Tag Archives: Dail

From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley

Earlier today.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was asked again about his contact with lobbyist for Independent News and Media Eoghan O’Neachtain in November 2016, in relation to INM’s proposed takeover of the regional newspaper group Celtic Media.

At the time, the minister told Mr O’Neachtain that he planned to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This discussion was then relayed to Denis O’Brien in an email of November 12, 2016.

This was two months before the minister’s plans were made public.

In addition, on December 6, 2016, Minister Naughten told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley he had not yet decided if he was going to refer the proposed takeover to the BAI.

Minister Naughten never took a note of his mobile phone call with Mr Ó Neachtáin, he didn’t tell his officials and Mr Ó Neachtáin didn’t register the approach with the Lobbying Register.

Further to this…

In the Dáil this morning:

Brian Stanley: “Are there two types of meetings with your department? And two types of contacts? Both official and unofficial? And how many of these do occur?”

Denis Naughten: “We do comply with all of the standards and the legislation, as set out, as I’ve said. I’ve discussed this with my secretary general and he is reviewing the situation to consider if there are further changes. I, for one, won’t be taking any phone calls from lobbyists in the future, I can tell you that for nothing. But the reality is that we do comply with it, and as you know, if you look at the register I think, there are, I think 951 occasions in which my own name is mentioned in relation to various interest groups that have lobbied me since I was appointed minister. I think that’s an average of about 50 a month, covering a wide range – right from the environmental sector, right through to communications, energy, broadcasting media, right across the spectrum. So it is a very busy department, a very complex department – many aspects that are very technical and, as I said, I have discussed this with my secretary general.”

Timmy Dooley: “Look, if we could try and bring this thing to a conclusion, rather than having it, dragging it on, it doesn’t suit any of us. But I think we all have a responsibility to this House to try and get it tidied up. So, for me, there’s a couple of straight questions that you need to answer.

“And if you first accept that you provided confidential information, in other words, an insight into what you were, what you were ultimate intentions might be or your future intentions, and let’s not dance around the head of a pin and that, three weeks later, you came in here and misled the Dáil, albeit inadvertently, I would suspect, but nonetheless, you mislead the Dáil. There’s potential for all of us to do it. It’s just a matter of addressing it and getting beyond it. And that your actions amounted to wrongdoing.

“I don’t  bear you any ill will whatsoever. I have considerable sympathy for you, to be honest in this instance. The way you wandered into such a firestorm, but nonetheless minister, you’re responsible to the House. So there’s three things I think you need to do.

You need to accept that there was confidential information, because you did give insight into where you were, where you might ultimately go, you can put the caveat on it. The issue of misleading the Dáil and accepting it was wrongdoing.

“It doesn’t require you to resign, minister. Nobody has been really demanding that. But it requires you to be answerable to the House. And then I think, you know, this issue gets off your desk and gets off everybody’s desks.”

Naughten: “No, I did not give confidential information and I’m quite categoric in relation to that. The conversation that I had, and I sincerely regret that conversation, and I acknowledge that it was a political mistake to have that conversation and I’ve learned form my experience and I apologise for that. And I sincerely apologise for that.

“But I did not give confidential information, because I did not have any information available to me at that stage. The information that I had was the information that everyone else in this House had or was available on Google and yes, I do regret giving my opinion in relation to it at that point and the reality was that three weeks later, when I was here in the House, I had an active file in front of me at that stage, and it was a very different situation at that point.

“And I’ve been at pains to try and point out that. And I do sincerely regret it.”

Stanley: “Minister, just in relation to your reply. The problem arises that I asked you in October of 2016 about this and I asked you again on the 6th [of December] in a Priority Question here, in this seat, and you sitting over there in relation to what was your intentions regarding that merger and what you intended to do and you told me, and the transcript is there from that debate in the Dáil between you and I, that you had absolutely no idea, I remember you, I think you shook your head, as to what you were going to do with it. And you can say that in relation to, that you didn’t have the file in front of you at that point, that you hadn’t entered the process, and I know how that works, I’ve looked at all of that in detail.

