Tag Archives: Catherine Murphy

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan

Further to the incident in Longford last night.

Last month, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan:

‘What  the level of firearm training provided to armed Garda personnel in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; the number of gardaí by grade or rank with firearms training; the type of weapon they are trained to carry and or use; the company engaged to provide training; the cost of training on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.’

In a written reply, Mr Flanagan said:

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including by arranging for the training of its members and civilian staff and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

Training is provided by Firearms Instructors attached to the Garda College and the Emergency Response Unit under the control of the Director of Training, Garda College.

Following a recent audit conducted at the Garda College figures show there are approximately 2700 personnel that are currently authorised to carry firearms.

This can increase to approx. 3500 depending on operational requirements. This caters for all ranks of Gardaí who carry firearms.

Members attached to regular units and Detective units are trained in handguns only, namely Smith & Wesson revolver, Sig Sauer & Walther semi-automatic pistol.

Specialist Units such as Emergency Response Unit and the Armed Support Unit are trained in Sig Pistol, H&K MP7 Sub-machine gun, Taser and 40mm direct impact munitions (Less Lethal options).

For the Deputy’s information listed below are figures for attendance at firearms training in each of the years 2016, 2017 and to 31st August 2018.

2016 – 7851
2017 – 10555
2018 – 6891 as of 31st August 2018

The increase in 2017 is as a result of the increase in ASU (Armed Support Unit). Each member attends more than one training course each year.

Earlier: Meanwhile, In Longford

Rollingnews

This afternoon.

Legislation to remove excessive charges and restrictions on gift vouchers will not be passed in time for Christmas.

Last year, the Social Democrats launched the Consumer Rights (Gift Vouchers) Bill – to end the rip-off associated (unreasonable charges and expiry rules) with gift vouchers and cards.

The cabinet approved six months ago toa minimum five-year expiry date on gift vouchers.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherime Murphy said:

“The government has been promising since 2015 to increase protections for consumers. But there’s still no sign of the legislation to stop companies from charging maintenance fees on gift cards or selling vouchers with expiry limits of less than five years.

It’s inexcusable that another Christmas season will come and go before consumers get the protections they deserve. The Social Democrats are keen to see action in this area.

“[our] Bill would have ensured gift vouchers are valid for at least five years, would ban charges for issuing gift vouchers and would ban the practice of applying charges to unused or inactive balances. It would also ban any charging for the repayment of credit balances on gift vouchers.”

Minister’s plans for gift-voucher expiry charge falters (Irish Times)

Previously: Don’t Look A Gift Voucher In The Mouth

Pic: Shutterstock

From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: Irish Prison Service logo

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan yesterday announced that he had asked the Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, to conduct a preliminary investigation into claims reported in the Irish Examiner by Michael Clifford.

Mr Clifford reported that a serving prison officer has made certain claims in a sworn affidavit to the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan about methods used to stem the suspected flow of drugs and mobile phones into prisons – by prisoners and prison officers.

The man reportedly made the affidavit as he has “no confidence in the operation of the Protected Disclosure Act in either the prison service or the Department of Justice”.

News of the affidavit comes after it was reported in September that Michael Donnellan, head of the Irish Prison Service since December 2011, is to step down at the end of this month – despite being reappointed to the job in January for a second five-year term.

In yesterday’s report, Mr Clifford explained that the prison officer’s affidavit includes the claim that a private detective agency was hired to carry out a bugging and surveillance operation without the “necessary legal permits and permissions”.

He reported that tracking devices were placed on a number of prison service vehicles and in some prison officers’ private cars, unbeknownst to them; listening devices were placed in visitor area of one prison to gather information; and intelligence was passed onto An Garda Siochana.

Mr Clifford also reported that the man claims:

“A van containing drugs and telephones, associated with a major criminal gang, was allowed into prison campus without the knowledge of the governor and staff in that prison. The personnel in the van were subsequently arrested but the covert operation was contrary to all security procedure at the prison.”

This morning, Mr Clifford reported further on the affidavit.

He reported that the prison officer has also raised concerns about the manner in which some deaths have been handled in prisons – claiming that protocols or procedures for the preservation of scenes were not followed.

And Mr Clifford reported that the prison officer spoke several times about the matter with the late Judge Michael Reilly – who was the Inspector of Prisons from 2008 until his death in November 2016.

Mr Clifford reported:

“In his affidavit, the whistleblower said as a result of his concerns about prison deaths he undertook a course in DNA and the preservation of crime scene at the garda training college, but found his enthusiasm to professionalise the response to deaths in custody was not shared by management.”

