Phil Hogan, the Environment Minister, has branded the Sunday Independent and another newspaper as “knackers” and threatened to “put manners” on them for publishing pictures of himself and his now former press secretary in Doha on Budget day.
Last Thursday, Mr Hogan accused the Indo of engaging in a “disgraceful game” and threatened: “We will put manners on you.” Mr Hogan was reacting to coverage of himself in recent months.
Rich considering The cheapest room in the hotel is 605 euro which is an outrage when he is standing over cuts to the blind and disabled.
The 10-strong Irish party that attended included Hogan’s press secretary, Yvonne Hyland, the woman pictured with him on the front page.
His little finger is definitely on the rump area.- Oh Dear Maybe they’re really good friends?
Well he is doing no worse that Bertie, Biffo and co.
But I recall Mr Hogan was a very strong opponent of cronyism when Fianna Fail were in power.
Amazing they way people change their mind when they get power,
Hogan could cross over to FF and they would be at home in there lot
Yvonne Hyland was a former P.R person for F.G before she became press secretary to big mouth Hogan. Was she hired because of he skills and suitability for the job or was she hired for other reasons? I bet her interview was a real tough one. A lady on 83k a year whose job was to insure no bad PR and no unwanted photos!!! A lady of amazing abality
Money well spent. I doubt it
The woman that big Phil was pictured cosying up to in Qatar has since left her position.
What happened there…. they seemed to be getting on quite well.
Desert mission’s costs could have reversed cut in respite care grants for 92 families
The bill is enough to reverse a €325 cut to the €1,700 respite care grant – introduced by last week’s Budget while Mr Hogan was in Qatar – for 92 families.
Mr Hogan and his ministerial entourage of nine spent a week at the UN talks toiling at back-to-back round table sessions, bilateral meetings and political briefing.
But the lasting image of the jaunt will be the Irish Daily Mail‘s pictures of the minister relaxing over drinks in his five-star hotel bar with his press adviser Yvonne Hyland, a former Fine Gael press officer.
The photographs were published on Budget Day, hours before the public was to discover the extent of the tax increases emanating from his department on cars and homes. They were reportedly taken at the end of a long day of back-to-back meetings.
Meanwhile, the burdened citizens back home who are paying for Mr Hogan’s trip were counting the cost of his latest austerity measures.
For a Government bent on selling a message of austerity, the timing was poor. The department said the costs of the trip came to €5,000 for flights and €16,000 for hotel accommodation. On top of the cost of flights and accommodation, the group of 10 would be entitled to claim foreign subsistence rates intended to cover any food, drinks and other costs incurred by Mr Hogan and his civil servants while abroad.
Daily subsistence of about €100 over seven days adds €7,000 to the bill, bringing the final cost closer to €30,000.
Although the sum is relatively modest in the scheme of Ireland’s debt problems, €30,000 is enough to reverse the €325 cut to the €1,700 respite care grant for 92 families or to extend the newly-cut €1,375 grant to an additional 21 families.
The department said it had “no response” to the publication of photographs last week showing Mr Hogan and Ms Hyland relaxing over a drink.
One of the few TDs to query Mr Hogan’s absence
ANALYSIS PAGE 28
from the Dail on Budget week was Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh.
Mr Hogan and his ministerial entourage were in Doha to bone up on international environmental issues in advance of Ireland’s assuming the EU Presidency next month.
He was accompanied by his private secretary, Eddie Kiernan, Ms Hyland, and John McCarthy, the assistant secretary at the department’s environment division. Six other officials were also in the group but his department did not name them. Some of the party travelled in advance, no doubt to get in early to prepare the ground. They flew economy on flights from Dublin to Doha via Abu Dhabi – at a cost of around €500 each.
“The numbers attending (Mr Hogan and nine officials) on the department’s part are being kept to the minimum necessary to allow us to be able to cover multiple parallel tracks of meetings and to prepare us for the Presidency role that we will have to discharge from January to June, including leading for the EU at an inter-sessional meeting in Bonn,with the possibility of a second inter-sessional also being mooted,” a Department spokesman explained.
Mr Hogan and his officials stayed at the Kempinksi Hotel in Doha, which offers a range of luxury suites and “sky villas” with “Arabian sun peaking through the floor-to-ceiling windows.”
But far from living it up in solo luxury, the department staff doubled up to save money. A spokesman said they shared “what are, in effect, two-bedroom apartments”.
Mr Hogan, meanwhile, had what the department called his own “one-bedroom unit” but which was reportedly one of the suites touted by Kempinski on its website, on the 49th floor, complete with four bathrooms, a kitchen and panoramic sea views.
“In both cases the accommodation is the cheapest of three available categories of accommodation in the hotel,” the spokesman said, coming in at a relatively modest €149 a night
Although Qatar governs itself according to strict Sharia law, luxury hotels are allowed to sell alcohol to non-Muslims.
The department claimed the delegation was among the smaller groups attending the international conference. Almost 200 nations attended the climate change talks which were aimed at negotiating a new international treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. Mr Hogan will be the minister leading the EU’s work on climate change when Ireland takes over the EU presidency in January.
