Monthly Archives: September 2012
ONE senior Labour minister described Roisin Shortall’s resignation as “an iconic moment” for the party.
Another senior figure also warned that the party hasn’t grasped “the full implications” and how the crisis was allowed to drift to “the state where a minister who gets the fulsome support of her Tanaiste on a Saturday resigns from government the next Wednesday”.
However, they said the political reality of it is that “the acts and omissions of a Fine Gael minister made it impossible to achieve a Labour core issue and there was no political management of that problem. Roisin, in resigning, was saying that there is a problem with political management at the heart of the Government”.
A second source close to the Cabinet also confirmed that concern was escalating within the party over Mr Gilmore’s management of the Government. They said that, from a Labour perspective, “there appears to be a vacuum of political direction”.
Amid concerns over how “Enda appears to be winning all the battles with Eamon”, another top-level Labour figure noted that “there’s two partners in this Government and there has to be give and take but we have lost two ministries and they have lost none”.
This position was echoed by Labour Senator John Whelan who warned Fine Gael that “the loss of two senior Labour ministers should not be casually dismissed by our partners in Government”.
The leader of the opposition, Micheal Martin, also warned that the resignation of Ms Shortall will have serious consequences for the stability of a Coalition which is increasingly dominated by the senior Fine Gael partner.
“In previous coalitions it was often claimed the Labour tail is wagging the Fine Gael dog but in this case it looks as though the Fine Gael dog has docked the Labour tail,” he said.
“Ms Shortall’s case, he added, “looked like a case where Labour’s values in health, values which Fianna Fail absolutely share, were over-ridden by stroke Fine Gael policies.”
“The most astonishing feature of the Shortall affair was how the Labour ministers abandoned her. We in Fianna Fail were struck by the way they were seen to be falling over themselves to support James Reilly to such an extent Roisin was raising her eyes up to the heavens.
“They appeared to be universally on Fine Gael’s side rather than Labour’s side.”
Mr Kenny has tonight called for Minister Reilly and his two juniors to move on and get the job of reform done.
Mr Kenny said: “You wouldn’t ask the Taoiseach to comment on an authority that is absolute to any Taoiseach and that is the appointment or removal of any ministers.
“There is a very clear programme for Government here; Mr Reilly has the full support and the confidence of the Government. It is a very challenging job, he has got a changed team in Health, and I expect him to move on with his two ministers of state and get on with the job which is his primary responsibility.”
Reading between the lines one begins to suspect that Reilly is in the last chance saloon
THE PRACTICE of the Irish Government appointing senior judges must be ended if the public is to have any faith in a judiciary free from political or any other bias, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has said.
“The sheer number of politically affiliated judges adds to an already embedded public perception of the judiciary is an elite to whom the law of the land does not apply equally,” the Sinn Féin deputy said.
The Donegal North-East TD said this view has been strengthened by perceived inconsistencies and poor sentencing decisions in a range of areas, including drug-related crime, domestic and sexual violence in particular. He said:
“Judicial independence requires that the judiciary must be independent of other branches of government. It is high time that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be required to publish an annual report to include information on candidates who are selected for appointment.
Sinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a fair and accountable appointment and removal process for the judiciary that involves meaningful lay participation representative of the public interest.
“Sinn Féin believes that judicial independence is undermined by the current appointment process in the 26 Counties,” Deputy Mac Lochlainn said.
“The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) was established in the wake of the controversial appointment of Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court in 1994 and was meant to have removed sole discretion for judicial appointments from Government.
“However, there is still political involvement in the appointment of the judiciary as the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board merely provides a list of seven qualified candidates to the Government who makes the appointments of judicial office holders.
“Sinn Féin believes that appointment procedures should be transparent to enhance public confidence in the process.
“This Fine Gael//Labour Government promised to be a reforming government and put an end to the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture but, looking at their judicial appointments so far, it is clear many of their political cronies have received jobs from them.”
