Tag Archives: John McGuinness

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]

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: Lucia and Jim O’Farrell hold a picture of their late son, Shane; Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness

Yesterday evening.

In the Dáil.

Further statements were made in respect of Judge Peter Charleton’s recent report on the Disclosures Tribunal which found that Sgt Maurice McCabe was the victim of a campaign of calumny carried out by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda Press Officer Supt Dave Taylor.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness (above) told the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan that the Government’s apology to Sgt Maurice McCabe “the most blatant, brazen piece of hypocrisy I have seen in a long time”.

At the tribunal, Mr McGuinness told Judge Charleton that when he was the chairman of Public Accounts Committee on January 23, 2014, the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told Mr McGuinness that Sgt McCabe “fiddles with kids”.

He said Mr Callinan also referred to both Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson as “fucking headbangers”.

And he told the judge that, the following day, during a meeting in a car park of Bewley’s Hotel on the Naas Road, Dublin, on Friday, January 24, 2014, Mr Callinan told Mr McGuinness that Sgt McCabe sexually abused his children and nieces.

Judge Charleton accepted Mr McGuinness’s evidence.

Further to this…

In his statement about the tribunal’s report, Mr McGuinness told Minister Flanagan…

“First, I compliment Mr Justice Charleton on the efficient way in which he dealt with the tribunal and on the clear report he submitted afterwards. He was unambiguous in his comments on the various issues raised. He has shown the Government and the State how a tribunal can be run efficiently and over a short time.

“I also acknowledge Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s role in the tribunal and its outcome. I am satisfied that the tribunal heard his version of events, and the tribunal was clear in its acknowledgement that he was vindicated in everything he did and said.

“As for the Government and the apology to Sergeant McCabe, it was the most blatant, brazen piece of hypocrisy I have seen in a long time. Sergeant McCabe was telling his story for 12 years, describing what was happening and highlighting issues in the force, yet the Government stood idly by and did nothing.

“In fact, the time for the apology and intervention was when the current Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, said as a Minister that Maurice McCabe’s actions were distinguished, not disgusting.

“However, the Government sat on its hands and watched as that family was put through torture during those years.

The Minister for Justice and Equality continues to preside over a Department that appears to be dysfunctional. I have seen no evidence of the reform that was promised. There are many examples of that, such as the current hearings of the Committee of Public Accounts with prison officers, including Noel McGree.

To say that the replies to all the questions I have asked in this House were economical with the truth and misleading in their content is an understatement.

“The Department feels it is okay to stand over that. Now that the Minister has been converted to examining the actions of the Department and is showing a willingness to say when he is wrong, will he tell John Wilson, Noel McGree and the two female whistleblowers I am aware of that he was wrong?

“Will he intervene now and tell them he is sorry for what the State has done to them? Will he give them a chance to get their lives back on track, as he should? I doubt it, because he does not have the backbone to do it. That is the sorry aspect of what is happening.

“The tribunal came and went and left its report behind. The Minister appears to think that the dogs will bark and the caravans will move on. However, the country has taken a turn.

There is a demand now for truth and justice from all of us who serve, but the people are not getting truth and justice from the Department; they are getting anything but that.

“The Government has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to court or through tribunals before it will acknowledge what is happening to individuals in the employment of the State. I have given the Minister the examples and I have asked him to intervene. Perhaps he will tell us what he intends to do about it.

A motion was passed by the House relating to the investigation of the death of Shane O’Farrell. The Government has taken no action to implement the desire of the Opposition to have that matter investigated.

It lets Shane’s mother, Lucia, his father and sisters wallow in the sorrow of losing him and will not intervene. The Government fails to understand the devastation it has visited on their lives by not recognising them.

“Ultimately, the motion was passed in the House but nothing was done about it. If the confidence and supply arrangement meant anything it should make a difference in people’s lives. Under that arrangement Fianna Fáil should step up to the plate and tell the Government to act on the motion or else.

“That is what we are coming to because the State and the Government are presiding over the beating up of our citizens by Departments.

“Similar to the actions of Sergeant Maurice McCabe, other State employees have come forward and given disclosures. To say they have been treated badly is, again, an understatement. Their lives have been ruined. In some cases they are professionals and their careers have been ruined.

