Vera Twomey received a People of the Year award last week for her successful campaign to obtain medicinal cannabis for her daughter Ava, a sufferer of Dravet Syndrome.
Ms Twomey has claimed she confronted Mr Varadkar before the awards ceremony about the passage of legislation to make it easier to access cannabis oil.
Describing him as “rude”, Ms Twomey said the Taoiseach told her he could not support the bill as he had not received promised amendments from its sponsor, Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny.
Ronan Emmett writes:
Is he a liar or not? This cuts to the very heart of our democracy and people like him get away with it when good people say nothing.
Is Leo a liar? If he is he needs to go. This isn’t funny anymore. It’s time for some radical action.
Mr Martin said this report hasn’t been acted upon since it was published in April 2017 and called for a national law to be established for source protection.
Mr Martin added:
“Will you reaffirm to the house because I think something happened yesterday, whereby an actor of the State – the Director of the Office Corporate Enforcement was essentially, received correspondence that in line of his duty, he may be peronsally held liable in respect of certain things.
“I think it’s very important that the messages goes out from the Oireachtas and form Government that any actor of the State is indemnified and will not lose out personally in any way for conducting his duty on behalf of the taxpayer and on behalf of the State.
“I think it’s very important that that affirmation should be given in respect of the ODCE director today.”
Mr Varadkar said:
“Thanks very much, deputy, for raising this important question and to answer yours, I think given recent revelations, yes we are going to have to give consideration to legislation in this area to protect sources.
“I’m not aware of any legislation being drafted currently by Government and I haven’t seen any legislation drafted by Opposition, in the form of private members’ bills in the past two years but perhaps, perhaps time has certainly come for Government to dust down those reports and give consideration to legislation in this area.
“I think having an Independent News and Media is a cornerstone to our democracy, it is after all the fourth estate.
“I believe journalists must be free to pursue stories that they want to pursue. Their sources should be protected, free from any unjust interference, external or internal.
“We need to the plurality of voices in the media. We need to ensure that these voices are not drowned our or silenced and we also need diversity and ownership. So I commend journalists who work to report on this story, including journalists at Independent News and Media who haven’t allowed their independence to be compromised.
“A report of the data breach represent a significant a very significant threat to the freedom of our press, however I think that the way that the media has responded to this threat to date should reassure us that our press will not be silenced.
“Obviously, any alleged breach of personal data is a matter of concern, heather it relates to journalists or public citizens and it’s important to say that although this is now a matter before the courts, we need to respect that and bear in mind that in terms of our contributions and I know the deputy has.
“The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the ODCE, which is a Government office at the Department of Business has now made an application to the high court under Section 748 of the Companiess Act 2014 to appoint inspectors to investigate the affairs of INM.
“This is now an enforcement matter for the ODCE. Section 949, subsection 3 of the Companies Act, provides that the Director of Corporate Enforcement shall be independent in the performance of its statutory functions.
“That case commenced as of yesterday.
“In terms of indemnity, it is absolutely the case that any public servant that acts properly, and acts in accordance with their mandate, and doesn’t breach any law or ethical principles is of course indemnified by the State.”
After Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald also asked questions in light of the alleged data breach at INM, Tipperary’s Independent TD Michael Lowry asked his question of the Taoiseach…
“Sorry to trouble you with more mundane and practical matters but some of you city representatives and urban centres wouldn’t recognise or realise the huge problem, the massive problem we have in relation to rural and county roads…”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany yesterday
Varadkar said that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and that he’s reassured by the depth of support from Germany, the EU’s most populous country.
“Ireland can rely on us,” Merkel said.
In Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk was upbeat about over all progress on Brexit before chairing a two-day summit starting Thursday.
“We have achieved success” on defending the rights of citizens hit hardest by Britain’s departure and the divorce bill that May’s government must pay, Tusk wrote in an invitation letter to the leaders.
He said that May has accepted the idea of “full regulatory alignment between Ireland and Northern Ireland if there is no other possibility to avoid a hard border. This bodes well for the rest of the negotiations.”
