2021 has been a busy year for The Currency. We published close to 1,500 articles and over 100 podcasts. Putting together a list of the most read or listened to among all these stories isn’t easy.
As an editor, I know there are brilliant stories that for whatever reason don’t gain the same traction as others. Articles about complex tax law changes, intricate accountancy disputes, and the meaning of new regulations won’t matter to all our readers, but we are conscious that they mean a lot to a number of them. We aren’t overly worried about how often an individual story is read, provided it provides genuine insight into an important topic. Our commitment is to quality journalism, never clickbait.
That said, our most-read story about Conor McGregor did attract a lot of clicks. It wasn’t an investigation or a long-form feature, but it did gain a lot of traction after the MMA fighter turned whiskey entrepreneur tweeted about it, causing the story to be picked up around the world.
In the main, however, The Currency’s top 30 stories do show that there is a real interest in long-form investigative journalism. Most of the top 30 stories are over 2,500 words long, and a small number are more than 10,000 words. What is also notable about the list is that it is not all drawn from our core business, economics and public policy coverage.
In January, under associate editor Dion Fanning, we launched our new weekend editions, and thishas brought a new dimension to what we do at the weekend. He has added new writers to our roster including six-times All Ireland winner Paul Flynn whose writing about Kerry’s Gaelic football team went viral.
Having articles about sport, politics, Swiss spies and a child abuse scandal in a private school among our most-read stories reflects our commitment to giving our members something to entertain and challenge every Saturday, as well as the best business, economics and policy stories Monday to Friday.
Also included among the top 30 most-read stories is one piece featuring Tommie Gorman, who has brilliantly written for us this year on topics as diverse as British politics, the League of Ireland, and the economics of cross-border trade between Ireland North and South.
However, business remains at the heart of The Currency. Our coverage of Davy Stockbrokers last March attracted huge interest and was spearheaded by Tom, Thomas, Francesca and Sean. A string of stories on the Davy bond scandal rank highly, which is hardly a surprise. But to avoid repetition, I’ve included just one – a long read by Tom on the entire scandal that pulls it all together.
Other scandals and controversies also attracted lots of interest. Pieces to make the top 30 include long reads on the Dolphin Trust, the Beacon Hospital, the National Broadband Plan and a row between shareholders in the Web Summit.
This list is imperfect, but it is also interesting.
McGregor returns to the scene of his crime – and buys it
Conor McGregor, the mixed martial arts superstar, broke The Currency. When Tom reported that McGregor had bought the Marble Arch pub in Dublin 12, a location he previously admitted to assaulting a customer in, the former UFC champion shared the story with his nine million followers on Twitter, joking that Tom was barred.
The scale of click-throughs from his followers – all over the world – triggered a security alert and the site thought it was under attack. Before long, we were back up and running. And before long, McGregor had added adjacent land to the site and, as Tom subsequently reported, he could spend €100 million on it by the time he has finished developing what will be a new residential quarter.
The Currency led the way in the coverage of the Davy bond scandal, a controversy that led to a spate of resignations and the ultimate sale of the broker. When the dust had settled, Tom spent four months uncovering exactly what had occurred and examining who knew what and when. Based on multiple sources, documents, courtroom filings and new information, we published a three-part exposé earlier this year. This is a link to the full investigation.
Flight risk: How Ryanair is quietly migrating its Irish business to Malta and Poland (and why it’s doing it)
We all know that Ryanair is an Irish airline. But is it really? In 2018, the airline’s entire fleet was registered in Ireland. Now, this is less than two thirds – and counting. And aircraft registration is just the tip of the iceberg. In March, Thomas revealed how the airline is slowly leaving Ireland.
Sean has written extensively about urban planning and the future of our towns and cities. This column really took off, when he argued that Ireland’s growing population gives it an opportunity to do something ambitious: Create dense, liveable cities as good as the best in Northern Europe and Japan.
“If you don’t get into my car, I will take that as you saying to me ‘F*** you’”
This was a sad, sobering but highly important story that we published in February when some 23 brave former students of Terenure College sent the man who had sexually abused them to prison. Tom Lyons, a student at Terenure College while John McClean was a teacher and rugby coach there, told a dark story of children betrayed by a prestigious school and religious order.
In September, we carried a long interview with Aidan Corbett, the CEO of Irish e-commerce financier Wayflyer, where he revealed that that the company was currently lending $75 million a year and intended to lend $1 billion in 20212. In November, Tom then revealed that the company was raising a new equity investment round of more than $100 million that will value the business at more than $1.5 billion. When the round closes, Wayflyer will have achieved unicorn status joining other Irish tech firms like Intercom, Fenergo, Workhuman and Letsgetchecked.
Kerry didn’t lack hunger or any of the tired old clichés, what was missing was game management
In recent months, former Dublin GAA star Paul Flynn joined the team as our Gaelic football writer. His first column went viral, where he argued that Kerry need to be willing to learn from their defeat to Tyrone – and they need to be willing to learn the right lessons.
Facing dismissal, John Barrett says he found out through media leaks he was the subject of a criminal probe for allegedly misleading the Disclosures Tribunal. In a major report published in October, Francesca told the inside story of the dispute and the subsequent court action.
“Fiefdoms”, “toxic relationships” and “attempted blackmail”: Inside the Web Summit shareholder court battle
The web Summit is a great success story, and, whether in Dublin or Lisbon, has provided a valuable platform for so many Irish companies to talk to a global audience. This year, a range of court actions broke out between its three founders, Paddy Cosgrave, Daire Hickey and David Kelly. Francesca and Tom have led the way on the reporting of the myriad action, but I felt this piece sums up the dispute best.
