Tag Archives: Micheál Martin

This morning.

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Northen Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (above left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O ’Neill (right) flank Taoiseach Micheál Martin ahead of a North South Ministerial Council meeting, the first time the cross border body has met in three years.

They are due to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Brexit trade negotiations, the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about international travel to the island.

The Republic of Ireland has a so-called “green list” of 15 nations from which travellers entering the country do not have to self-isolate for 14 days, but Northern Ireland has a list of 58 such countries.

Covid-19: Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill set for North South meeting (BBC)

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Law student Roman Shortall was stopped by Gardai at Dublin Airport; Garda statement on the incident

This afternoon.

Liveline on RTÉ Radio One.

Meanwhile…

Anyone?

Earlier…

From top: Fianna Fáil Minister for Education Norma Foley (left), Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan; Ms Foley and Mr Martin; Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humpheys

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Education Minister Norma Foley was asked about the stopping of Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment and jobseekers’ allowance payments to recipients who travel abroad on holidays.

Ms Foley was specifically asked “where did this come from? Was that brought to Cabinet at any point?” She was also asked if the legal change was notified to Cabinet.

She replied:

“No, I’m not aware of it having been brought to Cabinet.”

Meanwhile, last night…

Virgin Media One’s Gavan Reilly reported on comments made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin about the payment cuts as a result of checks having taken place at airports, as reported in the Business Post at the weekend and the Irish Daily Star on July 2.

It followed a bizarre sequence of events including a change to the Gov.ie website where the criteria for claiming the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was adjusted to include that people had to be “genuinely seeking work” to receive the PUP.

As a payment for people whose work has been suspended due to Covid-19 this stipulation of having to seek work appears to have been added to the list very recently.

(As recently as July 14, the Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humphreys didn’t list this “genuinely seeking work” rule in a written answer about the PUP to Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming. In the same answer, she listed all the other criteria.)

In addition, the Irish version of the Gov.ie site doesn’t include this added condition of recipients having to be seeking work.

Curiously, on Sunday, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had told RTE that people receiving PUP had to be “genuinely seeking work”.

He also said the Department of Employment and Social Protection “gets information from the airports”, a claim denied by the Dublin Airport Authority and one which the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is now examining.

Mr Martin said he was seeking a report on the apparent change of policy regarding PUP recipients, while members of the Dublin Airport Authority are appearing before the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response this morning.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon.

On RTÉ’s News at One.

Minister for Employment and Social Protection Heather Humphreys spoke to Christopher McKevitt about the same matter. During the interview, Ms Humphreys was repeatedly asked if there had been a change in Government advice pertaining to PUP recipients. She continually didn’t answer the question.

Then, at the end of the interview, she said people who work in pubs whose work has been suspended due to Covid-19 don’t have to look for other work in order to receive the PUP.

From the interview…

Christopher McKevitt: “Just in relation to one item from, that emerged from the weekend, the halting of payments for some 104 people arising from their travel plans a Dublin Airport. Can you, as the minister, explain what’s happened there?”

Heather Humphreys: “Yeah well, we are at a crucial stage in relation to dealing with this virus and, as we look across the world, we see other countries re-introducing restrictions and asking people to return to lockdown and the Irish people have sacrificed so much and nobody wants to see us go back.

“In relation to travelling abroad, the public health advice is very clear. Do not travel abroad except for essential reasons and I want to be very clear. If any person intends to travel for essential purposes – for example, for health reasons, for a family bereavement, or for whatever, you know, essential reason, they have to go – you will continue to get your payment.

“And we’re asking and we’re encouraging people to holiday at home this year.”

McKevitt: “Right but…”

Humphreys: “And follow the clear, public health advice so that…and that’s so important in our battle to defeat this virus.”

McKevitt: “Indeed it is but can we just ask you on the specific point about leaving the country. OK, it’s the public health advice, not to leave the country but it is also the tradition that people are entitled to a two-week holiday how so ever they choose to spend that holiday is their own affair. Yes, there is guidance but it’s not enforceable guidance is it? So, so it seems to me that the Government has potentially penalised people on the social welfare code, for making that decision to travel, no matter how distasteful many people may find that decision of theirs to do so.”

