Tag Archives: Ken Foxe

A bumper state-funded salary thread by Ken Foxe, who writes:

The new chief executive of the Land Development Agency: €200,000 per year, provision of a car, health insurance for the candidate and their family, and access to the pension scheme applicable to commercial state body chiefs….

…On the right A salary of €200,000 for the new Project Director of the National Children’s Hospital. This used to be one role but was split into separate posts with a project director and chief officer. Unknown material was redacted by Dept of Public Expenditure & Reform:

On the left a salary of €177,175 per year for the new Chief Officer of the National Children’s Project. This was to reflect the “significant increase in the scale & complexity of the role, the ongoing political, public, and media interest in the project …”…

…Sanction was granted for an increase in the salary of the chief executive of Sport Ireland to €157,000 per year for the final year of the incumbent’s contract. The Dept of Public Expenditure would not comment on why this happened…

…The new head of the National Screening Service is to be given a salary of €161,477 per year. This role has yet to be filled and the competition is ongoing. Dept of Public Expenditure said in future they wanted to be given more notice to make such decisions…

…Sanction was also given for IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan to be reappointed for a five year term with a salary of €187,869 per year. This followed letter from IDA who said the salary had “not been reviewed for some time”…

…the Dept also granted permission for a new head of regulatory affairs at the Health Insurance Authority to be paid a salary at the highest level of the principal officer scale. This is likely a salary of between €101,114 and €107,399…

…Approval for Director of the National Archives to be appointed at a rate of €93,785 per year. Not fully clear if this was the final arrangement and Dept would not provide any further information on it.

Right To Know

Ken Foxe

Oireachtas offices at 91-93 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, have been emptied

Three buildings bought by the State for almost €20million have had to be temporarily abandoned after their staircases began to crack and move.

The Oireachtas offices are located in three adjoining Georgian buildings on Merrion Square with 60 staff affected.

A Freedom of Informartion request by journalist and academic Ken Foxe has revealed details of the sorry tale.

Ken writes:

The saga began last June when the Oireachtas first noticed cracking in the staircase at No 92 Merrion Square West and contacted the Office of Public Works looking for an inspection.

Later that month, staff based in the buildings were getting “somewhat nervous” and the Oireachtas again contacted the OPW looking for advice.

In early July, a preliminary inspection took place with no major issues discovered. By August however, the OPW had been back and decided that the staircase needed work.

This led to installation of scaffolding.

Staff were told to use stairs in the adjoining 93 Merrion Square even though there appeared to be some cracking around plaster work on that one as well.

By mid-November, problems with the second staircase were getting worse. “There is significant cracking along the walls, since the last visit. More worryingly there is gaps appearing on the stairs. Staff are very concerned,” an email noted.

The OPW said on November 12 that a visual inspection of the stairs had been completed. The staircase was “safe for use at all levels”.

They said they would add some temporary timber beams (top pic) to the underside of the stairs to allow for further works.

Staff were not overly reassured … Oireachtas asked for guidance on how they could avoid creating further concerns among workers.

By 25 November, it appeared things had taken a turn for the worse.

In one section, there was now a “fist sized hole right through into the room and cracks running from it to the ceiling” according to an email sent to the OPW.

In January, staff reported that the stairs was now moving and those based there were immediately sent home while alternative arrangements for accommodation were made.

With only an elevator available in 91 Merrion Square, the buildings cannot now be used.

In a statement, the Oireachtas said 40 staff have been relocated to other office space in the wider Leinster House complex.

It is understood that some have been “squeezed” into existing offices, including re-purposed meeting areas.

Meanwhile

The buildings have an interesting back story. They were originally bought at the height of property boom as part of plans to extend the National Gallery for €19.95million.

They had changed hands for €12million two years earlier.

They then lay idle until 2014 when a refurbishment that cost an estimated €4million was completed and the Oireachtas were able to move in.

Good times.

Right To Know

Ken Foxe

From top: Yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; Ryan Tubridy (left) interviewing Pat Spillane in June 2019; Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development; his request for details of Pat Spillane’s RTE pay.

Yesterday.

In the Irish Mail on Sunday,

Journalist Ken Foxe, of RightToKnowIE, revealed  Minister Michael Ring used Freedom of Information to try and find out how much GAA analyst Pat Spillane had been paid by RTÉ.

The request came four days after Mr Spillane had criticised Mr Ring and the Fine Gael government on The Late Late Show.

Mr Spillane said Mr Ring was ‘handing out grants’ rather than regenerating rural Ireland

He told host Ryan Tubridy::

“Grants are great, but grants are short term, sticking-plaster solutions and they are political … throwing meat to the lions.

These projects are not about people … Rural development has to be people-centred and people-driven. The minister is getting very bad advice. They have to bring jobs to rural Ireland.”

