From top: Larry Goodman at Dublin Castle for the Beef Tribunal in 1991; Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
During a meeting of the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach.
Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy asked Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe about a story which appeared in The Irish Times yesterday concerning the Goodman Group established by Larry Goodman,
Journalist Colm Keena reported that nine companies in the group made a profit of €170 million last year and had assets worth more than €3.45 billion – with the “bulk of the profits” booked in Luxembourg and “largely untaxed”.
Mr Goodman was at the centre of the Beef Tribunal in 1991, where it was eventually revealed that, under the then Fianna Fáil government between 1987 and 1989, his companies benefited from financial concessions, special arrangements and a change in the tax law to protect their income.
Mr Murphy and the minster had this exchange yesterday:
Paul Murphy: “In the papers today is the Goodman Group making a profit of €170million last year reportedly and paying, effectively, zero taxes through filing accounts in Luxembourg.
“The double taxation agreement that appears to still be operative with Luxembourg is from 1972 so it was written, it was agreed a couple of years after the one with the Netherlands. Is that an agreement you’re looking at revising or adjusting or think that, certainly from this vantage point, it would seem to be a problem if someone can make, or a corporation can make such amount of profits and be enabled effectively to pay zero tax on it.”
Paschal Donohoe: “So, as I said in relation to another question earlier on [from Labour TD Joan Burton], I’m not going to comment on the tax affairs of any particular company or individual.
“But in answer to your other question, in relation to our DTA [Double Taxation Agreement] between Ireland and Luxembourg, we will be updating that via use of the multi-lateral convention.”
Only four percent of people in society is a Landlord – yet 25% of the cabinet are Landlords. Will they support the SOL / PBP Anti Eviction Bill tonight to stop the catastrophe of families beoming homeless ? #Dail#LQS#not1homepic.twitter.com/T2mTF4D9Qk
” On the North Circular Road there is a building with 16 families living in apartments. Many young children are living there, looking forward to Santa coming, but before Christmas all those families have been issued with notices to quit.
The landlord is not a small accidental landlord but a businessman with multiple properties.
Yesterday, he told the tenants they were great tenants but said the market dictates the rent.
The ground for eviction is the supposed need for substantial refurbishment.
In reality, the tenants and the landlord know – I presume everyone here knows this and has seen it happen time and again – that this is yet another renoviction, something that deserves a word for itself now because it is so widespread, with the need for refurbishment used as a pretext to kick out tenants and hike up rents.
If these tenants are evicted, they will mostly be evicted into homelessness.”
Paul Murphy TD grills the European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi over the bailout and his predecessor’s threat to the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan during an appearance by the ECB chief at a Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting.
The Irish economy has seen a particularly strong expansion in recent years. Ireland is now growing at the fastest pace of any euro area country,” he said.
“Unemployment has been falling too, and now stands well below the euro area average.
“This is all the more impressive given the severe crisis Ireland went through and the legacies it is dealing with, including high private debt and arrears.”
He said policies need to put in place to protect the exchequer and deal with “legacy vulnerabilities” in the system – especially the level of non-performing loans.
To mark Pride Week, Solidarity–People Before Profit Paul Murphy joined representatives of LGBTQ groups in Ireland to appeal to the Toaiseach not to hold up the Sex Education Bill which would remove religious ethos from the RSE curriculum.
The legislation, which is at the committee stage, is a private member’s Bill – providing for education about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues – and will perish without mainstream political support.
Above from left: Director of Shout Out Bella Fitzpatrick, UCD Students’ Union LGBTQ Coordinator Adrasteia Hughes, VP Dublin Region USI Aisling Cusack , Paul Murphy, Radical Queers Resist’s Erin Sterling and Act Up’s Davy Sulivan.
From top: The Launch of Generation Precarious yesterday; Paul Murphy
Varadkar’s Republic of Opportunity sloganeering hides the reality of a Republic of Precarity for many workers.
