Taoiseach Leo Varadkar answered questions related to the Strategic spin Communications Unit – which was established by Mr Varadkar when he was elected leader of Fine Gael and became Taoiseach.
Specifically, Mr Varadkar was asked about the promotion of the recently announced National Development Plan through the unit, in which there are 15 people now working, and the cost of the same.
Advertorials published in the Irish Independent and The Irish Times were also raised in the Dail exchange.
From the Dail exchange:
Leo Varadkar: “The remit of the strategic communications unit is to bring consistency, clarity and professionalism to all Government communications. Its focus is to treat communications as a whole-of-Government activity and to speak to our citizens in a way that they understand and so they can be aware of the Government services available to them and the actions that Government is taking on their behalf.
The focus of the work of the SCU comprises three work streams: first, streamlining communications to the citizen, including the roll-out of a single unified Government of Ireland identity programme and the migration to the consolidated Government platform of gov.ie, which will produce financial savings in the medium term; second, running and supporting cross-Government priority information campaigns; and, third, implementing a capacity-building professional development programme for officials working in communications across the Civil Service. Staff in the unit share responsibilities across these three work streams to deliver on the unit’s work programme.
At present, there are 15 staff working in the unit: one director, who is paid at assistant secretary level, one principal officer, four assistant principal officers, two higher executive officers, three administrative officers, three communications and media assistants and one executive officer. The former MerrionStreet, or Government information service, GIS, function has been integrated into this new structure. The Government press office continues to operate as before in dealing with day-to-day media queries under the direction of the Government press secretary, Nick Miller. The salaries of the staff in the SCU are met from my Department’s administrative salary budget, which was reduced in 2018.
As I have already stated to the House, a research tender with an estimated cost of €130,000, excluding VAT, was published on 18 September 2017 to commission an initial report of the Government and its services and a rolling tracker of attitudes towards it. The tender was awarded to Behaviour & Attitudes and the final results are expected to be available in late spring. These results will be published.
All media, both traditional and social, are utilised in the course of the delivery of campaigns by the unit. The choice of media is informed by the nature, subject and reach of the campaign. In some cases, media content partnerships with national and local media form part of campaigns in order to fully explain to citizens the various Government initiatives and actions and how they will impact their lives.
Joan Burton: “I thank the Taoiseach for his answer. He said “all media”.We heard yesterday that his Government is running advertising in cinemas, presumably directed largely at younger audiences. Does this mean that some of the advertising will also go to TV and radio? We need a clear answer on this because the concern, I think, of all Opposition Members is that the distinction between a party in government, or a governing party, and the Government is very clear in our Constitution. We asked the Taoiseach about this yesterday. He seems to be hell-bent on blurring the distinction between the two, and Fine Gael as a political party gets funding both in terms of the leader’s allowance and the payments made to the party. I said to him yesterday this is a fundamental issue for our democracy and our Constitution, and the fudging in the end will not do anyone any good.
“The Taoiseach’s press releases are no longer published on his Department website. Why is this? He has told us he is very interested in direct communication through social media, which is fair enough, but I think there is also a requirement for the text of what the Taoiseach is saying to be available. Will he also tell us about the outcome of the tender for the market research element of the contracts he advised us of last week and in earlier weeks? When will he publish the results? We are aware that Behaviour & Attitudes have apparently won the contract and we know about a number of other contracts that were won, including the one concerning the identity research to which his Government has committed and which he has not quite explained to us yet. Is this just classification of segments into different age groups?
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “We need to move on.”
Burton: “What is involved is incredibly similar to political deep-market background research, which includes the use of panels and survey groups.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “If we do not conclude the questions we will not have time for the answers.”
Micheál Martin: “Yesterday’s conversation on the marketing unit was helpful because it allowed time to fact-check some of the Government’s statements. Approximately €340,000 was the amount spent on the launch of the 2007 plan. I checked a parliamentary question tabled at the time by Ruairí Quinn. This does not compare with the amount spent on Friday’s launch, which was by far the most expensive and extensive ever by a Government.”