And it was necessary to send nine officials to various parallel meetings going on at any one time.
During the seven days, Mr Hogan gave one three-minute address to a UN plenary session in which he spoke about the need for urgent action on climate change.
He also promised delegates “an ambitious environmental agenda” when Ireland takes over the Presidency of the European Council in January.
According to a schedule released by his department, he spent much of the week attending daily co-ordination meetings with 27 EU ministers; bi-lateral talks with EU ministers and the UN; ministerial round-table talks; and multiple “bilateral talks” with small island states, with Russia and with “least developed countries” and with non-government agencies.
He also attended a ministerial breakfast hosted by Mary Robinson
LOCAL AUTHORITIES will in time be given powers to set their own property tax rates in order to generate funds to support provision of services in their areas, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said.
The development, announced by the Minister at the publication of a programme of local government reform, would give county councillors power to set the tax at a level that meets financial needs. This was the case under the domestic rates system that was abolished in 1977.
“Property tax will become more and more the source of income for local authority services to be funded,” said Mr Hogan. “If they are raising the money locally for service provision, they will have a say in how they spend it. Each local authority can have a different level of property tax in due course. The timing of that is a matter for Government.”
The tax, expected to be levied at an initial rate of 0.25 per cent of the property value, is to be announced in the December 6th budget and is likely to come into force in the middle of next year. The details of the levy, which is to be collected by the Revenue Commissioners, are yet to be approved by Cabinet.
Mr Hogan was speaking at the publication of Putting People First, a programme of local government reform which he said represented the most radical changes to local political structures since the 19th century.
The abolition of 80 town councils, a reduction in the number of local authorities to 31, and a proposal to reduce the number of elected councillors by 42 per cent to a maximum of 950, are among the measures set out in the plan.
It indicates that the role of elected councils should be extended to cover matters such as local economic development and the support of businesses. But it also states that the power of councillors to overturn the decisions of planning officials should be removed. Many of the changes outlined in the plan are to be in place for the 2014 local elections.
In an interview on KCLR 96fm radio this morning Hogan defended his actions saying that he passed on these concerns to the local housing authorities “in good faith” and “without any direction from me or heavy-handedness”.
He told The Sue Nunn Show: “I’ve explained my position quite well, I am at the Ploughing Championships now and I have engagements here so thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my position.”
He then hung up as the presenter sought to question him further on the matter.
She said: “Minister Hogan needs to be informed that discrimination is unlawful including discrimination against members of the Travelling community.
The ineptitude of some front bench part members of FG in particular James Reilly, Phil Hogan, Leo Varadkar and John Perry is a cause for concern among backbenchers.
Speculation is rife that Hogan may have to go.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross, he defended his decision to write the letter. He said he was entitled to write it.
He had earlier been urged to make a full statement over his apparent intervention in a housing allocation case to prevent a Traveller family from being housed.
The Irish Traveller Movement has expressed concern.
It said it understands that neither Minister Hogan nor Junior Minister Jan O’Sullivan have the legislative functions to impose or intervene in individual cases on accommodation matters.
“We are therefore concerned that in this case involving a family in Kilkenny that Minister Hogan should appear to intervene favourably on a constituent’s behalf, in what could be interpreted as being opposed to the favourable provision of housing to Travellers.”
Ms McDonald held up a copy of the Irish Daily Mail, where the story first appeared, saying Mr Hogan needed to be made aware that discrimination was illegal, including discrimination against Travellers.
Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív said at face value it was a very serious issue.
He said that a minister interfering in a housing allocation process to prevent a Traveller family being housed on the basis of them being Travellers would be “an extraordinary abuse of power”, as well as being illegal.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Ó Cuív called for Minister Hogan to publish the reference that he made to Kilkenny County Council.
On the subject of food and tourism, the minister emphasised that while Kilkenny has a strong reputation as a food and tourism destination, “we cannot stand still” and this is the time to take that reputation a step further. Developing Kilkenny in this sector requires well planned and iconic projects in the city, centred on the river Nore and the city’s many medieval locations.
Retail regeneration is also something that could give a boost to the city, as “we now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the availability of the brewery site and the old mart site,” according to the minister. These sites, he said “would be ideal locations for new international brands to bring back customers that Kilkenny have lost to other regional centres.”
Use whatever means necessary to get the money says Hogan as he stands four square with councils over student grants
Those who have not paid their household charges should not receive student grants.
They are asking people, and they are putting in place plans to get in the remaining monies that are owed to them. That’s what any businesses would do” Says Hogan.
Earlier Education Minister Ruairí Quinn added his support to the councils.
If this was, a business charges the banks would be, broke, end of story, and the people would not be paying for government and banker’s mistakes.
The legality of what the councils are doing is questionable and may not stand up if questioned before the courts.
USI president John Logue said: “The action taken by Clare County Council must be condemned in the strongest terms. This is an unprecedented move. Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person.
“Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.”
Pamela Rochford, a spokesperson for the Clare branch of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes, accused the council of using scare tactics with the move.