Last August, Mr Clifford’s Irish Examiner colleague Joe Leogue reported extensively on concerns raised by prison inspectors about proper records being kept in relation to inmate deaths, including the concerns of the the late Judge Reilly.

Mr Leogue reported:

“During his time as prison inspector, the same significant problem arose time and time again, and no matter how many times he called for the issue to be addressed, it would present itself once more, as if his words were falling on deaf ears.

Vulnerable prisoners were dying — and the official prison records of the circumstances around their deaths were not true accounts of what happened in the prison that day.

Every time a prisoner died in custody, the prison inspector would investigate the circumstances around the death.

Judge Reilly’s job was not to determine the cause of death — that was for the coroner — but he was tasked with examining whether the prison staff followed all correct protocols at the time.

A trend, however, was emerging regarding vulnerable prisoners who required special observation — ‘special obs’ as they are known.

In many cases, such prisoners are recognised as having mental health problems, suicidal ideation, or a history of self-harm.

Protocols dictate that ‘special obs’ must be checked on every 15 minutes, and staff must record each check in a log book.

Judge Reilly, however, found repeated incidences where a check of CCTV footage from the day a ‘special obs’ prisoner died contradicted the entries in the log.

He highlighted the problem in his 2013/2014 annual report, published in August 2014.

…Judge Reilly said he had been told that, in a number of prisons, the approach to record-keeping is to put “as little on paper as is necessary”.

“In one investigation that I had sight of, an officer, in referring to report writing, is quoted as stating: ‘We are only trained on report writing in initial training and they tell you to ‘keep it short and cover your arse’,” he wrote.”

Meanwhile.

Last November, Mr Clifford reported on a separate matter – that of a protected disclosure made in the Irish Prison Service on September 20, 2017, concerning an allegation of sexual harassment, a payout in compensation and “the deployment of the individual involved in another state agency where he has contact with minors”.

A month later, in December, Mr Clifford reported that, at that point, no investigation into the disclosure had been launched.

Mr Clifford reported:

“According to the disclosure, a manager in the IPS performed sexual acts in front of a female employee without her consent in 2011 and 2012. The woman reported the incident but when she revealed she had previously been in a relationship with the man, no investigation was conducted, according to the disclosure.

The woman later took legal action over the sex acts and the failure to investigate and the case was settled. The Irish Examiner understands the settlement was just short of €100,000.

The Irish Examiner has established that the man and woman in the case have both left the IPS, as per alleged in the disclosure.

Three sources within the IPS confirmed that the woman was involved in litigation with the service, but the exact details are not clear. It is also established that the man at the centre of the allegations has been working for an agency which deals with minors.

Despite the department having these facts since late September, no investigation has been launched.”

In relation to this protected disclosure, this morning, Mr Clifford reported that the matter was  handed to solicitors McCann Fitzgerald to investigate after his reports on it last year.

He added:

“Now, nearly a year later, the investigation is reportedly completed but no final report on the matter has yet been written.

With a record like that for handling protected disclosures, is it any wonder that this prison officer used the legal mechanism of a sworn affidavit to make his claims?”

Further to this…

On November 8 last.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy received replies to several questions put to the Justice Minister.

In one question, Ms Murphy asked if disciplinary proceedings have been initiated within the Irish Prison Service within the past three years “specifically with respect to incidences of sexual harassment and or assault”.

She asked, if there were, how many incidences were there, the rank or ranks and/or grade of staff involved and if the matters were resolved.

Mr Flanagan responded with the following to Ms Murphy:

“I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that the Service is committed to protecting dignity and respect across the organisation and addresses complaints of bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment under the Dignity at Work policy for the Irish Civil Service.

I am informed that in the period referred to by the Deputy, one such complaint against a member of staff was upheld after investigation under the Dignity at Work Policy and disciplinary proceedings were initiated on foot of that.

A further three complaints by staff members are currently being addressed under the Dignity at Work Policy.

The complaints concerned have involved staff at Chief Officer, Prison Officer and Prison Administration and Support Officer Grades.”

Meanwhile…

In April 2017, Ms Murphy asked the then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald about the number of private investigation firms hired by the Department of Justice since 2012.

Ms Fitzgerald replied:

“I can confirm that there were no private investigation firms hired by bodies under the aegis of my Department during the period referred to by the Deputy.”

