Tag Archives: Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin Castle this afternoon

This evening.

Fianna Fáil front benchers – above from left Barry Cowen, Jack Chambers and Fiona O’Loughlin – respond to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after he called their leader Micheál Martin a two-faced ‘sinning priest’.

Can this end well?

Earlier: ‘Don’t Become Petty, Silly And Idiotic In Your Response’

Rollingnews

Yesterday evening.

In the Dáil.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar compared opposition leader Micheál Martin to a parish priest “who preaches from the altar, telling us to avoid sin while secretly going behind the altar and engaging in any amount of sin himself”.

It followed questions from Mr Martin about the National Development Plan and its costs and Mr Martin asking the Taoiseach not to be “petty, silly and idiotic” in his response.

Good times.

Taoiseach compares Fianna Fáil leader to sinning parish priest (RTE)

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions

This afternoon.

In the Dáil, during Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised what he called “the shifting sands” in relation to the composition of the consortium which will be responsible for delivering the Government’s National Broadband Plan.

In particular he drew attention to the relationship between Granahan McCourt, owned by US billionaire David McCourt; Tetrad Corporation; and McCourt Global, which is owned by David McCourt’s billionaire brother Frank McCourt.

In doing so, he claimed the Government hasn’t been fully transparent about the financial guarantees from different entities which will underpin the project.

Mr Martin’s comments followed Justine McCarthy, in The Sunday Times, reporting at the weekend that McCourt Global were denying that they had involvement in the broadband plan, despite the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton saying they did last week.

Prior to last weekend’s report, Ms McCarthy previously reported that Frank McCourt was also at a dinner meeting that the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten held with David McCourt in New York in July 2018.

Last Sunday Mr McCarthy reported:

“After repeated attempts to contact him [former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten] last week, Naughten said on Friday that he would reply by email to questions about his interactions with Frank McCourt. He has not done so.”

Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin today that he was “weaving one of his many conspiracy theories”.

Mr Martin started out by saying that last week Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen was told there were three investors involved the plan – Granahan McCourt, Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global.

He said just last evening, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was told both Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global had reiterated their support to final tender.

But he said, last night, in a further written reply, it emerged there will only be two investors – Tetrad Corporation and Granahan McCourt.

He added:

“And we’re also told, Deputy Dooley was, that Tetrad provided a commitment in relation to the equity only required for the project. In other words, they will contractualise a legal underpinning of €175million from the lead bidder – a far cry from the €2.4billion Taoiseach that you gave the impression in the House some time ago that they would be putting in.

There is no legal lein from what we can see on that at all.”

Mr Martin went on to raise the dinner meeting between the then Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and US business man David McCourt in July 2018 in New York, and the minutes of the same.

Mr Martin said:

Taoiseach, in hindsight, I would put it to you that that meeting held on 16th of July, 2018 in New York, between former minister [for communications Denis] Naughten and David MCourt, Frank McCourt was actually quite significant.

“It was a month before the deadline for guarantees of financial underpinning and the consortium had to be submitted. The deadline was August 15th.

“Four serious issues were discussed in relation to the project. We know that there was a need for a permanent Irish-based leadership position, the importance of the 15th of August 2018 deadline and the need for the necessary financing to be in place at the time. This deadline will be met, the minutes say.

“‘The need for any changes in the make-up of the consortium to be avoided or, if necessary, to be kept to a minimum’. ‘The importance of this issue is understood by the consortium which has been advised by Arthur Cox that as long as the consortium’s lead bidder remains unchanged, such changes should not necessitate any delay’.

“Now we now of course know that there was a change in the lead bidder actually from Enet to GMC [Granahan McCourt]. There was a change in the lead bidder and there was a change in the consortium. And there was a change in those who were financially underpinning the project.

And there’s been an impression since Taoiseach that McCourt Global have been in this from the very beginning. McCourt Global are saying they weren’t involved in this, in any shape or form. And Frank McCourt was at that meeting, Taoiseach.

Minister Naughten had to resign, he’s been less than forthcoming. He’s gone silent, he’s not available to comment on this. And I’m putting it to you Taoiseach that it’s extremely important that you would talk to the former minister and get him to give a comprehensive, transparent statement in terms of all of these meetings.

