Director of Creative Ireland Tania Banotti, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan in Government Buildings today
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan attended a press conference to announce a range of artistic initiatives.
During the briefing, Harry McGee, of The Irish Times, asked Mr Donohoe about a nursing home which has seen a considerable number of positive Covid-9 cases. Mr McGee also asked the minister about the number of people who have recovered from the virus.
Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly raised concerns about the home with Ms Madigan in the Dáil yesterday, telling her that that 70 out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.
However, Ms Madigan did not respond to Mr Donnelly’s concerns as the Minister for Health Simon Harris was not present. Instead she took notes and said Mr Harris would respond accordingly.
From this morning’s briefing.
Harry McGee: “To Minister Donohoe, in relation to some of the detail that has been given out in relation to the Covid-19 crisis, the nursing home issue, in particular, there’s quite a lot of clusters. And there’s been a bit of a lack of clarity in relation to the information being given.
“Stephen Donnelly, from Fianna Fáil yesterday, was talking about a cluster of 79 at least in one nursing home. We know there’s quite a lot of nursing homes affected but there’s been very little information in relation to the detail about that.
“And also there’s a great sparsity in relation to the detail about those who’ve recovered from Covid-19 in Ireland, compared to other countries and perhaps you could address those issues if you would?”
Paschal Donohoe: [after giving a response to nursing homes in general] “In relation to the question that you put to me about a particular nursing home, that Deputy Donnelly raised yesterday, I’m afraid I don’t have information in relation to that nursing home. Maybe that’s something that our colleagues in NPHET [National Public Health Emergency Team] can deal with across today on one of the press briefings that might take place later on today.
“In relation to your second question about data in relation to citizens who thankfully have recovered from Covid-19. Again, from being involved in discussion on that issue across yesterday, I think an important consideration from our public health officials is to have a wide enough data set, of enough citizens who have recovered from Covid-19 to allow them then to issue conclusions in relation to it.
“And the sense I got yesterday from a discussion on this issue is that we are looking to have a wide enough cohort of citizens who have recovered from Covid-19, who have exited, for example, our ICU facilities. To have that cohort wide enough to then allow us to draw conclusions from it.
“An my understanding, Harry, is that we’re a little bit off, being able to form conclusions that we think are reliable enough to be able to talk to you, and therefore the country, about.”
Watch back in full here.
I understand that journalists were asked to submit questions in advance, were not allowed ask follow up questions and were not allowed ask questions about handouts at today’s Dept of Finance press briefing attended by Minister Paschal Donohoe. #dail #covid19ireland
— Mick Barry TD (@MickBarryTD) April 2, 2020
From top: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan; Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly; tweet from Socialist TD Mick Barry
Minister for Finance and Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe only answered pre-submitted questions from journalists at a press briefing in Government Buildings.
The journalists weren’t allowed to ask follow-up questions.
Also yesterday afternoon, in the Dáil, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan refused to answer a single question that TDs raised about health matters concerning Covid-19, after castigating the TDs who called for the Dáil to sit with reduced numbers.
Among the contributions from TDs was that of Fianna Fáil Stephen Donnelly who told the Dáil that he was told that out of 200 members of staff at one nursing home, 70 had tested positive for Covid-19 and that 19 of the home’s 100 residents had also tested positive.
After the TDs raised their concerns, acting chairman John Lahart told the Dáil: “The Minister for Health departed the chamber to attend a briefing of all party and group leaders on Covid-19. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will conclude the debate for the Government.”
However, instead of answering any of the questions, Ms Madigan told those present that she had taken notes and that Mr Harris would get back to them.
Of the press briefing with Mr Donohoe, Miriam Lord, in The Irish Times, reports:
“Having asked them [journalists] to attend (a small number, in accordance with the necessary restrictions), they were then asked to pre-submit their questions. These were read out by Paschal Donohoe’s press aide, who then replied as the mute hacks looked on.
“Disgracefully, they were not allowed to ask follow-up questions, so Paschal could effectively say what he liked without being challenged. Microphones were not provided because of hygiene issues. The reporters could have been heard without them, but they weren’t given the chance. This doesn’t even happen in the White House. But it happens here, in Government Buildings. And Hungary.
