Tag Archives: Dail

From the State’s Dail100.ie website

Journalist Ken Foxe is reporting that almost €930,000 was spent on commemorations and events for the 100-year anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann.

One of the costs was €180,000 on the dail100.ie website.

Mr Foxe obtained the information through a Freedom of Information request.

Yesterday, he tweeted…

An airport VIP bill of €16,500, a near €20,000 luxury accommodation bill, and €200 for a harpist – full details of spending on Dáil 100 commemorations (Ken Foxe, TheStory.ie)

Independents 4 Change TD Joan Collins

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Independents 4 Change TD Joan Collins was speaking about workers’ rights when she said:

“Recently, I’ve been approached by workers in a new, very swanky and expensive Ivy restaurant where the company are taking the major proportion of tips paid to staff – using these tips to make up the difference in their wages.

“I’ll give you an example. One worker signed a contract, in October, for €14.90 an hour. They’re now being paid €9.80 an hour and the difference is being made up with the tips. So this company is robbing the workers of their money and we don’t know where the rest of the money is going…it seems to be pocketed by the company.”

[The Independent4Change TD’s office confirmed Ms Collins was referring to  the Ivy restaurant in Dawson Street, Dublin 2]

During his response, Mr Coveney said:

“Just on the tips issue, let me just be very clear: Any employer that calculates salary and includes tips in that figure is acting illegally. You can’t do it. Tips are separate to salary. And if there are issues the Government needs to act there: we will look at that closely.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varakar in the Dáil today

Just now.

In the Dáil…

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy repeatedly asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if it’s true that Dublin City Council only built 21 social housing units last year.

Mr Varadkar appeared to confirm the figure when he said that a breakdown of social housing figures is available, he has seen the figures, and “I imagine that that is correct”.

But his answer came after some time.

Ms Murphy is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and recalled a recent meeting of the committee involving  the Housing Department’s Secretary General John McCarthy whom, she said, stated “quite categorically” that the figures for council housing are extremely clear in terms of the breakdown/categorisation of these properties.

She said Mr McCarthy said the department publishes “quarterly updates in this regard” and he “refuted allegations of spin when it comes to the presentation of the figures”.

Ms Murphy said:

“In 2018, the social housing output figures, under local authority build, the number is listed as 2,022 but the minister has bundled all of those categories and has consistently refused to give a breakdown of local authority build by individual category.

“However, at the Public Accounts Committee meeting last week, the secretary general [Mr McCarthy] in response to questions I posed, finally gave us a breakdown of the figures for 2018.

“Those figures: 768 for turn-key units, 200 regeneration properties and that leaves a total of a 1,054 actual newly built local authority houses for 2018.

Why then the continued blurring of numbers by Minister Murphy?

Ms Murphy said that a few weeks ago Minister Murphy, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Gavin Jennings “grilled” the minister for a breakdown of the social housing output but his questions went unanswered while the minister said the figures would be available the following week.

But, Ms Murphy said, these figures still haven’t been made public, outside of being made available to the Public Accounts Committee; they’re not on the department’s website; and they’re not in the department’s press releases.

The Social Democrats co-leader then asked if the reason for the “reluctance” to give a clear breakdown of the output is that some councils are performing “very poorly”?

Ms Murphy then said:

“For example, it has been said that Dublin City Council, who are at the epicentre of this crisis, only built 21 houses last year or could it be red tape? We need to know?”

“So, Taoiseach, can we get some straight answers to the following questions please?

“Can you confirm that the new builds by local authorities, given to the Public Accounts Committee, by the Secretary General last week, are accurate?

Is it correct that Dublin City Council only built 21 units in 2018 themselves?

“And what’s the actual breakdown by local authority of the 1,054 new builds in 2018?”

In his response, the Taoiseach said people receiving homes don’t ever raise the categorisation of social housing.