The process of increasing ‘flexibility’ in the labour market has intensified over the course of the crisis and its aftermath. It is yet another indication of Naomi Klein’s ‘shock doctrine‘ in action – with a crisis of neo-liberal capitalism used to further embed that model.
It should be indisputable that precarious work in its myriad of different forms has increased dramatically in Ireland, as it has in western Europe and the US in the context of the economic crisis.
It takes multiple forms, from the ‘bogus self-employment’ to the widespread existence of zero hour or ‘if and when’ contract workers, as well as the spread of temporary and part-time contracts and agency workers and unpaid internships.
Side by side with that, corporate profits have gone through the roof – having doubled from €75 billion in Ireland in 2011 to €150 billion in 2015. These come at the expense of workers working harder and longer for the same wages.
The ‘gig’ or ‘contingent’ economy is presented by right-wing economists as being an opportunity for freedom and choice. In reality, it is a tool for reducing the cost of labour and increasing the rate of exploitation by denying legal rights that employees with permanent contracts would be entitled to. It represents a partial return to early 20th century working conditions.
A number of useful reports and studies have recently been published into the expansion of precarious employment in Ireland by TASC and ICTU. Some of the key features which emerge are the fact 12% of workers are now self-employed with no employees – in other words, likely to be effectively in bogus self-employment.
Some 7% of the labour force is working in temporary employment, with half of them (70,500 workers) in temporary employment because they could not find permanent work – a 179% increase on 2008.
Over the course of the crisis, there has been a significant increase in the number of workers who are employed part-time – with 456,200 workers, almost a quarter of all employees.
The fact that there are around 110,000 less workers in full-time permanent employemnt than there were in 2008 is a striking illustration of the changed nature of the labour market.
Just over 8% of workers usual hours varied considerably from week to week or month to month, meaning they probably have zero hour, low hour or if and when contracts.
The evidence illustrates that these precarious contracts are concentrated in certain sectors – such as hospitality, care work as well as construction. It is disproportionally young workers and women who are affected.
These statistics translated into the daily lives of workers means massive instability in people’s lives. It means an inability to plan for next week, nevermind next month, because you don’t know what hours you’ll be working.
It means being unable to get a mortgage because you can’t point to a guaranteed number of hours and income. It means a significant increase in mental health problems caused by such an unstable existence.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The historic #McStrike in Britain won the biggest pay rise for workers at the company in 10 years. Deliveroo workers, who are a classic example of ‘bogus self-employment’ have also been getting organised.
Six years ago, we launched the ScamBridge campaign and website, which contributed to the public awareness of the reality of JobBridge exploitation which ultimately led to the scheme being abandoned by the government.
Yesterday, we launched Generation Precarious with the aim of doing something similar to tackle the much bigger issue of precarious work.
The campaign has a two track strategy.
Firstly, to raise awareness of the reality of precarious work and the impact it has on people’s lives and to push for government action to eliminate precarious work, through the banning of zero hour and ‘if and when’ contracts, the introduction of ‘fair scheduling’ and for the outlawing of all unpaid work along with a series of other demands.
Secondly, to highlight and expose particularly exploitative employers, as we did with ScamBridge. We want people to contact us with their stories.
In the coming weeks, we will be selecting our first employer to target for protest to expose their treatment of workers. Crucially, we will be working with those affected by precarious work to try to assist them getting organised into trade unions, which is ultimately the best way to ensure better working conditions.
Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD
Great news! Solidarity’s Objective Sex Education Bill has been passed at the first stage vote. It will now go on to be debated at Committee stage. Thanks to everyone who contacted their TDs to support it. #SexEdBillpic.twitter.com/nEHLB7K1Xv
From top: a still from a Catholic sex education video made for an Irish audience in the 1980s; Paul Murphy
“We were basically told we should wait until marriage to have sex. To emphasize this point, the teacher took a piece of sellotape, stuck it to her hand, ripped it off and showed us the bits of dirt now stuck to it.
