Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.
Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has accused the Labour Party of reneging on their election promises after they refused to introduce burden sharing and committed to pumping a further €24 billion of Irish taxpayers’ money into failed banks.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh was campaigning in Dublin today against the Universal Social Charge.
“On Wednesday evening Labour Party TDs voted against a Sinn Féin motion to abolish the Universal Social Charge yet on Thursday they committed to putting €24 billion more into failed banks.
“There is no talk of burden sharing with the gamblers who caused the mess yet they expect ordinary struggling families to continue paying a regressive charge.
“The Labour Party has reneged on their election promise to introduce burden sharing with bondholders. In voting against our motion to abolish the Universal Social charge they have turned their back on the communities from which they have traditionally received most support.
“Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the Universal Social Charge and the pouring of billions of euros of Irish taxpayers’ money into toxic banks.” ENDS
Speaking following the announcement by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that the government are planning to review the decision to build Thornton Hall, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD said the review was to be welcomed and this presented an “opportunity to take a new direction with prison policy.”
Deputy O’Brien said,
“Fianna Fáil in government spent millions on a badly thought out idea. By December 2010, spending on the prison had reached €43.3 million for purchasing additional land, surveys, landscaping, professional fees and security. When it came to this project the previous Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, threw money around like snuff at a wake so the decision to review the Thornton Hall plans are to be welcomed.
“I intend to contribute to this review and urge Minister Shatter to use this opportunity to take a new direction with prison policy by acknowledging that creating a couple of hundred extra cells is not a sufficient mechanism to tackle the prison crisis. What is really needed is a strategy to deal with increasing rates of imprisonment.
“There have been massive increases in prisoner numbers over the past few years. Justice policy must acknowledge the causal factors in these increases – poverty, embedded disadvantage, inequality and addiction – and address them accordingly. Sinn Féin is also calling on the Minister to improve prison conditions of the existing Mountjoy prison. The chronic over-crowding has created serious health and safety issues. Such overcrowding is dangerous and inhumane.
“I would urge the Minister, in the context of this review and all justice policy, to look at ‘what works.’ Unless proper drug and rehabilitative supports in prisons are resourced, alongside educational facilities, and other steps to address recidivism are focused on, we will simply be ignoring what actually needs to be done.”
Speaking in the Dáil after the Minister for Finance announced that there is to be a further €24 billion pumped into the defunct banking system Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that it is the ordinary people who are suffering for the failings of Government to deal with bank debt.
Deputy Doherty said:
“It beggars belief that this so-called alternative Government is to pump another €24 billion into the defunct banking system.
“This open-ended commitment to cover bank losses plainly exceeds the fiscal capacity of the state. The losses of the banking sector have become the losses of the taxpayer. Bank debt has become sovereign debt. And that is the problem and it is the ordinary citizens who are suffering for these failings.
“The reality is that this Government is continuing on with the reckless policies of the previous Fianna Fáil Government. Like Fianna Fáil they have placed more priority on bailing out bank bondholders than bailing out ordinary people trying to make ends meet.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are fighting for their survival. Nearly half a million people are unemployed. 50,000 of our young people are leaving our shores each year. A growing number of people face eviction. Families struggle to feed their children and provide warmth. These are the people Fine Gael and Labour want to foot the bill for the banks.
“The Government has not acted in the interests of the people today; it has acted purely in the interest of the banks.
“There should be no choice: you need to impose aggressive burden sharing on unguaranteed bonds. You need to go after bondholders.”
Worrying trend developing in Tallaght Live Register figures – Crowe
Sinn Féin’s Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has said that there is a worrying trend developing in the Tallaght Live Register figures.
Deputy Crowe made his comments after CSO figures revealed that the number of people signing on nationally rose by 1,100.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Unemployment in this state has reached crisis point.
“Since the election over 1,000 people nationally have signed on. The increase here in Tallaght, although small does indicate a worrying trend in unemployment figures and it shows that action has not yet been taken.
“The increase in unemployment and those signing on is a national emergency that warrants swift, decisive Government action. What we have got instead is a promise of a Jobs plan and budget after the first 100 days.
“Given that ESRI figures state that 50,000 people will emigrate this year, that means that roughly 13,000 people will emigrate while they are waiting for the new government to publish their plan.
“In our pre-election proposals, we in Sinn Féin put forward a document entitled Let’s Get Dublin Working which, if implemented, would create 50,000 jobs in Dublin while at the same time retaining a further 45,000.
“This document included proposals to support local businesses and entrepreneurs, a ‘Jobs not Dole’ fund to support struggling small businesses, schemes to boost tourism through the development of cultural and historic quarters as well as developing a much needed labour intensive essential infrastructure programme.
“People cannot wait any longer for Government intervention. The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation needs to present the Jobs Plan as a matter of urgency.”
Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth and East Meath Gerry Adams is demanding that the Government stand up to the EU/IMF and honour its commitment on reversing the cut to the minimum wage introduced by the Fianna Fáil/Greeen Party Government.
Mr Adams remarks follow the Taoiseach’s admission yesterday that any change to the Minimum Wage requires the approval of the EU/IMF.
Mr. Adams said:
“The commitment to reverse the cut to the minimum wage was a key promise in Fine Gael’s election campaign.