He added:

What matters as a fact is that last year 9,000 – more than any in ten years – 9,000 families moved into social housing with secure tenancies and we shouldn’t obsess ourselves about whether it’s done through an affordable housing body or local authority, or trust or Part 5, Part 8 or Part 26. That’s not what matters.”

Ms Murphy said knowing the breakdown does matter.

She said knowing the breakdown allows people to know what’s cost effective and value for money.

“We need to get those breakdowns so that information can be evaluated. This is public information, it’s public money. Why are you so reluctant to give the figures in a way that breaks it down and you can make those comparisons?

Is it true that Dublin City Council built 21 houses last year? The performance of our local authorities matters because they’re going to be the ones that are going to deliver, if we’re actually going to deliver the kind of numbers that are needed, to actually get a grip on this crisis.

“You cannot keep on answering questions in the way you did. The breakdown matters.”

Mr Varadkar said:

Deputy, I’m advised by the minister of state behind me that those figures are available and I’ve seen breakdown so I imagine that that is correct and they are available.

“But I think you’ve got it wrong here. The truth is, after years of running into problems, years of delays, when we didn’t have the money to do it, after years and years of trouble, we’re now delivering on social housing, increasing the housing stock by 9,000 last year.

“We’ll increase it by even more this year. And what you’re trying to do, is you don’t want people to know that. So you’re trying to make that housing provided by affordable housing body like Peter McVerry Trust or the Iveagh Trust doesn’t exist.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger (top) speaking in the Dáil last month

This afternoon.

At 2pm.

Leaders’ Questions will get under way at the Dáil.

Dublin West Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger has said she will be raising issues which women have contacted her about in relation to accessing abortion services.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Previously: “Her Words To Me Were:’This Is Not What I Voted For'”

UPDATE:

This morning.

Outside the Dáil.

Children gathered to protest against climate change.

Pics: Aisling Kenny and Siobhan de Paor (top)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon in the Dáil.

The Taoiseach said the following about the €450,000 PwC report which is expected to examine how and why the cost of the National Children’s Hospital has ballooned:

“The terms of reference for the review by PwC into the escalation of costs, that they are being revised at present. But the review will deal with accountability of relevant key parties, functions and roles. The prohibition against making findings against individuals will be removed.

“It will establish he sequence of events in relation to the cost increases experienced by the project; establish what was known; when and by whom; and will cover bodies including the NBH, [inaudible], committees, HSE and also the Department of Health.

“And it will also be asked to identify any areas where potential cost savings or reductions, which are consistent with the applicable contractual undertakings, may be found.”

Previously: Well Warned

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

From top: Today’s Irish Examiner, Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary, Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions, which were taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the nurses’ strike and asked what the Government has done in recent days to off-set the further strikes which are planned to take place next Tuesday and Thursday and in later weeks.

Mr Coveney repeated much of what the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said during Leaders’ Questions the past two days – namely that the Government “understands the resolve” of the nurses but the Government cannot give pay increases to one section of workers within the public sector pay service agreement without expecting another section to also seek pay increases.

He said the Government wants the State’s industrial relations mechanisms, chiefly the Labour Court, to work with nursing unions to come up with recommendations and he called on nursing unions to “fulfil their obligations” too.

He also noted the “extraordinary disruption” the strike action caused yesterday but thanked the nurses for their “huge cooperation” in providing essential services.

Mr Calleary asked Mr Coveney about an article on the front page of today’s Irish Examiner which claims that the nurses on strike “could see salary rises and pension increases under the existing pay deal frozen and blocked if they don’t call off their all-out strike”.

The article states:

“…Health Minister Simon Harris and a spokesperson for Finance Minster Pashcal Donohoe confirmed officials will “legally consider” imposing penalties in what will be seen as a hardline response to the industrial action.”

Mr Calleary asked Mr Coveney if he could confirm the contents of the article. He also put it to Mr Coveney that he “allowed” the story to be published.

