Meanwhile…back in 1962 March 1, 2013Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Irish History, Meanwhile.
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Making a small of habit of on this day type posts but they tend to find me rather then any pre-emptive calendar watching. I suppose their value is in reminding us that history is never far away however it may seem. During questions with Michael Noonan yesterday I had that all too regular feeling about the role of TDs as the Finance Minister and his opposites recounted recent tales of constituents and their dealings with the bank manager.
Without dwelling on the question of this mediation being the job of legislators it was enough to see our eternal middlemen caught either end of borrower and lender depending on which side of the chamber you find yourself.
The past never far away but usually just enough in politics.
Mr. Rooney: asked the Minister for Agriculture whether he is aware that farmers are receiving approximately £25 per head less for horses being killed for the export of Irish horse meat compared with the price available before an order prohibiting the export of horses aged six years and under was made; and if he will now consider revoking the order to ensure that horse owners will be paid the shipment value of these animals.
and no shortage of bull..
Dr. Ryan (for the Minister for Agriculture): I consider that the A.I. stations are making reasonable progress in the progeny testing of their dairy bulls. They are of course receiving a subvention from my Department towards the cost of progeny recorders, 28 of whom are at present employed by the nine stations.
Cost of Domestic Workers’ Employment Stamps.
Mr. Donegan: asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether in view of the fact that the increase of the cost of employment stamps for domestic workers is inordinate and disproportionate in relation to other classes he proposes to have the cost of these stamps reduced.
Mr. Boland: The rates of insurance contributions were increased to their present level by the social Welfare (Amendment) Act, 1960 under which a new benefit, old age (contributory) pension, was introduced and existing benefits improved. When that measure was under consideration in the Dáil  it was pointed out that the general principle followed in deciding on the increases in rates of contribution was that each rate should bear its due share of the cost of the new benefit and of the improvements in existing benefits to which it gave title. Following that principle the ordinary rate of employment contribution for a man or woman was increased by 3/6d. a week. This increase in the contribution applied to a male domestic, who is insured for all benefits, while the increase for a female domestic, who is insured for all benefits other than unemployment benefit, was 3/3d. a week.
It will be seen that the increase in contribution in the case of a male domestic worker was the same as in the case of the ordinary employed contributor and that the increase in the case of a female domestic worker was smaller because allowance was made for the fact that the contribution in this instance does not give title to unemployment benefit.
In these circumstances, I do not propose to change the rates of contribution for domestic workers.
Mr. Corish: Would the Minister not consider introducing some system to ensure that domestic workers will be eligible ? The Minister must be aware —I am in any case—that many domestics who become unemployed leave this country because there is no allowance available for them on which to exist.
Mr. Boland: So far as I know, that is the reason why they have not so far been insured for unemployment benefit. It was considered that was a risk which did not exist in regard to that particular class of work.
Mr. Corish: The Minister ought to concern himself about the type of employment. It is not very highly paid employment. There are many girls in  this country who will go into domestic service, although it is the lowest paid employment in the land. The Minister should concern himself with the fact that many of them, when they become unemployed for a period, go to Great Britain because they cannot get unemployment benefit.
Forestry Workers wage Tribunal
Mr. Tully: Is the Minister not aware that an assurance was given by his officials when the bonus scheme for forestry workers was introduced that as soon as every forest was operating the bonus scheme, this tribunal would be set up, and in view of the fact that it is now over 12 months since the last of the forests started working the bonus scheme, will he tell the House why no move has been made to set up the tribunal?
Mr. Moran: The simple answer is that, in practice, it turned out there was no great demand for it from the unions concerned. The matter is being considered but the need for it did not appear to be badly felt by the negotiating bodies.
Mr. Tully: Is the Minister not aware that the trade unions have been dunning his Department with requests to have this tribunal set up as promised, and further, would he say where he got the information that there was no demand for it?
Mr. Ryan: He wants a strike.
Mr. Tully: In view of the fact that the officers of the Department cannot give an answer to this or have not been prepared to give an answer to it, will the Minister say in what other way can we raise it except in the House?
Pardon of Driving Licence disqualification – does the Minister retain this power? Would be an interesting list to see.
Mr. Haughey: A disqualification for six months for holding a driving licence was imposed on 26th October, 1961 in respect of offences committed under Sections 51 and 173 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933.
Mr. Ryan: Having regard to the fact that this Dáil solemnly spent several months last year removing from the  Minister the power to remit disqualification from holding a driving licence, does the Minister not think he is now acting contrary to the intention of this House in so frequently removing disqualifications imposed by the courts?
