Tag Archives: Róisín Shortall

From left: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Dublin Castle this morning

This afternoon.

Responding to the Government’s ‘Plan for Covid Resilience and National Recovery’, Róisín Shortall, TD and co-leader for the Social Democrats, told the Dail:

“The Government’s message today was confused and it’s confusing for the public. The new plan was supposed to provide clarity about the five different levels of risk, yet on the first day of the announcement this was muddied by having Dublin at ‘level two and a bit.’

“For the Dublin area, where the rates of Covid19 are growing rapidly, there was little clarity provided by the Government in respect of additional restrictions necessary and people are largely left to scramble for basic information.

This is unforgiveable at a time when people are seriously worried and need strong political leadership in respect of the steps they should now take to reduce the risk in the Dublin area.

“There is some detail provided about restrictions at different risk levels, but this is all subject to change within those levels by NPHET.

“No criteria have been set down for categorising counties by risk level and for moving between risk levels. How can the public anticipate restrictions and modify their behaviour in the absence of any information?

Earlier:  What’s Your Risk-Rate?

Rollingnews

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall

This morning.

RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sarah McInerney.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall responded to new figures which show that just 7% of people are being contacted after arriving in Ireland to check their location.

Via RTÉ:

 Ms Shortall said the Government is “asleep at the wheel” and has “little or no control” over the status of people travelling into Ireland.

Just over 4,000 follow up calls were made to check up on 60,000 people arriving in to Dublin Airport in the first two weeks in July, according to figures from the Department of Justice and released in response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Shortall.

The figures also show 52% of the 4,121 calls made to passengers were answered.

Deputy Shortall said the Department of Justice is responsible for tracking the movements of people who come into the country, “but they clearly don’t want to do that“.

She said: “The Department of Justice is waiting for the Department of Health to take over, which they haven’t done and this means that there are a significant number of people coming here as tourists and there are little or no checks on their status.”

Anyone?

Govt ‘asleep at the wheel’ over arrivals into Ireland – Shortall (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

From top: The proposed development of the new National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s University Hospital Campus; Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall and Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys in the Dáil yesterday

Yesterday afternoon.

Róisín Shortall TD, Social Democrats co-leader, called on the Government to ‘come clean’ on the position between the Vatican and the State on the New National Maternity hospital, and to halt further spending until ownership is resolved. She said:

“Despite commitments given by Minister Harris in the Dáil a year ago, we’re still waiting to see if the State will own the new hospital, despite being continuously promised that it was to be sorted out and legally secure months ago”, she said.

“It is reckless of the Government to spend €43m on the first phase of the National Maternity Hospital before any resolution of the ownership of the new hospital.

“The new National Maternity Hospital must be fully in public ownership and must operate with a non-denominational ethos. However, this is now dependent on approval from the Vatican.

“It is a shameful position for a Republic to be in that our badly-needed new National Maternity Hospital is waiting for Vatican permission before we can proceed.

It is not clear when or if the Vatican will give their approval for the disposal of the site.

This Government must stop putting further public monies at risk until ownership and ethos is legally secure. As it stands, the delivery date of 2024 is very unlikely to be met, but without clarity on legal ownership, it is a huge risk to continue to pour money into something that is still in private hands.”

Meanwhile…

Earlier yesterday, during Leaders’ Questions, Ms Shortall had the following exchange with Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys…

Róisín Shortall: “It is over seven years since the move of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, to St. Vincent’s was first announced. While we know that the care in Holles Street is excellent, the building is antiquated and the conditions are unacceptable for patients and staff. Progress on the new hospital has been painfully slow, though.

“It is over two years since a row broke out between Holles Street and St. Vincent’s about governance structures and the Minister for Health appointed Mr. Kieran Mulvey to hammer out an agreement between them.

In the meantime, the public was alerted to the fact that a secret deal had been brokered between the two hospitals without any reference whatsoever to the public interest.

“It amounted to the gifting of an asset with an estimated value of approximately €350 million to private religious interests and the new hospital’s ethos being dictated by those interests.

“Is it not the case that the Minister for Health misjudged the situation as being only a tiff between two hospitals? Did he not misjudge the extent of public concern that the new maternity hospital must be fully publicly owned and operated and operate with a non-denominational ethos?

