From left: Mairead McGuinness MEP (Midlands North West), Brian Hayes MEP (Dublin), Deirdre Clune MEP (Ireland South) and Sean Kelly MEP (Ireland South)
At the European Parliament, Brussels, Belguim
Urging a Yes vote in the marriage referendum Fine Gael’s four MEPs “reiterated” Ireland’s “strong record” when it comes to “defending human rights and promoting equal opportunities for all citizens, including the LGBT community”.
From top: Terry Prone and Tom Savage and (above) Anton Savage.
The latest edition of Phoenix magazine (on shelves today) contains a lengthy profile of Anton Savage, who presents his own show on Today FM from 9am until noon, Monday to Friday, and is a director of the Communications Clinic, a business he founded with his parents Chinese Wall specialists Terry Prone and Tom Savage.
The Phoenix writes:
“The Communications Clinic and FG have a longstanding relationship in terms of media training. PR advice, etc. Savage has personally trained Enda Kenny in the past. Meanwhile, records released recently to Goldhawk under the Freedom of Information Act show how lucrative this relationship has been for the PR firm.
These show that from 2012 to 2014, the company was paid nearly €180,000 from an Oireachtas fund called the Special Secretarial Allowance (SSA).
The SSA “is to assist towards expenses arising from the purchase of certain secretarial assistance [and] public relations.”
Over those years, the now Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald paid the company nearly €60,000 out of this fund, including around €15,000 last year. This is despite the fact that Fitzgerald already has a press advisor, former Sunday Business Post political correspondent Niamh Connolly.”
“James Reilly also used the SSA to pay a total of nearly €60,000 to the Communications Clinic over those three years, including over €16,000 last year.
His spokesman told Goldhawk that this was for public relations advice on healthcare reform. Phil Hogan was also a client, having paid the company €40,000 from 2012 to 2014 from the SSA, while FG chief whip Paul Kehoe paid the Communications Clinic €18,500 in 2012 from this fund.”
“These figures provide a snapshot of the relationship between FG and the Communications Clinic but don’t tell the full story. They don’t indicate, for example, how much FG pays the company out of party funds, which are not subject to Freedom of Information.”
The PR firm’s complete client list is a closely guarded secret but there was good news for Savage in 2013 when it emerged that a proposed public register of broadcasters’ interests from the BAI was to be shelved (for the time being, at least). Such a register would pose a major headache for Savage and the Communications Clinic and happily this has been firmly kicked to touch. The BAI recently told Goldhawk that a statutory review of the 2013 code is to take place in 2017 and that , ‘it may be that the outcomes of the review will result in considering again the issue of a public register of interests’
The crucial thing is the maths. In the next Dail, a potential Government needs about 80 seats to form a majority and clearly neither FG, SF nor FF can form a Government on their own.
Converting this week’s poll figures into seats would go as follows: FG at 47, Independents and others at 42, SF at 33, FF at 31, Labour at 4 and Greens at 1.
If you combine FG and SF, you get the magic 80. Otherwise, a combination of FF and FG would come close to it, but, despite their similarity, this would be an almost impossible coalition to imagine, given the historical differences and utter resistance by the memberships of both parties.
However, there are few other feasible alternatives. FG is still saying publicly that it wishes to continue governing with the Labour Party, but given the latter’s decimation, this would be almost impossible, unless there were other elements in the coalition. And it is difficult to see SF sharing power with Labour, or vice versa. There is an equal antipathy between rival Republican parties FF and SF, of course…
Delusional even by the standards of the Irish pol corr tradition….. I watched Simon Harris [on Claire Byrne Live ] and the only impression he conveyed was a smarmy and nasty one (and I’m no Dunphy fan). This young man’s life experience is as narrow as his shirt collar and it shows. Oh and can I be the new Hillary? We have the same hair colour!
The Ceann Comhairle also said he was to examine the possibility of getting greater clarity of Standing Order 57, under which he took the decision to allow the inquiry into allegations of garda malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan division to go ahead without debate.