In an article about Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Strategic Communications Unit…
Juno McEnroe reports:
Emails released under freedom of information show how the SCU is stretching its reach right into the nerve centre of departments and government decision making, at very senior levels.
The unit, led by marketing guru John Concannon, was even asked to participate in the controversial public services card project with the ID system under fire and receiving “an amount of public attention”.
…Emails between Mr Concannon, the SCU, and senior department officials, reveal fresh concerns, including:
The SCU drafting a parliamentary answer for then tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, instead of her staff, which was about justifying the existence of the unit itself. The same wording was used, after the SCU told a senior department senior official “grateful if you could use this version”;
Mr Concannon and the SCU oversaw plans for a health event launch in Mr Varadkar’s constituency relating to the new children’s paediatric outpatient and care unit at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown;
The Department of Public Expenditure told the unit that the controversial public services card was attracting “an amount of public attention” and sought the unit’s help for a PR campaign.
The SCU repeatedly tried to get ministers and their secretaries general to attend meetings, it trained senior civil servants, and was also asked to help the “anxious” short-staffed rural affairs department.
Various shows looked at the fall-out of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments in Washington yesterday when he claimed he made a call to Clare County Council when he was Minister for Tourism in 2014.
Readers will recall Mr Varadkar said he made the call after he got a phone call from Donald Trump, who was then a businessman, about a proposed wind farm which was to be built close to Mr Trump’s Doonbeg golf resort, subject to planning permission.
The wind farm subsequently didn’t get planning permission. [The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala but the board upheld the decision to refuse permission].
Readers will recall, Mr Varadkar specifically said of the permission not being granted:
“The president has very kindly given me credit for that, although I do think it would probably have been refused anyway. I’m very happy to take credit for it…”
Clare County Council last night said it had no record of any contact from Mr Varadkar.
This morning, on Morning Ireland, RTE’s Micheal Lehane reported:
“The latest on it is that it was in fact the Taoiseach’s office that made an inquiry about the status of the planning application.
“They say nothing more than that and a record probably wouldn’t be kept in that instance .
“And it’s being compared by Leo Varadkar’s side to a politician making a call about the status of a medical card and saying it’s nothing at all along the lines of any judicial matter so therefore, on that grounds, they say, it’s acceptable, but there’s no doubt, it is controversial and many in Leinster House believe it highly unusual given the nature of what was being proposed on the planning application and the big purchase at Doonbeg at the time.”
Later, also on Morning Ireland…
Presenter Dr Gavin Jennings spoke to Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley and Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway about the matter.
Dr Jennings specifically asked Senator Conway if Mr Varadkar rang the council – as Mr Varadkar himself said – or not.
From Mr Conway’s response…
“My understanding is that he didn’t ring the council. I’ve been speaking to council officials. None of them can recall receiving a phone call from Leo Varadkar.
“I have been talking to people in Leo Varadkar’s office who were working with Leo Varadkar at the time he was minister for transport and tourism and they’re absolutely clear that Leo Varadkar did not make a call – that, basically, somebody in his office made an inquiry in terms of the status update.
“As we all do on a regular basis, we regularly, as public representatives get phone calls about planning files by people who are supportive of them and people who are not supportive of them.
“Sometimes we will just check, we can do it online or we can make a phonecall to see what’s the story with this file, you know when is a decision due, and so forth.
“What the Taoiseach did was the Taoiseach sought information, his office sought information for somebody who was employing over 300 people down in West Clare.”
Further to Morning Ireland, on Today with Sean O’Rourke, which was presented by Damian O’Reilly…
Mr O’Reilly spoke to Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd about the comments.
Mr O’Dowd said:
“It was a humorous side remark and I accept that’s what it was and it’s something that he spoke about on other occasions. The key point is that at the core of this is that he got a call from Donald Trump, he wasn’t president. Leo wasn’t Taoiseach at the time, he was Minister for Tourism and Sport.
