During Leaders’ Questions, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace named other Garda whistleblowers.
He also claimed that, in early 2014, a journalist contacted Supt Dave Taylor, to tell him that he had been in contact with the family of the girl at the centre of the false abuse allegation against Sgt McCabe.
Mr Wallace said the journalist told Supt Taylor “he had a great story and that it was going to be really damaging for McCabe”. Mr Wallace also said, following this conversation, Supt Taylor contacted both Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan.
From Mr Wallace’s speech in the Dáil…
“Taoiseach, I think the public inquiry should have a disciplinary, a criminal investigation running in parallel, run by people, policed from outside the country. A lot of bad things have happened.
“You said there Taoiseach that everybody has the presumption of innocence. You’ve a short memory. For several years, according to the Fine Gael government, Maurice McCabe was guilty until proven innocent.”
“Noirin O’Sullivan talked yesterday of a campaign of false accusations against her. Is she saying that Maurice McCabe was lying? David Taylor? Keith Harrison? Nick Keogh? Sinead Killian? Eve Doherty? Dermot O’Connell? And others? Are they all liars?”
“If she genuinely didn’t know how whistleblowers were treated. If she genuinely didn’t, she’s not fit for the job anyway, if she didn’t know what was going on in the force.
“With the O’Higgins inquiry, she instructed her legal team to give false evidence to the inquiry until Maurice McCabe’s tape turned it upside down. If she was innocent, why didn’t she sanction or discipline the two guards involved? Why? It’s a long time ago?
“How can you explain how Nick Keogh – when he reports Garda involvement in the heroin trade in Athlone, how come he faced five internal investigations in that same year and none before that? Why?”
“And the superintendent that Nick Keogh accused of bullying and harassing him, why was he put on the promotion list? Why”
“In 2014, the Garda Commissioner appointed an Assistant Commissioner to look at Keith Harrison’s complaint and the Assistant Commissioner leaked information back to the Superintendent that the subject of the complaint.
“And then, on foot of a different complaint, involving the very same superintendent, the same Assistant Commissioner was asked to carry out an investigation.
“And, if all that wasn’t bad enough, when GSOC, following its investigation into the second matter, asked for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against An Garda Siochana, who does Noirin appoint over it? You’d never guess: the same Assistant Commissioner.”
“A journalist contacted David Taylor in early 2014. He was press officer. The journalist told him that he’d been to the family of the girl at the centre of the sexual allegations of Maurice McCabe. He told her that he had a great story and that it was going to be really damaging for McCabe. Taylor texted [Martin] Callinan, texted [Noirin] O’Sullivan and told them the good news.”
“Callinan texted him, to welcome it. Noirin decided to ring him and have a good chat about it. A good chat about it. Now minister, Taoiseach, this is the woman who said, a couple of weeks ago, on the Sean O’Rourke programme, ‘I’ve absolutely no knowledge, nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana’.”
“The press officer, David Taylor, who was given back his job yesterday, said, this is a quote, ‘everybody in headquarters knew about the campaign against Maurice McCabe’. Everybody, seemingly Taoiseach, except Noirin. What do you think?”
You may recall a post from last week concerning Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison.
It included excerpts from a letter sent by Mr Harrison’s solicitors to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on May 20, 2016, outlining how he had been subjected to harassment and continued attempts to smear his reputation and undermine his credibility.
It was one of 14 such letters sent to Ms O’Sullivan by Garda Harrison’s solicitors.
Last October, during a meeting of the committee on justice and equality, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly repeatedly asked Ms O’Sullivan if she was privy to any information about allegations of mistreatment of Garda whistleblowers and Ms O’Sullivan repeatedly replied:
“I’m not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment…”
Further to this…
Last night, Ms Daly returned to the matter of Garda whistleblowers and what Ms O’Sullivan knew, and when, in the Dáil. She told how she’s been in contact with 10 Garda whistleblowers – all of whom, bar one, are currently out sick.
Ms Daly was speaking during a debate on a report on Garda oversight and accountability compiled by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality.
