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Appeal to Government to protect Free Travel Scheme

Active Retirement Ireland is urging the Government to protect the Free Travel Scheme in next week’s Budget.

However, former Labour Party TD Mary Upton has said that a small charge should be levied on longer journeys around the country.

Ms Upton also said the scheme must be protected from abuse by a small number of people using counterfeit cards.

Over 1.1 million people are eligible for the scheme, most of them aged 66 and over.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said the cost of the scheme to the taxpayer has risen by two-thirds over the past decade and now stands at €76 million a year.

Ministers Joan Burton and Leo Varadkar ordered a review of the scheme a number of months ago.

Active Retirement Ireland�says any curtailment would damage the health and well-being of older people.

In a statement, CEO Maureen Kavanagh said members are fearful that if free travel is cut, their links to the outside world would be severed.

She noted that it has become popular “in certain sectors to depict older people as well-off individuals” who can easily shoulder more cuts.

She underlined that many older people are extremely vulnerable, and at real risk of social isolation.

As well as pensioners and partners travelling with them, recipients of Disability and Carer’s Allowance and of Invalidity Pension are eligible.

The spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said the scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services.

These include road, rail and ferry services provided by semi-state companies as well as services provided by over 90 private transport operators.

She said the majority of these private contractors operate in rural areas.

via Appeal to Government to protect Free Travel Scheme – RTÉ News.

via Appeal to Government to protect Free Travel Scheme – RTÉ News.

Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour

On the morning of Wednesday October 10, 2012, around the time the Prime Minister was addressing the Conservative Party conference, a party of mourners left the chapel at Golders Green crematorium with the words of the “Internationale” ringing in their ears. The Communist anthem sounds more rousing in the original French, so that was the version used. In death as in life, Eric Hobsbawm was proclaiming his loyalty to the cause he had first espoused as a boy in Berlin in the years 1931-33.

Hobsbawm got a good send-off. Tributes were paid to him by Roy Foster, Professor of Irish History at Oxford, who knew him from his days at Birkbeck College, London; by Lady Kennedy, a Labour peer, better known as Helena Kennedy QC; and by his son, Andy. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, attended the service, as did Jon Snow, Simon Schama, Tariq Ali and Jonathan Miller. Recordings of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio and of some jazz were also played.

In the days after his death at the grand old age of 95, Hobsbawm’s historical works, especially The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, The Age of Capital 1848-1875 and The Age of Empire 1874-1914, were newly acclaimed. Nor did all the praise come from the Left. Niall Ferguson described these books, together with The Age of Extremes 1914-1991, as “the best introduction to modern world history in the English language”, and added: “With his extraordinary erudition and quick wit, Hobsbawm was one of the greatest historical conversationalists I have ever known.”

If Hobsbawm had been an unrepentant fascist, instead of an unrepentant Communist, he would not have received such favourable coverage. Nor would Miliband and other members of the intelligentsia have made Hobsbawm’s funeral so crowded that there was standing room only. Nor, we can be sure, would Tony Blair have recommended that the great man be made a Companion of Honour: a distinction Hobsbawm accepted in 1998 (he justified doing so by saying how much it would have pleased his mother, who died in 1931).

Ferguson did recall how he hoped that Hobsbawm’s autobiography, Interesting Times, published in 2002, “would contain some expression of remorse for his decision to remain a member of the Communist Party even after the exposure of Stalin’s crimes”. But as Perry Anderson, himself a distinguished man of the Left, pointed out in a long and careful account of that work in the London Review of Books, it contains “no discussion at all of the actual political history of the period”, and of Hobsbawm’s Marxism “virtually all we are told is that he read The Communist Manifesto at high school in Berlin”.

Hobsbawm’s death occurred as the Labour conference was getting under way in Manchester. Miliband at once paid tribute to him as “an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family”. But in his own speech, Miliband proceeded to embrace a quite different figure, Benjamin Disraeli, and to appropriate that great Conservative Prime Minister’s tradition of “One Nation” Toryism. This shameless act of political body-snatching made for excellent theatre: few people had imagined the Labour leader could be so audacious. But it also required Miliband to distance himself from his own father, the thoroughly left-wing academic Ralph Miliband, and from the north London Marxism of his youth. So the Labour leader admitted that his father “wouldn’t agree with many of the things I stand for. He would have loved the idea of ‘Red Ed’. But he would have been a little bit disappointed that it isn’t true.” This was an elegant and affectionate way of trying to free himself from the politics with which he grew up. For the Labour leader, this is a matter of political life and death: he cannot allow himself to be portrayed as an out-of-touch north London leftie with a sophisticated grasp of socialist theory and no idea how normal people live: hence his emphasis in his speech on his comprehensive schooling. Hobsbawm did not figure in that speech.