“You might confirm to me, Taoiseach, did Peter Smyth [who reviewed the plan’s process last year and found meetings Naughten had with McCourt didn’t influence the process], during his inquiries speak to Frank McCourt?

“Where will the ultimate liability fall if the plan fails? Or if Granaham McCourt Dublin Limited folded – would it fall on Tetrad Corporation to provide the equity on the National Broadband Plan?”

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there was nothing new in what Mr Martin said and that it was well known that the consortium had changed for many months.

He added:

I wasn’t at that dinner [in New York]. No current member of Government was at that dinner. Minister Naughten was, I can’t answer questions on his behalf but I am confident that all of this was covered in the independent report done on this matter carried out by Peter Smyth some months ago and that’s published and in the public domain.”

He added:

In relation to the financial guarantees, National Broadband Ireland will make available €220million in equity and working capital upfront. This will be legally required by the contract which is being finalised. There is no upfront contribution from the taxpayer. The taxpayer only contributes after the fibre is deployed, homes are passed and subsequently connected.

“The total cost of the project is between €5billion and €6billion, including VAT and contingencies with roughly half coming from the State in the form of the Exchequer subsidy and the other half from the investor and commercial revenues.”

In terms of the upfront contribution – €175million comes from Tetrad Corporation and the rest from Granahan McCourt Dublin Ireland Limited. The funding commitments will be contractualised in advance of the contract award…”

Mr Varadkar went on to say:

I understand the department has now corrected the record and clarified any confusion in relation to McCourt Global’s role. It’s role, as I outlined to the Dail last week, is one of two entities relied on for pre-qualification.

“They provided a letter of support. At final tender the equity commitments were provided by Tetrad and I’m sure Minister Bruton will be happy to clarify any further issues or to answer any further questions in this regard.”

Mr Martin said Mr Varadkar’s respond was unsatisfactory and that the information had been “dragged” from him.

He also said that, as for Mr Varadkar’s assertion that the record was corrected, this only emerged last night in PQ replies.

He added:

You can’t go on being as detached as you are. A former minister responsible for this project and this tender met with the preferred bidder on a number or occasions.

“And we were led to believe they were all innocent dinners – ‘ah sure, we’re just having a personal lunch’. They were not, come off it, Taoiseach.

“You can’t stand up here as Taoiseach of the country and say ‘no one in the current Government is involved’. For God’s sake, he was a former minister with you. You still depend on him for support.

Frank McCourt, of Global McCourt [sic], was at that dinner and they weren’t there talking about the weather.”

“…You pretended you saw no evil until all the other dinners emerged and then Denis Naughten fell on his sword. Denis Naughten, the former minister, has an obligation to talk to the House and tell us everything that took place in relation to this.”

“Gobal McCourt [sic] have now disappeared. Global McCourt [sic] have now disappeared minister, and you’re department was telling The Sunday Times two weeks ago that, your department was telling The Sunday Times two weeks ago that Global McCourt [sic] were the financial underpinners of this project in two series of articles.

“You’re confusing the [inaudible] deliberately in my view, at this stage. What are you hiding in relation to the relationships between GMC and Tetrad and Global..”

Mr Varadkar went on to say:

The fact that Deputy Naughten attended those dinners is old news. It’s been in the public domain for many months, we knew that last year. Deputy Naughten resigned from Government over six months ago and we used the interim period to make sure that this bid was sound and that it was the right one to go forward with. And an independent report was done by Peter Smyth, as the independent auditor, dealing with all these matters.”

“Deputy, deputy, deputy, calm down, deputy you need to calm down…

“Ceann Comhairle, the deputy really needs to calm down here. The Government has been very transparent on this matter.

What’s happening here is, once again, once again, Deputy Martin is weaving one of his many conspiracy theories.”

Mr Martin replied that when the controversy arose over Mr Naughten’s dinner meetings, Mr Varadkar also accused Mr Martin of creating a conspiracy theory.

“Twenty-four hours later, he resigned,” he added.

