Notes from Dáil Leaders’ Questions – Wed July 4, 2018

Dail LQ notes

Intro

Leaders’ Questions is arguably the most important weekly event in Irish politics, as the government must give answers on various topics to the opposition parties on live TV.  However, as it is held on a Wednesday just before lunchtime, its effects on the national political discourse is minimal. Unfortunately we’re far more prepared for discussions on sports, soaps and reality shows than we are political issues.

In this new series on FPP we’ll be taking notes throughout both the Dáil session and RTÉ’s coverage, with much paraphrasing of course…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel

John Brady SF
Elaine Loughlin – Irish Examiner
Michael Lehane – RTE pol corr

Varadkar went to US and put his foot in it

ML – “At very best it’s immature”

EL – difference between a ‘gaffe’ and remarks at closed door meeting

JB – Definitely not a gaffe, the spin that it was private doesnt wash, he’s in ‘serious trouble’ and needs to make a statement and we also need to know who was at the meeting

SNB – He claims the remarks were taken out of context

ML – This is a gift to his opposition

Leaders’ questions

Note – text is paraphrase not transcript

Micheal Martin – Govt said homelessness won’t develop.  Children’s Right Alliance has released report on homelessness in children, CEO Tanya Ward “Children who are homeless lose out on every aspect of their education…”  There should have been urgent response from govt but initiatives see targets missed. Housing schemes including so-called ‘Rapid Build’ taking too long. Why the lack of urgency and have these children been failed?

Leo Varadkar – I can assure you there is no denial of the challenge we face as a result of the housing crisis and family homelessness, we are very determined to do all we can to alleviate it.  Don’t forget 7 year period with no houses built because of no money and no private investment. (Blaming Fianna Fáil). There has been some success, like rent control, amount in emergency accommodation is levelling off, we’re moving away from hotels and B&Bs, rough sleeping is down, and underlying problem of low housing supply is seeing an uptick.  

MM – You’re wrong in terms of the backdrop that you’ve suggested.  There have been numerous announcements, but poor delivery of all that has been promised (has figures to back him up). Why the failure to deliver? We’ve too much spin over substance.

LV – Let’s leave aside announcements for the moment (laughter in chamber) I came off plane at 1:30am this morning (‘awwww’ from chamber) let’s talk about delivery and facts (has more figures to back up his argument)

Mary Lou McDonald – Failte ar ais.  I want to raise with you the comments you made in New York.  It was meant to be private event but it seems to have been paid for by the Irish taxpayer.  You say you are in sympathy with Trump saying media have no interest in the truth. You have attacked Irish investigative journalism, programmes that have exposed scandals, hospital waiting lists, failing to protect children in care, housing policy, etc.  Time and again citizens have had to use the media to get the ear of the govt. If you were genuinely interested in the media you might have been more concerned in media ownership like Denis O’Brien. Had you said that, you would have had broad agreement. But you’re not interested in that, you simply wanted to have a go.  Can you tell us who was at this lunch? Is there a record? What else was discussed? Did you comment on other aspects of Irish society?

LV : Thank you for giving me opportunity to clear this matter.  I believe in the free press, very important to democracy. (CC shouts down hecklers)  I always try to be as accessible as I can be. I profoundly regret if anyone thinks I don’t support the media, but it can’t be beyond reproach.  This was a private event, I wanted to sit down with young Irish people living in NY, I’d like to be able to respect the privacy, we discussed everything from Brexit to the UN to Russia.  There was no speech it was more of a discussion. I did say positive things about the media like the #MeToo movement. None of that positivity was reported. My only reference to RTE (Mission To Pray) was when someone challenged me and I alluded to one particular broadcast.

MLM – That account  directly contradicts reports from those at the events.  You accused media of trivialising matters, chasing tittle tattle instead of important issues.  Here’s the problem, it’s your word against theirs. What about the issue of media ownership? You chose not to address that.  Did you mention other aspects of Irish society?

LV – I was actually there so I know what transpired, you can believe any information you want. The issue of media ownership didn’t come up if it had Id have addressed it as I have several times here in the Dáil.

Thomas Pringle – Your cosy relationship with FF has caused ‘anti-rule’ that has impacted my constituency in Donegal.  I’m talking about local small businesses that are largely left outside govt support. Measuring the health of this sector is vital, I carried out a survey which confirmed my suspicion that govt doesnt care about rural economy.  I raised this with Minister for Small Business who said issue is addressed but it isn’t. Please don’t quote me unemployment figures, emigration has helped that, not growth. Your policies have ensured that depopulisation has become the trend.  Tell me how you

LV – I appreciate that unemployment falls for different reasons, but I disagree that emigration is the reason.  My government appreciates the importance of small business all over the country, especially in rural areas. We have reduced the VAT rate from 14.5 to 13% and that has helped.  Parties on the left want to increase that which would harm these businesses. There have been huge increases in tourism which has helped areas like Donegal. Project Ireland 2040 will mean huge investment in all areas, infrastructure, broadband, etc.