There are other cases, such as Douglas Fannin and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Department has not dealt with it. It just continues to ignore it and to pull people through the courts.

“Last week, the Department of Defence went to the High Court. The Department was totally wrong and had given incorrect and inaccurate replies to parliamentary questions.

“In the Morrissey v State case the Department of Defence lost. Thankfully that young man is now taking his place in the Cadet School.

“I have just highlighted a few cases but I shall also speak about one other case where, again, the House set up an investigation and to this day we do not know what is happening.

I refer to the Grace case. Individuals who were mentally and physically challenged and non-verbal were abused while in the care of the State. The State is sitting on its hands rather than dealing efficiently and factually with the cases of Grace and the 47 other individuals.

“What more do we have to do in this House in the context of debating the issues, of highlighting the issues and of getting action from a Government that quite frankly does not seem to care?

The only reason the Minister apologised is because he was flushed out and the matter came out into the open. The State could not beat Maurice McCabe but there are many others out there who the Government seems prepared to beat.

The Government is currently dealing with the case of John Barrett. I wonder why that is coming about and what is going to happen.

“When individual citizens raise issues in this State, the Government’s answer is to bring the house down around the person, to push him or her to the pin of the collar and to break careers, families and health. There is no response from the Government and no showing of humanity or compassion.

“There is no attempt to bring in the necessary reforms to stop all of this from happening again and again. People turn to this House for direction and leadership. They turn to this House for protection. They believe they are doing the right thing.

If one was to ask Maurice McCabe I would say he is doubtful whether he would do it all over again. He has, however, done an enormous service to the State and he is to be commended on what he did. He should be protected for what he did. The others should also be protected for what they did.

“I have given the names to the Minister, and I have often mentioned them in public. Out of all of those cases and from the motion that was passed, I believe the Shane O’Farrell case is one that clearly demonstrates to people that the State and the Government have no interest unless they are pushed to the point where action has to happen. By that point, the families are generally broken.

“The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and his Government, have an awful lot to answer for. The political system in this House has an awful lot to answer for. The confidence and supply arrangement has a lot to answer for because it does not demand transparency and accountability.

“Where it sees the need for accountability, such as the motion on the Shane O’Farrell case, it is not prepared to do anything else. That is just an exercise in voicing an opinion about things rather than an exercise to put in place fair play, justice and an acknowledgment that the State should not beat up families or ignore them.

“The State should do the opposite; it should show compassion, humanity and an attempt to deal with the reality of the lives of the people who are being destroyed by the inaction of the State.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Previously: ‘We Are Part Of A Cover-Up’

‘Delay, Deny, Lie Then Cover-Up’

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From top: Fine Gael TD John Deasy, Fianna Fáil TD McGuiness;  Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities Finian McGrath, of Independent Alliance, and Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee 

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Following Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities Finian McGrath’s publication yesterday of the terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation into the case of ‘Grace’ and the foster home she lived in for 20 years…

Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy called on members of the Dáil to be sceptical of what the HSE has said to date about the Grace case and set out examples of why he believes there was and is a cover-up in relation to the foster home.

Kilkenny Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said by accepting Mr McGrath’s terms of reference, and excluding other victims – 46 other people lived in the home – Dáil members were “heaping further abuse” on the families affected by the foster care home in the southeast of Ireland, saying: “We are now the abusers in this case.”

Mr McGuinness also recounted the harrowing experiences of other victims at the foster home.

Following their contributions, and that of other deputies, Mr McGrath announced that he is going to amend the current terms of reference – to make it explicit that the cases of the 46 other people would not be investigated in the second phase of the commission of investigation.

From the debate…

Mr Deasy said:

What we discovered, myself and John McGuinness [Fianna Fail TD from Kilkenny] was that the first casualty was always the truth when dealing with the HSE and this issue. And I’d like to give you some examples of what is and was a cover-up.”

“The legal advice from the HSE from day one was to make Grace a ward of court to protect her. The HSE refused to do so. The reason? They had concerns about a judge asking awkward questions about HSE failings in this regard.”