I answered the phone. It was Liam Carroll. “All this talk of a lack of buildings,” he said. “It is time to start building again”
On March 25, 2016, Liam Carroll rang Tom Lyons. It was Good Friday at 2.30 in the afternoon and he was working in The Sunday Business Post preparing the weekend edition. Carroll said he wanted to do an interview, and Tom readily agreed. Carroll told him he had built over 8,000 apartments and a huge number of offices and said he was frustrated that Ireland was now facing a housing crisis forcing people to sleep on the streets. “Nama was wrong,” he said. “They just put receivers into everything.”
It was just one of many reflections in a wonderful obituary of Carroll written by Tom when the developer passed away in March.
The life of a boxer at MTK Global: What a contract with the firm co-founded by Daniel Kinahan looks like
MTK Global is one of the most powerful forces in global boxing, despite being co-founded by the alleged drugs kingpin Daniel Kinahan. Boxers want to succeed. What does their MTK contracts mean for them? Tom had the answer.
Earlier this month, we published a three-part series by Thomas into the finance of the national Broadband Contract. It led to questions in the Dáil and a review of the contract by departmental lawyers. In it, we revealed that the private US investors contracted to deliver the €3 billion taxpayer-subsidised National Broadband Plan (NDP) two years ago had provided just €100 million in funding at the end of 2020, nearly all in the form of short-term debt, while high fees and interest on this debt have allowed them to charge half of this amount back to their own companies.
Deconstructing Dolphin Trust: Inside the Irish liquidation of an alleged German “Ponzi scheme”
1,800 Irish investors are facing potential losses of €100 million through Dolphin Trust. But how did it happen, and will they get their money back? Interviews with the Irish liquidators and others centrally involved reveal the status – and focus – of the Irish investigations.
“He ran her down the town” – the inside story of ACC, 150 Irish investors and the dire Dutch property fund
In 2008, the Dutch property market had already peaked and the ACC Dutch Property Fund IBV was in meltdown. In a major investigation, we reveal the tactics used by ACC to help convince 150 farmers and retirees into investing in a collapsing market.
A British investment firm and an Irish hotelier are on the verge of buying Dublin’s oldest pub for €15 million
Private equity (PE) is on the march in Ireland. 2021 is likely to set a new record for the quantity and value of PE deals. William Fry, a firm of solicitors, reported that in 2021 the value of PE deals was up 477 per cent year on year (by far the biggest being CapVest’s sale of Valeo to another PE firm). There was an average of 21 PE deals between 2010 and 2015; between 2016 and 2021, that number jumped to 38. However, it was Tom’s story about PE buying a pub that really caught public attention. In April, we reported that the Brazen Head on Bridge Street in the heart of the Liberties was close to being sold for €15 million to a low-key London fund and a talented hotelier who created one of the best boutique hotels in Ireland.
To mark our second birthday in late September, I recalled our first day in business. Let’s just say it could have gone better: “Exactly two years ago, the team arrived early to our temporary office to launch The Currency. Within hours, Stripe thought we were money launderers and Communicorp had banned us from their radio stations. Still, we ended the day sipping champagne and planning the next story.”
“The closer Sinn Féin get to government in the south, the more they realise government is a difficult business”
As he joined The Currency as a columnist in June, Tommie Gorman reflected on the precarious position on the island and the personalities he knows intimately who have to find a solution.
When singer Mariah Carey launched her own cream liqueur, she chose the name Black Irish to reflect her ancestry. The brand is now live in the US but, although made in Ireland, it can’t be sold in the EU yet as a group of Irish drinks veterans own the trademark for their own Black Irish drink. Tom broke the story that made headlines all over the world in August.
Boards earn their money in times of crisis. So, who are the directors of the Beacon Hospital and how much are they paid?
Following the decision by the Beacon Hospital to administer 20 leftover Covid-19 vaccines to a number of teachers at St Gerard’s School in Bray in March, I wrote about the role and function of boards. The board of the hospital boasted a former Taoiseach, a former head of AIB as well as the current chair of the SBCI, a state-owned bank. With the hospital engulfed in controversy, I said this heavy-hitting board must prove its worth, and revealed just how much they had earned.
It has no employees and generates marginal revenues. But an Irish subsidiary of EMC last year booked a massive tax-free profit through the sale of intellectual property and inter-company debt flows. Sound familiar?
A West Cork hotel, a nuclear winter and the spy left out in the cold
Sold in January for €3.5 million, the Liss Ard Estate outside Skibbereen was a regular venue for literary and music events. But it is the story of Albert Bachmann, the Swiss spy who fell in love with West Cork and bought the estate in the 1970s, which continues to intrigue. Dion had the story.
After offices and apartments, the firehose of global capital is now pointed at Irish social housing. Who are the new owners, and what is it going to do to the Irish property market? Sean unpicked the detail.
After 3 years and 5 bidders, the city council has pulled plans to redevelop Dublin’s iconic Pigeon House power station
In 2018, Dublin City Council asked Ireland’s biggest developers to build a new quarter in Poolbeg on a 7-acre site that would have housed and employed thousands of people. In September, they killed the project. Tom investigated the decision.
“Everything is dictated by the dynamics of how politics operates”: Stephen Kinsella meets Mary Lou McDonald
If the polls are correct, Mary Lou McDonald could be the next taoiseach. In this interview with Stephen, she discusses leadership, organisational change, reunification, public sector reform and economics.
Kings of Kilgarvan? What we really know about the Healy-Raes’ family business
Brothers Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, the millionaire independent Kerry TDs, regularly make headlines with their contracting companies and investment properties. But how do they run their business – and how well? Thomas had the answer.