“Yesterday in the Dáil I raised the example of the five workers in the Davenport Hotel who had their wages lowered without their consent. The ensuing dispute went to the Labour Court, which found in favour of the workers.
“This happened because the previous Government cut the minimum wage, which sent the signal to employers that they could do what they wanted on wages.
“When I asked the Taoiseach when the minimum wage will be put back to what it should be, he said that ‘This is a matter that is not merely budgetary. It may well require legislation and will require the approval under the programme of the IMF-EU deal and I cannot give the Deputy an exact date as to when the implementation of the reverse can become a reality. Those are the parameters of the situation.’
“This is an outrageous and unacceptable situation. It is an admission by the Taoiseach that the Government is bound by EU-IMF diktat regardless of the consequences on the people.
“The minimum wage must be restored to its previous level and the government must make it clear to employers that they cannot behave as the Davenport Hotel did and that workers’ rights will be protected.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Communications Martin Ferris has claimed that the Postal Services Bill before the Dáil will if passed lay the basis for the breaking up and selling off of An Post. The Kerry North/Limerick West TD was speaking during the debate on the Bill which was introduced by the former government and has been reintroduced by Fine Gael and Labour.
Deputy Ferris said: “This Bill is, as I said when I spoke on this before the break up of the previous government, a charter for the breaking up and the ultimate privatisation of postal services throughout the EU. That has already been proven by what is taking place at the moment in Britain.
“The danger of privatisation of course has significantly increased since the adoption of the IMF/EU austerity programme. The Memorandum of Understanding that underpins the programme contains a clear statement of intent with regard to the selling off of state companies.
“The Government has already committed itself to selling off €2 billion in state assets. They have said that these will be ‘non strategic assets’ but that means very little. The simple fact of the matter is that the only assets that private companies will be interested in buying will be profitable ones.
“In the case of An Post that will mean that when the company is divided up and if it is put up for sale then obviously private operators will want to buy those parts that are profitable and that will mean the off loading and or running down of non profitable parts including rural postal deliveries.
“The government has also said that it will be guided in its assessment of which state companies or parts of state companies are to be sold off by the report of the review group on state assets and liabilities which was chaired by Professor Colm McCarthy.
“That report seems to have been delayed for some reason with one suggestion being that this had to do with the down grading of An Bord Gáis debt rating. Clearly then the report has closely examined the financial state of state companies with a view to how and when they might be sold off.
“An Post is one of the state companies that has been subject to the review so it will be interesting to see what Professor McCarthy has to recommend in relation to it. Going by his An Bord Snip Nua report we may expect that this report will take a similar right wing view in relation to the state sector.
“It is vital then, as I have said before and as I have requested in questions to the Minister for Finance that the report is made publically available as soon as it is received by the government and that we have a full debate here and involving the workers representatives in those companies likely to be affected on its findings and recommendations before they are acted upon.
“Given that An Post is one of the companies subject to the review by the McCarthy report, it is possible that we are debating this bill not knowing the full picture. It is possible indeed that this legislation if passed might be over ridden by the report if it recommends as it might very well do, a breaking up and selling of An Post.
“That is something that Deputies on all sides need to bear in mind as we debate this bill and I would particularly ask that members of the Labour Party do so given their commitments to the postal workers that they would protect jobs and services.”
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the reiteration by Health Minister James Reilly of the Government’s commitment to the promised radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Minister must now press Northern Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to reverse his decision to postpone the development of the centre which is vital for cancer care in the entire North-West of Ireland, on both sides of the Border.
Minister Reilly, replying to Dáil Questions tabled by Deputy Ó Caoláin and Donegal North-East Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, says he is “happy to reaffirm the Government’s support, both practical and financial”.
Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:
“The decision by the Health Minister in the Assembly, Michael McGimpsey, to postpone the development of the long-promised radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry was a retrograde step for cancer care on this island. His decision has met with widespread and cross-community opposition on both sides of the Border.
“Minister Reilly’s reiteration of the Government’s support for this vital project is welcome. However, he must go further. He must press Minister McGimpsey to reverse his postponement decision immediately and allow the radiotherapy unit to proceed.
“The development of the Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit is essential given the glaring gap in cancer care provision on this island, north of a line from Dublin to Galway. This is principally because of the flawed plan for radiotherapy centres introduced by the last Government under Health Minister Harney. The new Minister must revisit this plan.
“I note that in his reply Minister Reilly states that ‘Irish patients will comprise roughly one third of the number of patients who will attend the new centre’ at Altnagelvin. By this I presume he means patients who live in this jurisdiction. It is unacceptable for the Minister and his Department to suggest that those living in the Six Counties are not Irish.” ENDS
QUESTION NOS: 127 & 116
DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Health and Children (Dr. James Reilly )
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 30/03/2011
* To ask the Minister for Health and Children if he has discussed with the Minister for Health in the six counties the decision to postpone the development of the radiotherapy unit at Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry; if he will press for the reversal of this decision; if he has considered the implications for cancer care in this jurisdiction, particularly in the north-west, if this decision goes ahead; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 30th March, 2011.
* To ask the Minister for Health and Children if he will reaffirm his commitment to co-funding the Radiotherapy Unit at Atnagelvin, Derry and if he will proactively engage with the next Minister for Health in the Northern Executive after the impending elections to ensure that this vitally important initiative is delivered.