Mr Coveney said the Government “doesn’t give permission to any paper” to print what they wish and that decision is taken by newspapers and their editors.

Mr Coveney confirmed the Government is “taking legal advice…consistent with the pay agreement that everybody signed up to with their eyes open”.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Ministers may block nurses’ pay incentives (Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Catherine Shanahan, Evelyn Ring and Juno McEnroe)

From top: Irish nurses and supporters in Sydney, Australia; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil this afternoon

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Party leaders raised the nurses’ strike with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Varadkar repeated much of what he said yesterday – that he believes borrowing money for pay increases is bad policy and that if one of group of State employees receives a pay increase, other groups will seek the same.

The 24-hour strike – the first in a series – began at 8am this morning while supporters of the strike have been using the hashtags #giveusareasontocomehome and #istandwithnursesandmidwives on Twitter.

Further to this…the following is one short exchange Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald had with the Taoiseach:

Leo Varadkar: “The impression created by some that there are more nurses leaving the country that coming into the country is not correct. The impression created by some that there are more nurses leaving the public service that entering it is not correct. And those are the facts and I hope you at least acknowledge those facts.

Mary Lou McDonald: “So, Taoiseach, then are the pictures of our young nurses from Melbourne and Sydney and all around the globe asking us, asking you to give them a reason to come home: is that like fake news? Are they doctored images? Pardon the pun.

“I don’t believe that they are. I think people know that yes, certain nursing staff would have gone for a year and come back but the reality now is that we’re losing so many of our best and brightest and they’re not coming back.”

“Here’s the other fact. There’s a strike on today. How’s that for a fact? Procedures have been cancelled as you’ve acknowledged. How’s that for a fact? Every man, woman and child in this land knows that should any of us get sick, or a loved one falls sick, you want the very best of care for them. All of us know that that’s only possible if you have the right  staff and you will only have the right staff if they are treated with dignity and they are paid and rewarded at an appropriate level. How are those  for facts, Taoiseach.

“What the nurses and midwives is very, very reasonable. And by the way, I know all about the industrial relations mechanisms of the State. You really don’t have to keep repeating that to us, as though we’re morons. We’re all well acquainted and well versed with all of that. I do not accept that you, as Taoiseach, that it is satisfactory or acceptable for you to passively sit on the sidelines whilst this strike is on.

“I’m asking you again on behalf of the nurses and midwives that I spoke to this morning, they said: tell him to engage. You are there Taoiseach, you’re the head of Government. They are asking you to engage. If you’re interested in sorting this dispute Taoiseach that this is what you will do and you will do it speedily.”

Varadkar: “Deputy, I don’t think you’re a moron. And I can assure you I’m not a moron either. But if you keep asking me the same question, I will keep giving you the same answer.”

Meanwhile…

Earlier: Alternatively

‘The Damage Is Already Done’

Calling Out Around The World

Last night.

In the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness raised last week’s announcement that debt cases are being removed from the  Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan, under a direction  by the President of the High Court Peter Kelly, while addressing the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Mr McGuinness was speaking during the second reading of Sinn Féin’s No Consent, No Sale Bill which provides that lenders/banks may not transfer/sell mortgages on residential properties to a vulture fund without the consent of the borrower.

Mr Honohan wrote the Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill which was introduced to the Dail last year by Mr McGuinness.

Last night, Mr McGuinness said:

“Another arm of the State, the courts. Now I understand fully the separation of powers and I take all that but I have to say that the last port of call for thousands of families over the last number of years was the Master’s court – where he checked the paperwork from banks, and indeed from borrowers, and where he forced the banks to correct the paperwork, or to acknowledge that their paperwork wasn’t adequate enough to press the charge against the individual before the court.

“Most of these individuals, lay litigants by the way. And having done that and having done this state a hell of a service and has stood by – fair to the banks, fair to the borrowers, creating a level playing field, he has now been removed from that task by the President of the High Court.

