Tag Archives: Róisín Shortall

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?”


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

Yesterday: When Did he Know?


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.


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


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.”

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Roisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats

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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)


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.


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

(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)

A dangerous game…

THE FAILURE of senior Labour Ministers to back Róisín Shortall in her dispute with Minister for Health James Reilly was the deciding factor in her decision to resign as Minister of State, according to supporters.
The last straw for Ms Shortall came on Monday night when Labour leader Eamon Gilmore publicly backed Dr Reilly over his party colleague in a row about primary care centres, according to sources close to the former junior minister.
Her resignation has plunged Labour into its biggest political crisis since it entered Government in February 2011.

In fairness, that February 2011 crisis was a doozy…

Tánaiste’s backing for Reilly was ‘last straw’ for Shortall (Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

(Leon Farell/Photocall Ireland)

FINE GAEL and Labour Ministers have closed ranks behind Minister for Health James Reilly following the latest damaging row with his Labour Minister of State, Róisín Shortall.

As Dr Reilly defended his decision to add two locations in his constituency to a priority list for primary care centres, Ms Shortall publicly called on him to explain his rationale. Three times when questioned by reporters yesterday, she declined to express confidence in the Minister.

In a barbed response, Dr Reilly pointed out that his junior minister had voted for him in the Dáil no confidence vote on Wednesday, adding that “actions speak louder than words”.

There were no contacts between the two politicians yesterday.

*medium popcorn, bitter lemon, sour grapes*

Coalition Ministers close ranks behind Reilly in Shortall row (Paul Cullen/Martin Wall, Irish Times)

(Mark Stedman/EamonnFarrell/Photocall Ireland)