Tag Archives: Sunday Business Post

Request from Judge Brian Cregan for an extension for his inquiry into the sale of Siteserv; Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy; businessman Denis O’Brien

Yesterday, The Sunday Business Post, reported that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is refusing to give Judge Brian Cregan a 15-month extension for his inquiry into the sale of Siteserv and that he wants to know what the commission has found to date before doing so.

Judge Cregan’s request for an extension last week follows three other similar requests since the commission of investigation was set up in 2015.

The 2012 sale of Siteserv, to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien, Millington, is just one of 38 debt write-offs involving IBRC, formally Anglo Irish Bank, that Judge Cregan is tasked with examining. Siteserv is now called Actavo.

Hugh O’Connell reported:

The possibility of the commission of investigation, which is examining Siteserv and other IBRC loans sales, being scrapped entirely was raised at a meeting between the Taoiseach and opposition party leaders earlier this month. There are mounting concerns over the several missed deadlines and rising costs previously estimated at up to €25 million.

A Dáil vote would be needed to scrap the inquiry completely.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said:

“If we simply accept that the task of investigating Siteserv is too big and complicated, then essentially we are being asked to accept that there is an entire cohort of people who are too big to touch. I cannot and will not accept that.”

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Murphy said:

What concerns me about the commission is that the format it is following is akin to a tribunal of inquiry rather than a private investigation. There seems to be a highly legalistic approach.

That is not what was expected. I myself said I did not want it to go on forever when it was set up. It will be five years. To say I am disappointed is probably an understatement.”

Varadkar is refusing to extend the Siteserv inquiry deadline (Hugh O’Connell, Sunday Business Post)

TD who raised issue of Siteserv sale to Dáil criticises inquiry’s progress (Harry McGee, The Irish Times)

Previously: Inactavo

Key Capital, which is chaired by former NCB stockbroker Conor Killeen, says it received an approach for Sunrise that prompted it to appoint advisers to assess its potential exit from the business.

It is understood that tentative discussions have already been held with a number of potential interested parties.

Sunrise comprises the Sunday Business Post and the trading business of Webprint, which prints the Post and also has about 40 other printing contracts, including for several regional newspaper titles. The Post employs about 50 staff, with a further 25 employed at Webprint.

‘Sunday Business Post’ put up for sale by Key Capital (Irish Times)

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From top: Denis O’Brien, Noel Rock.

In yesterday’s Sunday Business Post.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock wrote a column about Independent News and Media (INM) and its pension cuts – some of which will amount to 70% – describing the company’s moves as “appalling”.

He also referred to the pockets of INM’s biggest shareholder, Denis O’Brien, without naming him.

Mr Rock wrote:

“… But what shifts it from appalling to repugnant is that INM is a massively profitable company, in large part because workers agreed to write down the value of their pensions by 40 per cent in 2013.

“INM announced some months ago that it made a profit of €37 million in 2015. It will have a Euromillions Jackpot figure of €87 million in pure cash burning a hole in its corporate pockets by the end of this month.

“…Sadly, and wrongly, this is not illegal in Ireland. It is in Britain.

“…While Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is investigating the possibility of intervening in the forthcoming High Court hearing on the capital restructuring of INM and asking the court to consider appropriateness of capital restructuring when it’s closing this pension scheme, it’s certainly worth asking if a “wait and see” approach is good enough, or whether we need to directly intervene.

“…[INM shareholders] also benefited when banks, including the state-owned AIB as well as Bank of Ireland, wrote off almost €140 million in INM debt. These are banks that we bailed out.

“So every single person in Ireland was involved in the indirect bailout of INM. We wrote off their debts, and they crushed their own pensioners to the tune of two-fifths of their entitlement.

We didn’t take that hit as a society so that, three years later, the company would come back, throw its pensioners under a proverbial bus, and suck all the money out of the company for the shareholders we, effectively, did a deal with.

Nor did we do it so that the company could use the cash it is taking off pensioners and transfer it directly into the pockets of its largest shareholder, by buying Newstalk or any other asset he happens to have.”

Yikes.

Noel Rock: Why the INM pension scandal should concern and anger us all (Sunday Business Post)

Rollingnews

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Yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

In yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

Susan Mitchell and Jack Horgan-Jones reported:

A Sunday Business Post investigation today reveals that drug companies are funding dozens of medical and nursing posts in some of the biggest hospitals in the country, while almost one-third of the HSE’s most senior doctors are receiving money from pharmaceutical firms.

The investigation also found that hospitals are unable to account for millions of euro that pharmaceutical companies say they paid them.

Hospitals said they had no visibility of many of these payments, which were sometimes made to individual departments and organisations controlled by groups of doctors.