- Pádraig Mac Lochlainn
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 30th March, 2011.
The Government is committed to ensuring a high-quality radiotherapy service for the entire population of Ireland, including close collaboration with Northern Ireland, for services in the North West. I am happy to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to this vital radiotherapy project at Altnagelvin, which will benefit cancer patients on both sides of the border, and I have written to Minister McGimpsey confirming our support, both practical and financial, in this regard.
The Irish Government will work in partnership with our Northern Ireland counterparts on the development of this new facility. It is estimated that Irish patients will comprise roughly one third of the number of patients who will attend the new centre for radiotherapy services and therefore our contribution will equate to approximately one third of the full cost of the radiotherapy facilities.
The proposed development at Altnagelvin is substantial in scale, with high capital costs and revenue costs, because of the highly specialist and complex nature of the services which will be provided there. I recognise that the matter is being brought forward through the usual business case process within the Northern Ireland Health Services and my Department will continue to provide all the information needed to help the planning process to continue. I look forward to continued collaboration on this and other projects of benefit to patients in both jurisdictions.
Speaking today in advance of the stress tests results, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Finance Pearse Doherty has set out his party’s position.
“Already today Anglo Irish bank and Irish Nationwide have been paid over €3 billion in promissory notes and this evening we will find out that tens of billions more is being shovelled into the State’s banks.
“The Government needs to put three objectives at the core of the Government’s response to this banking crisis. We need to reduce the liability to the State, to ensure that there is a functioning banking system and the Government need to restore confidence in the Irish economy.
“The Government can’t solve the State’s debt problem by creating more debt. Up until now it has been the taxpayer but now the Minister needs to ensure that at a minimum €21 billion of unguaranteed bondholders take a share of these losses.
“While the Minister claims this will draw a line in the sand and this will be the final figure, this is a guarantee he cannot give. There are now serious questions as to whether the criteria for the stress tests have been adequate.
“After today, each working person in this State will be shouldering the burden of €39,000 of bank debt. This needs to stop. This is unsustainable. The Government needs to act today in the interests of people, not banks.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh has accused Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes of resorting to a mud-slinging exercise in an effort to muddy the waters on his party’s stance on the disgraceful Universal Social Charge.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Fine Gael last night resorted to a mud-slinging exercise in an effort to muddy the waters on their stance on the disgraceful Universal Social Charge.
“Minister of State Brian Hayes had the cheek to reference the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. That Programme made clear that the Government is bound to prioritise the Irish people, to make sure that first and foremost that our people’s needs are met.
“By refusing to abolish the Universal Social Charge Brian Hayes and his Government have fallen at the first hurdle – no one who truly believes in the principles of the Democratic Programme would stand over such an unfair and unjust tax.
“There would be no need for the Universal Social Charge if this Government would live up to the spirit of the first Dáil and make a political choice to tax the wealthy and harness our nation’s resources for the good of the people.
“Brian Hayes also accused my party of pursuing an austerity agenda in the 6 counties. That is a gross misrepresentation of the reality that is British rule. The key fiscal powers necessary to pursue our alternative plan for recovery have simply not been devolved. Hopefully if the Deputy is that concerned about the matter he will finally join with us in our efforts to end British rule.
“Fine Gael should spend less time slinging mud at Sinn Féin and more time living up to their supposed commitment to protect the poorest in society and abolish the Universal Social Charge.”
For Immediate Release
30th March 2011
Doherty raises issue of Mortgage defaults in Dáil
Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty today questioned the Taoiseach in relation to bringing forward legislation to deal with mortgage default and debt relief.
Speaking in the Dáil earlier today Deputy Doherty said:
“ Mortgage relief is something which we in Sinn Féin have consistently raised. It is a very serious issue which must be addressed.
“The importance of such legislation has been highlighted by the fact that Permanent TSB has been delisted from the stockmarket both here and in London, given that that bank was heavily engaged in mortgage lending and not development lending"
Deputy Doherty went on to ask the Taoiseach whether there were proposals in relation to debt relief and forgiveness as distinct from interest relief.
The Taoiseach acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and promised to report back later today on the government's position.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed the agreement by all parties in the Dáil on a motion of censure of Michael Lowry.
Sinn Féin brought forward such a motion and we welcome the fact that a motion of censure has now been agreed by all parties.
Speaking this evening after the motion was published Mr. Adams said:
“I welcome the agreement of the motion of censure of Michael Lowry. This motion is about assuring the public that the type of behaviour revealed in the Moriarty report is not acceptable and that the Dáil has a firm view on these matters.
“Having been established by the Dáil, the Moriarty Tribunal has now reported back to us. It is now vitally important that we act on all of its recommendations.
“Sinn Féin was and is deeply dissatisfied with the manner in which the Government organized the Dáil debate.
“Sinn Fein objected to the debate as proposed and brought forward a motion of censure to be debated.
“We are now pleased that an all party motion has been agreed.”
Full text of Speech by Peadar Tóibín TD
The Lowry affair highlights a number of major problems that demand immediate resolution.
1. Why did the FG/Labour government of the day not prevent this from happening?
2. How as a state can we create fair and honest systems to identify the best placed bids on occasions such as this?
3. How has each party been funded over the last number of decades?
4. How can we investigate wrong doings such as what occurred without having such a disgusting cost placed upon the overburdened shoulders of the Irish people?