“In the context of the relationship with the media and the matter of the unit’s political activity, the national development plan was formally adopted by the Government last Friday but sectoral groups were fully briefed on Thursday. When it was announced, Fine Gael put up a new website with enormous detail of the plan, including exact wording and a county-by-county list of promises not published by the Government. This can only have come from direct political engagement with the unit. How does that fit with the Civil Service code?
“On the media content partnership, the Taoiseach must accept that there is something ethically dubious at the very least about one arm of the his Department seeking coverage for so-called exclusives about the plan while another is discussing major advertising spending with the same media outlets.
“The Taoiseach has said he wanted to get the media to run fewer negative stories. If we look at pages 24 and 25 of the Irish Independent – the position is the same in the The Irish Times – we can see articles marked as being in partnership with the Government. They are presented as articles but should we take it that they are actually advertisements?
“I have no issue with the Government advertising services in the media but these are political advertisements. They are articles placing the Government in a good light in terms of these issues. Every regional newspaper will have the biggest advertisement it has received in many years, block booked well in advance.
“This is saturation of good news stories presented in that manner by the media. There is an issue in terms of the health of our democracy and the ethical nature of the engagement of the Taoiseach and the Department in all of this. The blurring of the lines is genuinely very worrying from the point of view of parliamentary democracy. The Taoiseach will say that he is promoting the Government, but the dogs in the street know he is using taxpayers’ money to promote Fine Gael politically. That is the end of the story.
Pearse Doherty: “There is a very fine line in all of this and it is clear that the Government has stepped over it. There are probably legal issues in terms of a Government of Ireland initiative, and some of them actually require the approval of the Dáil. The question that arises relates to whose initiative is this really.
“These issues were dealt with at length yesterday and I do not want to rehash what was said. In the context of the budget set aside for the advertisements on the national development plan, we know they are running across various media, including radio, print, online and in cinemas. There is a valid debate to be had in respect of whether the advertisements are about making the Government look good – in my view, this is what they are – or whether they are about public information. Ultimately, public money is being spent and clarity is required and would be welcomed. How much money has been approved for these advertisements under the national development plan? It is important that this information is put on the table.
Varadkar: “People of all age groups attend the cinema. When I go to the cinema, I see people of all age groups, although I suppose it depends on what movie one goes to see. I imagine that younger people attend different movies to middle-aged people and older people. It is a good way to speak to a broad section of the community.
“To clarify, I do not have any role in designing any advertisements or deciding which medium is used and I am not consulted on this. I have asked not to be constructed on it. I have also asked not to see any advertisements before they are placed and I do not see them before they are placed.
Martin: “That was not the question.”
Varadkar: “I am not aware of any plans to use television advertising. There is, of course, no mention of political parties in any of these advertisements. In fact, there is no mention of the political parties in the Constitution. I note Deputy Burton spoke about the Constitution having a distinction between Oireachtas, Government and political parties. An interesting point about Bunreacht na hÉireann is that it does not acknowledge the existence of political parties, but that is an aside. Certainly, any advertising or information campaign material will not mention any political parties, groups of Independents or particular Independents and it certainly will not involve any call to vote in a particular way. This is in full respect of the McKenna judgment.
“Research will be published after it has been completed and it will be up to the director and the Secretary General to do this once it is done . There should not be any undue delay in publishing it once it is available.”
“Deputy Micheál Martin mentioned the function on the Fine Gael website, which is very good. I would certainly encourage people to take a look at it and see how Project Ireland 2040 will impact on their counties. People can scroll down, choose their counties and see a full breakdown of how the plan will they will be affected. I encourage people to look at it.”
Martin: “That was not the question.”
Varadkar: “To answer the question, there is no contact between civil servants in the unit or any part of my Department and party officials, and nor should there be.”
Martin: “So they just magic it up.”
Varadkar: “Of course, there is contact between serving politicians and their parties. I speak to Fine Gael and I do so very regularly, as do special advisers. The total budget for the unit is €5 million for this year and it is up to the directors to determine how it is best spent and spread across the various campaigns.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “That concludes questions to the Taoiseach.”