US giant McCourt Global denies backing David McCourt’s national broadband bid (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times, May 19, 2019)

 

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin; Instructions via Whatsapp to Fine Gael staffers

“How can we trust Micheál Martin on health? He established the HSE.”

“Why should we trust FF? They destroyed the economy.”

“Will Bertie Ahern ever run for the Arás (sic) on the FF ticket?”

“Is the talent there on the FF frontbenchers (sic)? Outside of Micheál Martin and a handful of others you don’t have many household names.

“On housing Darragh O Brien (sic) constantly criticizes (sic) Eoghan Murphys (sic) background – is it right to always play the man and not the ball?”

“Are you feeling the pressure from your own backbenchers?”

“Why should we trust FF on housing?”

“Do FF have a clear, stated policy on personal taxation?”

Above are a series of suggested questions that were sent from Fine Gael’s digital team to party members last Thursday evening via WhatsApp.

Sunday Business Post journalist Hugh O’Connell reported yesterday that the Fine Gael members were instructed to send these questions – or reworded versions of them – into Newstalk during a live interview with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last Friday.

Mr O’Connell reported:

“Leaked WhatsApp messages seen by The Sunday Business Post show that dozens of Fine Gael staff and activists were told by the party’s digital team to reword suggested questions ‘in your own voice’ as ‘we don’t want to make it obvious it’s coming from us’.

“They were also told to avoid using email addresses with either Fine Gael or Young Fine Gael in them.”

Meanwhile, from the vaults

The Fine Gael online campaign team during the 2011 general election.

Good times.

Previously: Fine Gael’s Frape Room

From top: Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised a report by Louise Byrne on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Rebuilding Ireland’s Home Loan Scheme this morning.

Ms Byrne reported that, according to documents she obtained under Freedom Of Information, the Department of Housing – in a briefing note dated January 31, 2019, to its press office – said further approvals are not currently being issued for these particular loans.

Specifically, the note said the department “has been advised that no further approvals should issue for now”.

These loans allow first-time buyers to borrow up to 90 per cent of a property’s value from their local authority.

Those wishing to secure one of these loans have to show they’ve been turned down for mortgage approval by two banks.

Gross earnings cannot exceed €50,000 for a single person or €75,000 for a couple.

In light of Ms Byrne’s report, Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea was told in December 2018 by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy that “he was progressing reforms to ensure the loan can work for more people and more quickly”.

Mr Martin said:

I don’t know what planet the minister is on? But the question I would ask Taoiseach is: Why wasn’t the scheme extended? Why hasn’t it been extended? Why was there no public announcement to the effect, in other words, if you tell your press office, surely deserve the public deserve to know?

“And why wasn’t the Dáil told: upfront and in an honest way?

“Why this kind of continuing lack of respect for the House? In terms of being open, upfront and honest in terms of what is going on? In terms of schemes of this kind?

“People are still applying but nobody has been approved, nobody has been told that no further approvals will issue except your press office according to a Freedom of Information on RTÉ this morning?”

“Why can’t the Minister and the Government just be honest with the people in terms of these issues? And could the Taoiseach bring clarity to this? When will this scheme be extended and to what degree will the scheme be extended?”

“The original limit was €200million; 1,000 houses were to be, allegedly by the minister, accommodated. We’ve had about 1,550, if not more, applications accepted. So will those people, who’ve been approved, will they be in a position to draw down their loans?”

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil 575 people have secured loans under the scheme to date while a further 1,000 applications have been approved but the money has yet to be withdrawn in respect of those.

He said the scheme was initially limited at €200m and that figure has been allocated.

He added:

“But as loans are not drawn down and loans do expire after six months, if they’re not drawn down, more finance does become available.

What we have to consider now is two things: is to whether we should increase the cap above €200m, and that’s currently under consideration of Government, and we also have to consult with the Central Bank as well because this is a mortgage, it is a loan, it’s a loan being offered to people being turned down by banks, building societies and it is a loan at a reduced interest rate.”

In response, Mr Martin asked Mr Varadkar when he discovered that the Department of Housing had to do these two things.

He said:

“Cause the minister said back, last year, that we’re not going to wait for the fund to run out, before we build up a second fund to allow a continuation of the scheme with whatever changes we might deem necessary. The minister said there was going to be no issue here.”

