Minister for Social Protection and Fine Gael leadership candidate Leo Varadkar with Fine Gael supporters after he launched his party policy document, ‘Taking Fine Gael Forward’, as part of his campaign for the Fine Gael Leadership.
…On the RTÉ news the other evening he warned that the Left are getting louder now, like as if opposition is some kind of danger to, rather than a feature of, a healthy democracy.
But Varadkar sees opposition as a growing threat, apparently not realising that the opposition is expanding in direct proportion to his madly right-wing moves; moves like talking about restricting the unions right to strike, and inciting hatred against a social group held up as a scapegoat for the troubles of the country. It falls to Fianna Fáil, wouldn’t you know it, to pull the plug on his bid for power.
But will they?
All Leo Varadkar’s arguments appear to depend in the end on believing that some group or other is to blame for our troubles, except the bankers, the politicians, the corporate billionaires and so on.
His arguments don’t roll naturally either, like arguments would coming from a person with a sound worldview, arrived at through careful thought.
This is perhaps why he resorts so easily to smearing .. It’s because he doesn’t have a genuine argument or vision, only a deep-seated middle-class prejudice against people not like himself.
More worryingly though, he often sounds like a well-coached parrot, with no depth to his pronouncements, like he is just another Fine Gael false front. This time a right-wing marionette.
Leo Varadkar and Brian Dobson on last night’s Six One
On RTÉ’s Six One.
Following his ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign…
Fine Gael TD and leadership contender Leo Varadkar spoke to Brian Dobson about people in Ireland who “want everything for free”.
From the interview…
Brian Dobson: “You said in your launch today, that Irish society cannot be split into, and I quote, one group of people who pay for everything, and another who want everything for free and think others should pay for it. Who are that latter group, who want everything for free?”
Leo Varadkar: “Well, I suppose, they’re people who do exist in Ireland, unfortunately, there is a degree of an entitlement culture. It mightn’t be many people but there are people who believe and, you know, they’re very often supporters of the far left, that believe that everything should be free. And that, you know, somehow, Apple or bondholders or somebody else should pay for it, or billionaires who don’t live in this country. And I don’t accept that culture.
“I think, I come from a very different political point of view. I think everyone who can should pay into the system and by paying into the system, we can all have a better society.”
Dobson: “So they’re people on the hard left? A pretty small group then? Would it be fair to say?”
Varadkar: “Yeah, they’re pretty small but they’re loud and they’re growing and the kind of politics they preach is the idea that we should have, you know, free education, free healthcare, free housing, free everything but you shouldn’t have to contribute to it at all. Somehow that, you know, billionaires living overseas or American corporations, that make their profits elsewhere, are going to pay for everything. I think that’s dishonest.”
“I’m bringing forward, to the table, honest, centrist politics which is that if you want to have a good society, if you want to have good public services, well then we all need to contribute to them, we all need to work hard if we can and pay into the system.”
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.
Minister for Social Protection and Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar launching his Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign last month
Fine Gael TD and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar spoke to Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
During the interview they briefly discussed the Social Welfare Bill and his plans to publish the names of people convicted of social welfare fraud.
It follows the recent launch of his Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign, in which he calls on people to notify the authorities of people they believe are committing welfare fraud.
From the interview this morning…
Cathal MacCoille: “The Social Welfare Bill, it’s attracted a fair amount of attention already because of this proposal to publish the names and addresses of those convicted of welfare fraud. The reason you decided to do that? How many people will be affected?”
Leo Varadkar: “Any given year, it’s about 150 to 200. It’s adopting a somewhat similar approach to that of the Revenue Commissioners, although not going quite as far as they go. They publish settlements, we’ll only publish it if somebody is being convicted in a court of law.”
MacCoille: “Will you publish the details?”
Varadkar: “Obviously, the name and the address and the amount will be published. And also, in addition to that, there’ll be additional penalties for people convicted of welfare fraud. At the moment, sometimes, the penalties are very light. All you have to do is pay back the money the stole which is very unusual. In most fraud cases, you have to pay a penalty as well as pay back the money that was taken. And itwill allow us do that.”
Fine Gael TD and Minister for Protection Leo Varadkar launching his Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign last week
You may recall the launch of Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign.
And Mr Varadkar saying that “a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million” in 2016.
And Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Bróin questioning Mr Varadkar’s figure of €500million in last weekend’s Sunday Business Post.
After going through Department of Social Protection’s Fraud and Error Surveys, annual Comptroller and Auditor General reports and parliamentary questions, Mr O’Bróin claimed that the number of welfare overpayments, due to errors by claimants or department staff, are much more significant than fraudulent welfare claims and that the errors cost more than the fraudulent claims.