Doherty: “The Taoiseach did not give an answer on the national development plan promotion.”
Martin: “Will the Taoiseach give us a report on the media content partnership in a fully transparent manner? Will he give me a paper on it?”
Varadkar: “I do not have it.”
Martin: “Of course the Taoiseach has it. The information in his Department.”
Doherty: “Can we get an answer to the question? If the information is not available, will it be submitted—–”
Varadkar: “If Deputy Micheál Martin writes to the Secretary General, I am sure he will give it to him.”
Martin: “That is not the answer.”
Varadkar: “I will have to see the information first.”
Martin: “This is a parliamentary democracy. I am asking a question and the media partnership is something on which we should get an answer. That is all. What is the nature of the partnership and how does it work?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Will the Taoiseach see if he can respond?”
Varadkar: “I do not even know if it exists.”
Doherty: “I asked a specific question and I understand the Taoiseach does not have the specific answer. Will he furnish the information to us? The question relates to the cost of the promotion of the national development plan through the unit.”
Varadkar: “That will not be known until the campaign is finished.”
Martin: “Stop, this is outrageous.”
Doherty: “A budget will have been approved for it and that is the information we require.”
Burton: “The Taoiseach should be able to tell us the cost—–”
Ó Fearghaíl: “We have concluded questions.”
Burton: ” —–of the cinema advertisements and the other advertisements.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Please Deputies, we have concluded questions.”
Martin: “The Taoiseach has information on all the costs because the deed has been done. A person would not get into the cinema without paying his or her money upfront.”
From top: Independent TD Paul Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dail.
Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy recalled the “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All” campaign previously launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Readers will recall how at the launch of the campaign, Mr Varadkar – then Minister for Social Protection and not leader of Fine Gael – stated a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million in 2016.
The campaign was later referred to as a ‘mistake’ by the Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection John McKeon.
He said since the ’employment activation programme’was introduced in July 2015, €84million has been paid to two companies Seetec and Turas Nua.
Following on from this, Mr Varadkar spoke about welfare fraud and criticised the “hard left”, again.
Paul Murphy: “‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ you said, Taoiseach, in a campaign now universally recognised as being based on false figures which your own department questioned. You cynically used public money to enhance your appeal to Fine Gael members.
“That campaign may now be largely forgotten but the agenda behind it remains. It was more than just a dog whistle campaign for votes. It was part of an ideological assault on social welfare…”
“140,000 unemployed people have been turned into opportunities for profit for private companies. In the process without significant debate the provision of social welfare has been partially privatised. I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been through JobPath, they say they’re not given any real training, they’re just supervised while looking for jobs on a computer meaning that it’s pointless travel for many, they describe it as demeaning, as patronising, as infantalising.
“And what hangs over all of their interactions with private companies is the threat of having their social welfare cut by more than €40, leaving people to try to survive on €150, or less, a week.
“Since JobPath has been introduced, the number of people who have had these so-called penalty rates applied has increased from 5,000 in 2015 to 16,000 last year. That is in one year alone. Some 6,500 JobPath participants have had their dole cut.
“On the other hand, €84 million of public money has been paid to just two companies, SeeTec and Turas Nua. They get money each time someone signs a personal progression plan and they get paid job sustainment fees.
“Both SeeTec and Working Links, which is one of two companies behind Turas Nua, have been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain. Last October in the Dáil, Deputy Catherine Murphy raised a very serious case of fraud by SeeTec in Ireland.
“All of that has been justified up until now on the false basis that the system works and gets people into employment. That has now been completely exposed by the Government’s own figures which came out three weeks ago. Only 18% of those who engage in JobPath end up in full-time employment.
“Some €84 million has been given to these private companies to get people jobs which they would have got themselves. Will the Taoiseach now read the writing on the wall for JobPath? Will he agree that the scheme needs to be scrapped and that instead of handing money over to private companies, he should invest in proper education and training and in real jobs for unemployed people?”