“A trivial thing to worry about in the current, terrible scheme of things. Or is it?”
Meanwhile, in the Dáil, the Heath Minister Simon Harris addressed those present after which Ms Madigan listened to questions from other TDs.
Apart from Mr Donnelly’s questions, other contributions included concerns about coronavirus test numbers, GP concerns, social welfare payments for people over the age of 66, concerns about people in direct provision, personal protective equipment, student nurses, people in receipt of medicinal cannabis, domestic violence issues and mental health services.
After hearing the contributions, this is what the Dáil heard:
Joespha Madigan: “I thank the deputies for their contributions. However, the members here today who have insisted on this Dáil sitting have shown a complete disregard for our national fight to contain Covid-19. Shame on you.
“They have forced us to stray from home rather than stay at home, which is completely contrary to public health guidelines and nothing to do with any public representative shirking his or her responsibilities.
“As the Minister, Deputy Harris, said, there is no reason we could not have done this remotely. We have already seen the European Parliament achieve that. As he said, with a little ingenuity, it could be achieved. I just wanted to say that at the outset.
“We are learning more about Covid-19 but there is much we do not know. In particular, we do not know how long this public health emergency is going to last. As the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, said earlier, many lives have already been cruelly taken by this virus. I would like to express my condolences to all of those who have been bereaved.”
Ms Madigan had this exchange with Mr Donnelly:
Stephen Donnelly: “My understanding was that the wrap-up would include answers to questions raised by the House. In the time left, will the Minister actually address any of the questions we have come here to ask?”
Madigan: “I think the Chairman made very clear that the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, is with the Taoiseach at present…”
Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan has been here.”
Madigan: “…and with all the leaders of Opposition parties and groups. He has been giving them a briefing on Covid-19 since about 3.30pm.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer anything that has been raised?”
John Lahart: “One speaker, please.”
Madigan: “As Deputy Donnelly knows, the Minister, Deputy Harris, was here. He was here when Deputy Donnelly spoke and he was here for every other speaker except for a few. I have taken notes of those concerns for him. He has taken detailed notes of all the Members’ concerns and I am satisfied that he will get back to them with comprehensive responses on everything.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to address them?”
Madigan: “It is a bit opportunistic, when the Minister is in a very important meeting…”
Donnelly: “I am not having a go at the Minister for Health. I am asking if a Government Minister is going to answer any of the questions raised by the Parliament.”
Madigan: “He will come back with answers to all the Members’ concerns.”
Donnelly: “Is Deputy Madigan going to answer any of them?”
Madigan: “I can only go that far. With respect, I am not the Minister for Health and he cannot bilocate. Deputy Donnelly can appreciate that.
Donnelly: “Deputy Madigan is not answering anything that has been raised.”
Ms Madigan then went on to acknowledge “the incredible response” of the frontline staff across departments and agencies, in the health sector and in social welfare and other sectors.
The Dáil can’t sit and Ministers can’t be made accountable to elected representatives but … https://t.co/h3a88CfQkB
— Fred Logue (@FredPLogue) April 3, 2020
Blondie’s Debbie Harry endures years of superficial, tedious, and demeaning questions from journalists until she devises a brilliant way to turn interviews on their head.
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.
Previously: Fine Gael’s Frape Room
From top: Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, David McCourt, journalist Justine McCarthy
In the Dáil.
Mr Smyth was tasked with examining the interactions between the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and businessman David McCourt, founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt – which is leading the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan.
The purpose of the review was to see if their interactions, many of which were over meals, undermined the integrity of the procurement process.
The review found they didn’t.
Further to this.
Yesterday, in The Sunday Times…
Justine McCarthy, in an opinion column, wrote that there was a “confusing tone to Smyth’s report” given that Mr Smyth didn’t name the six people who dined with Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten – even though the Department of Communications named them two months ago.
They were ministerial officials Leslie Carberry and Seána Geraghty, and special advisers Suzanne Coogan and Jean Andrews. Mr McCourt’s brother Frank and daughter Alexandra accompanied Mr McCourt.
