The launch of an Antares rocket (packed with three and a half tonnes of supplies for the International Space Station) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia captured earlier this month in all its fiery glory by photographer John Kraus.
Watch the Launch of the JCCCAE Report: an investigation to examine the National Broadband Plan process thus far and how best to proceed and the best means to roll out #Rural #Broadband here #Seeforyourself https://t.co/7PnWa2dUrj
— Oireachtas News (@OireachtasNews) August 27, 2019
In Leinster House.
At the launch of a report by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment – following an examination of the National Broadband Plan process so far during May, June, July and August.
The report contains 25 conclusions and 10 recommendations which include
The Government should commission an external, independent review on whether its proposals (and the costs) are the only viable option.
A new cost-benefit analysis to be carried out before the final National Broadband contract is signed, commissioned by and developed independently of Government Departments.
The Comptroller and Auditor General should have a role identifying cost overruns in large infrastructure projects.
All infrastructure developed through the National Broadband Plan should remain in public ownership.
Government should re-engage with the ESB to examine the best model for delivery of a new National Broadband Plan through the ESB.
Chair of the committee and Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton told those present:
“As you’re aware this report was endorsed by a majority of the committee, by five votes to three, and it’s well known that the Fine Gael members of the committee, of which I’m a member, did not agree with the report and I totally respect the democratic decision of the committee which I chair.”
More as we get it.
Watch live here
During the launch…
Green Party leader and Dublin TD Eamon Ryan said:
“Ultimately it’s going to be up to Government now to make the call. They have to decide can they change this? And if so, how do we do it in a timely manner?
“If we don’t change it though, that sends out a message that worries me. That we’re engaged in consultation that isn’t, you know, real. You can look at ideas but actually once you’ve started on a path, you can’t diverge.”
Fine Gael Senator, from Cork, Tim Lombard said:
“KPMG said it would take five years if we were to start this process again – that we could actually come to where we are today. They’re the experts in the field, going through this procurement issue. The department said it could take three to five years. So that’s what the actual experts told us.”
“…from my point of view, we now need to press ahead. We don’t need another expensive review. We don’t expert independence coming in to give us more information on information. We need to get boots on the ground. We need to start this, we need to get a contract signed.”
Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly, from Cavan-Monaghan, said:
“We’ve had an exhaustive process. This committee has sat for four months, effectively, close to four months, instead of the projected two months. So an exhaustive process. No member of the committee and, by the way, we all worked great together and there was a very positive, constructive approach and I’ve nothing to say to the contrary.
“But no member of the committee had a potential guest or group refused admission. So everybody that was wanted to be there was listened to.
“….We’ve exhausted all levels of inquiry. There is nothing new to learn here.”
“…Should we reduce the cost? Should we reduce the €3billion? Yes you can reduce the €3billion. You can take €1billion off it and make it €2billion.
“And you do that by taking 20 per cent of the homes out of it. In other words, defeat the whole purpose.
“…Why is it €3billion?…It’s actually €2billion net because there’s…effectively…up to €500million in there as a contingency in case things go wrong. There’s €345million for the VAT. So, effectively, it’s being stress-tested in terms of cost.”
“…Would a further inquiry throw up something we don’t know? The answer is no. Can we reduce the cost? No, without literally defeating the whole purpose of the exercise and discriminating against a chunk of rural Ireland. And thirdly, should we go ahead now? Absolutely so.
“People talk about State ownership as an alternative. That train left the station when we sold Telecom Eireann….irrespective of that, we have all the advantages of nationalisation in the plan, in this sense, that we will get 60 per cent of excess profits during the run.
“And there is, based on the UK experience, there will be a much larger take up than is anticipated. And we’ll also get 40 per cent of the value of the entire outfit, the entire NBI at the 25-year mark and they’ll be committed to another 10 years to 35.”
“…there’s a lovely old rural expression. That emanates from an agricultural society that I’m proud to come from. And it says you cannot go on weighing the pig. You must, at some point, start feeding it.
“…I feel, like somebody from the country listening to this, that all the logic could be in delaying this could be to discriminate against the people for whom I come and represent.”
Fine Gael TD, from Galway, Hildegarde Naughton added:
“Nobody, nobody has come up with an alternative, plan B, that is legally viable. Nobody, not even the minister. All the experts that came before us. Not even the recommendation of this all, cross-party, committee report. There is no plan B here. It’s just go out again, review it again.”
Fianna Fáil TD, from Clare, Timmy Dooley said:
“We can have another hearing if we so wish, maybe in the Dáil. I’m happy that the work of all members of the committee has done in trying to get to a position of which there are recommendations now.
“So we’re making recommendations to the Government. We can bring that through if we get time in the Dáil and have another debate…it won’t change. It’s still an option for the Government to either accept or ignore the committee report. So a discussion and debate in the Dáil, I don’t think will change the Government’s mind one way or the other.