“This report is not just aspirational, containing ideas we have circulated for the craic; these are serious observations, made in part on the basis of the engagement we had with the oversight bodies and the Commissioner and her team and in part from our experience over recent times. In that context, I welcome the fact that the Minister will take on board some of the committee’s recommendations.
“That is a very welcome development. Without in any way being churlish, I believe it is an awful pity some of the recommendations were not taken on board previously.
“It is a matter of record that many of the recommendations contained in the report and the Minister’s Bill were made by us a number of years ago during the debate on the first GSOC and Policing Authority Bills. I am not saying this to score points, but people have suffered as a result of some of these provisions not being available during the two years since the most recent GSOC Bill was implemented…
“…We must be realistic about why the concept of oversight has gained popular currency and is being talked about by the dogs on the street. There is just one reason, that being, the heroic stance of a number of Garda whistleblowers who shed a light on an insular blue wall of silence, an organisation in which, contrary to what the Commissioner says, dissent was deemed to be disloyalty and punished accordingly. The order of the day was rats, death threats and serious intimidation of people who tried to do the right thing.
“The public perception of what a whistleblower is has been stood on its head. Now, being a whistleblower is identified as a position to be lauded, and one that makes a valuable contribution to improving the situation for all gardaí and members of society. There are many good gardaí and, for some time, they have believed that the situation will change. They stepped forward accordingly to join the ranks of the whistleblowers and improve matters.
“We have engaged with ten serving members of An Garda Síochána who have made protected disclosures of one sort or another. Under a change in the previous legislation, GSOC is now the confidential recipient and the vehicle through which gardaí make complaints. That service needs to be beefed up radically because GSOC does not have the time or resources to provide it adequately. It does not have the legislative power to compel Garda co-operation that it needs.
“Many cases have stalled because of delays in the Garda handing over material that GSOC needs to conduct its investigations. This non-co-operation continues today. It can be covered up as administrative delays and so on, but it impacts on the work being done.
“A number of the whistleblower cases in question are in the public domain, but others whose cases are with GSOC – in the instance of Keith Harrison, for more than two years – have had relatively limited meaningful engagement with GSOC because of delays with documentation and so on. In Nicky Keogh’s case, the GSOC investigation has practically concluded and disciplinary recommendations have been made, but the Garda has not agreed to GSOC’s involvement.
“These serious matters are ongoing. One must ask, if the situation is improving, why all these gardaí bar one are out sick. All have made allegations about bullying and harassment since coming forward, which is in direct contrast with the public statements of the Commissioner that she does not know of any harassment.
“We know that she has been directly informed of that harassment, as has the Minister. Most recently, serious allegations were made, and were widely covered in the provincial media, during an assault case after Christmas. In open court, evidence was produced of doctored witness statements. The people involved in the assault were also involved in a case in which a garda had been accused of involvement in the drug trade and so on. Criminal prosecutions are being impacted.
“The situation cannot be right if so many people are out sick. The case of the only garda who made a protected disclosure but who is not out sick is appalling. It involves a family law case. He received information to the effect that the judge, who was a family friend of his former wife, had held a meeting before the court case and then granted a protection order against him. He then made a complaint to the Garda. Not only was his complaint not investigated, but the senior garda involved initiated criminal proceedings against him for interfering with the judicial process when the circumstances clearly did not meet the criteria.
“That person, albeit a member of the Garda, was a victim, only to be revictimised by what the senior garda did. To add insult to injury for him and a number of other Garda whistleblowers, the very man who did that was brought by the Commissioner to attend our committee’s hearings into oversight as a witness for An Garda Síochána. Confidence among serving members is not developed if this type of behaviour is happening.
“The Minister will see from the committee’s recommendations that we want the Policing Authority to have more control over the Commissioner. This is not a new idea.”
Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace raised the Garda whistleblower controversy again with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
It follows a report in The Irish Times this morning which says the Government will launch a Commission of Investigation into claims made by former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor following a review of his claims by retired high court judge Iarlaith O’Neill.