Mr Martin added:

It’s low-income people again being let down. Hopes raised and then dashed with fanfare by the Government in terms of raising the hope. The dashing of the hope is done silently, quietly. Why wasn’t this, what you just said to the House, said by the minister in parliamentary replies?”

“…Why all the secrecy? And the silence around it. Why can’t you guys just be up front with people?

Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin – after Mr Martin accused him of prancing about the place – “while you’re prancing about the place and wagging the finger and telling us off, we’re actually doing things, doing things in the real world that help people”.

He said the Government has helped 10,000 people buy their first home.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions which were answered by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar…

Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin raised the nurses’ strike and claimed there was “absence of substantive and meaningful engagement from the Government’s side” in terms of resolving the issues.

It followed the issuing of a press release by the Government last night in which Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said they were willing to engage in talks “on the range of workplace-related issues other than pay to try to resolve the dispute”.

Mr Martin added:

“I put it to you Taoiseach that last night’s initiative, at the 11th hour, of the proposals that emanated from Minister [Paschal] Donohoe and Minister [Simon] Harris have only served to compound the problem, make it worse and escalate it.

“Because it concerns staff shortages, undergrad education, future nursing needs and so on. But it was sent out via press release, without any engagement with the INMO or the other unions.

The INMO has said and director described it as ‘the most cynical move I’ve seen in a long time’ and the unions have rejected it as Government spin. And that it was massively disrespectful to the nurses and to patients.

“Now, Taoiseach, I would put it to you that we cannot solve, you  cannot solve industrial relation disputes by such cynical PR manoeuvres. That kind of ‘optics are more important that substance’ approach won’t cut it when it comes to an industrial dispute of this gravity and scale.

“What is required Taoiseach are meaningful steps to be taken. Substance must replace spin in relation to the resolution of this dispute.”

Mr Martin went on to suggest that well-known mediator Kieran Mulvey should be engaged to help with resolving the matters.

During his response, Mr Varadkar said:

I appreciate that the nursing union felt that the offer to engage in further talks at the WRC was discourteous as they heard it through a press release rather than through a letter or direct contact.

“And we’ll make sure that doesn’t recur.

At the same time though, we shouldn’t forget that tens of thousands of people found out through the media that their respite was being cancelled this week too. That their day care was being cancelled too. So I think we need to bear that in mind as well.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Gulp.

This afternoon.

Leinster House, Dublin 2

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin shares his pleasure at extending his party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fine Gael that could keep Leo Varadkar in power into 2020.

Impotent rage.

Can kill a man stone dead.

Any excuse

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (in red tie) speaks to the press this afternoon.

He’s screaming inside.

Fianna Fáil renews Confidence and Supply Agreement (RTÉ)

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon and the minutes of a meeting between the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and David McCourt in New York in July

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised questions with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about Minister for Communication Denis Naughten and the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

Mícheál Martin said to the Taoiseach:

“Minister Naughten met with the head of the remaining consortium David McCourt in July and discussed the tendering process with him. Relevant officials from the department handling the bid were not there and were not present – which is very significant.

“Someone on climate change was there, but not anybody dealing with the bid. The minutes are clear: Four issues relating to the bid and consortium were discussed. Taoiseach, decision makers such as Minister Naughten are properly and normally insulated from lobbying and any attempt to influence them during a tendering process.

“It is clear that Mr McCourt was trying to convince the minister that he had addressed the department official’s concerns. They were sorted and they were good to go.

“He was canvassing, he was lobbying and canvassing, Taoiseach, disqualifies. Remember Taoiseach that, at this stage, a decision still has to be taken by the minister. To either go with the bid or not go with the bid.

“The minister should be completely, completely at arm’s length from this process, from the tendering process. I find it extraordinary that I’m even in here, asking these questions and putting these points. Remember this is a massive contract. Which could be providing up to half a billion or more from State funds. From taxpayers’ money.

“It is quite extraordinary Taoiseach, and I’m going to put to you straight: the minister should not have met David McCourt, do you accept that? Has the tendering process, Taoiseach, been contaminated by the minister’s actions?