Humphreys: “Yeah, well, the public health advice is not to travel abroad and that applies to everyone. So, for example, we have 340,000 public servants in this country and if any one of those chose to travel abroad they will not be paid for the two-week quarantine period when they return and, equally, there’s many private companies [who] have also told their staff that if they choose to go abroad, they will not be paid for the period that they have to quarantine when they come home. So we’re not trying to pick on anybody here. We are doing what is right by the country to protect our people.”

McKevitt: “Has there been a change…minister, minister, minister, sorry to cut across you but has there been a change in the Government.ie advice on receiving, or eligibility to receive the pandemic unemployment payment. Is it now the case that you must be genuinely seeking work? Because there’s quite an amount of activity on social media saying this is a new element that is being introduced to the qualifying guidelines as of this morning?

Humphreys: “Well, as the economy has reopened up again, of course we want people to get back to work and that’s why we’re investing a huge amount of money in trying to get people back to work. But just to be clear, under normal circumstances, there is a flexibility under social welfare legislation whereby a person on jobseekers can travel abroad for up to two weeks and it doesn’t impact their payment. But the point here is that we are not in normal circumstances. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and it is in that context and in order to protect people’s lives…”

McKevitt: “Minister…minister…”

Humphreys: “…that we have temporarily suspended the flexibility that people can continue to receive their unemployment payment when abroad.”

McKevitt:Is there a change in the advice for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment? Let’s remind ourselves. It was for people who’d lost their job as a result of the pandemic or who’d been temporarily laid off because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was, the expectation, for the 600-thousand-odd people who went on to it was that their job would be restored to them. Now, it seems that there is a new piece of guidance in terms of the eligibility to qualify for the PUP, that you must be genuinely seeking work. Is that the case?

Humphreys: “Yeah, well, you always have, for any unemployment…”

McKevitt: “No…”

Humphreys: “…benefit, you always had to be, you know, to look for work and genuinely be looking for work. But I think the point is being missed here. This is the public health advice, it’s to stay at home, and, and the point is that we should be staying in Ireland and in a couple of months’ time…”

McKevitt: “But is the message, minister, is the message now to the 300,000 or the 286,000 people who are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, that they, as of this morning, must be genuinely seeking work? Is that the case now?

Humphreys: “Well for some whose industry hasn’t opened back up again, obviously if you work in a pub, you know, you’re looking to get your job back there again. But, for others, they should be looking for work and that’s what most people on PUP want to do, they want to get a job, they don’t want to be on the payment, they want to get back to work. But I just want to be…”

McKevitt: “No, but supposing they’re working for a company that can no longer afford to employ them. Is it the case now that they shouldn’t necessarily be looking forward to returning to their old job but should be seeking new work in a different work environment?

Humphreys: “Well unfortunately, yeah, unfortunately, there are going to be people who won’t be able to go back to their old jobs…”

McKevitt: “And is that new advice as of today?

Humphreys: “Well, no, it’s not new advice. Obviously if you can’t get back to work, you need to, most people want to get back to work, they don’t want to stay on the unemployment payment and that’s why I have extended it. You know, last week, in the jobs stimulus, in relation to the payment, instead of reducing the payment to €203 in August, as originally planned, the Government has decided to take a fair approach and extend the payment until April and that is because we do not want anyone to suffer a cliff-edge reduction in their payment.

“So we’re not telling people you know, that, to stay at home, we want them to come back to work and that’s why we’re investing €200million in back-to-work initiatives and job incentive programmes.”

McKevitt: “If we were to return to phase two, arising from perhaps a second wave, and people had to return, people who had returned to work having received the PUP, were to go back onto the PUP scheme again, would the advice be to genuinely seek work with an alternative employer?

Humphreys: “Well, if, of course, if we go back on to the, you know, if we go backwards, and we hope, we don’t go backwards, that’s the whole point of following the public health advice, that’s the whole point of asking people to stay at home this year, because the safest thing you can do is stay at home. But you’re looking at a situation that may or may not occur.

“But the point is, if you’re on the public, the unemployment benefit at this point in time, if you don’t have a job to go to, then you should be actively looking for other work. And, you know, if your job is no longer there. In the case of some sectors, for example, if you work in a pub, we are hoping that you will be able to go back to your job so you don’t have to be looking for work in that situation. But if you find that you’re going to be permanently unemployed because your job isn’t there then you should be looking for work and that’s why we have invested all of this money in a job activation programme.”