Supt Taylor has claimed there was an alleged campaign within the gardai to ruin the reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Readers will recall how, last October, Trevor Collins, the solicitor of fellow Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, raised concerns about Mr Justice O’Neill’s remit.
Mr Wallace raised the cases of Garda Harrison and Garda Keogh and the conflicts of interest that have emerged in relation to the investigations of their claims…
And he told how, just last week, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald received a letter from a whistleblower about a witness statement being doctored by gardai in an assault case. Mr Wallace said the background to the case involved the planting of drugs by a garda.
From Leaders’ Questions…
Mick Wallace: “We read today that you’re about to commence a Commission of Investigation into certain Garda matters, following the O’Neill report. Yesterday, the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] was on the airways, telling us how wonderful everything is and how wonderful she is herself – bombing us with doublespeak.”
“Meanwhile, Taoiseach, the harassment of whistleblowers continues. The Tánaiste last December said to me, in reply to a question, the Garda Commissioner is entitled to her good name, as indeed are people making allegations entitled to theirs, unless facts properly established prove otherwise.”
“Well, Taoiseach, David Taylor, who was interviewed for 21 hours, a file sent to the DPP in September 2015, 2015 – and there’s no decision yet. Nothing has been proven against him. Is the Garda Commissioner allowed to ride rough shod over fair procedure in this area? The commissioner said yesterday: ‘I have absolutely no knowledge nor was I privy to any campaign to undermine any individual in An Garda Siochana’.”
“Taoiseach, 14 times, Keith Harrison wrote to her, detailing his harassment and bullying. He’s out sick since May 2010. He’s on €188 a week and there’s three kids at home. Nick Keogh has got nothing but grief since he reported malpractice.
“The commissioner yesterday was boasting yesterday about taking part in the fight against heroin. But she’s protecting the Chief Superintendent who’s been involved in the heroin case in Athlone. And last year, she placed a superintendent on the promotion list who has been accused on numerous occasions of harassing a whistleblower. ”
“In June 2015, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to carry out an investigation into the allegation surrounding the chief superintendent and the garda for the drugs squad in Athlone. But it was the same assistant commissioner accused of earlier leaking information back to the super who was the subject of the complaint.
“In October 2015,the commissioner stated that she had commenced an investigation into this alleged conflict of interest. October 2015. Not a word of it since. I wonder where is it, Taoiseach?”
“Following the investigation into the matter, GSOC have asked for disciplinary procedures to be taken against them. Who does Noirin appoint to look after it? Yes, the very same assistant commissioner. Who also happens to be retiring in April so he probably won’t even get to the end of it and delay it all even further.”
“This month, GSOC asked to oversee the disciplinary procedure. GSOC’s request was refused. Taoiseach, when are you going to publish the report? Are you going to include the protective disclosures of all whistleblowers in the investigation, because if you don’t, it’s only a case of kicking the can down the road because we’ll eventually have to do it. And Taoiseach, do you intend to leave the commissioner in place while the investigation goes on because it will make a mockery of it if you do.”
Enda Kenny: “Mr Justice O’Neill was asked to review the allegations of wrongdoing. He was also asked to include any recommendations which he considered appropriate. The report, I understand, sets out in detail the allegations contained in the protected disclosures. I’m sure that the House will appreciate that in the view of the nature of the allegations, and the fact that third parties are mentioned, the Tánaiste referred this to the Attorney General for advice on how to proceed, including the question of what material might properly be put into the public domain, having regard for the rights of all concerned.”
“I understand that the Attorney General has given some response to that but has some further matters to conclude on. And I also understand that the specific proposals will come to Government shortly, including putting the conclusions and recommendations of Mr Justice O’Neill to the public domain, Deputy Wallace.”
Wallace: “Taoiseach, you haven’t answered any of my questions. Now while the Government sat on the O’Neill report, which you still haven’t told me when you’re going to publish, GSOC had to go to the High Court to force the Commissioner to hand over the transcripts of the O’Higgins Report – almost eight months since the Tánaiste requested GSOC to investigate the same.”
