Tag Archives: Audrey Carville


From top: Dublin Airport; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

This morning.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, from RTÉ’s studio in Cork, spoke to Audrey Carville, possibly working from home, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

During the interview Mr Coveney warned people to “be careful with where you get your news from”.

They had this exchange:

Simon Coveney: “One of the challenges here for the public is, in some ways, there’s information overload. You know, if you look at yesterday evening alone, we had Regina Doherty outlining a refund scheme for employers effectively to try maintain consistency of income, as people move on to social welfare.

“We had me outlining, last night, how we’re going to get 20,000 people home from Spain who are on their holidays today before midnight on Thursday. We had Simon Harris outlining why, having spoken to vintners why we’re going to close 7,000 pubs from today with 50,000 people losing their jobs as a result of that, albeit hopefully on a temporary basis.

“So we are living through extraordinary times. And what I would say to people is: be careful with where you get your news from. Because unfortunately there are people spreading false rumours. The number of people who called me last night to ask whether the country was going to go into lockdown at 11am this morning because of rumours that were spread on social media deliberately, I might add, by people trying to cause panic.

“People need to think carefully about how and where they get information and advice in times like we are now living in.”

Audrey Carville: “Well, let’s inform them then, this morning. Because it is that uncertainty of what is to come which is so hard for many of us to deal with. What can you tell us this morning about any plans you have, at this point, to escalate restrictions?

Coveney: “Well, what I’ll say is that, you know, we will issue a very clear statement after the Cabinet sub-committee meeting today. If there are further decisions, on top of the decisions that have happened over the weekend, we will announce those. And we’ll do it, as I say, on the back of the advice of the chief medical officer and his public health team which is what we’ve done at every step of the, every stage of this process so far.

“But I don’t think you’re going to see any dramatic new decisions being made today. I think you’ll see a refining of existing decisions, trying to reassure and inform people who may be losing their jobs today, employers who are asking to help us with that.

“Again, to try to ensure consistency of income with a refund scheme that can allow employers essentially to continue to pay employees, even if they’re not coming to work for a period that can ensure that those employees continue to maintain a relationship with their employer and also to maintain income and ensure that both banks and the Government will ensure that, through a refund scheme and through increased flexibility and overdraft facilities that those kind of practical arrangements can happen.

“On the travel side, many people will have family in Spain on the Canary Islands or mainland Spain at the moment. We have an agreement with the Spanish government and with Aer Lingus and Ryanair, who have been fantastic over the last 24 hours, to continue a schedule of flights to get everybody who wants to come home home before late Thursday evening and I would encourage people to do that because the reality of what we’re seeing at the moment, in terms of aviation across the European Union, I don’t think there is any certainty beyond Thursday or Friday of this week, in terms of where planes will and won’t be flying, given the responses of individual countries right now.

“So, like with everything, we will try to keep the public as informed as we can and when there are actions the public needs to take, we will try to give clear instruction to help them make informed decisions.”

Carville: “And those people who you will attempt to bring home, hopefully everyone who wants to come home will get home before this Thursday night, what do they do when they get home? Do they have to self-isolate for 14 days?”

Coveney: “Yes, so when they come home to the airport, they will be met by health officials that will give them advice and what we’ve been saying is that for people coming from Italy or from Spain, where we have clear travel advice, in terms of saying non-essential travel, because of the pace of the spread of the virus in both of those countries, when people come home from those countries, they will be advised to restrict their movements and they’ll get very clear advice when they land in the airport.”

Carville:Is it still safe to travel to the UK?

Coveney:Yes, I think it is but I think people should be cautious about travelling at all, right now. But there’s no reason to believe that the risk of contracting the virus is any higher in the UK than it is in Ireland. That’s the public advice that we have and I do want to say that we are not planning to close our airports, we are not planning to shut down flights between Ireland and the UK. That is not in the plan, despite what some people may have read on social media, on the back of false rumours.”

Coveney: “Ok, very good to talk to you…”

Listen back in full here

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin in 2017; architect Orla Hegarty; Morning Ireland clip on Soundcloud

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in Housing Studies at Dublin Institute of Technology, and Orla Hegarty, architect and assistant professor at the school of architecture at University College Dublin, spoke to Audrey Carville about the housing crisis in Ireland.

It’s possibly the calmest conversation aired about housing so far in this election.

From their discussion:

Audrey Carville: “How do we get to a point where we’re building the number of houses that we need?”

Lorcan Sirr: “There’s a huge confusion, Audrey, about the number of houses that we need and the number of houses that the private sector, in particular, can supply.