As well as the tributes to Hobsbawm since his death, there have been a number of indignant protests against him. Michael Burleigh, who is a member of Standpoint’s advisory board, wrote an angry piece in the Daily Telegraph which ended: “Hobsbawm’s implacable refusal to recant his views when faced with their grotesque consequences tells us something about the belligerent mindset of the wider British Left. But the eminence that he and his fellow travellers have enjoyed also speaks to the bovine complacency with which, since Mrs Thatcher, the Conservatives have allowed such dubious figures licence to dominate the soft culture of the BBC and our universities.”

“Bovine complacency” well describes the usual reaction in England to intellectuals who spend their time chipping away at the foundations of our society. In 1790, Edmund Burke warned the French, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, not to take seriously the revolutionary sentiments being expressed in some circles in London: “Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, while thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine, that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.”

Burke was alarmed by the complacent attitude many in England took towards what was happening in Paris. The worst excesses of the French Revolution, including the September massacres, the execution of the king and queen, and the reign of terror, all lay in the future.  But to the penetrating eye of Burke, an outsider and an Irishman, it was already clear in early 1790 that the overthrow of traditional authority had created terrible dangers. Thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, still saw nothing much to worry about.

We are seldom inclined to worry very much what intellectuals are doing, especially if they are of foreign origin. It is hard to imagine that such eccentric and impractical characters could ever cause trouble. At a later period, Marx and Engels were allowed to carry on their work in England pretty much undisturbed. Most of us just don’t think the kind of thing they were writing about is going to happen here. In 1978, Hobsbawm delivered his Marx Memorial Lecture, in which he actually reassured us that revolution was becoming less likely: “The forward march of labour and the labour movement, which Marx predicted, appears to have come to a halt in this country about 25 to 30 years ago.” In other words, the Attlee government of 1945-51 represented the high point of working-class pressure for change.

Hobsbawm provided the statistics needed to back this up. He pointed out that the proportion of non-agricultural manual workers in Britain was already almost 70 per cent in 1867, when the Second Reform Bill was passed. This was exceptionally high compared to other countries, and forced the ruling classes to find ways to gain working-class support. But this dominance did not last. In 1911 three-quarters of workers were manual, but that proportion had fallen to just over half in 1976, and Hobsbawm warned, correctly, that it was bound to fall further. In 2012 it is well under a third.

Marxism Today published Hobsbawm’s lecture in September 1978, under the title “The Forward March of Labour Halted?” By making the Left face the need to win support from beyond the rapidly diminishing ranks of the trade unions, Hobsbawm performed a notable service for those who understood that the party must also appeal to the middle classes or it would die. No wonder he was soon being described as Neil Kinnock’s “favourite Marxist”. This cannot be regarded as an intellectual distinction, but it did show how useful Hobsbawm had become to the Labour leadership. When one looks at this aspect of his activities, it is possible to argue that far from being dangerous, he had allowed himself to be coddled into becoming a minor pillar of the Establishment. Marxism Today ceased to be a Marxist publication and instead began to prepare the way for Blair, whose advisers later included at least two of the magazine’s contributors, Geoff Mulgan and Charlie Leadbetter.

And yet there remain Hobsbawm’s repulsive views about the Soviet Union. He was challenged over and over again to explain how he could have stayed in the Communist Party after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Miriam Gross challenges him with quiet persistence in the interview which accompanies this piece. But Hobsbawm maintained to his dying day that despite the millions of murders to which it led, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a great cause to which he was right to remain loyal. In 1994, when Michael Ignatieff asked him whether, if “the radiant tomorrow” had actually been created in the Soviet Union, the death of 15 or 20 million people would have been justified, Hobsbawm replied: “Yes.” In 1995, when Sue Lawley put it to him on Desert Island Discs that “Marxist Leninism is a dead duck”, he replied: “I don’t think the cause has been defeated, but at least it will not be realised if at all in the way we thought it was going to be realised.”

Since Hobsbawm’s death, Nick Cohen has reminded us in his Spectator blog that at the start of the Second World War, Hobsbawm and his fellow Cambridge Communist Raymond Williams not only accepted the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but actually wrote a pamphlet defending the Soviet invasion of Finland, in which they claimed that “Stalin was protecting Finland from an invasion by British imperialists”. Oliver Kamm, in The Times, has described this as “an extraordinary failure of imagination” and an “act of intellectual prostitution in the service of totalitarianism”.