“Only last week Taoiseach, the minister got a letter from a whistleblower regarding a witness statement being doctored by garda, the gardaí, in an assault case. The background to the assault case related to the planting of drugs by a garda.”
“Taoiseach, I’ll ask you again: when are you going to publish the report? Do you intend to lead the commissioner in place? Because it will be laughable if you do. And, Taoiseach, if all is so well as the commissioner likes to tell us. Can you explain to me, or can the commissioner explain to me: why are so many whistleblowers out sick? Why aren’t they at work?”
“Why doesn’t Noirin O’Sullivan ring the whistleblowers? How come she’s never even rang… she’s rang none of them. Taoiseach, would you consider asking the commissioner to ring the whistleblowers that she says she cares so much about? Because, Taoiseach, it’s a bit scary. What she says in public is one thing. The reality, on the ground, couldn’t be much different.”
Kenny: “The [protected disclosures] act protects gardai, if they make a report – either to GSOC or the commissioner – for having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure. That’s the law of the land. That’s what the act says protects whistleblowers for. You mentioned, of course, that the minister did receive the report from judge O’Neill. There are third parties mentioned in this report and it’s only right and proper that we return to the Attorney General for advice as to in what form and what element it should be published. And, in the ministers engaging with the Attorney General on that matter, my understanding Deputy Wallace is that this will come back to Government very shortly including proposals to implement the findings that Justice O’Neill has, has recommended, following his report being sent to the minister.”
Independent TD Catherine Connolly raised concerns about Galway University Hospital with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
To begin with (before the clip above), Ms Connolly said:
“Taoiseach, it’s Galway University Hospital is at crisis point. This is a hospital that serves a core population of 800,000 people and six core counties. In addition, it serves a number of other counties, given it really a population of a million that it serves.”
“Taoiseach, it’s operating in code black alert – the highest emergency code, together with a full capacity on an ongoing and prolonged basis. As a direct result, quite clearly, the obvious things happen, elective surgeries have been cancelled, large numbers of people have been left on trolleys, reaching a peak of 50 at Christmas time.
“And, in addition, and directly arising from that, we have an ongoing review of an operation performed in a ward; we’re awaiting a review of a death of somebody on a trolley in their 80s; we’re awaiting the conclusions of a report in relation to spinal surgery, inappropriately carried out in some places and causing premature deaths in two cases.
“We’re still awaiting confirmation that all of the recommendations of the Savita case have been implemented. In addition, we have very ill patients walking out of casualty on a daily basis and we have people with mental health problems being shoved through casualty.
“Indeed the capacity of the hospital, which is not a local issue nor a parochial issue, which I’ve said serves a million people, the capacity or rather the lack of capacity has placed it at number one on the risk register.”
….In addition, we have a report, independently commissioned by the Saolta Group and in relation to the accident and emergency, the physical environment is shocking and disturbing and unfit for purpose. We have a submission from Saolta itself and the clinical director of the hospital, telling us that ‘The current ageing facilities of the hospital are not fit for purpose, do not provide an appropriate environment to safely manage the current and future care needs of the population of that region.”
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin asked the Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the regulation of properties on Airbnb in Dublin.
They had the following exchange…
Eoin Ó Broin: “As the Taoiseach knows the November homeless figures showed, yet again, a further rise in the number of people living in emergency accommodation, with 6,985 people in such accommodation, including 2,549 children. ”
“In addition to the lack of supply of social housing, the lack of adequate private rental accommodation is feeding this crisis.”
“Today in Dublin there are only 1,564 properties available for rent but there are 6,225 units listed on Airbnb. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy [Simon] Coveney, gave a commitment in October to introduce secondary legislation to properly regulate this sector to ensure that only properties adequate for the purposes of Airbnb would be considered and the rest would require planning permission. When will this secondary legislation be published and will the Opposition be consulted on its contents?”
Enda Kenny: “We have been through this at some considerable length over the past period of time. The action plan allows for the building of 1,500 rapid-build units and 1,600 vacant units have been sourced by the Housing Agency.”