More than €17 million was paid out last year. That figure excludes funding for research and development or clinical trials. Among the items paid for by big drugs companies in Irish hospitals are a couch, a DVD player and a coffee machine.

The industry is also paying hundreds of thousands to individual medical colleges to fund the continuing medical education of doctors.

Professor Michael Barry, who heads up the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), told this newspaper that he believes payments from industry are influencing prescribing habits in Ireland.

He said doctors were prescribing more costly branded medicines here than doctors in other countries. He also said the industry should not be funding the medical education of doctors.

How doctors and hospitals cash in on big pharma (Sunday Business Post)

Previously: Medical Trials And Children Of Lesser Gods

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Yesterday’s Sunday Business Post

Since 2011, there have been around 46,000 users of JobBridge placements.

Further to this…

Yesterday, the Sunday Business Post reported:

…the largest user of the [JobBridge] scheme over its five-year lifetime is the Health Service Executive (HSE), which used it a total of 399 times. The HSE used the scheme to fill 67 assistant psychologist positions, a grade which the Psychological Society of Ireland is demanding be established by the HSE as a full grade of paid employment.

The HSE was followed by the GAA (249 interns); Teagasc (184); UCD (184); computing giant Hewlett-Packard (176); SuperValu (161) and the ESB (157). There is no implication of wrongdoing on behalf of any of these companies.

…The scheme was also heavily used by a wide range of state bodies amid a hiring moratorium imposed during the economic downturn, with state bodies accounting for eight of the top 20 users of the scheme.

All employers contacted said that they stood by their use of the scheme and praised its usefulness.

In a statement, the largest user, the HSE, defended its use of the scheme.

It said that it made a decision at a national level to use the programme to support government policies around unemployment and job creation.

Due to the moratorium on recruitment, services such as psychology and speech and language therapy were diminished during this period. The scheme provided an opportunity for graduates to gain valuable clinical experience in their chosen fields, while at the same time delivering much-needed services to service users during the period of the JobBridge internship,” it said.

The Department of Social Protection is undertaking a review of JobBridge, but it is understood to be advancing plans to name and shame those found abusing the programme.

There you go now.

A full Sunday Business Post database of the companies which offered 46,000 JobBridge placements can be accessed here

JobBridge Uncovered: Intern labour staffed tech giants, HSE, supermarkets (The Sunday Business Post, behind paywall)

Previously: JobBridge on Broadsheet

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The results of a Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post at the weekend

On Sunday, the Sunday Business Post carried the results of a Red C poll, showing support for Fine Gael was up a point this month to 31%.

Other news outlets reported the results of the poll with RTÉ reporting, “At 31% it’s the highest level of support for the party since 2012.”

In his analysis, the Sunday Business Post’s deputy editor and political editor Pat Leahy wrote:

There is a saying about US presidential elections that it isn’t the guy with the answer to the question who wins; it’s the guy who gets to set the question who wins.

That is where the parties are now directing their efforts. The government parties want the question of the election to be about stability versus chaos. Sinn Féin, the hard left independents and small parties want the question to be about fairness versus austerity. Fianna Fáil is offering a bit of both – a bit of stability, a bit of fairness.

Every media interview, every piece of campaign literature stuffed through your letterbox, every speech, every canvass; politicians in all parties are supposed to follow the template decided by headquarters. “Message discipline” is one of the political buzzwords of the age. Roughly speaking it means that everyone in the party should say the same thing all the time.

For Fine Gael that means talking about the economy and the necessity for stability to sustain the recovery.

Sinn Féin is up two points today to 18 per cent and is set to make significant gains at the election, but like the independents, it has declined over the last 12 months.

As the economic recovery has gathered strength, and as austerity has ceased to be the central fact of Irish politics, those parties and independents which made opposition to austerity their central political message have seen their support eroded. When you think about it, that’s what you would have expected.”

In addition to Mr Leahy’s analysis, Richard Colwell, managing director of Red C, wrote:

For some time, Red C has championed the theory that a significant proportion of those currently claiming they will vote for Independent candidates, may simply be using this option to hold fire on where their final loyalties might lie. They are torn between anger at austerity and the broken promises they believe this government has made, and the reality that the parties they voted for at the last election are still probably the safest bet for not rocking the boat over the next five years.”

“Our prediction was that, as voters moved closer to the realities of an actual general election, they may well start to shift back to the government parties and away from their claimed support for Independent candidates.”

That shift certainly appears to be materialising to some extent for Fine Gael. The downward trend in support for Independent candidates and other parties, seen over the past four months, is very closely matched by the upward trend in support for Fine Gael.”

One man polled by Red C expressed concerns on Facebook late on Saturday night, as the poll’s results emerged in media outlets.

He wrote wrote on Facebook that he felt the phraseology used during the questioning was biased.