“In June 2008, at the HSE Vulnerable Adults Committee, of the HSE, three options were discussed: one, do nothing; two, make her a ward of court; three, give the birth mother information under an FOI and risk her being made a ward of court as a result. It was noted at the meeting that, and I quote, ‘this would lead to a disastrous day in court as it would appear the HSE had done nothing’. The HSE took option one, did nothing, and denied the information the birth mother was entitled to under the FOI.”

“The agency caring for Grace were then refused any information, medical or otherwise, because the HSE didn’t want the agency to discover their failings. Conor Dignam found that to be a breach of duty, in the duty of care to Grace because she suffered trauma needlessly and started to self-harm as a result.”

The agency then went about making her a ward of court themselves which would they legally mandate information to be imparted and would allow a solicitor to instruct for Grace. The HSE then told the agency not to do it. And said the agency could not take actions unapproved by the HSE. They were reminded, the agency, that the HSE was it’s sole funder.”

The whistleblower told the HSE they were going ahead with wardship, the HSE contacted her manager and board of directors and pressurised them not to proceed. The HSE wrote to her line manager with fabricated information, alleging poor professional conduct.”

“The High Court then chose the whistleblower as the legal committee for Grace when she again asked for information regarding medical and psychological care, the HSE again refused. The HSE then wrote to the High Court, this is my favourite part, they wrote to the High Court saying the whistleblower wasn’t fulfilling her duties because she didn’t have the proper assessments and information even though they were the ones withholding the information. Pretty twisted stuff that was kafkaesque.”

Then, one HSE official innocently gave the whistleblower a psychological report on Grace when her HSE bosses found out, they accused her, the whistleblower, through a solicitor, of being aggressive and abusive and not a fit person to represent Grace.”

“When the HSE official who gave the report originally and innocently found this out, she actually signed a statement setting out it was a complete fabrication by the HSE. For five years, the Conal Devine report sat on a shelf, the HSE refused to give it to anyone.”

“On March 5, 2015, the PAC [public accounts committee] announced it had received a disclosure about non-publication of the Devine Report. The next day, the HSE first wrote to the gardai to seek the go-ahead to publish. When they came before the PAC, that’s some coincidence.”

When they came before the PAC, they told us the protected disclosures had been fully investigated, they had not been. They told there were no procurement issues, Dignam found that there were. They told us that the people who decided to keep Grace in placement in 1996 had all retired, they had not. They told us that the gardai had stopped them publishing the [Devine] report, the gardai had not. They told us they apologised to Grace and her mother, they had not.”

“So was this a conspiracy, a cover-up? Yes its was. As I said before, this was a concerted and organised attempt to hide information and conceal the truth by a clique of HSE managers. This was an orchestrated attempt to protect officials and an organisation who fail people in State care in a catastrophic manner on a number of levels.”

Mr McGuinness said:

“The terms in relation to the terms of reference is one that now cannot be amended, is my understanding. And yet it’s a motion that actually needs to be amended. And following our discussion with you last night, minister, and the whistleblowers, I believe that you should amend this motion.”

It is simply not possible that we should, or it is not acceptable that we should carry this motion today in the context of the terms of reference when we know so much about this that is wrong. And what we are doing here, in this debate, and in accepting your terms of reference, we’re heaping further abuse on those families. We are now the abusers in this case. That is what is happening here. And let me explain why, minister, you know, you know this.”

“The whistleblower, first and foremost, exhausted every single avenue in the HSE, they tried everything to highlight the case and they weren’t listened to. They were forced to come to the public accounts committee to deal with a procurement issue about the reports that have cost this state almost €400,000 and it was out of that examination that came the story, not just of Grace, that’s a neat way of packaging it. It’s not just Grace, it’s Grace and 46 others that we need to look at. So we need to find out what happened within the HSE that covered up all of this scandal since 1982 – that’s what we need to do.”

We need to go back before Grace and we need to maybe humanise this story. What about the young girl, at 12 years of age, that was taken out of that home? And this was before Grace. Taken out of that home because her mother was told by the school that she was attending school, bruised and beaten and neglected. And when that mother made complaints in 1992, to the health board, she was told to shut up. She was told not to repeat those stories. And she was threatened legally.”