Mr. Haughey: First of all, I do not frequently remove disqualifications imposed by the courts. Secondly, the power to remove disqualifications in certain road traffic offences has not been taken away from the Minister for Justice. Thirdly, I am quite certain that in every case in which I have remitted disqualification, there is not a single member of this House who would not have remitted the disqualification in the circumstances.
Europe & Welfare
Mr. Corish: asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether his attention has been drawn to reports of a statement made on 21st February by Mr. R.A. Butler, the British Home Secretary, that the European Economic  Community intended to approach the harmonisation of social services in terms of a levelling-up of standards and not a levelling-down; and whether in view of Ireland’s application for membership of the EEC his Department have undertaken any study of the social welfare position in the present member-countries of the EEC with a view to ascertaining in what directions Ireland’s social welfare services may be modified if Ireland becomes a member of the EEC; and, if so, what are the findings of any such study.
Mr. Boland: I have seen newspaper reports of the statement referred to in the Question. All information available to me on this subject is being studied, but at this stage I cannot add to what was said in reply to a Parliamentary Question on Thursday last.
Dr. Browne: and Mr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if in view of the provisions of the Rome Treaty which entail the establishment of parity in social services he will state the percentage and monetary increases in (a) old age pension, (b) unemployment benefit, (c) widows pension and (d) blind pension needed in payments in this country to bring about parity with rates at present paid in Western Germany.
Mr. Boland: It would be quite impossible to furnish an answer to the Deputies’ Question as framed, because of the wide diversities between the social security schemes in the two countries. I should, perhaps, mention that there are also wide diversities between the social security schemes of the countries now forming the European Economic Community, and the Regulations on social security which have been adopted by the Council of the Community recognise these differences.
It is not correct to say that the Treaty  of Rome entails the establishment of parity in social services. The provisions of the Treaty on social policy are contained in articles 117 to 128, and are dealt with in paragraphs 73 to 75 of the White Paper on the European Economic Community which was laid before the Dáil on the 30th June, 1961.
Neutrality Policy: Minister’s Statement.
Dr. Browne: and Mr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Lands whether he is correctly reported as saying on 6th February 1962 that neutrality is not a policy to which we would even wish to appear committed.
Mr. Moran: What I said on the occasion mentioned in this question was—“It has been made quite clear by the Taoiseach on different occasions that a policy of neutrality here in the present world division between Communism and freedom was never laid down by us or indeed ever envisaged by our people. Neutrality in this context is not a policy to which we would even wish to appear committed.”
Dr. Browne: Is it not a fact that between 1939 and 1945, our political Leaders remained neutral during the Anglo-American and Russian war against the Nazis ? Could we know what development has taken place in the world which makes it necessary for us to abandon that neutralist situation ?
Dr. Browne: If there has been this very significant and important departure in regard to our foreign policy, surely the Minister owes it to the public to explain to them in simple terms what are the reasons for that departure, or is it suggested by the Government that, in their belief, Hitlerism, Nazism and Fascism are lesser evils than anything in the world today?
Beginnings of IFA militancy at home
Mr. Tierney: asked the Minister for Justice whether his attention had been drawn to reports appearing in the press that members of the Garda Síochána were investigating the organisation of the National Farmers’ Association, and taking the names of officers and members of that organisation; whether such activity on the part of the Garda Síochána is in fact taking place; and, if so, what are the reasons for such a procedure.
Dr. Browne: and Mr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Justice whether, as reported, police have raided the homes of members of the N.F.A. to find out the names of the officers and members of the Association.
I have seen no press report suggesting that there has been anything that could be described as a “raid” on the homes of members of the National  Farmers’ Association and nothing of that kind has taken place.
I understand that, in one area, officers of the Association were asked by the Garda Síochána about the local membership and that that information was unhesitatingly given. Apart from that, members of the Gardaí have been present at meetings recently held under the auspices of the Association, but that is a normal and indeed routine duty of the Garda Síochána wherever a public meeting of any kind is being held.
As members of the House are aware, a number of meetings have been held under NFA auspices in various parts of the country in recent weeks. As I need hardly say, the Association is perfectly entitled to hold these meetings and their right to hold them, without interference by the Garda Síochána, has not been and will not be questioned, subject to the usual requirements about the maintenance of law and order.
