I recently blogged about the criticism I was coming under from a small group of people related to my work with Haiti Connect a charity which I founded that is providing aid and assisting in the rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Initially the criticism focussed on whether or not our aid was needed and if Haiti Connect would be able to deliver. The small band of detractors repeatedly and publically questioned the need for improved internet access and communications and also stated that I (through Haiti Connect) would never be able to deliver on this promise or that we never even would make it to Haiti.
It’s obvious to say that they were proven wrong. Still, a free-lance journalist working for the Irish Mail on Sunday decided to write an article about me. He emailed me a list of questions putting forward that he was pursuing this in the public interest. I replied to him answering each separate question concisely and truthfully. However my answers must not have suited his agenda as he completely ignored them and did what could be largely considered a copy and paste job using the few criticizing blogposts as his “source material“. This was obvious because he repeated verbatim the same wrongful assumptions and accusations as made in these blogs. However he also tried to discredit me personally by referring to unpaid debts and also attacked one of my companies by questioning the truth of information on the company’s website. None of this had anything whatsoever to do with Haiti Connect and/or its work. Still it got smeared all over the pages of a national newspaper causing a lot of personal stress for myself and my family.The gossip mill went into overdrive leading to the bank that Haiti Connect was banking with closing the account and so-called friends turning their backs on us. It even lead to our kids being pestered by some classmates because “your dad is a crook”. Now personally I will take anyone on but when this affect my kids and wife in an unfair way it has gone too far. Way too far.
I did not take this lying down and filed a complaint with the editor of the Mail on Sunday. Not surprisingly he dismissed my claim. Below is a quote from his reply:
I refer to your e-mail of June 1. The article published on May 9 was factual and balanced and indeed was largely based on your own words – either in response to our reporter’s questions or comments you had posted on Twitter or on your blog. We fully stand over the story. Furthermore, we believe you were given adequate right of reply at the time of publication. I must therefore inform you that we cannot accede to your request that we publish a retraction and an apology.
Following this I lodged a detailed complaint with the Press Ombudsman and today I received notice from them that they have taken this complaint up with the editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday as part of their mediation process. More about this soon.
I must have stepped on someone toes by lodging these complaints as last week I received another email from the same free-lance hack working for the Irish Mail on Sunday. This time there were no questions about Haiti Connect or it’s work, instead it contained a range of questions based around the previously referred to debt. His line was that because of these debts I should not be soliciting public donations as I “obviously” could not be trusted. He also referred that Haiti Connect was not a “registered charity”. As he had previously ignored my detailed answers to all his questions and as he had clearly no intention in writing a balanced article I decided not to reply to his email. He followed this with two more emails which I also ignored. Next were two phone calls, conveniently made from a “hidden number”. I actually answered one but told him I had nothing to say to him and hung up. He called back and left a voicemail stating that “they would be printing another article next Sunday and that I had been given sufficient time to reply”. Like before I ignored this. Next followed a series of public tweets aimed at me outlining some of the nonsense & lies that he intended to write.
Now I might be a bit sensitive but this crossed over into harassment in my opinion. His article has no news value, does not contribute to “the greater good” and only does harm. To me, my wife, my children and to Haiti Connects work helping people in need. In short it’s a piece of shit.
But as he seems intent to publish it I will use this platform to tell me side of the story, the truth if you want it;
Yes, the judgments are real. They are the results of debt incurred through my involvement with a start-up venture in 2005. I was employed by this company as their CEO. The company was a US registered entity listed with the SEC. The company had ambitious but realistic plans and relied for its funding on the public sale of equity. I was hired by one of the main investors who was also in charge of raising funding. I set up a trading entity in Ireland and worked on developing the company. Obviously, as with any start-up, there was need for a few small lines of credit. These were applied and granted. However as the companies CEO I was asked to guarantee these loans. As we had just moved back to Ireland I also got some loans to cover the costs of setting up home in Ireland. After all I was on a good salary and the future was looking bright. However that situation changed. Because the company was founded and registered in the US and most of its investors were in the US we felt the first tremors of the impending economic crisis very early. Earlier than most people in Ireland. Funding basically dried up and we were not able to progress along the chosen path. As I had faith in the venture I kept working away without getting paid but by the end of 2006 I had used up all our personal financial reserves and ran up a credit card bill as well. Time to move on. (note: the company is still in existence but on the backburner until the economic climate improves). However as I had received no income for close on a year there was no way I could repay all the outstanding loans. Apart from that there was a dispute about alledged personal guarantees. One of the debts resulted in a recent judgment referred to in the article
So I did what I was taught to do; I picked myself up and started anew. Nothing like hitting rock bottom to teach you how *not* to do something. We are now 4-5 years on and I am absolutely astounded that these old debts are being put forward as a reason why I should not be allowed raise funds for a charity. Does failing make me evil? A bad man? Someone to be avoided like the plague?
