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Liz McManus active in the Dail

 

Liz McManus , Dail activities during the week  24.01.2010- 29.01.2010

 

 
Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Last year broadcasting legislation was passed by the two Houses and the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources was charged with carrying out a selection process for appointments to the boards of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTE. That process was completed before Christmas. We all know the Minister, Deputy Ryan, has an eccentric view regarding appointments to the public services. He seems to think a telephone call and a chat is enough.
We now have a situation where, I understand, four Cabinet meetings have been held and yet these appointments have not been made. I have no idea what is going on, but the committee on which I sit carried out its duty in an exemplary fashion. We made our recommendations to the Minister, Deputy Ryan. He does not have to accept them, but we have no word—–
 

Question 48: To ask the Minister for Finance if the public sector pay cuts apply when contract employees in a university here have their funding 100% sourced from philanthropic or private sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Brian Lenihan Jnr
(Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act, 2009 makes provision for the reduction in the pay rates of all persons employed by public service bodies with effect from 1 January 2010. Universities come under the definitions within the Act as public service bodies, contract researchers where they are employed by such a public service body are subject to the pay reductions provided for under the legislation.

Question 89: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when digital closed circuit television will be provided to a Garda station (details supplied) in County Wicklow to replace the out of date analogue system; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

John Curran
(Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the recording equipment currently employed for the existing Garda CCTV system in the station referred to by the Deputy will be replaced with digital recording equipment during the first quarter of 2010.

 Question 115: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will give assurances for continued funding in 2011, 2012 and onwards for a community development project (details supplied) in County Wicklow in order for it to continue its work with the County Wicklow partnership; if the current level of funding will continue into the future; his views on the important work being carried out by the community development projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter

John Curran
(Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)

As I outlined previously to the House, my Department has seen the need to redesign its community development/social inclusion programmes, particularly the Local Development Social Inclusion (LDSIP) and Community Development Programmes (CDP), drawing on good international practice and to support the ongoing evaluation of the programmes. Both programmes have a community development element and were delivered through separate local delivery structures. These programmes came to an end on 31 December 2009 and have been superseded by a new programme, the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP).

The aim of the new programme is to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government and its agencies and people in disadvantaged communities.

The new programme will preserve elements of good practice from the CDP/LDSIP Programmes and will enable groups to objectively demonstrate the positive impacts they are securing for local communities. An implementation strategy, involving the stakeholders, is underway in preparation for LCDP roll-out over the course of 2010.

In advance of proceeding to establish a single programme across CDPs and Partnerships, my Department undertook an evaluation of individual community development projects. Many of these projects span across two decades, with quite diverse activities. The objective of the review was to identify those projects that produce tangible, appropriate benefits for the communities they serve. The vast majority of projects, including the project referred to by the Deputy, fall into this category and have been offered funding under the new programme in 2010. Where projects were not recommended for continued funding, an appropriate appeals mechanism has been provided.

I am pleased to have been able to ring-fence funding for community development projects for 2010 and to maintain it at 2009 levels. In few other areas of public spending has it been possible to do this. The Deputy will appreciate that ongoing funding for 2011 and beyond will be subject to budgetary considerations at the appropriate time.



 

SPEECH BY JOAN BURTON TD

 

 

This is a speech made by Joan Burton last week

 


 

SPEECH BY JOAN BURTON TD

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Spokesperson on Finance

To Humbert Summer School, Ballina, Co May0

Friday, August 21st, 2009

NOT FOR USE BEFORE 11.30AM

 

NAMA A MONUMENT TO GREED THAT CREATED CRISIS

 

I’m sure you all remember a great poem from Leaving Cert English. Shelley’s Ozymandias sonnet tells the tale of a traveler who came across a vast derelict statue in a far off desert.

 

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert

 

The words on the pedestal tell the story of Ozymandias his ambitions and his destructive folly.

 

I mention this because Ireland is today littered with monuments to similar folly and the delusions of the past decade. As part of the NAMA process we are likely to take into public ownership many properties, hotels, apartment blocks and office blocks of little or no value.