Robert Conquest, who has done more than any other Western writer to catalogue Soviet crimes, observed after reading Age of Extremes that Hobsbawm suffered from a “massive reality denial” as far as the Soviet Union was concerned. Michael Gove, now the Education Secretary, assured the 2008 Conservative conference that “only when Hobsbawm weeps hot tears for a life spent serving an ideology of wickedness will he ever be worth listening to”.

Those tears remained unshed. Many intellectuals left the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1956, in protest at the suppression of the Hungarian uprising. Hobsbawm knew how bad things looked. He wrote a letter at this time in which he said of the CPGB’s line: “We tell [the public] that we do not give the USSR ‘uncritical support’, but when they ask us where we disagree with its policy all we can point to is Nina Ponomareva’s hats.”

Ponomareva was the Soviet discus thrower who was arrested for allegedly stealing five hats from C & A in Oxford Street in 1956. The Soviet athletics team withdrew in protest from a meeting at White City: a decision the Daily Worker, organ of the CPGB, had the temerity to describe as “regrettable”.

Why the atrocious double standard? Why are most people so much more tolerant of support for Stalin than they would be of support for Hitler? I do not except myself from this stricture. Somehow Auschwitz strikes me as worse than the Russian camps, whose names are in any case not as familiar to me. Is it that we judge the Germans by a higher standard than the Russians — that we expect the former to be correct, albeit humourless, while incorrectness comes as no surprise in Russia? Martin Amis observes in his book about Stalin, Koba the Dread, that “it has always been possible to joke about the Soviet Union, just as it has never been possible to joke about Nazi Germany”. Amis reminds us of some of the most horrifying evidence amassed by Conquest about Stalin’s crimes, yet still black comedy keeps breaking through.

Perhaps we attribute higher and therefore more admirable ideals to the Communists than we do to the Nazis. In his essay “Why Lucky Jim Turned Right”, Kingsley Amis, who joined the Communist Party in 1941 and left it in 1956 because of Hungary, wrote:  “The ideal of the brotherhood of man, the building of the Just City, is one that cannot be discarded without lifelong feelings of disappointment and loss.”

Hobsbawm said something similar in Interesting Times: “The dream of the October Revolution is still there somewhere inside me . . . I have abandoned, nay, rejected it, but it has not been obliterated. To this day, I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with indulgence and tenderness.”

These are the terms in which one might speak of an early love affair, with a woman who proved impossible to live with, but who still evokes fond memories. Hobsbawm prided himself on remaining faithful to his first political love. With obstinate vanity, he alluded to the sacrifices he had made on her behalf, including the slower promotion he obtained in the academic world. Others might do the obvious thing and renounce Communism, but he distinguished himself by his fidelity to a cause which no longer even existed in any viable form. Born in the year of the Russian Revolution, he also managed to outlive it and to become a kind of living history. For the Left, he had turned into an international treasure, while for the Right, although contaminated by his support for the Soviet Union, he was no longer a threat and could be treated as a pleasant reminder that the Communists lost the Cold War. My elder daughter’s history teacher has just recommended The Age of Extremes to her. I suppose this makes me an irresponsible father, but I hope she enjoys it.

via Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint.

via Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint.

Treatment that risks foetus can be ‘ethically permissible’ – Catholic bishops

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference released the statement to 'reaffirm some aspects of Catholic moral teaching'

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has also reiterated its condolences to the family of Savita Halappanavar on what they call its “devastating personal tragedy” which has “stunned our country”.

Bishops released a statement on the matter this evening, following a meeting in Maynooth of the Standing Committee of the Irish hierarchy.

It focuses on what the conference calls the “equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child”.

It said that, in light of the widespread discussion following the tragic death of Mrs Halappanavar and her unborn baby, bishops wished to reaffirm some aspects of Catholic moral teaching.

The bishops’ group said the Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother but that both had an equal right to life.

It also said there was a moral distinction between “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” and medical treatments which do not intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn.

The bishops said current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this distinction in practice “while upholding the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn baby”.

Savita death ‘an affront to human dignity’

A Swedish member of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe has described the death of Savita Halappanavar as “an affront to human dignity and a serious form of violence.”

Tina Acketoft, who is Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said in a statement: “Abortion was refused even though the foetus that Savita was carrying did not stand any chance of survival.

“She was left suffering and crying for help until she died. I consider what happened to Savita an affront to human dignity and a serious form of violence”.

She added: “I call on the Irish authorities to take immediate steps to align Irish legislation with European standards and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

“The only way in which this disturbing death can be a little less pointless, is by ensuring that no more woman die in Ireland from being denied legal abortion,” she concluded.

The Council of Europe is the 47-member organisation devoted to the promotion of democracy and human rights and which oversees the European Court of Human Rights.

