The inquiry into the fake breath tests discovered there was more than 1.4million fake breath tests recorded between 2009 and 2016.
Meanwhile, the Policing Authority has hired financial auditors Crowe Horwath to conduct its own independent investigation into the matters and that’s expected to be completed by September 25.
It’s been reported that Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan is due to appear before the Policing Authority three days later on September 28.
Conor Lally, in The Irish Times, reports:
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan released a statement yesterday about the Garda’s reports into inflated breath tests and the fixed-charge notice system. He said he was disturbed by the findings and expected the reports to be published later in the day.
But Garda Headquarters never had any intention of publishing the reports any time soon. It wanted to wait until consultants hired by the Policing Authority to examine the same issues had completed their work.
But the Garda has now been forced to go public with the reports because Mr Flanagan, in public, told Ms O’Sullivan she had to publish yesterday.
And if the Policing Authority’s consultants find anything nasty that the Garda reports overlook, it could be the end of the road for Ms O’Sullivan.
The Public Accounts Committee is launching its report on the sale of Project Eagle.
The chair of PAC, Fianna Fail TD Seán Fleming said:
“The committee considers that it was not appropriate for Nama, as the contracting body, to meet with Cerberus representatives the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date. It could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential treatment.
“Also. The committee considers that it was not procedurally appropriate for the Minister for Finance [Michael Noonan] to meet with senior Cerberus representatives on the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date. This could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential treatment.”
From top: Daniel McConnell, of the Irish Examiner; Hugh O’Connell, of The Sunday Business Post, and Josepha Madigan, Fine Gael TD and member of PAC
You may recall how, on Sunday, February 12, in The Sunday Business Post, Hugh O’Connell and Jack Horgan-Jones reported on a draft working paper by the Public Accounts Committee into Nama’s sale of Project Eagle.
The paper said it was “not appropriate” for the Department of Finance to meet with the ultimately successful bidder, Cerberus, in the days before the closing date for Project Eagle bids. It similarly states that it was “not appropriate” for Noonan or Nama to meet with Cerberus the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date – and that this could be perceived as “special treatment”.
PAC’s report no longer states the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s behaviour was ‘not appropriate’. Instead, their behaviour was ‘not procedurally appropriate’.
Why was it changed?
From the press conference…
David Davin Power (RTE): “You found that Michael Noonan meeting Cerberus wasn’t ‘procedurally appropriate’ and I know there was a contention about that on the committee. Fine Gael members voting against it. But Michael Noonan says that he never had an adequate opportunity to respond to what was ultimately an adverse finding against him and that he’s been unfairly treated, effectively, by the committee.”
Sean Fleming: “Well, he said that, based on the original working document that said it was ‘inappropriate’ but the wording in the report published today refers to the procedures that allowed that meeting to happen. It was procedurally inappropriate. So it’s not quite the same as what was in the original report. And that word is there for a reason. Because this committee is precluded from finding specific fault against an individual person. And we’re looking at the process of that meeting, not specifically the person who attended. I would [inaudible] the distinction between the finding in relation to Nama, where we say it was inappropriate, because we were finding that the body, the corporate body of Nama, rather than that one person, acted inappropriately. But we can’t use that particular word due to legal restrictions, in relation to one individual.”
Davin Power: “But why did you seek to use that word if it was legally suspect in the first place…”
Fleming: “The committee never sought to seek that. There was a working document prepared after some 30,000 sheets of paper presented to the committee and after 11 public hearings. The committee never used that particular wording. The only wording that the committee settled on is the wording in the report.”
Davin Power: “Could you ask one of the Fine Gael members [of PAC] to respond to that point? Are you happy…[inaudible].”
Fleming: “Peter [Burke], if you’re happy?”
Peter Burke: “Thank you very much. First of all, I think to use the words ‘procedurally inappropriate’ is not fair. I would point out that the Minister did attend the PAC meeting, even though he’s not legally required to do so. He spent five hours under intense questioning. He brought forward all information and answers and answered everything very clear and concise and to see a situation whereby he was actually denied natural justice because the response that’s in the report is to a media leak which appeared on the Sunday Business Post. So, in other words, he never got due process or was questioned on the content of this assertion.