McKevitt: “Many thanks, Minister for Social Protection and Employment Affairs Heather Humphreys.”

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile…

Listen back in full here

This afternoon.

Department of Education, Marlborough Street, Dublin 2

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at a briefing on plans to reopen schools next month.

He said a comprehensive plan will be brought to Cabinet on Monday detailing a package of measures, including…

….around the well-being of children who have been absent from classrooms for several months.

There will also be special measures for students with additional needs and plans for children and teachers with compromised immunity.

Mr Martin said: “The objective is that schools will be fully open, and to keep everyone safe.”

Now kiss his ring.

RollingNews/ Julian Behel

Schools to fully reopen next month – Taoiseach (RTÉ)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, center with French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Taoiseach Micheal Martin, left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium yesterday

This morning.

Brussels, Belgium.

The €750 billion deal was sealed after intense negotiation that saw a threats of a French walkout and a Hungarian veto – and fierce opposition from the Netherlands and Austria to too generous a package.

Summit chairman Charles Michel tweeted “Deal” shortly after the 27 leaders finally reached agreement at a plenary session.

“This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action,” Mr Michel said at a dawn news conference.

Was the miniature defiant tricolour really necessary?

EU reaches deal on post-pandemic recovery package (RTÉ)

Pic: AP

Meanwhile…

And watching his back.

This morning.

The Convention Centre, Dublin

Following his sacking of Agriculture minister Barry Cowen A masked  Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives for a cabinet meeting to announce Mr Cowen’s replacement.

Update:

Earlier: Heber Rowan: A Turning Point

Surprised And Disappointed

Rollingnews

Meanwhile

This morning.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen arrives at the Convention Centre for a Dáil session.

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

This afternoon.

Leaders Questions, Dáil, Leinster House

Taoiseach Micheál Martin responds to questions about Barry Cowen’s drink drive arrest record following revelations on the Sunday Times.

The Garda report apparently states the Fianna Fáil minister performed a u-turn and was pursued by gardai before his arrest in 2016, something which Mr Cowen denies took place.

He says he plans to sue the paper.

Mr Martin said:

“Having seen the document, it’s not quite as portrayed. But nonetheless the document is there. Now it’s not for me to publish, it’s not my record. With respect now, it’s not my record and people have entitlements here. It’s not my record.

Deputy Cowen himself was unaware of the record until he actually got possession of it himself in terms of exactly what was on the record.

That’s the only basis upon which one can comment on any record is when one sees the record. For the last four years he was unaware of any suggestion that that would be on the record.

That’s his point of view. And I certainly wasn’t going to be pre-judging or pre-emptive in terms of something until I see the record for myself.

And I’ve seen it early this morning. He sought it himself during the week, he contacted, I believe, the gardai to get possession of the record because he didn’t have it.

Others had it before he had it. And there’s an issue there too in terms of the individual, any individual in that situation.

And he was, I mean, in my view, he didn’t want to, in terms of his contribution to the House, last week, again, he hadn’t the document and he didn’t want to incriminate himself in relation to it

But I think he has really, all I can convey to you is that he has very, very serious concerns about it and how the whole thing has developed in relation to the how his own personal information was procured, or was disseminated from the PULSE record and that’s an issue that he’s extremely angry about.”

Anyone?

Earlier, the Taoiseach had the following exchange with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald:

Mary Lou McDonald: “We now have an unprecedented situation where a Minister is disputing the Garda PULSE record of a drink-driving offence he was involved in and looking to have that record changed. Last week in his personal statement, the Minister stated he was “conscious that a constant drip feed of new information can be damaging and destabilising”. He said it was for that reason he had conducted a full examination of all records that he could obtain. Yet here we are a week later and the drip feed of new information continues.

On 4 July, according to The Sunday Times, contact was made with the Minister regarding the Garda record from 18 September 2016, stating that he sought to evade a Garda checkpoint on the evening of the drink-driving offence. The Irish Times today quotes sources saying the Taoiseach was made aware of these records at the time of this media query, that is, the weekend before last.

Can the Taoiseach confirm when he was made aware of the Garda record of the Minister’s attempt to evade a Garda checkpoint? Was he aware of this before the Minister made his statement to the Dáil? Did the Minister discuss with the Taoiseach or seek advice from the Taoiseach regarding his decision to seek to amend the record relating to his 2016 drink-driving conviction? Does the Taoiseach accept that the Minister’s statement to the Dáil was incomplete, as it made no mention of this Garda record? When did the Taoiseach inform his coalition partners about all of this? Has he challenged the Minister on his incomplete statement?

