Ernesto’s is an eclectic cafe serving real food in Rathmines, a Dublin suburb. The charismatic owner of this one-of-a-kind venue, Jonathan Smith, fell in love with Cuba while traveling there with a charity, and the café’s decor pays homage to the Caribbean island, Dublin football and the Irish musicians who often give charity concerts there.
At the back of a small outdoor dining area, a Che Guevara mural fills the wall. It’s a regular haunt of Paddy Cosgrave and Chay Bowes. Cosgrave, the hot-headed tech summit entrepreneur, wears one of his signature hand-knit thick wool sweaters and eats porridge with fruit. Bowes, a businessman and consultant, eats the fried breakfast with a bap on the side and drinks copious amounts of tea.
The couple had a fateful meeting here two years ago to discuss what to do with evidence that Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential government document to a friend.
They went to Michael Smith, the attorney who inspired the planning court to corruption in land reclamation, who published the revelations about contacts between the then Taoiseach and Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail – President of the now defunct National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) – published. – in his village Magazine.
The bombshell led to a motion of no confidence in the Tánaiste and a protracted investigation at Lake Garda that threatened his leadership of Fine Gael and his ability to return to the Taoiseach’s office in December.
Since then, the two uncomfortable headlights have shone into other dark corners. Their work has resulted in the decisions of An Bord Pleanála Vice-Chairman Paul Hyde being reviewed internally by the Planning Appellate Body, with a separate review by a senior solicitor ordered by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
Additionally, Bowes’ court challenge to the legality of a Fianna Fáil lottery license reserved for charities led to the party pulling the plug on a €500,000 raffle to the party.
Whether you agree with their tactics or like their personality, scalps are rising. Her next plan is to set up a help center for people who want to come forward with information about corruption in society. First Contact gives legal advice on where to go and how to proceed.
The leaked saga finally came to an end this week when a detective from the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was tasked with calling the protagonists.
He told them the head of the prosecutor’s office had decided not to bring corruption charges against the Tánaiste because she handed over a general practitioners’ collective agreement to the president of a rival doctors’ union outside of negotiations. Bowes also got a call.
Ironically, after complaining to Gardaí about the matter and presenting the evidence, he also became a subject of investigation. He became a board member of the NAGP when he was tasked with reviewing their books and records. This is how he discovered the texts between Varadkar and Ó Tuathail.
Since the NAGP was under investigation for obtaining the document, he was cautiously questioned by Gardaí. He and everyone else in the NAGP are in the clear as there will be no prosecution against anyone in this investigation.
Varadkar is clear about becoming the Taoiseach again, but he still explains his side of the story that has tarnished his reputation. The Tánaiste has reiterated his claim that his disclosure of the document was lawful and he did so in the public interest as he wanted to gain support for the GP salary contract.
“I accept that my use of an informal personal channel was inappropriate. It was my fault and I take sole responsibility for it. I was held accountable for these acts in the Dáil. I apologized for that and I want to do it again,” he said.
But he has also claimed that those who have leveled the allegations against him are “sworn political opponents of me and my party”.
“Their actions were politically motivated and sometimes very personal,” he said.
Fine Gael councilor Ted Leddy, Varadkar’s constituency pal in Dublin West, was even more outspoken.
“The motivation behind this whole thing was a pathological and scathing hatred of Leo Varadkar that has nothing to do with his politics,” he said.
The retaliations mark a changed tune from Varadkar to whistleblowers highlighting misconduct in public office.
The leader of the Fine Gael made a name for himself as a future Taoiseach by campaigning for the Garda whistleblowers, who highlighted the penalty points controversy.
After then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan called their actions “disgusting”, Varadkar said they were “respectable”. The aftermath of this affair cost two Garda commissioners and a justice minister their jobs and weakened a Taoiseach.
Now the roles are reversed and Varadkar is shifting from insurgent to establishment and he hurls smear at those who focus on wrongdoing. His views reflect the past response of those in power to challenges to authority.
Within Fine Gael, the view that Cosgrave and Bowes are whistleblowers is vehemently denied and a puddle of mud is thrown at the antagonists, claiming the attacks were personal and went beyond politics, it was a leftist one Ideology at play and There are undefined connections to Sinn Féin. Reference is made to Cosgrave’s numerous run-ins with Fine Gael-led governments over the past decade.
Bowes went back to Ernesto’s yesterday for tea. He was almost named after Guevara. His parents wanted to name him Che, but the Catholic priest refused to baptize a child after a Marxist revolutionary, so he’s officially named after Chay Blyth, the first person to single-handedly sail non-stop westward around the world in 1971, the year in which he was born.
“I want to ask Leo Varadkar: was it right to do what I did to expose what he did?” he says.
Bowes himself dismisses the idea of being a whistleblower, describing himself as a “public interest advocate”. He, in turn, is responding to the various barbs he’s faced with, some public, some private, including that the revelations were driven by homophobia.
“I have said on record that I was very proud to live in a country where an ethnically mixed man, a gay man, could be prime minister. It shows an evolution for the state that came from terrible, dark places,” he says.
“So anyone who suggests otherwise is trying to distract from what Varadkar did, and what Varadkar did was wrong. He admitted it was wrong. Everyone knows what they did wrong and now it’s lost in this ideology that it was some kind of conspiracy to harm Varadkar. I would be the first to defend a minority. I find any form of victimization of minorities abhorrent.”
Bowes’ wife is an ethnic Russian from Moldova, and he studied international affairs in the region, so there were dog whistles there too. His view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is quite similar to Mick Wallace’s and Clare Daly’s view that it was caused by the West, NATO and the US. “I am against the war. I’m against any war,” he says. “Who could condone war?”
Bowes says he is a Constitutional Republican and points out that his father served in the British Army.
“My main reason for being for what I do is political accountability.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/paddy-cosgrave-chay-bowes-and-the-inside-story-of-a-scandal-that-imperilled-a-taoiseach-41826510.html Paddy Cosgrave, Chay Bowes and the Inside Story of a Scandal That Endangered a Taoiseach