“So when you listen to the experts, like the ESRI, they will tell you that you need something like 34,000 houses a year. And they’re absolutely right, when you look at the demographics of Ireland, and if houses were free, we could give out 34,000 houses tomorrow and they would all be taken up.

“The problem is the market, there isn’t a market there for 34,000 houses, by which I mean there aren’t enough people out there, mortgage-approved, who will buy 34,000 houses.

“Typically, in any year, only about half the houses that are built come on the market for sale. One quarter go for social housing, one quarter are one-off houses and the other half then come to the market.

“In 2018, we saw about 10,000 or 11,000 houses come to the market and last year we built about 21,000 houses, just over half of those will come to the market. Already, prices are slowing down which means there isn’t a market for 34,000 houses.

“So the problem, builders are obviously not going to build when there isn’t a market there and we see the rate of housing output slowing down every year from 2017 to 2019.

“So the difference between the 12, 13, 14,000 houses that the private sector can supply and the 34,000 houses that we need is the issue for Government and that’s probably where some sort of concept like public housing comes in.

“We didn’t have this issue before because we didn’t have macro-prudential rules that limited the amount of money effectively that people could buy. Now people are much more limited in what they can borrow. So therefore the amount of people out there available to buy is less. So that’s a huge issue…”

Carville: “Ok.”

Sirr: “…around the housing output.”

Carville: “And I do want to talk about the availability of land and those issues that are actually involved in getting houses built but Orla, to you, will increase in supply make houses affordable?”

Orla Hegarty: “It’s not possible to make housing more affordable by just increasing supply because there are capacity constraints in the construction industry and we would have heard that earlier in the programme in terms of skill and our boom/bust cycle actually exacerbates that because people with skills lose their skills or they leave and we don’t train apprentices.

“So we’re now in a situation where the industry is effectively at capacity but that capacity is all concentrating into the niche markets where there are high returns.

“So what we’re seeing is the median price of new housing in the country is up at €350,000 even though the target about four years ago was to have this sort of starter homes in Dublin at around €260,000 so the costs have gone out of control but that isn’t to do with the construction sector making more money or construction costs being out of line.

“That’s got to do with what’s going on in the land market and the amount of disruption  with all the changes in planning have been brought into it.

“I mean on the department’s own construction figures, for example, we can see that in Dublin, we could be providing housing under €250,000 for people. And that would give so many people some choice. It would give them control and it would mean they didn’t need subsidies.

“So that type of housing, whether it’s three-bedroom houses, or two-bedroom apartments would meet an enormous need in Dublin.

“Obviously some people will always need some subsidy on their housing but this has broader implications for, generally, for the economy. Because what’s happening in the new supply is it’s happening in three areas really.

“It’s high priced rentals that are owned by institutions in Dublin city. There’s very little else coming to market in Dublin city…”

Carville: “And rental security as well?”

Hegarty: “Security is important but the next wave of supply that we’re seeing at the moment is more commuter-belt housing which is contrary to all of our broader Government policy to do with climate change and transportation and engagement in the workforce.

“Students and people are commuting long distances. It’s a barrier to women staying in employment.

“It means more infrastructure has to be built, to get people to work. And all of that is a policy in housing that is pushing people out into the periphery and causing other problems in the economy.”

Carville: “Lorcan, some of the parties talk about the availability of public land for social housing and who will build it and they argue that the land is there, it’s owned by the State, it’s public land, the local authorities should use it to build and they can do it for much cheaper than the private developers who do it for profit.

“So what’s the obstacle to more of that happening and building houses, as Orla says, so people can buy for €250,000 which is still an awful lot of money.”

Sirr:In theory, Audrey, the State could build houses for X and sell them for X and the State doesn’t really need to be making profit and we have hundreds of thousands of acres of State land out there, available and ready to go, or ready to go with very little input.

There is an ideology, I think, on policy-making level against competing with the private market.

“And I think that’s a big one where the Government are afraid to start building houses at any scale because then you’re starting to compete with private sector and that would be an ideological barrier from the Government’s perspective.

“They have set up a thing called the Land Development Agency [launched by the Government in September 2018 with the promise of building 150,000 new homes by 2038] whose remit is to go and take land, public sector land and use it for lots of things, including housing.

“The problem there is that they, of course, want to involve the private sector, and do partnerships with the private sector and when you bring the private sector in, the profit motivation of the private sector is not compatible with providing housing that’s affordable for your average household.

“So between the ideology and the way they’ve set up this new Land Development Agency which, in theory, is good but, in execution, is not going to provide housing that is affordable for most people is going to be a problem.”

Carville: “Do you agree with that, Orla?”