“And I was following that very carefully at that time because we had huge concerns about that and I was raising it with you for months before that. But the problem, that’s where the problem arises.

“I accept the fact that you have apologised, what we wish to do now is to make sure that we tighten up all of this area…Would you agree that unofficial contacts with lobbyists, for ministers, has to stop?”

Naughten: “Look. Deputy Stanley, in my initial reply to you, to your supplementary, I said, look, I won’t be taking calls for lobbyists. I’ve said to you that I have discussed it with my secretary general and he will be reviewing the situation to see if there are other changes that, in procedures. But procedures are set out very clearly in relation to this and as I say, look, I have apologised for it. I do sincerely regret it. And look, I just want to get on, focus on the job and work that’s in front of me, the very demanding job, it’s a very demanding department and I know that all of you here want to do the same thing. And look, there’s nothing more that I can say in relation to this.”

Dooley: “I want to let you on with your job, I want to get on with mine. But I’m still at a loss as to understand, why you regret taking the call? Why you’ve apologised for taking the call? Why you’ve asserted that you’ll never take a call again – if you did nothing wrong in the first instance?

The facts remain, minister, that you fail to understand, by providing an insight into your thinking, a personal opinion, whatever it might be, that was confidential information. It’s the confidence of your own personal information that’s at play here – not access to some information in relation to your officials.

Because you had a hunch as to where this thing was going. And you gave that information to the lobbyist and he passed it on. Which is now the result, or is now forming part of evidence which the Director of Corporate Enforcement is using as part of his campaign to appoint investigators [into INM]. So it was confidential information, minister. That’s what you need to accept. That’s what you’ve identified as being regrettable for taking the call, that’s what you’ve apologised for. You need to start at the beginning and just accept that you provided confidential information, that it was wrong, it was on  a relatively low scale and it can be addressed within this House.

“Will you just please, just bring this to a conclusion, minister?”

Naughten:One, I did not give any confidential information. Two, I made it crystal clear that I would be guided by whatever advice that I got from my officials and the file shows clearly that’s exactly what I did. And the reason that I regret and apologise is this is the fourth day in a row, in this House, that we’ve been discussing this issue here regarding a 30-second conversation that I had giving an opinion that I sincerely regret giving and that’s why I’m apologising to this House and to the public out there. That his House has been preoccupied about this for four days in a row.”

Previously: ‘He Didn’t Do Any Favours For Denis O’Brien’

Naughten To See Here

Denis Denis

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger raised the taking down of artist Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural from the Project Arts Centre yesterday.

It was removed after the Charities Regulator informed the centre the artwork is “political activity” and that, as a consequence, the centre is in breach of the Charities Act 2009.

Ms Coppinger, and fellow TD Paul Murphy, held up copies of the mural, as she said:

“I would just like to know what the Taoiseach and others think is so offensive about this – that it should be banned by a State body. And would you agree with me, that we should challenge that… and we should say ‘no, there’s nothing wrong with a heart that calls for repeal’ and there’s nothing… we should not allow political censorship.”

Before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could respond, Tánaiste Simon Coveney could be heard saying across the chamber:

“Stupid stunts like that do nothing to inform…”

UPDATE:

Watch the Dáil proceedings live here

Yesterday: Once More With Emulsion

From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smyth in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon.

And further to reports that, in November 2016, the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten informed Eoghan Ó Neachtáin, of Heneghan PR which represented Independent News and Media, that he planned to refer INM’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media Group to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland…

Two months before it was publicly announced…

During Topical Issues – taken by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and ahead of Minister Naughten’s statement to the Dáil in relation to the matter which is now thought to take place around 4.30pm – Ms Murphy said the following:

“Minister, when I submitted the topical, I referred to the implications of recent and escalating developments regarding INM based on the ODCE investigation into the company.