“When she took her child out of that care. She then had to seek care in Northern Ireland. Because the South Eastern Health Board wouldn’t support her. How disgusting is that?”

“And she’s not going to be included in this report? And let’s put real words on it. She was battered, bruised, she was sexually abused, financially abused. And sexually abused anally so that today that woman has a life of pain and suffering and you’re not going to investigate her case? We should be ashamed of ourselves.

What about the young boy that was there? Who, when he heard about Grace came out and said: if only I had spoken up about what happened to me then Grace might not have happened at all. And he carries that burden with him, he carries that burden with him.”

“And then Grace. She turns up at the day care centre five-foot high, five kilos and they say, the doctor’s report says that she was ‘slim and well’. Now if that’s not an attempt to cover up what was happening in that home, then, I don’t know what is.”

“She was battered, bruised, sexually abused anally, deprived of her money, neglected. Is neglect not abuse in itself? And you’ve listened to some of the parents. I listened to a parent this morning for one hour and she cried about the abuse that her daughter suffered. And she cried about the quality of life that she now has.”

“And I spoke to the carer this morning who cried bitter tears again, over the fact they were not being listened to. This was a major cover-up by the HSE. It was an astonishing set of events that has led to lives being destroyed and we are now here, discussing a set of terms of reference that are inadequate and that were not recommended by DIgnam.”

He said, and you know this minister, stop covering up. You know this. His terms of reference are far more robust than what you have put in here and he refers to the fact that the other cases need to be investigated. I fully support the investigation in terms of Grace but the other ones, the other ones, they would not, minster, and you know this. You know this. And you’ve heard the public commentary last night. Where you were being told that we are further abusing these families and these individuals because we’re neglecting to take on board what the whisteblowers actually said, what Dignam actually said. And if we pass this, in this house, we should be ashamed of ourselves. I certainly won’t support it.”

UPDATE:

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Further to the contributions of Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness (above) and other deputies…

Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities Finian McGrath said:

Nobody will be excluded. It was always my intention that there would be second phase to this commission to investigate the care and decision-making in respect of others, as well as Grace. Nobody will be excluded. And I say again, leas ceann comhairle, nobody will be excluded.”

“However, and I accept this one, I have listened to Brendan Howlin, David Cullinane, John McGuinness, and Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, I have listened, and to other deputies, to the concerns expressed here and for the avoidance of any doubt, I’ve decided to recommend to Government that we make this completely explicit in the terms of reference.

“I want to repeat: that my objective was to have a clear focus on the care of Grace, as a first phase of this work and I’m standing by this. There have already been a series of reports into the care of Grace but the facts of actually what happened and the reasons for certain key decisions are still not clear. And I accept your arguments on that. The commission provides to call witnesses and to hear the evidence so that we can finally learn the truth.”

“…I intend to circulate revised terms of reference to put at ease the minds of those who are concerned about the imperative for the cases of others to be investigated in a second phase.”

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Members of the The Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform From left: Senator Gerry Horkan,Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, Senator Kieran O’Donnell and John McGuinness T.D Chairperson of the on the Plinth, Leinster House in Dublin today.

The report [on the motor insurance industry[ concluded that on average premiums have increased by 37%, but in some cases premium hikes have been in the order of 200%-300%.

“It is apparent that insurance companies in many cases are refusing even to quote insurance. In other instances, insurance companies quote but the amounts sought are so large that the net effect is to prevent people from getting insurance,” the draft report states.

It says it is unacceptable that the insurance industry publicly states that certain variables are behind steep increases in motor insurance, yet fail to publicly furnish the supporting evidence. “The insurance industry cannot have it both ways,” it added.

Want to bet?

FIGHT!

Report concludes drivers have ‘been thrown to the wolves’ over car insurance (Irish Examiner)

Motor insurance industry accused of cartel-like behaviour (Irish Times)

Previously: Unacceptable

Premium Content

‘There Is A Cartel Of Insurance Underwriters’

Rollingnews

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From top: Car park of The Maldron Hotel, formerly Bewley’s Hotel, Newlands Cross, Dublin 22; the panel on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne and Vincent Browne

Last night.