FINGAL County Council says it has no plans “at the moment” to look for proof of household charge payment before approving college grant applications.
The council moved to clarify its position after Clare County Council threatened to withhold the grant from students whose parents had not paid the household charge.
Clare County Council had controversially sought proof from college grant applicants of household charge payments from their parents.
The unprecedented move sparked a wave of protest and concern that other councils would follow suit.
Fingal County Council confirmed it is not currently enforcing such a condition on college grant applications.�
In response to queries from Northside People, a spokesperson for the council said it has no plans “at the moment” to link payment of Higher Education Grants or any other applications for funding made to Fingal County Council to the payment of the household charge.
Fingal County Manager David O’Connor, in response to concerns from local representatives, said that while there were no immediate plans to adopt the practice, the council is “keeping the matter under review”.
Local representatives were assured that if the council was to initiate such a practice they would be notified of this intention in advance.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has confirmed that it is “not seeking this information from applicants in the current year”.
Local councillor David McGuinness (FF) was among those who condemned the linking of the household charge with college grant applications.
“Students being punished for their parents’ inability or unwillingness to pay the household charge was a new low in this country that was supported at the highest levels of Government,” he stated.
“I welcome the Fingal County Manager’s commitment to avoid this approach in the immediate future.�
“But not ruling this proposal out completely will come as a worrying indication for the many thousands of families who rely on speedy processing of their grant applications to fund the academic year.”
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) also severely criticised the controversial practice adopted by certain councils.
John Logue, president of USI, said he was awaiting legal opinion on the matter.
“Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person,” he stated.
“Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.
“This is a particularly cynical and craven way to manage a Government.
A TOP Irish developer who went bankrupt two years ago is living back in his former home in west Cork at weekends after his son-in-law bought back the property.
John Fleming looks set to become the first major Irish developer to make a dramatic recovery after writing off massive personal debts. His property empire collapsed in 2010 owing €1bn.
The one-time property baron was discharged from this bankruptcy last November after just a year. Under Irish law he would have had to wait up to 12 years.
Mr Fleming has been seen regularly at his former home near Butlerstown in recent months. A son-in-law, John O’Brien, is thought to have bought the home back into the family by paying €250,000 for the house and six acres of land near Bandon.
Mr O’Brien is married to John Fleming’s daughter Linda.
According to a local property valuer, at the peak of the boom the property would have been worth over €600,000.
Ms Shortall resigned her junior ministry three days ago following months of conflict with Mr Reilly.
Her resignation came after a row over his decision to add a number of locations, including two in his own constituency, to a list of proposed primary healthcare centres.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Shortall described the decision by Mr Reilly to include the two centres as stroke politics.
She also said that she felt let down by her colleagues in the Labour Party and that party leader Eamon Gilmore had backed Mr Reilly and not her.
Ms Shortall also said that Minister Reilly blocked many of the reforms that she had tried to implement.
Ms Shortall said she believes Mr Reilly does not subscribe to the Programme for Government and there were fundamental differences between them on how the health service should develop.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore were present at a meeting between Ms Shortall and Mr Reilly, but it failed to resolve the issues.
Ms Shortall also said that Cathal Magee was “driven out of his job” as HSE Chief Executive.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has defended Minister Reilly following Ms Shortall’s criticism.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ms Fitzgerald said she believed that there was nobody more committed to reforming the health service than Mr Reilly.
She said that the Government will deliver on its commitments in the area of primary care.
Ms Fitzgerald said reforms were being pursued but could not be delivered overnight.
Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said Ms Shortall’s comments provided “an insight into the malaise” in the Department of Health.
A one act Play from the Dáil Starring Luke Ming Flanagan
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan:
When one applies for a job in the normal world, one is supposed to tell the truth about what one will do, how hard one will work, and what one’s qualifications are.