Leo Varadkar:“Welfare fraud is very real. And it is a real problem in this country and in every western society. Even if we take the lowest estimate of the scale of welfare fraud in this country, it is about €40 million a year.That is a lot of money in my view. Let us not forget that people who engage in welfare fraud are not the poor and vulnerable. They are people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable. They are people who are working and claiming.
“They are people who are working, not paying their taxes on that work, and also claiming welfare at the same time. I do not believe that is defensible or acceptable. There are people who are pretending to have a disability they do not have or pretending to care for someone for whom they are not caring.
“People are claiming to be somebody they are not to claim pensions for people who are long dead. It really disappoints me to hear left-wing politicians in this country constantly defending fraudsters as though they are entitled to the benefits that they are stealing. They are not — to prevent and crack down on welfare fraud in any way we can.
“One only needs to look at the court reports every other day to see the detail of some of those cases and what people have been doing to defraud our system. The reason we cracked down on welfare fraud is not ideological. The reason is that fraud is wrong, whether it is tax fraud or welfare fraud, and we act against it.
“In doing so, we ensure that the welfare budget is protected for those who are entitled to it, including our pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, the unemployed, lone parents, blind people, widows and others. As a result we have been able to increase in two budgets in a row the State pension, payments to carers, payments to people with disabilities and payments to people who are unemployed. It is Government policy to crack down on welfare fraud in order to protect the welfare budget for those who need and deserve it, particularly pensioners, the disabled, carers and people who are unemployed.
“I am very disappointed to hear politicians on the left continuously equivocating on this issue and not condemning welfare fraud. I note that the Deputy did not do so on this occasion. Tackling unemployment is one of the areas in which everyone acknowledges we have seen a real turnaround in recent years.
“Unemployment peaked at 15% and is now down at approximately 6%. Long-term unemployment is down to 3%. That is not just because of a recovering economy. Unlike many recoveries, we saw unemployment fall rapidly once our recovery started. That is not the norm in recoveries. There is usually a lag. The reason unemployment fell very rapidly in Ireland once the recovery started is the kind of active policies in which the Government engaged both on the enterprise and welfare sides.
“Had we listened to the Deputy and had we pursued the policies which he advocated, which have been attempted in Greece, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and other countries, not only would we have mass unemployment, but we would have a mass refugee exodus from this country similar to the current exodus from Venezuela to Colombia.”
Murphy: “It is like Deputy Enda Kenny is back. The Taoiseach managed not to answer the question at all. Instead he attacked something which I did not say and then went on an ideological attack about Venezuela. I think he might have even referenced Colombia and Greece.
Varadkar: “Colombia is where the refugees are.”
Murphy: “Let us go back to the question. The question is on the Government’s JobPath scheme, which has failed in its stated aim of getting jobs for people. That is what the facts now demonstrate. Only 18% of participants get jobs, which is no higher than the rate for people who do not have access to JobPath.These companies have been accused of fraud in Britain. What is the Taoiseach doing to make sure that they are not engaged in fraud here? To deal with the curveball which the Taoiseach has thrown, which is that he will stand over and double down on his rhetoric about welfare fraud, the Taoiseach gave the figure of €40 million two minutes ago, but his advertising campaign said €500 million. Which is it? Who is engaged in fraud here?
Mattie McGrath: “It is the spin machine.”
Murphy: “The Taoiseach is engaged in fraud against unemployed people and is using public money to demonise them in order to drive precarious employment. He is continuing in that same Thatcherite vein here. Will he please answer the question asked in respect of JobPath?”
Varadkar: “I said that even the lowest estimate is €40 million. I note the Deputy has not refuted that.”
Eoin Ó Broin: “What is the actual figure?”
Varadkar: “The figure of €500 million was what it said on the tin, that is fraud and control. Fraud and control. They are two different things.”
Pearse Doherty: “It was the Department’s Brexit bus.”