Officer raises concern over jail deaths (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Protected disclosures are everything but for prison officers (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Concern over prison death records (Joe Leogue, Irish Examiner)

Inmate deaths lead to call for culture change (Joe Leogue, Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: The Turn Of The Screws

Social Democrats co-founder Catherine Murphy

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

During Leaders’ Questions, which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney…

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy raised the CervicalCheck controversy and the inordinate delay some women are experiencing in accessing their slides – having also raised it last week.

She said it’s her understanding that the National Screening Service ordered Quest Diagnostics – which was sued by the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna – to stop releasing slides back in August.

And she said she understands that some women are going to go to the High Court to force the release of their slides.

Ms Murphy said:

“They’re not people that should have to battle for anything else right now. Really, their whole focus should be battling in relation to staying as well as possible.

“But unfortunately, that’s not the case. And I want to draw attention to the absolute contradictions that exist between the information that’s being put forward by the Taoiseach, the minister, the HSE officials and CervicalCheck and the actual lived realities for the women and their families involved.

“Yesterday, I spoke to Cian O’Carroll, the solicitor representing many of the women impacted and he informed me, he is still chasing down slides from as far back as April or May.

“And the HSE put a protocol in place in August, following which Mr O’Carroll engaged with them to try and improve it. Yet, since the 10th of September, when he provided suggested improvements, they have had no engagement. He has no engagement from or by the HSE. That’s more than two months ago.

“The Taoiseach agreed with me in the chamber last week that there should be no further or undue delays. Previous to that, the Taoiseach told the house that no woman should have to go to court.

“But I’m being told that there’s an appeal, that there will be an appeal to the High Court to force the release of the slides for these women and their families.

“And they’ll be put through that torture, it’s totally unnecessary Tánaiste.

Seven women have come forward to me, to tell me, they’re part of the 221-plus group, to tell me that they’re waiting an inordinate amount of time for access to their slides.

“Yet that jars completely with what the HSE told the Public Accounts Committee last week. They said the average waiting time, for women who had requested the slides, was 22 days and that the HSE had put a specific unit in place, just to deal with this.

“Yet, here we have these women saying that that’s not the reality that they’re experiencing.

“And I understand that the National Screening Service ordered Quest Diagnostics, back in August, to stop releasing slides.

“I also understand that where previously it was the norm to include the accompanying laboratory reports with the slides, they’re not now being released.

“So it’s clear that the experiences and the information given to me, that the HSE have become far more legally focused and less patient focused on this issue and the goalposts are moving for these women and their families and they can’t continue to be treated like this, Tánaiste.

“I have just one question: Can you please outline the process and timeline whereby these women will be given access to the slides and associated reports.”

During his response, Mr Coveney said:

“I can assure that the Department of Health, the HSE, and the Government wants to ensure that we treat families as quickly as possible, protecting the integrity of the process, of course, to make sure that families and loved ones and women can get access to their own slides, their own medical records effectively, as quickly as possible, without any undue delay.”

“...We don’t want any woman or any family to have to go court here to be able to access slides that they should be entitled to access quickly without any undue delay and it’s the procedures we’re putting in place to make sure that happens is what we want to focus on.”

Ms Murphy, somewhat incredulous, responded:

Seven people who have contacted me, who are caught up in this, who are directly impacted on it, why would they be contacting me? What would they be doing that for if this was working?

“Just ask yourself that question. I’ve been told that the HSE has been put on notice that there will be a case in the High Court to demand these slides, why would that be happening if this was working satisfactorily.

“This is not working satisfactorily and it’s absolutely, it’s absolutely unacceptable that they should be forced to go to court, just to get their medical information.

“Can I ask you to go back and review this today.”

“…I don’t believe that I’m being told the truth.”

Last week, Ms Murphy told the Dáil she had been in contact with women who have been waiting six months for their slides.

She said:

“I was contacted by the husband of one of the 221 women who have been caught up in the scandal. He told me that the majority of women who requested their slides have not got them six months after they requested them. Some time ago I looked at the MedLab Pathology and Quest Diagnostics contracts and raised the matter at the Committee of Public Accounts.

“The contracts provide that the HSE can retrieve these slides within three days, so there is no question as to ownership of the slides.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he’d look into the matter and couldn’t understand that women were waiting months when it should take a “couple of weeks”.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

This morning.

Further to results from Daft.ie that showing rents now risen ‘by 70% on average – 87% in Dublin, 68% in the other cities and 53% elsewhere – from their lowest point’ a decade ago.