TP – You haven’t mentioned anything the people of Donegal have mentioned like closure of post offices etc.  The VAT rate has been lowered all through the time of this decline. People say they haven’t heard about initiative and response from government and none of them have been asked, maybe you don’t want to hear the answers

LV – I’m glad that you acknowledge that FG is the party of small business, our TDs spend a lot of time at local chamber of commerce meetings.  I have figures to show employment figures in Donegal on the rise. (to supposedly prove that emigration not a problem)

Noel Grealish (RIG) – as we head to summer and budget preparations, people of middle Ireland find life is a constant trouble, the ‘squeezed middle’ get the leaqst amount of help from the STate.  These are the people who go to work early, but they are getting nothing back, Rents, fuel, child care, medical, electricity costs going up. They get no grants, no state benefit. They are being ignored by the govt which has most of its focus on certain aspects of Irish society.  Once an Irish worker earns 34k they pay half of everything above that in taxes, it’s building a problem for the future. Some progress was made in last year’s budget I concede, how are you going to look after the people of middle Ireland in October that will make a difference?

[RTE cut to studio]

Post game

SNB and ML basically re-hash MM’s point

SNB puts LV’s facts to EL

EL : Taoiseach acknowledged slow down in house building (though he was actually blaming FF)

SNB to JB – What about argument that it wasnt this govt that caused the bank crash

JB – There’s a housing crisis and what we see now is that the govt is trying to pass the blame.  This is a squabble that is between two parties that are essentially in government together.

SNB – It’s easy to say that from the SF benches?  You had an opportunity to be involved in govt but you chose not to

JB – We’re constantly putting forward suggestions, this is thrown up time and time again…FF and FG have said they wont go into govt with us

ML – after last election, SF changed their position saying they would only go into govt as lead party meaning it wasnt at table

SNB – Mr Trump wasnt mentioned in SF comments?

EL – repeats LV’s answer to MLM (why do that?  Sure we all heard it?)

JB – LV is clearly trying to spin his way out of this, and he glossed over the ownership question.  We need more clarity on who was at that meeting.

ML – I think LV is sticking to his guns….his apology is more of a non-apology….there is clearly some niggle there.

SNB – I only have 30 seconds for Thomas Pringle

EL – FG mantra ‘keep the recovery going’ mantra not washing in rural areas

JB – Income tax cuts helping is a myth, a lot of issues for govt to address

FPP comment

My core issues with this broadcast remain, in that there’s no need for two from RTE in the studio, nor should there be someone from a party that is already asking a question in the Dáil.  The aim should be to spread the representation around the other points of view of the parties and technical groups IMO. Plus, even without the current heatwave, I don’t see the logic in having this session at midday on a Wednesday other than out of a motivation to make sure nobody is watching.

But here, there was an added problem.  Deputy Grealish went to great lengths to ask a valid question, and then they cut to studio?????  I mean, I know it’s called ‘Leader’s Questions’ but shouldn’t that also mean we get to hear the answers as well???

And it’s not like there weren’t alternatives for them…they have their RTÉ News Now and easily could have kept the coverage going over there.  Or, they could have informed viewers that the Dáil session was being covered on the Oireachtas TV channel.

On the substance, well, the Varadkar/Martin exchanges are tedious to say the least.  It’s like they are manufacturing topics on which they can argue back and forth endlessly to put viewers to sleep.  While Martin made it sound like he is extremely concerned about child homelessness, both he and the Taoiseach seemed more interested in scoring Civil War political points.  It was pretty pathetic.

I may not be a fan of Sinn Féin but I have to say MLM’s wording of her question was impressive, cleverly working the name Denis O’Brien into the discussion, though Varadkar danced around it in both of his responses.

You had to feel for Thomas Pringle – no doubt he works tirelessly for his constituents but when it comes to standing up and speaking in the Dáil he appeared extremely uncomfortable in the chamber.  He didn’t take long to post his reaction to the answers he received on his webpage it was up within a matter of hours

“The Taoiseach was unable to respond directly to my question because he knew he had no sufficient answer as to why support has been so lacking in this sector. Instead he talked about employment levels and other unrelated aspects of Fine Gael policy.

“His reply confirmed the deeply held suspicions of current Government policy, which is simply that Fine Gael don’t care about rural Ireland”

As for Deputy Grealish, nothing about his questions on social media at the time of posting I will update when something becomes available.

