21st March 2024

Highland Radio Broadcast – 5th January 2024

The year commenced as it had ended with a busy, wide and varied exchange between Greg Hughes and our contributor Seamus Gunn which kicked off with the headline story of the day being the release of Oscar Pistorius from the department of correctional services in South Africa having served 50% of his 13 years and 5 months for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013, when he discharged a firearm, firing 4 shots through the door of the couple’s bathroom, Pistorius claiming that he mistook her for an intruder. 

Seamus Gunn reviewed the background to the Pistorius fall from grace, having risen to great heights through his sporting achievements and the manner in which he championed the cause of the disabled, particularly their role in sport. He outlined that not only had he achieved success at 3 Para Olympics, winning 7 Gold Medals, he also qualified in 2012 for the able-bodied athletes Olympics in London, having first been denied entry by the World Athletics Association, a decision which he appealed. He said that he could be considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time as in the Olympics in London he qualified for the semifinal in the 400 metres despite his disadvantage. He was of the view that he had earned his parole, as initially he was convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to 5 years. He was then released on parole after 1 year, when his conviction was appealed, to be found guilty of murder. After a sentence of 6 years was imposed, he returned to prison, this was then appealed, and a 13-year prison term was the revised penalty. He said that he has participated in all programmes that would have qualified him for early release and he referenced the Restorative Justice Programme, part of which involved him meeting the victim’s father Barry Steenkamp in 2022. He said that despite being released, he would be under supervision and would still have restrictions imposed on him, that he could not participate in media events until the term of the full sentence had expired in 2029. Seamus Gunn was of the view that it was likely film material in the future, Greg Hughes thinking that this may already be under way. He referenced how magnanimous Reeva Steenkamp’s Mother was in accepting the release and praising the parole board’s efforts, making the telling point that while she was not convinced that he had rehabilitated, she had to move on with her life. It was understood that he would now live with his uncle in Pretoria under the terms of his parole. Seamus Gunn finished by saying that he anticipated that there would be another chapter in the life of Oscar Pistorius and wondered what future challenges he would face. 

The variety of the Q&A that followed has remained consistent as it finished in 2023 and can be listed to below.

12th March 2024

Highland Radio Broadcast 1st March 2024

On the first day of Spring the US Presidential race was focused on by Seamus Gunn and Greg Hughes in particular our contributor highlighting the various different cases pending against Donald Trump and his attempt to have them delayed/postponed until the election race is run. He referenced the key strategy being adopted, the most recent being Donald Trumps’s claim to immunity from prosecution as an ex-president, a claim which our contributor said had failed on 2 occasions to date and was now scheduled for further hearing by the Supreme Court on the 22nd of April. He said that while, he was of the view that this was doomed to fail, it had the desired political outcome resulting in the postponement of the Election Subversion Allegation being 1 of a number of Criminal Trials that remain ongoing which was scheduled for the 4th of March. He said that with submissions and adjudication thereafter this could bring this matter into the summer. He was of the view that if this was the outcome then it was highly unlikely that a Criminal Prosecution would proceed before the election took place in November as it was not customary for presidential candidates to be pursued in this manner in the last months before an election, however referencing that these were unchartered waters. He said parallel to this there was the ballot eligibility cases, 3 States having ruled that Donald Trump was not eligible for the ballot due to the 14th Constitutional Amendment to prevent anyone involved in insurrection standing for election. He said he was never in favour of this argument as this case remained unproved. He said that when it was heard on the 8th of February the Supreme Court were sceptical and he anticipated that when a ruling was handed down the decisions of Illinois, Colorado and Maine would be reversed, thus giving a further boost to the Trump campaign. Greg Hughes referenced the ageism issues now being raised in respect of both camps. Our contributor was of the view that the candidates were evenly matched on age, with only 4 years between them. He thought it was remiss of both the republicans and the democrats that they did not bring forward a candidate that would appeal to a younger generation. He said that it was going to be the middle ground that would decide the election and considered that it was the candidate who was disliked the least that would be successful, only time will tell…

12th March 2024

Highland Radio Broadcast 2nd February 2024

To kickstart Spring, The Criminal Justice (Incitement to violence or hatred and hate offenses) Bill 2022 was debated this morning with our contributor Seamus Gunn comparing the latest proposed legislation to the Incitement to Hatred Act of 1989, drawing distinctions in the particular Defences open to a prosecution in respect of the latter as against the new proposed legislation which is currently before the Senate, having passed though the Dáil prior to Christmas, without any major issues. 