Varadkar: “On the whole issue of JobPath, we must look at the counterfactual analysis. People who are long-term unemployed can be referred down a number of different routes. They can have assistance through the Intreo service provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; they can be assisted through JobPath, which is outsourced to two companies; or they can be referred to bodies such as local employment schemes, for example. It is interesting to compare counterfactually how people perform under those different headings. There is a complaints procedure in place. If participants feel that they are not getting a proper service from JobPath, they can make a complaint directly to the company. If they are not satisfied with the response, they can go to the Department and make a complaint through its procedures.”
McGrath: “They would be wasting their time.”
Varadkar:“It is important to note how the companies are paid. They get a registration fee per client referred to them but after that they only get paid if the person gets a full-time job and sustains it. The incentive is there for the companies not just to get people into any old job, but to get them into full-time jobs which they can sustain for more than 13 weeks.The longer the person keeps that job, the more the company gets paid. Its strength is in its results. Unemployment is now falling below 6% and long-term unemployment is now below 3%.
Murphy: “The Government’s own figures dispute that.”
Varadkar: “Where would we be today if the policies of the hard left had been followed in this country?”
Murphy: “We would not have vulture funds dealing with public banks.”
Varadkar: “There would be mass unemployment and mass emigration.”
Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan has described as “a sick joke” a letter sent from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to a man seeking to avoid repossession of his home to contact mortgage arrears adviser Abhaile.
Mr Honohan said he has people in his court, on a daily basis, who are struggling to hold off repossession, and he had asked them to contact the Taoiseach to see where they could find mortgage-to-rent as a solution.
Mr Honohan said Abhaile is of no use to these people because it is “merely a voucher for €250 worth of legal advice” before you go to the Circuit Court.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he asked why the Taoiseach’s office is so misinformed that it is unable to formulate a reasonable policy to cope with the wave of repossessions that is about to break.
…Mr Honohan has written a new bill that would give greater powers to the State’s financial and legal support services and stronger protections to people who are in mortgage arrears.
However, he said no political party had indicated support for his bill and that this “is a cross party effort”.
He said he was “using the good offices of John McGuinness (Fianna Fail TD) to lodge it”.
Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan raised Mr Honohan’s interview with Morning Ireland – and his bill in the Dail – prompting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to say…
“I haven’t seen that legislation Ceann Comhairle. I don’t think anyone has yet, actually. Certainly, I’m not aware of it being published but, certainly, when it is published, we’ll give it full consideration.
“As we will with any legislation that’s put forward in good faith to see, first of all, is it constitutional, secondly, would it be effective and third, would there be any adverse unintended consequences.
“But certainly, once the legislation is available, the Government will examine it.”
From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; property repossessions may lead to a trebling of the number of people in homelessness Tony Groves
When the Vikings pillaged the British coastline they were often looking for monasteries to plunder. Many of these monasteries contained both monks and nuns. The nuns were said to be married to God and the idea of a Viking defiling a nun was of grave concern during and the nuns, it was said, went to extreme lengths protect their chastity.
Famously in 867 AD, Saint Ebba, the Mother Superior of the Coldingham Priory, upon hearing of a Viking raid gathered her nuns together and showed them how to disfigure themselves by cutting off her nose and upper lip.
When the Vikings arrived every nun had done the same. Disgusted, the Vikings burned the priory to the ground with the nuns inside. They all died with, but their chastity intact.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Leo Varadkar, nose-picker-commander-in-chief, is leader of the government with arguably the worst nose for economics Fine Gael has ever had.
We know he’s a great communicator, we know he’s intelligent and we know he has a very good sense of gauging a large part of the public.
But as leader of the government he has a duty to all of the citizens, not just those who might vote for him. He also favours style over substance and has yet to deliver on any of his key responsibilities.
Three of our major banks are in the process of currently selling-off mortgages to vulture funds. AIB, Ulster Bank and PTSB are outsourcing repossessions to companies like Pepper and Capita.
The government are standing idly by while thousands of people are to be forced into (at least) temporary homelessness. Mel Reynolds told me that the best case scenario, allowing for minimal displacement of tenants and owner occupiers, will result in a trebling of the current homelessness levels.