“And I would say it’s an absolute scandal.

“I was astonished last week to learn the newspaper, media, knew it before he did.

And then, to try and compound the problem for the master, there’s certain comments made by other judges and put out into the public domain to discredit him.

“A typical act of trying to destroy the messenger.”

The Ceann Comhairle asked Mr McGuinness to “refrain from criticising the judiciary” and Mr McGuinness continued:

“I’ll refrain now, having condemned them completely for the carry-on of them down in the Four Courts and for the manner in which they treated that individual. It was absolutely incredible to read the reports of it.

The individuals that appeared there in courts, that was their last port of call, now that that’s gone. So the only thing they can do is turn to this House for further assistance No Consent, No Sale, and I would say to this House that that is the road we need to go.

“We need to offer full protection for the individuals who are trying their best to make a deal, to get out of the problems that they have – similar what we did for the banks, exactly the same thing.

“We bailed them out, we put them back in business.

“And let me tell you now Minister, that they are now beginning to treat business people, borrowers and those that are in distress in the same disgraceful manner that had treated them before.

“It didn’t take them long to get back on their feet, to begin to turn around then and treat people in the way that we did not expect. And I encourage you Minister to please examine this Bill.

If you’re not going to support it, give us an alternative, give us an alternative and tell the Central Bank they also have a job to look after the consumer in this case, that they’re not doing.”

Watch back in full here

From top: Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty; Labour leader Brendan Howlin; Tánaiste Simon Coveney

In the past 24 hours.

Several matters have emerged concerning the CervicalCheck programme.

A backlog in tests – following on from an extra 84,000 women coming forward for tests last year in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal in April 2018, and Minster for Health Simon Harris announcing the provision of free repeat smear tests – has led to 1,000 women having to have repeat tests because the backlog caused their initial tests to expire and become invalid.

The figure of 1,000 emerged last night after Fianna Fáil TD Micheál Martin raised the matter in the Dáil yesterday.

It’s now the case that women have to wait, on average, 22 weeks to get the result of a CervicalCheck smear, as opposed to the usual two to four weeks.

Separately.

It’s emerged some 6,000 women will be written to next week and advised to return to their GPs for repeat smear tests.

This is in relation to a cohort of women who would have initially tested positive for low-grade abnormalities and who would have then been advised to have an additional HPV test within 30 days of the initial smear test – but their additional smear test was tested for the HPV virus beyond the 30-day limit.

[The practice of being advised to have an additional HPV test, on foot of a test showing up low-grade abnormalities, began in Ireland in 2015]

The acting Clinical Director of the HSE’s cervical screening programme Peter McKenna this morning told RTÉ One’s Morning Ireland that he’s not sure how it happened but the laboratory [Quest Laboratories] which was testing the smears “started counting the 30 days from the time the smear came into the laboratory rather than from the time the smear was taken in the smear takers’ clinic”.

Mr McKenna said that the HSE was alerted to this problem with the additional HPV tests at the “end of November”, while the scale of the problem unfolded in December and the HSE has been trying to identify the affected women since the beginning of the new year.

Quest Diagnostics is the laboratory whom the late Emma Mhic Mathúna sued.

Several TDs raised the matters in the Dáil this afternoon, with Tánaiste Simon Coveney telling the Dáil that the Minister for Health Simon Harris was told about the additional HPV testing concerns in December.

Mr Coveney told Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary that the impression Mr Calleary was giving – that the Government is trying to hide something – isn’t true.

He said:

“The HSE has said that it was made aware of this issue in November, the minister was made aware of the issue regarding secondary HPV testing in December. The issue was discussed at the CervicalCheck steering committee including with patient reps who are working very hard at that committee on a range of issues involved and outlined in published weekly reports.

“The minister sought regular updates but a final report was not available to him in terms of the numbers involved or who they were. And so when this issue was raised yesterday, I don’t believe he did have the information to be able to provide it until that was available today.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Labour’s Brendan Howlin also asked Mr Coveney questions about the matter.