 

Perhaps NAMA will choose to hold on to some and erect a plaque to remind a future generation of the greed that created the situation we now face with the NAMA Bill.

 

That Bill will be a critical test of our political institutions.

 

I wish I could say to you here that every clause will be scrutinized with care. That is unlikely. Take the Bank Guarantee. I recall going for a briefing to the Department of Finance. I suggested a few amendments that might impose some limits on taxpayer exposure only to be told that the Government would not accept any amendment.

 

The role of the Dáil was to rubber stamp the Bill and no other.

 

It would be intolerable if that same attitude prevailed next month.

 

The NAMA Bill rests on one particular clause Section 58 which sets out the rules for valuing the bank loans. It is a shoddy piece of work that does no credit to the Minister.

 

It could hardly be otherwise as Brian Lenihan is attempting, like Janus of the ancient Roman myth, to show two faces to the world looking in opposite directions.

 

One face is the Minister who needs to insist on the protection of the public interest. So the clause sets out current market value, however diminished, as a principle. That is what the former Swedish Minister Mr Lundgren recommended in his evidence to the Finance Committee. The results from AIB and the evidence presented in some of the High Court cases show just how heavy a discount is properly called for.

 

But Minister Lenihan also presents a different Janus face, reflected in a second basis of valuation contained in Section 58, a potentially bogus concept called Long Term Economic Value, which is the convenient cover he and Mr. Cowen use for a policy to pay way over the odds for the banks’ dodgiest loans on the pretext that the assets so acquired have an enduring value that is not reflected in the current market. That is political and economic mumbo jumbo.

    

I cannot believe that Dáil Eireann will pass so flawed a clause as section 58. Surely there are Cabinet Ministers who have qualms. Surely there are FF and Green backbenchers who will baulk at the shocking abdication of public interest that is inherent in Section 58.

 

This is the coming test of our parliamentary institutions:

 

To fight or to abdicate on Section 58.

 

To abdicate responsibility and to allow this clause to stand is to abandon the legislative role of the TD and to install a Cowen –Lenihan parliamentary dictatorship that is allowed to rule by decree without scrutiny or amendment.

 

Section 58 cannot pass proper scrutiny. It fails every test. Long Term Economic Value as defined in this section merits the exact words, ‘fanciful’ and ‘ lacking in reality’ used by Judge Kelly in rejecting Liam Carroll’s application last week.

 

The discount to be applied by NAMA has to reflect the current reality. Any consideration of future value has to be postponed till conditions in the economy generate such value. I can appreciate Professor Honahan’s suggestion that banks could share in any future value when the State has recovered its costs in full. But the evidence remains overwhelming that nationalization remains the safest policy as it does not require early valuations to be placed on the transfer of loans which would be between different public bodies. Mr. Lundgren emphasised this aspect on his visit to Dublin last month and it has a compelling logic that deserves greater public debate as an alternative to the gaping flaws of the entire NAMA set up.

 

There are many other reforms that could make our political institutions fit for purpose.

 

  • I believe we should open up the election of Ceann Comhairle.

.

  • I think we should look at the new procedures at Westminster for the election of the Speaker. It was a secret ballot and each nominee had to demonstrate some measure of cross party support in order to stand. In other words the office of Speaker is not in the gift of the ruling party.

 

