Scenes from the Fine Gael leadership debate aired live on Facebook between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney (pic 8), chaired by Gavin Duffy (pic 2) and watched by Minister for Health Simon Harris (above beside Simon Coveney’s brother Patrick) Minister for Education Richard Bruton (pic 7) and former Fine Gael justice minister Nora Owen (far left pic 6).
A debate between Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar (top) will be broadcast from the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin with Gavin Duffy acting as convenor.
Further debates will take place in Carlow tomorrow night; Ballinasloe, Co Galway on Saturday; and Cork on Sunday.
The debates take place ahead of next week’s vote – almost 21,000 Fine Gael party members (25%) and 235 local representatives (10%) early in the week, and 73 parliamentary party members (65%) on Friday, June 2.
Mr Varadkar’s 12-page Taking Ireland ‘policy ideas paper’ can be read here, while Mr Coveney’s 16-page Positive Strong Leadership paper can be read here
Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar launches his policy document, Taking Ireland Forward, as part of his campaign for the Fine Gael Leadership.
Courage-free Tory Boy cheat us all.
Mr Varadkar mentioned air traffic control as one of the essential public services – as well as transport services such as the Luas – that might be precluded from strike action following a Labour Court recommendation.
In another manifesto pledge, he said he would abolish the “help to buy” scheme for first time buyers if it was shown to increase house prices.
Mr Varadkar said he would replace a key policy of his main rival, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.
The money saved from scrapping the income tax refund would be used to set up a fund to incentivise older people to move out of larger homes.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny taking Leaders’ Questions this afternoon
“Now, I do, I do hope, I do hope – and I want to make this clear – as Minister Zappone pointed out, that when she informed me that she had spoken to the McCabes, that the discussion that she had with them was about allegations, false allegations, made to Tusla.
“She did not indicate to me any issue of the detail of the discussion she had with the McCabe family or, indeed, the existence of any content of a file which you mention. Obviously, this was, this was, this became very public knowledge on the relevant Prime Time programme.
“And Minister Zappone is very clear, that the discussions she had with Sgt McCabe were of a confidential nature, that she had to respect his privacy, that these things were not in the public domain at the time that she, that she met with him. And I say mea culpa here. Because I did say, I’m guilty here, of, of, of not giving accurate information.
“I understood, from thinking myself that I had, perhaps that she had asked me about meeting Sgt McCabe in the first place. It actually was her office that consulted with my officials, who told me. So, she, she is very clear that she did not tell me that she intended to meet Sgt McCabe. But she did tell her official to tell my office. So I regret that. I regret that. I regret that. I regret that… So, I didn’t actually, I didn’t actually… She didn’t tell me herself and she’s really sorry she did…She did tell me before the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday that she had met with him and they had discussed allegations that were false in respect of, given to Tusla.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in the Dáil this afternoon – in response to questions from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.
Later, in response to questions from Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, Mr Kenny contradicts himself:
“When you come to the house of the people, in this position, and you actually tell the truth, that you get pilloried also. There are many people who’ve been here before me who, for many years, who’ve made mistakes. I stand here and I say the information about the minister’s meeting with McCabe family, that, that I had spoken to her about that, she notified my office. My office told me of that information. And I put that in the public domain and I regret that I shouldn’t have.”
“The minister did not refer to any of the details of the discussion with the McCabes or the existence of a file in Tusla or the information contained in that file. It is not true to say that I had any information about the existence of that, prior to the Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings here.”
Readers will recall how on Sunday, Enda Kenny told Colm Ó Mongáin, of RTE’s This Week, that Ms Zappone told him she intended to meet Sgt McCabe and his wife Lorraine “in a private capacity”.
Mr Kenny said:
“That’s all I knew. I said to her, ‘well, if you do have a meeting, make sure you have a thorough account of it’. So, when we had our [Cabinet] meeting on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have been aware of any of the details of her discussions.”
Asked if he asked Ms Zappone what the meeting was about, he said: “No, because she was meeting him in a private capacity which she’s entitled to do.”