In advance of the general election in an open letter to the people of Roscommon, the person who is now Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, said the following:
I would like to confirm that Fine Gael undertakes, in accordance with the Fine Gael Policy on Local Hospitals, to retain the Emergency, Surgical, Medical and other health services at Roscommon Hospital, which are present on the formation of the 31st Dáil. [It got even better, though.] Furthermore, in the event of the A&E being downgraded, we are committed to reinstating a 24/7 service, where feasible.
In a normal job when one tells a porky, one loses one’s job if found out. For that reason alone – there are many other reasons – the Minister should resign.
Deputy Paul Kehoe:
When is the Deputy going?
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan:
I support the motion. The motion of no confidence also presents the perfect opportunity for Deputy Feighan to show that the 9,000-plus people who voted for him at the last general election did not completely waste their time.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan:
With respect, may I have the protection of the Chair?
Order, please. Let the speaker finish as he has only a few seconds left.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue):
Order, please. As the Deputy has only a few seconds remaining, I ask him to finish up.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan:
No problem – I thank you very much.
The Deputy can give it but cannot take it.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: The reality is people should tell the truth when they go before the electorate.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue):
The Deputy’s time is up.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: That is very important. They should stand by the people – they pay their wages.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue):
I ask for order from both sides of the House, particularly the Government side when other speakers are speaking.
The Taoiseach: On 9 March 2011, I nominated Dr. James Reilly as Minister for Health. I did so, not because he has decades of experience as a GP or because he developed a radical policy to create a patient-centred health system, but because he has a passionate commitment to creating a health service that puts the patient first….
I suspect we will never hear a response from Reilly to Ming’s comments and ditto from Frank Feighan.
It is likely in the next election the good people of Roscommon will give Dumb Frank the boot and justifiable so.
As for Reilly now, he has become a complete joke, professionally and personally. He is so incompetent that I am flabbergasted to hear the Taoiseach defend him openly. Kenny needs to remove this man straight away to an inactive post, as he is a liability to the Country.
The performance given by Flanagan in this one act play points to a bright future for this young man. However, at some stage he may have to make a choice between scripting and acting. Whatever the case the man is a national treasure. A person you can rely on to uplift the collective mental state of the nation.
CONTROL OF rental income of approximately $20 million (€15.5 million) a year from a Moscow building formerly owned by Seán Quinn’s family has been secured for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), but further income of up to $15 million (€11.6 million) a year continues to elude the State-owned bank.
An administrator acting for the bank’s interest has managed to get charge of the Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow and is now seeking to establish what happened to rent of approximately $30 million in the period since the bank’s relationship with the Quinns broke down in April 2010.
The buildings form part of an international property portfolio worth approximately €500 million owned by the Quinns and against which Anglo Irish Bank was given security in return for huge loans issued to the family.
Anglo is now part of the IBRC.
In June and July last year, the High Court in Dublin ordered the family to desist in its efforts to put the assets beyond the bank’s reach.
Earlier this year Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne found that Seán Quinn, his son Seán jnr, and his nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, had acted in contempt of this order. Seán Quinn jnr was sent to jail, where he remains. There is a warrant out for Peter Darragh Quinn, who is believed to be in Northern Ireland.
The bank asked that Mr Quinn snr not be jailed so he might assist the bank recover some of the assets.
The courts reopen for the new law term on Monday and a number of hearings in relation to the Quinns are scheduled over the coming weeks.
The bank is seeking to establish the whereabouts of $4.5 million in accumulated rent that was moved from a Quinn family company account in Moscow last year, to an account in a new bank also in the company’s name. It is understood the money is no longer in that second account.
The administrator acting for the bank in Moscow has encountered difficulties in accessing the management records of the company that operates the commercial tower for the period up to his appointment.
The bank is also investigating an €11 million loan that was issued by a bank in India in January against the future income of the Q Tower.
This money is believed to be under the control of a company in the United Arab Emirates.
The bank believes that family members, with seemingly no involvement in the running of the Russian company, were put on its payroll and received $4.3 million gross as a result.
The family could not be contacted for comment last night.