“At the time, of course, I was referring to significant concerns regarding what can only be considered as a hacking of emails which potentially compromised huge numbers of journalists and their sources and the major implications for damage, such inaction poses the independence of media and the protection of journalism.

“But as of today, I cannot ignore the most obvious escalating development which is the involvement of the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten.

On the 6th of December 2016, he stood in this chamber and told me in response to a priority question, he had only commenced the phase one assessment on the 24th of November 2016, his officials had not yet made any decision and that he had 30 days to make a decision on three options  -one of which was  a potential referral to the BAI [Broadcasting Authority of Ireland].

He said, and I’m quoting, that he ‘hadn’t received a report from his officials yet’.

The director of corporate enforcement’s affidavit states that a month earlier on the afternoon of the 11th of November, he personally told representative from Heneghan PR that he would be referring the proposal, proposed merger, to the BAI, based on the advice of his officials.

“I note that Heneghan PR, headed by Nigel Heneghan, advisory to Leslie Buckley and spokesman for INM and also member of the compliance committee of the BAI.

So here was a PR firm employed by INM and with close ties to all the close protagonists in INM making a direct contact with a minister and being made privy to a decision which I, as a parliamentarian, weeks later, was told the decision had not been made yet.

“The repercussions for this, I believe, are stunning – not least in relation to the implications it has for the potential market manipulation and inside dealing but also for the questions it raises in regards to corporate governance and INM and the axis of power between major shareholders of INM and his department.”

Ms Murphy went on to say that Minister Naughten should recuse himself for any role in media regulation.

She added:

“I also take exception, yet again, to being misled in this Dáil when I ask a parliamentary question and I believe I was mislead in respect of those replies on the 6th of December.”

Later

Ms Smyth said:

“If the media was free, why does Ireland have a higher concentration of media ownership than most other countries with one key individual whose name can never be mentioned whether in a committee or in this chamber, owns Sunday Independent, Sunday World, Evening Herald, has a stake in the Daily Star, The Kerryman, the Drogheda Independent, the Wicklow People, the Exford People, the Waterford People, and many radio stations such as Newstalk, Today FM.

“That is power, that is control, and that is a very, very wealthy individual whose name cannot be mentioned in these chambers, who has strong links with the Irish state, so much so that every time a very important function happening like Davos, or the New York Stock Exchange, he appears with key members of this government.

“And that friendly relationship has helped him to secure influence and has continued to help it exist. That is what needs to be challenged.”

Follow the Dáil proceedings live here

Earlier: Denis Denis

My Name Campaign tweetz:

Dáil back in session at 2pm – build homes for children and their families. It’s a emergency response these children need, today.

Watch back here

Related: No appetite for a return to direct rule in NI – Coveney (RTE)

This afternoon.

Outside Leinster House.

Members of Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Anti-Racism Network Ireland and Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland, and their supporters, are holding a demonstration calling for a meaningful right to work for asylum seekers in Ireland.

It comes ahead of an expected announcement from the Supreme Court tomorrow.

MASI writes:

The Supreme Court is due to make a formal announcement [tomorrow] about the unconstitutionality of the ban on asylum seekers’ right to work in this state. This follows on from the court’s decision in May last year that this total ban is unconstitutional.

Since then, the Government has dragged its heels until finally, last week, it pushed a motion through the Oireachtas about opting in to the EU directive on reception conditions for asylum seekers including its very general directive on the right to work which allows individual states to decide on the details themselves.

MASI believes that the government is planning to introduce the most restrictive terms it can get away with, while spinning this as a sign of their great tolerance and charity toward asylum seekers.

Our beliefs are well-founded.

The Government has not given any detail of what the right to work for asylum seekers will actually look like, and now has managed to get a majority across parties to let them get away with adopting the most restrictive possible ‘interim measures’ on back of the promise to opt-in to the EU directive some months down the road, without giving any detail about what shape this will take in reality for asylum seekers who want to work.