On Tonight with Vincent Browne.

The panel included Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly; Irish Examiner journalist Michael Clifford; director of communications at Social Democrats Anne Marie McNally; and Gavan Reilly, of Today FM.

The show followed Noirin O’Sullivan’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on Wednesday, of which Clare Daly is a member.

They discussed the ongoing Garda whistleblower controversies and, in particular, the meeting that took place between Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a car park on the Naas Road on January 24, 2014.

Mr McGuinness has told the Dail that, at that meeting, Mr Callinan told him Sgt Maurice McCabe could not be trusted.

The panel talked about what else Mr McGuinness claims Mr Callinan said to him, without detailing what was supposedly said.

Readers may wish to note that, on RTÉ’s Six One on Wednesday, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan – who is also a member of the Oireachtas justice committee – told presenter Brian Dobson:

I have confidence in here [Noirin O’Sullivan] and it’s not my part to be an investigator on this committee, this isn’t an investigative committee, there’s a judge who’s been put in place, Judge O’Neill, to inquire into the protected disclosures that were recently made, that is an investigative process and there will be a report produced at the end of that process and if that report is critical of individuals in high places whoever they are, I won’t be shy, nor will other members of Fianna Fail be shy about calling on those individuals to take responsibility. But what I’m not prepared to do, is just to call for somebody to resign in circumstances where allegations have been made against them but there’s no findings. In those circumstances, I do retain confidence in the commissioner.”

Further to this, from last night’s Tonight With Vincent Browne…

Vincent Browne: “Among the rumours that I’ve been hearing over the last while is that a senior Garda directed by an even more senior Garda sent text messages to other senior gardai and to members of the media, making horrendous allegations about a whistleblower and that a lot of these top echelons of An Garda Siochana were aware of this and may even have encouraged this. Now, it seems to me, if this is true and it isn’t the resignation of the Garda Commissioner that would be required but the resignation of an awful lot of people at a senior level. Have you heard this?

Michael Clifford: “It’s more than a rumour. I mean, a lot of what you said is in one of the protected disclosures but, as you said, Vincent, if it’s true, the issue is can it be proven? Can it be proven to a degree that it would for example, an official legal figure, whomever would be willing, would be satisfied enough…”

Browne: “It could be proved to be true or not to be true because the gardai have capacities to examine text messages, as we found out in the Elaine O’Hara murder trial, for instance, and they’d be able to look back at the text messages and see…”

Clifford: “If they wanted to…”

Browne: “But, sorry, there is available, the expertise, to look back at text messages…”

Gavan Reilly:If the handset or SIM can be recovered which isn’t always necessarily a given.

Browne: “What’s that?”

Reilly: “If the physical phone or the SIM card from which the text messages were sent is available to you – which may or may not be the case.”

Anne Marie McNally:My understanding is that Keith Harrison is saying that he’s got evidence on his phone that will prove the allegations. But, if I’m reading it correct this evening, the judge that’s been appointed, according to the Commissioner’s testimony, he won’t actually have the power to examine phone records so I’m not sure if that extends to text messages but it would seem to be…”

Clifford:He’ll be able to request it…”

Clare Daly: “Yeah.”

McNally: “He should be, yeah.”

Reilly: “That’s part of the problem of the inquiry that’s been asked of Iarlaith O’Neill, that because he’s existing in a very legal grey area, where it’s all very ill-defined where he’s not acting in a judicial capacity, he’s effectively acting as a kind of wise alderman but he has no powers of compellability or inquiry, as such, so all he can really do is ask people to cooperate and if they do, then he’s entitled to come up with an opinion, as eminent as it might be but that he’s ultimately flying blind. He doesn’t have the powers to demand anything of anybody. So, realistically, the scoping exercise…”

Browne: “So what’s the point?”

Daly: “Well that’s the question, isn’t it. And I mean obviously points have been made by the two…”

Browne: “You’re aware of what I’m talking about…”

Daly: “I’m absolutely aware of what you’re talking about…”

Browne: “My understanding is that when a senior garda person got a, got this text message, the reply was ‘perfect’ which would seem to imply that that person, that senior garda officer was aware of the plan to smear the reputation of the whistleblower in the most odious possible way that you could think of.”