5. What level of real censure can be apportioned to people guilty of these wrongs
With regards the first question of how did the FG/Labour government of the day not prevent this? Yesterday in his speech to the chamber Deputy Lowry stated and I quote “Does anybody here as a politician believe that John Bruton, Dick Spring and Proinsias De Rossa would be so stupid as to allow the likes of John Loughrey and myself to pull the wool over their eyes in some way or other?”
The answer to that and many others are found in the 2,438 pages in the Moriarty Report. The report implicitly says that at the very least the wool was pulled over the eyes of the then Fine Gael/Labour government.
But the report goes further and has led to the first crisis of the new government. Not even a month has gone by and Fine Gael is already entangled in allegations of corruption by an eminent tribunal judge. In addition to suggestions of unprecedented inappropriate ministerial interference, serious questions have been asked about the flow of large undisclosed donations through Fine Gael headquarters at a time when John Bruton was in charge.
In relation to the $50,000 donation from Esat/Telenor to Fine Gael, the report says it is regrettable that Fine Gael and other parties to the transaction made no disclosure to the tribunal, even though they had a substantial degree of knowledge about the “clandestine” circumstances involved.
Why, if this money was handed back, could Fine Gael not answer to the tribunal? Is this the transparency and openness in public office that we can look forward to for the next term? Given the tremendous sums of taxpayers’ money that went into these tribunals, it is deeply unsettling that the now-Government party could not make a disclosure.
Again, the statements and the actions of Fine Gael are striking. In 2001, the now Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (February 9th, 2001) said:
"All over the world, it is recognised that financial support from business to politicians is perceived by the public to have one purpose [namely] the securing of commercial advantage. Claims that such donations are made from disinterested motives are simply not believed. As the lurid tribunal scandals play out before our eyes, one thing is clear. We cannot restore politics until the perceived link between political contributions and public policy is broken."
While we can discuss Mr Lowry individually here, we must also have recourse to the other members of the then Government who find themselves on the Cabinet benches again now. Why can’t the cabinet papers of the then coalition government relating to the awarding of the mobile phone contract to Esat to be published in the national interest? Mr Kenny has said that the Report has exonerated Fine Gael Ministers but what about the events?
It is said that you lead by example- and the example that has been set by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in Government has been appalling.
Political reform was one of the buzz words of the recent election. If the new Government are serious about political reform, if they are serious about openness, transparency, disclosure and bringing the political system closer to the people now is the time to a make a goodwill gesture to the people of Ireland and publish all cabinet papers available.
The Tribunal findings are not just an indictment of an individual or maybe even a number of political parties. It is a shocking indictment of our whole political and justice systems.
That the rich and powerful can buy favour with the establishment political parties is shocking and deeply unfair. That there is no efficient system to bring wrongdoers to justice is also wrong. The tribunals have no teeth; the parties embroiled are still able to remain as members as the national parliament or indeed compose the Government; yet millions of euros of taxpayers’ money has been used to produce a substantive document upon which there is no power to pass a sentence.
The Moriarty Tribunal report just lends more credence to the fact that our political and justice systems are in dire need of reform and that we need to design, implement and use a series of checks and balances to limit the scope for excess by the powerful.
We need to make sure our constitution is a framework for a government allows for the exercise of political power, which the citizens of this state completely own.
We need to ensure that our way of governing ourselves has both the means to be successful for the common good with increased democratic accountability and the capacity and of adapting to the changes that constantly descend upon it.
The citizens of this State need to ensure that the state’s decision making-processes are transparent, structured and disciplined. These structures need to inspire confidence.
The Oireachtas has consistently failed to exert sufficient scrutiny over the Government and public bodies. This is largely because it has not had the powers to perform these functions and its members are distracted by clientelism.
We need to copper fasten new ways of governing ourselves to avoid the kind of muddling through, lethargy, lack of foresight, and setbacks that blight previous efforts at reform.
To ensure this, I am firmly convinced that we need to:
• Crack down on white-collar crime, strengthen laws and give the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation additional resources.
• The annual publication of independently audited accounts by political parties, including income and expenditure accounts and a party balance sheet and I would like to repeat the call made by my colleague Deputy Ferris to the government parties to publish a full list of donations to their parties
• Reverse the dilution of the Freedom of Information Act
• Introduce legislation to protect whistleblowers.
While I accept that these reforms may take time to research, consider and implement however there is nothing stopping political parties themselves taking the last three steps internally themselves
During the election Sinn Féin said that there was a pressing need for the law to be changed to allow for the impeachment or removal of any TD from the Dáil who is involved in corruption, deliberate use of public money or fraud. €42million, 14 years and over 2000 pages later, it is clear that this needs to happen as a matter of priority. That is why Sinn Féin has put the motion before the House that Deputy Michael Lowry would be censured.
At a time when Irish people desperately need transparency in public life, when major political donations have been shown to adversely influence public affairs and when the nation’s reputation has once again been sullied by how the issuing of a lucrative mobile phone license was dealt with, the Government must now play a leading role in the political clean-up that needs to be undertaken. . If the government are real about reform they should provide us now with a time table for the implementation of that reform.
The reaction by the Government will be the litmus test of the capacity and will of the new Government to address corruption and to instigate genuine reform.
