For business or for pleasure?

Declan Ganley emerged as a key player in the Lisbon Treaty debate, but questions about his honesty, his methods of funding Libertas and his American connections have become more and more insistent, says Aoife Crowley

Declan Ganley emerged as a key player in the Lisbon Treaty debate, but questions about his honesty, his methods of funding Libertas and his American connections have become more and more insistent, says Aoife Crowley

A self-made multi-millionaire, Ganley is no stranger to hard work. A consummate businessman, he admits to being a Blackberry addict and sleeping for only three to four hours a night.

Born in Watford to Irish parents, he moved back to Ireland at the age of 12. He considers himself to be very much an Irishman, saying, “I was brought up in the UK and went to school there but every holiday, every school break was spent in the west of Ireland. We were raised surrounded by traditional music and Irish culture. I take pride in my Irishness. It is fundamental to me, to how I am.”

He left school with his Leaving Certificate and began working immediately, initially following his father into the building industry.

Apparently, I’m being backed by the CIA. What’s next? I’m working for Martians?

Believing in the American ideal that through hard work and determination it is possible to better oneself, he worked his way up from the position of gofer in an insurance company to running a hugely successful business shipping aluminium from Russia to Rotterdam. He considers himself to be an entrepreneur, and is not fazed by what his opponents say about him, stating that “Ireland is becoming not just accepting, but supportive, of entrepreneurs, but obviously some people haven’t moved with the times. Some people find the new wealth threatening or alien or even shady in a sonic way. There’s nothing mysterious about it. It’s just the product of hard work. That was the way I was brought up”.

Ganley initially made his fortune in the former Eastern Bloc. As well as running his successful aluminium business, he was appointed as the foreign affairs advisor to Latvia in 1992, where in 1997 he set up a forestry business. It was during this time that Ganley says he began to distrust the idea of a superstate. He is quoted as saying “I saw how a society is retarded by an elite cut off from its citizens. I witnessed how inherently undemocratic socialism was and that is why I don’t want an overweening EU. It’s just another form of state interference.”

Ganley then turned to telecommunications. He founded a Europe-wide telecom company called Broadnet, which he sold for €50 million. After the September 11th attacks, Ganley saw the US military’s need for emergency response systems. He set up Rivada Networks in response to that need, and gained a contract with the US defence forces.

Ganley came to prominence in the Irish media due to his involvement with the Libertas “No to Lisbon” campaign. He took on a large portion of the funding himself, admitting to giving Libertas a €200,000 loan from his own money, as well as large donations.

On a recent appearance on the Late Late Show, Ganley said that he had started reading the treaty as a businessman looking for opportunities, but had finished it as a father of four worried about his children’s future. He believes that the treaty would promote an undemocratic Europe, with unelected representatives running things without having to answer to the people that they represent. He says “we want a European Union that’s credible but we’re sick of the failure of this Brussels elite to bring the people with them – it almost seems like some sect of secular cardinals who think they know better than us.”

Ganley has ridiculed the suggestion that Ireland would have to vote again as “re-mockracy” in the making. In his view, Brussels’ response to Ireland’s no vote vindicates his belief that Brussels has become less and less democratic. There have been concerns surrounding the funding of Libertas and whether Ganley is being honest about his motivations for setting up the organisation. Although Ganley denies being a neoconservative, he has written articles for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia based think tank in with strong neocon leanings.

Several of Rivada’s key personnel have previously held high-ranking positions in the US military or intelligence sectors. Rivada’s top level includes Lt. General Dennis M. McCarthy, who was Commander of Marine Forces North until his resignation in 2005, Admiral James M. Loy, who was the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security 2003-05, and Don N. De Marino, who helped assess various operations in Iraq for the U.S. Secretary of Defence in 2004.

Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton remarked back in April that “the idea of a politically strong EU, acting as a check or counterbalance on the US, does not sit well with our transatlantic friends.”

She went on to remark that Ganley’s close links to the US military could be behind his motivation to derail the process. Ganley has laughed at allegations that he is back by US interests such as the CIA, saying, “Apparently, I’m being backed by the CIA, UKIP and the American military. What’s next? I’m working for Martians? I get advice from lizards?” It is believed that the Standards in Public Office Commission is investigating the source of the money used by Libertas during the referendum. However, they have refused to comment on this allegation.