“…Are you [Irish Examiner journalist Juno McEnroe] suggesting that we have a debate in the House on the report? Of which I think I know what the outcome of that would be. I know what the result of that would be, based on the cross-party support that has been found.
“Yes, we support the Government in the Confidence and Supply Agreement of which this doesn’t form part of. If you’re suggesting that I’m going to threaten to bring down the Government on the strength of whether or not they accept this report or not – well the answer is ‘No’. The answer is ‘No, we won’t be bringing down the Government on this’.
“We’ll be advising them from an Opposition perspective which is what we have done every step of the way. We have raised very serious concerns for the past two years and we continue to act as a responsible Opposition.”
From top: Dublin Sanctuary Runners; Graham Clifford giving post-race peptalk in Corkagh Park last Saturday; Naima Chaudhry, Hicham, Siobhan Moran and Padraic Moran
Dublin Sanctuary Runners write:
A solidarity-inspired initiative which brought together 200 runners, spanning 40 different nationalities for last June’s Cork City Marathon, has now been launched in Dublin.
The Dublin Sanctuary Runners have been participating in the Corkagh Park 5km parkrun in Clondalkin each Saturday for the last six weeks but on Saturday, November 24th, the group was officially launched in the capital.
There are two Direct Provision centres in Dublin, the Clondalkin Towers centre with 231 residents and the Hatch Hall centre in Dublin 2 with 220 residents (figures correct as of July 29th).
“After the success of the marathon in Cork we decided it was important to set up similar groups across the country. We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from those in Dublin and already have 80 Irish runners signed up to run with us here when they can,” explained Graham Clifford, writer, broadcaster and founder of the Sanctuary Runners movement.
On Saturday in Corkagh Park a group of 40 Sanctuary Runners, including many from the Clondalkin Towers centre, ran and walked together in solidarity.
The group also aim to enable people in the Hatch Hall Direct Provision to participate and will be taking part in various parkruns across Dublin in the months to come. They will also reach out to former residents of Direct Provision centres now living in Dublin.
“The Sanctuary Runners aim to break down the barriers which exist between those in the Direct Provision system and those outside the gates. To allow Irish people show solidarity, friendship, kindness and respect to those awaiting a decision on their immigration status. Also, it promotes activities that benefit both mental and physical health and for people in Direct Provision that’s vital.
“The collaboration with the parkruns network has been wonderful. We are non-political and focussed on humanitarianism and showing fellow human beings the same dignity and support as we would hope to be shown were we ever in the same situation in another country,” added Clifford.
The Sanctuary Runners have also launched local running groups in Cork and Limerick with plans to expand to Galway, Waterford, Kerry, Longford and Laois in the coming months. Nationally they have over 400 members already.
Supporters, who have also helped with training sessions, include athletes Lizzie Lee, Rob Heffernan, Derval O’Rourke, Sonia O’Sullivan and Gillian O’Sullivan as well as Kerry GAA legend Tomás Ó’Sé and Limerick All-Ireland winner Kevin Downes.
“While it will be beyond most Sanctuary Runners to take on the full Dublin City Marathon next year we hope to enter teams in upcoming races in, and around, Dublin. Bit-by-bit we hope to increase our group’s visibility, and everyone is welcome to join us and wear one of our iconic blue tops in solidarity,” said Clifford.
The Sanctuary Runners is not a charity and those who join are not asked to pay any membership – nor will they ever be asked to fundraise a single cent.
Funded by sponsorship from Cork City Council, Limerick Healthy Cities and a number of corporate donations the Sanctuary Runners focus on solidarity rather than charity.
“Running is a wonderful leveller. When you’re out pounding the roads race, religion, nationality, gender and legal status are irrelevant. Our team motivate each other, support each other and look out for each other. We show solidarity to each other not pity. And laughter flows through everything we do. We can’t wait to welcome more people to the Dublin Sanctuary Runners now that we’ve launched,” said Graham Clifford.
To find out more about the Sanctuary Runners or to join us visit: SanctuaryRunners.ie or email Anna Pringle, the Coordinator of the Dublin Sanctuary Runners at SanctuaryRunnersDublin@gmail.com
At his campaign headquarters on Lord Edward Street, Dublin.
President Michael D Higgins speaks at the launch of his campaign to win another term in the Áras.
The launch can be watched live here
President Higgins’ website has also just gone live
The Facebook live feed cut out just before journalists began asking President Higgins questions.
— Seán Gallagher (@seangallagher1) September 26, 2018
At the launch of the new Kevin Street Garda Station.
Fine Gael Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin (third pic); Mr Flanagan and Independence Alliance Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran speak to media (fourth pic) and Deputy Commissioner John Twomey with chair of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily (above).
At the launch of the new Kevin Street Garda Station.