The cost of this to the state is potentially colossal. For those families forced into the emergency accommodation the cost to the state will be €69,000 per year. For those lucky enough to get alternative rental accommodation they will on average cost the state €825 per month in the Housing Assistance Payment.
The cost of the state stepping in and purchasing these loans is estimated to be about €5 billion. The cost to the state of not buying them is estimated at €11 billion.
Why is this economic lunacy taking place? They call it moral hazard. I call it the politics of spite. The narrative espoused again by Brendan Burgess only two weeks ago was that to interfere in this process was to give people a house for free.
The Central Bank (the most tepid of Bank regulators) issued a report that said after the ruling that put a 2 year moratorium on repossessions the level of non-payment increased.
This was splashed across the papers and seized upon by the moral hazard zealots as proof that the “won’t-pay-brigade” took advantage of a system.
Undoubtedly, some did. Systems are made to be gamed. That’s why banks were able to transfer money between one another to plug gaps in balance sheets, pass audits and bankrupt the country.
But no, when they do it at huge economy crashing levels it’s not moral hazard. It’s we all partied. When a lad, who has lost his job, has a choice between the mortgage and feeding his kids he’s a drain on the taxpayers.
I have not even mentioned the societal impact a trebling of homelessness will cause. Opinion poll after opinion poll has made it clear that enough people don’t care about, or don’t understand the serious calamity facing of this country; a country that had 1,572 homeless people in 2007 and today is (the report is due out later this week) probably over the 10,000 mark.
If we can accept this as morally okay, can we at least accept that the cost of our spite will billions more to the taxpayer than necessary?
If we are comfortable knowing that a historically bad crisis is about to get much worse, are we willing to write the cheque just to feel better about our position in the socioeconomic pecking order?
I think, and fear, that we are. People like Leo, and I admit there is much to like about him. But like Saint Ebba he is the leader of our Priory, and like Saint Ebba he is asking us to cut off our noses to spite our face. I for one don’t want to be inside the monastery when the fire starts. Do you?
Tony Groves is the co-host of the Echo Chamber Podcast and blogs at EchoChamberPod. You can Subscribe to the Echo Chamber Podcast by clicking here for iTunes or here For SoundCloud.
In an interview on BBC Mr Varadkar said he believed the country’s current abortion laws were too restrictive and indicated he would support liberalisation.
He said “We will have that referendum, hopefully in the summer and we should be in a position to make a decision on that in Government next week.”
When asked if he will be campaigning for the abortion laws to be relaxed Mr Varadkar replied:
“I’ll be campaigning for them to be changed and to be liberalised, yes”.
He was asked if his views had changed since 2014, when he said he was pro-life. He replied:
“I suppose in that period I think it’s fair to say that my own views on this matter have evolved but I think sometimes that term pro-life and pro-choice can be misunderstood, you know, I think even people who are in favour of abortion in certain circumstances are pro-life, you know. I still believe in life but I understand that there are circumstances under which pregnancies can’t continue.”
From top Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Michelle Hennessy (left) and Roseanne RooBeek from Reuters and being interviewed by Axel Threfall on Reuters media about Ireland’s economy and our global presence at Davos, Switzerland.
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland
Mr Varadkar said he hoped that the ultimate [UK/EU] free trade arrangement could resemble “Norway Plus”, but that it would have to be a “specific” agreement.
The kind of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) envisaged has generally been regarded as following a spectrum between the EU-Canada agreement, which reduces tariffs but has little by way of services, and the EU-Norway arrangement, where Norway has virtually full access to the Single Market, but has to abide by all EU rules and pay into the EU budget.
However, speaking on Bloomberg TV during his first full day at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort, Mr Varadkar said that neither Norway nor Canada were appropriate models.
From top Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil yesterday: Aengus Ó Maoláin
So Leo Varadkar got money from his parents for the deposit to buy his apartment (although…). Fair play to him. And fair play to you if you did the same. Let me be clear at the outset that I have no problem with that, aside from a little jealousy that that option isn’t on the table for me.