It’s even more astounding considering the current global economic situation. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs in Ireland. Business small and large are failing every day. People with humongous mortgages are 100’s of thousands of euro in negative equity. The world has turned into an economic and financial disaster zone and in that climate my 39,000 euro debt is being measured on a yardstick to show that I am not to be trusted?!
Why is it in this country that failure is seen as a disaster and people who fail at business are encouraged to crawl under a rock or are expected to be cast aside as the flotsam of society? How do we ever expect to recover from this recession if people are only given one shot at success and are treated like lepers if they fail? We should stimulate entrepreneurial resilience (within reason) and allow people to learn from failure.
In the words of Malcom S. Forbes: “Failure is success if we learn from it.”
On to his next “accusation”; he alleges that Haiti Connect is not a charity. What does he refer to? What exactly is this thing called a “charity”? Dictionary.com shows this definition:
There is no legal framework for the registration of charities in Ireland. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Charities Section maintains a database of organisations to which they have granted charitable tax exemption. In granting tax exemption Charities Section give the body a CHY reference number. The full list of bodies granted exemption is published on the Revenue Commissioners website.
It’s a common mistake made by people who are not familiar with this process. The Revenue Commissioners maintains a database of organisations which carry out charitable work and which qualify for tax-exemption on that basis. Haiti Connect has applied for this status and our application is currently being processed. As it’s the first point listed on Haiti Connects FAQ page I am amazed that this guy during all his “thorough” research missed this. If I was to write a newspaper article accusing someone of being untrustworthy thereby causing him and his family significant stress I would make sure that I did my research and got my facts straight. But maybe I am setting to high a standard by expecting morals and common decency.
So now you have the full story. Time to turn the tables. What kind of person would write an article like this? Well to get an answer to that question we only need to look at some of his previous “work”. Thanks to this guys intrepid work we now know that Shell to Sea campaigners were planning a guerilla war and that Eircom has hired staff with the specific purpose to intimidate people on Twitter. I will let you make up your own mind after reading that.
In regards to the article on Haiti Connect and the supposed follow-up I have clearly stepped on his toes by publically criticizing him and he is running a personal vendetta against me using a national newspaper as his platform. His rantings serve no purpose whatsoever, there is no news in them, they do not serve any public purpose and any imaginable result is only negative. The results so far are that I have lost income, some people who we thought were friends have turned their backs on it (but we have also gained new ones) and that the emotional stress is taking a huge toll on my family. Interestingly enough Haiti Connects activities haven’t really suffered, most of our initial material sponsors have since donated or pledged further equipment, we have expanded the scope of the project into the areas of e-learning and telemedicine and we are receiving significant support from some quite formidable people. However if this continues and the emotional stress on my family increases I don’t know if it would be fair on them to continue this work. Personally I will take any shit thrown at me for work that I consider right and I will fight to the bitter end to defend my actions. However I can not stand seeing my family and my wife suffer because of this. Especially when she has already been extremely supportive (part of the money we put into Haiti Connect was earmarked to pay for her college fees).
In short I need this nonsense to stop. Can you help me? You can indeed. While I have received a lot of private messages of support I need people to speak out publicly and condemn this nonsense. Blog about it, tweet about it, or email the editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday objecting to the articles on Haiti Connect and myself. Make known that this malicious nonsense should not be accepted any further because as long as it nobody is imune from it…