“And, to point out, Section 9 of the Nama Act is very clear. That it is independent in its functions in terms of its role with the minister and previous people have brought this up, including our chairman when the act was [inaudible] in the Dáil in 2009, in terms of to keep it outside of the realm of politics, I mean that was very, very important. And to suggest that it’s procedurally inappropriate, one has to ask: what is the procedure? And there is none. If the minister has clear legal separation and there is a former US secretary of the treasury coming over to Ireland to discuss, from banking to insurance to asset management, I think it would be unwise for any minister not to meet him.”
Burke: “… the commercial activities of Nama are driven by the board. The minister has no role in this. And even, as a process, it was mentioned that the minister should have called off the sale, but at that time, he’d no legal power to do so. And there’s departmental legal advice, which was mentioned at the committee here, in relation to that.”
Daniel McConnell (Irish Examiner): “But are you not playing politics with it now? Are Fine Gael not playing politics with the PAC, for the first time in its history, in 94 years, you caused a vote at the PAC, purely to protect the standing of Michael Noonan?”
Burke: “No, Danny, that’s not correct. If we look at this, in a fair and balanced fashion. If a minister, who is not legally obliged to attend the PAC, does so of his own free will, in the interest of fairness, in the interest of transparency, on foot of that, that he is denied the right to due process, to respond to a charge that was put to him, that he was never asked one single question on, I think that’s an incredible part of this report. That the minister was denied that right to respond to an assertion that he was never…”
McConnell: “So, who put it in the report initially then? Because this is important. Who put the initial finding of ‘inappropriate’ in the report? Was it a civil servant?”
Burke: “Here is a draft document
McConnell: “So a civil servant…
Burke: “…which was leaked to the Sunday Business Post…”
McConnell: “So it was a civil servant who put it in, is that what you’re saying?”
Burke: “It was a draft document, I can’t answer that….”
Fleming: “I will answer that, and I will call on David Cullnane [Sinn Fein] next. I, as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, supervised directly, personally..”
McConnell: “So it was your, that was your, that was your language?”
Talk over each other
Fleming: “…reporting in the first instance. What I do want to clarify, people mightn’t have go to it. We put a specific appendix in the report, on page 86, on the issue. We record fully and faithfully everything in respect of the minister’s response. First of all, in that, when we came to that issue of whether or not, at our meeting, and it’s all documented there [inaudible] we had three or four meetings, and Peter and his [Fine Gael] colleagues proposed wording to say, rather than it was ‘not procedurally correct’, to put the wording it was ‘not advisable’. So the board members were satisfied that the report should say it was ‘not advisable’ of the minister. That was voted down and the other wording was put forward.”
“But I just want to respond, before I call on David Cullinane, it was fortuitous in a way that there was a leak because that did give the minister to respond and the content of the letter received by the minister was examined closely by the parliamentary legal office in this house. And [inaudible] essentially responded to any allegations that we were about to make. Even though his letter came in before we concluded. And I do want to say, this is the transcript, the 82-page transcript of the meeting, of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, the 6th of October 2016. And I have to say that that meeting, the minister and the people on his side were the only people aware in the room, at that time of the meeting with Cerberus. No member of the committee was aware that a meeting ever happened. And the minister gave no indication whatever of that meeting. To suggest we didn’t ask him something about which we knew nothing about is unusual. He had four and a half hours at the meeting when we invited him in to talk about the sale of Project Eagle. And he spent four and a half hours discussing it and made no reference to that meeting. And there is the transcript if people want to check it.”
Hugh O’Connell (Sunday Business Post): “Do you think you may have dropped the ball, as a committee, in not asking him if he had met Cerberus? And secondly, when you did become aware of it, why didn’t you ask him about the meeting via correspondence?”
Fleming: “The answer to that is we didn’t drop the ball because we weren’t aware the game had happened. Right? No member of the PAC were aware, at the time, that that meeting…”
Josepha Madigan: “Sorry, that’s incorrect. It was subject to FOI, the minutes were actually given in correspondence on the 4th of November…the 8th of November  to the committee, so they were fully aware of…”
O’Connell: “So, why then, did you not write to Michael Noonan and ask him: why did you have this meeting? And what was the purpose of this meeting?”