The Council’s Committee of Ministers is due to examine in early December the government’s latest response to the ruling by the Court of Human Rights which said the Irish state had breached the rights of a woman in the ABC v Ireland case, and which criticised Ireland for not legislating for the X case.

It was in response to the ruling that the government set up the expert group on the abortion question.

The government had committed to sending an update on the findings of the expert group by the end of October, but it has sought an extension of the deadline to the end of November.

The Council of Ministers is due to give its response to the report between 4-6 December, but it is understood they may not be able to give their response since they will only just have received the Government’s update.

The Council of Ministers is officially made up of foreign ministers although the common practice is that, instead, the ambassadors of the member states to the Council of Europe normally issue a response to countries implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

Labour to support Government position in X case motion

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Labour Party TDs will support the Government’s position when Sinn Féin puts forward a Dáil motion tomorrow calling for legislation to be introduced immediately on the X Case.

In 1992, the Supreme Court’s judgment on the X Case permitted abortion in limited circumstances, where there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Gilmore said he believed Labour deputies will support the Government’s efforts to bring a resolution and legal clarity to this issue.

He added: “This is something that we are not going to leave aside. Doing nothing is not an option on this issue.”

Sinn Féin has said it hopes that all parties will support its motion.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said the objective of the motion was not to be party political.

She said it was intended to give a clear public indication that members of the Oireachtas were “prepared to act, prepared to legislate and not prepared to delay any further” on the issue.

Ms McDonald said that for 20 years, there had been a gap in the law clarifying for medical practitioners exactly how the judgment worked out in practice.

She said: “Our fear is that having waited for 20 years, and notwithstanding the latest tragedy and controversy, that the Government will once again run for cover, once again try to push this issue down the road.”

Asked whether Meath TD Peadar Tóibín, who did not sign the motion, would be expected to support it, she said: “It’s a Sinn Féin motion, and of course all members of Sinn Féin are expected to vote for it.”

She said there would be discussions with Mr Tóibín about the issue and that Sinn Féin had taken the view at its last party conference not to opt for a free vote on the issue.

Ms McDonald said they were anxious to see the report of the expert group on abortion, which is being brought to Cabinet next week.

Labour TD Ciara Conway said she wants to assess the Government’s counter-motion regarding abortion legislation before making any decision on how she will vote.

Ms Conway said the Government’s motion would have to be “strong, forthright and definitive”.

via Treatment that risks foetus can be ‘ethically permissible’ – Catholic bishops – RTÉ News.

via Treatment that risks foetus can be ‘ethically permissible’ – Catholic bishops – RTÉ News.

This coalition is starting to make FF look good

One of the more substantial achievements of this government has been to burnish the reputation of Fianna Fáil which, we had believed, had been consigned to well-deserved oblivion by the outcome of the 2011 election. By Vincent Browne.

As the coalition resolutely persists in its ineptitude, Fianna Fáil doesn’t seem that bad in retrospect.

A disapproval rating of 73% for the Government is fairly decisive. A rating (voting intentions) of 21% for Fianna Fáil is not at all decisive, but it is a significant improvement on the party’s election showing (17%).

Micheál Martin is the most impressive party leader, and several of the spokesmen are capable, including Billy Kelleher, Michael McGrath, Neil Collins, Sean O’Fearghail, Willie O’Dea and Sean Fleming.

But Fianna Fáil will struggle to improve, not because of the calibre of its Dáil representation, or even the memory of the damage it did in government (although that will be hard to live down for a decade or more), but because it doesn’t have enough credible candidates to win seats. The next local elections won’t rectify that.

Fianna Fáil back in office might be, next time round, a little more competent than the present crowd, but essentially no different – as the present crowd are essentially no different to their predecessors.

Much of the damage to the government is self-inflicted, beginning with reckless election promises when Fine Gael feared that Labour might overtake it, and Labour thought there was a prospect of Eamon Gilmore becoming Taoiseach. Fine Gael promised there would be no increases in income tax. Labour promised it would be “Labour’s way”, not “Frankfurt’s way”, and that social welfare payments and the Croke Park deal would be left untouched.

More harm was self-inflicted by wild claims of success, such as Enda Kenny and Gilmore on the supposed deal on the bank debt in June and both of them, along with Michael Noonan and others, about growth returning to the economy.

It remains in the deep doldrums, with falling employment and, alarmingly, rising emigration. More appalling still have been the cuts seemingly targeted at the worst-off, the most egregious of the pending ones being to home help.

And then, of course, there is the James Reilly debacle.

But there has been nothing like the harm that is about to be inflicted with the introduction of the property tax. There will be outrage, some of it justified (such as in the case of those who paid massive stamp duty when buying property immediately before the collapse, and where it affects poorer people).

