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RTÉ journalist David Davin Power on tonight’s Six One

Yesterday.

The Citizens’ Assembly voted by 52 votes to 29 (or 64 per cent) to allow access to the procedure with no restriction on reasons.

Of the 52 who voted for this access, 25 stated abortion should be available up to 12 weeks’ gestation, 23 voted for a 22-week limit, while four said there should be no restriction on gestational age.

Further to this.

Tonight, on RTÉ’s Six One news.

RTÉ journalist David Davin Power spoke to Sharon Ní Bheoláin about the results of yesterday’s Citizens’ Assembly.

Sharon Ní Bheoláin: “We’ve been kicking this can, this most difficult and contentious of issues down the road for decades, David. Has the time come where we’re finally going to deal with it?”

David Davin Power: “Sharon, we might be approaching the end game but, as always, the timing is critical. The first thing to say is that the very liberal package of recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly took people very much by surprise here. There was astonishment across all parties that they had recommended something that, it has to be said, is politically unsaleable.

“Only around 24% of the electorate, in the last comparable opinion poll, backed a regime that is that liberal. So, the task of this committee that will be meeting from June onwards is essentially to water down these proposals to the point that they’re not politically toxic. Because if these, if this package was put to the people, the view in Leinster House, certainly is, that it would surely fail.

“But, of course, the timing and the timescale is a problem because, with the best will in the world, this committee, if it sits in June and reports in September, if it works through the summer, there’ll be very limited legislative time. And the Dáil returns in October, we have the budget, we have the social welfare bill, so, effectively, the first time we could contemplate having any referendum on this is next year, maybe around April next year.”

“And, of course, that’s the time when you could be facing a general election, if the package between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil unravels. but one thing I have detected around Leinster House today is that there does seem to be, there does seem to be a will to crack on with this now. If only to make sure that the issue is disposed of before that general election but ultimately this will be a problem for a new Taoiseach and, potentially, a new Government.”

Abortion should be legal for all women, says Citizens’ Assembly (Ellen Coyne, The Times Ireland edition)

Watch back here

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Paul Murphy (centre) outside the Central Criminal Court today

Roll up.

Bring your rotten veg.

For the last of the 1916 tributes.

Martin McMahon writes:

As part of the ongoing 1916 Rising Commemorations, the Fine Gael led government has arranged a special series of ‘Show Trials’ for the entertainment of the masses.

Very kindly, Irish newspapers, journalists and politicians have risen to the challenge of making this experience as close to the original as possible. To quote that memorable Irish Times 1916 editorial:

​‘We said, and we repeat, that the surgeon’s knife of the State must not be stayed “until the whole malignant growth has been removed”… Our demand that the elements of rebellion should be finally extinguished… We have called for the severest punishment of the leaders and responsible agents of the insurrection.’

Exactly as in 1916, the public has been fed a constant stream of vitriol against the defendants and those who support them. Comparisons to ISIS and labels such as ‘Sinister Fringe’ have been spat across the parliament floor in a wholly convincing portrayal of the bloodlust for vengeance which existed among the ruling class and courtiers in 1916.

The Minister for Recreations told us:

“We can’t do military trials, but we appoint the judges and control the jury. We encourage people to come along to the courts where rotten fruit & veg will be provided free of charge to throw at the guilty on their way in and out during the course of the trial. We expect it to be a huge family event”.

In a break with history, it is understood that negotiations are underway with RTÉ and SKY to televise the executions live from Kilmainham Jail where the Garda Band will play a constant loop of ‘God Save the Queen’. Seats are limited and families are advised to book early for what will be the last event in the 1916 Rising Commemorations.

Martin blogs at RamshornRepublic

Earlier: Meanwhile, At The Jobstown Trial

For Your Consideration: Jobstown, Protest On Trial

Rollingnews

17/04/2017. Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All. Pictured the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD at the launch of a new campaign entitled Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All. The Minister is urging the public to blow the whistle in wellfare fraud in Dublin this morning. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All ads in the Irish Times (above) and on a Dublin Bus today

 

Last week, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s launched his Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign.

At the launch, he stated a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million in 2016.

Further to this…

Readers may wish to note a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post by Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Bróin in which he called Mr Varadkar’s figures into question.