One final point…strange there was absolutely no mention of water shortages or the heatwave.  Maybe that more than anything else illustrates their assumption that nobody was watching.  JLP

#IANWAE

Breitbart ticks every right-wing fury-inducing box it can find in YouTube shooting headline

Breitbart trigger.png

Iranian.  Azeri.  Vegan.  Activist. Muslim-sounding name.  Clearly the good folks at Breitbart are trying to prove a point?

If anything they missed a trick – according to the Telegraph, she was also an animal rights protester.

Remember – if the shooter was ‘American. White. Meat-Eating. Christian.’ then the headline would read something like this : ‘YouTube shooting highlights the need to focus on mental health issues’.  JLP

#IANWAE

Message to Trump: Why Teachers Should Not Be Armed

Diane Ravitch's blog

Reader Zorba writes:

”I cannot believe this merde about arming the teachers.

”Are the states and districts going to pay for training the teachers, pay for their guns, their bullets, their liability insurance? Pay the teachers way more because they are not just teachers, but first responders? All of this when in many districts they’re not even willing to pay for enough teachers or even pay for enough books, pencils, and frigging copy paper for each classroom.

”Give me a break.

“I am a retired special education teacher. My students were developmentally disabled and severely emotionally disturbed. Some were also sometimes self abusive or violent, and I had to restrain them for their own safety or the safety of others. So, if I had a gun strapped to me (whether concealed or not), what if the kid was able to grab that gun?

”These people are not just stupid and…

View original post 12 more words

Classic ‘slow news day’ story on RTE.ie does little more than stoke northside v southside and public v private sector conflicts

THE ISSUE

Maybe as well as talking about ‘Fake News’ we should also be coining a term like ‘Hate News’?

THE MEDIA

Article by John Kilraine – ‘Dublin Correspondent’ on RTE.ie on January 24, 2018

Row over ‘inferior’ planter boxes on Dublin’s northside

“To me this just epitomises an attitude in the city council – a northside/southside divide,” he said.

THE COMMENT

When a comment by one independent councillor is considered a ‘row’ by a major Iriish news source, you know it’s a slow news day.

This is the comment I saw on Facebook that accompanied the link to this complete non-story…

Oh FFS!!!
This is what our public servants who get paid with our hard earned taxes, spend their time bleating about!! With all that needs doing in the city! Give me strength!!

Personally I’d be more concerned about our hard earned TV licence money that’s going to our national broadcaster.

#IANWAE

Click here to check out our new feature on Dáil Leaders’ Questions.

Dáil LQ notes – Jan 24, 2018

Dail LQ notes

cropped-fpp-logo2.jpgThis 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…

Pre-game

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.

Questions begin

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.

FPP COMMENT

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

#IANWAE

It may not be a ‘sexy’ topic, but if you don’t fully understand gerrymandering, you don’t fully understand politics/government.

THE ISSUE

Gerrymandering is a process widely practised in democracies across the world [including Ireland] and has been proven to have a significant impact on representative government, yet it is broadly ignored by the mainstream media.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Best Of The Left on January 19, 2018

#1159 Voters need to pick their reps, not the other way around (Gerrymandering)

“These district lines are the building blocks of democracy and when they get perverted and twisted as this, it leads to deeply undemocratic outcomes…that damages the levers of representative government and that is how elections are rigged and that is the kind of rigged we need to be talking about, not what Donald Trump is talking about.”

THE COMMENT

Packing. Cracking. The Efficiency Gap. Prison-gerrymadering,

IMO it is vital that we fully understand those terms – in fact I only learned about that last one regarding prisons from listening to the above episode of Best of the Left, a twice-weekly podcast which collates snippets from different online media sources on a specific topic.

We need to know every aspect of this process of gerrymandering, as well as how widespread it is.   At the moment Donald Trump is rumoured to be placing a man named Thomas Brunel, known to be heavily involved in rigging several districts in favour of Republicans, in charge of the next US census, which in turn decides most of the electoral boundaries across the country.

Do you think this practise doesn’t happen in Ireland anymore?  Think again.  There are over 150 TDs yet with only 26 counties to cover, many are lumped together in constituencies like Cavan/Monaghan, Sligo/Leitrim and Carlow/Kilkenny making it possible that entire counties can go without representation.

Then we have a practise I call ‘GerryAdamsing’, namely organising your votes to ensure multiple candidates from a particular party win seats.  Sinn Féin are far from the only party to do this but they are definitely among the best and the overall point is that it should not be possible at all.

But I am straying too far into my own personal opinion on the subject of voter suppression.   The point of this post is to encourage everyone to bring themselves up to speed and form their own opinion, and I recommend this episode of BestOfTheLeft as a good starting point.  JLP

#IANWAE