Most of this outrage is unjustified, because of the culture of low tax that was engendered – by Fianna Fáil in its 14 years in office, and by Fine Gael and Labour during their 14 years in opposition, during which time they berated Fianna Fáil for not indulging this culture even more.

The primary difficulty faced by this government, and by Labour in particular, is the settled conviction of much of the electorate, which Fine Gael would not wish to disturb, but Labour should want to disturb.

That conviction is manifest in part by the “certainties” that we already pay too much tax; that a large part of public expenditure is squandered on extensive social welfare fraud; that significant savings can be achieved through cutting back the number of public representatives, abolishing the Senate and slashing the pay of overpaid public servants; and that an equal society is effectively unworkable.

Nobody in politics challenges these “certainties”. In particular, nobody argues for a radical redistribution of wealth and income, bar the left, which presents redistribution in terms of retribution – which, to most people, is just off-putting.

Part of the reason for this settled conviction is that our political system is driven by greed for office.

The political establishment and the media see the attainment of office as the point of politics, even though holding office does not bring the power to change much, because office-holders are constrained by the prevailing mindset of the electorate. It is through challenging and changing mindsets that power is attained, and that change happens.

It is not that politicians are universally venal, for almost all want to act in what they perceive as the national interest. But there is almost always a happy coincidence between their perception of the national interest and what it takes to gain and retain office. Throughout the boom years, nobody was going to gain office by challenging the driving force of the Celtic tiger, as people’s mindsets had bought into a culture of indulgent self-interest. That mindset is now settled. Without a prolonged counter-assault on the prevailing conviction, little can be achieved or changed.

Those impatient for power have little interest in prolonging anything that will keep them from office. But in gaining office, they find that, fatally, they are constrained by that prevailing conviction and forced to do as before. Just as Fianna Fáil did – and would do now, if they were back in office.

via Irish Politics, Current Affairs and Magazine Archive – | This coalition is starting to make FF look good.

via Irish Politics, Current Affairs and Magazine Archive – | This coalition is starting to make FF look good.

One in eight of our super-rich are tax exiles, reveals Revenue

ALMOST one-in-eight of Ireland’s richest people are tax exiles, according to the Revenue Commissioners.

Of the 450 “high wealth” individuals, 54 are resident abroad for tax purposes.

This is the first time the tax authorities have released figures relating to how many Irish tax exiles are in the super-rich league.

Revenue said that last year its “high wealth” section dealt with 450 individuals who have net assets worth more than €50m and non-residents with “substantial economic interests” in Ireland.

It said the “number of non-resident individuals that are considered by Revenue to be high-wealth individuals is currently 54”.

Membership of the “54” club is confidential. But some of Ireland’s biggest business figures are known to have moved their bases to generous foreign tax shelters. This means they only have to pay tax on Irish earnings and not on their worldwide income.

Denis O’Brien, the telecoms entrepreneur and significant stakeholder in Independent News & Media (INM), is tax resident in Malta. Dermot Desmond, the founder of NCB stockbrokers and another shareholder in INM, is tax resident in Gibraltar.

Michael Smurfit, the paper packaging tycoon, has moved to Monaco while the racehorse magnates JP McManus and John Magnier are both tax resident in Switzerland. The supergroup U2 moved part of their business from Ireland to Holland after the Government capped the tax exemption scheme for artists.

In contrast, Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair chief executive whose wealth is estimated at €438m by rich lists, famously said he is happy to pay his taxes here.

While the official number of “tax exiles” is 10,781, some are people who moved abroad, rent their homes and pay tax here on the rental income. Others are foreigners working for multinationals here, or who have investments here.

Collectively they generated €49m in tax last year although it’s not clear how much the super-rich club of 54 contributed.

The issue of tax exiles has riled the taxpaying public, according to recent research by the Labour Party which showed that tax exiles were one of the main issues exercising voters. The Government plans to examine the issue of tax exiles in the Budget, with Labour pressing to tighten up the residency rules.

To qualify as “non-resident”, they must spend less than 183 days a year in Ireland, or 280 days over two years.

Michael Noonan, the Finance Minister, has been lobbied by business interests claiming that any attempt to tighten tax exile rules would scare off investors. A “domicile levy” of €200,000 imposed on wealthy Irish citizens living abroad for tax purposes raised just €1.6m in 2010.