He wrote:

[Varadkar] claimed that “anti-fraud and control measures” saved the taxpayer over €500 million in 2016. No detail justifying this figure was provided.

Requests to the Department of Social Protection press office for additional information didn’t help much.

… In 2013, the Comptroller and Auditor General annual report included a section on welfare overpayment debt.

The report concluded that, from 2007 to 2011, 50 per cent of all overpayments were due to error (44 per cent by the client and 6 per cent by the department), while 38 per cent of overpayments were due to fraud.

This pattern was confirmed in a parliamentary question from Varadkar on May 31, 2016 which stated that 21 per cent of identified overpayments in 2015 were fraudulent, 30 per cent in 2014 and 32 per cent in 2013. In each of these three years the total number of overpaid claims was between 80,000 and 90,000, with fraudulent claims falling from 27,000 in 2013 to 21,000 in 2015.

The conclusion to be drawn from the figures is that the number of fraudulent claims is small and that overpayments due to errors by claimants or department staff are more significant.

The big question, of course, is how much this costs the taxpayer. Thankfully Varadkar’s parliamentary question replies are a lot clearer than his press releases.

The same PQ from May 2016 states that the cost of all overpayments in 2015 was €115 million, of which €48 million was due to fraud. The figures for 2014 were €124 million and €52 million; for 2013 they were €127 million and €61 million.

So not only are errors more frequent than fraud in our social welfare system, they are also costing the taxpayer more.

While a large sum of money is recouped each year (€82 million in 2016, €80 million in 2015, €82 million in 2014) it is significantly less than the overpayments discovered each year. So the total amount of overpayment debt owed to the state continues to rise – reaching €437 million in 2015.

What is not clear from the above data is where Varadkar is getting his information that €500 million was saved through anti-fraud measures in 2016. This figure is clearly not the amount of money saved by identifying overpayments. Nor does it bear any relation to actual incidents of fraud in 2016.

But who cares? It makes for a good headline when launching a campaign to tackle one of society’s big problems.

Eoin Ó Broin: Varadkar’s figures just don’t add up (Sunday Business Post)

Pics: Irish Times and Fiona Hyde

Listen back to interview in full here

Meanwhile…

File Photo The association representing mid-ranking gardaí has said there is a crisis of confidence in An Garda Síochána and it is up to garda management to address it. The mood among garda sergeants and inspectors at their annual conference in Killarney, in the wake of the recent controversies over wrongful convictions and false breath tests, is one of apprehension and a sense that they are being blamed. End. A Garda stops a car at a checkpoint on the N3 in Dublin during a two day road safety blitz on major routes around the country. Garda checkpoints are in operation on fifteen national roads to ensure all drivers and passengers are wearing seatbelts. Thirteen per cent of male drivers, and over half of back-seat passengers, do not wear seatbelts.11/5/2006 Photo:Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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From top: Garda checkpoint; Road Safety Authority CEO Moyagh Murdock

You might recall the near one million breath tests that An Garda Síochána recorded taking between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2016… but didn’t.

Readers might wish to note, in June 2016, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) published a report, stating:

983 fatal collisions occurred on Irish roads between 2008 and 2012, claiming the lives of 1,077 people. The forensic details of 867 fatal collisions were analysed to identify the cause of the collisions – of these, alcohol was a main contributory factor in 330 collisions, claiming the lives of 366 people.  A further 69 people were seriously injured.

This afternoon.

Moyagh Murdock, the Chief Executive Officer of the RSA, spoke to Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio One about road safety and drink driving.

They briefly discussed the false Garda figures.

Ray D’Arcy: “Did you have suspicions [about the false figures]?”

Moyagh Murdock: “Well, I think we certainly were concerned that the number of traffic corps available to do these was significantly reduced. The Behaviours and Attitudes surveys tell us that people don’t expect to get stopped, there have been a significant number of months or even years since the last time they’d got stopped. So that would be very…”

D’Arcy: “Didn’t add up?”

Murdock: “Didn’t add up. That’s all we could say, at that point, was that they didn’t add up. We also..”

D’Arcy: “How did you feel when you heard that?”