Glad to have a bird’s eye view of the official opening of the new Kevin Street Garda Station. Welcome back to the neighbourhood!
Top pics: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews
The Public Accounts Committee is launching its report on the sale of Project Eagle.
The chair of PAC, Fianna Fail TD Seán Fleming said:
“The committee considers that it was not appropriate for Nama, as the contracting body, to meet with Cerberus representatives the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date. It could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential treatment.
“Also. The committee considers that it was not procedurally appropriate for the Minister for Finance [Michael Noonan] to meet with senior Cerberus representatives on the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date. This could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from preferential treatment.”
Facebook live link here
Read the report here
Previously: ‘Not Appropriate’
From top: Daniel McConnell, of the Irish Examiner; Hugh O’Connell, of The Sunday Business Post, and Josepha Madigan, Fine Gael TD and member of PAC
You may recall how, on Sunday, February 12, in The Sunday Business Post, Hugh O’Connell and Jack Horgan-Jones reported on a draft working paper by the Public Accounts Committee into Nama’s sale of Project Eagle.
The paper said it was “not appropriate” for the Department of Finance to meet with the ultimately successful bidder, Cerberus, in the days before the closing date for Project Eagle bids. It similarly states that it was “not appropriate” for Noonan or Nama to meet with Cerberus the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date – and that this could be perceived as “special treatment”.
PAC’s report no longer states the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s behaviour was ‘not appropriate’. Instead, their behaviour was ‘not procedurally appropriate’.
Why was it changed?
From the press conference…
David Davin Power (RTE): “You found that Michael Noonan meeting Cerberus wasn’t ‘procedurally appropriate’ and I know there was a contention about that on the committee. Fine Gael members voting against it. But Michael Noonan says that he never had an adequate opportunity to respond to what was ultimately an adverse finding against him and that he’s been unfairly treated, effectively, by the committee.”
Sean Fleming: “Well, he said that, based on the original working document that said it was ‘inappropriate’ but the wording in the report published today refers to the procedures that allowed that meeting to happen. It was procedurally inappropriate. So it’s not quite the same as what was in the original report. And that word is there for a reason. Because this committee is precluded from finding specific fault against an individual person. And we’re looking at the process of that meeting, not specifically the person who attended. I would [inaudible] the distinction between the finding in relation to Nama, where we say it was inappropriate, because we were finding that the body, the corporate body of Nama, rather than that one person, acted inappropriately. But we can’t use that particular word due to legal restrictions, in relation to one individual.”
Davin Power: “But why did you seek to use that word if it was legally suspect in the first place…”
Fleming: “The committee never sought to seek that. There was a working document prepared after some 30,000 sheets of paper presented to the committee and after 11 public hearings. The committee never used that particular wording. The only wording that the committee settled on is the wording in the report.”
Davin Power: “Could you ask one of the Fine Gael members [of PAC] to respond to that point? Are you happy…[inaudible].”
Fleming: “Peter [Burke], if you’re happy?”
Peter Burke: “Thank you very much. First of all, I think to use the words ‘procedurally inappropriate’ is not fair. I would point out that the Minister did attend the PAC meeting, even though he’s not legally required to do so. He spent five hours under intense questioning. He brought forward all information and answers and answered everything very clear and concise and to see a situation whereby he was actually denied natural justice because the response that’s in the report is to a media leak which appeared on the Sunday Business Post. So, in other words, he never got due process or was questioned on the content of this assertion.
“And, to point out, Section 9 of the Nama Act is very clear. That it is independent in its functions in terms of its role with the minister and previous people have brought this up, including our chairman when the act was [inaudible] in the Dáil in 2009, in terms of to keep it outside of the realm of politics, I mean that was very, very important. And to suggest that it’s procedurally inappropriate, one has to ask: what is the procedure? And there is none. If the minister has clear legal separation and there is a former US secretary of the treasury coming over to Ireland to discuss, from banking to insurance to asset management, I think it would be unwise for any minister not to meet him.”
Burke: “… the commercial activities of Nama are driven by the board. The minister has no role in this. And even, as a process, it was mentioned that the minister should have called off the sale, but at that time, he’d no legal power to do so. And there’s departmental legal advice, which was mentioned at the committee here, in relation to that.”
Daniel McConnell (Irish Examiner): “But are you not playing politics with it now? Are Fine Gael not playing politics with the PAC, for the first time in its history, in 94 years, you caused a vote at the PAC, purely to protect the standing of Michael Noonan?”
Burke: “No, Danny, that’s not correct. If we look at this, in a fair and balanced fashion. If a minister, who is not legally obliged to attend the PAC, does so of his own free will, in the interest of fairness, in the interest of transparency, on foot of that, that he is denied the right to due process, to respond to a charge that was put to him, that he was never asked one single question on, I think that’s an incredible part of this report. That the minister was denied that right to respond to an assertion that he was never…”
McConnell: “So, who put it in the report initially then? Because this is important. Who put the initial finding of ‘inappropriate’ in the report? Was it a civil servant?”