“The Minister was forced to halt the deal and respond to public concern. The Religious Sisters of Charity subsequently announced their intention to withdraw from St. Vincent’s and divest themselves of Elm Park.

“They gave undertakings that the new maternity hospital would be fully public and independent. Despite assurances from St. Vincent’s, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Minister, however, that has not happened yet.

“Last December, the Minister for Health announced that agreement had been reached with St. Vincent’s and the new maternity hospital would be fully publicly owned. He also said that the legal documents giving effect to this would be available early in the new year, but they have not materialised as yet.

The Government, however, proceeded to allocate €43 million of public money to phase one of the hospital.

“Does the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, accept that the Government was reckless in doing that before it had title to the site concerned? Will she give an undertaking that no further public money will be allocated to the project and, therefore, put at risk of being lost to the public purse?”

Heather Humphreys: “I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The project is an important one and the Government is anxious that it proceed. The Government is fully committed to the National Maternity Hospital, which involves the development of a new maternity hospital on the campus of St. Vincent’s University Hospital at Elm Park.

“The governance arrangements for the new hospital will be based on the provisions of the Mulvey agreement, which was an agreement finalised in late 2016 between the National Maternity Hospital and the St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group, SVHG, following extensive mediation.

“The terms of the Mulvey agreement provide for the establishment of a new company that will have clinical, operational, financial and budgetary independence in the provision of maternity and neonatal services.

“This independence will be assured by the reserved powers set out in the agreement and be copper-fastened by the golden share to be held by the Minister for Health. It is important to note that the reserved powers can only be amended with the unanimous written approval of the directors and the approval of the Minister.

The religious ethos will not interfere with the provision of medical care. I am advised that the agreement ensures that a full range of health services will be available at the new hospital without religious, ethnic or other distinction.”

Micheál Martin: “Who will own the hospital?”

Humphreys: “I welcome the confirmation by the SVHG board that any medical procedure that is in accordance with the laws of the State will be carried out at the new hospital.

“I understand that the Religious Sisters of Charity resigned from the board of the SVHG some time ago and are currently finalising the process of transferring their shareholding in SVHG to a new company, St. Vincent’s Holdings CLG. I am informed that the Department of Health receives regular updates from the SVHG in respect of that share transfer.

“I understand that the Department’s Secretary General will meet the group’s chair this week to discuss a range of issues relating to the National Maternity Hospital project. Engagement is ongoing between the Department, the HSE, the SVHG and the National Maternity Hospital as regards the legal framework to be put in place to protect the State’s investment in the new hospital.

“The SVHG will provide the State with a 99-year lease of the land on which the new maternity hospital will be built, which will allow the State to retain ownership of the new facility. The State will provide an operating licence to the National Maternity Hospital DAC and the SVHG to enable the provision of health services in the newly constructed building.”

Shortall: “I do not know where the Minister got that reply, but it is at least 12 months out of date, having been overtaken by events. It is a disgrace that anyone gave her that reply to read out.

“What she described might have applied more than 12 months ago, but it certainly does not now. We are in a situation where the disposal of the site for the new maternity hospital cannot go ahead without the approval of the Vatican.

“In fairness to the Deputies present, the Minister should have had that information available to her. It has been made clear that we are waiting for the Vatican’s approval before we can proceed with the provision of a new national maternity hospital.

“Does the Minister accept that, as a republic, this is an outrageous situation to be in for the State? The new national maternity hospital’s estimated completion date was 2024, but there is no prospect of that being met.

“Does the Minister accept that it was reckless for the Government to allocate public money to this project without having title to the site? Does she accept that it is shameful that we are waiting for the approval of the Vatican in order to provide a decent national maternity hospital?”

Humphreys: “I have not had a chance to speak to the Minister on this matter, but the intent has not changed.”

Brendan Howlin: “What is meant by the phrase “the intent has not changed”?”

Humphreys: “There will be no interference in the provision of medical care in the new hospital. I want to be very clear on that intent. Doctors will carry out their duties—–”

Martin: “Who will own the hospital?”

Humphreys: “—–and a full range of health services will be available without religious, ethnic or other distinction.”