In Dublin rents are 30% higher than their Celtic Tiger peak.

The Social Democrats have called for an an emergency rent freeze across the country.

Soc Dem co-leader Catherine Murphy said:

“It’s not good enough that the government continues to throw struggling renters upon the mercy of a market where there is an acute lack of supply and where the going rates for rental properties are totally out of whack with many people’s incomes.

“In our Alternative Budget 2019, the Social Democrats proposed a two-year emergency rent freeze across the country. It is abundantly clear that rent pressure zones are failing to curb soaring rents. We need a stronger solution to the current crisis.

The only option now is for the government to bring in an emergency rent freeze that will at least give renters some certainty about their weekly or monthly outgoings.”

Rental Price Report (Daft)

Rents continue to hit all-time highs with 11.3% national rise – Daft.ie (RTÉ)

Yesterday.

On RTÉ’s The Week In Politics.

Following the resignation of Communications Minister Denis Naughten, after it emerged he had met with the lead bidder for the National Broadband Plan contract David McCourt numerous times…

And the setting up of an “independent review” of the process to date to be overseen by the new Communications Minister Richard Bruton…

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy criticised the tendering process for the plan as “absolutely flawed”.

Separately…

Sean Canney, who is to be the new Junior Communications minister, told RTÉ that there was a lot of “loose talk” about the process, everyone should wait for Mr Bruton’s review to be completed, and said he believes it’s “not dead” yet.

Previously: Courting David

The Birthday Party [UPDATED]

Breaking His Own Rules

Watch back in full here

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, and minutes of a meeting between Mr Naughten and David McCourt

This morning.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has called for time to be allocated in the Dáil this week to allow for the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to make a statement and answer questions about the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

There is only one bidder up for the contract – a consortium which includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

The consortium is led by a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt.

Last week it emerged that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Mr Naughten in New York last July.

During this meeting, Mr McCourt informed Mr Naughten that the British company SSE may withdraw from the consortium which it eventually did.

Mr Naughten also told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications last week that he had “a number of discussions with David McCourt about this project”.

In a statement this morning, Ms Murphy said:

“We know that the Minister met Mr McCourt in New York yet the version of events he gave during the Oireachtas Communications Committee hearing does not tally with the version detailed in the minutes of the meeting released by his Department late on Thursday evening last.

“Apart from that glaring variation of events, the Minister, in the committee testimony, refers to having met with Mr McCourt on the issue of the NBP on ‘a number of occasions’.

“I urgently want clarity on the nature of these discussions – particularly given the revelations of how other bidders feel they were treated during the process.”

“With the Budget consuming a lot of time and attention this week I feel it is hugely important that this vital issue is not allowed to fall of the political radar.

“We are dealing with one of the most important State contracts that will ever be awarded and any sniff of impropriety or bad governance must be met with significant urgency and robust questioning until we are satisfied the process to date has been as it should be.

“That is why I have formally requested that the Government Chief Whip provide time this week for the minister to address the Dáil and take questions – as he did last April when similar concerns were raised about his interaction with key stakeholders in a business decision his department had a role in.”

Related: State broadband bidder Granahan McCourt sued for contract breach (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Previously: “Here We Are Again”

McCourt In The Act

A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process

From top: Denis O’Brien; Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy raised the National Broadband Plan with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and claimed there will be no competitive tendering for the plan as there is only one bidder up for the contract – a consortium which includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

Ms Murphy didn’t name Mr O’Brien.

But she reminded Mr Varadkar how it was a Fine Gael Government which awarded Siteserv a contract in respect of Irish Water – with the sale of Siteserv from IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, to Mr O’Brien now the subject of a commission of investigation.

And she reminded him how it was a Fine Gael Government which awarded a mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s Esat in the 1990s – a matter which became the subject of the subsequent Moriarty Tribunal.

Mr Varadkar said it wasn’t true to say there was no competitive tendering for the contract, saying there were many bidders but that it’s now down to one.

He said due diligence will be carried out.

He went on to speak about the importance of the National Broadband Plan but didn’t respond directly to Ms Murphy’s comments about Fine Gael.

She said:

“Just last week the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission was scathing about the potential monopoly within the waste sector. Yet, here we are, in this process, with only one bidder.

“And even that one remaining bidding consortium has changed so fundamentally from the initial bid, it’s almost unrecognisable from the entity which first entered the process. We had Eir and Siro exit the process while Enet remained on as the leader of the remaining consortium.