These interim measures apply the existing work permits scheme to asylum seekers. This scheme limits the right to work in the state to a handful of highly paid professions, and requires the person applying to earn a starting salary of €30,000 minimum, and to pay €500-€1,000 euro for a work permit.

These are unreachable targets for most people, never mind for people living in direct provision on €21 a week.

If these interim measures are a taste of things to come, very few people seeking protection in Ireland will have the opportunity to earn their own living or support their families.

Right To Work Now (Facebook)

Pics: Immigrant Council of Ireland

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions, which were taken by Tanáiste Simon Coveney.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised this afternoon’s debate and vote on Permanent Structured Co-operation – an EU security and defence agreement – otherwise known as PESCO.

The ultimate aim of PESCO is to “deepen” defence co-operation among EU members states.

Mr Barrett ended up asking Mr Coveney to publish the Attorney General’s advice on PESCO but Mr Coveney pointed out the AG’s advice is never published.

From their exchange…

Richard Boyd Barrett: “Tanaiste, minister, this is the week that Donald Trump has declared war on the people of Palestine and the wider Arab and Muslim world by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – threatening to inflame conflict right across the Middle East.

“Now, against that background of war mongering, increased militarism by Trump, it is more important than ever that Ireland holds on to its traditional position of military neutrality and opposing war mongering and militarism.

“And yet, it is precisely in this week, that the Government has rammed through and quite successfully, to this point, buried what is the biggest betrayal of Irish neutrality since the decision to allow US forces use Shannon Airport to bomb Iraq back into the Dark Ages.

“The vote that will take place today, for us to join permanent, structured cooperation on a new common defence project in the European Union is an absolute betrayal of Ireland’s neutrality.

“It is a step towards involvement in what is explicitly being touted by Donald Tusk, by Juncker, by Macron as a new European army and common defence pact.

And you have buried this. You misled the business committee because the decision to join PESCO was taken, we were informed by Minister Kehoe who didn’t know much else frankly about this, but the one thing he informed us last night, was this decision was taken on the 21st of November and yet, for two business committee meetings, afterwards, not a mention that you were planning to push this vote through this week.

“No doubt you’ve been briefing the media that there’s nothing to see here, it’s irrelevant, not significant, there’s no legal implications, but the truth is this is us joining up in a common defence which will require us regularly, I’m quoting, increased defence budgets in real terms, to meet the 2% GDP benchmark, that would mean a quadrupling of our Irish defence expenditure.

“These are binding..common commitments. It will involve bringing our defence apparatus in line with other member states.

“It will involve establishing permanent, inter-operability with NATO, it will involve increased expenditure on arms and weaponry to benefit the European military industrial complex and now my question is not only why have you mislead the country, and try to bury this significant betrayal of Irish neutrality but I want to ask you seriously: is this not unconstitutional?

“Apart from everything else, is it not unconstitutional? Article 29.4.9 of our constitution says the following: ‘the State shall not adopt a decision taken by the European Council to establish a common defence pursuant to Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union where that common defence would include the State’, our state.

“This is a common defence, it is explicit, anybody who wants to, who doubts that, should read the PESCO agreement. We are signing up for a common defence, in defiance of our own constitution and you’ve mislead the public, you’ve mislead the Dail, and played fast and loose with the business committee.”

Later

Simon Coveney:What I don’t agree with you on, deputy, is the attempt by you, and others, in this House, to paint PESCO, Permanent Structured Cooperation, as something that it’s not.

“I’m a former Minister for Defence, I’m somebody who has listened to many debates in relation to this initiative. The truth is, deputy, that is simply a structured initiative that allows member states to opt in and opt out, depending on what they’re comfortable with, on different projects.

“We have other non-aligned countries, and usual countries like Sweden, Austria, Finland that have already signed up. And from an Irish perspective, this is an opportunity for us to essentially share resources and access other resources in areas where we are comfortable in co-operation and it’s no more or less than that, on a case-by-case basis.

I suspect we will want to use this in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of peace-keeping and training, in areas potentially like marine surveillance, so that Ireland can be part of collective initiatives when it’s appropriate to be a part of those collective initiatives in the context of the European Union.

