20 May 2003


Strange goings-on

Old Grumpy notices that www.oriain.ie, the website of the Irish company, O'Riain Associates International Ltd, which has a lucrative management consultancy agreement with Pembrokeshire County Council, has been removed from cyberspace for "reconstruction".
The managing director of O'riain Associates (also known as ORA International Ltd) is a Dr Michael Ryan, who is also Cllr Brian Hall's co-director and shareholder of a UK company, Euro-Ryall Ltd.
Fortunately, I took the precaution of downloading the contents of the website before its demise.
It is probably pure chance that the website's disappearance should coincide with the arrival of several emails asking Dr Ryan for details of the "successfully completed major project" in Pembrokeshire, of which the website boasts, or should I say used to boast
I emailed the same question to Dr Ryan more than a month ago and he has yet to find the time to reply.
And if the Pembrokeshire project is, as I believe, wholly mythical, why should we take seriously the other 41, in locations as widely separated as Moscow, Adelaide, Tokyo and San Fransisco, especially as this apparently global consultancy, which showed a tiny profit of £6,600 in 2001 after losing £3,000 in 2000, operates from Dr Ryan's front room.
On top of that, a cyber-whizz in Fishguard tells me that the photographs on the former website, which the unwary might assume to be the company's offices worldwide, are in fact of buildings on the campus of Limerick University.
Unfortunately, now that the site has been pulled, you can't try this at home but the technique is right click on the photo and left click on properties to find the root file for the picture.
In one case this procedure reveals that an elegant, Georgian mansion pictured on www.oriain.ie is Limerick University's flagship Plassey House, which can also be seen on the university's website (www.ul.ie).
Some weeks ago, the council told me that Dr Ryan was engaged following an advert in the Irish Independent on 6 July 2000.
This appears to be the only categorically true statement to emerge from County Hall during my investigation into this business, and I have now obtained a copy.
What it reveals is that this was a match made in heaven because the advert could have been copied from Dr Ryan's CV, or vice versa. What is even more serendipitous is that Dr Ryan actually saw the advert with its tiny heading and minute print. None of your old nonsense of County Council logos and equal opportunities employers. I wonder how many other applications the authority received?
Whatever, the County Council was obviously keen to get its man because eight working days after the 19 July closing date (it takes the authority15 working days to answer a letter) the short listing and interview procedures were complete and a contract signed by the County Council's Head of Marketing and Communications, Dai "Spin" Thomas, was winging its way across the Irish Sea securing the services of Dr Ryan from ORA International Ltd at £18,000 (+ expenses) for 38 days service a year (£450 a day).
Clearly, this compressed time scale left little time to check out references for either Dr Ryan or ORA International Ltd.
As I have pointed out before, checking out ORA on the Irish Company Records Office website (www.cro.ie) would have been a waste of time because no such company exists. Strange, then, that the County Council has been sending cheques to ORA for the past 30 months.
Nor, I suppose did the County Council have time to research other aspects of Dr Ryan's CV.
So Old Grumpy has taken it upon himself to do the job for free.
According to a press release issued by His Leadership, Cllr Maurice Hughes, "He [Dr Ryan] has a very distinguished career in the field of economic development, particularly in Science and Technology Parks and is highly regarded throughout Ireland and Europe".
Among the posts he has held, Cllr Hughes says, are President of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) (France): Director of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) (USA).
In addition: "Dr Ryan was an Executive Director and founding Chief Executive of the Plassey Technology Park at the University of Limerick which became, during his time, the Irish National Technology Park."
I emailed the IASP at their HQ in Spain and received the following reply: "Unfortunately we haven't been in touch with that gentleman for the last years and we have not his contact details."
On making further enquiries I was told: "Mr Ryan was President and Director General of IASP between 1987 and 1989. There is no longer any relation between Mr Ryan and the IASP."
Mr/Dr Ryan clearly didn't make much of an impression at AURP whose administrator emailed to say: "The AURP officials that I spoke with have no recollection of this person being a Director of AURP .."
As far as being a leading light at the Plassey Technology Park, later Irish National Technology Park, in Limerick, is concerned, the University replied: "Michael Ryan was Director of the then Plassey Technology Park for a period at its early stages of development in the mid-1980s."
One organisation told me :"We believe he was a policeman in Dublin before he became 'an expert' on Science Parks".
By now I was getting the impression that Dr/Mr Ryan's parting from IASP had not been on wholly amicable terms.
So, I emailed that organisation with the following question:

Did Mr Ryan leave the IASP:

A. Under a large black cloud, or

B. under a medium sized black cloud, or

C. a small black cloud,or

D. cloudless blue skies?

Back came a cryptic answer referring me to a soliloquy from Hamlet.

So far, during my investigation into this matter we have had a press release issued by the Leader (see The truth will out), which is largely a pack of lies, and an attempt by the Monitoring Officer to rewrite the law on legal personality (see Con tract) in order to maintain the fiction that Ryan and Cllr Brian Hall had a "contractually enforceable" agreement with the County Council that the Company, Euro-Ryall Ltd, of which they are the sole shareholders and directors, would not trade in Pembrokeshire.
There is something extremely funny going here.
So far, with the exception of Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams, our elected representatives have been content to turn a blind eye.

It is time they lifted their heads from the sand

There is something rotten in the state of Pembroke.
To see or not to see, that is the question.

Irony-free zone


According to www.manorbier.com, Cabinet Minister for Lifelong Learning, Cllr Pat "Teacher" Griffiths, has alleged that a Mr Tony Wales was not the author of a letter submitted to Manorbier Community Council in his name.
It seems that teacher has it in for poor old Mr Wales because, as reported previously, she gave him poor marks for grammar in respect of another letter he supposedly wrote to the Community Council (see Proper English).
As the editor of the site comments: "Perhaps Cllr Griffiths could make the electorate aware of which letters that are signed by County Councillors are actually written by them and not spin doctors in County Hall."
Good point (see Fax facts).
Another item on the site refers to a discussion at the Community Council about a forthcoming visit by Cabinet Minister for Transportation and the Environment, Cllr Brian Hall.
Manorbier.com reports that: "Cllr Griffiths was concerned regarding the questions that might be asked and informed the council that Cllr Hall required a list of questions to be forwarded in advance."
No doubt so that he could get one of the pointy heads in County Hall to provide him with the answers to read out.
Perhaps Cllr Griffiths should sign up for some evening classes in irony.

Panic stations

Old Grumpy detects signs of panic among the Euro-enthusiasts as the day draws nigh when Gordon Brown pronounces, unfavourably, on the famous five tests.
European Commissioner Chris Patten, having seen the writing on the wall, has denounced the Chancellor's five tests as "drivel".
Well, if they are drivel now they they were drivel back in 1997 when Mr Brown first announced them, though I do not recall Mr Patten saying so at the time.
It will not have escaped the notice of the Euro fan club that Mr Brown spent a good part of his recent budget speech telling us how well the UK economy was doing compared to Germany, France and Euroland generally, and that he is hardly likely to recommend getting into bed with such a collection of basket cases.
The tactics of the Euro-enthusiasts is to try and put the frighteners on the electorate with dire predictions of falling investment and rising unemployment if we don't sign up forthwith.
They peddled the same line when the Euro was launched and, three-and-a-half years on, their forecasts have proved way off the mark.
The nightmare scenario for them is that the referendum will be put off until after the next election.
If, in three or four years time the UK economy is still flourishing, despite being outside the Euro-zone, their arguments for joining will look exceedingly weak.
What price Tony Blair's precious "place in history" then.


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