He said that this was all in the context of the riots in November last, for which there were 2 persons now charged before the Courts. He said that he was of the view that knee-jerk legislation can give rise to difficulties going forward so it was best that the matter was stalled and as it is now at the committee stage in the Senate. There were some issues with which he had reservations. He agreed that the old legislation was not fit for purpose in the current digital media world and that prosecutions were problematic in this area up to now as intention had to be established on the part of the publisher of threatening, abusive or insulting material, that it was likely to stir up hatred against a group of people. Greg Hughes referenced the protective characteristics which are cited in the new legislation to include race, colour, nationality, descent, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Our contributor said that he was of the view that the thrust of the legislation was to make it easier to call people to account before the Courts and to secure convictions. He was however concerned about a particular section which gave powers to the Gardai in relation to warrants to enter individual’s private homes and seize media devices to include phones, computers, etc. and also the power to obtain passwords for these devices from the individual suspected of having content, whether or not it was communicated, that could give rise to a charge for incitement to violence or hatred. He made it clear that free speech was protected in the proposed legislation but that there were difficulties with situations where an individual could innocently have received a text or message on social media, retained it and as a result were therefore committing an offence. He said that people were still entitled to voice offensive opinions on such matters and to make others feel uncomfortable, but this did not extend to voicing or broadcasting such opinions that, on any reasonable interpretation, could give rise to inciting hatred in others. He said that there was a thin line between the 2 but he thought that it was necessary to have this deterrent on the Statue Books. Greg Hughes and Seamus Gunn agreed that such issues should be debated, and Gunn thought they should be objectively assessed and if this legislation worked as a warning for one to take stock and consider the consequences of their actions for others, this would be a step in the right direction. But he had reservations about the implementation and policing of it going forward. More to follow as the Bill has not yet been enacted. 

11th December 2023

Highland Radio Broadcast 1st December 2023

As we move into December the topic engaging many in the public arena over this past 8 days has been the riots in the streets of Dublin on the night of the 23rd November. Our contributor Seamus Gunn today highlighted the changes in policing that have been brought forward and implemented since the night in question which seen an unprecedented situation develop in the inner city. He said that given the limitations and the fact that such a scene has never been witnessed before, the Gardai had to be commended for the manner in which they contained and defused the riot which was in the aftermath of an atrocity outside a school when 3 children and a carer were stabbed. He was of the view that this could be the catalyst for change within the rank and file and in policing such incidents in the future. He said that it was remarkable that changes that were long needed have more or less been brought in overnight, such as tasers, water cannon, helmets and body cameras. He referenced the recent passing of legislation to allow body cameras to be used by members.

Greg Hughes made the point that for some time on social media this had been brewing and that it was Drew Harris’ failing to take criticism before the Dáil Committee that was an issue in itself. Our contributor thought that in light of the circumstances, as the incident developed on the night in question, as it was impossible to predict that the stabbing incident could have been used in a manner to promote an unlawful assembly for the purpose of a riot, the manpower required would not have been known. He said that it was an evolving situation, which was being dealt with as it did arise. He was of the view that members of the force were put in harm’s way and that they were ill equipped to deal with it, being sent in to defuse a riot without as much as a helmet provided. Our contributor thought if nothing else came of it but that basic riot apparel as needed by members would now be put in place, then this would be progress. The implementation of the Digital Services Act was a positive and that Ireland was the first country to trigger an alert under this new piece of EU Legislation addressing online hate speech. This involves the European Commission in contacting social media platforms warning them of their obligations under the new legislation. He said that it was worth noting that it was only Meta who had Irish speaking moderators, hence it was easy for those who were intent in participating in the riot to communicate on other platforms who did not have Irish Moderators, referencing X (Twitter), Google and YouTube. Greg Hughes had reservations about how intrusive this could be as it could lead to policing of ordinary texts between private individuals. Our contributor made the point of balancing civil liberties as against policing traffic of online hate speech and the media platforms had to have some responsibility in reporting such activity. There is likely to be a lot more debate on the Public Order implications rising out of the events of the 23rd November last. 

