Tag Archives: Dail

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness speaking in the Dáil yesterday

Yesterday evening.

In the Dáil, during a debate about housing…

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said if a vote of no confidence in the Government was put forward, he would support it.

It follows Fianna Fáil members abstaining from voting in a motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on Tuesday night.

He also referred to his party’s confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael “a farce”.

Mr McGuinness also spoke about Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan who, earlier this year, had debt cases removed from him under a direction by the President of the High Court Peter Kelly.

The Fianna Fáil recalled how he introduced an Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill in the Dáil, assisted by Mr Honohan, “which went nowhere”.

Mr McGuinness said:

“I have said many times in this House that the first obligation on any Government is to keep its people safe, and this Government has failed miserably to achieve that across many sectors.

“If I wanted to sum up the Government’s attitude and explain it to someone, I would give the example of the Government’s support for the banks when they evict people and for the vulture funds when they treat people badly. The Government turns its back on the people who are affected.

“This Government introduced vulture funds to this country. The citizens of this State, through the Government, own or have an interest in some of the banks.

“If the Government wants to solve part of the housing crisis, it must acknowledge that the policies of the banks are the source of some of the biggest issues that we now face, including homelessness, evictions, repossessions, people being put out of their homes and not having any security.

“In July of this year, one particular bank sold 2,100 loans to a vulture fund, according to its portfolio of sales. Those were people’s homes. They ranged in value up to €250,000, so they were not big, expensive properties. These were homes to which people who hoped to own a home aspired.

“The Government allowed that transaction to take place and left those people in a vulnerable position with no security whatsoever.

AIB is preparing a home loan sale that may result in 6,000 of those types of loans being transferred to a vulture fund. Other banks, aside from the one I have mentioned, will sell on family homes and AIB might be next.

“David Hall, the mortgage debtor advocate, called this situation a tsunami. Many commentators will try to undermine him and others by calling that a ridiculous suggestion, but the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach today discovered, as evidenced in the portfolio of sales of a particular bank in April 2019, that banks are now stockpiling for sale homes and mortgages with which they cannot deal.

“The banks are saving the costs that would have been associated with legal fees, administration and finding a solution to the problems within the bank and will cast the people affected to the discretion of the market and what the vulture funds might do with those houses.

“That is the kernel of the problem for a considerable number of people. The Minister of State and his Government do absolutely nothing about it. The Government gives tax breaks to those funds. In fact, it does not tax them at all.

The Government allows the banks that it owns to do this to its people and will not change direction regardless of who tells it to. All of that is being piled on top of the housing crisis.

“Local authorities simply cannot deal with these issues. I have seen how planning applications and suggestions from local authorities are treated by the Department.

“It is heavily bureaucratic and some of the loops and hoops through which people have to go to deliver houses in an emergency situation are almost nonsensical. These are not normal times. We are in an emergency.

“That notwithstanding, the Department continues to put people through hoops and put obstacles in the way of the real delivery of houses.

“I agree that there should be a construction programme directed by local authorities with real solutions because they have the information. Local authorities and councillors know their housing lists inside out and do not have to be told anything.

“They are being stopped in the street and asked when a son or daughter will get a house or by a couple hoping to get a house who want to know when their case will be resolved.

“I do not know who the speaker was but the Minister of State said that they were to pay for bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels. The implementation of that as a policy does not work, and it is not the case that councils will do it immediately for people who are in desperate straits. That is simply not right.

“There is a policy that the Minister of State may have set down but it is not being adhered to across each and every county. As a result, we get different approaches to his different policies.

“Deputy Doherty has a Bill before the finance committee because the Minister of State is looking for solutions. It is the No Consent, No Sale Bill 2019. I will support him on that Bill because it was brought forward in the absence of any understanding of any real policy by this Government.

“I introduced the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill here, assisted by the Master of the High Court, Ed Honohan, which went nowhere.

“The Government did nothing about it. As a result of ignoring all the Bills before the House that have passed Second Stage and are waiting to be debated in committee, the Government has introduced money messages and further obstacles of bureaucracy. It simply will not listen to anybody.

“Fr Peter McVerry was on a television programme the other night. He has no political interest, but by God did he lay it on the line for the Government and tell it where it is going wrong.

“The courts are dealing with cases where houses are going to be repossessed. That will mean that families will be put on the street.

“I know of a landlord in Dublin who is trying desperately to hold on to his house. There are at least six people living in that house who will be on the street.

“I know a lady and her children in Bray who have been before and humiliated in the courts. She has been dragged by security officers out of the bank as she tried to present her case directly to it.