“Does he accept that a Minister challenging the accuracy or, indeed, the truthfulness of a Garda PULSE record is a very serious matter?”

Micheál Martin: “As the Deputy said, the Minister came into the Dáil and publicly admitted that he was convicted of a drink-driving offence four years ago, that he was penalised for that offence and that justice was meted out in accordance with the charge and with the offence that he committed. He adamantly denies any suggestion or implication that he sought to evade any checkpoint. That is his very strong position. He is very concerned that data related to his personal files have found their way to others and he feels that is a very serious issue.

“Irrespective of what side of the House we come from and irrespective of the matter at hand, this is an issue that will have to be dealt with at some stage. I am aware that the Garda Commissioner has referred the issue to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, and it is one we cannot ignore. I am not apportioning blame anywhere in this, because I do not know how that material left the PULSE file and ended up with various media outlets or others. I do not know how that process happened.

I spoke to the Minister, Deputy Cowen, the weekend before last and he adamantly denied any suggestion or implication that he evaded or attempted or avoid a checkpoint. At this stage, someone was saying that I was told about this. I believe it was a newspaper which said it gave information to my chief of staff, but I cannot work on the basis of media sources. I cannot verify anything without seeing the document myself. I had a lengthy conversation last evening with the Minister. Early this morning, with the Minister’s permission, I saw the actual document.

“The Minister has made it very clear to me that he wants to pursue both issues through the mechanisms that are available to him to pursue them. First, under the data protection process and by way of the Data Protection Commission, he is entitled to seek a correction of that particular record insofar as he believes that it does not accurately convey what transpired or that implications can be taken from it which may not necessarily be the case. He is pursuing that.

“Second, he feels the entire issue has become public because of what he sees as illegal procurement of the information. We now know that this aspect is being investigated. The Minister feels his rights have been transgressed and undermined in that regard and he believes he is entitled to due process in respect of both issues.

He has pointed out to me that when it was first put to him – I think it was by a reporter or member of the media – he was very taken aback by the suggestion that he had turned away from a checkpoint. He was very adamant about that to me. He said there was no issue made of it at the time, there was no reference to it at the time and he wants to seek to correct that aspect of it. In that context, he was clear to me that he wants to pursue his legal rights and entitlements in that respect.

“I have kept both my colleagues in government, namely, the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Eamon Ryan, fully up to date in regard to my conversations with the Minister, Deputy Cowen, and in respect of the fact that I have seen the Garda file. I am not at liberty to disclose the contents of that file because it is not my property and it was shared with me in that context. That is the up-to-date position on this matter.”

McDonald: “It is becoming clear that the Minister, Deputy Cowen, will have to come before the House and take questions on all of these issues. However, for the purposes of today’s discussion, I am more concerned with what the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, knew. He has confirmed that he did, in fact, know about the Garda PULSE record and that there was an allegation that the Minister had sought to evade a Garda checkpoint. He has confirmed that he knew that information as or before the Minister was making his statement.

“I find it extraordinary that the Taoiseach would stand over a Minister who has made an incomplete statement to the Dáil on a matter of this importance. Were the Taoiseach’s coalition partners, the leaders of Fine Gael and the Green Party, aware of the PULSE record and the allegation that the Minister had evaded a Garda checkpoint at the time the Minister, Deputy Cowen, made his statement? The Taoiseach said he has had a conversation with the Minister, but the Taoiseach did not indicate that he challenged the Minister on the fact that his statement was incomplete.

“I accept the Minister’s point on data protection. That matter should be investigated by the appropriate authorities but it is not the net point here. The net point is that a Minister is now contradicting a Garda record. He came before the House to make what was to be a complete, no-holds-barred statement on all the material matters and did not state that this Garda PULSE record existed and that an allegation had been made that he had sought to evade a Garda checkpoint. That is absolutely extraordinary.

“It is even more extraordinary that the Taoiseach, as the Head of Government, would accept that. Do the Taoiseach’s coalition partners similarly accept that the Minister was right to come before the House and not give us all the information? Do they also accept that he is right to challenge the Garda PULSE record? It is extraordinary that a Minister is now openly contradicting the PULSE records.

