Tag Archives: Anne Rabbitte

Minister Anne Rabbitte (right) paid out just over €6,000 from a ‘special allowance’ to Stefanie Preissner writer of RTÉ comedy drama Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope  (left)

This morning.

“I hired Stefanie as everyone knows she’s a great communicator and I knew it was crucial to develop these skills for myself in my new role as Minister for Disabilities.

“I knew this was work she has done in the past and I think it’s helped me become a better communicator.

“I also think it has helped to ensure my constituents and people in the disability community are kept informed of what I’m doing.”

Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth with responsibility for Disability.

Revealed: Family members among TDs and senators’ €674k spend on ‘special allowance’ (Independent.ie)


Ah now.


This afternoon.

Dáil at The Convention Centre, Dublin.

Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Anne Rabbitte read into the record questions that she asked of her department last Thursday evening before the RTÉ Investigates programme on secret dossiers being held on autistic children and their families was broadcast.

Ms Rabbitte said there are 270 ‘dormant cases’ and currently 48 families whose cases are ‘open’. A liaison officer is going to be put in contact with those people to make them aware now that they are “impacted”, she said.

A Department of Health report conducted by a senior counsel said nothing illegal was done in compiling the information.

Ms Rabbitte added:

“I don’t know how far back it goes…Was consent from all families not sought? Why was consent from all families not sought? Perhaps that’s what the review will show.”

Why was the minister – and when I talk about the minister, I refer to myself – why was the minister not told last year that there was an issue that was being investigated by a Senior Counsel?”




Ms Rabbitte’s closing remarks in full:

“As I said earlier, I want to apologise to the families who watched the “RTÉ Investigates” programme last week for any upset that was caused, and for any questions I could not answer today. It is my ambition to get those answers and to put them into the public domain because I believe that is how we will build trust and ensure there is transparency. I will start there.

“I thank the Deputies who made contributions to the debate today. I agree that upholding the rights of the must vulnerable members of society is of the utmost importance and I am conscious of the upset that recent allegations have caused for the parents and families concerned. I firmly believe that the whistleblower has an important role in raising matters of public concern and I acknowledge the actions of many brave people in coming forward to raise their concerns.

“I stress that serious allegations have been make against the Department and a review is under way, directed by the Secretary General, which will provide the factual detail related to these matters.

“It is important, however, to emphasise that allegations of a similar nature have already been examined by the independent senior counsel, which advice I am looking to publish and be made available to all. That was the case before the revelations on RTÉ radio this morning. In the future, consideration will need to be given across all parties as to how the transparency of the whole litigation process can be improved.

I wish to read into the record the questions that I asked my Department last Thursday evening before I watched the programme. It is important to put this in context.

“I asked how many open cases there are and how many families have been impacted and will need to be contacted. The answer I have is that there are four dozen open cases. That is to differentiate between open and dormant cases. I have been told that a support liaison person will be put in contact with those families to let them know they have been impacted.

I also asked how many closed cases there are and how many families have been impacted and will need to be contacted. I have been told that, in total, there are approximately 270 cases.

I do not know how far back it goes. I asked was consent sought from all families and if it was not, why that was the case. Perhaps a review will show that consent was not sought.

“I also asked why did this particular practice of case tracking and file management start and when it started. I asked whether the Minister can be provided with a copy of the initial legal advice showing this is an acceptable management of litigation. When I asked these questions, I did not have sight of the senior counsel report that was published last November.

I also asked was other legal advice about this practice sought from other senior counsel, data protection specialists or the Office of the Attorney General over the years and, if so, what was the content of the advice. That is important. I asked how regularly the Department sought updates on these cases from the local HSE community healthcare organisations, CHOs, and who sanctioned them on each occasion.

“I asked how much of the material received came from the litigants for the child or family. That is important in terms of who presented it. I also asked was the material assessed by anyone in particular once received by the Department.

I asked why the Minister was not told last year that this was an issue that was being investigated by a senior counsel. When I talk about the Minister, I refer to myself. I also asked when the senior counsel was hired. We all know now it was this time last year.

“I further asked when the senior counsel’s report was received by the Department. I now know it was received in November 2019. I asked why the Minister was not informed that this report had been received, or the findings in it. When I asked that question, I still did not have the report and I did not receive it until Saturday.