Dáil proceedings are under way and can be watched livehere
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney spoke in the Seanad this afternoon – in relation to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill.
He also raised the occupation of Apollo House.
“Just on Apollo House, I know it’s a slight diversion and I hope the chair will allow me to just give two minutes on this issue.”
“The only outcome I want here is to ensure that people who are homeless, who slept in Apollo House last night and the night before, that we can manage an orderly transition into a solution for those people, for their immediate challenges in terms of what they’re facing because they are homeless.
“Many people who are homeless have chaotic lives, in terms of challenges in mental health, of family breakdown, of addiction, and so many others. And, normally, a combination of a whole series of them at the same time. And, on top of that, they have the anxiety and worry and stress, sometimes physical demands of actually trying to live night by night, not knowing where they’re going to be tomorrow.”
“So, my understanding is that there were over 30 people in Apollo House last night. What we want to do is work with the people in Apollo House who have raised the profile in terms of homelessness in terms of a national debate this week. And ensure that the people who need help the most here, who are currently resident in Apollo House can make the transition from there to suitable accommodation with professionals who will know a lot more than I’ll ever know about homelessness. Looking after them, whether that’s the Peter McVerry Trust, whether it’s Vincent de Paul, whether it’s the Simon Community, whether it’s Focus Ireland, whoever it is, right?”
“And we need to make sure that that transition doesn’t add to the already stressful and uncertain situation that many of those people face. And I would ask people in Apollo House to work with us on that. I think there are a lot of good people involved in that campaign who want to see the right outcome here, as well as want to continue a campaign to put me under pressure to deliver faster – and that’s fine, too. That’s politics.
“And it is my job to lead the political response that’s needed to solving homelessness. And I am going to do that.”
“We have started that process. Even the most critical people, of Government policy and homelessness would accept that we have the most comprehensive homeless strategy that we’ve ever had in Ireland now. It’s all about implementing it and getting results for people. And that is why, in the last six weeks, we have used emergency powers, to basically put leases in places for three new hostels in Dublin.
“We have had construction teams 24 hours a day, in some cases, kitting out those facilities. I’ve sanctioned over €5million for those three projects. And if we need another one, then we’ll get another one.
“But we’ll do it, in a way, that ensures the safety of homeless people that are going to be accommodated there, learning lessons from other hostels that haven’t worked as well as they might have over the need for better design and so on.”
“So, you know, the three new hostels, one is in Little Britain Street – there’s 45 beds open there now. There’s 75 in Ellis Quay, which is being run by the Peter McVerry Trust; sorry, Little Britain Street is being run by the DePaul Trust, they have 70 beds open. And there’ll probably be a few more added to that.
“And then Camden Hall, which is a more controversial one, on Francis Street, because there was an injunction preventing us from opening that facility last week, from local residents. And we had to go to court to open it. And that will be open by Friday. There’ll be 25 beds initially of 51 beds that will be place in the, you know, not too distant future and we’re talking days rather than weeks, run by the Simon Community.”
“There’s another 20 beds then that are going to be provided on Wolfe Tone Quay, by Civil Defence if there’s a need for overflow or extra spaces. And so, when all of those facilities are fully up and running, we’ll be talking about adding about 240 beds to the system.
“When I was asked for more beds in advance of winter, by the NGOs working in the sector, I was asked to provide an extra 120/125 beds to the system. We’re going to be adding 240 beds to the system. And it’s just as well we are actually. Because we’re gonna need the vast majority of them.
“Last night there were 15 beds unoccupied in our shelters and we had more than 30 people in Apollo House and I’m sure there were some people on the streets last night. So we need these extra beds. And I’m not going to get into judgement on people in Apollo House, in terms of the campaign here. What I’m interested in is resolving this issue before Christmas if we can do that, and helping people who need the State’s help – to make the transition into hostel facilities that they can trust and believe in, in terms of their own security and in terms of, more importantly, getting them onto a program that can help them transition from temporary, emergency accommodation into a home of their own in terms of a social housing solution, in time.”