Daly: “At the heart of the protected disclosures is precisely that, that there was an organised and orchestrated deliberate campaign, authorised at the top, including the current and the former commissioner to effectively do exactly what you’ve said – to demonise, to ostracize and put everybody off this whistleblower so that he would be a person that nobody would want to touch or listen to and I mean media people would have got that information, obviously a lot of guards, but politicians did aswell. And, you know, whatever about maybe…”

Browne: “Did politicians get them?

Daly: “Texts, part of the allegations that selected politicians were sent these messages also..”

Browne: “Really?”

Daly: “And given that message which…”

Browne:Who were they?

Daly: “Well, I don’t know, I know I definitely wasn’t one but it begs the question that even if, initially, some people believed it to be true, as I’m sure some people would, when it emerged around the O’Higgins Commission and the evidence that emerged in that, whereby the commissioner’s legal team had been instructed to undermine the credibility of Maurice McCabe and question his motivation and all of that came into the public domain, why wasn’t that the trigger for people to come forward? And say, ‘hang on a minute here, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. A huge problem now with the inquiry is that the present whistleblowers, the serving guards, who were live, who made protected disclosures, under Noirin O’Sullivan’s watch, they’re allegations of mistreatment and bullying are not being included in Iarlaith O’Neill’s terms of reference…”

Later

Clifford: “What would be very interesting in that inquiry is whether the chairman or the judge asks in somebody, for example, [Fianna Fail TD] John McGuinness, who may have something to say. And he’s nothing to hide himself whatsoever but he may have something to say in relation to his meeting with former [Garda] commissioner Martin Callinan and did anything transpire there that may be of any use to Mr O’Neill trying to get to the bottom of this issue.”

Browne:I think many of us know what John McGuinness says he was told by Martin Callinan.”

Clifford: “He hasn’t publicly stated it himself, I suppose for good reason, but he hasn’t. But I’m sure…”

Browne:It is truly shocking. It would really..absolutely shocking. I think if viewers knew what was said, what John McGuinness says was said, I think they would be appalled…”

Reilly: “To go back to the very last point though, what John McGuinness and his meeting with Martin Callinan in a car park somewhere on the Naas Road. John McGuinness revealed that, on the Dail record, he was in the chamber, when he was speaking under privilege but I think he’s repeated it outside the chamber since, that Martin Callinan told him Maurice McCabe was, quote, not to be trusted. Now if that, that in most people’s eyes I think would qualify as an attempt by the most senior garda in force…”

Browne: “Yeah, but if that’s all that was said, you might think, well, yeah, yeah, yeah, but if that was all that was said…”

Reilly: “Well is it tenable for the commissioner at the time to be intervening as he did to cast those kinds of aspirations on the character of Maurice McCabe as he was…”

Browne: “OK but if…”

Reilly: “And for his assistant deputy commissioner not to know?”

Browne: “If that was all was said, that Maurice McCabe wasn’t to be trusted, if that was all was said, you’d say, well, all right, it was, shouldn’t have done it and all that,  but my understanding is that very much more was said and of much more damning significance than that Maurice McCabe wasn’t to be trusted…”

Later

Browne:If what we’ve heard is true, the damage that’s been done will be nothing to the damage that will be done.

Watch back in full here

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Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness

Mr McGuinness continues to claim he did no wrong in secretly meeting Callinan and not telling anybody about it until now. Yet the Fianna Fáil TD accepts his information may have helped the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation into whistleblower allegations. His excuses for not coming forward before are less than convincing.

Is his decision to divulge the information now related to him not being reappointed as chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee and being notably left off Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s frontbench?

Whatever about his role as a TD – only the voters of Carlow-Kilkenny can pass judgment on that – Mr McGuinness was negligent in his duty as chairman of the Dáil’s most powerful committee, which is supposed to be the taxpayers’ watchdog.

The public deserved better from the holder of that role. And these matters are more important than John McGuinness’s ego and attention-seeking antics.

Right so.

From an editorial in today’s Irish Independent.