Speaking in the Dáil prior to Leaders Questions, Mr Barrett said that at no time did he come under pressure from anyone in the run-up to his decision….he also withdrew the comment he made during an RTE Radio interview last week that the Opposition was out to undermine him.
Last week RTÉ’s Ken Foxe reported that a TD or Senator ran up a €2,000 bill in calls to a mobile phone in Kenya. The person wasn’t identified as confidentiality rules forbid the Oireachtas to find out who made the calls.
But yesterday the Sunday Times reported that phone records showed Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin was “the only politician whose attendance is documented on each of the 19 days when the calls were made”.
In response, Ms Mulherin went on RTÉ R1′s Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning to set the record straight have a chat.
Sean O’Rourke: “Maybe you might just explain the two figures and the calls?”
Michelle Mulherin: “Well, I’m not really in a position to explain any figures because the first, or the only information I have is what’s out in the media in relation to the issue of phonecalls. I have never been contacted by the Oireachtas or Leinster House in relation to any problem with phonecalls. Yes, I made some calls to Africa, none of them were personal. And, indeed for the most part, they were pertained to a third party who is a private citizen who has been maligned and shamed in a newspaper article because of association with me and potential legal action is arising there from. So, I’m not really at liberty to go into that further but what I can say is that I understand at all times, in relation to the use of the phones which is, I suppose, the same as people would operate in business. It’s not for personal, it’s for business and my phonecalls were not personal.”
O’Rourke: “But can you give us an idea…were all the phonecalls, first of all, were they all made to the same number?”
Mulherin: “Well, I don’t know because, as I say, I only…what I have done is, I suppose, just to, because I only know about what’s in the media. We have contacted the Ceann Comhairle. I’ve written to the Ceann Comhairle and I’ve asked them to investigate it. You know the Ceann Comhairle is chair of the oireachtas commission which runs the houses of parliament which looks after the day-to-day affairs of what happens in Leinster House and I’m asking him to look into it. And basically I’m open to whatever he has to say about it. And, basically, the commission which is the committee that he sits with, who then deliberates on these issues in relation to the propriety of any phonecalls I made. At this point, until that clarification is given, I mean in fairness the phonecalls listed there to all over the world, I’d say as there has been every year, and that’s the nature, we’re a parliament, we’re international and I’d like to get more information.
What I will say is if there is a problem and the, I know I’ve made calls and the figures that have been given seem excessive or expensive, if I say it that way. I have no problem in paying or refunding money. But I’d just like to make the proviso all calls have been made in the course of my work and as part of me being a politician. Nothing else, nothing personal. And I suppose what I feel is this really throws open another vista which is maybe a game changer which is if a private individual contacts me, or I contact them and there’s an ongoing matter or indeed if I phone a journalist, in relation to a sensitive case and if that business is ongoing, do politicians and do TDs and senators now run the risk of that now confidentiality that confidentiality which is assured to the communications of TDs by constitutional protection. Is that gone by the wayside? Because, to me, this is the whole new situation we’ll be talking about. We’ve a lot of debate, I suppose, about whistleblowers, confidentiality, things like that. And this is really a new departure in relation to the houses of the oireachtas. And I’ve also asked that the Ceann Comhairle would investigate that.”
O’Rourke: “Yes, but the Sunday Times says, though you don’t seem to be as clear about it, but, I’m not saying they’re more accurate than you but they say that it’s been established that all the calls, 19 calls, were made to the same mobile number. And…”
Mulherin: “But sure we don’t know what that number is, Seán.”
O’Rourke: “Yes but you seem to accept that you did make those calls…”
Mulherin: “I did, I made some calls Seán I made some calls for sure and their, I’m, I’m not taking from that but look all of this has coming at me from the media. As I said, nobody has ever, nobody has within the houses of the oireachtas, you have the clerk of the Dáil, you have the assistant clerk of the Dáil, we’re often sent out memos about issues arising and, as I said, there are a lot of international calls made and if there was a problem in relation to my usage of a phone, or in general, I’d imagine that I’d have been told about it. And I maintain that the manner in which I keep a phone was within the standard way, except that it just happened to be somebody who was in Kenya.”