  • I think it should be possible to allow a genuine Private Member’s initiative to get to the floor of the Dáil. If a TD can demonstrate a significant degree of interest in a public interest proposal with some evidence of cross party backing then time should be available to debate such an idea and if it commands a second stage majority it should get committee stage examination.
  • I served on the Public Accounts Committee and came to admire the work of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG). I want to suggest an extension to his mandate. The USA has the Congressional Budget Office that does independent evaluations of spending proposals. Our C and AG can only report after the event. The mandate should be extended to enable a mandatory evaluation of cost to be tabled with every new proposal. We have bitter experience of rabbits out of hats on budget days that turn out to cost way in excess of what was first indicated. The decentralization fiasco is a case in point as is the 2002 announcement of the medical cards for the over 70s which came with a cost tag that did not reflect in any way the true ultimate cost. An extension to the C and AGs function could do that job as long as it was mandatory. It should also cover regular policy audits to see if the stated objectives of particular policies have been met.
  • We could also borrow another procedure from the US Congress. I refer to the rule that certain public appointments be subject to committee scrutiny and vote. The Office of C and AG, the appointment of Ombudsman are already subject to a Dáil vote but this is a formal process. I want the nominees to face a polite but thorough interview. The offices I have in mind, apart from the two I just mentioned, are Financial Regulator, Central Bank Governor, Chair of the proposed Election Commission and certainly the Chair of NAMA.
  • My party has long demanded a new law to protect whistleblowers. No institutional reform would be complete without such a measure. The Freedom of Information Act has proved its worth beyond measure and a new Government committed to reform will extend its scope and restore most of the sections that were deleted by FF in 2003.
  • Eamon Gilmore has already indicated his determination to overhaul the laws on election spending, on the disclosure of donations and limits on the size of donations. The present law is a joke. Millions were spent in 2002 and 2007 but the two big parties disclosed no donations above the threshold for disclosure. SIPO has drawn attention to this and I repeat here that Labour will insist on far reaching changes.
  • Political lobbying is a secret world that needs to be opened out and examined. One simple reform would be a register of lobbyists and I support that as a first step. It gets more difficult then but that is no reason to avoid the issue in a deeper way.
  • When does a pleasant lunch cross the line between a social occasion and a lobbying exercise? Even I was invited to have breakfast with the board of AIB, a strictly tea and toast affair, I assure you. Did my two cups of tea (the toast had run out by the time the plate reached me) constitute an AIB lobby of the Labour Party?

 

Frank McDonald and Kathy Sheridan describe an episode in their book on developers. They report an annual lunch organised by a leading auctioneer where Brian Cowen as Minister for Finance could meet the big players among Ireland’s developers while the Budget was in preparation. The venue was a private dining room in the Radisson Hotel on Merrion Road.

 

Ostensibly it was a social function with no purpose other than to eat, drink and be merry among friends. Equally one can assume these hard nosed businessmen (there are no women at these events) took the opportunity to let the Minister know what they would like to happen on the policy front in any Budget or Finance Bill that was in the offing.

 

Now how could you describe that event? Is it lobbying or is it lunch? It certainly wasn’t a free lunch. Mc Donald and Sheridan report that one participant had to write a cheque for €5000 to FF soon afterwards.

 

As a Sean O’Casey character might say, there’s lobbying and there’s lobbying.

 

Lobbying is one of the dark arts of influence peddling. We need to know more about it and to have stricter rules.

 

We have had 12 years of tribunals and still we don’t have a modern enforceable Anti Corruption Law. Amazingly even people who were named by Judge Flood in 2002 for corrupt payments and tax evasion, have never been disqualified as company directors let alone face more serious penalties. It beggars belief that this Government has done nothing to update the law on corruption, the penalties for corruption, the criminal procedures and the standard of proof required to secure conviction. Such a law, in my view, is a basic requirement of political reform.

 

May I briefly return to NAMA.

 

‘I have been reading remarks by Simon Johnson, a former IMF official with long experience of economic crises. This is what he has to say:

the real concern of the fund’s senior staff, and the biggest obstacle to recovery, is almost invariably the politics of countries in crisis. Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them over-reached in good times and took too many risks’.

 

Sounds familiar.

So how does the IMF judge a Government’s resolve?

The IMF staff looks into the eyes of the Minister of Finance and decides whether the government is serious. The fund will give a country a loan but first it wants to make sure the Minister is ready, willing, and able to be tough on some of his friends. If he is not ready to throw former pals to the wolves, the IMF can wait.

I wonder how an IMF team would judge the capacity of this set of Ministers to face down their old cronies. Would a serious IMF team look at Brian Cowen in the eye and see there a man with the resolve with the determination to show his former friends the door.

Well would he? I think we all know the answer to that. It might have to come to that eventually but first this Government has a mindset that the plain people of Ireland are to be the first in the firing line, the children of Ireland are to be the target of cuts in welfare, in education, in health care before any effort is made to face down the elite that has been the favoured recipient of public largesse, of tax breaks, of easy tax exile status, of Cinderella rules, of public contracts.