I asked who approved the terms of reference for the SC. I also asked who approved funding for the work and how much did it cost. It cost €10,000. I further asked if I could be provided with a copy of the report of the senior counsel and I am now in receipt of it.

“I asked how many people had access to the information over the years. That is what is being sought as we speak.

“I asked how many people and who currently has access to the spreadsheet. It is my understanding – it is important for Members to know as well – that the file was not held within the disability section, it was held in the social care section. Social care also includes mental health and older persons.

“I asked what is the plan for the spreadsheet referenced going forward and if it is still being used. Yes, is the answer: it is still being used.

I asked if other concerns about this file management had been raised over the years. I am awaiting a response to that. I also asked if there are other similar file or case management protocols in place elsewhere in the Department. That was my last question up to the meeting with the Secretary General last Friday.

Before I came into the House today, I was expecting a briefing, but proceedings ran ahead. Some of the script that I read out is from the Department but a lot of the information I presented this afternoon is my own. I hope it tackles some of the issues.

“I agree with what was stated: this will be a test for us because there is a test of ethical and cultural change, a shift in mindset and transparency and in trust and engagement. That is where we need to get to. It must be a rights-based approach. It is unfortunate that legal cases continue to happen but we need to know the process.

“What is important is trust, transparency and the person at the centre. If my team and I manage to get to that space of understanding, sharing the information and ensuring a rights-based approach, it will ensure there is solid ground going forward. However, first I must sort out what the practice is and share it with Members in an open, transparent way to build the trust of the parents. The parents and the children must be at the centre of today’s debate.

“I say to anybody who watched the programme last week that the Government believes in being supportive of young people and their rights to education and health. We must ensure that we put them first, front and centre.

“We care 150% about them, but at this moment in time there are questions. There are doubts and there is a shadow, but we are going to clear that. When we clear it and I stand here and emphatically tell Members the process that happened, we then want them to continue to trust and believe in us, their physicians and in the process, because it is there to protect. That is what it was always about.

“When the Taoiseach stood here yesterday on the floor of the Dáil, he wholeheartedly spoke about the fact that he introduced special needs education and that it had not existed in the past. That just shows the low base we have come from. One has to wonder how high within the Departments we have risen, but we will question it and challenge it. I will push it and get the answers to ensure that trust and transparency are returned to the people who need it most, the most vulnerable in society.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

From top: Tuam; Fianna Fáil TD and spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte; yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

From the party that gave you the indemnity deal

Journalist Michael Brennan, in yestersay’s Sunday Business Post reported that Fianna Fáil had called on the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to stop her plans to excavate the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Mr Brennan reported:

Fianna Fáil children’s spokeswoman Anne Rabbitte said the estimated €13 million cost of excavating the Tuam site could not be justified when the money could be spent helping the children of today.

“There has to be a dose of reality and realism in all of this. Children living in hubs feel like they are prisoners. We will go down in history as the politicians that failed the children of the 21st century,” she said.

…“It’ll never be finished in her lifetime because no cabinet will approve a carte blanche cheque for an excavation if we don’t know where it will end. It’s a wilful waste of public money that could be spent on the children of today,” she said.

Rabbitte questioned if Zappone wanted to dig up every ‘cillín’ in the country (cilliní are traditional burial grounds for children who were stillborn or died before being baptised). She said that a better solution would be to agree a way of reverently remembering the children through commemorative plaques or gardens of remembrance.

Good times.


Yesterday, outside the office of Terry Prone’s Communications Clinic…

FF wants €13m Tuam cash diverted to homeless children (Sunday Business Post)

Previously: Death In Tuam

Reputable History

Our Worst Fears


This morning.

On Galway Bay FM show Galway Talks With Keith Finnegan, Ms Rabbitte and historian Catherine Corless spoke about the matter.

Ms Corless asked Ms Rabbitte directly to explain her “bare turn around on her views on Tuam” as the TD previously said she was supporting excavation.

Ms Corless added that Ms Rabbitte had upset many survivors by saying excavating the site at Tuam would be a waste of money.

Ms Rabbitte told the show:

“I suppose where Anne Rabbitte is coming from, and what I’d like to say Catherine is, I’m looking for a timeframe, you can’t blame me for that.