Unfortunately, however, some members of the Association have, in connection with these meetings permitted themselves to make threats that resort would be had to illegal actions, including violence if necessary, if the objectives of the Association are not secured. According to press reports these threats were made on more than one occasion and by more than one person, and, moreover, by persons holding office in the Association. I must mention, in particular, a reported threat against members of the County Council—the elected representatives of the people—if they did not act as the Association wished.
Against this background, there should be no surprise if the Garda Síochána displayed an interest in what was said at some subsequent meetings of this kind. Threats of violence or any incitement to violence could not possibly be tolerated as a means of securing the objectives of any organisation. That would be the road to anarchy and a Government that would permit it would be failing in their first duty to the community.
I am glad to say, however, that since these threats were made, the  leaders of the Association have left no room for doubt that the Association emphatically repudiates all such threats by their members. I accept without hesitation that this repudiation is genuine and reflects the Association’s considered policy. This being so, there should be no further difficulties and the excellent relations which have in the past obtained at all levels between the NFA and the Garda Síochána can continue unimpaired. For my part, I am glad to have had this opportunity of explaining that any special inquiries made by the Gardaí were made in the particular circumstances that I have outlined and that there has been no intention or wish to interfere with the lawful activities of the Association or any of its branches.
Mr. Blowick: I am speaking of a protest meeting carried out in an orderly manner. The Garda went through it openly, taking the names of certain members and seeking information about other members in broad daylight. That created an impression of intimidation. Does the Minister stand behind that?
Mr. Haughey: On any occasion on which people gather in large numbers in public, it is the duty, and the long-standing practice of the Garda Síochána to be present, first of all, to ensure that parking regulations are not broken——
Mr. Haughey: ——and secondly, to be on the alert for any possibility of a disturbance or a breach of the peace. We all know that at political meetings the Garda are present. Anywhere there are large crowds and, indeed, as Deputy Corish pointed out, at pickets, it is the duty of the Garda to be present and alert for any possible breach of the peace.
And appearances of Politicians on Telefís Éireann.
Mr. McQuillan: Is it not a fact that on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, and on other Committees that concern all members of the House, representation is given in proportion to  the size of the various Parties in the House, even to the smallest group in it? Surely, in view of that situation in this House, it would be no harm to suggest to Telefís Éireann that they could learn from it?
How far we’ve come December 13, 2012Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.
Dog eats Dail homework July 4, 2012Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.
Tags: Dail, Irish Politics
Just a quick note from the Leinster House yesterday, overlooked by the papers today.
Taking questions on his department’s spend on consultancy an Taoiseach told the Dáil QTS were engaged to carry out a risk assessment and update the Department’s 2011 health and safety statement at a cost of €1,271 while Towers Watson facilitated a series of workshops in responses to the Civil Service organisational review programme coming to €12,100.
He concluded the total spend by his Department to date in 2012 on consultancy is €21,074.
After some toing and froing regarding the shortfall we were told.
The Taoiseach:The EU communications contract was given to a media and public affairs consultancy firm for 60 days to deal with the EU affairs and co-ordination division of the Department of the Taoiseach. It was to assist in the development of a media and communications strategy in respect of Ireland’s role in the European Union and to identify and advise on the media and communications challenges relating to the Union in a complex environment with increasing demands for public information. The work also involved identifying concrete actions to deliver on priorities and develop an initial communications plan, including logistics, for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers. Following a competitive tendering process, a person was appointed on 28 March to provide EU communications advice. She commenced work on that for 60 days. The person concerned, Ms Erskine, has completed her work and finalised her duties.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald:I thank the Taoiseach for clarifying the matter. In the case of QTS and the EU media consultancy contract, competitive tendering procedures were applied. Is that equally true of Towers Watson and the work on the departmental action plan? I am calling on the Taoiseach to confirm that all consultancy work is subject to the standard and required procurement procedure. The media consultancy contract to assist the Department in communications on our position in the European Union and so on was for 60 days. Did it coincide with the referendum period? Will the Taoiseach clarify the matter?
