Saints, scholars and corruption

    Johnny with Howard Mark

    IT WAS an evening of passionate debate, a dig into the bowels of corrupt Ireland, an event where locals were urged to put their own up for local elections.

    The absence of Kilkenny hurlers in what became an almost regular appearance in All-Ireland senior hurling finals left a devoid in a local community.

    Strong minded people filled the gap with an incisive look at what we might term the shameful side of our so-called Island of Saints and Scholars.
    The people of The Butts are no strangers to banners and bunting.
    During August and September, thanks to the hurling exploits of The Stripy Men, fans would climb trees and poles to flaunt their colours.
    This year alas, sale of black and amber were naturally down. Cash tills in sports and pound shops were virtually silenced.
    However another banner beckoned at the Butts Hall: Change Makers – End Corruption Now.
    Local-based impresario, Johnny Keenan invited four speakers to share their thoughts on how life and business is run in Ireland.

    Highlighting corruption: The top table in the Neighbourhood Hall, Butts Green

    The response was electric and at times turned explosive on an eye-opening few hours of fever pitch discussion, with an excellent contribution from a 150-plus audience.
    Speakers were from Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, a company run by Johnny.
    Mr Keenan has brought a number of acts here over the years and staged shows in The Set Theatre, The Hole in the Wall, Cleere’s Theatre and The Watergate.
    Keenan brought the film The killing$ of Tony Blair to Kilkenny and also enticed narrator George Galloway to a Q&A at the screening.
    Other projects included bringing international comedian Reginald D Hunter here and facilitating a talk by Gemma O’Doherty and The untold story of Mary Boyle, the young girl who disappeared over 40 years ago.

    Johnny explained that all good projects needed healthy debate. “People must be given the chance to air their views and opinions,” he said.

    Johnny Keenan with George Gallaway in Kilkenny 2016

    He said had just come from a picket at St Canice’s Cathedral where former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was in conversation with former RTE journalist David Davin-Power.

    “Bringing Bertie Ahern to an arts’ festival is something I cannot fathom,” said Johnny. “Considering all that has gone on and following the results of recent tribunals, the invitation by the Arts Festival to the former Taoiseach leaves me baffled,” he added.
    Some of Ireland’s leading campaigners for change came together to speak about corruption and its impact on democracy.

    From the worlds of journalism, banking, education, farming and the courts, the speakers discussed their own battles in tackling wrongdoing by State institutions and why local communities needed to stand up against corruption in all its guises to create a fairer society that holds power to account and makes the best use of public money.
    Gemma O’Doherty, a multi award-winning journalist has shone a light on some of the darkest corners of Irish life.

    Former Campaigning Journalist of the Year, her investigations have led to the reopening of unsolved murder cases involving alleged Garda corruption and political interference.
    Seamus Maye, a Sligo-based businessman is and long-time campaigner against

    anti-competitive practices and industry cartels.
    Alo Mohan, a farmer from Monaghan has been highlighting corruption within the agricultural industry for years. He exposed how VAT avoidance schemes were being operated at a huge cost to the exchequer and brought his campaign to Europe, successfully taking on the powerful farming lobby.
    Anna Kavanagh, a teacher and environmental activist campaigns about food safety and health. She educates teenagers about their critical role in climate change and protecting the planet. 

    There was a healthy contribution from the 150 plus strong attendance.

    Gemma O Doherty called on locals to consider nominating a person from their community to stand for local election.

    “If we keep voting in the same people, there is little point in giving out about them when they fail to deliver,” she said,

    Concluding an evening of passionate debate, Johnny Keenan thanked all who attended and surmised that real debate was starting.