What I do have a problem with is that Taoiseach Varadkar seems to think that everyone can just go and get a loan from the bank of Mum and Dad. That or go away for a few years to save enough for a deposit, or just move back in with their parents for a few years to save on the cost of rent.
I’m personally quite angry about this, because on the first take, I am in this situation. We pay about 500 euro per month in rent more than we would be paying if we owned the place we live in.
By the way, we live 500 metres from the Taoiseach.
A deeper reflection on the Taoiseach’s comments makes me even angrier though, because it makes something really clear. The reason Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil aren’t fixing the housing crisis is that they don’t see the problem.
They find it impossible to understand that most people’s parents (if they have both or either) don’t have thirty or forty grand lying around.
They cannot imagine a circumstance where simply moving in with your parents (again if they have them) for a couple of years wouldn’t be appropriate or possible.
They simply cannot fathom that going abroad for a few years to earn money for a deposit could be disastrous for any number of reasons.
The whole Irish economy is built by and for people like Leo Varadkar. Everything is fine, because they have done and are doing very well for themselves, thanks. This failure to empathise with people who are struggling, or find themselves for whatever reason in less ideal circumstances is a serious political failing.
Ireland’s economy is built on luck – and if you are very lucky, it’s a great place to live. But if you’re not on the very top of heap, it’s bad, and it’s getting worse, as Rory Hearne wrote on Monday:
One million people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation.
Compared to before the crash in 2008, we have doubled our consistent poverty rate.
A full quarter of lone parent families and their children are living in consistent poverty.
Three quarters of a million Irish people are living on less than €14,000 per year.
All of those figures are increasing, all while official policy is to bend over backwards to allow foreign multi-billion euro companies to get even wealthier, and step daintily out of the way of the already wealthy to make more and more money off the backs of our own people.
And all of those figures are reflected in Dublin West.
Teachta Dála – TD – means a delegate from the constituency to the Dáil. It should be that every TD should represent their constituency. That means in the case of Leo Varadkar – me and everyone living in Dublin West, one of the most diverse parts of the country.
His lack of empathy, and casual dismissal of the real daily struggles of most people in Ireland and in his constituency should be shocking, and it should be remembered.
If Leo Varadkar’s comments yesterday annoyed you, then you must stop voting for Fine Gael or their facilitators and twins in Fianna Fáil.
Aengus Ó Maoláin is chairperson of the Social Democrats in Dublin West and the party’s representative for Castleknock and Blancharstown.
Leo Varadkar with his mother Miriam and father Ashok Varadkar
“It has always been the case that a person needs to raise a deposit to buy a house. People do it in many different ways. Sometimes people go abroad for a period and earn money. Others get money from their parents. Lots of us did.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil yesterday
‘Orphan Annie’ writes:
While the Taoiseach promotes getting the deposit from Mummy and Daddy, did he he himself avail of reckless first time borrowing facilities?
According to this Property Pin thread from 2009, Leo apparently mentioned during an Oireachtas Committee hearing [unable to find it online] that in 2002 he took out a 100% mortgage for, er, himself. Good times, eh?
It was quite a surprise to read over my morning Limerick that our Taoiseach Leo V informed the Dail that he got help with his first mortgage from Mum & Dad.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course, yet when he was Dr Varadkar on duty as an opposition TD, he rolled about with all the glibness of his garish socks by telling us he was the owner of a “toxic asset” held with a 100% Mortgage and that it might qualify to be transferred to the new formed NAMA.
Family homes are not a joke nor is the current lack of residential accommodation, freehold or leasehold or by way of a simple rental agreement. Therefore I would strongly advise against relying on anything this Government announces or promises on housing, in any sector.
The Vacant Site Levy has been debunked, while they can sing the HAP song all they want, if there are no new HAP Landlords introducing more rental units, then there is nothing to spend all that HAP money on, unless we are ok with administration costs.
Please can someone in this current government actually get it right before we start to see shanty sheds, Vans and tents outlining the M50.