I mean people externally looking into this country – they might be tempted to say now, that the key to getting a lucrative contract in Ireland is face time with the minister.

“Now we’ve had tribunals about this kind of thing in the past. It is extraordinary Taoiseach that this has occurred. And in my view the minister has contaminated the process and you as Taoiseach need to reflect on that.

“And the Government does – before any further action is taken in relation to this.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke about how committed the Government is to the National Broadband Plan and about how it’s a huge an investment.

He went on to list Minister Naughten and his department’s responsibilities in relation to the plan.

He then said:

“In relation to the dinner to which you refer, while visiting New York in mid-July, to speak at the United Nations on Ireland’s progress towards achieving  the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Irish delegation, including Minister Naughten and his officials were invited to attend a dinner hosted by the McCourt family.

“It’s worth noting that he’s been a significant investor in the country for many years, employing hundreds of people. The exchange was of a ten-minute duration, as the minutes show, and Minister Naughten did not enter into any detailed discussions on the matters with Mr McCourt.

“Mr McCourt has also publicly confirmed this fact and the tender was not discussed. The minutes show that no official from the National Broadband Division was in attendance which is an important fact and that it was not a meeting arranged  to discuss the NBP.

The engagement in question took place in a social setting and the engagement of the NBP lasted no more than 10 minutes with Mr McCourt directing his comments to the officials of the department.

“The procurement department has confirmed that in no way whatsoever has the procurement process been compromised as has been alleged by some members of the Opposition, by the minister and his officials, meeting Mr McCourt in New York.

The short discussion was of an administrative nature. It is a single bidder so competition not a factor here and the meeting took place on July 16 when the evaluation stage had not yet commenced.

“The evaluation stage commenced on September 18, 2018, when the final tender document was submitted to the department. The minutes of this meeting have been published.”

Mr Martin said what the Taoiseach said wasn’t credible and read out the minutes (above).

He then said:

“This is the meat, this is the God damn meat of the bid. This was Mr McCourt saying ‘I’ve answered the case’. Do you not find it’s quite extraordinary Taoiseach, that we are where we are in even discussing this?

“So I think, Taoiseach, erecting Chinese walls, saying ‘I’m at the lunch, there’s an official at the lunch, or around the same table, but the minister becomes deaf and hear’s nothing. Hears nothing of the conversation. That’s not credible Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar went on to say that he thinks it’s “OK” for Minister Naughten to have met with Mr McCourt, “provided it conferred no advantage on him”.

He added:

“And Minister Naughten is the Minister for Communications and are we really saying that over a two or three year period, as minister, it wouldn’t be possible for him to meet the CEO of Eircom, to meet the CEO of SSE, to meet the CEO of SIRO? That the Minister over a two or three year period would not have any engagement with anyone involved in the sector?”

“Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of RTE either, or the chair of RTE when issues around their funding couldn’t be discussed. Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of TG4 when decisions are made about funding of those bodies?

“Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of anybody in the entire industry?”

Watch back here

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised the housing crisis and asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he could explain “the absence of delivery [of housing] across the board” and if he accepted Ireland was in an “emergency”.

Mr Varadkar said he’s already on record as saying there’s an emergency and said he knows people across Ireland are frustrated with the pace of delivery of houses and that he’s frustrated, too.

He said he could “speak for hours” about all the things the Government is doing to fix the crisis but he said he’d mentioned the five main strands of the Government’s response to the crisis.

He said Ireland will undergo the “biggest social housing programme in decades in Ireland” with “over 100,000” social houses to be provided over the next ten years  and “8,000 this year alone”.

He said the Government is also “accelerating the supply of homes for people to buy” with 20,000 new houses and apartments to be built in Ireland this year and 25,000 next year.

Mr Varadkar also mentioned how the Government brought in rent caps in urban areas to “put a stop to the spiralling double digit rent increases”.

And he said “rough sleeping” is down by 40 per cent and “that didn’t happen by accident”.

He said: “It happened because we worked with NGOs and charities to get people off the streets.”

And, finally, he spoke about the recent launch of the Land Development Agency.

Further to this…

Dáil proceedings can be watched live here

Earlier: Rising Slowly