BusinessAny Other Business

What next for the Ditch with Paddy Cosgrave out as Web Summit CEO?

New Web Summit boss Katherine Maher faces big decisions about her company’s future

As the new chief executive of Web Summit, Katherine Maher’s entire focus is its conference in Lisbon in two weeks’ time, according to insiders.

Once that’s over, however, she will have to make big decisions about the company’s future. One of them may be whether Web Summit continues to fund the Ditch, a news website beloved of Paddy Cosgrave, the CEO she replaced, and who resigned following a backlash over comments he made about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Eoghan McNeill, editor of the Ditch, told RTÉ last April that Web Summit was providing funding of about €1 million to the news website over the next five years. He also said The Ditch gets reader subscriptions and voluntary donations. Still, it would hardly survive without Web Summit’s cash.

News stories published by The Ditch have contributed to the resignations of junior ministers Robert Troy and Damien English, and that of Paul Hyde as deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála.


When the website ran a story last April about another junior minister, Niall Collins, his party leader Micheál Martin used Dáil privilege to criticise the Ditch in trenchant terms, saying “it is not an independent media platform by any stretch of the imagination” and had an “agenda” to take down the Government. The Tánaiste added that he “would love to know who is funding the Ditch in its entirety”.

Ditch Media Ltd was incorporated just over two years ago, and is owned by its journalists, McNeill and Roman Shortall, as well as Clonard Consulere Gentium Ltd, which is owned by Adam Connon, a legal adviser to Web Summit. McNeill also told RTÉ that the Ditch was an independent platform, that Cosgrave had no editorial input, and it was not antigovernment.

Unaudited abridged accounts for Ditch Media Ltd show it made a profit of €29,650 in the year to the end of December 2022.

Nevertheless, in May, Senator Malcolm Byrne of Fianna Fáil wrote to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), claiming the Ditch was a “political platform that comes within the definition of a ‘third party’ under the Electoral Acts”. He also complained that the €1 million Web Summit gave it is “far in excess” of the allowed threshold of political donations that registered corporate donors can make.

Byrne tells me he asked Sipo a few weeks ago how his complaint was progressing, and “they said it was still ongoing”.

Much to ponder there for Maher, who is unlikely to be as big a fan of the Ditch as Cosgrave. The hard-headed business decision would surely be to stop supporting a website that has nothing to do with the core business of Web Summit.

Maher may well decide that the time has come for Web Summit to ditch the Ditch and for Cosgrave, or “Sugar Paddy” as Shortall once called him, to fund the venture himself.