“This is not just about Deputy Cowen, because we all must rely on the truthfulness and accuracy of PULSE records. The Minister has brought that accuracy into question but he has also failed to give a full account of events on that night. The Taoiseach was aware that there was another twist in the tale and yet it seems he has not challenged the Minister on it. Does he believe in full and frank statements to this House, or does he not?

Martin: “The Deputy has drawn two wrong inferences and made two incorrect assertions. I was not aware of the PULSE record and did not see it. I cannot work on the basis of a journalist saying that he or she has a source or paper that shows X. I saw the document myself this morning and having seen it, I can say that it is not quite as it has been portrayed. Nonetheless, the document is there.”

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Earlier: Blue Turn

Yesterday: No Turning back

Top pic: Rollingnews

From top: Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Barry Cowen; Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar

This morning.

Following Green Party leader Eamon Ryan’s call  for further clarity regarding Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen’s drink-driving ban….

Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said:

“I’m sure Mr [Barry] Cown will answer any more questions that are pertinent, more important is that he has made a complaint to the gardaí about this Garda report,

I understand the Commissioner has appointed somebody to investigate. We really need to hear the outcome of that investigation before any more steps are taken.”

Leo Varadkar says Barry Cowen has more questions to answer (Irish Times)

Last night: A Few Words, Mr Cowen?

Rollingnews

 

This afternoon.

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin declines to chat with reporters holding enormous microphone stands ahead of a cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile…

The deputy leader of the Green Party has called for more clarity regarding Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen’s drink-driving conviction.

In an interview with Newstalk radio, Catherine Martin said that Mr Cowen had “strenuously denied” the allegations over the weekend.

However, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht added that “more questions” had arisen and “more clarity” was needed.

‘More questions’ around Barry Cowen drink-driving offence – Catherine Martin (RTÉ)

Meanwhile…

This afternoon.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan deigns to chats with reporters – from a distance.

Earlier: Derek Mooney: It’s Not Just Loyalty – It Is Loyality

Yesterday: No Turning Back

Rollingnews

This morning.

The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin appeared live from Dublin to discuss British tourists, Brexit and  Boris Johnson (@26.59)…

Andrew Marr: “Let me ask you about your relationship, you mentioned Boris Johnson.You weren’t terribly complimentary about him at the McGill Summer School about this time last year. You said:

Anyone in Dublin who met Boris Johnson during his time as Foreign Secretary will tell you the many ways in which he failed to show the slightest level of understanding about the operations of the Good Friday Agreement. don’t think anyone can credibly say he has thought through how he can promote property and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.’

Have you had second thoughts?”

Martin: “Well, I was very heartened by our discussions in terms of trying to reset the Irish-British relationship post-Brexit, which I think the Prime Minister is keen on doing and I was particularly taken by that and we are both committed to the necessity of doing that in a post-Brexit scenario.

From our perspective, from an Irish perspective the entire peace process on the island of Ireland was based on the relationship between Britain and Ireland and then the relationship north and south and between the two traditions in Northern Ireland. So central to all of this is a very strong proactive relationship between our two countries.”

Earlier: No Turning Back

From top: Thomas Byrne on The Tonight Show; Tweet from Meath Fianna Fáil member Ken McFadden following the show

Last night.

On The Tonight Show on VMT.

Asked if there’s a witchunt in Fianna Fáil to find the person who revealed Barry Cowen’s drink driving conviction, Thomas Byrne told host Matt Cooper:

I doubt very much that anyone in Fianna Fáil had the information that is described in the newspapers in relation to that.”

Asked if it would have happened at a local level, he said:

“I’m not familiar with what’s going on in Offaly but certainly that is not a concern of mine.”

Watch back here.

Meanwhile…

Earlier:

Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right) with Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne in government buildings last week

This morning.

Last night: Who Spilled?

Meanwhile….

The Taoiseach’s office has been forced to apologise to Northern Ireland’s First Minister after just 10 days in office.

The apology came after a government source had “over zealously” briefed a media outlet that the first meeting between Micheál Martin as Taoiseach, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was to take place today, despite no meeting being organised

Micheál Martin’s office has to apologise to Arlene Foster for ‘cock-up’ (Irish Examiner)

Meanwhile…

All in all, a sure-footed start from Fianna Fáil.

FIGHT!