Ms McCarthy asked:
“How much will the plan cost the public? Is it €500m, €1bn or €3bn, as have been variously reported?
“Who conducted the reappraisal of the process earlier this year, giving it the all-clear after the other bidders withdrew? (The department has refused a freedom of information request by The Sunday Times for details of the reappraisal.)
“Smyth concluded that Naughten’s resignation as minister in October militated against any tainting of the process but, as Fianna Fail’s Timmy Dooley has pointed out, McCourt was also bound by the rules and he remains in the process. How can that be reconciled?
“Naughten says he informed Varadkar about all his meetings with McCourt on the Sunday night before he resigned from the cabinet. The taoiseach disputes this. Now Smyth’s report reveals nine phone conversations between Naughten and McCourt which had not previously been disclosed to the public. Is there anything else we have not been told?
“According to Smyth’s report, there was a phone call between the two men on August 8 this year, following a meeting of process participants that day. McCourt was seeking “confirmation of the government’s ongoing commitment to [its] completion”. Why did he need reassurance? Had what transpired at the meeting caused doubt?
“On February 28 this year, McCourt met the secretary general of Naughten’s department to discuss his consortium’s commitment to the process after rival bidder Eir pulled out. That night McCourt, Naughten and his press adviser dined together in Dublin. Smyth’s report says they discussed a media studio in Trinity College. What else did they talk about?”
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, and other senior gardaí, at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on March 30
You may recall how Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s recent appearance before the joint Oireachtas committee on justice and equality, in the wake of the near 1million false breath tests and 14,700 wrongful convictions. See a timeline of the matters here.
After the meeting, the committee asked Ms O’Sullivan to respond to 27 questions by noon yesterday.
The following are some of the questions sent to Ms O’Sullivan, parts of her answers that are pertinent to the questions and some notes on the same.
It would appear Ms O’Sullivan and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety’s accounts of events still do not tally.
Q1. Can you confirm that the anonymous April 2014 letter from the Garda reservist in the Western Region was the only prompt for the initial audit of breath test figures in the Southern Region, and the subsequent national audit? Or is it the case that the information from the MBRS given to An Garda Siochana had a role to play in the audits being ordered?
A. The anonymous letter originating from a Garda Reserve in the Western Region was the catalyst for the examination in the Southern Region and the subsequent national examination. A number of other actions were also taken before the examinations commenced, which are set out below. An Garda Síochána had no information in July 2015 from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety to influence the decision to initiate the examination in the Southern Region.
The examination in the Southern Region had already commenced when concerns were first mentioned, informally, to a Superintendent from the Garda National Traffic Bureau by the Director of Medical Bureau of Road Safety. He stated, at the time, that these concerns were not raised as a ‘red-flag’ issue, however reassurance was given that any concerns he had in this regard would be addressed in the context of the examination underway.
…The letter, dated 22nd August, 2014, from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety pertained solely to procurement matters. It did not highlight discrepancies in the records held by An Garda Síochána and those of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
Broadsheet: During an interview with RTÉ’s Cathal Mac Coille, on Morning Ireland, on March 28, 2017, Denis Cusack of the MBRS said that the MRBS wrote to An Garda Siochana in July 2014 about discrepancies between the figures the MBRS had for the breath test mouthpieces that they had supplied to the gardaí and the number of breath tests that the gardai claimed to be carrying out. Of this letter in July 2014, Mr Cusack said: “It was an alert that something wasn’t adding up.”
Around 40 Irish Water protesters ‘occupied’ Dublin City Council offices yesterday.
Some of the protesters attempted to ask DCC Chief Executive Officer Owen Keegan questions about Irish Water – and the DCC’s relationship with Irish Water – but Executive Manager Vincent Norton spoke to them instead.
Mr Norton laid out what the DCC is obliged to do by law.
Via Dublin Says No
Document here (click on E under ‘List of Issues’ in the row for Holy See).
Previously: Cardinal Brady: More Than Just A Note Taker