He wrote:

I was one of the people surveyed for this and I was shocked at how biased the phraseology used was. Questions like “given how much the economy has improved, would you risk voting for another party?” followed on from being asked to rate how much my financial situation has improved under the current Government. I stopped the questioner halfway through to ask who commissioned the survey but he wouldn’t tell. At the end I asked for a phone number for Red C to ask who commissioned the survey. So I called up and queried it and I was told they would call me back but they didn’t. At least now I know it’s the Sunday Business Post. Interesting.

Broadsheet posted this man’s comment in a post yesterday.

However, after this man contacted Red C yesterday, and discovered the questions he was concerned about were not included in the SBP coverage, he requested that the post be removed.

He was informed by Red C that some of the political questions he was asked were commissioned by a “private individual”.

Broadsheet contacted the Red C and this was confirmed.

Longer term trends positive for Fine Gael – SBP poll November 2015 (Red C)

Voters poised on standby vote (Pat Leahy, Sunday Business Post)

Steady as she goes for FG (Richard Colwell, Sunday Business Post)

STNE/DTPH   13-9-07 Irish Entrepreuner Denis O'Brien. City Profile Pictures by Philip Hollis for The Sunday Telegraph

Denis O’Brien

And sure why wouldn’t it be?

Gavin Sherian and Tom Lyons, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, reported:

“A company [Another 9 or A9 Business Recovery Services] backed by billionaire Denis O’Brien is being paid substantial sums of money to protect Irish Water’s website from “severe” cyber attacks, with six serious incidents identified in just five months alone.”

“…The company is chaired by Leslie Buckley, an O’Brien associate, who is the chairman of Independent News & Media. Shareholders in the company are Baycliffe, an Isle of Man investment company used by O’Brien, and Steve O’Brien, a businessman.”

“The full cost to the State of services provided by the company – including hourly rates charged by security engineers – has been redacted by Irish Water citing confidentiality reasons. The documents state the “yearly charge” for “hosting and security charges” is €1.2 million to Ervia over five years. It does not appear to include other potential charges.”

“…The form of cyber attack that Another 9 is defending Irish Water against is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack…”

“…Another 9 lists O’Brien’s company Digicel as well as AIB, Volkswagen and Pioneer Investments as among its clients. The company’s website describes O’Brien as “shareholder” and as “one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs”.”

There you go now.

O’Brien-backed company battles Irish Water hackers (The Sunday Business Post)

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Head of communications and corporate services at Irish Water, Elizabeth Arnett and Managing Director of Irish Water John Tierney leaving Leinster House on December 22, top, and the front page story on the Sunday Business Post on January 4

Elizabeth Arnett, of Irish Water, spoke with Marian Finucane yesterday on RTÉ Radio One in relation to a story that appeared in the Sunday Business Post on January 4 – claiming that the story was untrue.

Marian Finucane: “Last Sunday, the Sunday Business Post led with the story, ‘Secret deal with unions over Irish Water jobs’, and went on to say that documents seen by the Business Post showed that union leaders secured a guarantee from the Government not to fill positions in the water utility without the oversight of the Irish Water consultative group which composed of civil servants, council officials and up to 10 union representatives. And the other essence of the story was a secret deal to automatically fill vacancies among council staff working for Irish Water effectively removing a major weapon in the utility’s efforts to reduce costs. Now we got, we were approached by Irish Water and Elizabeth Arnett is here at last, might I say.”

Elizabeth Arnett: “My pleasure to be here, Marian.”

Finucane: “I’m delighted it’s your pleasure. Now you took exception to, the Business Post actually put the documents up on their website on Monday.”

Arnett: “Well I think that there’s two aspects to the story that I’d like to deal with. The first is that there was some kind of secret process or secret deal with unions and that simply isn’t the case. There is a process in place whereby, and it’s facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, whereby all the parties are involved. This is a major transformation project that we’re involved in and there hasn’t been a project as large as this undertaken in the public sector before so it’s…”

Finucane: “We know all that stuff.”

Arnett: “So that’s the first point I want to make. The second point that I want to make is that the impression was given that we have some kind of deal that ties us in to elevated levels of staff within the local authority and that simply isn’t the case.”

Finucane: “Yes it does, yes it does. Because when you say, you know, that this is the most important thing and the most important that openness and transparency and accountability, it came as a dreadful surprise to an awful lot of people, that all the council workers had been moved over with contracts going to 2024.”

Arnett: “Well, that’s not the case, Marian.

Finucane: “It’s not the case.”

