Health Minister Leo Varadkar appeared on Tonight With Vincent Browne last night, along with Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane; Fianna Fáil TD, Sean Fleming; and People Before Profit Councillor at Dublin City Council, Brid Smith.
Mr Varadkar was asked what people should do, if they can’t afford to pay their water charges.
David Cullinane: “If I can ask you an honest question, Leo?”
Vincent Browne: “Make it quick because we’ve gotta go to a break.”
Cullinane: “There are many families out there who can’t afford to pay their mortgage, can’t put food on the table, can’t put oil in their heating tanks. When they get their water charges bill in January and they can’t afford to pay it, what bills should they not pay? Should they not pay their mortgage? Should they not put food on the table? If they genuinely can’t pay, if they don’t have it, what should they do? What advice would you give them?”
Leo Varadkar: “Well that’s a very po-faced question because if you look at…”
Cullinane: “It isn’t, it’s a question…”
Talk over each other
Browne: “We’ve got to go to a break…”
Varadkar: “I’ll tell you why it is because if you look at your alternative budget, for example, you propose a standard rate…”
Browne: “Answer his question. Answer his question. Answer his question. What should people do? When people who are living on the margins have a choice of paying a water tax or paying for a essential necessities in their families, of their families. Which choice should they do…”
Varadkar: “What they should do is…”
Brid Smith: “Don’t pay the water taxes.”
Varadkar: “What they should do is enter into an agreement with the utility which is what they would do currently with the ESB, it’s what they would do currently with the…”
Smith: “Leo you live on another planet, people simply don’t have it.”
Margaretta D’Arcy on TV3′sTonight With Vincent Browne Show last night
Journalist Dearbhail McDonald hosted the Tonight With Vincent Browne Show last night and spoke with Margaretta D’Arcy at the beginning.
Margaretta, 80, was released from Limerick Prison last week after she was jailed for refusing to sign a bond stating she would not enter restricted areas of Shannon Airport, following her arrest for protesting at the airport.
Dearbhail McDonald: “Can you rule out going and doing that again?”
Margaretta D’Arcy: “So long as the escalation of war, and we certainly now know what’s happening in Gaza. And I heard this morning that, actually, the military planes coming in from the US are carrying weapons and hardware to help Israel.”
McDonald: “And can you say that definitively? That Shannon Airport…You can’t.”
D’Arcy: “Well, neither can you say it’s not happening. Exactly, so therefore, why doesn’t the Irish Government…if there is nothing going on in the planes wouldn’t it be the simplest thing for them to examine the planes and be able to tell us there’s nothing on there or tell the world there’s nothing on there. Why are they so silent about it? That’s what I want to know. And we cannot find out.”
Later in the show, United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly – who, along with fellow TD Mick Wallace, was arrested during the week when they approached two US military planes in Shannon Airport with the intent to inspect them – told the show that, in the last 12 months, more than 630 US military aircraft stopped off in Shannon Airport.
Last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne was hosted by Tom McGurk and its panel included Labour Party TD, Michael McNamara; United Left Alliance TD, Clare Daly; Deirdre Duffy, of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; and Michael Clifford, of the Irish Examiner.
A short clip of Sir Nigel Rodley’s final comments at the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday was played during the show, specifically this comment:
“The Magdalene Laundries, the Mother and Baby Homes, the child abuse, the symphysiotomy – it’s quite a collection and it’s a collection that has carried on [for a] period that it’s hard to imagine any state party tolerating. And I guess I can’t prevent myself from observing that [they] are not disconnected from the institutional belief system that has predominated in the state party.”
The panel then discussed this comment.
Tom McGurk: “Is it the fault of the State? Is it the fault of society? Has it got historical roots? Is it just fair to blame the State as simple as he is doing there?”