Hegarty: “I think a lot of people would see the LDA as being a new venture that could provide affordable housing. In fact, they have no remit for affordability. The remit for the LDA is to return a profit in some ways in the way that Nama was so what that means is: in the short term, it may return a profit to the State from the land value. But all of that will be paid back, over time, by the people, the residents…”

Carville: “So from your point of view, what are the key areas that the next Government that takes office, later this year, will need to address urgently?”

Hegarty: “Well what we have in our favour is we have a lot of land compared to a lot of cities that have a housing crisis, we have a lot of land. We also have a lot of vacancy. A lot of money, up to a billion next year, this year, will be spent on rent subsidies into the private sector.

“By moving that into more efficient means, and that would mean using vacancy, using EU funding for energy upgrades and commercial vacancy – every town in Ireland has vacancy. That would start to free up some funding for seed capital.

“And the important thing with housing development is, it’s not like university building or a children’s hospital. You don’t need all of the funding. You need the money to start because housing is built incrementally.

“And if it is phased, the first billion can do a certain amount, that can roll over into the next phase. So it’s a strategic approach. A finance to procurement and a design that’s going to be important now.”

Listen back in full on Soundcloud above or here


From top: Ms Smith alighting a plane in Dublin yesterday; Lisa Smith giving an interview to Irish journalist Norma Costello last July: Ms Smith’s lawyer Darragh Mackin

This morning.

As 38-year-old former Defence Forces member Lisa Smith continues to be interviewed by gardai today following her return to Ireland from Turkey yesterday and her subsequent arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences…

Ms Smith’s solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law in Belfast, spoke to Audrey Carville on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier.

From their interview…

Audrey Carville: “You represent Lisa Smith. Are you satisfied so far how her arrest and her questioning has been handled by the gardai?”

Darragh Mackin: “It’s a very, very early stage in the investigation. However, at this stage, we are satisfied and Lisa has co-operated fully with the gardai like she co-operated with the Turkish authorities beforehand and the FBI before that.

“So we are satisfied that the investigation is progressing at a reasonable speed. We hope to bring matters to conclusion as quickly as possible.”

Carville: “Are you expecting a file to go to the DPP?”

Mackin: “At this stage, it is too early to tell. However, one thing is clear and has been clear from the various interviews that Lisa has given. Lisa has categorically denied involvement in any terrorist offence or terrorist organisation.

As many will be aware, or maybe unaware, for people to publicly remove or disassociate themselves from ISIS in itself, is unprecedented and unheard of, especially for someone who’s in a camp at that particular time.

“So we are of the view that the evidence of the State is inherently weak. And it does not point to terrorist offences and, as such, we believe that Lisa has a very, very strong case to make and is currently making that case.”

Carville: “But Islamic State is a terrorist organisation and she admitted to joining it, did she not?”

Mackin: “Unfortunately, it’s not as clear as that and as many people may not be aware, the process of radicalisation is inherently focused on religious beliefs.

“And unfortunately in this day and age, and has been the case for many year, that there are extremist organisations who target particular people, vulnerable people on religious beliefs, to try and move them to certain areas.

“By going to that area, that is not a terrorist offence. Going to a particular location is not a terrorist offence. You must be actively engaged in a terrorist organisation or a terrorist grouping.

Lisa has categorically denied being involved in any terrorist offence or a terrorist grouping. At this stage, there’s absolutely no evidence that she’s been involved in any terrorist organisation or terrorist grouping.

“And we must be clear: like the word Islamic State is not necessarily a direct link to ISIS. Of course there are all those connotations, however, the underlying and unfortunately deep political or religious background to the term Islamic State goes right back to people with particular beliefs as to what they believe to be a euphoria or a euphoric place.

“So the term Islamic State unfortunately and must be considered against that backdrop, it does not mean and it certainly, as is Lisa’s case and has been Lisa’s case from the first interview, that term does not mean that she was a member of ISIS.”

Carville: “Let’s hear her in her own words. Here she is talking to journalist Norma Costello who interviewed her for RTÉ News back in July. And during the course of that interview, she said very clearly, she had joined Islamic State but she also said very clearly that she did not fight for them.”

Plays clip from interview, in which Ms Smith said:

“I’m telling you myself. I didn’t fight.

“What did I do? I just joined the Islamic State and now I’ve become a monster? How? Like, you know? There’s many people… the British and the Irish fought for many, many, many years, you know? If someone from England moved to Ireland what would they say about them? You know? Or the opposite? From any country, you know what I mean like?

“How am I monster? I came here to Islamic State and I didn’t do anything.”

Carville: “‘I just joined Islamic State and now I’ve become a monster’. Those were the words of Lisa Smith back in July. Islamic State again a terror organisation, a prescribed organisation. So membership of it is illegal, surely?”

