By Ruth Skilbeck in Newcastle
After writing some notes on my court case progress, yesterday (my car fine which I have been writing about here, connected to my coverage of the Sydney Biennale Boycott) I now have some more time to add the very latest news about what is happening in the wider context of Newcastle local politics, and the ongoing corruption inquiry by the ICAC which in the past two weeks has seen Newcastle Liberal MPS and the Lord Mayor Liberal Jeff McCloy stand down after they have all been found to be corrupt and in collusion over illegal property development plans and deals, which has also, it has been revealed also in the last two weeks, now been revealed to have smeared former Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay and cost her, her seat in the NSW Parliament, as the result of a corrupt ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against her as she opposed the plans of Buildev to install a coal loader terminal on the Newcastle Harbour rather than a container terminal that she supported, a plan that has been in place for a long time and is preferred by the state government, but which was opposed by property developers who stood to make 100 million from installing a coal loader (to the great detriment of the health of the local community research has shown). This was revealed in the ICAC this week.
So now rather than taking down my post of yesterday, I will add to it, weaving in the details that I have been reading about in the Newcastle Herald, and online.
It has been a while since I wrote about my ongoing research into my family history, on my long-lost mother’s side, which is Irish.
This will form the content of my next book, and more, but for now I cannot resist sharing what I have come across today completely by chance and serendipitously as all of this research into my mother’s family has been.
For a start, last night, I had a dream… of my mother and myself in The Old Manse, the old Georgian manse my family lived in for three and a half years, in the green fields of Country Antrim in Northern Ireland, before we moved to Australia in 1975.
Then today, following up on my legal case to do with the car (which I have written of on this blog) and making my appeal to have my case heard (which was granted) I walked past a very interesting building on the other side of the street to the Court House where I made my appeal. A tall blue painted stone building, in a state of faded elegance. My eye was caught by a heritage plaque almost on the level of the footpath, which I bent down to read.
It was very blustery weather, with a high wind blowing salt spray from the ocean at the far end of the street and I was almost blown over as I read the history of the building, which is on the site of the old “Sessions House”.
Clutching onto my scarf, I read that the Sessions House was a two-storey building that from 1822-1890 had served as Newcastle’s first Court House. I was fascinated to read this, as I thought my ancestor Cyrus Matthew Doyle had been amongst other things a local Magistrate who would have served in this very place, where I was standing now. Then I read that the same building was the first Post Office in Newcastle, from 1828, it served as a temporary Customs House from 1839. In 1859 it became a Presbyterian manse. I was staggered to read this, as I live now in an old post office, the first post office in Adamstown, in Newcastle. I lived in an Old Manse in (Northern) Ireland, which was haunted.
My ancestors on my mother’s side came from Ireland, and as I have said here on this blog I have found out that the original ancestors who came from Ireland were political exiles, Rebels, from the 1798 rebellions.
I was quite shocked to read of this building’s history, and the odd resonances with my own places of abode, as I walked around the corner to the seafront and had a coffee at the Estabar overlooking the stormy seas as I mulled it over. I read the Newcastle Herald, more stories on the ongoing Independent Commission against Corruption Inquiry into corruption in Newcastle, and collusions between property developers, and politicians. This has seen in the past two weeks, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, a property developer, Liberal Jeff McCloy, and Liberal MPs in Newcastle – Mr Tim Owen disgraced Liberal MP for Newcastle, and Mr Andrew Cornwell disgraced Charlestown MP- found guilty and of one (Owen) accepting illegal money including from then Mayor, Mr Jeff McCloy, a millionaire property developer described as a “walking ATM” who gave people (Tim Owen) tens of thousands of dollars in brown paper bags, and two (Cornwell) lying to the ICAC under oath (giving false evidence). I read. I read about the current corruption inquiry into a scheme that would have made $100 million for development group Buildev (largest shareholder Nathan Tinkler- also before the inquiry) installing a coal terminal on a harbourside site that the government has long said is preferred as a container terminal, and which is cited in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to smear sitting former Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay in the run up to the election in 2011 for her opposition to the coal terminal, which has great opposition in the Newcastle community (It would be a major polluter and very injurious for health of the local community). This was run through the Newcastle Alliance bank, ‘dirty tricks’ that drove MP Jodi McKay out of her seat in the NSW Parliament. (I remember the pamphlet that was delivered to my house in Newcastle before the 2011 elections “Stop Jodi’s Trucks”). This was all with the support of MP Darren Williamson who spent all day in the ICAC witness box on Wednesday.
Then I returned to Adamstown on the train, a wonderful evocative train journey from the historic Newcastle Train Station, which was built in the nineteenth century and is one of the things I like most about the city. And which extraordinarily is now under threat from property developers, including those who are being investigated in the ICAC inquiry.