Mr Doherty asked for Mr Coveney to be more specific about when Mr Harris was notified of the HPV testing issue.

[Yesterday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Harris was notified of the initial matter – concerning the expired smear tests – “a few weeks ago”]

Mr Doherty said:

“How come it will be February before these women will be informed that they need to go through another test – two months later?

“What did the minister do in relation to this here? How come we are so late in the day and women haven’t been informed that the information that they may have received in relation to their second test, remember the second test was a result of an abnormality in the first, may be inaccurate and was carried it outside the manufacturing’s timeframe?”

“And how can we be assured that this is the end of it, minister? That there is no more women out there that will get a letter through the door or a phonecall from their GP telling them that information that has been relayed to them in relation to life-threatening screening may be inaccurate?”

Mr Coveney responded by speaking about the challenges facing the health system, that mistakes are sometimes made and that lessons need to be learned.

In relation to the HPV testing matter specifically, Mr Coveney said:

“An issue has emerged there in relation to one of the three labs that are doing this work and we are now working to correct that and that is what we’ll continue to do.”

Mr Doherty pointed out that Mr Coveney didn’t answer any of the questions he asked and repeated them.

He also further pointed out that Mr McKenna had confirmed the HSE still doesn’t know how Quest Diagnostics made the error – despite the problem being identified in November.

Mr Coveney still didn’t answer Mr Doherty’s questions.

But he said:

“The HSE has advised that all of the evidence suggests that even though the test was done outside of the 30-day window, the original results are still very reliable. So can we please try to reassure people here there is not a cause for undue concern.

This is about, this is about full transparency, that is what patients should be entitled to expect and it is about correcting a mistake that shouldn’t have happened and to give women a reassurance by having a repeat smear test.”

He added:

“The information that I gave earlier to this house, is that the HSE became aware of this issue in November, the minister became aware in December, had discussions in relation to it, has asked for reports in relation to it and hasn’t got a complete report yet in relation to it. And so the information that I’m giving to the House today is current.”

Mr Howlin said:

“The delay in getting the CervicalCheck is now 22 weeks according to the HSE. Where there is a problem with a check and recheck is required, that means another 22 weeks.

“For many people availing of private healthcare options, to get a faster check, but that’s not an option for everybody. It’s another example of the two-tier system. I was contacted by somebody today who said, when they were told of this inordinate delay, ‘we can get a fast one, if you pay’.”

“…How much scandal can the screening programme take? We are absolutely in favour of screening but the problems besetting CervicalCheck programme indicates that something is deeply wrong.

“These problems are further eroding confidence in screening and people are anxious.

“So, I want to ask specific questions: Can you, Tánaiste, on behalf of the Government, confirm how much additional funding was allocate last year to CervicalCheck.

“Two, will the Government commit to full staffing and funding, so that we can get CervicalCheck back on track and deliver the quality service that we all want.

“And finally, as a result of what’s gone on, now, as an emergency measure, will the Government undertake to refund the cost of private checks, which might be in the order of €100 to €200 per patient, in order to address the backlog and remove the inequality between those who can pay privately.”

In his response, Mr Coveney said:

“What we have is a new issue, that we didn’t know about. That needs to be addressed, that was raised with the minister in December… And was subsequently raised in a CervicalCheck steering committee.

“It is absolutely appropriate that patients’ reps and the steering committee would be the first to hear about this and indeed patients themselves would hear before the Dáil hears about these issues. And the minister … asked for, and was awaiting, a report in terms of the detailed numbers on this issue when it was raised yesterday and it became a political issue in the Dáil. And that is why we’ve had to respond today in the way that we have.”

Mr Howlin asked Mr Coveney if he could respond to his specific questions in writing.

Investigation after smear test time limit ‘confusion’ (RTE)