“As the Taoiseach said yesterday, other countries will see it differently. Other countries may want to get more involved in a more structured way in projects that will not have an involvement in.

“And so I would ask the deputy to actually call this what it is, as opposed to trying to create some kind of conspiracy that simply doesn’t exist.

This is a conversation that’s been happening since the Lisbon Treaty and it is now something that is coming to finality, following a long debate that a lot of countries have been involved in, neutral states, NATO members and others.

“And Ireland insisted, as others did, on language in the context of the setting up of PESCO to ensure that it is constitutional, to ensure that it doesn’t undermine Irish neutrality, to ensure that the triple lock still applies if we’re going to send troops to any other part of the world.

“So, from that point of view, we have tested this in the context of some of the questions that you’ve asked and it does not undermine what is important to Irish people and what is important to me which is that Ireland remains non aligned militarily and a neutral state.”

Boyd Barrett: That is the most cynical rubbish I have ever heard.

“Right. And I really appeal, I really appeal to the public and the press to simply read the document. Notification on Permanent Structure Cooperation. OK?

“It includes, for example, binding commitments. First of all, it refers to 20 binding commitments, there’s no ambiguity about the language. One of those includes commitment to agree on a common technical and operation standards of forces, acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with NATO.

“That’s NATO that involves Donald Trump and the United States, right?

“That’s what we’re talking about. We are committing to the integration of Irish defence forces with NATO. It commits us and we still haven’t got answers on this, it commits us to real increases in defence budgets ok?

“Successive medium-term increase in defence investment. Increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defence research and technology which will be reviewed on an annual basis. A national implementation plan to meet these targets.

“This is the military equivalent of the Fiscal Treaty and we are signing up to it. And what, this is what, I’ll just conclude on this.

“This is Tusk said about PESCO, it’s purpose is to protect the bloc from the effects of the migrant crisis and hostile bordering states. Effects of the migrant crisis? 35,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean thanks to Fortress Europe.

And they want to militarise the wall that Donald Trump dreams of building to keep those desperate people out. This is what they’re about. And you have deceived the public. And I would just ask this simple question: Give us the legal advice that that doesn’t run counter to Article 29. Can you give us that advice before we have to take the vote today?

“From the Attorney General that that does not run counter to Article 29 of the constitution.”

Coveney: “Well I can tell you deputy that we wouldn’t be bringing a vote to this house if we hadn’t….sorry…you know only too well, that the AG’s legal advice is not published, ever. So, so. You know. Stop asking for things you know you can’t access…”

The AG’s responsibility is to get legal advice to the Government and the Government then brings proposals to the House that’s consistent with that, that’s the way this House works. That’s the way this House works.

“In relation to interoperability, deputy, there’s nothing new in that. The Irish Defence Forces have worked with NATO in the past. We’ve done it in Afghanistan and any time you send peacekeepers to any part of the world, are you seriously suggesting that our peacekeepers shouldn’t be interoperable with colleagues that they work with? In parts of the world where they put their lives at risk, deputy, to defend peace and stability of strangers that they’ve never met.

“The problem that you have is that you don’t seem to understand the risks that Irish troops put themselves in, in the pursuit of peace and stability

And my job is to make sure that we reduce those risks by making sure that they have the budgets and the equipment to do the job properly to ensure that we have enough people in terms of personnel in the Defence Forces to make sure that they’re well-equipped and well trained.

“And to make sure that when they’re working with others, when we make the voluntary decision and it’s confirmed by they triple lock, to send troops to parts of the world, that they have trained, and that they are interoperable in a professional sense with others that they will be working with.

“And that makes perfect sense to me. It is also absolutely consistent with the new White Paper on defence which was supported and passed in this House.”

Watch the Dail debate on PESCO live here

Related: Dáil hears claims Ireland ‘selling out’ neutrality for EU support on Brexit (The Irish Times)

UPDATE:

UPDATE:

Next Tuesday.