O’Rourke: “Yes, but I think in this instance, the Sunday Times and the [Irish Daily] Mail today both indicate they had, that you were not available to explain or comment to them about the situation. Now obviously that’s changed this morning.”
Mulherin: “Just to be clear, again Seán, I have contacted Ceann Comhairle to get to the bottom of it, so has not, this isn’t something that has been brought to my attention before this, in terms of the houses of the oireachtas telling me there’s a problem…”
O’Rourke: “Yes but…”
Mulherin: “So I have to find out that myself and I think that…”
O’Rourke: “Yes, and in fairness there may be no problem at all, Michelle, there may be no problem at all but, in the meantime, it’s emerged that Ken Foxe [of RTÉ's Investigations Unit], the RTÉ reporter, he got details or he looked for details of the recipient of the calls in an FOI appeal to the Information Commissioner in 2013 now the appeal outlines how the Oireachtas contacted the number to establish who, to establish who was the recipient of the calls and concluded it was a local Kenyan mobile number of a personal phone of a private person, that’s what it says here in the text…”
Mulherin: “Well, I wasn’t contacted.”
O’Rourke: “But are you saying that you should have been. I mean this is just seeking information about who made the calls.”
Mulherin: “No, Seán, I’m not trying to make any less or more here of this. As I said I have absolutely no problem in making refund if that’s what’s required. But what I am maintaining is that I didn’t act outside the jurisdiction or what I’m allowed to do, as part of my job as a politician. And the big issue I think is how the confidentiality of not just myself but of somebody that I might call and this may happen in the future and where does that put all these calls…where does it put, where does it put communications with journalists, where does it put communications with citizens with ongoing problems, if you have an investigation journalist who’ll go to that length to identify individuals…”
O’Rourke: “And that’s presumably why the confidentiality was preserved through the Office of the Information Commissioner. Maybe the big question is, aswell, is there a matter here that has to do with taxpayers’ money being spent on personal phonecalls?”
Mulherin: “Well, in relation to that, I have confirmed to you it isn’t. I actually, being honest with you, don’t have a personal life. All my life is pretty much taken up with politics and that’s everyday of the week. I haven’t got the liberty of having long, lengthy personal phonecalls out of Leinster House..”
O’Rourke: “Ah no, but you would, you would remember maybe making…”
Mulherin: “Is this story just to do with the cost of the taxpayer or, might I suggest, that there’s an attraction to link my personal life, as it has been in the past, with someone in Africa. And to go down that route, and it is of interest to some sectors of the media that that angle would be taken on it. I mean there’s calls made all over the world there so there is, from Qatar to Columbia, several calls to Columbia. Look, this is bigger than Michelle Mulherin, this will be sorted. What I’m saying is there’s a total confidentiality issue here in relation to how politicians can do their business with people, which is political business…”
O’Rourke: “No but you’ve gone some way towards explaining or at least giving us an explanation by saying these calls were made in the course of your business, as a TD. Now, just to give you some of the listener reaction, ‘Does this woman – in otherwords, you – know if she made the calls? Yes or no?’.”
Mulherin: “I’ve already said I made calls to Africa, I don’t know if they are those calls. I have made the request to the Ceann Comhairle in relation to, getting further information and, with respect, not from the media but from the houses of the Oireachtas that keep the records and that also have rules of conduct in relation to how we conduct ourselves which I am more than willing and happy to attend to and oblige to.”
O’Rourke: “When you talk about those calls being made in the course of your work, as a TD, have to do with an individual who was ‘maligned’ in the media. Is this the person that you were friendly with? That you helped in your campaign? I think, if I pronounce his name correctly, Danson Kole?”
Mulherin: “I don’t want to be going into this third party situation, to add insult to injury but, yes, the individual who was maligned and defamed, was that third party and, as I say, there are more people who are connected with the revelations or the spurious information that was given in a particular newspaper article and they’re private citizens and I don’t want to be going into it.”
O’Rourke: “But can I just clarify? He’s a person who’s maligned, as you say, in the media. Is he the person to whom you made the phonecalls?”