“The expanded HAP scheme for homeless tenancies reached 550 in 2016 and will reach 1,200 in 2017. The plan also includes a 40% increase in homeless funding from €70million to €98 million in 2017. This year there will be a spend of €1.2 billion on social housing.”
“I will ask the Minister to give Deputy Ó Broin more accurate details and a date on which he expects the legislation to be published. I would point out that 200 extra beds have been provided at Ellis Quay, Little Britain Street, Carman’s Hall and Wolf Tone Quay.”
Further to this…
Yesterday evening, Mr Ó Broin released a statement, in which he said:
“In Dublin there are currently 6,225 Airbnb listings. According to data available on Inside Airbnb 2,847 or 45.4% of these listings are for entire homes and apartments. Furthermore 44.5% of the hosts have multiple listings which can indicate that it’s more likely they are running a business.
“Today, according to Daft.ie there are only 1,564 properties available to rent in the capital. With the homeless figures for November showing that 6,985 people were accessing emergency accommodation, including 2549 children, we need to ensure we are looking at every option possible to make more housing stock available.
“Back in October 2016, when An Bord Pleanála upheld a ruling that a property owner in Temple Bar required planning permission to continue renting the property out for short-term lets, Minister Coveney backed this ruling. In December, when the issue was raised in the Seanad, the Minister stated that efforts were underway to clamp down on this activity and that a change in the planning treatment was a good way to deal with it.
“Today I asked the Taoiseach to detail when the secondary legislation promised to deal with this issue will be published. Unfortunately he couldn’t give me an answer but I will be writing to Minister Coveney asking him to provide the information requested and to ask if the opposition parties will have an opportunity to have some input on the development of the regulations.
“Sinn Féin is not against the principle of Airbnb as it was originally designed however it is my view that renting out a room in your home is entirely different to renting out your entire property. If the latter is the case then you need planning permission to change the property from residential use to commercial use. While we will assess the Minister’s regulations when they are published, we believe that a maximum of six weeks rental per year is reasonable. If you are providing a commercial accommodation service then standard B&B permissions should apply.”
The strategy includes designating Dublin and Cork as ‘rent pressure zones’ and capping annual rent increases in these areas at 4 per cent per annum for three years until 2019.
However during the debate in the Dáil last night, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin told the Dáil he believed the Government had drafted legislation that would result in an 8 per cent increase for renters in in their first year, as opposed to 4 per cent.
After explaining his concerns, Mr Ó Broin said:
“If it is, we have a serious problem because the Minister is asking us to vote on something here today which will actually lead to double the rate of increase than what the Minister has said. Perhaps it is by design. It is important that the Minister clarifies that point.”
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney requested an amendment to his amendment on the bill after Mr Ó Broin pointed out the error.
The debate on the Bill will continue this morning from 11.30am.
From last night’s debate…
Eoin Ó Broin: “This group of amendments relates to the Government’s strategy for the rental sector launched this week. As we have no other formal opportunity to discuss the strategy, I want to open my comments on these amendments by making some observations on it.”
“Given the fact we were led to believe this was going to be a comprehensive strategy for the fundamental reform of the private rental sector over the next several decades, it is deeply disappointing. There are 26 measures listed in the document, ten of which were previously announced by the Minister. For some of them, it was the fifth time they were announced. Of the other 16 measures announced, the majority of them will not come into effect until the last quarter of next year or they were so ambiguous in the document that it is not clear whether they will have a positive or beneficial effect on the reform of the private rental sector. This is not a long-term strategy.”
“It does little in dealing with real security of tenure or the urgent need to reduce evictions. As far as I can see from the limited amount of detailed information in it, it does little to address the dysfunctional underpinnings of the rental sector. In fact, it seems to be based on the same failed policies of the previous review and strategy for the rental sector going back to before the creation of the Private Residential Tenancies Board and the introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act.”