“She has been threatened by the sheriff in the most appalling of ways. She is trying to hold on to her home for herself and her children and this State stands idly by and allows the thuggery that is involved in removing people from their homes.

“The Government should be ashamed that it has allowed this to happen.

“I point the Minister of State to the Glenbeigh sale where those who are trying to seek legal representation because of the manner in which that sale was conducted cannot get the Abhaile scheme.

“Even some of the schemes Ministers have in place are not able to be accessed by the people who need them most.

The one man who stood in the gap and stopped some of the vultures and the banks behaving the way that they did, which I thought I would never see happen in this country, including thuggery and corruption – one can throw all the names one likes at it – is Ed Honohan.

“He gave everybody who came before him a chance. He held the banks to account and the President of the High Court, with a nod, I am sure, from the Government, took all those cases away from him. That is a shame in itself.

“It is administration that is not right and should not be accepted. I ask the Government to start in the courts with the banks it owns and stop these terrible evictions and repossessions and do something concrete about this issue.

“On the vote of confidence, I agree Fianna Fáil sat on its hands. It did the same with the motion on the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris.

“The fact of the matter is that a Minister is acting at one with the Cabinet. If a Member tables a motion of no confidence in the Government, I will vote for it because that is the way it should be.

I honestly hope that this supply and confidence arrangement, which is a farce and is accommodating all this stuff, comes to an end quickly in the new year so that at least the electorate can have its say.”

Watch the debate back in full here

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

From top: Mr Justice Peter Kelly; Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness

Last month.

On November 18th, a notice was posted on the Courts Service website saying:

Due to a shortage of judges the Kilkenny Personal Injuries List of cases for trial in Kilkenny commencing on November 18th 2019 has had to be cancelled.

All cases in the list are adjourned to the next list. Any case which requires to be dealt with more urgently may be mentioned to Mr Justice [Kevin] Cross with a view to seeking a hearing date in Dublin.”

Further to this…

Last night in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness raised the recent cancellation of the Kilkenny list and he specifically criticised the handling of the situation by the President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

He also asked if there is a shortage of judges, if current judges are overworked and if the Minister for Justice believes Mr Justice Kelly was using cancellations to force the appointment of more judges.

He said:

“We should not be afraid to determine if it is giving value for money and if its members are actually needed. Maybe we should ask them to fob in. Then we will get a better picture of things.”

Fine Gael TD and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed was standing in for the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

They had the following exchange:

John McGuinness: “I raise the decision to cancel the High Court list in Kilkenny at short notice. When the High Court sits in Kilkenny each year it deals with quite a number of cases pretty efficiently.

“It was explained to the president of the Kilkenny Solicitors Bar Association that this cancellation resulted from a shortage of judges. The President of the High Court informed the local bar association of this. It is high-handed.

“This court serves the region very well and deals with a great number of cases. Many people who are listed for a hearing have been waiting for years.

Having built themselves up emotionally to go to court and have their case heard, they were told, at short notice, that the sitting would not proceed.

“The President of the High Court should have shown a little more consideration for the citizens who have to appear before that court.

“The civil court list was also cancelled at very short notice. Again the reason given was that there is a shortage of judges. Is that the case?

“Is there such a shortage of judges that the provincial court sittings have to be cancelled at the last minute?

“Is the Courts Service, under the President of the High Court who wrote to the local association, so dysfunctional that it could not have arranged for matters to be dealt with differently?

“Is the system so out of touch with the people who appear before the courts that it could not, or would not, give consideration to the serious difficulties this has caused for the individuals in question?

“Who is in charge? Is this an issue of efficiency or, as was stated, a case of there not being enough judges available to hear these cases?

“What happened in the week in question? Was the backlog in the courts so great?

“I hope the minister will tell me if that was the case because I want to understand the reason for the decision to cancel the list at short notice.

I appreciate the separation of powers, before the Minister starts telling me about it. This is not about the separation of powers. This is about time management for judges and respecting members of the public and citizens whom we all represent.

“What are the Minister’s views on the excuse used, that is, the lack of judges?

Is this an effort by the judiciary to put pressure on the minister to appoint even more judges?

“Is there a business case for the appointment of judges at which I can look?

“This decision is unsatisfactory in respect of both the High Court list and the civil case list. I want an explanation.”

Michael Creed: “I thank Deputy McGuinness. I am standing in for the Minister for Justice and Equality who is unavoidably absent.

“On his behalf, I note that under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions.

“The assignment of judges and the scheduling and cancelling of lists is a matter for the presidents of the courts who are, under the Constitution, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.

