'Breakthrough - Communications Moments That Changed the World' - Padraig Flynn and the Late Late Show

In the next episode in the series, Jack Murray, founder of brand story telling agency 'All Good Tales', looks at

Last week our radio column “Breakthrough media moments that shaped the world” debuted on George Hook’s High Noon.

Our CEO, Jack Murray, spoke about the 'Miracle on the Hudson', and how it was the first time we saw Twitter beat the media to make the news.

This week our column hits a little closer to home, as Jack discusses Padraig Flynn’s appearance on the Late Late show back in 1999.

Our breakthrough media moments center around the idea that a moment can change everything that happens after it. This interview would change the shape of Irish politics forever.

Padraig Flynn was a member of the EU Commission, where he served as Ireland’s Commissioner; it had just survived a motion to be sacked by the Parliament.

Flynn was in great form as host Gay Byrne greeted him with the kindness and respect befitting a returning Prince. 

The late 1990s was a cathartic time for Ireland. The nation’s dirty linen needed to be washed in public. In 1995, two young barristers, Michael Smith and Colm MacEochaidh, offered a £10,000 reward for any information that would lead to a conviction for planning corruption.

Revelations by a disgruntled construction worker named James Gogarty lead to the Flood tribunal beginning (which later became the Mahon tribunal).

The investigations prepared for the tribunal discovered a very curious Garda report from the early 1990s, which never amounted to anything.

A Sligo-born property developer living in London filed it. His name was Tom Gilmartin. He had been involved in the early stages of what was the largest shopping center in Ireland, which is now Liffey Valley.

The Tribunal contacted Gilmartin, but he was so traumatised by the experience, he was reluctant to come back to Ireland again.

Back in the RTÉ studios, Gay Byrne continues to build Flynn up. We hear about his power, the money he earns and how he is the perfect politician.

And just when Flynn is feeling at his most comfortable, Byrne, like a chess grand master, makes his move.

“Come back home for a moment. What are you going to do about the Flood Tribunal and the 50 Grand?”

Flynn gave a well-rehearsed answer, but remember Tom Gilmartin? Well Flynn was one of those he gave money to, and Gay enquires. “But you know Gilmartin?”

Flynn didn’t know it then, but he was about to change the course of Irish politics. He went on a bit of a rant about Gilmartin and his wife. Gilmartin was listening at home in London.

Furious about how Flynn had demeaned him, but more so, how he belittled his wife who suffered from multiple sclerosis and was paralysed in a wheelchair. He vowed to bury Flynn by the end of the week.

And bury him he would. He decided to testify at the tribunal.

Flynn’s political career ended in September of 1999, nine months after his Late Late interview. The entire European Commission resigned over allegations of malpractice. He would never hold political office again.

Gilmartin’s evidence also brought down Bertie Ahern. And brought the likes of Liam Lawlor, George Redmond and Frank Dunlop to account.  

You can listen to Jack's full column below.