I understand that journalists were asked to submit questions in advance, were not allowed ask follow up questions and were not allowed ask questions about handouts at today’s Dept of Finance press briefing attended by Minister Paschal Donohoe. #dail #covid19ireland
— Mick Barry TD (@MickBarryTD) April 2, 2020
From top: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan; Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly; tweet from Socialist TD Mick Barry
Minister for Finance and Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe only answered pre-submitted questions from journalists at a press briefing in Government Buildings.
The journalists weren’t allowed to ask follow-up questions.
Also yesterday afternoon, in the Dáil, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan refused to answer a single question that TDs raised about health matters concerning Covid-19, after castigating the TDs who called for the Dáil to sit with reduced numbers.
Among the contributions from TDs was that of Fianna Fáil Stephen Donnelly who told the Dáil that he was told that out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home, 70 had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.
After the TDs raised their concerns, acting chairman John Lahart told the Dáil: “The Minister for Health departed the chamber to attend a briefing of all party and group leaders on Covid-19. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will conclude the debate for the Government.”
However, instead of answering any of the questions, Ms Madigan told those present that she had taken notes and that Mr Harris would get back to them.
Of the press briefing with Mr Donohoe, Miriam Lord, in The Irish Times, reports:
“Having asked them [journalists] to attend (a small number, in accordance with the necessary restrictions), they were then asked to pre-submit their questions. These were read out by Paschal Donohoe’s press aide, who then replied as the mute hacks looked on.
“Disgracefully, they were not allowed to ask follow-up questions, so Paschal could effectively say what he liked without being challenged. Microphones were not provided because of hygiene issues. The reporters could have been heard without them, but they weren’t given the chance. This doesn’t even happen in the White House. But it happens here, in Government Buildings. And Hungary.
“A trivial thing to worry about in the current, terrible scheme of things. Or is it?”
Meanwhile, in the Dáil, the Heath Minister Simon Harris addressed those present after which Ms Madigan listened to questions from other TDs.
Apart from Mr Donnelly’s questions, other contributions included concerns about coronavirus test numbers, GP concerns, social welfare payments for people over the age of 66, concerns about people in direct provision, personal protective equipment, student nurses, people in receipt of medicinal cannabis, domestic violence issues and mental health services.
After hearing the contributions, this is what the Dáil heard:
Joespha Madigan: “I thank the deputies for their contributions. However, the members here today who have insisted on this Dáil sitting have shown a complete disregard for our national fight to contain Covid-19. Shame on you.
“They have forced us to stray from home rather than stay at home, which is completely contrary to public health guidelines and nothing to do with any public representative shirking his or her responsibilities.
“As the Minister, Deputy Harris, said, there is no reason we could not have done this remotely. We have already seen the European Parliament achieve that. As he said, with a little ingenuity, it could be achieved. I just wanted to say that at the outset.
“We are learning more about Covid-19 but there is much we do not know. In particular, we do not know how long this public health emergency is going to last. As the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, said earlier, many lives have already been cruelly taken by this virus. I would like to express my condolences to all of those who have been bereaved.”
Ms Madigan had this exchange with Mr Donnelly:
Stephen Donnelly: “My understanding was that the wrap-up would include answers to questions raised by the House. In the time left, will the Minister actually address any of the questions we have come here to ask?”
Madigan: “I think the Chairman made very clear that the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, is with the Taoiseach at present…”
Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan has been here.”
Madigan: “…and with all the leaders of Opposition parties and groups. He has been giving them a briefing on Covid-19 since about 3.30pm.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer anything that has been raised?”
John Lahart: “One speaker, please.”
Madigan: “As Deputy Donnelly knows, the Minister, Deputy Harris, was here. He was here when Deputy Donnelly spoke and he was here for every other speaker except for a few. I have taken notes of those concerns for him. He has taken detailed notes of all the Members’ concerns and I am satisfied that he will get back to them with comprehensive responses on everything.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to address them?”
Madigan: “It is a bit opportunistic, when the Minister is in a very important meeting…”
Donnelly: “I am not having a go at the Minister for Health. I am asking if a Government Minister is going to answer any of the questions raised by the Parliament.”
Madigan: “He will come back with answers to all the Members’ concerns.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer any of them?”
Madigan: “I can only go that far. With respect, I am not the Minister for Health and he cannot bilocate. Deputy Donnelly can appreciate that.
Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan is not answering anything that has been raised.”
Ms Madigan then went on to acknowledge “the incredible response” of the frontline staff across departments and agencies, in the health sector and in social welfare and other sectors.