“And actually, just, for the record, there has been a record number of people that have made that transition this year. There’ll be over 2,700 families and individuals that will have gone from homelessness into permanent accommodation and we need to do more of that next year and we’re going to. And we have the resources to do it.”
“Finally, on the resources, this year the allocation for my department for homelessness services was €70million, next year, it’s €100million. And there’s a lot more money, on top of that, coming from the department of health, about €36million next year. And, of course, there are multiples of that in terms of social housing. In terms of acquisitions.
“I think I mentioned earlier, we spent €203million this year, acquiring over 1,000 properties across the local authorities across the country, again trying to get social housing numbers up.”
“So, there is a really strong commitment in this area to get on top of it. Not because of the politics of it or anything but because, if a state can’t house people, that are so vulnerable that they literally have nowhere to go, well then I think we have to ask ourselves serious questions. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that we answer those questions. But you can’t do it overnight. And we’re ramping up services quickly.”
“I think, again, most of the NGOs that I’ve spoken to and yesterday I met the CEOs of four key ones, they would all accept that by the end of this week, we should have enough beds to deal with everybody who wants a bed. And we need to start working with people who are refusing beds, who are on the streets at the moment, to try and get them into shelter as well.”
From top: Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with Fine Gael TDs and MEPs at the party’s think-in in Newbridge, Co Kildare yesterday; Kate O’Connell TD arrives.
You may recall how members of Fine Gael were to be briefed by Marion Coy, chair of the Collins Institute, at the party’s think-in yesterday – in relation to a report she carried out about the party’s poor performance in the general election.
Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell was also to brief the party’s members about a second, separate report about the election.
Ms O’Connell and John Downing, of the Irish Independent, spoke to Sean O’Rourke this morning about the reports.
From the discussion…
Seán O’Rourke: “Kate O’Connell, you, as I said, with party colleagues, were part of a group tasked with identifying what went wrong for Fine Gael in the election which led to the loss of so many seats. You finished this election with 50 seats compared to 76 at the previous one in 2011. So, summarise your findings.”
Kate O’Connell: “Well, I suppose, yesterday what we presented was a synopsis of some of the recommendations in the report, the entire report will be published in due course. But there was various weaknesses in the campaign such as, obviously, the message, I think is well, been well discussed at this stage. That didn’t seem to resonate with the voters. We seemed to somehow lose sight of, we expected that everybody thought that it was based on the economy and they would vote for us based on the fact that, as a party, we had had brought Ireland from the brink but, as it turned out, people weren’t thinking that way. And, for some reason, we didn’t seem to get our message out there to the people. And if we did get a message out there, the people didn’t really like it. So, I suppose, there was an issue with communication of our message. To some extent, people didn’t really know why you would vote Fine Gael over perhaps other parties. So, there was a messaging issue. As there seems to have been a very, very close group of people that perhaps in control and there was very little influence from outside. There was an overuse of commercial focus groups and that sort of thing…”
O’Rourke: “Yeah, I’m just looking here, in the archive. Fine Gael spent over €200,000 of State funding on opinion polling and focus groups last year in the run-up the February election.”
O’Rourke: “Shocking that you have such money to spend or shocking that you spend it with such little effect.”
O’Connell: “Well, I mean, you’ve a pot of money to spend and, as a Fine Gaeler, we were always involved in fundraising activities and I would really like to see the money being spent and resources are scarce. It’s a big organisation…”
O’Rourke: “And on top…”
O’Connell: “Resources in the right direction.”
O’Rourke: “On top of which another €100,000 of public money was spent on a website and social media services and this is just according to returns published by the Standards In Public Office Commission [Sipo]. I mean that seems to have been money down the drain?”
O’Connell: “Well, I’m sure there are some elements that worked out and I’m not privy to all the data from that research but, what I would say, is that it does seem that we didn’t get very good bang for our buck…”
John Downing: “She [Marion Coy] describes the HQ structure, it’s interesting that Fine Gael’s headquarters is a street away from Leinster House and Government Buildings, yet the criticisms, one thing in common in both reports, is that this campaign was too top-down, that it was dictated by a small group at the top of the party pyramid and Ms Coy recommends a overhaul of many of the elements of the party, including research and the communications office. And she talks about electoral strategy and planning for elections done in a more inclusive manner.”