“While we all have been trying to facilitate the Minister in bringing forward measures to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis and taking him at his word, there is part of me that wonders if it was not a mistake to launch the strategy, as important as it is, in the last week of this Dáil term and to table such substantive amendments when we would not have detailed committee scrutiny but only a few hours in the Chamber. When the Minister spoke on Committee Stage when he gave us first sight of some of the amendments, he said the strategy was being broadly welcomed. When the Minister read the following morning’s newspapers, I am sure he took a different view.”
“Donal McManus, the head of the Irish Council for Social Housing, not somebody known for vocal criticism of the Government’s policy given the membership he represents, wrote in The Irish Times the most devastating critique of the measures contained in these amendments and the overall strategy.”
“His key point was that this strategy and the measures we are debating today were a missed opportunity, in some senses will make matters worse, and will not deal with the kind of issues many of us who went to the stakeholder consultation meeting that the Minister organised hoped it would.”
“Donal McManus is not the only one. The Minister indicated the non-governmental organisations, NGOs, thought the strategy was good. Most of the NGOs said that while it may be a step in the right direction, it has fundamental flaws. Some of the homeless charities have expressed deep concern at the gaps and absences, especially in the rent so-called predictability measure and its potential impact to lead to greater levels of homelessness.
“On the rent predictability issue itself, the only one thing predictable about this measure is that people will face consecutive years of rent increases, both in the rent pressure zones and outside. We had a debate in this Chamber over recent days about whether Fine Gael believes in intervening in the housing market.”
“Of course it does. Like Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael has a long history of direct intervention in the housing market, whether through the use of tax incentives, incentivising private home ownership, incentivising investment in various types of property activity or even, for example, in rent supplements such as RAS and HAP.”
“There is no ideological objection or obstacle to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael intervening in this market. The issue is who does it intervene for, in whose interests and for what outcome? That is really the nub of the difficulty many of us have with this measure. The Minister also repeated on a number of occasions at the press launch, which I attended, that this measure is a major intervention in the market but, in fact, it is not. Rent supplement is a much more substantial intervention in terms of a price setting mechanism in the private rental sector and is far more significant than this measure.”
“In his comments today and previously, the Minister keeps talking about balance, saying that whatever this Government does, it has to balance the interest of investors and the need to maintain and increase the stock of private rental properties with the needs and interest of tenants. The difficulty is the market, as it currently stands, is so skewed against the tenant that when the Minister talks about balance, what he is really doing is continuing to tip the scales against those who most need this Government’s help at this point in time.”
“I will talk about the details of the proposals, particularly in Government amendments Nos. 55 and 68. I put this question to the Minister the other day. A number of other commentators, some of whom think this is a good measure and others who do not, have asked this same question. I would like to get an answer at some point this evening.”
“When the Minister, Deputy Coveney, was asked at the press launch what was the basis for the figure of 4%, he said repeatedly that it was about the yield or return on the investment of the investor he is hoping to attract to provide greater levels of private rental accommodation.”
“When the particular question of where the 4% came from, he talked about the benchmark investment yield of 4% that the strategic investment fund operates. The difficulty is that this is not what is in this amendment. What is in the amendment is an annual rent increase of 4%, which over three years would probably add another one percentage point yield to the 6% or 7% yields that investors can currently get at market prices and market rents. I do not understand.”
“Perhaps I do not read these things properly or perhaps I am not smart enough but at some point the Minister should explain to us the interaction between the investment yield and the rental increases in a specific way, not in the very ambiguous and contradictory way he did on an RTE radio over the past day or two.”
“The Minister is right that the 12.5% would be the impact over three years for those worst affected by these measures. Nobody in our party has claimed everybody in the private rental sector will be hit by 12.5%. Even if it is only 10% of the 300,000 tenancies, it is bad for those people and therefore it is wrong. It is wrong even if it is 20%.”
“Perhaps the Minister has figures in terms of how many rental tenancies are up for review next year, the year after and the year after that. If he has that information, he should share it with us so at least we know how many people would be affected. For those worst affected by these measures, it will be 12.5% in the affected areas.”