Never again can we have a situation whereby corrupt or questionable dealings are referred to toothless tribunals where they merely become a slush-fund for lawyers and consultants for a decade or more. We need real accountability and we need to have strong legislation to make those who are culpable pay a price. This means a system for recalling ministers, TDs and public officials who have acted inappropriately and a mechanism for thoroughly investigating corruption along with legislation to ensure that nobody is above law in this country. These officials are often still being paid by the State and as such should be answerable to same.
In this day and age, it should be expected of leaders that they be, first and foremost upholders of truth. They should be fearless in challenging perceptions, tackling corruption, fraud and public deception where it exists. Instead of taking the moral high ground - as he would have done in his previous role as the official chief critic of Government on the opposition benches- an Taoiseach Enda Kenny has turned passive. In the process he has flunked his first major challenge of leadership.
Remarking on the publication of the first Moriarty Report An Taoiseach stated that it was “a catalogue of corruption. It is a devastating critique of a powerful elite exposing a gross abuse of privilege, a rank abuse of public office and, most importantly, a devastating abuse of public trust.” Little did he know that 4 years later the same could be said about a report detailing the events surrounding a former Fine Gael minister.
I would like to conclude on the issue of the cost of the Tribunal. The cost of €41 million which has been spent so far is another financial assault on the Irish people. In many ways the Tibunal itself became a Golden Circus with a massive opportunity cost to the Irish people.
What can you get for 41 million? Well the previous government’s National Recovery Plan proposed to cut spending in a whole host of important areas. €22 million was cut in Schools capitation grants, including grants for Adult Literacy, Community Education, School Completion Programme, Youthreach. The Overseas Development Assistance allocation was cut by €37 million. There was a reduction in funding and allocation to sporting bodies and agencies including Irish Sports Council and National Sports Campus. There was a reduction in allocations to cultural institutions and cultural projects all totalling €26 million. In Agriculture there was a reduction the REPs of €35.7million. Public transport and regional airports were reduced by 15 million. In a state where the latest economic scandal is measured in the billions it is important to remind ourselves that cronyism and corruption costs money and this money comes out of the pockets of citizens.
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to clarify issues relating to his role in the events covered by the Moriarty Report.
The Dublin Central TD was speaking during the continued debate on the Moriarty Report this afternoon.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Minister Hogan was then a key member of the group responsible for organising fund-raising on behalf of Fine Gael. In that capacity he was the conduit for several substantial donations from Denis O’Brien.
“One of the donations he is said to have received was a cheque for £4,000 from Denis O’Brien after a golf classic, which I am happy to see is still a favoured means by which Fine Gael accumulates large amounts of cash from its friends in big business.
“Mark Fitzgerald was also one of those involved in organising those golf classics and he recalls that shortly after one of those events in October 1995 and shortly after Minister Hogan had received the cheque that he met with Minister Hogan and Denis O’Brien, at meeting initiated by Denis O’Brien.
“The transcript of the Tribunal hearing on December 6, 2002 contains the following report of Mr. Fitzgerald’s evidence:
“’Mr. FitzGerald has informed the Tribunal that Mr. O'Brien asked to meet with him for coffee at a restaurant close to Mr. FitzGerald's office. Mr FitzGerald assumed that this might relate to a business matter about which he had shortly before spoken to Mr. O'Brien. Mr. FitzGerald has informed the Tribunal that he was surprised when he arrived to find Mr. O'Brien sitting at a table with Mr. Phil Hogan and the late Mr. Jim Mitchell. As he sat down, Mr. FitzGerald has informed the Tribunal that Mr. O'Brien asked him if he had heard any news on the licence.”
“If that meeting did take place then there are serious questions to be asked and responded to by all of those who were present including Minister Hogan. Here, according to Mr. Fitzgerald, we had a situation in which a person who had donated significant sums of money to one of the government parties was meeting with a government TD and seeking to find out about a license application that was potentially, and indeed proved to be, of immense value to Mr. O’Brien.
“That is something that surely warrants further attention and further clarification from Minister Hogan given that I understand that he claims to have no recollection of that meeting ever having taken place.
“In the light of what we now know and in the overall context of the report of the Moriarty Tribunal and the evidence which it has uncovered in relation to the matter of awarding the GSM licenses, I believe that Minister Hogan ought to further clarify what may or may not have taken place at that time.”
Speaking from the Dáil Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
The findings of the Moriarty Tribunal form another chapter in the sordid history of the Golden Circle of the powerful and the wealthy in this State. It is an indictment of Deputy Michael Lowry. It is an indictment of the Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left Government in which he sat at the Cabinet table as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. Above all it is an indictment of the political culture that has dominated this State for decades.
While the Tribunal does not use the word ‘corrupt’ its findings amount to the same thing – the awarding of the State’s hugely lucrative second mobile phone licence was corrupt. The Minister responsible, Deputy Lowry, received substantial sums of money from the winning bidder, Denis O’Brien, before and after the awarding of the licence. Fine Gael also received substantial sums of money from the same source.
The spotlight has quite rightly fallen on Deputy Lowry himself. Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of censure and that motion should be taken today and voted on and supported by all Deputies in this House. It would send a very clear signal that the political culture of corruption and cronyism is ending and ending for good.