Shortall: “Will the Minister answer the questions? Will she get with the game?”

Humphreys: “The other issue—–”

Shortall: “It is a waste of time for people to come in here to ask questions only for Ministers to read out incomplete responses.”

An Ceann Comhairle: “Deputy, please.”

Humphreys: “I will ask the Minister for Health to contact the Deputy directly about the other issue she raised.”

Previously: National Maternity Hospital on Broadsheet

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Minister for Health Simon Harris

This morning.

It has emerged that 52 of the 800 women impacted by the reported IT problems in the Quest Diagnostics laboratory have contracted the HPV virus.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to “provide immediate answers” to the following:

1. Have all 52 women who tested positive for HPV on the Quest retest been notified of their results?

2. Have they all been referred for appropriate follow-up?

3. Have the other 750 women and their GPs been notified of their retest results?

4. What is the level of clinical risk for the 52 women who tested positive?

5. What action was taken by the HSE in February when they became aware of these problems with Quest?

6. Why were the Patient Advocates not informed of these issues at the Steering Group meeting on 26th June?

7. What action does the Minister intend to take to restore public confidence in CervicalCheck?

8. Does the Minister intend to review the Quest contract in light of these quality control failures?”

Anyone?

52 more positive for HPV in test scandal (Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: When Did he Know?

Meanwhile

From top: Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall; and a press release issued by Mr Flanagan on November 13 (click to enlarge)

Last night.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan gave a ten-minute speech in which he apologised to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Labour TD Alan Kelly, and the Dail.

His apology came after it emerged Mr Flanagan was told about a May 15, 2015 email – which alleged a disagreement had taken place at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation between the legal counsel for Sgt Maurice McCabe and the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan over Sgt McCabe’s alleged motivation – on November 13 last.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar didn’t have sight of the email for the first time until November 20.

And, on November 14 and 15, Mr Varadkar told the Dail that the Department of Justice wasn’t able to find any record that the department was informed of a legal strategy employed by An Garda Siochana to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe at the commission.

The sequence of events caused Mr Varadkar to correct the Dail record.

Last night.

Mr Flanagan said the following:

It has been said that I sat beside the Taoiseach last week and allowed him to misinform the Dáil. That is not correct. I wish to explain to the House the sequence of events of the past few days from my perspective.

“On Monday, 13 November, I was in my constituency office in Portlaoise as well as undertaking an official engagement at the Midlands Prison. In the course of the day, I received a phone call from the Secretary General of my Department [Noel Waters].

He informed me that having reached 40 years’ service, he intended to retire and asked me to inform Cabinet the following morning. This was unexpected and I was taken aback. I became worried. I was still digesting the news when reference was made to an email pertaining to the O’Higgins commission and Sergeant McCabe that had been discovered in the Department.

“I responded automatically that anything potentially relevant to the tribunal should be immediately conveyed to Mr Justice Charleton and the tribunal.

“I simply missed the significance of the email, which I viewed as just another addition to the more than 230 documents already discovered to the tribunal from the Department of Justice and Equality.

I did not see the actual email until a week later on the night of Monday, 20 November. That is why I did not raise the matter with the Taoiseach.

However.

Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall responded to Mr Flanagan, saying:

We learned from the Taoiseach today that the Minister received news of the email on 13 November but that he did not do anything or did not see it until 20 November. The Minister has said tonight that he was otherwise busy and missed the significance of it.

“However, he did find time on 13 November to issue a press statement. The press statement was very much in line with the kind of defence we have been hearing from the Department and from the Minister’s predecessor.

“It spoke about there being no question of the Department interfering, about it being inappropriate for anybody else to seek to interfere and so forth. It was a very defensive press statement which seemed to come out of the blue.

“Why did the Minister issue that press statement on 13 November? He was busy and he says that he did not know about the email. Why did he issue that press statement? Who wrote it for him? Did he actually read it?”

Mr Flanagan responded:

A press statement issued from my Department on 13 November in respect of public commentary that had been made in both the newspapers and the broadcast media over the previous weekend.

I instructed my press office to issue a reminder to everybody in order to ensure that the tribunal should not be in any interrupted or disrupted by commentary in the media – or, indeed, in the Dáil – on matters which, quite rightly, pertained exclusively to the tribunal.”