The usual varied Q&A that followed can be listed to online.

23rd November 2023

Highland Radio Broadcast 3rd November 2023

As we head into the winter months, the hot legal topic being covered in the media was addressed by Seamus Gunn, with Donal Kavanagh, being the running sentencing hearing in a North Carolina Court of Molly Martens Corbett and Tom Martens following their Manslaughter Pleas in respect of the death of Jason Corbett in August 2015. It was remarked by Donal Kavanagh how the sentencing hearing is being approached in a different manner than would be in similar cases in this jurisdiction. To some degree the deceased’s character was being put on Trial. Our contributor Seamus Gunn raised the points being focused on by the Defence who have continued to put forward a self-defence theory in mitigation and in support of it, putting the spotlight on the deceased with the allegations of domestic violence, following statements from his 2 children Sarah and Jack days after the event and the fear that his wife Molly Martens Corbett claimed to have for her own life as she believed that he had killed his first wife as far back as 2006. It was explained how a top pathologist had reviewed the postmortem reports in respect of her death and concluded that they did not disclose any cause of death. He ruled out the asthma theory as the cause of death, being critical of the manner in which the postmortem was carried out and believed that it was possible that it could have been strangulation. It was stressed that he was not putting forward this proposition but agreeing as a possibility while at the same time discounting the theory that the deceased was attempting to strangle Molly Martens Corbett on the night in question, which gave rise to the attack on him with a baseball bat in respect of Tom Martens and a brick in respect of his daughter. Our contributor thought that it was a difficult case to assess, that the emphasis by way of mitigation was being put on the deceased and his history in the marriage which in the first instance was corroborated by his children who then rescinded their statements both in Ireland and in the US. The question of influence was also addressed, and Seamus Gunn was of the view that this cut both ways, that if there was a theory of coaching in respect of the aftermath of the crime in the USA then that could also apply to the situation when the statements were withdrawn in Ireland. He said that there may be evidence to come on the actual recanting of the Statements. Our contributor also highlighted the difficult position that the 2 children Sarah and Jack found themselves in and he had some concerns on the impact this may have on them going forward. 

He pointed out that if aggravated circumstances were found which could be interpreted on the basis of the children being in the house at the time, then the sentencing could range from 6-9 years but that if this was not the case and the mitigation Pleas were accepted then the sentence could be as low as 3 years, but this was entirely up the to the Presiding Judge to decide based on the evidence which had not all yet been heard. He said that if it was on the low scale that as both of the accused had already served upwards of 3 and a half years, they could walk free after the sentencing hearing. As there is further evidence to follow, we wait to see how it plays out. 

The Q&A followed as usual, spanning a number of topics, which can be listened to below.

16th October 2023

6th October 2023 Highland Radio Broadcast – Trump v Biden

At the beginning of a new Legal term Donal Kavanagh presented the show am, opening with the suggestion that our contributor Seamus Gunn must be on a bus man’s holiday with the different suits being played out in the USA between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The former was referenced in relation to the latest allegation in the press of sharing classified information on the US nuclear submarines with an Australian businessman following a week when he was very much to the fore in relation to his ongoing Civil Fraud Trial in which it is claimed that he exaggerated his own riches by more than 2 billion. Seamus Gunn said against this backdrop you had Republicans striking out against the Democrats with the allegations against Hunter Biden, the President’s son, to charges that he lied about his drug use while buying a handgun, charges which our contributor thought were not to the fore some weeks back when he was under investigation for tax irregularities. He said that coincidentally this was 2 days after his father Joe Biden was impeached by the House of Representatives, being the last act of Kevin McCarthy before he was removed midweek as speaker of the house. 