“A number of people made a point which I will repeat. The families we are talking about do not have the money the Minister is now giving landlords free rein to charge them. The total cost for an average family in Dublin over the three years, if they are hit with the full 12.5%, is €4,500. That is the total cost of increased rent over three years. Where will they get it? There will not be wage inflation of that amount. There will not be reductions in the cost of living of that amount. There will not be tax cuts for low or middle income workers to that amount. Where will they get the €4,500? For people in Cork, the figure is about €3,200. That is based on current average rents in the affected areas according to the RTB.”
“One of the points that has not been debated enough today is with regard to the other areas. The Minister said he wants a rational and evidence-based way of determining whether other areas outside the four local authority areas in Dublin and Cork city are included. The national rental average is one of his benchmarks. There is nothing rational about that. The national rent averages are simply too high. We have had three or four years of dramatic rent inflation. If the starting point for including other areas is the national average of the rental index, that is simply too high.”
“I agree with previous Deputies who said one of the consequences of setting that bar so high is that many areas where people are struggling with rent increases will not be included after they are assessed by the RTA and therefore will not benefit from this. That includes many of the areas that Fianna Fáil has made such a huff and puff about over the past number of days. Equally, 7% rent inflation in four of the last six quarters sets the bar so high that areas that fall slightly short of that but which should be included in any rent relief measure will not get any benefit.”
“I listened to the Minister very carefully and perhaps I misunderstood his comment at the end of his initial intervention. He seemed to suggest that the reason these other areas could not be included now is that we do not have quarter four data from the RTB rent index and therefore we have to wait for that data to process it and assess it over the last six quarters.
Simon Coveney: “We are also moving to local electoral areas…”
Acting Chairman Eugene Murphy: “Okay. That is…”
Ó Broin: “No, I am interested to hear the Minister.”
Coveney: “…which is the key change.”
Murphy: “Deputy Ó Broin without interruption.”
Ó Broin: “I am quite happy to have the additional information.”
Coveney: “I will come back to it.”
Ó Broin: “Anybody who uses the quarterly RTB index knows it has sub local authority areas. That information is already available up to quarter three. There is no reason that those areas could not be included now on the basis of those sub local authority areas. I also suspect, and the Minister can correct me later if I am wrong, that the RTB has the raw data and all it would require is a sufficient number of staff over a short period of time to provide it. I would be very surprised but I will stand corrected if that is not the case. Even with the sub local authority data that they have published, it would have been a better basis than the one that has been provided. There is no guarantee, and I say this with the greatest of respect to the Deputies from Fianna Fáil, that any of the other areas outside the four Dublin local authorities and Cork city are guaranteed access to this, in my view, poorly designed measure depending on those assessments.”
“I want to raise a technical question, and I do so in all sincerity. I am not a mathematician and I always find mathematical equations difficult to understand.”
“The end of the equation the Government has included in amendment No. 55 refers to “t/12”, where “t” is the number of months between when the rent was originally set and when the new rent is set under these measures. In the first year of these three years, “t” would be 24 because it would be two years from the period the last rent was set to the end of the two-year review. If my calculations are right, and again I could be wrong, what that actually means is that in the first year when this equation is used as the basis of the rent review, it would be an 8% increase, not a 4% increase. That could be a drafting error.
“If it is, we have a serious problem because the Minister is asking us to vote on something here today which will actually lead to double the rate of increase than what the Minister has said. Perhaps it is by design. It is important that the Minister clarifies that point.”
“In terms of Sinn Féin’s two amendments, amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 55 and amendment No. 11 to amendment No. 68, I will not rehearse the argument we have had here repeatedly. The first is to link rent reviews to the consumer price index [CPI]. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan has a very helpful amendment to my amendment to amendment No. 55. While I do not expect that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will support it, I am ever the optimist, so I am more than happy to accept Deputy O’Sullivan’s amendment to mine. I have tried to provide a better proposition in terms of including areas, not just other major urban areas, but also local electoral areas, to ensure they benefit.”
We are not in a position to take the Planning and Development (Housing and Residential Tenancies) Bill 2016 today, and now propose to take the Road Traffic Bill 2016 (AT 10AM THIS MORNING) which did not conclude last night