David Cullinane: “There was a note that was given to the committee under the Department of Finance that set out the official notes taken by officials, in terms of that meeting. And those notes clearly show that Project Eagle was raised and it was raised in the context of Cerberus raised and they were told that it would be best dealt with at a meeting later that day with Nama which we believe that was also inappropriate. So, there was reference to Project Eagle in that meeting. And…”
O’Connell: “Why didn’t you ask him then? Why didn’t the committee call him back in?”
Alan Farrell: “That’s entirely inaccurate…it is entirely inaccurate….you’ve got your dates mixed up, David.”
Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership; Media ownership report launch, from left: Barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Jonathan Price, KRW Law, Gavin Booth, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, in Cliff Townhouse in Dublin; Denis O’Brien
Further to the Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland, commissioned by Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP on behalf on the European United Left/Northern Green Left (GUE/NGL) group of the European Parliament
A statement has been issued this afternoon by James Morrissey, on behalf of Denis O’Brien, in response to the report.
The Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland makes for very interesting reading.
At the outset it is worth noting that it is self-described as “An Independent Study Commissioned by Lynn Boylan MEP on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group of the European Parliament.”
An “independent study” commissioned by a leading member of Sinn Fein? Hardly.
“The two most important controlling entities in the Irish media landscape are the national State broadcaster, RTE, and an individual businessman, Denis O’Brien” this Report states.
Yet there is no focus on RTE in the context of:
– The largest media entity in Ireland
– The only entity involved in TV, radio and print
– Revenues subsidised by licence fees amounting to €178.9 million
But then this ‘independent study’ was never intended to be a report on the concentration of media ownership in Ireland.
Sinn Féin is very diligent and adept when it comes to pushing its agendas, overtly and covertly.
After a disappointing General Election, An Phoblact [sic] went on the attack:
“State broadcaster came in for severe criticism as it slashed Sinn Fein’s coverage following a poll… which showed the party gaining ground… and for two days the voices of Sinn Fein were banned from the airwaves in a bizarre episode that was reminiscent of Section 31 and state censorship.” (March 7, 2016)
And on the eve of the Budget, Sinn Fein TD, Eoin O’Broin declared:
“Budget Day is all about choices. For decades, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, have looked after the big guy – whether that be Denis O’Brien or Apple.”
I am absolutely convinced that the contribution that Apple has made in this country is unquantifiable in financial and social terms. What about the thousands of young women and men who did not have to emigrate and who got a chance to work, live and raise families in Cork?
I have said that Apple should not be punished for its tax arrangements in Ireland. Sinn Féin’s stance on Apple has been, I believe both anti-enterprise and anti-Irish.
“Sinn Fein has been waiting with some relish for the EU verdict,” wrote Pat Leahy in The Irish Times (August 30, 2016) “and leaped into action: ’Give us back our money’ demanded MEP Matt Carthy. For good measure, Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty also called for a public inquiry into Apple’s tax arrangements.”
This report states that I am chairperson of Communicorp, as has various individuals including Dr. Colum Kenny, Dr. Roderick Flynn and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, legal firms Jonathan Price (Belfast) and KRW Law (London) and media organisations including The Irish Times and TV3.
It maybe [sic] a rather inconvenient truth, but I am not.
I suppose why let the facts interfere with the agenda and the messaging…
Is the media objective when it is talking and writing about itself? The media industry in Ireland is in decline. This decline has been ongoing for many years and it threatens and [sic] industry that has served this country exceptionally well, providing high levels of employment and spawned a number of writers who have deservedly achieved international acclaim.
Independent News & Media (INM) was days from forced closure back 2011.
Over €2 billion in shareholder value had been lost and the shares had collapsed from €27.30 to 41 cents as a previous board had racked up unsustainable levels of debt. I became am [sic] a substantial minority shareholder in INM (I am not on the board).
I am the owner of Communicorp which like RTÉ, TV3, The Irish Examiner and The Sunday Business Post operates in a very challenging environment. I understand The Irish Times is currently considering various funding options.
I believe that some media companies will not survive this decade without radical structuring including substantial funding.
I was surprised, for example, that RTÉ (and others) did not seek any comment from me on the ‘Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland’ in the interests of balance and objectivity.
But maybe the powers that be in Montrose felt that they had been given a ‘free pass’ in the report that they chose just to quote from it?