Burke: “Here is a draft document
McConnell: “So a civil servant…
Burke: “…which was leaked to the Sunday Business Post…”
McConnell: “So it was a civil servant who put it in, is that what you’re saying?”
Burke: “It was a draft document, I can’t answer that….”
Fleming: “I will answer that, and I will call on David Cullnane [Sinn Fein] next. I, as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, supervised directly, personally..”
McConnell: “So it was your, that was your, that was your language?”
Talk over each other
Fleming: “…reporting in the first instance. What I do want to clarify, people mightn’t have go to it. We put a specific appendix in the report, on page 86, on the issue. We record fully and faithfully everything in respect of the minister’s response. First of all, in that, when we came to that issue of whether or not, at our meeting, and it’s all documented there [inaudible] we had three or four meetings, and Peter and his [Fine Gael] colleagues proposed wording to say, rather than it was ‘not procedurally correct’, to put the wording it was ‘not advisable’. So the board members were satisfied that the report should say it was ‘not advisable’ of the minister. That was voted down and the other wording was put forward.”
“But I just want to respond, before I call on David Cullinane, it was fortuitous in a way that there was a leak because that did give the minister to respond and the content of the letter received by the minister was examined closely by the parliamentary legal office in this house. And [inaudible] essentially responded to any allegations that we were about to make. Even though his letter came in before we concluded. And I do want to say, this is the transcript, the 82-page transcript of the meeting, of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, the 6th of October 2016. And I have to say that that meeting, the minister and the people on his side were the only people aware in the room, at that time of the meeting with Cerberus. No member of the committee was aware that a meeting ever happened. And the minister gave no indication whatever of that meeting. To suggest we didn’t ask him something about which we knew nothing about is unusual. He had four and a half hours at the meeting when we invited him in to talk about the sale of Project Eagle. And he spent four and a half hours discussing it and made no reference to that meeting. And there is the transcript if people want to check it.”
Hugh O’Connell (Sunday Business Post): “Do you think you may have dropped the ball, as a committee, in not asking him if he had met Cerberus? And secondly, when you did become aware of it, why didn’t you ask him about the meeting via correspondence?”
Fleming: “The answer to that is we didn’t drop the ball because we weren’t aware the game had happened. Right? No member of the PAC were aware, at the time, that that meeting…”
Josepha Madigan: “Sorry, that’s incorrect. It was subject to FOI, the minutes were actually given in correspondence on the 4th of November…the 8th of November  to the committee, so they were fully aware of…”
O’Connell: “So, why then, did you not write to Michael Noonan and ask him: why did you have this meeting? And what was the purpose of this meeting?”
David Cullinane: “There was a note that was given to the committee under the Department of Finance that set out the official notes taken by officials, in terms of that meeting. And those notes clearly show that Project Eagle was raised and it was raised in the context of Cerberus raised and they were told that it would be best dealt with at a meeting later that day with Nama which we believe that was also inappropriate. So, there was reference to Project Eagle in that meeting. And…”
O’Connell: “Why didn’t you ask him then? Why didn’t the committee call him back in?”
Alan Farrell: “That’s entirely inaccurate…it is entirely inaccurate….you’ve got your dates mixed up, David.”
Previously: Spotlight Falls On Noonan (March 1, 2016)
You may recall a post from last year in which Karen Harte and Jessica Maybury, of Girls like Comics, appealed for art and comic submissions for an anthology of stories and art about repealing the 8th amendment.
The MINE Anthology will be launched at the Workman’s Club, Dublin, at 8pm.
Tickets are €8, or €5 for students/unwaged, with proceeds going to the Abortion Rights Campaign.
Previously: Mine of Information
On Thursday, January 19.
At the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
From 4pm to 5.30pm.
The launch of the book Austerity and Recovery in Ireland: Europe’s Poster Child and the Great Recession edited by William K. Roche, Philip J. O’Connell, and Andrea Prothero and published by Oxford University Press.
A panel discussion, chaired by dean of the UCD College of Business Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, will also take place as part of the launch – involving John FitzGerald, of Trinity College Dublin; Stephen Kinsella, of University of Limerick; Theresa Reidy, of University College Cork and Mary Corcoran, of NUI Maynooth.
The free ticketed event is open to all. Those interested can register to attend here
Pic: Rob Kitchin
At Iveagh House in Dublin.
Belly dancer Azaria Starfire (top centre), all-Ireland champion Irish dancer Ann Marie Caden (top left) and all-Ireland champion hip hop dancer Tobi Omoteso (top right) at the launch of this year’s TradFest Temple Bar.
The 12th annual TradFest Temple Bar will take place from January 25 to 29.