Gerald Nash, a Labour TD for Louth, said: “While it is a fact that Ireland now has a taxation system that is considered by international standards to be among the fairest in the world, the system at the higher end needs to be radically altered to ensure that exacting standards are applied to so-called tax exiles in terms of their treatment for tax purposes.”

via One in eight of our super-rich are tax exiles, reveals Revenue – National News –

via One in eight of our super-rich are tax exiles, reveals Revenue – National News –

Gilmore bypasses Reilly on children’s hospital decision –


TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is carrying out his own research on children’s hospital locations in a sign of a breakdown of trust in Health Minister James Reilly.

The behind-the-scenes moves illustrate just how poor the working relationship is between Dr Reilly and the Labour Party.

As a result, Mr Gilmore’s advisers are talking with the various bidders and compiling their own file on where to locate the new national facility, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Gilmore’s desire to be informed independently of the decision-making process follows the controversy over Dr Reilly’s selection of primary care centres. “He does like to get his own information.

“Based on recent events, you can’t say it’s surprising,” a senior government source said.

The children’s hospital will be the largest capital infrastructure project agreed by the Government.

The race for the facility is neck-and-neck between St James’s Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, with the Coombe in third place as an “alternative” and the original site in the Mater Hospital in fourth.

“James’s and Blanchardstown stand out, followed by the Coombe and then the Mater,” a senior government source said.

Dr Reilly has got an expert report back assessing the options for the hospital.

The Dolphin Report, named after its chairman Frank Dolphin, didn’t rank the different locations, leaving it up to Dr Reilly to make a recommendation.

The decision is due to be agreed between Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Tanaiste and Health Minister before being brought to Cabinet for ratification.

But the trio has yet to meet, with no date scheduled for the discussion.

Despite Mr Kenny saying a fortnight ago that the decision would be taken within 10 days, there is no sign of it coming to Government.

Dr Reilly will formally take the decision to his cabinet colleagues with the endorsement of the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Mr Gilmore’s officials have had meetings with a number of those involved in the various bids. There has also been specific information requested from bidders.

via Gilmore bypasses Reilly on children’s hospital decision – National News –

via Gilmore bypasses Reilly on children’s hospital decision – National News –

Rabbitte: I’d rather take advice from Mick Wallace than Fianna Fáil

Pat Rabbitte says he would rather take tax advice from Mick Wallace than economic advice from Fianna Fáil.

Minister Rabbitte was commenting on an apparent resurgence in support for Fianna Fáil, who have a 21% approval rating in the latest IPSOS/MRBI opinion poll.

The survey puts Fianna Fáil as the second most popular party, a position it hasn’t held for more than two years.

Yet the Communications Minister says they cannot be taken seriously.

“I find it very difficult to take Fianna Fáil seriously, given that the major issue that confronts the country is economic recovery.

“I’d rather take advice on my tax returns from Mick Wallace than take advice from Fianna Fáil on the economy. I really don’t take it too seriously.”

via Rabbitte: I’d rather take advice from Mick Wallace than Fianna Fáil |

via Rabbitte: I’d rather take advice from Mick Wallace than Fianna Fáil |

Fianna Fáil bounces back as second-biggest party, poll finds –

FIANNA FÁIL has bounced back to become the second-biggest party in the State for the first time in more than two years, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

Since its disastrous general election performance 18 months ago, Fianna Fáil has frequently found itself in fourth place in opinion polls behind Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin.

Fianna Fáil is now narrowly ahead of Sinn Féin and well ahead of Labour, having gained a substantial level of support over the course of 2012.

Fine Gael has dropped a point since the last Irish Times poll in May while Labour is up two.

Satisfaction with the Government is down six points while the satisfaction of all the main party leaders has dropped. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is the most popular party leader.

When people were asked who they would vote for if a general election were held tomorrow, the figures for party support – when undecided voters are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll were: Fine Gael, 31 per cent (down one point); Labour, 12 per cent (up two); Fianna Fáil, 21 per cent (up four points); Sinn Féin, 20 per cent (down four points); Green Party, 2 per cent (no change); and Independents/Others, 14 per cent (down one point).

The survey was undertaken on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all constituencies.

The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

The core vote for the parties compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fine Gael, 20 per cent (down three points); Labour, 8 per cent (no change); Fianna Fáil, 14 per cent (up two points); Sinn Féin, 14 per cent (down four points); Green Party, 1 per cent (no change); Independents/Others, 10 per cent (down one point); and undecided voters, 33 per cent (up five points).

The number of undecided voters at one-third of the electorate is very high, but it reflects the fact that the Government is just 18 months into its term and a general election is not regarded as likely for a long time.

The jump of four points in support by Fianna Fáil since the last poll at the end of May looks even more impressive when in the context of a seven-point increase since the first Irish Times poll of 2012, which was conducted in April.

Sinn Féin has slipped significantly since the last poll, which put it in second place to Fine Gael.