This can’t go on forever and interim report after interim report. It’s not fair on the survivors, it’s not fair on the good work that you and all your people have done.”

Mr Finnegan asked Ms Rabbitte:

“But did you use the words, money was squandered in the Tuam mother and baby situation?”

Ms Rabbitte said:

“A paper never refused ink and that is not what I said. I never, it would not come out of my mouth.” 

Ms Corless asked if Ms Rabbitte was misquoted, to which Ms Rabbitte said:

I never said there was money squandered on the Tuam… and baby home. What I’m saying is we need to have accountability…”

Listen back in full here

 Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte is giving away tickets to see the Pope for Facebook ‘likes’

Yesterday evening.

Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte posted a competition for tickets to see Pope Francis on her Facebook page.

Seamus writes:

Three things: Firstly, the tickets aren’t transferable. I checked, it’s in the terms and conditions. They probably won’t check, but all tickets have the name of the person who ordered them, and if you’re not that person or with that person you might not be allowed in.

Secondly, I’m not religious and I have mixed respect for the trappings of religiosity, but running a like and share competition for pope tickets seems more than a little disrespectful, even ignoring that ‘like & share’ competitions are the work of the devil, a person the pope is against.

The Pope’s the corner forward on the Against Satan team, ready to don the number 10 jersey if Jesus breaks an ankle or starts bleeding vinegar from his side.

You’re doing Satan’s work here, deputy – you should hang your head in shame and wear the customary sackcloth as a penance.

Thirdly, there were a lot of complaints from people objecting to people block-booking tickets with no intention to use them. Well, here’s a Fianna Fail TD who decided that booking a few extra tickets to drive people to her Facebook page was a reasonable thing to do.

This sort of “give me something and I might give you something in return” horsepoo is part of the reason Martin Luther started the Reformation. It’s also part of the reason why he was right.


Anne Rabbitte (Facebook)


From top: The 2015 launch of the Labour of Love campaign, an initiative of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and MRCI’s Domestic Workers Action Group calling for the protection of au pairs’ employment rights in Ireland’ Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte; Ruth Coppinger with her daughter Sarah at the Dublin West coun centre during the last General Election.

This morning.

On Newstalk Breakfast, presenter Shane Coleman spoke to Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger – in light of Ms Rabbitte’s proposed bill concerning au pairs.

The proposed bill comes after the Workplace Relations Commission, in March of this year, awarded €9,229 to a Spanish woman who was paid €100 a week, plus board, for between 30 and 60 hours of work per week, during her employment with an Irish family between August 2014 and January 2015.

The woman claimed she had been exploited by the family.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland hailed the decision as a landmark ruling.

From their discussion…

Shane Coleman: “The legislation that is bring brought forward by Fianna Fáil, aiming to offer more protection to au pairs. It would see au pairs on cultural exchanges in Ireland, limited ot 30 hours of work a week. They’d get free lodging and pocket money. It’s being debated in the Dáil at the moment. We’re joined on the line by, or we’re join in the studio by Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, spokesperson for children and youth affairs, and also on the line by Ruth Coppinger, TD for Dublin West, for the Anti-Austerity Alliance. Anne Rabbitte if I could just start with you first. What exactly are you proposing and how will it protect au pairs?”

Anne Rabbitte: “Well the bill that I have brought before the Chamber is to bring about legal clarity because at this present moment in Ireland we don’t have a definition for au pairs and this all stems from the fact that the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] ruling in March 2016 where an au pair payment was paid, where a case was brought before it where in actual fact an au pair said she had worked X number of hours and she needed, the WRC claimed that an au pair was actually classified as a worker. And, in actual fact, it has actually put 20,000 families at risk. So, this is where it all stems from.”

Coleman: “OK. So, you’re proposing a certain number of hours per week, a certain kind of time off, free lodging and a bit of pocket money?”

Rabbitte: “All right. Exactly the nature of the bill. One was to bring clarity in definition, secondly was to bring actually, it’s a cultural education exchange and in lieu of that then it was for a maximum 30 hours a week and it was also to help out with light chores and to help out with the children, that was it. It’s a traditional thing that has gone on here for a long number of years. In actual fact, this has been going on the last 40 years and has never been legislated for. And in actual fact it probably wouldn’t have been legislated for only for what has happened in March 2016.”