Mackin: “No unfortunately that isn’t strictly correct. This must be looked at against the actual…it is correct to say that the political connotations in this side of the world and particular what we understand Islamic State to be directly linked with Isis. That is correct.

“However, the words Islamic State go much deeper than that. There is much deeper. A particular religious belief and particular and though people of [inaudible] and particular persuasion of a study of Islam. People can believe that the Islamic State is a euphoric place in which they should strive to go to, right?

“And under certain teachings, as has been the case for Lisa, where you’ve become radicalised into believing that you are obliged to go to Islamic State. That is not in itself a terrorist perception. That is a very, very extreme view but it is not in itself a terrorist…”

Carville: “Does she no longer then pledge allegiance to the Caliphate and all that Islamic State aimed for in its ideologies?”

Mackin: “Well I think it’s clear from the interview that she gave, like I said, from the camp itself, that she does not pledge allegiance to the terrorist organisation Isis. Nowhere did she pledge her allegiance or become involved, that was her case publicly.

“And that public interview must be looked at in the context. That interview was given at a time when she was currently detained in a camp. In that camp it was well known, and has been well documented, that those women who spoke out, or in anyway disassociated themselves from the [inaudible] then of Isis, were subject to threats, to raping, to torture, etc.

“And the reality is that even that in itself is inherently unprecedented.”

Carville: “But there were also allegations Darragh Mackin, made by young women in Tunisia, that Lisa Smith helped to train them in the use of weapons. There were also suggestions, in general, that wives of Islamic State fighters, which Lisa Smith was, helped to procure other women for sexual assault and exploitation.

“Now did she engage in any of that?”

Mackin: “That’s hearsay in itself, because there has been not one witness statement, not one witness who has come forward and who has actually suggested that that took place, that that occurred. And therefore, until such times, and witnesses come forward, or witness statements are produced, it is merely that. They’re mere allegations of hearsay without any foundation or basis.

“And if you looked at the interview closely, when that is put to Lisa, her response is ‘bring those people to me and let them say it to me and I’ll say that never happened’. And those people aren’t produced. The position is that that is inherently unreliable.”

Carville: “We will leave it there for now. Thank you very much indeed. Darragh Mackin who represents Lisa Smith.”

Listen back in full here.

Yesterday: Here Comes The Bride

Pics: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews Irish News, RTÉ,


Anything good in The New York Times?

Only the long lens capture of Lisa Smith at Dublin Airport by Eamonn Farrell, of Rollingnews.

In fairness

From top: Fianna Fáil Leader  Michéal Martín (left) and Niall Collins TD; Mr Martín and Timmy Dooley TD; Lisa Chambers TD

This morning.

Fianna Fáil TD and the party’s Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers spoke to Audrey Carville on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about how she came to vote for the party’s deputy leader Dara Calleary last Thursday.

It followed the Irish Independent reporting on Saturday that Ms Chambers’ party colleague Timmy Dooley TD had voted six times last Thursday even though he wasn’t in the Dáil chamber.

Mr Dooley and Fianna Fáil Niall Collins, who voted for Mr Dooley, have been suspended from the front bench pending an investigation by the Ceann Comhairle.

Ms Carville began her interview with Ms Chambers after airing a clip from yesterday’s on RTÉ’s This Week during which Ms Chambers was asked if she ever voted for a colleague or had a colleague vote for her.

She replied: “No, I haven’t.”

From this morning’s interview…

Audrey Carville: “‘No, I havent’. So why did you say you hadn’t, when you had?”

Lisa Chambers: “Well, honestly, Audrey, I took that to be, ‘did you ever intentionally, knowingly, purposefully,  you know, go into the chamber to vote for somebody else and were ever asked to do so and the answer to that is ‘no’. And I’ve never asked somebody to do that for me either.

“What happened for me last Thursday was an honest, genuine mistake. All of the seats are side by side. We sit alphabetically. Myself and Dara Calleary’s seats are beside each other. The seats are identical, they’re not numbered.

“And when I walked in, the row was pretty empty so I mistakenly sat in Dara’s seat instead of my own, not realising. So when I voted on the very first vote, now there were lots of votes on Thursday, when I voted on the very first vote, I honest to God believed I was sitting in my seat and pressing my voting button.

“And when I looked up at the main screen where we can see the seats highlighted for voting, I realised my seat wasn’t highlighted. And that’s when I realised I was in the wrong seat with probably less than 10 seconds to go, I hopped into my own seat, beside it, and then cast my own vote which is what I should have done.