That poll was conducted near the end of the referendum on the fiscal treaty, and absence of the massive television and radio exposure it obtained due to broadcast rules for referendums has seen a decline in the party’s support.

There will be some relief in Labour that the steady decline in party support over the past two years has been halted with a modest increase of two points despite the negative publicity that surrounded the resignation of the party’s junior health minister Róisín Shortall.

Fine Gael has again slipped marginally, for the third poll in a row, but the party is still comfortably ahead of all other Dáil parties and not far off its general election performance.

The fact that there has been a marginal improvement in the combined support of the two Government parties may be some compensation for a serious decline of six points to 21 per cent in the Government’s satisfaction rating.

All of the party leaders in the Dáil have seen a decline in their satisfaction rating since June with the biggest loser being Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who is down eight points.

The other party leaders in the Dáil have each dropped three points, with Mr Kenny the most popular party leader on the relatively low rating of 33 per cent.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has seen his rating improve by two points, but only to 12 per cent. His party, which remains stuck on 2 per cent, is still struggling to make an impact in the absence of Dáil representation.

Support for Independents and smaller parties has dropped by one point to 14 per cent.

via Fianna Fáil bounces back as second-biggest party, poll finds – The Irish Times – Thu, Oct 18, 2012.

via Fianna Fáil bounces back as second-biggest party, poll finds – The Irish Times – Thu, Oct 18, 2012.

Stray Cats and Marijuana Sized in the Dáil

Gardaí late last night received a tip off from a night watchman well on the way to alcoholism, which led to a sizeable seizure of Dope and stray cats from the locker rooms of Dáil Éireann.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Phil Hogan Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government pledged that the Government would investigate this matter and take appropriate action. The Minister stated he knew nothing about how the cats came to be on the premises but went on to claim labour were only a crowd of pussies.
Ann Phelan of the labour party stated the finding of stray cats in the Dáil had nothing to with Kilkenny’s recent all Ireland hurling success. She believed in all probability; the culprits were jealous Galway TDs.
In a further development Luke “Ming” Flanagan claimed he had nothing to do with the stash of dope found but acknowledged that the Ceann Comhairle was a dope if ever there was a dope head. Ming further claimed that the Dáil had a long and proud history of having to deal with mind boggling dopes and that the finding of dope in the Dáil was nothing new.

Gardaí later today expect to charge a hundred and sixty six people for these offences.

Controversial Irish blogger putting the boot into British MPs


The mere mention of his name chills politicians and his journalism has blown an icy wind through Westminster. Paul Staines is Guido Fawkes and Fawkes is the pen name of Britain’s most notorious political blogger, inhabiting the website

This baby has form. We can call it a baby because the platform for journalism is young enough (set-up in 2004) and bold enough. When Staines had to present to the Leveson inquiry he shrugged his shoulders and answered back.

When he receives solicitor’s letters he often rolls his shoulders and laughs – the latest, for supposedly offending the wife of the Sultan of Brunai!

But this is a thinker more than ready to cause offence in the best interests of the best endeavour of journalism – getting to the truth and holding authority to account.

Holding that position is an empowering place for any journalist to be he says and is free to do its thing because Staines can’t be sacked for saying the wrong thing, he’s the boss.

The son of a Dublin mother, Staines is an Irish citizen with a determined attitude. has taken a hammer to a few atoms but Staines admits there’s no great science behind their splitting.

The secret formula to attracting two million readers a month to his website is old school ethics:

“I’m with Kelvin McKenzie,” he says, referring to one of Fleet Street’s most notorious editors. “Keep the format simple, then amaze, amuse and entertain. It’s the ‘Gotcha’ attitude; make them angry, tell them something they didn’t know, or make them laugh and you got them. But you have to do it every day. Hopefully we do all three.”

Often dogged persistence is enough. Like in 2009, when Staines, writing under his non de plume of Fawkes, exposed a Labour party smear scandal, which went right to the door of Number 10. He rates that story as his most rewarding.

Then, Staines obtained emails written by the Prime Minister’s spokesman Damien McBride, where-in he proposed publishing a series of online slurs related to the lives of leading Conservatives.

His expose hit the Labour Party like a puncher’s right cross and brought an apology from Gordon Brown… in journalism, it’s where you want to be.

With every breaking political scandal, the popularity of his product has grown and his journey has roots in a “cantankerous and argumentative nature”. Qualities he celebrates as being typically Irish.

But there is arrogance and courage too. In the past Staines has defied super-injunctions because he never felt threatened by telling his unique brand of truth. And he says that if there’s a lesson in all of this, it’s been his accessibility.

Guido Fawkes answers his emails and picks up the phone. His contact details which appear on his website are available to everybody. And if there is a political aide with information of public interest, he’s there, ready to take the call.

