Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Tanaiste and Labour Party Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton speak to the media on the ‘Government Progress Report on Recovery’ at Government Buildings.
The harp podium-filled hoo ha marks the Government’s fourth year in office and outlined report on progress made in relation to the ‘Agreed Programme for Government and the Statement of Government Priorities 2014′,
As well as outlining priorities for the next 12 months.
Tanaiste Joan Burton, with Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton (left) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Croke Park, Dublin today to announce details of the Action Plan for Jobs for the government’s strategy to “accelerate the jobs recovery in every part of the country”.
Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien and Tánaiste Joan Burton during Leaders’ Questions yesterday
You’ll recall the death of Jonathan Corrie on December 1 last. His body was found less than 50m from the Dáil on Molesworth Street.
His death prompted Taoiseach Enda Kenny to spend three hours on the streets of Dublin, meeting homeless people. Junior Minister Alan Kelly then announced that 260 extra beds would be made available to the homeless before Christmas. Mr Kelly also promised that a bed would be available for every single homeless person in Dublin.
Yesterday, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan raised the subject of homelessness, addiction and the provision of beds – in light of the Government’s moves before Christmas.
“When discussing this before Christmas, I stressed the need to commit to supported drug-free accommodation for those in recovery in order that they would not have to mix with those who are actively using. One such facility not far from here was described by the 18 persons in recovery there as having been a rock of stability, but because of pressure to take homeless persons off the street, which is very important, there has been a reconfiguration and that accommodation is no longer drug free. The changing of the culture to a mixed one has undermined the recovery journey of those in the facility, especially those who are at the early stages of recovery.”
“I take no pleasure in saying that what has happened has been disastrous. As a result of that reconfiguration, there is now widespread heroin use. There is dealing and chaotic behaviour. There are multiple relapses. There has been at least one serious overdose and there are debt issues as well. In spite of all of these warnings being brought to the attention of Ministers, Dublin City Council and the HSE, in spite of findings from a report on homelessness and addiction and in spite of recommendations from the users’ forum, this went ahead. I consider that a serious breach of duty of care to those in recovery.”
Later, as Tánaiste Joan Burton was responding, Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien told the Dáil his brother, a recovering heroin addict, is currently homeless and being forced to sleep in shelters with other addicts as a cap on his rent allowance is preventing him for accessing accommodation.
Joan Burton: “I very much share Deputy O’Sullivan’s view that the best resolution for an individual who has serious addiction problems is to try to get himself or herself completely clean. Given my experience down the years and knowing many who have made that journey as well as many now working in the sector, I agree that such is the best model. On the organisations which are involved in delivering the services and the decisions they make around how they approach that, something I would like to see developing more strongly is that when addicts are clean, aside from being in hostel accommodation, which should be a transitional phase…”
Róisín Shortall: “It is not, and that is the point.”
Burton: “…the hostel accommodation should recognise the stage that they are at. What should happen then is that we should seek to find homes for such persons. Not only have I been in many centres throughout the country…”
Burton: “I was in Cork before Christmas…”
Peter Mathews: “The Tánaiste is talking herself into eternity.”
Burton: “…at the invitation of Simon. Simon in Cork, if I may say so, has an excellent approach to providing long-term homes…”
A Deputy: “Does the Tánaiste want to attach it to a vow of silence?”
Burton: “…for those who have come through a certain treatment situation.”
O’Brien: “The Tánaiste does not have a clue.”
Mathews: “The Tánaiste should stop talking.”
Michael Kitt: “Quiet.”
Ray Butler: “What does Deputy Mathews mean, “Stop talking”?”
Mathews: “It is meaningless.”
Burton: “I spent last Monday talking to 15 or 16 very fine persons, as good any day as the Deputy or any of his colleagues who sit beside him…”
Bernard Durkan: “Hear, hear.”
Burton: “….who have substance problems which they are battling to overcome.”
O’Brien: “I have a brother who is homeless. He is a recovering heroin addict…”
Burton: “The Deputy should not dare lecture me.”
O’Brien: “…who cannot get accommodation because of the cap on rent allowance.”
Michael Kitt: “The Tánaiste should be allowed to continue without interruption.”
Burton: “Deputy O’Brien should not dare lecture me.”
O’Brien: ‘That is exactly what is happening.’
Kitt: “Order please.”
Burton: “Deputy O’Brien should not dare lecture me.”
O’Brien: “He has been forced to go back into a hostel where drug taking happens in front of him.”
Kitt: “The time is almost up.”
Burton: “I have just said that the approach of getting a home for people and getting people substance free is the correct approach.”
Kitt: “I thank the Tánaiste. That concludes Leaders’ Questions. We will now move on to the Order of Business.”