“Buildev is alleged to have illegally funded the FedUp! election advertising campaign run through the Newcastle Alliance. [That was against then Newcastle Labour MP Jodi McKay]
Buildev also made a series of illegal donations to the campaign of Ms McKay’s Liberal rival, Tim Owen, allegedly including $35,000 via the Free Enterprise Foundation that was channelled through the NSW Liberal Party, and payment of the wages of Owen campaign team member.”
When I sat down this evening to start my work on my book publication, I was for some reason suddenly inspired to look up post offices, in Newcastle, and found a link to a post office in Adamstown in Ireland. I thought it could possibly in time, or in imagination, be a sister post office to the old post office where I am living and running Postmistress Press.
I clicked on the links, and found a webpage to Enniscorthy in Wexford home of Adamstown in Ireland, and Enniscorthy Castle. I clicked on the link to Enniscorthy and went straight to the home page of the castle where the first thing I read was that it is a tourist site which celebrates and commemorates the 1798 Rebellion, hosting the “National 1798 Rebellion Centre”. http://1798centre.ie/about
To my further surprise I read that this week from 23rd-31st August is Heritage Week 2014 at the National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Enniscorthy Castle.
A week in which there are public lectures about the Rebellion and its cultural and historical aspects.
On this very day, Friday the 29th August, there is a lecture on “Weapons of the 1798 Rebellion” by Rory O’Connor in the 1798 Rebellion Centre.
Well, my ancestors did not use weapons apparently as they were exiled for life on the grounds that they were non-violent, a plea made by my ancestor Sophia Isabella Doyle and granted by Lord Castlereagh who she was related to.
He granted that Rebels who were non-violent could be exiled for life, instead of executed, and so my family came to Australia. And they were from Dublin and the countryside near the Wicklow Mountains, rather than Wexford.
I will not go into any further details here, I have relayed some of my research so far in previous entries over the last three years, and will be writing it up into my next book or two.
But this has certainly made me feel once again that I am on the right track and have somehow, in some strange and mysterious way been brought to Newcastle to retrace, and find my long lost family, and write them back into life.
What’s more I am impressed by how in Enniscorthy the historic site of the castle and the cultural history is commemorated and celebrated, in a city like Newcastle this includes respecting the historical aspects of the railway, and buildings and not allowing corrupt property development, such as revealed in the ICAC inquiry, to exploit and destroy the cultural heritage of a unique city for the profit of a few.
Ruth Skilbeck August 29, 2014
The Old Post Office, Adamstown, Newcastle
The National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Ennicorthy Castle in Enniscorthy, Wexford:
“THE Buildev co-founders at the centre of a corruption inquiry stood to make $100 million if they had secured government approval for the Mayfield coal-loader proposal they relentlessly promoted, under an agreement to then sell the site to Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Ports.”
When former Labor Newcastle MP Jodi McKay was interviewed for this story it was before the ICAC inquiry into the Liberal MP who replaced her, Tim Owen, after the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to smear her, bank-rolled by Nathan Tinkler –property developer major shareholder in Buildev- and his corruption, in the past two weeks he has been stood down for accepting illegal political donations, and corruption.
“Lord Mayor of Newcastle has just tendered his resignation in the latest fallout from the ongoing corruption enquiry into Newcastle's governance and development issues, which have seen two corrupt Newcastle Liberal MPs resign in the last three days.” (Facebook post, August 18, 2014)
Newcastle"Corrupt" Liberal MPs quit Parliament after ICAC hearings http://t.co/qoTD3wYAMw via @ABCNews
Former Liberal MPs quit Parliament after ICAC hearings abc.net.auTwo former Government MPs quit the NSW Parliament after admitting to wrongdoing before a corruption inquiry.
After being fined almost $2000 for having my own broken down car outside my own house, which I had discussed by phone with a Newcastle council representative (council ranger) several times and he had assured me it was ok to leave my car there until I decided to either have it taken to wreckers, or have it repaired and re-registered, I then was given a fine of $1200. The day I went to Sydney to see an artists talk at SCA on the Biennale of Sydney boycott and I interviewed international artists (story on my blog) - returned to Newcastle midnight- by train- and found the fines. Went to court to contest- told I would have to go to court again, heard no more about it until this week - after I put the blog stories on the Biennale Boycott back up on my blog The Daily Fugue- and I was sent an increased level fine of almost $2000. This is in Newcastle, where two Newcastle MPs have just resigned following an investigation by ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) where they were found guilty of corruption involving the Lord Mayor a developer who gave them money for political reasons (which is illegal). Not a welcoming place I have found for a poor arts entrepreneur such as myself setting up a new publishing house. I am now seeking legal help to contest this unjust fine. 12 August at 21:20 · Edited · Like (Facebook post August 12, 2014)