Coleman: “OK, let’s bring in Ruth Coppinger. Ruth, that sounds like a sensible measure or do you disagree?”

Ruth Coppinger: “The bill is totally regressive, would take away much fought for workers’ rights which is what it was attempting to do, which was to revert the ruling that au pairs, they’re not au pairs. Let’s dispense with this idea that au pairs exist in the traditional context. Most so-called au pairs are childcare workers, they’re women, over 30, many of them are mothers themselves, trying to, very well-educated and really don’t need the cultural or educational exchange. This bill is an attempt to give a cover to potential exploitation of these workers in people’s homes, giving a cover of cultural exchange. It was roundly rejected by every single party in the Dáil. And I’m really mystified as to how it even reached the Dáil floor. Because if 20,000 families are relying on so-called au pairs. Well then it actually just contradicts the claim that these people are there for cultural exchange. What these 20,000 families are relying on is childcare workers. And what it points up: is that we need proper subsidised, affordable childcare in this country.”

Coleman: “OK. All right.”

Coppinger: “We do not need to exploit people as the Migrant Rights Centre said…”

Coleman: “OK. I want to bring Anne Rabbitte back in there. Anne…”

Rabbitte: “Actually Ruth clearly does not understand where I’m coming from. In actual fact, where I’m coming from, is 20,000 families who in actual fact provide the opportunity for a cultural exchange. I am not looking at targeting or going against the migrants’ rights or I’m not going against anything that the 30s or 40s age bracket. What I’m looking at is people who want to come on a gap year, on a cultural educational exchange to Ireland, we have done it in Ireland for a long number of years. We actually send our children abroad doing it. So, in actual fact, it’s to facilitate this whereas families can embrace children, bring them in, give them protection. In actual fact, what this bill is about, is about protection. Protection for the au pair, protection for the host family and it’s improving going through targeted agencies. Because, at this moment in time, people are actually booking au pairs, so-called au pairs, off websites. What I want to do is regularise it completely so we are providing the cultural, educational exchange. ”

Coleman: “OK. Ruth Coppinger. If there’s credited agencies there dealing with this, well then you won’t have women over 30, who have children, coming here and getting paid peanuts.”

Coppinger: “But that’s not the reality. What she’s talking about is a fiction. The reality is this. First of all, in her bill, in her own bill, she talks about 30 hours work, which is practically a full-time job, for pocket money. The words ‘help’ are used. I find this incredibly sexist, that any labour that women provide is help and it’s devalued and shouldn’t be properly compensated, it should be. The idea of… it’s peddling a dangerous myth that au pairs are mainly students on a gap year, having a bit of craic, learning English from their host family. The evidence is otherwise. That picture is gone, it’s gone out the window with The Sound of Music or whatever else. The reality now is au pairs are not au pairs. They’re actually older women, most of them are from Brazil, 98% of them are over 30, and let’s stop insulting these workers, many of them are being exploited…”

Coleman: “Just before I bring Anne back in, just, my point to you, at the start of that question was, if you have a credited agency, doesn’t that get over that issue of people being brought in from, who are over 30, then would be actually students who are genuinely on a gap year.”

Coppinger: “No because those agencies have been shown to be largely bogus. What we would be overturning here, by the way with this bill, would be a practice that’s now being acknowledged by the Department of Labour or by the Department of Children, that these are workers and that they’re entitled to at least the minimum wage. And what I’d say is this: if there are families who really want to participate in this is pay the person at least the minimum wage. And, in fact, I think there should be paying them a lot more. I wouldn’t pay a babysitter to mind my child and pay them less than the minimum wage. So what’s the problem here? And I think what we’re seeing is, like Fianna Fáil, it’s a bit rich, they cut public sector pay, they’re telling us that …”

Coleman: “Just stick with the issue, just stick with the issue…”

Coppinger: “No, it’s extremely relevant because last…”

Coleman: “It’s not actually…”

Coppinger: “They were saying..it is. Because in the debate last night, which I participated in, another TD from Fianna Fáil said there was public sector workers who were reliant now on au pairs. The reason they’re reliant on au pairs is that they’ve had their pay cut and there’s no affordable childcare.

Coleman: “Let Anne Rabbitte come back in..”