Outside Leinster House.

At noon.

A family-friendly protest organised by the #MyNameIs campaign group will be held involving singers, musicians, playwrights, actors and anti-homeless activists.

Earlier: Another Homeless Person Dies

Thanks Rory

From top: Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

In the Dail.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall raised the Paradise Papers with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Ms Shortall said:

“Taoiseach, I want to raise the issue of the Paradise Papers and the information which is now emerging in respect of Apple’s tax arrangements.

“The facilitation of these arrangements, by successive Irish Governments and the considerable negative impact which this is having on Ireland’s reputation.

“The central theme, running through the Paradise Papers, is the relentless quest of the wealthy and the powerful , the great and the good, to find ways of avoiding paying tax.

“We saw this most startlingly in the operation of the Double Irish and its use by Apple and the subsequent ruling by the European Commission that this favourable treatment constituted state aid.

“In that regard it certainly seemed that the facilitation of tax avoidance was an intentional strategy, adopted by Government, and its agencies, in 1991, and updated in 2007.

“It was very hard to understand why the Government in Septmeber of last year, with the full benefit of hindsight, could stand over the manner in which the sweetheart deals were done and vouch for their full compliance with the law.

“The public, generally, cannot understand why the Government should now be spending considerable, additional millions in appealing that ruling.

“Then Minister Michael Noonan’s position was very hard to understand.

“In 2013, he signalled that he intended to close down the Double Irish on which the tax avoidance arrangement was based.

“The impact of this was considerable for Apple’s tax liability. We know that there was much engagement between Apple and the Department of Finance around this time.

We also know, thanks to the Paradise Papers, that Apple went on a jurisdiction shopping spree in search of another tax-dodging deal.

“We know that following the closing of the Double Irish that Apple restructured their companies, that they registered two of their Cork companies in Jersey and took up tax residency in Ireland where their remaining Cork company Apple Operations Europe.

“This combined with the changes made to the Capital Allowance regime in 2014 allowed Apple to sell their IP back to the Irish registered company and avail of the massive tax breaks which this measure facilitated.

“So, Taoiseach, the questions are: Was our Capital Allowance regime changed to allow Apple to keep it’s formerly stateless profits entirely untaxed?

In other words, was it done to compensate Apple for the loss of the Double Irish?

“Had Apple, or their representatives, requested a change to the Capital Allowances regime?

“And how much has Apple benefited by this change?

“And how much as the State lost?”

In response.

Mr Varadkar said:

“The answer to your question is: No, or at least, not to my knowledge. It maybe a question that you want to put to the Minster for Finance who would have more information thanI do on those particular matters.

“I don’t have a detailed knowledge of any companies’ tax affairs or any individual’s tax affairs for that matter?

“Tax avoidance is very much an international problem. And international problems require international solutions.

“And, as we found, when it comes to dealing with tax avoidance, by large companies, once one country acts, the company just moves to another jurisdiction.

That is why we need an international solution to this problem if we’re going to bring about a situation whereby companies pays their fair share of tax.

“In this regard, Ireland is an international leader. The OECD, the organisation for economic co-operation and development, based in Paris, is the international organisation that deals with taxation and deals with this area, making sure that companies aren’t able to exploit differences in tax law from one jurisdiction to the next.

The OECD has designated Ireland as one of only 22 countries in a world of nearly 200 where we’re entirely tax compliant, or compliant rather with tax transparency

“And we’ve also signed up to information sharing. So we’re going to share information from one country to the next as to how much tax each company pays in different jurisdictions. That’s going to be very useful.”

The Double Irish is gone. Stateless companies are gone as well. And also the current Finance Bill which is going through changed the way that we tax intellectual property.

“However we don’t accept at all that Ireland was involved in any special arrangement or state aid for Apple and that is why we are fighting that case.

“Because it’s simply not the case that Ireland was involved in State aid.”

Last night.

In the Dail.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness on the tracker scandal.