Further to this…
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady has released a statement, saying:
“Last week, Minister Varadkar launched a ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ advertising and online campaign set to cost the taxpayer €204,000. Initially, the department was unable to provide the total cost of this campaign but they have since advised me of this figure.
“The Department of Social Protection have claimed that they achieved overall savings of €506 million in 2016 as a result of ‘control and anti-fraud measures’. However, the actual calculation of this figure leaves more questions than answers. In fact, in the Department’s own words, it is based on nothing more than an assumption. The real figure from Department officials, received by the media today, stands at €41 million.
“The Department developed a bizarre method of calculation using multipliers where they assume that an excess payment would have continued to be paid for a set future period and therefore, they multiply the payment by an assumed length of time. In the case of Carer’s Allowance and Disability Allowance, the payment is multiplied by 136.
“When we look at the figures from past reviews undertaken by the Department, it clearly shows that the real issue to be tackled is the prevalence of over-payments rather than fraud. This is reflected in a number of previous Controller and Auditor General Reports which showed that between 2007 and 2011,50% of all overpayments were due to error while 38% of overpayments were due to fraud.
Assistant Secretary Department of Social Protection Kathleen Stack and the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar at the launch of the ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign.
The Department of Social Protection press office responded this evening.
In a statement it said:
“‘The ‘Welfare Cheats – Cheat Us All‘ campaign, launched last week, aims to:
Raise awareness and challenge the culture around how Social Welfare Fraud is perceived –it is not a victimless crime;
Encourage the reporting of suspected fraud to the Department of Social Protection-anonymously via phone/or online; and
Demonstrate the considerable control reviews and investigations activity by the Department of Social Protection
In 2016, the Department achieved overall savings of €506m as a result of control and anti-fraud measures. This reflects the 950,000 reviews of individual claims undertaken by the Department last year to determine on-going entitlements.
These savings are an estimate of the value of the various control activities (entitlement reviews and inspections) undertaken across the Department’s various schemes.
The €506m in control savings does not include any cases where the customer voluntarily told the Department of changes in their means or circumstances which resulted in a reduction in the rate of payment or termination of their claim.
The overall control and anti-fraud savings figure is – and always has been – based on the assumption that, had the excess payment not been detected as a result of our control work, it would have continued for at least a set future period.
The €506m figure, therefore, represents the value of future social welfare expenditure which was avoided, owing to proactive investigations and reviews.”
Minister Leo Varadkar added:
‘The Department raised €110m in overpayments last year of which €41m related to customer fraud. Over €82m was actually recovered last year. These are the amounts detected and recovered and represent a figure that must be below the actual level of fraud given the volume that goes undetected or cannot be recovered.
Arguing about the exact amount, the difference between control, fraud and error misses one undeniable fact – millions is defrauded from the taxpayer through the social welfare system. It’s a crime and cracking down on it frees up much needed resources to expand entitlements or return to taxpayers.”
At the launch, he stated a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million in 2016.
Further to this…
Readers may wish to note a piece in yesterday’sSunday Business Post by Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Bróin in which he called Mr Varadkar’s figures into question.
[Varadkar] claimed that “anti-fraud and control measures” saved the taxpayer over €500 million in 2016. No detail justifying this figure was provided.
Requests to the Department of Social Protection press office for additional information didn’t help much.
… In 2013, the Comptroller and Auditor General annual report included a section on welfare overpayment debt.
The report concluded that, from 2007 to 2011, 50 per cent of all overpayments were due to error (44 per cent by the client and 6 per cent by the department), while 38 per cent of overpayments were due to fraud.
This pattern was confirmed in a parliamentary question from Varadkar on May 31, 2016 which stated that 21 per cent of identified overpayments in 2015 were fraudulent, 30 per cent in 2014 and 32 per cent in 2013. In each of these three years the total number of overpaid claims was between 80,000 and 90,000, with fraudulent claims falling from 27,000 in 2013 to 21,000 in 2015.
The conclusion to be drawn from the figures is that the number of fraudulent claims is small and that overpayments due to errors by claimants or department staff are more significant.
The big question, of course, is how much this costs the taxpayer. Thankfully Varadkar’s parliamentary question replies are a lot clearer than his press releases.
The same PQ from May 2016 states that the cost of all overpayments in 2015 was €115 million, of which €48 million was due to fraud. The figures for 2014 were €124 million and €52 million; for 2013 they were €127 million and €61 million.
So not only are errors more frequent than fraud in our social welfare system, they are also costing the taxpayer more.