“In July of this year, SSE pulled out of the consortium. Enet replaced SSE with a State-backed Irish infrastructure fund. Yet, the consortium continued to morph and just last month, it emerged that Enet is no longer leading the consortium but is a partner, alongside other companies including Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

So Enet, the original bidder, is now only part of the consortium which is now led by a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt.

Taoiseach, surely you have concerns regarding the process and a substantial changes that have occurred within the bidding process since it was first launched.

You must surely be concerned with the links that will inevitably be drawn between previous controversial contracts being awarded and some of the same personnel involved in this consortium.

After all, it was Fine Gael in Government, when the Irish Water contracts were awarded to a subsidiary of Siteserv which is now the subject to a commission of investigation.

“It was Fine Gael who were in Government when the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat which then became the subject of the Moriarty Tribunal.

And it is looking like Fine Gael will be in Government when the National Broadband Plan contract is awarded to a consortium within which the same high-profile business people are involved.

Taoiseach it is vital that this process, for awarding the tender, is above reproach. Would it not be better and more pertinent to ask the questions now before any contract is awarded to make sure that there is absolute public confidence in both the process and the outcome.

My questions are: are you satisfied that the bidding process, where there’s only one bidder involved, it will deliver broadband and best value for money?

Do you have concerns regarding the sustainability of the remaining consortium given that it has changed so much since it entered the process and who’s stable will that be into the future.

And are you satisfied that the money spent thus far, in the process have achieved the desired outcomes?”

Mr Varadkar said he was satisfied that the tendering process had been “robust”.

Previously: ‘Too Often In Ireland We Ask The Pertinent Questions After The Fact’

Previously: ‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

From top: Logo for Actavo, formerly Siteserv, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

Last week Minister for Communications Denis Naughten revealed that Denis O’Brien’s Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv, was part of the final consortium bidding for the national broadband plan (NBP)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has accepted a request to quiz Department of Communications officials on the tendering of the contract, following an appeal from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy.

Ms Murphy has asked the public spending watchdog to ‘consider why some companies exited the tender process and also to review the circumstances which preceded the opening of the tender process’.

Ms Murphy said:

“It is absolutely fair to point out that the entire tendering process has substantially changed since it first began.

We now find ourselves in a situation where some parties have exited the process leaving only one party vying for the lucrative contract. In addition, the one remaining consortium has itself changed substantially since it first entered the process.

I also think we need explanations about the circumstances which preceded the process, including the contract for the MAN’s and how that might have affected the valuation of Enet & the State’s subsequent purchase of a large portion of Enet.

The roll-out of the NBP is the next vital piece of communications infrastructure in this country and it is vital that when the contract is awarded there are no questions left hanging regarding the robustness of the process.

Too often in Ireland we ask the pertinent questions after the fact and end up dealing with legacy issues so this time I am asking that we address those questions before the contract is awarded.”

Previously: ‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

Joe Mulholland launching last year’s MacGill Summer School

This morning.

On RTÉ One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke show…

Dr Joe Mulholland, director of the MacGill Summer School in Donegal, joined Mr O’Rourke, while co-leader of the Social Democrats and TD Catherine Murphy was also on the line..

Dr Mulholland was responding to criticism of the predominance of men on the summer school’s panels.

Earlier, Ms Murphy and her co-leader Róisín Shortall said they wouldn’t take part in the event this year unless significant changes are made to the gender-balance of panels across all sessions.

From the interview…

Joe Mulholland: “There’s be at least one woman on every panel I think. So it’s, I suppose, it’s, if you want to say 25% roughly. And I know that this is not enough, of course. And efforts have been made by me, over the years, to balance, to have a better balance, gender balance, but then we have other balances that we look after as well, political balance or socio-economic, political balance and so on. So I have done my best, those who are close to me, who have advised me here in Dublin, on this programme, know that every time I see them, I say ‘let’s think about women’.”

Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah, well, what do you say to the comment made by Catherine Murphy, when you say ‘finding women with the right aptitude’, she finds that very offensive.”

Mulholland: “Well I think that was a wrong, it was, a call last night, fairly late, and pretty jaded, to be honest and that was a totally wrong term to use and I apologise for that and I withdraw it. It wasn’t what I meant. Maybe the right qualifications or whatever but it’s sometimes difficult and, I mean, the amount of women, the number of women who are on the programme does not represent the number of women who have been invited on to the programme but for whatever, for different reasons, just weren’t available. This is towards the end of July.