Rabbitte: “Well actually last night, in the Dáil, Bríd Smith, Maureen O’Sullivan, Fiona O’Loughlin, all had a fabulous experience, believe it or not, as being au pairs themselves…”

Coleman: “OK [to Coppinger], just let her [Rabbitte] answer the question, then you can come back in…”

Rabbitte: “In actual fact there was members right across the Dáil last night who actually understand the essence of my bill and exactly where I was coming from.”

Coleman: “Sorry, but doesn’t Ruth Coppinger make a good point? You pay your babysitter €8/€9/€10 an hour, roughly around the minimum wage…”

Rabbitte: “Absolutely.”

Coleman: “Shouldn’t it be the same for au pairs?”

Rabbitte: “Well, I think what we need to…as the debate unfolded last night, something became very clear from it and it was from Minister Breen. What in actual fact is board and lodgings is allowed for au pairs and, at this moment in time, it actually has a rating of only €54. And Deputy Butler said last night, she said in actual fact she’s after putting the kids through college and she certainly couldn’t put them through for €54, board and lodgings, for a week. So what Minister Breen said was, that needs to be looked at. The allowance for board and lodgings, if that was increased up, to the market rate. Drumcondra, at this moment in time, is €180 to stay for a week if you went into board and lodgings so if you were to do it, on that basis, absolutely, then we could regularise the au pair market and that actually would bring it inside then, you could actually have the pocket money, as I call it, because I was trying to keep within the labour terminology completely, to keep it in what it was. So in actual fact, you’d work out at the €10 an hour, for the 30 hours in the week.”

Coleman: “Ruth Coppinger, if it could be guaranteed that it was genuinely the case that it was students, people under the age of 23 or 24, who were coming here for a short fixed period of time, as part of a gap year, would you be amenable to that? Would you be happy with that?”

Coppinger: The difficulty is that this is now being used it would seem by increasingly by people because they can’t actually access affordable childcare. But it’s also allowing people exploit. We need to recognise these people as workers. As I said, you wouldn’t hire a babysitter for €5…”

Coleman: “I know, you made that point but the question I asked you…”

Talk over each other

Coppinger: “But Anne is using the word ‘pocket money’. Anyone over 16, who goes out to work, is a worker. And it’s an employee-employer relationship. I don’t see what the problem is if people are paying their taxes and it’s all above board. I’ve no problem with any cultural exchanges, but let’s be honest about what’s going on here. There’s real expatiation, there were two so-called au pairs in the public gallery [of the Dáil] last night. One of them works 35 hours a week, she gets no food from the family at the weekend, and gets €110 [a week] and often you’re talking about bed and board there, there’s actually an invasion of a lot of these workers’ privacy. We’ve had, you know, people being admonished for talking on the phone in their room to their boyfriends and Skype. You know, there is a real dangerous situation here where you’re in somebody’s house and you’re open to being exploited.”

Coleman: “OK, Anne Rabbitte.”

Rabbitte:My fear is that if this bill doesn’t go through or we don’t get support, or we don’t get it to a committee stage, then in actual fact, we’re going to drive it right into the black market. That’s…”

Coppinger: “Why do people say that?”

Rabbitte: “That’s what I’m seeing it going. Because there’s 20,000 families. In actual fact, are we saying the 20,000 families there, who use au pairs, should be criminalised? That’s what we’re actually saying?

Coppinger:No, we’re saying they should just pay the minimum wage, at least. But actually these women are doing…Let’s dispense with the light housework. Anyone who has ever minded a child, anyone who has ever done laundry or housework, it’s not, it’s heavy work. It’s physically exerting and it’s mentally…”

Rabbitte: “Well, Ruth, I should know all about it. I’m a mother myself.”

Coppinger: “Yeah, so am I, Anne…”

Rabbitte: “And in actual fact, that’s exactly where I’m coming from with this bill to be quite fair with myself Ruth. That in actual fact, I didn’t set out to have a go at the migrants’ rights. I didn’t have set out, in actual fact, to undo the work of the WRC. What I set out to do with this bill was, in actual fact, was to protect the 20,000 families who actually feel like criminals at this moment in time. Who are facing into September and, in actual fact, yes, they want to create a work-life balance, that’s where that bill comes from, Ruth.”

Listen back in full here.

Au pair bill ‘would create migrant underclass’ (The Times of Ireland, Liz Farsaci)

Pic: Orla Kennedy