McGuinness negligent as chairman of Dáil PAC (Irish Independent)

Previously: Better Late Than Never

‘We Are Part Of The Cover-Up’

Did The Editor Have His Points Quashed?

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Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

Commissioner O’Sullivan was not aware of any private meeting between former Commissioner Callinan and Deputy McGuinness as outlined by Deputy McGuinness in the Dáil.

In relation to whistleblowers, Commissioner O’Sullivan has consistently stated that dissent is not disloyalty and as a service we are determined to learn from our experiences. An Garda Síochána agrees that whistleblowers are part of the solution to the problems facing the service.

The Commissioner has recently appointed a Protected Disclosures Manager and an appropriately trained dedicated team will be established to oversee all matters related to whistleblowers.

Transparency Ireland has agreed to work with An Garda Síochána to help ensure protected disclosures and people making them are welcomed and protected in An Garda Síochána.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in a statement released this evening.

Meanwhile…

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Lorcan Roche Kelly

You may recall the murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly.

The mother of two, from Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, was murdered by Gerry McGrath, from Knockavilla, Co. Tipperary, at The Clarion Hotel in Limerick on December 8, 2007.

McGrath was out on bail –  for attempting to abduct a child, on October 9, 2007 – when he killed Sylvia.

He was also out on bail for assaulting taxi driver Mary Lynch in Virginia, Cavan on April 30, 2007.

Further to this…

Sylvia’s husband and journalist Lorcan Roche Kelly spoke to Seán O’Rourke this morning about An Garda Síochána and his trust in the same.

Lorcan Roche Kelly: “I think the problem with Noirin O’Sullivan – this is nothing personal against Noirin at all, I’m sure she’s a perfectly good Garda – is that she is a commissioner that was appointed internally. She came up through the system that exists within the gardaí for the last however many years and it’s that system that has been the problem. So, to get that system reformed, I don’t think Noirin O’Sullivan should have the public’s confidence in being able to reform it because she is of that system. Like I think if you look over the border, what we saw in 2001 with the Royal Ulster Constabulary being completely transformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland, it’s, I’m not saying we need to change the name of the Gardaí but it’s that level of reform that the Gardaí now need because they have resisted reform for so long that the reform, I suppose, the actions needed have built up to such an extent that we’re nearly at a root and branch level of reform.”

Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah but again that is very central to her whole approach and that’s what’s being seen now by the new Policing Authority. Was it not a good starting point in itself? I suppose it’s precious little consolation to people like yourself and the [Shane] O’Farrell family, for instance. The Commissioner did say, ‘we are sorry the victims did not get the service they were entitled to’.”

Roche Kelly: “Isn’t that the most mealy-mouthed apology. It’s like: I’m sorry your coffee wasn’t as hot as you wanted it to be. Like this is much more serious..”

O’Rourke: “Ah is it not a bit, and I accept now that nobody knows apart from you and your family the grief that you’ve had to endure but would you not give her a bit more credit it than that?”

Roche Kelly: “To be honest, after nine years and after the, I suppose, the stonewalling we’ve received over the years, it’s very hard for me to look at a guard and say, ‘ok, I trust your bona fides in this’. Like this apology came after the O’Higgins Commission, the apology, when the writing was so clearly on the wall that then, ok, now, an apology was necessary. So rather than making a fulsome apology, the apology was made as a press release, that I didn’t receive, I’d to go on Twitter and ask, ‘does any journalist have this press release so at least I can see it’.”

O’Rourke: “Have you had any direct personal apology yourself, from the gardaí?”

Roche Kelly: “Last week I had a meeting with some gardaí in Dublin with the idea of them outlining the reforms they’re bringing in. So it was, the idea of the meeting was to show what reforms they’re bringing in to show this won’t happen again, I think is where we are.”

O’Rourke:“And they clearly would have been senior. How senior gardaí were they? Was there an assistant commissioner or deputy commissioner among them?”

Roche Kelly: “No.”

O’Rourke: “And were you persuaded by what you heard?”

Roche Kelly: “Again, I’m probably the least persuadable person when it comes to Gardaií reform but no it was..no, I think it’s as simple as that, to be fair.”