But the spotlight must also fall on former Minister Lowry’s Cabinet colleagues, especially former Taoiseach John Bruton. Mr. Bruton, now President of the Irish Financial Services Centre, said recently that the Irish people need to regain seriousness and self-respect. In his role as Taoiseach Mr. Bruton did little to enhance national self-respect. His close ministerial colleague and chief Fine Gael party fund-raiser was none other than Deputy Lowry.
The scandal exposed by the Moriarty Tribunal happened on Taoiseach Bruton’s watch but he has escaped with relatively little censure for his role in it. He was at the very least, negligent in allowing Government business to be done the way it was by Minister Lowry. He was aware at the time that Minister Lowry was a tax evader and had availed of the 1993 tax amnesty.
It says a lot about politics in this State just before the start of the Celtic Tiger that such a figure could be appointed to Cabinet. One of the less publicised findings of the Tribunal is the pocketing by soon-to-be-Minister Lowry of €34,500 between 1989 and 1992. This was money from Dunnes Stores that was supposed to be given in Christmas bonuses to the workforce of Mr. Lowry’s refrigeration company.
Such a culture could flourish because Mr. Bruton cow-towed to corporate interests. That was hardly surprising since they were, after all, funding Fine Gael to the hilt.
I welcome the fact that the new Taoiseach has said the Government will move to ban corporate donations. Fine Gael has a lot of ground to make up in this regard. They clearly spent millions of euros in the General Election yet they do not publish their party accounts, something we in Sinn Féin have been doing for a number of years now.
The Tribunal has described the $50,000 payment to Fine Gael from Telenor/Esat as “secretive, utterly lacking in transparency and designed to conceal the fact of such a payment”. Mr. Bruton did return this money but the truth of what happened was only revealed after probing by the media. It was carefully concealed and begs the question as to what other significant corporate donations to Fine Gael were concealed or are being concealed.
In 1997 we got a snapshot of the range and level of corporate donations to establishment political parties when a box of files on donors was, apparently inadvertently, thrown into a skip outside the head office of the Progressive Democrats during a clearout. It was removed from the skip and sent anonymously to a Sunday newspaper. The donors included Tony Ryan of GPA, De Beers Diamonds, Tara Mines, Waterford Glass, Larry Goodman and donations from executives in such firms as Stokes Kennedy Crowley and Arthur Cox & Co. There was £12,000 from Smurfit’s in 1987 and again in 1989 and £30,000 in 1992. If only there had been a similar skip mishap outside Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil head offices!
Fine Gael should publish their accounts, including corporate donations.
We have repeatedly pointed out that in key policy areas, including economic strategy, there is little difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. While Fine Gael always attempt to refute this they are much more vehement in their denial that they are the same as Fianna Fáil in terms of political culture, cronyism and corruption.
That may be true to a certain extent – but only to a certain extent. The difference is that Fianna Fáil have been in Government far more often and for longer in the history of this State than Fine Gael and the opportunities for those among them who have been corrupt have therefore been far greater. And boy have they availed of those opportunities.
The media and political debate is focused predominantly on individuals because the Tribunal’s inquiries and findings were based on the conduct of individuals. But there are wider implications for both the conduct of politics and for Government policy.
There was, apparently, nothing illegal or, on the face of it, corrupt, about the privatisation of Eircom. But in its results it was far more disastrous than the awarding of the second mobile phone licence.
Strategic infrastructure was sold off and the Government threw away its responsibility to develop the telecommunications infrastructure of this country in a properly planned and equitable manner with the profits being ploughed back to maintain and upgrade that resource. Instead the general public were invited to be shareholders and when that venture collapsed, leaving many thousands of small investors out of pocket, the company was sold off. Among the beneficiaries were Tony O’Reilly who profited to the tune of many millions.
Now this may not be termed corrupt in the legal sense but I believe it was a corruption of the role of Government and a betrayal of the public interest.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are at one on the policy of privatisation. In the last Dáil they both supported the privatisation of Aer Lingus. We learned yesterday that the Chief Executive of the privatised Aer Lingus received €1.32 million in salaries and bonuses last year. The golden circle has indeed changed but only in form and in personnel.
I will conclude with some questions which I hope the Taoiseach and the Minister will answer.
Will Fine Gael publish its accounts?
Will it publish its list of corporate donors, especially regarding the recent General Election?
The Taoiseach said yesterday that the Cabinet has directed the relevant departments to provide a comprehensive report to the Government within four weeks on the report’s recommendations so appropriate action could be taken. Will that comprehensive report be published and brought before the Dáil for our consideration?
The Taioseach also promised to bring forward legal and constitutional provisions to ban corporate donations. When will those provisions be brought forward?
Speaking today following the release of the Live Register figures for March which saw an increase of 1,100 people, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Peadar Tóibín has described the rise in unemployment as ‘a national emergency’.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“The increase in unemployment and those signing on is a national emergency that warrants swift, decisive Government action. What we have got instead is a promise of a Jobs plan and budget after the first 100 days.
“Given that ESRI figures state that 50,000 people will emigrate this year, that means that roughly 13,000 people will emigrate while they are waiting the for the new government to publish their plan.
“People cannot wait any longer for Government intervention. The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation needs to present the Jobs Plan as a matter of priority.