Mulherin: “Yes, in relation to that particular matter, yeah.”
O’Rourke: “Right, so where does the third party come into this then?”
Mulherin: “Well, he is a third party private citizen who got mentioned in a newspaper article just because he was associated with me.”
O’Rourke: “Right, no, so my interpretation of third party was that the calls were made about a third party when, in fact, the calls were made directly to him.”
Mulherin: “No, well, depends on where you begin and end, define a third party.”
Talk over each other.
O’Rourke: “There may be no big mystery…”
Mulherin: “…also associated with this story, ok? As I say, look, it, my phonecalls were not personal and the individuals that you’ve referred to there, he is a private citizen and he doesn’t need to be put into newspaper articles because he’s associated with me and in the manner in which a story was reported.”
O’Rourke: “And were those phonecalls then, were they all about the malignment of him in the media?”
Mulherin: “In relation, my, what I have said is that, for the most part, they were but I have had communication with this individual, I’ve had communications with Dan over a period of time and, as I say, he’s somebody that I would have dealings with in relation to political situations, as I do have other people who I would call political confidantes or people that…”
O’Rourke: “Sure and your basic position, if I could summarise it and tell me if I’m being unfair or incomplete or otherwise is that you made calls on 19 days to Dan and they had to go with the fact that he was maligned in the media and they were calls that were made directly to him, to his mobile in the course of your work as a TD and not in any other setting?”
Mulherin: “It’s all in the context, if I want to be making calls besides, and I have done, I can make them on my own phone and I’ve done it. So and in relation to the number of calls and the actual calls themselves, this is something I am getting clarification from, from the House of the Oireachtas and I think that, in fairness, I should be entitled to do that.”
O’Rourke: “Of course..”
Mulherin: “As far as I’m concerned if something is deemed excessive or there’s a problem in relation to calls that I made I have no problem making a refund but I just want to stress it’s in the course of my political business. And I believe that this invasion of the confidentiality of phonecalls that I have made, in the course of my political business…it’s bigger than me, it’s bigger that Michelle Mulherin and, as I say, that issue will be sorted. It’s about confidentiality in relation to anybody who today or tomorrow decides to ring a TD or a senator about their business.”
O’Rourke: “Does the question of spending, be it €968 or €2,000 or taxpayers’ money, on these calls, is that an issue?”
Mulherin: “What I’m saying is that I have no problem refunding money if that’s what’s required to be done here.”
“I think there’s a lot of good people in Fianna Fail, I think I could work with them.People who support Fianna Fail in some ways probably have a lot in common with people who support Fine Gael.”
Fine Gael minister Simon Coveney
“I think there are fundamental differences between Fianna Fail and Fine Gail.The concentration by Fine Gael is on the better off in society, reducing taxation for the better off at the expense for the less well off in society.”
“I look forward to seeing already the implementation on the ground in my own town €5m has been spent on fixing leaking pipes. Pipes that had local authorities out every other day, fixing pipes along the road, such a waste of resources. Businesses, substantial businesses without water, whole housing estates without water and when you look into the ground which I did myself, the pipes had just simply melted….
And of course, water charges are not popular but the social benefits that we will reap now and into the future and already the plans for Roscommon are being implemented and people will in the very short-term I expect and we’ve been told will benefit from that. We will all reap it in the end. We are building something for the future here. We are addressing problems that under the previous system could not be addressed in the past. So let us not be swatted from our goal in returning this country to its productive very best by those who talk but don’t have a clue how to do it.”
Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin (Fine Gael) speaking in the Dáil this morning on Irish Water.
Fine Gael in Limerick has been dealt a blow after the members of a southside branch disbanded the group and quit the party en-masse.
At a meeting this week, the 28 members of the Ballinacurra branch closed the unit after almost 10 years, with its founder Jim Long, declaring that the “consensus was members were not inclined to support Fine Gael anymore”.
Mr Long, a former mayor of Limerick, chaired the meeting.
“It was generally agreed by the members present that the Fine Gael party had lost its direction, and were out of touch with the people,” he said afterward.