Murdock: “When I heard the number of one million? I was completely stunned I have to say…”

Later

Murdock: “What was really worrying is many policy decisions are made on the basis of statistics that we’re given. So we came from a period of very safe roads. The numbers of people being killed on our roads were declining. Yet, we could probably say that the number of breath tests were going up so traffic corps are going to get de-prioritised and we saw the numbers go down. So, you know, publishing the wrong numbers influences the decision of where to send the actual resources where they’re needed and we’re now seeing an increase in the number of people being killed on our roads so these things…”

D’Arcy: “Are you making a direct connection between the two?”

Murdock: “Well, I think there has to be. You know. We look and see what the underlying reasons are for collisions out there, all of the time, foreseeing that people are being breath tested and there is only a small number that are failing. Well then obviously, you have to ask the question, it mustn’t be drink driving that’s killing these people. But..”

D’Arcy: “But it is. We know that..”

Murdock: “It is. We know that. And we know in Ireland, the most recent research we’ve done, up to 29% of drivers have alcohol in their system that was a contributory cause [in fatal accidents]. We look at our near neighbours, in the UK, and that level is at 14% so, you know, we have to close that gap.”

Later

D’Arcy: “Somebody has come up with a figure that a fatal, somebody who dies on the road costs the State, or is it a fatal crash, costs the State €2.7million?

Murdock:That’s correct…”

D’Arcy: “How does that figure come about?”

Murdock: “That was carried out by, we got, I think it was Pricewaterhouse [Cooper] did it for us, carrying out the number of lives affected, the cost to the State for rehabilitation, the cost to the State for the loss of someone contributing as a taxpayer, the cost of support services, the cost of all the emergency services…”

D’Arcy: “A fatal crash costs €2.7million.”

Murdock: “It does, yeah.”

Rollingnews

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Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen: rivals in round two of France’s presidential election; Derek Mooney

Emmanuel Macron, the former Economy Minister under Socialist President Francois Hollande and now independent centrist candidate faces off against the second placed right-winger, Marine Le Pen in round two of the French presidential election in two weeks’ time.

Derek Mooney writes:

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief last night as the first exit poll results from the French presidential election emerged showing Emmanuel Macron as the front runner.

It wasn’t just EU officials and other EU heads of government who were relieved, but also the heads of the polling companies whose predictions turned out to be extraordinary accurate, in many cases within just 1% of the result.

That sense of relief continued into this morning with European stock markets rallying and the Euro rising to a five-month peak with the news that France is likely to have a more centrist pro-EU President Emmanuel Macron.

Only a month ago the polls suggested that Le Pen might emerge as the lead candidate in the first round followed by Macron, with some showing Le Pen as high as 27% and Macron around 25%.

However; the collapse in recent weeks of the socialist party candidate Hamon saw the far left’s Melechon rally and join the leading pack, consisting of Le Pen, Macron and the conservative candidate Fillon, all within 3-4% of each other.

Macron’s youth and relative inexperience became election issues. The first public election that Macron has ever fought will likely see him elected as president. The accusation that “he rose without trace” has been thrown at macron. It is an unfair accusation.

Macron does have some experience having served as economy minister under President Hollande. Indeed, he managed to even reform French labour law, via the eponymous Loi Macron.

As a colleague of mine commented at the time of Macron’s time in office: labour market reform in France is difficult at the best of times and almost possible most of the time.

Macron encountered some stiff opposition from within the Socialist party with about 40 socialist deputies rebelling in protest at his modest proposals to modernise French labour law: including allowing shops to open 12 Sunday per year as opposed to the previous five and making changes on collective dismissals and the provision of a suitable alternative positions for french workers were made redundant.

So great was the rebellion that the President had to invoke a little used article within the French constitution giving the government the power to bypass the National Assembly and push through a law when it didn’t have majority support. It was a rare victory in the history of French labour market reform and allowed Macron to secure a reform measure that was aimed at the opening of the French economy.

For this reason Macron has never been trusted by the Socialist Party but neither he is a Gaullist (now called Les Republicains – interesting aside, the Gaullists were once Fianna Fáil’s allies in Europe). Macron is outside the French party system.

His En Marche! movement is centrist socially liberal and pro-EU with more than a hint of The Third Way/Neue Mitte of Blair and Schroeder.