“And indeed, people in public life receive calls all the time from business people, all the time from the public about this and the other and on planning issues, we’re often invited to meetings arguing people for something or against something and as Mr Howlin said there, I mean, Regina Doherty is strongly opposed a planning application for a wind farm in her own constituency, so there’s nothing new…
“[Leo] made a query, through his office, as to what was the status of the application and that’s what he did.”
“…there was no law broken, it wasn’t interference…”
“...he didn’t interfere, he made a query...”
“The office inquired about the planning permission, they didn’t make representation and that’s the democratic process…”
“But the other point is he did it openly, there’s nothing hidden about this, he spoke about it two years ago [in Time magazine], he joked about it in public, what’s the big deal here?“
On Ryan Tubridy’s RTE Radio One show Tubridy…
Mr Tubridy said:
“All the papers covering the trip to Washington by the Taoiseach. And, you know, part of me thinks, oh, he’s telling his story about Doonbeg and I presume he thought, it’s a gas story and it’s a bit of an old, a bit of fun, and you’re in Washington.
“But, you know what, when you’re Taoiseach and you’re in Washington, you have to remember that you might aswell be on the main street in Killarney or wherever you want to be in Clare because it’s just, you kind of think when you go out there, you think the rules are a bit different but they’re not.
“And sure enough, we’re not talking about trade and immigrants in as much a way as you can hear on Morning Ireland there, the interest of the trip has really been slanted towards what he said about Doonbeg and the wind farm and you heard [Fianna Fail TD] Timmy Dooley, a local interest, talking about that.
“I’d say that they’re probably…a bit of a face palm, ‘oh, if only, maybe, you just didn’t need to tell that story and maybe if you hadn’t and everything else’, but…anyway…that’s what he did and that’s what they’re doing.”
“The headline in The [Irish] Times is: ‘Trump open to deal on undocumented’, but actually it’s the story that seems to be getting the most traction is the on the side which is ‘Varadkar criticised over Doonbeg’.
“Bit of a pity really because those trips are really meant to be fun, good news trips and you come back armed with loads of stories about investment and everything…“
From top: Leo Varadkar with US president Donald Trump at The White House yesterday and above at an earlier lunch in the Capitol Hill building where he revealed his efforts to help prevent a wind farm being built near the Trump golf course in Doonbeg, County Clare
Mr Varadkar said that about three or four years ago, when he was minister for tourism, he received a call from Mr Trump who said he had a “problem” near Doonbeg, that somebody was trying to build a wind farm that would “impact on tourism”.
The Taoiseach said he initially thought the call was “a pisstake by one of my staff members” as he thought a businessman like Mr Trump would write a letter first to set up a meeting.
“But, as we all know, President Trump does work like that. He is a very direct man, likes to get things done,…
“…So I endeavoured to do what I could do about it and I rang the county council and inquired about the planning permission and subsequently the planning permission was declined and the wind farm was never built.
Clare County Council release the following statement…
“The planning application was received on 15th August 2014. All representations, objections and observations made in relation to this and all other planning applications are available to view on planning file and the Clare County Council website.
“There is no representation by Leo Varadkar, the then Minister for Tourism and Sport, or any elected member on this planning file. The decision on 8th October 2014 by Clare County Council to refuse this planning application was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanala. Following consideration of the appeal, An Bord Pleanala upheld the decision by Clare County Council and refused permission for the proposed development.”
An Bord Planala was set up for this reason, to stop central Government from meddling but @FineGael are above anything like that. Rules don’t apply, they can ride roughshod over an entire nation for 7 years using austerity as their excuse for giving their rich friends a dig out!
A myriad of pro-life group presidents wrote and signed a letter they will hand deliver to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar during his Thursday visit to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, encouraging him to uphold Ireland’s tradition of protecting life amidst calls to legalize abortion in the Catholic-dominated country.
“While St. Patrick’s Day has always been a day for the Irish all over the world to celebrate their heritage, and politics often takes a backseat on this special day, we feel we cannot remain silent because innocent lives are at stake,” presidents of the March For Life, Students For Life of America, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United For Life, Live Action, Heartbeat International and other pro-life groups wrote in their letter to the prime minster.