I do not believe the Irish media is objective in relation to matters relating to itself. The prime reason is survival. Every media executive and journalist knows that the future of traditional media is bleak. It makes one entity undermining another easier to justify.
Sinn Féin/IRA certainly got the report they paid for. The cost of this report won’t have have bothered them too much.
They collected €12 million over 20 years in the US (Irish Times, March 7, 2015). The IRA is reported to have €400 million in global assets (Irish Times, August 29, 2015).
Brian Feeney, author, has suggested that a way should be found to stop “Sinn Féin people saying the IRA has gone away when self-evidently it hasn’t.”
The report references the words ‘chilling effect’ and the law in the same sentence. I bow to Sinn Fein’s superior knowledge on these topics.
Maybe instead of commissioning reports Sinn Féin would commit just some of its vast resources and support an ailing industry – become a fully-fledged broadcaster and publisher and create some jobs for a change?
The cover of the Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland and Denis O’Brien
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has published a Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland, which she commissioned on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group of the European Parliament.
It was written by lawyers in Belfast and London.
Ms Boylan’s report follows a report in March – about media plurality and ownership in Ireland by the Centre for Pluralism and Media Freedom, led by Dr Roderick Flynn of Dublin City University.
From the report:
Ireland has one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy. Accumulation of what has been described as “communicative power” within the news markets is at endemic levels, and this, combined with the dominance of one private individual media owner in the State, creates what the Media Reform Coalition has described as “conditions in which wealthy individuals and organisations can amass huge political and economic power and distort the media landscape to suit their interests and personal views”.
The two most important controlling entities in the Irish media landscape are the national State broadcaster, RTÉ, and an individual businessman, Denis O’Brien…
…First, Mr. O’Brien has initiated a large number of sets of proceedings since 2010, including 12 cases against media organisations in relation to their coverage of his business affairs. Analysis stretching back almost two decades, to 1998, suggests that Mr. O’Brien has regularly made threats of legal action, and instituted legal proceedings, against journalists and media organisations.
Any wealthy individual bringing such a large number of claims seeking to restrict press coverage of their business dealings would raise concerns regarding freedom of expression and the potential for such litigious profligacy to have a ‘chilling effect’ on newsgathering and reporting in the public interest. However, when the wealthy individual in question is also the “largest owner of private media in the State,” those concerns and risks are substantially increased.
…The Report’s authors are aware of suggestions that there are legal bars to any such action being taken, but we reject any suggestion that it is not legally permissible to address the status quo and that tackling the current concentration of media ownership is impossible given the importance of property rights in the Irish Constitution and/ or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
On the contrary, our conclusion is that there is, in principle, no such legal bar. A retrospective mechanism could indeed be permissible under the Irish Constitution, EU law, and the ECHR.
…The devil is very much in the detail, and these are difficult issues. What is now needed is a careful review of the detail, and, accordingly, the Report recommends that the Government establish a cross-disciplinary Commission of Inquiry.
Human Rights Watch released a report today in relation to the deportations that have taken place from Greece to Turkey, as part of the EU/Turkey deal – of which Ireland has contributed €22million.
The report paid particular attention to Chios island where the UN claimed 13 people – 11 people from Afghanistan, and two people from the Democratic Republic of Congo – were wrongly deported on April 4.
The report states:
In visits to the VIAL detention center on Chios on April 7 and 8, Human Rights Watch spoke with 12 friends and one relative of 19 Afghans who were deported from Chios on April 4.
Based on those interviews and text messages exchanged between those interviewed and the deportees, Human Rights Watch documented an array of irregularities and violations.
The authorities did not inform people that they were going to be deported, did not tell them where they were being taken, and did not allow some of them to take their personal possessions.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, thirteen of those deported from Chios had expressed a desire to seek asylum in Greece, and that number could be higher,
The Greek authorities appear to have hurried the forced returns from Chios, and the 136 other deportations that day from the nearby island of Lesbos, to meet a publicized deadline for the start of returns under the ill-conceived EU-Turkey deal that went into effect on March 20, 2016.
That deal allows the return of asylum seekers to Turkey on the presumption that Turkey is safe for asylum seekers and refugees.
…The deportations from Chios began around midday on April 3, when Greek police at the VIAL detention facility took dozens of people to the main building [Tabakika] where police and Frontex register new arrivals, and where the Greek asylum service is located.