Now, my mistake, and I hold my hands up on this. I should have told the teller that there was an error recorded in the seat beside me. I didn’t do that. The reason I didn’t was that the vote was lost by  such a huge number that I genuinely thought it was insignificant and that it was a genuine mistake. There were lots of votes. Dara missed a few votes, I only voted in the very first one and then I moved my seat.

“There are absolutely no benefits or no good reason why I would have voted for anybody else. It didn’t make any difference to the vote, as I said now, I should have still corrected the error regardless. But there’s no reason you would do that. And I hope that people will take it as a genuine, honest mistake on the day.

“Others have done the same, my mistake was not telling the teller to correct the record.”

Carville: “But if it was a genuine mistake, why did…”

Chambers: “And it was…”

Carville: “Why did you also vote for yourself though?”

Chambers: “Well I should have voted for myself. That’s because I was in the chamber, I should have recorded my own votes, that was the correct thing to do. My mistake, and what I should have done, and I hold my hands up, I should have told one of the tellers that I had recorded an error vote in the seat beside me…”

Carville: “Yes, you should have done that. But you also should have, when you recorded the vote in Dara Calleary’s seat, surely then you knew, your vote was recorded, you didn’t need to vote for yourself as well.”

Chambers: “Well, no, your vote isn’t recorded because it’s assigned to the seat you’re supposed to be sitting in. So my seat was blank, as though I wasn’t voting. So, again, you’ve got 60 seconds to take a vote. Even if you look back at the Dáil footage, you’ll see, I cast what I thought was my own vote maybe about 15 seconds in, but in Dara’s seat. I realised I was in the wrong seat. There was maybe 10 seconds left and I went, popped into the seat next door, my own seat to cast my own vote...”

Carville: “Ok. So why didn’t you tell the vote tellers or the Ceann Comhairle?”

Chambers: “Look it, I should have and…”

Carville: “But why didn’t you?”

Chambers: “I looked up, the vote was lost by such a huge margin, it didn’t make any difference. I accept I should have done it, it was a genuine error. But there was no mal-intent. I didn’t purposefully, intentionally go in to vote for somebody else. Dara never asked me to do that, he was none the wiser. This was news to him, as well. It was an honest, genuine mistake and I’m hoping that by coming on and explaining, people will take it as that.

“I think people have come to know me the last number of years, I work hard, I do my best, I put my best into my work and I’m straight. You know this was an honest mistake. Others have done it but my error and I full accept, I should have told a teller on the day that I recorded an error vote in the seat beside me…”

Carville: “When you say ‘others have done it’, who are you talking about? Are you talking about other people, other than Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins?”

Chambers: “Well, people can record error votes by mistake. You might press ‘Tá’ instead of ‘Níl’ you could press the button on the wrong side of you by mistake but what I should have done is tell the teller so that it could have been cancelled out.”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: A Limerick A Day




Thanks Helen O’D

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed (top left and above) spoke to Audrey Carville about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

From their discussion…

Audrey Carville: “Who will check the contents of that tanker-load of milk as it prepares to cross the border on a daily basis?”

Michael Creed: “What is abundantly clear and has been from day one, Audrey, is that this government is not countenancing in any circumstances returning to a situation where we have hard border infrastructure. That…”

Carville: “So where will the border be? Will you check it in the factory?”

Creed: “That will not happen. There will not be hard border infrastructure. We have a solution to these issues in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK Government must be the focus now. It is not for us, who have engineered this solution, in negotiation with the British Government…”

Carville: “Minister, many people listening to you this morning might think you are treating us all as if we are stupid.”

Creed: “No, what I am clearly stating is this is a moment of high political drama and it is imperative that the Irish Government’s position is clearly understood in the context of a debate that is current and fluid in the UK parliament. We have a solution to these issues. We share the same position that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State shares in the context of there being no hard border under any circumstances.”

Carville: “So you are not prepared…Yes, but you’re not prepared to say, in the event of a no-deal, where the European Commission is absolutely clear – there has to be checks on live animals and animal products, where those checks will take place and who will do the checking?”

Creed: “We share the exact same position as articulated by president of the Commission when he articulated in the Dail chamber that there would be no hard border infrastructure sought by the European Union.”

Carville: “So where will the border be?”

Creed: “Well, the border issue is dealt with in the context of the backstop. We are not in a situation…”

Carville: “Not in a no-deal. Minister, please, with respect, all of us are invested in this, as is the most of the country is, understands that that is not the case. The Withdrawal Agreement does not deal with a no-deal Brexit – so I’m asking you in the event of a no-deal Brexit, who will do the checking on the animals and food products? And where will they be checked?”

Creed: “Well we have arrangements in the context of the central case scenario or a hard Brexit for border inspection posts on an east-west basis. In fact earlier this morning I was down in Dublin Port looking at our preparations in that context.”