Following his unexpected departure from the Social Democrats Stephen Donnelly went on the Pat Kenny show on Newstalk where he spoke with Jonathan Healy (sitting in for Pat) about his future plans.
Jonathan Healy: First of all, after all that’s happened this week, has the dust settled somewhat?
Stephen Donnelly: “Yeah, I think it has. It’s been a tough few days, the decision on Monday was a very sad decision for me, personally. It was some time in coming, y’know, I’ve been considering it, I’ve been talking to some people, but I’ve been immersed in the Social Democrats for the best part of two years, and it was a very intense thing to do. I’m very proud to have done it, very proud to have worked with the people that were involved with it.
..it was a sad day, but yeah, life moves on. The country moves on, there are important things to be doing. We’d #appletax on Wednesday, we’ve the new vulture fund amendment for Minister Noonan, which is a great first step, a lot of additional work, so life moves on. There are more important things than the soap opera of politics.”
Healy: “Well, we’ve all been through dramatic breakups in our lifetimes. This was quite dramatic, as your fellow co-leaders, if I can call them that, were suggesting you were workshy, did that hurt?”
Donnelly: “No, it didn’t hurt at all, I grew up in Ireland with a mop of red hair, you learn to get a fairly thick skin pretty quick. I’m more than capable of throwing stones across the House, I have done so many times over the last six years, so not at all.”
Healy: “Were you workshy, that’s the question!”
Donnelly: “No. One of the comments I made to one of my colleagues was ‘if they’re going to have a go, you’d think they’d pick something with a little more credibility’. There’s nobody involved in setting up a new party, and to be honest, Jonathan, very few people in politics that are workshy. It’s an intense job, it’s a very rewarding job, but no, clearly there was no merit to that. Look, it was a tough week for everybody, they felt they had to say something. I think it was disappointing, they let themselves down, it’s irrelevant.”
Healy: “Have you spoken to Roisín [Shorthall] or have you spoken to Catherine [Murphy] since this happened on Monday?”
Donnelly: “No, no we haven’t. We had an awkward session in the Dáil with the three of us in there as we’re all still in the same technical group. But we’re all there to serve, you know, and we’ll move on. We’ll all do the best we can as TDs, the best we can to our ability, so we’ll just move on.”
Healy: “You want to be in government, you’ve made that clear…”
Donnelly: “Sorry, can I, sorry to cut across you there, I haven’t made that clear, that’s not why I’m in politics…”
Healy: “No, your motivation is, if you’re in government in whatever capacity, you make more of a difference.”
Healy: “That’s what I’m saying.”
Donnelly: “Sorry, yeah.”
Healy: “You have more of an opportunity now, perhaps, to do that, because, we know the arithmetic in the Dáil. There are many people now outside of your own constituency, who would like to see you serve some way in government. And let’s face it, you’re hot property, in political terms, Fine Gael might want you, Fianna Fáil might want you, is the phone ringing?”
Donnelly: “No, the phone isn’t ringing, I’ve had a few texts from a few friends of mine in some of the other political parties, I haven’t been approached on John [Halligan], and John is a Minister of State, not said that he’s resigning, but he has obviously sent out a few warning shots, and is taking the situation in Waterford very carefully. But, y’know, Minister Halligan has a job, and no-one is taking his place, because he’s doing it.”
Healy: “I was asking more about Fianna Fáil, who seem to be linked to you in some way. Has a call come through from Mícheál Martin yet?”
Donnelly: “No, no call has come through, I have taken soundings, I will continue to take soundings both in Leinster House and more importantly here in Wicklow. I was around the constituency yesterday, around Arklow town and Wicklow, talking to supporters, and talking to people on the street. Just listening. You know, ultimately, I work for them, we work for them. So, it’s important that I hear what they have to say on the best thing to do…
Healy: “So for now, you’re staying as an Independent, for now, but the future will probably hold something different, you just don’t know what that is yet, you’ll have to consult widely.”