 

ENDS CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

 

 

 

 


Billy Timmins dail comments July 2009

Written answers

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Department of Education and Science

Adult Education

12:00 pm

Billy Timmins
(Wicklow, Fine Gael)

Question 825: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the position on graduates who are in receipt of the jobseeker’s allowance; if there are new courses they can avail of; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Batt O’Keeffe
(Minister, Department of Education and Science; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)

I recently announced a new initiative whereby unemployed workers will have access to 2,500 new places on part-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses from September 2009. All 2,500 places will be on courses that support the goals of the Government’s “Smart Economy” plan and particularly those relating to specific skills needs of exporting sectors identified by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. 1,000 of these places will be available for unemployed graduates to undertake part-time postgraduate diplomas or conversion programmes at levels 8 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

The scheme will be open to people who have been on the Live Register for at least six months on 1 September 2009, or who have been awarded Statutory redundancy and have an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment. One of the conditions for people participating on these new part-time places is that they continue to be available and seeking work. Once they satisfy these conditions they will be entitled to retain their social welfare payments. Where they receive an offer of full-time work they must take up this offer of employment.

Details of the third level institutions providing these places and information on how to apply for a place will be announced in the coming weeks. The information will also be made available through local FÁS and Department of Social and Family Affairs offices. Unemployed graduates on full-time postgraduate programmes may also be eligible for support under the Department’s Student Maintenance Grant Scheme. Provision of grants are subject to a means test and other eligibility criteria. Further information on how to apply for a student maintenance grant is available on the Student Finance website: http://www.studentfinance.ie

Liz McManus Dail comments .9.07.2009

Written Answers – Road Safety: Road Safety (9 Jul 2009)

 

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Question 42: To ask the Minister for Transport the amount of funding which has been allocated to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety specifically to target drug driving for these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Noel Dempsey
(Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)

The number of specimens tested for the presence of a drug or drugs by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety for the years 2005 to 2008 is as follows:

2005 2006 2007 2008 (provisional figure
747 879 1555 1900

Figures for 2009 are not available at this time.

While my Department provides annual funding to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, the

allocation of resources to the various programmes is a matter for the Bureau itself.


 

Written Answers – Driving Tests: Driving Tests (9 Jul 2009)

 

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Question 44: To ask the Minister for Transport if he will report on the new EU road safety regulations including the requirement for a driver certificate of professional competence which will come into force on 10 September 2009; if the Road Safety Authority will be charged with implementing these new regulations; if additional funding will be allocated for the implementation of the new regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has responsibility for these matters.

In 2008 I introduced legislation entitled the European Communities (Vehicle Drivers Certificate of Professional Competence) Regulations, which gave effect to Directive 2003/59/EC. From 10th September 2009, all truck drivers who drive for a living will be required to have a driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC). Drivers of vehicles for non-commercial purposes are exempt from the CPC test. Any drivers holding a valid full license in the truck license category on or before 9th September 2009 are automatically entitled to the new driver CPC. A driver applying for a truck license on or after 10th September 2009 will now be required to pass a further theory and practical driving test in addition to the ordinary truck driving test if they wish to become a professional truck driver.

The resourcing by the RSA of the implementation of the new regulations was considered as part of the overall budget for the RSA for 2009.

 

 

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Question 94: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the implementation of the recommendations from the report on media mergers; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Mary Coughlan
(Tánaiste; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)

In 2008, my predecessor, Deputy Micheál Martin, initiated a review of the legislative provisions applying to media mergers. This was aimed at examining the criteria and arrangements for considering and assessing how a proposed merger might affect the diversity of views and the concentration of ownership within and across media businesses.

The Media Merger Advisory Group was established to assist in this review, which was undertaken as part of my Department’s wider review of the operation and implementation of the Competition Act 2002. It is my intention to bring forward legislation during the course of 2009, which will reform aspects of competition law, including in relation to media mergers, and which will also implement the merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority as announced last October.

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