She likened this piece of tape to each girl, and her sticking the tape down to her skin as each boy the girl kissed. She kept repeating this action, basically showing us that kissing many boys made you very dirty.
When the tape lost its stickiness, she proudly used this as an example of how we became emotionally unable to ‘stick’ to one person if we keep ‘kissing all these different boys’. I found this absolutely unacceptable and honestly am still shocked that I was actually told this.”
Paul Murphy TD writes:
When Solidarity announced we were proposing a Bill for Objective Sex Education, Sarah was just one school student of many who emailed us about the backward nature of the sex education they received.
Niamh, another student, explained that:
“I vividly remember the teacher referring to contraception as ‘the C-word’. She didn’t like saying it in the classroom as it was against the ethos of the school.”
This anecdotal evidence of entirely inadequate sex education chimes with recently published research by NUI Galway on ‘Smart Consent‘.
An online survey completed by over 1,000 NUIG students on consent found that 76% of students believed their school sex education “left out a lot of important and crucial information” and only 23.8% declared themselves satisfied with the sex education they received.
“Any attempt to communicate ‘the facts of life’ as mere facts without reference to the religious and moral dimensions of human sexuality and without reference to the pupil’s need to grow in maturity would be a distortion. Scientific facts are not the whole truth about human sexuality and reproduction.”
The sex education that most school students receive is grossly distorted by the religious ethos of their schools. In many cases, Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is provided by outside religious agencies, including Accord, a Catholic organisation which refuses to deal with same-sex couples in marriage counselling.
The result is that often LGBTQ+ people are not mentioned, contraception is barely referenced and consent does not feature. The so-called ‘gatekeepers’ model is taught in many schools, where girls are warned about sexual activity and boys get no real education on consent.
This contrasts starkly with the attitudes of young people, where there has been an awakening in awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and a real understanding of consent as something that needs to be explicit, mutual and continuous.
This was seen in the last weeks on the streets across Ireland with big protests about how rape victims are treated in the legal system. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the #WeStandWithHer protests, the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, announced a review of sex education.
However, importantly, he did not say that it would remove religious ethos from the teaching of RSE, which is a central problem. There is no point in reviewing how it is taught if schools will still be allowed to ignore it if it doesn’t fit their religious views!
The Solidarity ‘Provision of Objective Sex Education’ Bill would remove those religious barriers from the teaching of relationships and sex based on mutual respect.
It will be debated today and if it becomes law, would ensure that all school students receive factual and objective sex education.
This would be sex education which has consent at its core, which teaches about methods of contraception and the termination of pregnancy, is not gender normative and is LGBTQ+ positive.
The Bill is being supported by a wide range of organisations including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Shout Out, BelongTo, USI, Irish Family Planning Association, Atheist Ireland, LadyBirds, and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
Because of pressure on the establishment parties at this stime, the indications are that the government is not opposing the Bill and it will pass second stage.
However, those who want to retain religious control over our schools and prevent young people being educated about sex will try to resist this change. The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association has come out in opposition to the Bill and incredibly claims that the current sex education programme is “working quite well”!
The next step of the battle will be ensure that the government doesn’t leave it languishing in committee, as they have done with so many opposition bills and it actually progresses to become law that transforms our sex education.
Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD
The #SexEdBill is being debated on Wednesday 4pm-6pm. So far media seem to be avoiding mentioning it despite it being very important Bill that can open the door to the best possible sex education for our young people. #dubw#Dail
From top: Independent TD Paul Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dail.
Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy recalled the “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All” campaign previously launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Readers will recall how at the launch of the campaign, Mr Varadkar – then Minister for Social Protection and not leader of Fine Gael – stated a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million in 2016.
The campaign was later referred to as a ‘mistake’ by the Secretary General of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection John McKeon.
He said since the ’employment activation programme’was introduced in July 2015, €84million has been paid to two companies Seetec and Turas Nua.