The bank would make no comment.
With Germany holding fast to the line that the ESM must not take on “legacy” debts in Ireland or any other country, France is pushing hard for a bigger effort to break the link between bank and sovereign debt.
The French position will strengthen the Government’s hand after a week in which Germany aligned with Finland and the Netherlands to say the ESM should bear only losses incurred under the fund’s supervision.
The divisions between Germany and France over Ireland come as they move together to advance plans for a European tax on financial transactions. Following the failure to achieve unanimous EU backing for such a tax, the two countries sought support yesterday for an “enhanced co-operation” procedure in which a group of at least nine like-minded states would move ahead together.
THE BILL for pensions to former office holders jumped by more than 25 per cent last year, with former presidents, ministers, members of the judiciary and other senior office holders receiving a total of €15.22 million.
That compares with €12.1 million in 2010. The figure includes severance payments of €1.1 million to members of the Fianna Fáil/ Green coalition voted out of office last year.
Figures published last night on the Department of Finance website indicate that only 31 out of almost 200 office holders opted to forgo any portion of their pension. The €347,686 forgone amounts to just 2.3 per cent of the total sum paid in pensions and severance.
The highest pension paid last year was to former Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell. However, of the €173,700 he received, more than €142,000 related to backpayment for years in which he had been underpaid. That aside, two former comptroller and auditor generals – John Purcell and Laurie McDonnell – were the largest single beneficiaries, with pensions of €114,700.
Two former taoisigh, Bertie Ahern and Liam Cosgrave, surrendered a portion of their pensions while Brian Cowen, John Bruton and Albert Reynolds did not. Former president Mary Robinson opted to forgo €15,500 of her €139,500 entitlement.
The presidency remains the highest-paid office, with Mary McAleese receiving €280,300 and her successor Michael D Higgins €45,200 during the year, a total of €325,500. Both surrendered a portion of that salary last year.
The figures show the State’s judiciary was paid €27.35 million last year. The position of chief justice was paid €304,974. They also show the total paid in parliamentary leaders’ allowances fell last year to €7.2 million, from €8 million in 2010. Sinn Féin saw its leader’s allowance more than double to €933,876 from €335,425 the previous year. The allowance for Labour also rose while the figures for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael fell.
A councillor who stood for Labour in the last election claimed at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council that the council had been forced into making cuts because the Government didn’t sell the household charge to the people.
“It’s a coward’s way out to try and make local authorities do all the work,” she said. “I think some of these beg the question as to why they (cuts) weren’t made in the past. If the big cuts have to be made then the people out there have got to know this. It’s using the councils to penalise the people because they (government) didn’t manage to sell this charge.”
She was speaking after councillors heard proposals for cuts in council spending totalling over €300,000.
Head of Finance Barry Lynch told the meeting that the reductions were necessary because of the Government’s decision to shave €330,000 from its Local Authority Grant allocation for the three month July to September period.
This, he said, was largely owing to the council’s ongoing battle in raising the county’s household charge collection rate which presently stands at 59 per cent.
Amomg the reductions earmarked for the chop include €91,500 across the finance, human resources and IT sectors.
A futher €34,000 may be trimmed from the council’s miscellaneous services division, a downsizing that includes cutbacks of €27,000 in coroners fees.
Other areas facing proposed cuts inlcude agriculture (€15,000 reduction), development promotion (€21,400) and environment (€80,000), the latter of which is expected to see €10,000 taken out of the council’s burial ground expenditure.
Equally, recreation and amenity sectors are included as part of the proposed cutbacks. A total of €65,000 is to be taken out of both areas as council chiefs attempt to balance its books. Almost €40,000 is expected to be drawn from contributions made to community and local committess with a further €20,000 coming by way of cuts to the council’s amenity works and library services budget.
Mr Lynch, in making the announcement at last week’s county council meeting, said the changes had been made with a view to avoiding more dramatic decisions affecting its frontline services.