This the first in a new series of posts we have been meaning to start since the inception of this blog.
We believe Leaders’ questions to be the most important regular event in Irish politics, yet while it does receive live TV coverage by the national broadcaster, it happens on Wednesday at 12pm, thus guaranteeing that the vast majority of the popularity will be unable to watch,
Great lengths are taken to ensure that things like sporting events and other forms of entertainment are timed so we can be both watching and taking in the ads that go with them…yet when our political leaders are discussing key issues of the day, we have to rely on DVRs.
With these posts the hope is to take notes on the Leader’s questions as they happen, offering our own paraphrasing on the various contributions from the political figures and other panel members in the RTE studio. It may take a few weeks to hone this format to exactly the way we want it so please bear with us. Here goes…
Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain
Panel – Michael Lehane [RTE] and Elaine Loughlin [Irish Examiner]
Sean Sherlock TD [LAB] on video link
FPP – I only caught the final part of the pre-game where they were discussing the Eighth Amendment debate, with the general gist of the conversation suggesting that mostly due to legal concerns outlined by the Attorney General, there would be difficulties with a straight Yes/No referendum. I heard no opinion expressed to the contrary.
Micheal Martin – We need teachers and they need to be better paid [and with gender equality] so why has education department been so inept?
Leo Varadkar – Our teachers are grand, since my lot took over from your lot we’ve more teachers – here are some stats and besides, when you see less teachers it means economy is going well. We also
MM – You’re not answering my question, in fact you are giving dishonest, partisan responses. There has been complete inaction, please accept that there is a crisis that needs intervention.
LV – I’m partisan? YOU’RE partisan! Here’s some more stats.
Louise O’Reilly [SF] – Ill treatment and disregard for women, especially in provision on medical services like trans-vaginal mesh implants. I refer you to Prime Time last night. I have been raising this issue with Minister for Health. I have four specific questions on this issue…these are four crucial issues on women’s health can you at least acknowledge
LV – my sympathies and concerns go with any patients suffering, I didn’t see Prime Time, I didn’t know you were going to raise this issue so I haven’t been briefed. I’m not a doctor in this field so I would have to refer to to the proper experts. In other words, no.
LOR – I have been after the Minister on this, but he has still not been briefed. You should give a message to these women and to HSE that there is international evidence that this practice needs to be stopped.
LV – Again, I haven’t been briefed and if there have been legal cases I can’t get involved. I agree that HSE and Minister for Health should consider all relevant evidence.
Brendan Howlin – School buildings are in the hands of PPPs but in the case of one in Wexford [which is part of a group of schools under the same PPP] it is disrupting the running of the school despite assurances to the contrary. When will teaching begin in Wexford and the other sites in the school bundle?
LV – It’s a very important matter – it’s going to take us a couple of weeks because one of the partners has had issues to sort this out but we’re in a strong position and it will be sorted out. This has not arisen simply because it’s a PPP.
BH – The selling point for PPPs is that should one partner collapse, the remaining partners should sake responsibility. Why is there not a proactive move to make sure the agreed timeline is fulfilled? The govt cannot be passive.
LV – I can give that assurance – the Dept will be involved over the coming weeks. I even have a statement from the Dutch partner company so obviously we have to believe it.
Maureen O’Sullivan [IND] – Ireland needs to address tax justice as you’re off to Davos – you told European Parliament that we’re not a tax haven. Here’s some information that suggests otherwise – some clothing companies have filthy rich CEOs while their workers in Bangladesh are anything but….will the government look at the area of tax spillovers?
LV – I read the WEF report ahead of going to Davos…here are some good things they had to say about Ireland to put them on the record because it makes me look good. This year for the first time revenue commissioners from different countries will share information with each other. Companies cannot be ‘stateless’ and we have eliminated the ‘double Irish’.
MOS – The positive will be undermined unless we look at the negatives. Human rights must be protected as well as economic concerned. Instead of Double Irish we now have ‘single malt’. If we’re not careful we will appear on bad lists.
LV – We can’t focus on the negative, sure we’re grand. We can change our laws all we like but it’s not enough we have to work with OECD. The government is committed to tax sovereignty. Can I remind you that our low corporation tax has been a tremendous success.
Post game –
SNB pins the teacher crisis on Labour, challenges Sean Sherlock, he offers defence
Micheal Lehane – People are being lured away by private sector
Elaine Loughlin Irish Examiner – Dubai effect, Google effect
SS on schools – not enough for Taoiseach to say it’s going to ‘take a few weeks’
ML – Taoiseach is being vague on this
SNB on LOS questions – Is LQs the place to discuss these procedures?
EL – It’s not just one individual case it’s a widespread problem
SNB – we have thirty seconds left on tax injustice
SS – I want to say something on the women’s issue…Ireland is doing a lot better on tax transparency. But I’m cynical on Davos.
For this first instalment of our feature I’d like to focus on the presentation rather than the substance.
I really don’t understand why RTÉ bothered to have a presence in the studio at all. Before the LQs they spoke about the Eighth Amendment which was never even mentioned in the Dáil session then in the post-game segment they barely had enough time to go over the various topics discussed. Sean Sherlock just about managed to spit out his party’s position but he was just parroting Howlin’s words while the two journalists offered little by way of analysis, deciding instead to inform us about the answers that Varadkar gave.
As far as I’m concerned, Leader’s Questions should be something everyone is talking about, every bit as much as sporting occasions, every bit as much as what Donald Trump said, every bit as much as the Great British Bake Off. Sticking it an hour before lunch on Hump Day with reluctant coverage by RTÉ isn’t going to spark too many debates around the watercooler, that’s for sure. JLP