Eric J. Byrne: “Why does his good family not take him home?”
O’Brien: “Shut your mouth.”
Derek Keating: “A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that is completely out of order.”
Pádraig MacLochlainn: “Deputies should have a bit of common decency.”
Keating: “It is completely out of order for Deputy O’Brien to tell another Deputy to shut his mouth.”
Byrne: “What would one expect from Sinn Féin?”
Keating: “He should withdraw the remark and apologise.”
MacLochlainn: “In the circumstances, Members should have a bit of common decency and cop themselves on. The Deputy is the first one to run to the television. He should cop himself on.”
“The people that I want to see around the bed are the doctors, not the lawyers. In my view the eighth amendment does not actually serve women well when issues of their life, their safety, their health, are in question.”
“The thing that I find extraordinarily difficult about this kind of a case is that as a consequence of the eighth amendment, and I’m somebody who was opposed to the eighth amendment, the Labour Party was opposed to the eighth amendment, we said it was wrong to put it into the constitution, but the people of Ireland in their wisdom decided differently – and that’s their prerogative in any referendum to make a decision as they see fit.
“But what we have now, and will have, without a doubt, is over a period of time cases which will throw up the most agonising and difficult dilemmas and at the centre of that will inevitably be young women and the babies that they’re carrying.“
Tánaiste Joan Burton speaking to political correspondents earlier today.
Colaiste na bhFiann founder Domhnall O Lubhlaí, top, and a clip from yesterday’s Leaders’ Questions
Yesterday, during Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Tánaiste Joan Burton once again came to blows – after McDonald questioned Burton about an internal Garda review that was carried out into allegations of abuse against Irish college teacher, Colaiste na bhFiann founder Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí.
Ms McDonald said the report was completed under the watch of the newly appointed Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has had it since July.
McDonald alleged that Ó Lubhlaí’s alleged victims have been told they will not recieve a copy of the report.
And she claimed Tusla has told the same victims that its inquiry into the allegations is being hampered by the fact the gardaí and the department of justice have failed to pass on vital information.
After heated debate, the Dáil was suspended. It was suspended on two further occasions after that.
Mary Lou McDonald: “As the Tánaiste may be aware, very serious long-standing allegations of sexual abuse by the late Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí, teacher and founder of Coláiste na bhFiann, became the subject of an internal Garda review in April 2013. The review was initiated under the watch of former Garda Commissioner, Mr Martin Callinan. The review was deemed necessary because of very serious concerns relating to investigations into these complaints of abuse by An Garda Síochána. Victims feel very let down by the Garda and the criminal justice system, although it should also be said that other agencies of the State, including the Department of Education and Skills, the HSE and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, similarly failed victims in their quest for justice. Their experience of botched investigations and institutional prevarication amount to what they believe to be a cover up. The scale of abuse perpetrated by Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí is truly shocking. Some estimate that as many as 100 victims may have suffered at his hands. One of his victims was 13 years old when he was abused. His name is Gearóid Ó Conchubhair. I raise his case today at his request and with his consent.
I now understand that the Garda internal review has concluded on the watch of Ms Noirín O’Sullivan, formerly acting and now confirmed Garda Commissioner. I understand that the review report has been with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, since July. I have with me a copy of the letter sent to Gearóid Ó Conchubhair, refusing him access to that review report. The letter very coldly informed the victim that the review has concluded, but that he will not receive a copy of that review detailing findings and conclusions. Other victims have received the same letter.
I am sure the Tánaiste will agree that this is mind-boggling. However, equally concerning is that Tusla has informed victims that its inquiry into these abuse complaints is being held up because the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality have failed to pass on necessary information. What is going on? Will the Tánaiste join me in calling on the Garda Commissioner to make the review report available to victims immediately? Will she join me in calling on the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality to instruct that all information required by Tusla be passed on without delay?”