Earlier: Splendid Isolation




From top: Audrey Carville; Eugene Cummins, chairman of the national sub-committee on housing of the Local Government Management Association and chief executive of Roscommon County Council

Further to the publication of Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness earlier this week, which included plans to provide 47,000 new social housing units between now and 2021, RTÉ’s Audrey Carville spoke to Eugene Cummins about the plans on Morning Ireland earlier.

Mr Cummins is the chairman of the national sub-committee on housing of the Local Government Management Association and chief executive of Roscommon County Council.

Ms Carville introduced her interview by posing the question: how many of these social housing units will be built by local authorities.

Audrey Carville:How many houses will local authorities build, under this plan?”

Eugene Cummins: “Well, over the life of the plan, the local authority social housing stock will increase by 47,000 units and we are confident that that figure will be achieved, if not exceeded.”

Carville:But how many houses will you build?”

Cummins: “Well, over the life of the plan – and in the first years of that – we will be focusing on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), acquisitions and the returning of units, void units into use. It will of course, the size of the scale of the investment, it will require the planning for estates, it will involve the private sector getting back into building so it’s going to take a few years, a few years, until we start actually building. But, over the next two years in particular, we will continue to acquire properties and to bring social housing by way of the Housing Assistance Payment.”

Carville: “So out of those 47,000 houses, how many will you build?

Cummins: “In terms of the 47,000 units,  some of those units, a considerable number of those units will actually be acquired from the private sector…”

Carville: “But how many will local authorities build over the next five years?

Cummins: “We will, we have to have regard to the market. We will be building where it is cheap to buy units, we will buy units from the private sector, but we will be building a considerable number over the next few years to make sure that, at the end of the plan, that whether we acquire them or build them, there will be an additional 47,000 units added to the social housing stock in this country.”

Carville: “But you don’t have a figure for how many you will build between now and 2021?

Cummins: “As I said, Audrey, we will be acquiring properties, we’ll be leasing properties and we will also be building considerable numbers of properties to increase…”

Carville: “But you’re not giving me actual figures. How many? That’s what has been absent. Simon Coveney, this week, said he believed that local authorities would build 26,000 houses in five years. Is that a realistic figure?

Cummins: “Yes, that is a realistic figure.”

Carville: “But you hadn’t mentioned it, so…”

Cummins: “What I have said..”

Carville: “Where does that fit in with local authority plans?”

Cummins: “What I’ve said is we will be increasing the social housing stock in this country by 47,000 units and we will be doing that by acquisitions and by building.”

Carville: “But I’m asking you, how many will you build? And you haven’t given me a number.”

Cummins:We will be increasing the social housing stock by 47,000 and that is all that matters.”

Carville: “No. The 47,000 is between, there’s no breakdown, we don’t know how much will be local authority housing, we don’t know how much will be private housing.”

Cummins: “But as long as the social housing stock is increased by 47,000 units, that’s all that matters and that’s what we will be doing. And we will be working with the private sector. Remember this is not just about the local authorities. There are many stakeholders, including the private sector, that are involved in providing solutions to this problem.”

Carville: “But people say it does matter how many local authorities are building because, when the private sector gets involved, it becomes a for-profit venture. And the targets and the figures rarely materialise.”

Cummins: “No, what I’m saying is that local authorities will build social houses but we will also buy social housing from the private sector. We will not be expecting the private sector to provide social housing per se; we will be acquiring them from…”

Carville: “How many?”

Cummins:47,000 units, in total, we will be increasing the social housing stock by. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, Audrey. We will be having a significant build programme and we will be acquiring properties and we will increase the social housing stock for people who are on our housing list by at least 47,000 units over the life of the plan.”

Carville: “Why aren’t you able to start sooner than two to three years? Alan Kelly’s plan was laid before the councils nearly two years ago – why aren’t you in a position to begin building sooner?”

Cummins: “Because, first of all, the solution to his problem requires a collaborative approach from all of the stakeholders, that will mean a huge increase in building output. And that can’t start overnight because there’s a plan in process, there’s a tendering process, there’s a procurement process…”

Carville: “But you have all those powers at the moment. You can give yourself those powers to give yourself planning permission to build. Why isn’t the process going to happen sooner?”

Cummins: “No, it’s important for your listeners to understand that there’s a process involved when a scheme of houses is planned. It has to go through the planning process, it has to go through a tendering process and all of that takes time.”

Carville: “But what have you been doing in the last nearly two years, since the previous plan by Alan Kelly? Which this one [plan] has built on?”

Cummins:Last year alone local authorities brought 13,000 units back into social housing stock.”

Carville: “But you only built around 70.”