Arnett: “If I can just clarify and finish the point I was making firstly. The staff numbers that we started with, at the start of 2014 was 4,320. Today we have, that staff has been reduced by 10% through 2014. So we start 2015 with 3,919 there or there abouts, which constitutes about a 10% reduction in staff which is 8% off the salary bill there. So this notion that there was a secret deal to keep staff numbers in place simply isn’t the case. We have to…”

Finucane: “Well now, I’ll just quote again from last week’s one where, and I’m quoting Lucinda Creighton here, and she said that ‘the idea that when vacancies arise that there’s a cast-iron guarantee that they really replace, to be replaced, is really outrageous. That means that not only is Irish Water overstaffed from day one, it’s going to continue to be overstaffed for the forseeable future’ and she was the one who got the documents under Freedom of Information.”

Arnett: “Well she actually didn’t, she asked for the documents and they were given to her. I think if we have…”

Finucane: “I beg your pardon, I thought it was Freedom of Information.”

Arnett: “If we have, if I wasn’t here today saying, “we have reduced staff numbers by 10%, we’ve taken 8% out of the costs in relation to that”, then perhaps there might be some truth to that statement but the facts fly completely contrary to that. We have an arrangement in place to deliver substantial change which will see us taken €1.6billion out of the costs of delivering water services between now and 2021 and to think that you would..”

Finucane: “Sorry, you’re going to take €1.6billion out?”

Arnett: “Yes, we’re going to reduce the costs of providing water services by €1.6billion – €1.1billion in operating costs and €500million in delivery..”

Finucane: “Because I thought the whole thing is that we had to pay these charges so that you would have money to put in.”

Arnett: “Well there’s two things there, one is in terms of the investment into the network but we have to reduce the costs that we have, that we incur in delivering the services. As a regulated utility, the Regulator composes cost reduction targets…”

Finucane: “See, I know that politicians, particularly, and indeed your good self love talking about the Regulator. And there were lots of rows and arguments about electricity and the cost of electricity and all of that and it’s a beautiful way to offload responsibility to say, ‘it’s not me, Guv, it’s the Regulator’. Politicians say it, ‘the Regulator’, you say it’s the Regulator, so that basically means, like, that nobody can be giving out to you.”

Arnett: “Well no what I’m saying in relation to the Regulator is that they’ve imposed cost reduction targets on us and reducing staff numbers is one of those aspects that we would look at. Reducing all of our costs, across the board, is what we have to focus on and year-on-year.”

Finucane: “And so can I ask you, about this thing about not to fill positions in the water utility without the oversight of this consultative group and the consultative group is composed of civil servants, council officials, and up to 10 representatives.”

Arnett: “So in normal..”

Finucane: “Is that..”

Arnett: “That’s absolutely correct, so in normal industrial relations, you’d have management and unions represented. Just to be very clear the number of staff that we agree at the start of the year, is the ceiling in terms of the staff, it’s not the floor. So we can’t go above this certain level of staff. But in, during the year, and you could imagine with a staffing level of almost 4,000, you would have people leaving and you would have people retiring and you can’t leave frontline services unattended. You cannot leave frontline services not delivered.”

Finucane: “So they will be replaced?”

Arnett: “Of course, you would..”

Finucane: “And that will be done by this IWCG.”

Arnett: “It can be done within the local authorities themselves but it’s to the end of the year and then we agree a new staffing level for the next year.”

Finucane: “Right.”

Arnett: “The central point is staff are down 10% so the story just isn’t true.”

Finucane: “Well no, you can’t say the story isn’t true. You’ve just said that that is actually true so interpretated and I have noticed your skill, when asked before why we have to give our PPS numbers, you said, ‘in order to get your allowance’ but you never explained why a PPS number should be necessary in order to get an allowance.”

Arnett: “Well, PPS numbers are off the table so I won’t go back over that territory.”

Finucane: “It’s a question of how the information is delivered is what I’m really saying. ”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s Sunday Business Post reported:

New documents have provided further evidence of the secret deal with unions to fill vacancies among the council staff working for Irish Water. It comes despite attempts by Irish Water and the Department of the Environment to downplay the existence of the deal when it was revealed by The Sunday Business Post last week.

The agreement provided for the filling of vacancies to maintain the agreed headcount figure of 4,300 council staff positions in the water services sector last year. And it states that planned retirements of water service staff during the year will be automatically replaced.

Irish Water managing director John Tierney confirmed the existence of this agreement in an interview with The Sunday Business Post. There could be an internal transfer in the local authority itself, there could be a temporary filling up to the end of the year or it could be a post that is definitively required long term and you might fill it on a permanent basis, he said.

Listen back to Marian Finucane interview in full here

(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)

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Colette Browne tweetz:

Oh dear, from the SBP website

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Meanwhile, on RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘It Says in the Papers’, Clodagh Walsh quoted the Sunday Business Post in Deepak Chopra being a member of the Troika.

IMF.

Any excuse.