Clare Daly: “I don’t think it was simple at all. I think he was quite clear, I think his contribution was very much a solid defence of human rights and I think it was a vindication of a huge number of campaigning Irish groups, particularly women’s groups in some ways, to feel what they’ve been saying, maybe crying in the wilderness for years, has actually been vindicated now because on the whole symphysiotomy issue which was the first time that group ended up in front of the UN. I mean the committee were clearly horrified at what had gone on. These women had been butchered in their prime. He made the point that the UN had serious concerns about the fact that the redress scheme, that the government has put in place, is not compatible with our human rights legislation which I think is a hugely important step, because these elderly ladies have been trying to make that point here. When somebody externally makes that point which supports them, it actually shores up what they’ve been saying in an important way.”
McGurk: “Sure, but did it not need context, to understand where all of this came from? I mean it’s a very complicated…”
Daly: “It’s not that complicated really.”
McGurk: “Well explain what the medical profession were doing and where that came from.”
Daly: “Well this is a very simple issue of gross medical negligence, which is a point that the Irish State seemed to have not taken on board because it was never medically acceptable in the period in which these were…”
McGurk: “But where did it come from Clare? Widespread practice…”
Daly: “It came from, I suppose the belief is, a Catholic ideology existing in some of the private hospitals which felt that if you were a woman of child-bearing years well then your Catholic duty was to procreate as much as possible. And if your body, if you like, didn’t allow you, because of your shape or whatever, Caesarian sections obviously limit the amount of pregnancies you could have. So they chose, instead, to carry out this butchery of literally, and you know, the testimony is horrific but carving people up with saws in some instances. Instead to facilitate them childbearing, but it led to a lifelong disability, incontinence, lack of interest in sex, and huge difficulties in all of the years. And the idea that that would not be acknowledged is wrong which it hasn’t been by the Irish State. It’s just appalling to these women and instead we have this shabby little redress scheme with a paltry amount of compensation and that the women have to forfeit all of their legal rights before they can even access it. It’s completely wrong. This is gross medical negligence and should be compensated as such.”
McGurk: “Michael, has it been accepted as wrong?”
Michael McNamara: “By the State?”
McNamara: “Well, I mean there is an ex-gratia compensation scheme but one of the issues with the State, I understand, is criticised for, and I didn’t see the entirety of the hearing, was the fact that there wasn’t a proper process of finding fault, in effect, and apportioning blame. But I suppose there has been a compensation scheme and I suppose, to many women, that will bring closure, but obviously the human rights committee…”
Daly: “The women have met, hundreds of them met last weekend, and it’s been unanimously rejected. I mean if you compare for example the Lourdes Hospital redress scheme where the women’s wombs were taken, there was €45million allocated to that scheme. The amount of payment was substantially more and it was deemed to be medical negligence and in this scheme the courts have awarded between €300,000 and €600,000 and yet this scheme is saying between €50,000 and €150,000 for permanent lifelong disabilities and pain, that’s no compensation. But I think what’s more affront for the women is that nowhere has the State recognised and this is what the UN validated today, if you like, that it was a violation of human rights and that it shouldn’t have happened, it was medically unwarranted, it should not have happened.”
McGurk: “Do you see Deirdre this as having considerable impact?”
Deirdre Duffy: “Yes, I do and I think…”
McGurk: “It’s different to something before, in many ways?”
Duffy: “Well, I think it can have as much impact as we want it to have, as a country, as a society, as a Cabinet, a Government that’s going to move on now. And Tom, you asked a series of questions about what happened back in the day, why did this occur, and that actually is what Sir Rodley was getting at. Michael [McNamara] used the term blame but actually the word that he [Rodley] used was accountability. So what he said was that even though this Government has put in place a redress scheme, they’ve allocated money, they’re focusing only on the pecuniary impact of this or the pecuniary redress. So what he’s saying is that you need to look further, you need to look at truth finding and accountability mechanisms because, you raised the questions yourself, it’s not clear to everyone within Ireland, why this happened..and how this happened.”
McGurk: “Yes, where did this come from?”
