The tragedy of Jared O’Mara
'It was obvious to anyone who got to know him that he wasn’t up to the job'
Good afternoon members — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune.
Jared O’Mara’s disgrace is complete. Earlier today, the former Sheffield Hallam MP was sentenced to four years in prison for a fraud totalling over £24,000. The lurid details of the trial have been all over the internet for weeks. But how did O’Mara get selected in the first place? And what happened on the night that his wrongdoing was finally exposed? Today, I look back at the sad story of how someone who promised so much failed so spectacularly.
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🏥 Shocking news in The Star and on the BBC that healthcare workers have been subjected to “disgusting attacks” outside Northern General Hospital. Two incidents have taken place over the last two weeks, both involving groups of people near the junction of Barnsley Road and Herries Road. In one of the incidents a woman was threatened with a knife while in another a nurse was grabbed and asked for sex and money. Hospital bosses have pledged to increase security patrols and install more CCTV cameras. New lighting will also be brought in to make the area brighter, and a shortcut through the hospital's car park will also be blocked off.
🏭 A fascinating interview in the Yorkshire Post with Sheffield-born businessman Sir Andrew Cook, who overcame a childhood blighted by tragedy to transform a failing steel company founded by his Victorian ancestors. As a new book about him is published, Cook lifts the lid on the “Sheffield steel wars” of the 1990s, which saw his firm William Cook successfully fend off a hostile takeover from Triplex Lloyd. Elsewhere in the same paper, Cook, a long-time Conservative Party donor, says he has now “washed his hands” of the party over Brexit. Outcast: Cook Versus The City is available to purchase via Amazon now.
🔭 An astonishing story coming out of the University of Sheffield yesterday that scientists have found a new ring around a dwarf planet in our solar system. The planet, called Quaoar, orbits beyond Neptune just over four billion miles from the sun. However, its ring is much further from its planet than previously thought possible, leading scientists to question their theories of how they form. “Everyone learns about Saturn’s magnificent rings when they’re a child,” said Professor Vik Dhillon from the university’s physics and astronomy department. “So hopefully this new finding will provide further insight into how they came to be.”
Things to do
🧵 The Endless Love Creative makers’ market is back on Saturday, 11 February at the Showroom Workstation in the heart of Sheffield's Cultural Industries Quarter. Bringing together 47 art, design and craft stalls, the market is a vibrant and inspiring celebration of established and emerging makers alike, where shoppers can buy independent and connect with the creative talent behind the work. The market will run from 10am-4pm and entry is £2.
⚛️ This half term (Saturday, 11 February to Sunday, 19 February) the National Videogame Museum will be hosting a special exhibition all about physics. You’ll be able to explore the history of the development of physics-based games like Portal 2, Thrust, Loco Roco and Kerbal Space Program, a game praised for its realism by NASA. As well as all the games there’ll also be an opportunity to take an immersive 360-degree virtual guided tour through the world's largest man made machine, particle accelerator the Large Hadron Collider.
💕 On Sunday, February 12, Concerteenies will be hosting a special Valentine's event at the Greystones pub in Ecclesall (11.45am-12.30pm). Lindsay Dracass will perform a series of classic love songs for children aged 0-5 and their adults, accompanied by percussion and lots of bubbles. Lindsay, who is also an acclaimed solo artist and vocal coach, represented the UK at Eurovision 2001 when she was just 16 and was a judge on the hit BBC singing show All Together Now.
By Dan Hayes
It was a former colleague who first drew my attention to the tweet. “Have you seen this” the message said, swiftly followed by the 👀 emoji. Clicking the link took me to Twitter, and the account of Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara, but it was immediately obvious the tweet wasn’t from the MP himself.
“Jared, you are the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I have ever had the displeasure of working with. I cannot and will not defend you and your vile, inexcusable contempt for the people who voted you in. You selfish, degenerate prick.”
At the time I was working at The Star, but I’d knocked off for the day, and on the warm July evening was in the pub. Within seconds of me reading the tweet, our staff WhatsApp group exploded with dozens of messages. “Oh my god,” wrote one colleague. The tweets continued:
“Sheffield Hallam deserves so much better than you. You have wasted opportunities which people dare not to even dream of. You do not care about your constituents. You do not care about anyone but yourself.”
It soon became clear who the messages were coming from. Gareth Arnold was an old friend of O’Mara’s who had recently been drafted in to bring some semblance of competence to his chaotic operation. A colleague of mine at the time had heard rumours Arnold was about to jump ship, but nothing prepared us for what was to happen that balmy summer’s evening.
In the end, two reporters from The Star ended up driving to Arnold’s Endcliffe home at 10pm to get the full story. His price for agreeing to be interviewed was modest: 20 Marlboro Lights. As O’Mara’s self-styled “Chief of Staff” sat on his couch, shirtless and chain smoking, he painted a picture of complete dysfunction in the troubled MP’s constituency office. Later that night, the paper’s front page was completely rewritten with just moments to spare.