O’Rourke: “And what would persuade you, Lorcan?”

Roche Kelly: “I think, in order for a reformed process to have credibility, the first thing you need to say is, ‘ok, the people that need to be reformed shouldn’t be the people that do the reforming’. Like, again, nothing personal against Noirin O’Sullivan, I’m sure she’s a fantastic person and she’s a very good guard, but in order to reform an organisation, you need to bring in an outsider. Like, say, in the corporate world, if you want to change a company, you appoint a new CEO from outside because you can’t appoint an internal appointment because, you’ll say, well that’s just going to be more of the same in the Gardaí. So the Gardaí, as an organisation, have to be beyond reproach and we have spent, I have spent nine years, the Irish media have spent the last month and a half reproaching the Gardaí, saying, ‘look this is where the problems are, what are you going to do to address these problems?’, ‘how are you going to address these problems?’. It’s a constant drumbeat of a question that is landing at the Gardaí’s desk and, in order to address those problems, they need to have an outsider come in. And again, to look at what we saw what was done over the border 15 years ago, so it is not an impossible task but there has to be willingness to do it.”

O’Rourke:To what extant, Lorcan, are your views informed by that experience, that nine years as you say, in the course of which you took a legal action which, I think, you knew would fail, seeking to get fuller information. And then you had the dealings with GSOC and you’re still not satisfied that there is sufficient accountability there clearly.”

Roche Kelly: “When I was doing the research, one of the interesting statistics from GSOC that I found out and you mentioned this yourself with the exoneration of the gardaí in Cavan-Monaghan at a previous report in 2011 was that the way GSOC works is that they can make recommendations for disciplinary action against a guard but they have no power themselves to implement disciplinary commission, that goes to a senior guard. And in 2012, the year my complaint came up, there was 5,600 complaints against gardaí. Over 1,000, I think it was 1,017 of them were put forward for disciplinary action. Of those 1,017, 69 resulted in some disciplinary action. So, if you’re a garda and a complaint is made against you there is a less than 1% chance of you facing any disciplinary action at all. Which, some people could say a lot of the complaints against gardaí may be spurious but I doubt 99% of them are. It’s the culture, and that needs to be highlighted, because it’s a cultural problem, rather than admit there are problems, let’s ignore the problem and move on as an organisation and to move on within the gardaí seems to me to mean, ‘let’s pretend none of this happened’.”

Later

Roche Kelly: “When my wife was murdered, our daughter was in junior infants in primary school, she’s now in first year in secondary school. So her entire primary school life has been based on: where is the answer to these questions? And I haven’t found them. And the only reason that I haven’t found the answers to these questions is because I have been stonewalled by the gardaí. This entire, my entire thing could have been sorted out with two phone calls and a letter eight years ago.”

O’Rourke: “Did you get the answers in the O’Higgins report?”

Roche Kelly: “I got the answers, the factual play that I had known all along. It was, why had the gardaí not admitted that they had made a mistake here; why have they not come out and said, ‘ok, if we had done our job right, Sylvia would still be alive’ and here’s what we’ve done to address it. And like the O’Higgins report, again, ended with a kind of a thing that happens a lot in Ireland where there are systematic problems where many things failed, therefore no one should be individually held responsible. And if that’s the response of the O’Higgins commission, then the book for that has to go to the top of the organisation. And again, I’m not saying Noirin O’Sullivan is anyway incompetent or had any hand, act or part in this but if the organisation is fundamentally rotten or, I won’t say corrupt, but is damaged then it needs to be changed from the top down.”

O’Rourke: “And what about the fact that there was an open, international competition for the Commissioner appointment, after Martin Callinan resigned or was retired, whatever way you want to phrase it, and she came through that competition?”

Roche Kelly: “Again, I don’t think it’s the fact that the competition existed, I would understand that wanted a challenging position would look at the garda, the job of the head of the garda, and say that might be a bridge too far for me, to reform an organisation like that. But if there is an open competition then have an external candidate so internal candidates cannot apply for it because it is a situation where you need an external candidate.”

Listen back in full here

Commissioner ‘not aware’ of Callinan’s car park meeting (Today FM)

Previously: Better Late Than Never