It’s the reason he believes can compete with the Spectator and New Statesman aka the old establishment.

Then there’s his desire to answer back, through his website and the social media platform of Twitter.

“I originally thought Twitter was shit,” he says. “But I got my account in 2008 and every now and again when we did a big story, I’d get a few thousands followers more. It’s now a really important broadcast mechanism – it’s killed the newswire because news is out there first on Twitter. In a very specific way we try to use it as a hook to tease people in.”

Staines says that scandal and gossip provide the best bait, he says “because it’s what readers love.” But when the peddler of same is obstinate and non-conformist, well, that draws its own attention.

“I told Lord Leveson when he had me in front of his inquiry that since 1922 me and my countrymen don’t have to pay attention to what a British judge says. It caused quite a ripple. I think the room’s response was to half choke and Leveson just raised an eyebrow. At home people laughed that some Irish lad said f*** you to the judge. I did enjoy that.”

Below is a news story of a Radio Documentary on Guido Fawkes made by journalist Brian O’Connell  (pictured top, right) for RTE’s Doc on One. The article appeared in the same August 11th edition of The Irish Post.

He’s the blogger who revealed the identity of the Anglo Irish bond holders but who has famously made his name striking fear into the hearts of British politicians.

Now Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes is the subject of an RTE Radio documentary which charts the rise of right-wing maverick who has broken new ground exposing political scandal.

His website has been shining a light into Westminster’s dark corners since 2004 and his findings have been so illuminating that the medium is attracting almost two million visitors a month.

It has been said that any British politician who hasn’t felt the heat of his blog, probably isn’t of consequence and documentary maker Brian O’Connell has threaded a story challenging old school journalism and that which is peddled by Staines under the assumed name of Fawkes.

The documentary was recorded in the halls of Westminster and Slaneyside in Wexford, where Paul Staines’s parents now live.

“I’m not sure whether many people in Ireland are aware he is Irish,” said O’Connell. “But this is the guy who told us in Ireland who some of the Anglo bond holders were, literally days after we were told these names wouldn’t be released. It’s interesting for me that a couple of years ago people might have sniggered at bloggers, now they take them seriously.”

O’Connell said the ripples Staines has created through adheres to journalism’s number one objective – to get to truth. But his methods have occasionally been branded unorthodox and his right-wing allegiances have the potential to compromise impartiality.

Yet the documentary maker believes Staines has created a watchdog capable of exposing the worst elements of political life.

“In Ireland we have sites like but none with same clout as what Guido has in the UK,” he said. “I’m not sure whether it’s to do with the fact we are a smaller country and it is harder to be anonymous or if it is to do with the fact that there is too cosy a relationship in Ireland with the media.”

He added: “We have had so many political scandals and it has cost so much to try and get to the truth, so I wonder what would have happened had we a Guido Fawkes type character in Ireland, publishing articles on the blog, would we have learned more about what is going on in our politics and would we have learned quicker, and saved more money.”

The documentary, recorded for RTE’s Doc on One series is currently available online, to listen follow the link below

via Controversial Irish blogger putting the boot into British MPs.

via Controversial Irish blogger putting the boot into British MPs.


How big a liar is the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore?

Just another Whopper

On the evidence of broken promises, his undertakings do not stand up to examination.

Lie Number 1: You can see him on YouTube during canvassing during the last election promising labour would not be making disability cutbacks. If you were to ask the Minister the same question, today the likely response would be we did not make any cutbacks or the circumstances have changed.

Lie Number 2: with Labour in Government, he stated that the future of Mullingar barracks was secure. Mullingar Barracks is now no more and with it, 200 years of history have disappeared down the swanee.

Lie Number 3: After the defeat of Lisbon treaty act one he stated, “We will not be supporting a rerun of the treaty” oh dear what happens it turns out at more or less the same Wikileaks cabals highlight, he was saying the reverse to the US Embassy and state department.

As for The Roisin  Shortall Saga well that another story f backtracking and shifting sands and one suspects many a lie

Well now, we know a politician will promise with a straight face even when he knows the destiny of the pledge is the back boiler of infinity.


“Politicians, like bombers, seldom see their victims…” – Donald Boudreaux,

Shortall’s departure was ‘iconic’

ONE senior Labour minister described Roisin Shortall’s resignation as “an iconic moment” for the party.

“It has crystallised concerns about political management at the heart of government, from a Labour perspective, where people are asking ‘Is Enda giving Eamon the run-around?’.”

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.”

via Shortall’s departure was ‘iconic’ – National News –

via Shortall’s departure was ‘iconic’ – National News –

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