The authorities separated the 66 people they had identified for return, witnesses said. The 12 friends and one relative of the 19 deportees, who did not want their names published, told Human Rights Watch that the police had called people on the false pretext that they were to be registered, including for asylum.
“Salim,” a 24-year-old man from Afghanistan, said the police took three of his Afghan friends, Ilias Haqjo, Mohammad, and Reza (full names unknown), all between 20 and 25 years old, without their possessions.
“They came here and told them they have to go to register,” he said. “They left happy and when they came out the police were waiting for them…. If the guys knew they were going to be deported, they would have taken their bags, their papers, their money.”
…On the other side, in Dikili, Turkey, the authorities hung blue tarps on the fence around the registration tents to block journalists and human rights monitors from contacting the deportees. The police commander at the area denied a Human Rights Watch request to access the site.
The deportees were then loaded onto buses and driven away. Police at the site told Human Rights Watch that they were headed to Kirklareli, near Edirne, and the media subsequently reported that the people deported from Greece were being held at the Pehlivankoy removal center in that town.
The deportees on the buses in Turkey, however, seemed not to know where exactly they were going. “Now we’re in the bus, they’re taking us to a camp,” Mohsen Ahmadi wrote his friend “Amir” around 3 p.m. “Why there?” “Amir” asked. “I don’t know, the camp is near Istanbul,” Ahmadi replied.
“When you arrive, let us know,” “Amir” wrote. “OK,” Ahmadi wrote back at 8:28 p.m., but that was the last message that “Amir” received.
…Human Rights Watch collected the phone numbers of four of the people who were deported from Chios on April 4. As of April 18, none of them had replied to messages on Viber, the application they had been using. When called, three of the phones appeared to be shut off and one of the numbers was not working.
The legal basis of confiscating phones from people being deported, if any, remains unclear. Given that asylum seekers and migrants rely on their phones to stay informed and to keep in touch with family, such measures appear unnecessary and cruel, as well as a violation of the individuals’ personal property rights, Human Rights Watch said.
The amount of powdered baby milk each infant in Vial allegedly gets every day
Further to the picture (above) circulating on social media last Thursday…
Patrick Kingsley, of The Guardian, reports:
Babies detained in Greece under the terms of the EU-Turkey migration deal are being denied access to adequate supplies of milk formula, refugees and aid workers have alleged.
Approximately 25 babies under the age of six months, whose mothers are unable to breastfeed, are being given roughly 100ml of milk formula just once a day on the island of Chios, according to photographs sent by detained refugees and testimonies provided by phone.
… A 35-year-old Afghan construction manager, detained in a detention centre on Chios since 21 March, said he had been forced to mix water with bread to stop his five-month-old daughter going hungry.
The man, who said he worked as a contractor for the British army in Afghanistan but asked not to named for fear of victimisation, said: “They are only giving us half a cup of milk for all 24 hours – but that’s not enough. There’s no more milk for lunch or dinner or during the night. This is a big problem. There are maybe 24 or 25 babies under six months.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which maintains a presence on Chios, confirmed the claim and said the number of infant children may even be higher. “It’s clear that baby milk [formula] is not being routinely distributed,” said Dan Tyler, the NRC’s protection and advocacy officer on Chios. “I did a series of meetings with refugees last week, and mothers brought up [the issue of] baby milk all the time.
You’ll recall how a working group set up by the Department of Justice last August to look at reforming the direct provision system – and from which the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council Sue Conlan resigned in March – is due to deliver its report at the end of this month.
This morning, Kitty Holland, in the Irish Times, reports:
“The report will recommend these [asylees’ welfare payments] be increased to €38.74 per week for adults and €29.80 for children. This would bring the rates into line with supplementary welfare allowance rates when the fact asylum seekers in direct provision are provided with food and accommodation is taken into account.”
Readers may recall in September 2014, the RTÉ Radio One journalist, Brian O’Connell, did a series of interviews with female asylum seekers – some teenagers – who talked about engaging in prostitution in order to supplement their weekly stipend of €19.10/€9.60 a week.
After the interviews Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she’d be seeking a report on this specific matter stating: ‘I will certainly be asking for a report and I would ask that anyone with information to make it available to the Gardaí.’
Was that specific report ever carried out? Or was it subsumed into this working group report?”