“Since the election over 1000 people have signed on. This Government was not given a mandate for inaction; they were given a mandate to create jobs.
“Yesterday when I was questioning the Minister he kept referring to the Jobs Plan. His reply, like the Programme for Government was high on rhetoric but short on specifics. We need a real plan to deal with the crisis were almost half a million people are unemployed and 1,000 people a week are leaving.
“We in Sinn Féin are proposing that an ‘Export for Recovery’ programme for small businesses be rolled out immediately through the County Enterprise Board network. Currently there is no such state wide export programme for small businesses with less than 10 employees. These people have skills and experience having set up fully operating businesses. For many the domestic market has dried up. Now it is time for this state to step in and support their export activities.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s willingness to consider a motion of censure in Michael Lowry to be taken in Government time today.
Enda Kenny made the commitment in response to questions from Gerry Adams this morning after Sinn Féin earlier tabled a motion of censure in Michael Lowry.
Speaking during Leaders Questions Deputy Adams said:
“Sinn Féin placed a motion of censure on the Order Paper yesterday and I am pleased that the Taoiseach has indicated his willingness an agreed motion to be debated during Government time this evening.
“The Moriarty Tribunal was established by the Dáil. It has reported back to us. It is vitally important that we act on all the report’s recommendations. This includes those aspects which deal with Michael Lowry. There is nothing personal in this. It is a matter of assuring the public that this type of politics will not be tolerated and that the Dáil has a view on these matters.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty has tonight moved the Sinn Féin Private Members motion which seeks the abolition of the Universal Social Charge.
Speaking from the Dáil Deputy Doherty said that the Universal Social Charge (USC) is little more than a tax on the working poor and should be abolished.
Deputy Doherty said:
“I am moving this motion tonight and in so doing am calling on all those who claim to oppose this unfair tax to support our motion.
“The abolition of the Universal Social Charge is an issue which demands the full support of each elected representative in the Dáil. It is little more than a tax on the working poor.
“This tax needs to be abolished and instead the Government should work on building a fairer tax system by creating a progressive tax base that taxes fairly and equalises wealth.
“Fine Gael and Labour have said that they will ‘review’ the Universal Social Charge. They have also proposed at least 32 other reviews in the Programme for Government.
“A review is not good enough. Fine Gael and Labour should make a stand for the people and abolish this grossly unfair tax.”
Sinn Féin leader and TD for Louth and East Meath Gerry Adams secured an adjournment debate in the Dáil this evening on the future of Louth County Hospital.
Mr. Adams called for the restoration of A&E services to the Louth County as the first step toward providing acute medical, ICU and emergency surgery services. He also said there is a need for a midwife led unit in Dundalk and for investment in mental health provision and suicide prevention.
The Sinn Féin leader also called on the Minister for Health to meet the Save Our Hospital Services Group.
Text of SO 21 request (check against delivery)
The need for the Minister for Health to reinstate Accident & Emergency Services, Acute Medical beds and the Intensive Care Unit at Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. - Gerry Adams.
Mr. Adams said:
Our public healthcare system in Louth and East Meath is in crisis because Fianna Fáil-led governments have pursued a policy of privatisation and stripped Louth County of its essential key services.
The children’s ward was the first to go, followed by the maternity ward and then the gynaecological unit.
We were told the maternity unit was to be closed temporarily.
It never reopened.
We were to get a midwife-led unit in its place.
It never happened.
In June 2003 we were told that the building identified for future use as a midwifery-led unit would require some modification.
This work was to have been completed in 2004.
The people of Louth and East Meath are still waiting.
This ‘domino’ effect of cuts led last July to the withdrawal of A&E and Acute Medical Services.
Ciallaíonn sé seo nach bhfuil seirbhísí saoil tarrthála ar fáil d’íosportaigh tionóisc bóithre, íosportaigh croí nó stróc nó daoine eile le gá práinneach do chóiriú i dtuaisceart an Lú.
This is a serious and life threatening situation which the Fine Gael and Labour government can reverse if they have the political will.
The stripping away of services in Louth County Hospital also has a knock-on effect on Lourdes in Drogheda which is unable to cope with the demands being made of it.
Two months ago I visited the A&E in Lourdes and was appalled at the numbers of patients waiting on hospital trolleys, chairs and even the floor.
Frontline Staff in Drogheda, like the staff in Louth County Hospital, are doing their very best in the face of insufficient resources and poor planning by the HSE and last government.
Does the Minister support his party's local Councillors in Louth, Meath and Monaghan who have opposed the Transformation agenda?
This is the plan to withdraw much needed services from a good hospital to a Regional Hospital that does not exist?
Is the Minister aware that only days after the former government’s ejection from power, the very same Medical Beds, closed in Dundalk in July, were removed from the hospital with the consent of HSE managers for storage in Dublin to be transported abroad?
Minister the people of Louth and East Meath, and of Counties Meath, Cavan and Monaghan deserve a Regional Hospital that can provide first class health services.
A Aire tá sé tuillte go maith acu agus caithfidh saoránaigh seirbhísí ospidéal eifeachtúla a bheith ar fáil acu ina dúiche.
The Save our Hospital Services campaign group, which has been to the fore in fighting to save the Louth County Hospital have written to the Minister seeking a meeting.
Will the Minister commit this evening to meeting with them to discuss the future of Louth County Hospital?