Following on from this, Mr Varadkar spoke about welfare fraud and criticised the “hard left”, again.
Paul Murphy: “‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ you said, Taoiseach, in a campaign now universally recognised as being based on false figures which your own department questioned. You cynically used public money to enhance your appeal to Fine Gael members.
“That campaign may now be largely forgotten but the agenda behind it remains. It was more than just a dog whistle campaign for votes. It was part of an ideological assault on social welfare…”
“140,000 unemployed people have been turned into opportunities for profit for private companies. In the process without significant debate the provision of social welfare has been partially privatised. I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been through JobPath, they say they’re not given any real training, they’re just supervised while looking for jobs on a computer meaning that it’s pointless travel for many, they describe it as demeaning, as patronising, as infantalising.
“And what hangs over all of their interactions with private companies is the threat of having their social welfare cut by more than €40, leaving people to try to survive on €150, or less, a week.
“Since JobPath has been introduced, the number of people who have had these so-called penalty rates applied has increased from 5,000 in 2015 to 16,000 last year. That is in one year alone. Some 6,500 JobPath participants have had their dole cut.
“On the other hand, €84 million of public money has been paid to just two companies, SeeTec and Turas Nua. They get money each time someone signs a personal progression plan and they get paid job sustainment fees.
“Both SeeTec and Working Links, which is one of two companies behind Turas Nua, have been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain. Last October in the Dáil, Deputy Catherine Murphy raised a very serious case of fraud by SeeTec in Ireland.
“All of that has been justified up until now on the false basis that the system works and gets people into employment. That has now been completely exposed by the Government’s own figures which came out three weeks ago. Only 18% of those who engage in JobPath end up in full-time employment.
“Some €84 million has been given to these private companies to get people jobs which they would have got themselves. Will the Taoiseach now read the writing on the wall for JobPath? Will he agree that the scheme needs to be scrapped and that instead of handing money over to private companies, he should invest in proper education and training and in real jobs for unemployed people?”
Leo Varadkar:“Welfare fraud is very real. And it is a real problem in this country and in every western society. Even if we take the lowest estimate of the scale of welfare fraud in this country, it is about €40 million a year.That is a lot of money in my view. Let us not forget that people who engage in welfare fraud are not the poor and vulnerable. They are people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable. They are people who are working and claiming.
“They are people who are working, not paying their taxes on that work, and also claiming welfare at the same time. I do not believe that is defensible or acceptable. There are people who are pretending to have a disability they do not have or pretending to care for someone for whom they are not caring.
“People are claiming to be somebody they are not to claim pensions for people who are long dead. It really disappoints me to hear left-wing politicians in this country constantly defending fraudsters as though they are entitled to the benefits that they are stealing. They are not — to prevent and crack down on welfare fraud in any way we can.
“One only needs to look at the court reports every other day to see the detail of some of those cases and what people have been doing to defraud our system. The reason we cracked down on welfare fraud is not ideological. The reason is that fraud is wrong, whether it is tax fraud or welfare fraud, and we act against it.
“In doing so, we ensure that the welfare budget is protected for those who are entitled to it, including our pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, the unemployed, lone parents, blind people, widows and others. As a result we have been able to increase in two budgets in a row the State pension, payments to carers, payments to people with disabilities and payments to people who are unemployed. It is Government policy to crack down on welfare fraud in order to protect the welfare budget for those who need and deserve it, particularly pensioners, the disabled, carers and people who are unemployed.
“I am very disappointed to hear politicians on the left continuously equivocating on this issue and not condemning welfare fraud. I note that the Deputy did not do so on this occasion. Tackling unemployment is one of the areas in which everyone acknowledges we have seen a real turnaround in recent years.