It is no wonder that Brussels and most other European political leaders are happy to see Macron safely through to Round Two and safe in pole position to win the presidency with about 60/60+% of the vote.

His endorsement by Les Republicain’s Fillon and the Socialist party’s Hamon yesterday sent strong signals to their voters who to back in Round Two – but they will not all follow their advice.

But there is even great reason for EU leaders to feel happy. Marine Le Pen’s strong antipathy towards the Euro and the European Union, not to mention her easy and friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, would have considerably upset relationships in Brussels and sent the EU Commission and Council into a tail spin.

However, as often happens with Brussels, particularly with the current EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, it is possible that the EU may take the wrong lesson from the result and see a potential Macron win as some vindication for a euro-federalist project.

Le Pen’s support much like Brexit and even the Trump win in the USA is partly a populist revival, but it is also a response to globalisation and to the threats to the livelihoods posed by the twin pressures of international labour competition and automation.

Without question, even more than with Brexit, or even with Trump, there are clear elements of racism and xenophobia in Le Pen’s support base, but not every one of Le Pen’s 7.6 million voters is a racist or a bigot.

This will be even more true when she adds to that total in Round Two. By that point, she may have secured another 4 – 5 million votes from those who backed Fillon/Melechon/etc. in Round One. The vast majority of them are just people who are worried and frightened at the prospect of globalisation and see in it a loss of national identity and attachment.

It is a sense that was better expressed by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, during her speech as Tory leader when she said: ‘if you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’.

Yes, we can see that Le Pen’s coarse appeal to patriotism and love of country does verge on the fascistic, nevertheless she does dissemble her true purpose just enough to allow it to strike a chord with many who do not see nationalism and national pride as a dirty word or concept.

Neither is it one that is entirely incompatible with the modern globalised world, nor a Europe working more closely together. To quote EU Council President, Donald Tusk from his open letter to EU leaders from last September:

“The keys to a healthy balance between the priorities of Member States and those of the Union lie in national capitals. The institutions should support the priorities as agreed among Member States, and not impose their own ones.”

Yes, we should cheer if and when Macron is elected in two weeks’ time. But, when that cheering has died down; let us then take a long hard look at the wider lessons from the campaigns in the Netherland, France, in the UK and later this year in Germany.

Let us see then if it is now time to pause: to stop the treaty changes for a while and to let the changes already made time to bed down and gain a wider acceptance.

This pause may be of even greater importance to us as our closest former ally takes themselves out of the EU.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Earlier: A Limerick A Day

JOBSTOWN COURTCASE 8076_90509693

From left: Ruth Coppinger, Mick Barry, Paul Murphy, Robert Ballagh and Lynn Boylan MEP

 

More to follow.

The Jobstown Not Guilty group is live-blogging from the court here

Seven plead not guilty to false imprisonment of Burton and adviser (RTE)

Earlier: For Your Consideration: Jobstown: A Protest On Trial

Pics: Katie Hancke

Further to architect Maoilíosa Reynolds writing an article in the Sunday Business Post two Sundays ago.

In which he raised serious concerns about the Department of Housing’s seemingly disingenuous methodology when it comes to calculating house building figures – namely basing the number of house completions on ESB connections…

And him calculating that the actual figure was about half the official figure of 14,932…

And, when asked about basing the official figures on ESB connections, Housing Minister Simon Coveney telling Keelin Shanley on RTÉ’s News At One last week, “All I can do is use the same methodology that we’ve always used”

Housing lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology Lorcan Sirr wrote an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times, saying:

“That the department responsible for housing will not publish the number of houses built in a year is an extraordinary state of affairs in a housing crisis. When gardai manipulate inaccurate statistics, there are inquiries; the department evidently needs interdepartmental assistance with the concept of transparency.”

Mr Sirr also spoke on News At One earlier today about new housing figures he has obtained, under Freedom of Information.

They show that just 2,076 houses of all types were built last year, or 14% of the official number.

Number’s up for Coveney (Lorcan Sirr, Sunday Times)

Listen back in full here

Previously: ‘If You Want To Solve A Problem…’

Pics: Lorcan Sirr