Seamus Gunn was of the view that politically the government cases against Donald Trump had not harmed him and in fact he thought that it strengthened his position among his own Republican supporters by making him appear to be a martyr for the Democrats, using the court cases to prevent him from retaking the White House. He said against this you had Joe Biden coming out in Arizona with a very heavy, hard-hitting speech in which he was pitting Democracy on one side against Donald Trump on the other, referencing a quote that “Democracy does not have to die at the end of a rifle, it can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or condemn threats to Democracy”.  Seamus Gunn said that he thought that this argument could hold sway with the middle ground and when those that are undecided come to vote in November 2024, but that at present the poll would indicate that it is a 50/50 race for the White House. 

Many issues were referenced in the Q&A that followed and can be listed to online.

16th October 2023

1st September 2023 Highland Radio Broadcast – Donald Trump

In the first show after the summer recess at the start of Autumn, the woes of Donald Trump were discussed in the context of the impact or otherwise of the 91 charges pending against him in various jurisdictions in the USA; New York, Florida, Washington and Georgia. Seamus Gunn took the view this morning that Donald Trump’s agenda was not being hindered by his exposure to the charges pending. He said that the Trump cavalcade is the only media show running in the USA and that they have kept him very much to the fore while President Biden was left in the background. He said that while he did not agree with the tactics, he thought that it suited Trump’s narrative and that it certainly galvanized his support, but it was the middle ground that had to be won. He was not convinced that this would have any appeal to the undecided electorate in the US and this would be where the race would be won or lost. He said he thought that America at this juncture needed some new young and fresh blood in both camps. He referenced the Kamala Harris succession plan that he understood was in place prior to the last election for the democrats which does not seem to have materialized. He suggested that if Donald Trump would stand down and, in his place, bring in a younger candidate, they could maximize Trump’s support and appeal to the undecided. This may be the only option if the Republicans are to regain the White House. Greg Hughes raised the point of the charges being politically motivated, to which Seamus Gunn countered that the Washington conspiracy charges which resulted in the loss of 5 lives with multiple prosecutions and convictions to date, in his view could not be interpreted as political. 

You can listen to the full interview here:

16th August 2023

7th July 2023 Highland Radio Broadcast – Discussion on Recent RTE Controversy

The July Greg Hughes Show could not avoid the topic exercising many peoples’ minds being the ongoing controversy in RTE and how this has been played out on the airwaves. Seamus Gunn opened by making a point that he thought was not receiving the coverage it deserved, that being the different tier makeup of the responsibility for the statutory body. He said that while a lot of the media’s attention was focused on the leading personality and another one coming into the headlines in the last 24 hours, the structure within the setup laid responsibility with the board members appointed by government to oversee and to hold to account the executive board led by the director general who recently stood down. The presenter countered by highlighting that the board were kept in the dark by the executive board and therefore they were not in a position to oversee this aspect. While our contributor said he would accept this point for 1 and possibly with a stretch to 2 years, he emphasised that it was an ongoing “modus operandi” from 2017 to 2022. He was not for absolving the board of the responsibility to oversee that proper management, practices and processes were in place and being implemented by the executive board who were in charge of the day-to-day management of the station. This goes to the heart of corporate governance, and he did not accept that ignorance of the facts was an acceptable excuse in relation to discharging one’s obligations. 