While a large sum of money is recouped each year (€82 million in 2016, €80 million in 2015, €82 million in 2014) it is significantly less than the overpayments discovered each year. So the total amount of overpayment debt owed to the state continues to rise – reaching €437 million in 2015.
What is not clear from the above data is where Varadkar is getting his information that €500 million was saved through anti-fraud measures in 2016. This figure is clearly not the amount of money saved by identifying overpayments. Nor does it bear any relation to actual incidents of fraud in 2016.
But who cares? It makes for a good headline when launching a campaign to tackle one of society’s big problems.
From top: Garda checkpoint; Road Safety Authority CEO Moyagh Murdock
You might recall the near one million breath tests that An Garda Síochána recorded taking between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2016… but didn’t.
Readers might wish to note, in June 2016, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) published a report, stating:
983 fatal collisions occurred on Irish roads between 2008 and 2012, claiming the lives of 1,077 people. The forensic details of 867 fatal collisions were analysed to identify the cause of the collisions – of these, alcohol was a main contributory factor in 330 collisions, claiming the lives of 366 people. A further 69 people were seriously injured.
Moyagh Murdock, the Chief Executive Officer of the RSA, spoke to Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio One about road safety and drink driving.
They briefly discussed the false Garda figures.
Ray D’Arcy: “Did you have suspicions [about the false figures]?”
Moyagh Murdock: “Well, I think we certainly were concerned that the number of traffic corps available to do these was significantly reduced. The Behaviours and Attitudes surveys tell us that people don’t expect to get stopped, there have been a significant number of months or even years since the last time they’d got stopped. So that would be very…”
D’Arcy: “Didn’t add up?”
Murdock: “Didn’t add up. That’s all we could say, at that point, was that they didn’t add up. We also..”
D’Arcy: “How did you feel when you heard that?”
Murdock: “When I heard the number of one million? I was completely stunned I have to say…”
Murdock: “What was really worrying is many policy decisions are made on the basis of statistics that we’re given. So we came from a period of very safe roads. The numbers of people being killed on our roads were declining. Yet, we could probably say that the number of breath tests were going up so traffic corps are going to get de-prioritised and we saw the numbers go down. So, you know, publishing the wrong numbers influences the decision of where to send the actual resources where they’re needed and we’re now seeing an increase in the number of people being killed on our roads so these things…”
D’Arcy: “Are you making a direct connection between the two?”
Murdock: “Well, I think there has to be. You know. We look and see what the underlying reasons are for collisions out there, all of the time, foreseeing that people are being breath tested and there is only a small number that are failing. Well then obviously, you have to ask the question, it mustn’t be drink driving that’s killing these people. But..”
D’Arcy: “Somebody has come up with a figure that a fatal, somebody who dies on the road costs the State, or is it a fatal crash, costs the State €2.7million?“
Murdock: “That’s correct…”
D’Arcy: “How does that figure come about?”
Murdock: “That was carried out by, we got, I think it was Pricewaterhouse [Cooper] did it for us, carrying out the number of lives affected, the cost to the State for rehabilitation, the cost to the State for the loss of someone contributing as a taxpayer, the cost of support services, the cost of all the emergency services…”
Reading From Book of Dark Blue after Leo Varadkar, WB Yeats, and Enda Kenny
We are for the Ireland that rolls
laughing out of its bed every morning, those
whose national anthem is the alarm
clock exploding on the bedside locker and it still dark;
who, even August bank holidays, are
in the shed before five a.m.
fashioning origami former Garda
commissioners, or writing violin concertos in praise
of the Little Sisters of the Bon Viveur,
Blessed K.T. Whittaker and anyone else
who got up ridiculously early
to make this country what it
We represent those who know should they fall
up a ladder, or for some other reason –
be it insanity or baldness –
be unable to properly function,
we in government will do nothing
except, if they’re lucky, repeatedly
knee them in the nasty bits.
We whose ancestors have eaten
the still throbbing heart of General O’Duffy
(or at least what we thought was his heart)
now see leaflets tumbling through respectable letter boxes
in which cretin and comedian crow their gutless song,
their arguments a bladder bloated with animal blood.
We say, down the disposal pipe
with all these and their cries
of avarice and failure,
those who engage in wilful wastage of water
by sitting there all day – the jets
fizzing up their crevices –
in Jacuzzis given them
by the tax payer.
Drown them in the tank
and bill them for their own extinction,
for they are weasels who’d drink
of your chickens until they’re dry.
We are for people who look both ways twice
when crossing the road
and remember where they left their keys.