Duffy: “Now there have been reports, a number of independent reports from survivors and also State-sponsored reports which survivors claim were not independent and not thorough and would find numerous faults with. But I think what’s important for us right now is what Sir Rodley said around the collection of activities that I suppose produce a, or refer to our past, past abuses. So issues like the Magdalenes, the mother and baby homes, the symphysiotomy and the child abuse, these are relics of our past that we need to deal with and sweeping them under the carpet and allocating some form of monetary compensation to women – because it’s all women – is not going to be good enough. It does not meet the…”
McGurk: “So ideally, how should the State deal with this? Spell it out then?”
Duffy: “Well it should set up independent inquiries. It’s something that the ICCL, the Survivors of Symphysiotomy and other groups, Justice for Magdalenes, have been calling for for a number of years. We know we’re going to get an inquiry into the mother and baby homes, under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004, so why not have an inquiry into this collective, as Sir Rodley called it, series of abuses?”
Dr Julien Mercille, UCD lecturer and author of The Media and the Irish Economic Crisis: A Political Economy and Dr Mercille with journalist Margaret Ward, Mick Clifford, of the Irish Examiner, and journalist and author of The Frontman Bono (In The Name Of Power, Harry Browne, on last night’s Tonight With Vincent Browne, hosted by Tom McGurk
Dr Julien Mercille on Tonight With Vincent Browne last night discussed the subject of Ireland’s political correspondents.
In particular he took aim at the political editor of The Irish Times, Stephen Collins.
Tom McGurk: “Can we talk about the political correspondents? Those people who dwell on the…what do they call it, outside Leinster House?”
Mick Clifford: “The plinth.”
McGurk: “The plinth. The plinth dwellers, right. To what extent do they protect the politics of this country? To what extent are they part of the problem too?”
Clifford: “Well, in a small country, you’re going to have an atmosphere whereby there is a certain consensus, whatever. Within that context though, to be fair, I don’t think you can just label political correspondents as one. I think there is a diverse group within them. But it’s inevitable, it’s inevitable in any type of set-up where you’ve…”
McGurk: “But they’re your consensus journalists, aren’t they? They’re down the middle of the line, aren’t they?”
Julien Mercille: “There’s a lot of very good examples but let’s take like Stephen Collins, of The Irish Times. He wrote a piece a few weeks ago, saying that Enda Kenny was doing well for the country because Enda Kenny was happy, or was smiling or something like that. That makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, and that passes for…”
McGurk: “Well, he’s not here to defend himself…”
Clifford: “Aah, I don’t think that’s very fair to be honest.”
Mercille: “Well, that’s what he said. He said that he was doing well…”
Clifford: “I think now, to be fair, I’ve read his columns and whether you agree or disagree with them, there’s a certain analytical element to them.”
Mercille: “There are some good columns. I’m giving one example of a column. Another very good one was a piece about Christine Lagarde, IMF chief, saying how good she was at yoga and how good she was an negotiating with a scarf, with men and turning down the thermostat. That’s like, that’s not…”
McGurk: “But we complain consistently about the political classes so on and so forth but you rarely find any of the political journalists saying that, do you? They’ve got to survive in there, haven’t they?”
Harry Browne: “They’re effectively honorary members of the political class.”
McGurk: “And should they be in there for a long time? Or after two years shouldn’t they be taken out?”
Margaret Ward: “No, why aren’t they rotated? I mean, again, this would be normal journalistic practice.”
McGurk: “They go native if you leave them in there too long?”
Ward: “You would be rotated from a beat after two years. So, if you’re covering politics, after two years, you have to move on to something else, to something else. That keeps you from getting too close to your sources. The closer you get to your sources, the more reliable, the more reliant you are on them and therefore it becomes a little too cosy. And as you [McGurk] said, half these people all live in the same part of Dublin 4 or 6. Their kids go to school together, they play golf together, you know, they’re in the same restaurants..”
Browne: “Rotation is a great point because specialisation can be overrated, I think a really good journalist is someone who can pick up a subject and by the end of the day, or by the end of the week, or the end of the month, depending on the complexities of the subject, they’re expert enough to tell that story.”