“In order to be of assistance to the deputy, the minister has had inquiries made with the Courts Service and has been informed that a notice was recently published on the Courts Service website, as directed by the President of the High Court, setting out a decision to cancel the High Court personal injuries list in Kilkenny due to a shortage of judges.

“Interim arrangements have been set out whereby all cases in the list are adjourned to the next list. Any case which is required to be dealt with more urgently may be mentioned to Mr Justice Cross with a view to seeking a hearing date in Dublin.

“As the deputy will be aware, judicial appointments are made by the President acting on the advice of the Government in accordance with Articles 13(9) and 35(1) of the Constitution.

“The Government is committed to ensuring that judicial vacancies across the courts are filled in a timely manner.

“The issues which gave rise to the cancellation of the High Court lists in Kilkenny will be resolved following the appointment by the President of five judges – Brian O’Moore, senior counsel; Mark Sanfey, senior counsel; Mary Rose Gearty, senior counsel; Niamh Hyland, senior counsel; and Mark Heslin, solicitor – to the High Court on 2 December 2019.

“The new judges will be sworn in by the Chief Justice on Friday, 6 December. It is intended that the new judges will take up their duties immediately thereafter.

“With regard to the Circuit Court sittings in Kilkenny, the listing of cases and the cancellation of lists are matters for the President of the Circuit Court.

“A notice was published on the Courts Service website, as directed by the President of the Circuit Court, setting out recent decisions to cancel lists as well as the interim arrangements.

“The Courts Service has informed the Minister that the planned criminal and family law cases scheduled for next week in Kilkenny will proceed as arranged. All civil cases have been adjourned to a date early in the new year.

“The Circuit Court is operating with a full complement of judges. At its Cabinet meeting of 26 November, the Government nominated Judge Rosemary Horgan, who had already been sitting in the Circuit Court in an ex officio capacity, for appointment to the Circuit Court.

“Judge Horgan’s warrant for appointment is scheduled to be signed by the President this week and her swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to take place on 9 December.”

McGuinness: “I have asked the Minister several questions, which he has not answered.

“I simply want to go back to those questions. Does the minister believe that the President of the High Court, and thereafter the President of the Circuit Court, were using these cancellations to force the minister to appoint more judges?

“Where is the business case showing the numbers required for these judges? Where is the information to inform me, as a Member of this House, that these judges were in fact needed?

“Is it time to review the 1998 Act so that we can have a better system to manage these cases? Is it not interesting that the President of the High Court cancelled the session in Kilkenny?

“The Minister’s reply did not include an alternative date when that will happen. Urgent cases are to come to Dublin. The whole idea of provincial sittings is to deal with issues at that level and give people a chance. In my opinion they have not been given a chance. They have been shown a great discourtesy by the judiciary.

This comes at a time when the President of the High Court has decided that he does not need Mr Edmund Honohan any more.

He took from him a body of work that he was doing very capably and gave it to several other judges. Is Mr Edmund Honohan not being used to his full potential?

“Are the other judges so overworked that they cannot manage their caseloads? What is going on here? A serious cost to the State arises from all of this.

“For far too long we have left the management and functions of the judiciary out of the loop.

We should not be afraid to determine if it is giving value for money and if its members are actually needed. Maybe we should ask them to fob in. Then we will get a better picture of things.”

Creed: “As I said in my opening remarks on behalf of the minister, it is envisaged that the most recent appointments will address the issue of the High Court sittings in Kilkenny.

“I will not accept the deputy’s invitation to trespass on matters germane to the judiciary or engage with his commentary on this business case. I will convey his remarks to the Minister for Justice and Equality.

“The Deputy will be aware that the principle of the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary is long established and I do not intend to go down that road.

“The deputy made a point about whether it is time to review the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998 regarding the organisation and administration of the Courts Service. I will bring these comments to the attention of the minister.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Previously: Here Comes The Pane [Updated]

From top: Clerk of the Dáil and Secretary General Peter Finnegan; a Komori offset printer; from Mr Finnegan’s report on the purchase of the printer

This morning.

Clerk of the Dáil and Secretary General Peter Finnegan’s report on the purchase of the Komori printing press, which is located in the basement of Kildare House, has been published.

In it, he noted that during discussions between the House of the Oireachtas Service and the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General during the audit of the appropriation accounts 2018, and ahead of an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Finnegan was advised that the estimated cost of the printer was €230,000.

His report that the total cost to date in relation to the printer, that has yet to print a single page, is €1,598,605. A breakdown for this figure is as follows:

Printing equipment: €1,369,605.

Print room works: €229,000.

Mr Finnegan noted that “necessary additional works on the fabric of the building while the contractor was on site and access was available” were carried out to the tune of €195,000.