Cummins: “That is correct because that’s all the money we had and the reason we got out of building houses in the past was because, in recent years, is because money hasn’t been provided and the minister – and indeed the Taoiseach – at their announcement on Tuesday, they’ve clearly allocated €5.35billion… We didn’t…we stopped building houses because the funding stream stopped. Now that the funding stream has been committed, we will start building again but that takes time.”

Carville:So are there any sites, so? There must be sites at this stage? That are shovel-ready? That are ready to begin building on?”

Cummins: “There are sites and, as we speak, houses are being built.”

Carville: “Where?”

Cummins: “In Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and in other areas around the country..”

Carville: “How many are being built there?”

Cummins:There are hundreds of houses being built but it’s not near enough. But, again, can I say we’re not just relying on building. When we exited the boom, there were tens of thousands of units vacant, there still are 200,000 units vacant in this country..”

Carville: “And you have the power to make compulsory purchase orders so how many of those homes, vacant homes, derelict homes, how many have you bought in the past year?”

Cummins: “Last year, we bought 1,000 units. We’ve bought over 2,100 units from Nama over the last couple of years; there are another 500 units in the process of being delivered through Nama and we’re also, as I said, we required 100 units.”

Carville: “How many more do you plan to buy through compulsory purchase orders?”

Cummins: “We don’t need to exercise our compulsory purchase powers to buy on the market. We are successfully buying properties every day…”

Carville: “But how many? Because there are 100,000 families on the social housing waiting list.”

Cummins: “There are actually more and that’s why this action plan is so important and that is why we and the Government, and indeed the minister, are committed to increasing the housing stock by 47,000 units and we will do that. But it requires all of the stakeholders to get together in a collaborative way and we are up to the challenge.”

Carville: “But how many…”

Cummins: “We did it before…”

Carville: “Yes, you did, absolutely. But we’re trying to establish how many properties you are going to buy through compulsory purchase orders or other measures over the next five years.”

Cummins: “As I’ve said, at the very start of the interview, by the end of the plan we will have increased the social housing stock by at least 47,000 units and we will do that by building, leasing, by bringing voids back into use and we are committed to doing that and we will do that.”

Carville: “But is that exclusively through your management, through the management of local authorities?”

Cummins: “As I said, it requires a collaborative approach from all of the stakeholders, not least of all the private sector…”

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From top: Rooftop checks during the visit of Queen Elizabeth; Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald

With Brussels in lockdown Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald spoke with a hawkish Audrey Carville on RTÉ Radio One at lunchtime today touching on terrorism and the capabilities of An Garda Síochána to deal with the same.

Grab a tay.

Audrey Carville: “Do you regard Ireland as being as vulnerable to attack as Paris?”

France Fitzgerald: “No, Ireland is not, at this point, from the information that we have, not as vulnerable. The alert levels are different. We have said all along that an attack, of course, is possible but not likely. And we do not have any information to suggest there is an attack planned here. But, of course, as a democracy and as a country whose values, all democratic countries’, really, their values are under attack from ISIS. But, you know, the level of threat in Belgium, for example, and in Brussels particularly, that is a serious, imminent threat. That’s what’s in place in Belgium. We obviously do not have have any information to suggest that we should be on that, we should be at that level of alert. That is to do obviously with the involvement of various people in Paris attacks, from Belgium and from the Brussels area, and other information that the Belgium authorities have consequently become informed of.”

Carville: “But have you changed the threat level here in Ireland since the Paris attacks? Or does it remain as it was before Friday the 13th?”

Fitzgerald: “Yes it does remain as it was. We have not changed it. There is no recommendation from An Garda Síochána, who are the security forces here, or from the National Security Committee, or indeed from any of the ministers involved that that needs to change at this point.”

Carville: “But does that not demonstrate a naivety at best because do you not accept that the threat has changed since Paris because IS have shown that they’re sophisticated and that they are able to launch attacks whenever and wherever.”

Fitzgerald: “What I would say is that if there was information available that would suggest that the threat level should be changed, of course it would be but we do have to be very sensitive obviously to the international situation. But equally we have to make our own national analysis of the level of threat which would be based on a broad assessment and, clearly, that assessment right now is saying that obviously we have to be extremely alert and vigilant and conscious of the current situation on the international situation. The situation in Ireland, there is no specific information that exists, at present, that suggests we need to change the threat level. But let me say, if that information became available, clearly we would do that. But the international situation does of course make us all far more conscious of the issues. From the moment this attack started in Paris, the co-ordinating committee in An Garda Síochána, who are responsible, the strategic committee who are responsible for security issues, were meeting overnight, were getting all of the information, were being given information and were giving information and if there was any question of you know [inaudible], clearly then that would have informed the ongoing assessment. And we continue by the way, it is a fluid situation…”

Carville: “Of course.”