“Unemployment peaked at 15% and is now down at approximately 6%. Long-term unemployment is down to 3%. That is not just because of a recovering economy. Unlike many recoveries, we saw unemployment fall rapidly once our recovery started. That is not the norm in recoveries. There is usually a lag. The reason unemployment fell very rapidly in Ireland once the recovery started is the kind of active policies in which the Government engaged both on the enterprise and welfare sides.
“Had we listened to the Deputy and had we pursued the policies which he advocated, which have been attempted in Greece, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and other countries, not only would we have mass unemployment, but we would have a mass refugee exodus from this country similar to the current exodus from Venezuela to Colombia.”
Murphy: “It is like Deputy Enda Kenny is back. The Taoiseach managed not to answer the question at all. Instead he attacked something which I did not say and then went on an ideological attack about Venezuela. I think he might have even referenced Colombia and Greece.
Varadkar: “Colombia is where the refugees are.”
Murphy: “Let us go back to the question. The question is on the Government’s JobPath scheme, which has failed in its stated aim of getting jobs for people. That is what the facts now demonstrate. Only 18% of participants get jobs, which is no higher than the rate for people who do not have access to JobPath.These companies have been accused of fraud in Britain. What is the Taoiseach doing to make sure that they are not engaged in fraud here? To deal with the curveball which the Taoiseach has thrown, which is that he will stand over and double down on his rhetoric about welfare fraud, the Taoiseach gave the figure of €40 million two minutes ago, but his advertising campaign said €500 million. Which is it? Who is engaged in fraud here?
Mattie McGrath: “It is the spin machine.”
Murphy: “The Taoiseach is engaged in fraud against unemployed people and is using public money to demonise them in order to drive precarious employment. He is continuing in that same Thatcherite vein here. Will he please answer the question asked in respect of JobPath?”
Varadkar: “I said that even the lowest estimate is €40 million. I note the Deputy has not refuted that.”
Eoin Ó Broin: “What is the actual figure?”
Varadkar: “The figure of €500 million was what it said on the tin, that is fraud and control. Fraud and control. They are two different things.”
Pearse Doherty: “It was the Department’s Brexit bus.”
Varadkar: “On the whole issue of JobPath, we must look at the counterfactual analysis. People who are long-term unemployed can be referred down a number of different routes. They can have assistance through the Intreo service provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; they can be assisted through JobPath, which is outsourced to two companies; or they can be referred to bodies such as local employment schemes, for example. It is interesting to compare counterfactually how people perform under those different headings. There is a complaints procedure in place. If participants feel that they are not getting a proper service from JobPath, they can make a complaint directly to the company. If they are not satisfied with the response, they can go to the Department and make a complaint through its procedures.”
McGrath: “They would be wasting their time.”
Varadkar:“It is important to note how the companies are paid. They get a registration fee per client referred to them but after that they only get paid if the person gets a full-time job and sustains it. The incentive is there for the companies not just to get people into any old job, but to get them into full-time jobs which they can sustain for more than 13 weeks.The longer the person keeps that job, the more the company gets paid. Its strength is in its results. Unemployment is now falling below 6% and long-term unemployment is now below 3%.
Murphy: “The Government’s own figures dispute that.”
Varadkar: “Where would we be today if the policies of the hard left had been followed in this country?”
Murphy: “We would not have vulture funds dealing with public banks.”
Varadkar: “There would be mass unemployment and mass emigration.”
…. Confidence in the Garda Siochána is not an optional extra. It is the bedrock of public compliance and a properly functioning society. As a succession of scandals wash over the force, it is essential the public are assured that when gardaí give evidence in court, they speak nothing but the truth in accordance with their best recollection of sometimes fraught situations.
A Garda statement, saying a senior officer was conducting a review of organisational practices and policies arising out of Jobstown and “other issues of note”, may also have created the misleading impression that it would include evidence given in court. The Garda Commissioner made clear yesterday that this was not the case. A full Gsoc investigation is needed and Paul Murphy, if he is serious about anything other than crass political advantage, could usefully seek it.