However, he said these costs, which will be paid by the OPW, are “not attributable to the works necessary to deal with the head height issue arising from the installation” of the printer.

Read it (and weep) in full here

Previously: Millon Euro Question

Check For Prints

RTÉ’s Agriculture Correspondent Fran McNulty tweetz:

Protesting farmers block the exit to Leinster House in Merrion Square, several Oireachtas members and staff unable to leave.

Ongoing road closures in Dublin says An Garda Síochána. Kevin Street, Cuffe Street, Kildare Street, Merrion Square South, Dawson Street & Merrion Row will remain closed tomorrow as farmer protests continue.

Farmers’ protest causes major disruption in Dublin (RTÉ)

Earlier: What’s On The Grill?

From top: Peter Finnegan, Clerk of the Dáil; A Komori offset printer

This morning.

RTÉ News has learned Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan will hold a fast-track inquiry into the spending controversy and update the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee on its findings by the end of this week – despite previously failing to tell TDs what happened during an autumn financial meeting.

Over the weekend it emerged Oireachtas officials spent €808,000 on a state-of-the-art printer for the campus plus costly structural works to accommodate the new equipment.

Internal e-mails confirmed the price of the Komori printer in addition to €236,000 worth of structural works to fit it into the building, due to the need to tear down walls and embed structural steel to give it the height clearance needed to operate.

However, when the printer arrived at the Oireachtas on 5 December last year, it became apparent the printer, which is 2.1 metres high and 1.9 metres wide, would not fit into the space.

Dáil’s most senior official to investigate €1m overall spend on printer (RTÉ)

Yesterday: Million Euro Question

Rollingnews

Top pic: Oireachtas.ie

From top: The proposed development of the new National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s University Hospital Campus; Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall and Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys in the Dáil yesterday

Yesterday afternoon.

Róisín Shortall TD, Social Democrats co-leader, called on the Government to ‘come clean’ on the position between the Vatican and the State on the New National Maternity hospital, and to halt further spending until ownership is resolved. She said:

“Despite commitments given by Minister Harris in the Dáil a year ago, we’re still waiting to see if the State will own the new hospital, despite being continuously promised that it was to be sorted out and legally secure months ago”, she said.

“It is reckless of the Government to spend €43m on the first phase of the National Maternity Hospital before any resolution of the ownership of the new hospital.

“The new National Maternity Hospital must be fully in public ownership and must operate with a non-denominational ethos. However, this is now dependent on approval from the Vatican.

“It is a shameful position for a Republic to be in that our badly-needed new National Maternity Hospital is waiting for Vatican permission before we can proceed.

It is not clear when or if the Vatican will give their approval for the disposal of the site.

This Government must stop putting further public monies at risk until ownership and ethos is legally secure. As it stands, the delivery date of 2024 is very unlikely to be met, but without clarity on legal ownership, it is a huge risk to continue to pour money into something that is still in private hands.”

Meanwhile…

Earlier yesterday, during Leaders’ Questions, Ms Shortall had the following exchange with Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys…

Róisín Shortall: “It is over seven years since the move of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, to St. Vincent’s was first announced. While we know that the care in Holles Street is excellent, the building is antiquated and the conditions are unacceptable for patients and staff. Progress on the new hospital has been painfully slow, though.

“It is over two years since a row broke out between Holles Street and St. Vincent’s about governance structures and the Minister for Health appointed Mr. Kieran Mulvey to hammer out an agreement between them.

In the meantime, the public was alerted to the fact that a secret deal had been brokered between the two hospitals without any reference whatsoever to the public interest.

“It amounted to the gifting of an asset with an estimated value of approximately €350 million to private religious interests and the new hospital’s ethos being dictated by those interests.

“Is it not the case that the Minister for Health misjudged the situation as being only a tiff between two hospitals? Did he not misjudge the extent of public concern that the new maternity hospital must be fully publicly owned and operated and operate with a non-denominational ethos?

“The Minister was forced to halt the deal and respond to public concern. The Religious Sisters of Charity subsequently announced their intention to withdraw from St. Vincent’s and divest themselves of Elm Park.

“They gave undertakings that the new maternity hospital would be fully public and independent. Despite assurances from St. Vincent’s, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Minister, however, that has not happened yet.

“Last December, the Minister for Health announced that agreement had been reached with St. Vincent’s and the new maternity hospital would be fully publicly owned. He also said that the legal documents giving effect to this would be available early in the new year, but they have not materialised as yet.

The Government, however, proceeded to allocate €43 million of public money to phase one of the hospital.

“Does the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, accept that the Government was reckless in doing that before it had title to the site concerned? Will she give an undertaking that no further public money will be allocated to the project and, therefore, put at risk of being lost to the public purse?”

