was written before Dr Ryan was completely cleared by the DAS, one has to wonder why he has made no effort to recoup this rather large sum.
Not to mention the substantial damages a man of Dr Ryan's reputation and status might expect to collect should I not be able to justify my allegations regarding his relationship with Hall.
The only other event of any significance, since Dr Ryan's solicitors sent their threatening letter on 19 December 2003, is that I have let them know that I am aware of the good doctor's fax to Hall dated 16 October 2000 (see Hall - Ryan) and have sent them a copy for good measure.
Maybe they are concerned that a Judge in the High Court will not look on this communication with the same avuncular tolerance as the DAS.
And, of course, if the matter ever came before the High Court, witnesses would be required to testify on oath.

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven

Old story


Last week's Mercury reported that the Irish Sunday Business Post had drawn attention to two political donations of 1,000 Euro and 500 Euro made by Dr Ryan's company O'Riain Associates International (ORA) to Fianna Fail and Irish Government Minister Seamus Brennan, respectively.
The donations are recorded in ORA's 2002 accounts lodged at the Company Records Office, Ireland (www.cro.ie).
What is interesting is that, at about the same time as these donations were made, Mr Brennan appointed Dr Ryan to the post of Chairman of the Irish Civil Defence Board.
The Sunday Business Post's story is based on copies of ORA's accounts provided by me.
It only goes to show the powers of the Internet that Old Grumpy was able to tell the newspaper about what was happening in Dublin, right under its nose.
Not that I should take too much credit because it was my fellow member of the network, David Edwards - currently fighting Pembroke St Mary (South) for Labour - who originally extracted the information from www.cro.ie
In fact it is several months since this story first appeared in this column.
So, remember where you read it first.

Printed and published by Robert Michael stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven

Pie in the sky


While out canvassing last night, I got into a doorstep conversation about the various grandiose schemes for Milford Haven that have been trailed in the newspapers.
Remember the Taiwanese company that was going to build a plastics factory on the Esso site?
From memory, that made three appearances on the front pages.
Then there was the marina at Castle Pill; complete with artist's impressions, and the massive, futuristic glass house that was to have been the centrepiece of an ambitious tourist attraction at the restored Castle Hall Gardens.
And who remembers the funicular railway linking the docks to the town, or the Oakwood-style leisure park, again on the Esso site.
And what did we get?
A Chinese shoe factory that didn't last long enough for the maker's imprint to wear off the soles: a Water Garden that has run dry: and a £200,000 Sports Hall at Blackbridge that had to be abandoned when it was found that the roof-level windows were were on the point of collapse.
All the while, what locals refer to as Beirut, on the Dale Road approach to the town, continues in its dilapidated state more than ten years after the problem first came to public notice.
No end of money has been spent on feasibility studies and environmental assessments but now we learn that there is no cash available to do the actual remedial work.
As one elector put it: "Do you think that situation would have been allowed to persist if it had been on the outskirts of Haverfordwest?"
To ask the question is to know the answer!

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven

Dog days

There is an election campaign underway, though you might not have guessed from reading last week's local papers.
The only evidence I could find that this event was taking place, was three adverts in the Mercury.
Old Grumpy has been pounding the streets, and the door knockers, trying to drum up support for my campaign to become a member of the County Council..
Pushing leaflets through letter boxes, particularly those with these new-fangled wind-exclusion brushes, gives you a fresh insight into the life of the postmen.
Leaflets, being floppy, cannot easily be forced between these brushes and the only way to achieve a satisfactory outcome is to fold the paper over the end of your flattened hand and push the whole thing through the obstacle and on to the doormat.
I had not been on the stump for more than half-an-hour when I discovered the perils of this approach.
A dog could be heard snarling behind the unanswered door but, failing to take weigh up all the possibilities, I shoved the leaflet through regardless.
Fortunately he/she struck as soon as the paper appeared and I narrowly avoided losing the ends of my fingers.
So, the next time I heard the growl I bent down, carefully lifted the letter box with my thumb and peered inside.
This scouting mission proved well worthwhile because the whole of the width of the opening was filled with the whitest, sharpest set of teeth I had ever seen.
And he wasn't smiling!
Coward that I am, I left the leaflet on the doorstep.
My brother used to work for an old farmer who reckoned there was a knack in everything, and I think it is true that, whenever we embark on an unfamiliar activity, we rarely find the most efficient method first off.
Usually, it requires a bit of trial and error before we find the best solution.
So I apologise to the lady who came home to find a piece of stick alongside my tattered leaflet on the hall floor.
Look on the bright side, it could have been one of my fingers
One evening, while musing about the lack of election coverage in the local newspapers, it occurred to me that it would be the simplest thing in the World to engineer a "Dog bites candidate" headline.
After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity, or so they say.
But, by the time I set out on the campaign trail at 10 o'clock the following morning, this Merlot-induced bravado had worn off, and I came to the conclusion that there is only so much a man can be expected to do in the cause of open and accountable democracy.

Printed and published by Robert Michael Stoddart Court Farm Liddeston Milford Haven

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