Ken Foxe writes:

When I first tried to find out the identity of the TD who made the request, RTÉ refused to release it saying they considered that it constituted the “private papers” of the Oireachtas member. This is the exemption famously used to hide politicians’ expenses:

Interestingly, RTÉ said they had contacted the person in question to establish if they sought the records “as part of their work as a TD or as part of their work in an FOI’able body” e.g. a government department.

The TD said it was “sought as part of their role as a TD”

This was despite the fact that Mr Spillane worked directly for Minister Ring’s department. Mr Spillane was also in direct contact with Mr Ring in his role as rural ambassador.

Through RightToKnowIE, we appealed RTÉ’s decision and after internal review their decision was overturned

Going back to request itself, I asked Mr Ring about assertion this was done in his capacity as a TD, rather than in his capacity as a minister.

The “private papers” exemption could not have applied if request was made as a minister. His spokesman said he would not be commenting.

Notable that he also sought for the information to be “relayed … as a matter of urgency”.

He did not get what he was looking for however, as the salary/expenses and so on are considered “personal information” and the request was refused.

RightToKnowIE

Michael Ring pic: Rollingnews

College Green, Dublin 2.

The question of Luashenge’s origin has baffled the public imagination and scientists for years. Despite hours of archaeological research, very little is known about who erected the cabinet formation and for what purpose.

Journalist (and founder of Noteworthy) Ken Foxe provides below a visual guide to this beloved visitor attraction…

‘Here is a wide view of the famous monument on College Green. An interesting feature of  Luashenge  is the mystery that surrounds some elements of its classical design. The left-most item is classified as an “unknown cabinet”. Nobody knows who put it there. It could have been aliens, the Russians, or indeed Telecom Éireann….

…Like the great passage tomb at Newgrange, Luashenge is actually not just a single isolated heritage site. There is an associated monument nearby on the wall (above) outside the Provost’s house at Trinity College.

This associated Provosthenge monument also has a mysterious “unknown cabinet” (above top right third down). It’s “not Luas-related” but once must surely have served a very important purpose, perhaps relating to prayer or direct communication with the gods…

…Sadly, the Provosthenge monument has suffered some damage in recent times as this image (above) shows. The right-most cabinet, entitled “road traffic controller” has been removed. It was considered “redundant”. Hopefully, a new home has been found for it in the National Museum…

…above is the most striking parts of the complex. It is described by historians as: “A single cabinet near the pedestrian crossing to Trinity. It has a power supply but unknown feed.

You can even take a virtual tour of the famous site here on Google Maps. That way, you can say you knew all about #Luashenge long before UNESCO finally list it as a world heritage site.’

Ken Foxe

Rollingnews

 Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer, journalist, FOI sleuth and founder of investigative news site Noteworthy and Right To Know, Ken Foxe tweetz:

“Here’s another unusual ‘quirk’ from the ‘clock-in’ system for TDs & Senators. Even though they’ve only to record attendance for 120 days a year, they get paid for 150 overnights.”

TAA?

Related: Why do TDs living a relatively short drive from work in commuter towns get €15,000-a-year in “accommodation” expenses? (Ken Foxe, 2016)

Dublin’s Google Docks in the Grand Canal Dock; extract from Department of Justice submission explaining why Data Protection Commission should be only ‘partially included’ in the Freedom of Information Act

Journalist Ken Foxe tweetz:

If you ever wondered why there is such incredible levels of secrecy surrounding the Data Protection Commissioner, arguably Ireland’s most important state agency. They need to be able to provide “guarantee of absolute confidentiality” to the giant tech firms based in Ireland.

The above is an extract from a Dept of Justice submission explaining why Data Protection Commissioner should be only “partially included” in the Freedom of Information Act.

Will post the full record to @Thestoryie later on.

The Story

Numbers 44/45 O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

This morning.

Ninety-eight properties managed by the Office of Public Works are sitting vacant around the country, reveals Ken Foxe, at Noteworthy:

These include several important historic properties – including two adjoining period houses on O’Connell Street in Dublin – that are being allowed to fall into disrepair.

Nearly two-thirds of the vacant properties are former garda stations, most of which were deemed surplus to requirements by the gardaí late last year.

A single rented property is also vacant, but the government is set to escape from its €112,500-a-year lease for that building on Dublin’s Clare Street in January 2020.

…Seven former coastguard cottages in Crosshaven are also empty and are currently “being prepared for disposal” , the Office of Public Works said.

…According to official records, four of the properties have not been used since “pre-1983″.