Fitzgerald: “This is an ongoing assessment…”

Carville: “Are we not though, here in Ireland, Europe’s weakest link when it comes to security and intelligence? If you look, for example, at the UK. They have MI5, MI6, GCHQ, Border Forces, transport police, the Metropolitan Police. We have the gardaí. That’s it. Who are very under resourced and have been cut back to the bone.”

Fitzgerald: “I think that’s a very bleak assessment of the situation and it ignores the fact that for 40 years the Garda Síochána here and the security forces were dealing from both a policing and security point of view. We’ve a terrorist situation in Ireland where we had all of the elements of terrorism being displayed both north and south…”

Carville: “But the nature of the threat is fundamentally different.”

Fitzgerald: “Actually I don’t agree. Terrorism is terrorism. The goal is to kill people, to disrupt democracy, what is different is the nature of the suicide, that they are prepared to kill themselves in the course of the attack.”

Carville: “So how many of our police force, in terms of security and intelligence, how many of them can speak Arabic?

Fitzgerald: “Well that’s clearly an area that would not be a huge resource but there is resource available…”

Carville: “But how many of them can speak Arabic?”

Fitzgerald: “I don’t have the number… Well, the point is…”

Carville: “Is it less than five?”

Fitzgerald: “I don’t have the number, Audrey, as I said. That’s an operational matter for An Garda Síochána…”

Carville: “Shouldn’t you know that though? As minister for justice?”

Fitzgerald: “I beg your pardon?”

Carville: “Shouldn’t you know that, as minister for justice?”

Fitzgerald: “What I need to know and I’ve been in discussions with An Garda Síochána. These are operational matters that the gardaí are obviously alert to, I’ve heard discussions in meetings in relation to the various language skills that are needed, and are being used and what I want to say is that we do have a police force here who are extremely conscious and they had to deal with terrorism over a long period…”

Carville: “But have they been trained… Could I just ask you… we’re limited in time but I just want to know about their level of training. Have they been trained, for example, in having to deal with someone wearing a suicide vest?”

Fitzgerald: “Of course, the gardaí are training, have been trained in and have been involved in very sophisticated training in relation to all of these issues with both international, internationally and here in Ireland with the Defence Forces. They’ve been involved in quite a number of exercises.”

Carville: “These are gardaí who would be first on the scene of any terror attack. They have received training in dealing with people wearing suicide vests or brandishing kalishnikov rifles? Because it’s our understanding that they’ve received no training in the last three years, detectives and Special Branch.”

Fitzgerald: “Well, what An Garda Síochána have told me is that they have been involved in the appropriate training exercises in recent times, that they have been involved with police forces from other countries and have done quite a number of training exercises. Of course what one has to be conscious of, is that we, you mentioned MI5 or the CIA, we’ve had a different situation here. We do not have organisations obviously of the scale and scope of those but we have an organisation proportionate to our country and proportionate to the situations we have faced in the past and which we now face. But I would say, again, that the situation obviously, we have to be remain very alert to it. It’s a fluid situation and it has to be an ongoing assessment by all of us here, in relation to the security threat and how we need to build resources and resilience to this terrifying possibility.”

Carville: “Have you, for example, as Justice Minister, along with the Defence Minister and the Taoiseach, have you sat down and gone through what decisions you would make if one of our major theatres or buildings had a hostage-type situation?

Fitzgerald: “Well, obviously what we have is a national security committee that has been discussing all of these issues…”

Carville: “Have you attended that meeting, minister?”

Fitzgerald: “That is an official meeting, the meetings I attend are the relevant meetings in relation to discussing these issues with ministers and of course, yes, we have been having those meetings recently.”

Carville: “But I understand the national security committee, which meets to discuss these issues, politicians don’t attend it, and it met after the Paris attacks and you weren’t there. Is that correct?

Fitzgerald: “Ministers don’t attend those meetings…”

Carville: Why not?

Fitzgerald:Because we have our own meetings. We have our own separate meetings. And can I say to you Audrey that, because security, the very nature of security, is that you don’t speak publicly about every single element of what you’re discussing and how you would deal with varying situations. But, of course, as ministers and the Taoiseach, in particularly, was very concerned to ensure that the various resources and possibilities for reaction, if needed and hopefully they won’t be, were in place and all of that is being continually assessed and monitored. And just this week, for example after the meeting in Brussels, I announced that we would be joining the Schengen Information System and that is something that we… the UK joined in April of this year. That’s to exchange real-time information with other police forces across Europe…”

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