Joan Burton: “As I am sure the Deputy will agree with me, all sexual abuse, whether of adults or children, is reprehensible. The Deputy might possibly join others in the House in condemning all sexual abuse. We recently had a discussion on that issue regarding the Maíria Cahill case. If I recall, her response regarding that case left much to be desired. On the case the Deputy has referred to, as she is aware I do not have access to the kind of detailed information that she has just brought to the floor of the House. Down the years I have heard suggestions and reports of what might have happened in that case and with the person who has been identified as the accuser. Given that this case is one that has been talked about over a long number of years, I am sure that those people have suffered grievously. I extend my sympathies to anyone who may have suffered at the hands of this individual whom the Deputy has identified. In order to deal with this in a responsible way the Deputy should raise the issues, which presumably she has obtained on a confidential basis from some of the people affected by the abuse, directly with the Ministers for Justice and Equality, and Children and Youth Affairs, particularly in the context of the very detailed statements and allegations she has made. I am sure everybody in the House would be deeply concerned over any suggestion of a cover up. We heard in detail Sinn Féin describe the cover up of sexual abuse that happened on its watch in communities in the North of Ireland and with supporters in the Republic. We heard about that in detail. We have had that confirmed in detail. Sinn Féin Members said that such cases had to be examined in great detail. I suggest the Deputy takes this up first with the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs because in terms of the detailed allegations she has now made on the floor of the House I am not in a position to respond on the detail of those allegations. I think she is very aware of that. If she is seeking to assist with the victims, it might be more appropriate to go through the Ministers who have responsibility directly in relation to this in the first instance and then we can deal with it when we or they are in a position to determine, in relation to the inquiries and the allegations she has made, as to how then to proceed and respond.”
McDonald: “In case the Tánaiste did not hear me clearly, in the years that I am in this House in so far as I am concerned and the women and men of Sinn Féin are concerned, anybody culpable of crimes such as this faces the full rigours of the law—–
Paudie Coffey: “What about your actions? You say one thing and do another.”
McDonald: ” —–but I understand that the Tánaiste raised this by way of diversion and perhaps we will leave that discussion to another day. I am raising this issue on the floor of the House because I have been asked to do so. It has been requested of me as a parliamentarian.”
Paul Kehoe: “Many things are requested of the Deputy.”
McDonald: “One might ask why this request has been made. The simple reason is because these victims have faced a brick wall, institutionally, through the various Departments that I mentioned to the Tánaiste – Education, the Gaeltacht, the HSE, the Department of Justice and Equality and, indeed, An Garda Síochána. That is the reality. There is little point in the Tánaiste saying to me to say back to those victims to go to those various agencies again. They have tried that and that has failed. We know that there has been an internal review within An Garda Síochána. We know the review is complete. We know it has been with the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, for four months. We also know, through the victims who have asked me to raise it here today, that Tusla is being held up because of a refusal of the Garda and the Department of Justice and Equality to forward on information.
Seán Barrett: “Thank you.”
McDonald: “Without getting into the specifics of the case, because clearly the Tánaiste does not have the specifics even though this has been a matter of public concern for a number of years and has been well publicised, could she not simply agree with me on behalf of those victims but most particularly on behalf of Gearóid Ó Conchubhair—–”
Barrett: “Sorry, Deputy, you are way over time.”
McDonald: “—–who wants that review report, that it be given to him? Could she not also agree that the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner must hand on whatever information Tusla requires without delay?”
Burton: “As the Deputy has raised this without any notification, I have to say to her in regard to this particular case, which has been spoken of over a long number of years, that she and people in Sinn Féin would be very well aware of the fact that Mr. Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí was identified for a long period of time very closely as a very significant and important republican figure. Whether or not he was associated with Sinn Féin or at what stage—–”
Sandra McLellan: “What has that got to do with it?”
Jonathan O’Brien: “This is ridiculous, disgraceful.”
A Deputy: “A family is listening to this.”
Burton: “…he was associated with Sinn Féin…”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: “He was a lot closer to people in the Minister’s party than anything to do with our party.”
Coffey: “That is the wrong track.”
Ó Snodaigh: “Ask some of your Ministers and they will tell you about it.”
Barrett: “Sorry, please.”
Burton: “Certainly in any reference that I ever heard to Mr. Ó Lubhlaí his connections to the republican movement were always very strongly identified. Deputy McDonald might not like to hear that…”
Brian Stanley: “That is false.”
Burton: “…but that is the reality.”
McDonald: “And how is that relevant?”
Stanley: “That is false information.”
Burton: “Deputy McDonald knows the history of the republican movement better than anybody else in this House.”
Stanley: “That is false information and the Tánaiste knows that.”
McLellan: “It has nothing to do with this.”
Burton: “Mr. Ó Lubhlaí has been characterised in previous media reports, as Deputy McDonald well knows, as being a paedophile rapist on a very significant scale in relation to children who came under his care and attention. I do not have the results of the Garda investigations to hand but he was a very prominent republican during his life. He died before the investigation was completed…”
Peadar Tóibín: “The Government has that.”
Burton: “…and in numerous media comments in relation to the investigation…”
Tóibín: “It is sitting on the review.”
Burton: “…it was always pointed out that his links into the republican movement were of deep significance. We know…”
Barrett: “Tánaiste, we are way over time.”
Burton: “…from the discussion previously and the acknowledgements by the Deputy’s party that in fact there has been a problem of paedophilia and sex abuse particularly of children in the republican movement…”