Readers may note Sgt McCabe has told Mr Varadkar that the counsels’ argument – as alleged in the May 15, 2015 email never happened and that, instead, the counsels argued over the gardai claiming Sgt McCabe had a grudge because he wanted the DPP’s directions in relation to Ms D’s ‘dry humping’ claim overturned.

The gardai made this claim under the belief that Sgt McCabe hadn’t seen the DPP’s directions but he had and they were unequivocally in his favour – which he told the commission.

The Disclosures Tribunal will investigate matters concerning the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation from January 8.

Previously: In DPP Trouble

Unredacted

From top: Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

In the Dail.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall raised the Paradise Papers with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Ms Shortall said:

“Taoiseach, I want to raise the issue of the Paradise Papers and the information which is now emerging in respect of Apple’s tax arrangements.

“The facilitation of these arrangements, by successive Irish Governments and the considerable negative impact which this is having on Ireland’s reputation.

“The central theme, running through the Paradise Papers, is the relentless quest of the wealthy and the powerful , the great and the good, to find ways of avoiding paying tax.

“We saw this most startlingly in the operation of the Double Irish and its use by Apple and the subsequent ruling by the European Commission that this favourable treatment constituted state aid.

“In that regard it certainly seemed that the facilitation of tax avoidance was an intentional strategy, adopted by Government, and its agencies, in 1991, and updated in 2007.

“It was very hard to understand why the Government in Septmeber of last year, with the full benefit of hindsight, could stand over the manner in which the sweetheart deals were done and vouch for their full compliance with the law.

“The public, generally, cannot understand why the Government should now be spending considerable, additional millions in appealing that ruling.

“Then Minister Michael Noonan’s position was very hard to understand.

“In 2013, he signalled that he intended to close down the Double Irish on which the tax avoidance arrangement was based.

“The impact of this was considerable for Apple’s tax liability. We know that there was much engagement between Apple and the Department of Finance around this time.

We also know, thanks to the Paradise Papers, that Apple went on a jurisdiction shopping spree in search of another tax-dodging deal.

“We know that following the closing of the Double Irish that Apple restructured their companies, that they registered two of their Cork companies in Jersey and took up tax residency in Ireland where their remaining Cork company Apple Operations Europe.

“This combined with the changes made to the Capital Allowance regime in 2014 allowed Apple to sell their IP back to the Irish registered company and avail of the massive tax breaks which this measure facilitated.

“So, Taoiseach, the questions are: Was our Capital Allowance regime changed to allow Apple to keep it’s formerly stateless profits entirely untaxed?

In other words, was it done to compensate Apple for the loss of the Double Irish?

“Had Apple, or their representatives, requested a change to the Capital Allowances regime?

“And how much has Apple benefited by this change?

“And how much as the State lost?”

In response.

Mr Varadkar said:

“The answer to your question is: No, or at least, not to my knowledge. It maybe a question that you want to put to the Minster for Finance who would have more information thanI do on those particular matters.

“I don’t have a detailed knowledge of any companies’ tax affairs or any individual’s tax affairs for that matter?

“Tax avoidance is very much an international problem. And international problems require international solutions.

“And, as we found, when it comes to dealing with tax avoidance, by large companies, once one country acts, the company just moves to another jurisdiction.

That is why we need an international solution to this problem if we’re going to bring about a situation whereby companies pays their fair share of tax.

“In this regard, Ireland is an international leader. The OECD, the organisation for economic co-operation and development, based in Paris, is the international organisation that deals with taxation and deals with this area, making sure that companies aren’t able to exploit differences in tax law from one jurisdiction to the next.

The OECD has designated Ireland as one of only 22 countries in a world of nearly 200 where we’re entirely tax compliant, or compliant rather with tax transparency

“And we’ve also signed up to information sharing. So we’re going to share information from one country to the next as to how much tax each company pays in different jurisdictions. That’s going to be very useful.”

The Double Irish is gone. Stateless companies are gone as well. And also the current Finance Bill which is going through changed the way that we tax intellectual property.

“However we don’t accept at all that Ireland was involved in any special arrangement or state aid for Apple and that is why we are fighting that case.