“It’s an extremely difficult time. Donegal is still quite a remote place. And it makes it difficult for a lot of people.”

O’Rourke: “Joe I’m looking at a tweet here from Sarah McInerney, a colleague here on the Late Debate and also presenter on TV3 or their politics show. She says that ‘Let’s see, MacGill. You could replace Stephen Collins with Geraldine Kennedy; Pat Cox with Catherine Day; Stephen Donnelly with Louise O’Reilly; Phillip Lane with Shannon Donnery – that’s in the Central Bank – David Quinn with Maria Steen and Fintan O’Toole with Justine McCarthy. Now there you are: one, two, three…that’s six.”

Mulholland: “Well, it’s not just a question of replacing those people. I mean, all have been chosen for whatever reasons, but it’s not as simple as that and a lot of time goes into this, as you can imagine of trying to get a programme that’s coherent, cohesive and, above all that, reflects, reflects social and economic and political life in Ireland. And, okay, I have failed obviously from the point of view of the gender balance.”

O’Rourke: “Just on the numbers, Mary O’Regan has done a tot, she’s the news editor in the Sunday Business Post, on your website. Fifty-two speakers of whom 12 are women. Catherine Murphy, are you not running the risk now, of yourself and Róisín Shortall’s withdrawal – that’ll make the balance even worse and it could ruin maybe and if other people do the same thing a really reputable and a fine, I mean it’s been making a contribution for what – 30 years or more?”

Catherine Murphy: “Yeah, Seán, I’ve spoken at the MacGill Summer School and we were very happy to do it in the past but I think that there’s a point where you do have to make a stand on something and I’m quite sure and I know Joe will have put a huge, and his team, will have put a huge amount of effort into the summer school. I don’t disagree with that. But the gender imbalance is so significant and if we’re talking about the future of Ireland and a new Europe, the challenges ahead, that can’t be done without women.

“Because they have been, they have not played a central role in so many ways in the design of the past. Your own wonderful programme last night on RTÉ – in terms of No Country For Women – really demonstrates that that has to change. And women have to be an equal part of this narrative.”

O’Rourke: “And to go back to Joe. Joe Mulholland, is there anything you can do, at this stage, to retrieve the situation?”

Mulholland: “Well I mean this, as I said to somebody else earlier on, this concerns that area of Donegal, Sean, that you know well. I would hate to have to abandon the school altogether, it has crossed my mind, but it would be irresponsible to do that. There are people, we fill all the B&Bs around the place, people depend hugely on that bit of extra money to send kids to school in the autumn and…”

O’Rourke: “I know but I mean, so you wanted to go ahead, but could you not, I mean women can drive to Donegal just as easily as men to participate in this. I’m just wondering if you should throw your net out again, maybe cast it a bit wider and, you know, that imbalance is actually worse than 25%. I mean maybe you could get it up to 35% or 45% by inviting a few more speakers or even going for a few all-female panels.”

Mulholland: “Well, look, Seán, if you’ve a few minutes on your hands maybe, you would come and advise and do a bit of work for me. But I don’t, let me not flippant. I mean there’s certainly no policy of not having women. Last year, I was just looking at last year’s programme. There was one panel on health. One of our key sessions – there was three women out of four, including, indeed Róisín [Shorthall] on it and Susan Mitchell [of the Sunday Business Post] and Rhona Mahony [ Master of the National Maternity Hospital] of Holles Street. So, you know, I mean nobody, nobody commented on that and that’s fine. But there is no certainly no thinking on my mind of: that women are not as good as men. In fact, I think they’re superior in very many ways…”

O’Rourke: “And in fairness to you, Joe, in your long career in RTÉ, you always made sure there was a gender balance in women who got promoted to positions, be they as presenters or correspondents…”

Mulholland: “I tried to…based on ability, Sean. Never as tokenism. And, you know, I didn’t believe in the policy of positive discrimination. Nor would very many women believe in it. But certainly promoting women, where at all possible, and I think there should be far more women in politics and there are not as many as we want and need and in our different institutions – some of which have failed miserably…”

O’Rourke: “I’ve taken my eye off the clock…”

Mulholland: “…disfunctionality…”

O’Rourke: “I really have to leave it. Look, Joe Mulholland, Dr Joe Mulholland, director of the MacGill Summer School and also my thanks to Catherine Murphy, TD for Kildare North, co-leader of the Social Democrats…”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: School’s Out