Heather Humphreys: “I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The project is an important one and the Government is anxious that it proceed. The Government is fully committed to the National Maternity Hospital, which involves the development of a new maternity hospital on the campus of St. Vincent’s University Hospital at Elm Park.

“The governance arrangements for the new hospital will be based on the provisions of the Mulvey agreement, which was an agreement finalised in late 2016 between the National Maternity Hospital and the St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group, SVHG, following extensive mediation.

“The terms of the Mulvey agreement provide for the establishment of a new company that will have clinical, operational, financial and budgetary independence in the provision of maternity and neonatal services.

“This independence will be assured by the reserved powers set out in the agreement and be copper-fastened by the golden share to be held by the Minister for Health. It is important to note that the reserved powers can only be amended with the unanimous written approval of the directors and the approval of the Minister.

The religious ethos will not interfere with the provision of medical care. I am advised that the agreement ensures that a full range of health services will be available at the new hospital without religious, ethnic or other distinction.”

Micheál Martin: “Who will own the hospital?”

Humphreys: “I welcome the confirmation by the SVHG board that any medical procedure that is in accordance with the laws of the State will be carried out at the new hospital.

“I understand that the Religious Sisters of Charity resigned from the board of the SVHG some time ago and are currently finalising the process of transferring their shareholding in SVHG to a new company, St. Vincent’s Holdings CLG. I am informed that the Department of Health receives regular updates from the SVHG in respect of that share transfer.

“I understand that the Department’s Secretary General will meet the group’s chair this week to discuss a range of issues relating to the National Maternity Hospital project. Engagement is ongoing between the Department, the HSE, the SVHG and the National Maternity Hospital as regards the legal framework to be put in place to protect the State’s investment in the new hospital.

“The SVHG will provide the State with a 99-year lease of the land on which the new maternity hospital will be built, which will allow the State to retain ownership of the new facility. The State will provide an operating licence to the National Maternity Hospital DAC and the SVHG to enable the provision of health services in the newly constructed building.”

Shortall: “I do not know where the Minister got that reply, but it is at least 12 months out of date, having been overtaken by events. It is a disgrace that anyone gave her that reply to read out.

“What she described might have applied more than 12 months ago, but it certainly does not now. We are in a situation where the disposal of the site for the new maternity hospital cannot go ahead without the approval of the Vatican.

“In fairness to the Deputies present, the Minister should have had that information available to her. It has been made clear that we are waiting for the Vatican’s approval before we can proceed with the provision of a new national maternity hospital.

“Does the Minister accept that, as a republic, this is an outrageous situation to be in for the State? The new national maternity hospital’s estimated completion date was 2024, but there is no prospect of that being met.

“Does the Minister accept that it was reckless for the Government to allocate public money to this project without having title to the site? Does she accept that it is shameful that we are waiting for the approval of the Vatican in order to provide a decent national maternity hospital?”

Humphreys: “I have not had a chance to speak to the Minister on this matter, but the intent has not changed.”

Brendan Howlin: “What is meant by the phrase “the intent has not changed”?”

Humphreys: “There will be no interference in the provision of medical care in the new hospital. I want to be very clear on that intent. Doctors will carry out their duties—–”

Martin: “Who will own the hospital?”

Humphreys: “—–and a full range of health services will be available without religious, ethnic or other distinction.”

Shortall: “Will the Minister answer the questions? Will she get with the game?”

Humphreys: “The other issue—–”

Shortall: “It is a waste of time for people to come in here to ask questions only for Ministers to read out incomplete responses.”

An Ceann Comhairle: “Deputy, please.”

Humphreys: “I will ask the Minister for Health to contact the Deputy directly about the other issue she raised.”

Previously: National Maternity Hospital on Broadsheet

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Moments ago.

In the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Fianna Fáil Mícheál Martin that his “self-righteousness knows no limits”.

It followed Mr Martin raising concerns about hospital overcrowding and the number of patients on hospital trolleys.

In response, Mr Varadkar reminded Mr Martin of his record as Minister for Health and told him “you should be off your high horse when it comes to this one”.

Sigh.

649 patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals (Breaking News)

Related: Healthcare chief apologises as images emerge of psychiatric patients sleeping on floor (Catherine Shanahan, Irish Examiner, November 1, 2019)

From top: Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

TDs are making statements in respect of the ‘Votegate’ report.

Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne (top) branded the actions of the TDs involved “thoughtless, cavalier and arrogant”.

He also said their behaviour has “damaged” the Dáil.

Watch live here

Earlier: Meanwhile, In The Dáil