“Because it’s simply not the case that Ireland was involved in State aid.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.47.54

Roisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.50.49

Article 44 from Bunreacht na hÉireann

The Minister for Health’s announcement that he will re-examine the proposal to hand ownership of the publicly-funded National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the privately owned St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is to be welcomed.

However, I would like to raise a matter of grave concern, hitherto overlooked, which needs to be addressed before any agreement on relocation can proceed.

At present, Article 44.2.5 of the Constitution confers on every religious denomination “the right to manage its own affairs, own, acquire and administer property, movable and immovable, and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.”

In the past the Supreme Court has emphasised the level of autonomy that this Article gives to religious organisations. It has been interpreted as conferring on religious institutions the right to apply their own doctrines in institutions under their ownership. It has also been successfully used to defeat well-founded cases taken against religious denominations under civil law.

For example, in a significant judgment in the 1979 case of McGrath and O Ruairc v The Trustees of Maynooth College, the Supreme Court cited Article 44.2.5 while upholding the right of the Bishop trustees of the college to dismiss two priests from their teaching posts because they wanted to leave the priesthood.

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) is an institution set up by a religious denomination, the Religious Sisters of Charity. As the company’s foundation document makes clear, SVHG is legally dedicated to providing healthcare, “in keeping with the mission of the Catholic Church,” and its facilities operate within that ethos. If the new National Maternity Hospital is part of the St Vincent’s group, it too will come under the umbrella of the Constitutional provision.

In return for being handed sole ownership of the new €300 million maternity hospital, SVHG says it will enter into agreements guaranteeing the clinical independence of the new hospital and permitting it to perform any medical procedures that are lawful in the land – presumably including abortions and various types of contraception including sterilisations.

However, I believe that if the current deal goes ahead, there will be inevitable conflict in the future over how much control St. Vincent’s is to have in the new hospital.

In light of Article 44.2.5, how can we be sure that in any future dispute over the interpretation or implementation of agreements on the new hospital, the courts would not favour the religious denomination and its Catholic ethos?

In the event of a dispute, it seems that the Supreme Court would have to ensure that the Constitutional protection for the religious order must prevail. A court might find it had no option but to favour the Constitution over any other civil contract or agreement, however solemnly and publicly it had been agreed upon by all the parties concerned.

In a prescient piece in this newspaper yesterday, Fintan O’Toole reminded us that a 1982 High Court ruling upholding the right of the Holy Faith nuns to sack school teacher Eileen Flynn because her lifestyle was not in keeping with the Catholic ethos of the order has never been overturned.

In my view, this grave constitutional complication is yet another reason why all parts of the deal that give St Vincent’s Hospital Group ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital should be dismantled, so that the new hospital remains in the hands of those who will pay for it and who will be relying on its services, the Irish public.

Róisín Shortall TD
Social Democrats
Leinster House
Dublin 2

State funds and private healthcare groups (The Irish Times letters page)

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TDs Stephen Donnelly, Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

TDs Catherine Murphy, Róisín Shortall, and Stephen Donnelly have agreed to launch an exciting new political venture. Speaking today the three TDs confirmed they have been engaged in ongoing discussions for some time. An event will take place on Wednesday to outline further details.

In a joint statement the three TDs said: “We are excited to be working together to offer a new credible political choice to the Irish electorate.” No further comment will be made until the event on Wednesday.

There you go now.

Speaking in the Dáil last night Dr Reilly said Swords and Balbriggan were identified as high priority areas by the HSE five years ago. But both “lost out” after Minister of State Róisín Shortall increased the weighting attached to deprivation in selecting priority locations in which centres would be built.

“Multiplying the deprivation index by three, they lost out. They were swept from high priority to low priority. Under the original priority system both would have been in the top 35. However, under the new system with an altered weighting system they ended down the list.”

Just a minute there, Bottler.

According to documents obtained by the Irish Times:

…Balbriggan ranked 44th and Swords 127th in a draft list compiled last June – before Ms Shortall ordered officials to increase the weighting attached to deprivation.

Ouch.

Reilly gives different explanation for adding sites to list (Paul Cullen, Harry McGee, Niamh Sweeney, Irish Times)

(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)