McGurk: “This is a very depressing consensus we’re building: they’re all playing golf, they’re all going to the same schools and they’re all saying the same thing.”
Last night on TV3′s Tonight With Vincent Browne, Senator Eamon Coughlan, of Fine Gael – who is running in next week’s Dublin West by-election following the resignation of Patrick Nulty – regaled those present and those watching with a story about a constituent he met while out canvassing.
[From top: Irish Water logo and Eamon Ryan, of the Green Party, on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night]
In early 2011, a study on the setting up of Irish Water – carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers and McCann Fitzgerald – was to be delivered to the Department of the Environment by the following September, and that Bord na Móna had expressed an interest in taking on the role.
In April 2012, the tender for Irish Water was awarded to Bord Gáis. Environment minister Phil Hogan said ‘the outside assessors..had made the decision based on a long list of criteria’.
On last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3, former minister Eamon Ryan – who was joined on the panel by Harry McGee, political correspondent with the Irish Times; Joan Collins, TD from the United Left Alliance and Damien English, TD from Fine Gael – brought up the PWC report and claimed Fine Gael and Labour changed the report’s terms of reference without any public announcement.
Eamon Ryan: “You [to Damien English] said there that you looked at all the options, you didn’t. You came in to Government there was a PricewaterhouseCoopers study looking at various different ways you could do it without any public announcement, the terms of reference of that study was changed because, as I said, there was a deal done already be Fine Gael and Labour into how it would be done.
“It would be given to Bord Gáis, it would be done through the bond markets and so you came in with a fixed view as to how it was going to be done. You didn’t think through how are we going to deliver the meters before we go to the public and you lost the public confidence because of that approach and they don’t see any savings coming and that’s the problem, it’s not in my mind the principle that we have to try and cut back our wasteful use of water, and yes a charge is part of that, but you’ve lost the public because you don’t have the metering, you don’t have savings and you don’t have, and you didn’t even look at different options, how it might be delivered and that’s why it’s going wrong.“
Earlier in the show, Mr McGee summed up the immediate problems that Labour face due to the developing crisis facing Irish Water.
Harry McGee: “There are a couple, kind of issues that are pertinent, I mean, at the moment, it has been labelled as a charge but it’s looking suspiciously like a tax because the water metering programme has just started and they don’t have a snowball’s hope in hell of having 1.1million homes water metered within the next two and a half years, so people are going to have to be charged on the basis of an assessed charge and that’s innately unfair. And the second difficulty is that there is a wedge between Fine Gael and Labour in Government in relation to the charge. One of the things that’s coming back to haunt the Labour party is that famous Tesco ad, from before the election where they warned people of the prospect of Fine Gael in Government. And one of the things they warned about was that water charges would be €239 per annum. And, geronimo, what do we have but a Fine Gael proposal coming forward with €240 per annum. The difficulty, from a Labour perspective, with the Fine Gael proposal is that they want to make a few exceptions, they want most households in the country to pay an average of €240 while the Labour party want us to make as many exceptions as possible. There is a line in the commitment, in the Programme for Government that there be a generous water allowance and both parties have to find that very differently and it’s become critical for the Labour party, what the Tánaiste said today was quite telling. Fine Gael were saying that they would give us clarity in relation to the pricing structure within ten days and now we hear the Labour party’s saying ‘well, the most important thing is to get it right’. ”
Vincent Browne: “Enda Kenny made it absolutely clear….”
McGee: “And I guarantee they won’t get it right until after the 23rd [of May, when the local and European elections take place].
Vincent Browne: “Enda Kenny has made it absolutely clear, we will be told before the local and European elections what the system is, what the charges are going to be. He’s made that clear in the Dáil last week.”
McGee: “He did but Eamon Gilmore equally made it clear that might not necessarily might be the case. He said that Labour would not be beholden to a Fine Gael timetable.”