Nearly 100 State buildings managed by Office of Public Works lying idle around the country (Ken Foxe, Noteworthy)

See here for full list of vacant properties and for length of time they’ve been vacant

Pic: GoogleMaps

Journalist Ken Foxe, former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic

Journalist, lecturer, founder of investigative news site Noteworthy and Right To Know Ken Foxe has given his latest update on his attempts to obtain correspondence between the former Minister for Justice and current MEP candidate Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor with the Communications Clinic Terry Prone between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

Mr Foxe was originally told by the Department of Justice that no such records existed – even though it was already on public record that Ms Fitzgerald paid the Communications Clinic, via a special secretarial allowance, more than €11,000 between the date she became minister [May 8, 2014] and the end of 2016.

The claim also contradicted evidence put before the Disclosures Tribunal last year of written/email communications between Ms Prone and Ms Fitzgerald during the relevant time of Mr Foxe’s request.

Mr Foxe appealed the decision of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Information Commissioner went on to discover 68 such records of correspondence between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

Separately, Mr Foxe has also had a frustrating time securing correspondence between Ms Prone and the former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – whom Ms Prone was also advising between 2014 and 2017.

The Disclosures Tribunal saw how statements or draft speeches were written with the help of Ms Prone by Ms O’Sullivan for Ms Fitzgerald concerning issues about Ms O’Sullivan.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton described this sequence of events worthy of Myles na Gopaleen’s satire.

In his latest update, Mr Foxe explains that the Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall has since told him that the department has told him it has checked mobile devices for phone messages or emails which may have fallen within his FOI request and that the only individuals who may have had such contact with Ms Prone or the Communications Clinic via said phones was Ms Fitzgerald and a “named special adviser”.

Mr Tyndall told Mr Foxe:

“The department stated that its ICT division confirmed that the special adviser’s phone was reset, wiped of data and recirculated to another person in 2017.”

Mr Foxe was also told this is “standard practice when a staff member who has use of an ‘official’ phone leaves the department”.

And he was further informed:

“The department said that a phone that had been used at that time by the former minister was returned to her for checking and that she subsequently advised that no additional records covered by the request were identified on that device.”

Finally, Mr Tyndall told Mr Foxe that he has accepted the department’s account of how it went about securing any records and “its position that no further records were found”.

It added:

I have no reason to dispute the assurances of those involved that they do not hold further records. I accept that the original searches in response to the applicant’s [Mr Foxe] request of 11 March 2017 did not, for reasons explained by the Department, find records that subsequently came to light in its further searches. However, this, of itself, does not entitle me to find that all reasonable steps have not been taken to ascertain the whereabouts of records falling within the scope of the request.”

Mr Foxe writes about his latest update in more detail below…

Previously: “What Is It About Emails Between Terry Prone And Very Important Public Officials?”

‘Records Do In Fact Exist’

Clinical Exposure

Meanwhile…

As reported in last weekend’s Sunday Times...

A job advertisement for the role of “Head of Transparency” at the Department of Justice on publicjobs.ie.

Journalist and lecturer Ken Foxe, founder of investigative news site Noteworthy, sought details of the pensions paid to all former constitutional/ministerial/judicial office holders in 2017 and 2018.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform refused to give Mr Foxe a detailed breakdown – saying the individuals’ right to privacy outweighed the public interest.

Instead, the department released the total amount paid and the number of people within each group who received pensions (see tables above for amounts paid in 2017 and 2018).

Mr Foxe is reporting that that this is the first time the State has refused to give a detailed breakdown of the pensions paid.

He’s also reporting that, up until 2016, details of how much former taoisigh, presidents, and ministers “were published as a matter of routine on the Department of Finance website” but this ended in 2017 due to GDPR rules.

Mr Foxe will be appealing the decision.

€28 million in pension payments to former TDs, Senators and government ministers over the past two years (Noteworthy)

Ken Foxe

From top: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone and Sister Marie Ryan of the Bon Secours; A copy of correspondence between the order and the Department of Children

Via Ken Foxe at Noteworthy.ie:

A copy of correspondence between the order and the Department of Children – obtained by Noteworthy under FOI – confirmed that the Bon Secours Sisters wanted to make a €2.5 million “donation” for the works that needed to be carried out at Tuam.

However, it was explicit that this was voluntary, with country leader Sister Marie Ryan writing: “Our advice is that we do not have any legal liability arising from St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home and we note that at our meeting you [Minister Zappone] agreed and acknowledged same.”

They said their donation would help to “expedite” the investigations the government wanted to do at Tuam.

Sister Ryan wrote: “This payment will be the sole contribution made by the Sisters of Bon Secours Ireland to the government in relation to the site.

Separately, an account of a meeting between the Bon Secours Sisters and Zappone describes how the order had been “genuinely shocked” by the discovery of remains of the children buried at the site.

“[They] never expected such a finding,” the notes said.

Bon Secours Says It has no ‘legal liability’ to provide funding before mother and baby home commission ends (Noteworthy)

Previously: ‘Created And Operated By The State’