Tacaíonn Sinn Féin leis an bhfeachtas athchóiriú seirbhísí A&E a bhaint amach i gContae an Lú.
Sinn Fein supports the campaign to restore A&E services to the Louth County as the first step toward providing acute medical, ICU and emergency surgery services.
We also believe there should be a midwife led unit in Dundalk.
The provision of these would have a positive effect on the health services available in both Lourdes and Navan hospitals.
The people of Louth and East Meath and of this island also deserve a health service which treats our elderly with respect and provides for public nursing home beds, and effective community care facilities and home care.
This must include proper funding for mental health provision which is the Cinderella of our Health Service.
This is essential if we are to put in place a joined up Suicide Prevention strategy building on the work done at community level, particularly by families and friends of those who have lost their lives through suicide or those who self harm.
Speaking during the Private Members’ debate in the Dáil this evening on the Universal Social Charge Sinn Féin Health and Children Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that despite the rhetoric from Fine Gael and Labour they both accept the basic Fianna Fáil/Green Party economic strategy and continue the folly of refusing to ask gamblers to pay their own debts.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said a review of the Universal Social Charge is not necessary and it should be abolished immediately.
Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:
Private Members Business 29.3.11
Universal Social Charge – Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson
This is the first time Sinn Féin, as a party in our own right, has had the opportunity to table a motion for Private Members Business and to have it debated in the Dáil. It is a measure of our progress at the General Election that this debate is taking place.
Sinn Féin has pledged to stand with those in Irish society who are being made to bear the brunt of this recession, people on low to middle incomes. We are fulfilling that pledge and we will continue to do so in this Dáil, in our constituencies and in communities across this State.
In every single one of those constituencies the people delivered a resounding verdict on the disastrous misrule of Fianna Fáil and the Greens and, before that, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.
One of the chief results of that gross misrule, and one that reaches into nearly every household and into the pockets of the vast majority of workers is the Universal Social Charge. People are acutely conscious of the fact – and it is a fact – that they are being made to pay for the folly of a Government that refuses to require gamblers to pay their own debts.
That folly is being continued by the new Fine Gael/Labour Government. We pointed out before, during and after the General Election that Fine Gael and Labour accept the basics of the Fianna Fail/Green Government economic strategy. Despite their rhetoric they are fundamentally no different.
But the parties now in Government were careful to give the people a very different impression. Both Fine Gael and Labour poured no end of condemnation on the Fianna Fáil/Green Government – all deserved. They slammed the IMF/ECB deal, the Budget and, especially, the Universal Social Charge.
Deputy Joan Burton, now Minister for Social Protection, said in January:
“The little people as always carry the burden and are squeezed under every possible heading. They are squeezed under the Universal Social Charge. They are squeezed by the reductions in tax credits. They are squeezed by the reduction in the minimum wage.”
Deputy Róisín Shortall, now junior Minister for Health, said the Universal Social Charge is “little more than a ‘Working-Poor Tax’” and “a blatant and unjustifiable attack on the poor”.
The electorate were clearly labouring under the impression – if you’ll pardon the pun – that the so-called parties of change – Labour and Fine Gael – had the Universal Social Charge in their sights. They were going to blow it out of the water. Or maybe not. When the smoke of the General Election cleared the Programme for Government did not propose to abolish the charge. It proposes a review.
A review is not good enough. The Universal Social Charge is an attack on the poor. It does squeeze those least able to afford it. It is regressive. So why not scrap it instead of wasting time on a review? What are the timeframe and terms of reference of this review?
The Government could have indicated the terms of reference and the timeframe for the review in their amendment to the Sinn Féin motion. Instead this minimalist amendment states, quite unbelievably, that the reinstatement of the income and health levies would bring poverty traps into the system. The Universal Social Charge is one big poverty trap.
An economist who is, I believe, close to the Labour Party, has shown that if the previous levies were reinstated then low income earners could benefit by up to €10 per week while higher income groups would lose out. This would, of course, help economic growth since low-income earners spend their additional income while high-income earners tend to save.
As we clearly state in our motion, the reintroduction of the former levies would be an interim measure, pending root and branch reform of taxation.
This debate again exposes the Consensus for Cuts. The phoney Opposition Party, Fianna Fáil, will troop in behind Fine Gael and Labour in the division tomorrow night. That may provide political ammunition for the rest of us but, be assured, we would much rather see the Universal Social Charge removed. That should happen now. If it does not happen now then it can be the only just and fair outcome of the promised review. I urge all Deputies to support this motion.
Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris has called on Fine Gael to publish a full list of their corporate donations over the past number of years.
Deputy Ferris said that if Fine Gael is serious about political reform and an end to cronyism they will publish the list.
Speaking from the Dáil Deputy Ferris said:
“Fine Gael talked a lot during the election campaign about political reform and bringing and end to cronyism. They also promised to introduce legislation to ban corporate donations despite Minister Phil Hogan saying he was not in favour of such a ban.
“Of course the fact that that campaign itself was funded by a large war chest made up of donations from corporate donors might have seen to be somewhat contradictory or ironic.
“If Fine Gael is serious about political reform and if they are serious about putting their Michael Lowry days behind them and ending cronyism the first thing they ought to do is publish a full list of their corporate donations over the past number of years.”