A second point that was alluded to was the circuitous method of payment of the 2 annual sums of € 75,000.00 which after intermediary fees were added, it is reported amounted to  € 230,000.00 approx. He said that the convoluted method of making the payment would likely be the subject of further scrutiny in the coming week when both Noel Kelly and Ryan Tubridy are to appear before both the media committee and the public accounts committee. He expects that there will be further comment and explanations forthcoming. Greg Hughes made the point about the likely tax implications for the statutory body going forward and was not happy with moral ethics that were adopted by making payments and guaranteeing payments to an individual while at the same time expecting others to tighten their belt. Our contributor was of the view that contractual obligations had to be honoured, that it was the method in which they were discharged that was under scrutiny. No doubt more to follow on this one. 

While the Q&A session is always varied, today’s programme was more varied than most and can be listed to below. 

16th August 2023

2nd June 2023 Highland Radio Broadcast – Social Media “Influencers”

The first summer show started with the developments in France, with new legislation being introduced to crack down on Influencers, to bring online personalities under the same advertising rules as traditional media which will result in a major crackdown on undeclared advertising and fraud, penalties of up to 300 K, fines and up to 2 years imprisonment being introduced. Seamus Gunn made the point that there was an estimated 150,000 Influencers in France, some with Millions of subscribers who would now have to make it clear in their poster blog that they were in fact advertising, or in a commercial arrangement with a view to promoting a product.

The further development of restricting influencers to prohibit promotion of cosmetic surgery and tobacco was welcomed, also with restrictions on promoting sports betting and lottery games. Seamus Gunn was of the view that a more uniform approach would be needed in the EU in general to hold Influencers more accountable. He made the parallel comparison to the Irish Jurisdiction where the Consumer Protection Commission recently published a report with a finding that failing to label adds was widespread within the industry with up to 48% not being identified as advertisements. This type of statistic shows that Ireland is not functioning to the level that the French would have it which is likely to be the subject of further review and debate in the ever-evolving Social Media Blogging world. 

Everything from wildlife to property matters was touched upon in the Q&A that followed, which may be of interest and can be listened to below.

23rd May 2023

12th May 2023 Highland Radio Broadcast – Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015

As we approach summer 2023, our contributor Seamus Gunn today highlighted the implementation of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 which came into effect on the 26th April last. He said that this could be a game changer for thousands of families throughout the country, mentioning that there are upwards of 2,150 individuals in Wardship at present and that there is a fund of approx. € 1.9 Billion to be administered under the new regime, whenever the review has taken place of all the current Wards. The Act has been a long time in gestation, requiring an amendment in 2022 to get to the stage today where the Decision Support Service (DSS) has been set up under the Mental Health Commission which dates back to the 2001 Legislation. For the first time, capacity has been recognised as a fundamental Human Right and there is now a presumption that everybody has capacity until proven otherwise. He referenced the different tiers of the new roles that have been introduced by the DSS. 

He said at the lower level a decision-making assistant could be appointed for one who was in the early stages of a capacity issue and that while they would ultimately make the decision, they would have the help of the designated person and the DSS would be notified. 

The next tier referred to was the co-decision maker arrangement, where the individual would appoint a person to make decisions in co with them. Again, as with all the roles, the DSS oversees. The agreement would be registered with them and no decision could be made without the involvement of the Relevant Person. He said that if one got to a stage of a more advanced capacity issue, while the old system of the Ward of Court has now been abolished, you would now have a role for a decision-making representative who would ultimately be appointed through the Circuit Court, rather than the High Court. The Enduring Power of Attorney would also come under his heading, which once again would be registered with the DSS pending it being triggered by the relevant person losing capacity. 

Finally, he said that another major development was the use of health care directives and health care representatives where one wanted to make decisions in advance when they had capacity as to what types of treatment that they were to receive in the event that they lost capacity. 

Our contributor noted that the old legislation referred back to the Lunacy Regulations Act of 1871 and that now finally we have got to a situation where for the first-time capacity was being acknowledged as a fundamental human right and protected under legislation now introduced. No doubt this topic/issue which has an impact on so many lives, shall be further debated in the future. 

While the ascending or descending star of Donald Trump (depending on which side of the fence one is on) was also discussed, the following Q&A touched on a number of issues.