The Taoiseach:It was about the key message to be communicated during Ireland’s Presidency of the European Council and associated preparations. I confirm that the logistics and the preparations for Ministers for the Presidency are intense and will become even more so in the run-in from September. It had nothing to do with the referendum issue but with preparing for the EU Presidency which we will assume on 1 January next year.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald:I am sorry for getting up and down, but I was keen to clarify those matters. The Taoiseach was asked about the in-house expertise available and, no doubt, it is considerable within the Department. I understand there are matters which of necessity require consultancy support and for which the Department must buy in skills. It strikes me as rather odd, however, that the Taoiseach would need a media consultant to work with him on his political messages, to use his phrase, for the Presidency of the European Council. As the Head of Government, he and his departmental staff should be more than well equipped to crunch down on these issues and decide on the messages they reckon it will be appropriate to communicate in that time. Will he clarify the matter? He has stated this work started on 28 March and that it was a 60 day contract. I presume the work was finished in or around 28 May. There was a referendum held on 31 May. Will the Taoiseach be clear on the nature of that consultancy work? I find it odd that he required it to be done, but nonetheless he has suggested it referred solely and exclusively to the upcoming European Council Presidency and that it had no bearing on the treaty referendum. Will he tell the House off the top of his head, if possible, how much the Department spends per annum in dealing with European communications issues? Is it common practice for the Department to bring in media advisers for his public enunciation of the European message.
The Taoiseach:The Department of the Taoiseach only brought in personnel in the European section when the Government was formed last year. There was a unit dealing with questions on the European Union but to streamlinee matters and to be more effective personnel dealing with European issues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade came to the Department of the Taoiseach. There was a more hands-on approach as a result, with a specific Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs reporting both to the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I cannot indicate what was spent in the past in dealing with European affairs isues by the Department of the Taoiseach, although I am sure that figure is available for the Deputy. We try to keep costs to a minimum in the best way possible.
The Deputy referred to the date of the referendum and the period for completion of the work by the advisory service. I am sure that since the dates overlapped to an extent, there would have been some advisory work done in respect of the Government preparing for the referendum and the EU Presidency. Things will overlap, although the remit was specifically the EU Presidency and what it meant for us. It is fair to say the range of questions and requests for information to the Department is rather extensive. The Deputy would be surprised by the range of questions and what people ask about the European Union and how the Government intends to deal with issues as we prepare for this, our seventh Presidency which we want to be as effective as possible. Several matters may fall to be dealt with during the Irish EU Presidency. I am glad the Danes concluded on the patent agreement, the work on which lasted for 30 years. The multi-annual financial framework, which is the budget for the European Union from 2014 to 2020, may fall to be decided during the Irish Presidency. One cannot reform the CAP without having in place a multi-annual financial framework. That is of such importance to the Union, 80% of whose budget is related to the CAP, but also to this country in respect of the single farm payment and what it means for the agriculture sector and exports. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, was in France with 35 companies during the week. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, was in the United States following through on clear opportunities.
There is a need to update, in a complete fashion, the website on the Irish Presidency with a view to outlining what it means for Ireland and our relationship with our colleague countries in Europe. That was also part of the work. It is a matter of taking into account the fact that the Presidency offers an opportunity to send out a positive message about Ireland and how we are moving towards economic recovery, and about decisions that are being taken that affect our society and the Government’s political vision on Ireland’s place in the eurozone and European Union. It is also a question of determining where the European Union should position itself globally.
Deputy Micheál Martin:Perhaps the Taoiseach could explain why he did not give a full answer at the outset. He did not mention the media and public affairs consultancy in his initial reply to my question and that of Deputy Adams.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Taoiseach did not mention that a media and public affairs consultancy was used. He mentioned QTS, the ORP and Towers Watson, but he did not mention the other company. Is it in the official reply? Will the Taoiseach undertake to forward to us the exact details of the consultancy contract given that they may not appear in the formal reply prepared for the question I tabled? I do not know whether there was an attempt to hide the information. In response to a supplementary question, the Taoiseach articulated the information to the House. There may have been a genuine misunderstanding. It is incumbent on the Taoiseach, given the questions asked, to give the full answer. For some reason, we—–
Deputy Micheál Martin:I asked the Taoiseach “if his Department has recruited any consultancy service in the past year; if so, in what area; and if he will make a statement on the matter”. In his answer, the Taoiseach, for some reason, excluded any mention of the EU media messaging consultancy.
Deputy Micheál Martin:I am saying the Taoiseach excluded that information in the beginning. There was an attempt not to mention it, although I do not know why. The Taoiseach just did not mention it; it is not included in the answer. We are, at least, entitled to receive answers to the questions we ask. I hope there was not an attempt to bury the information because of the sensitivities associated with European issues and the referendum.
The Taoiseach:Questions Nos. 1 to 5 deal with the ORP report. Questions Nos. 6 to 17 deal with the media and public affairs consultant and Question No. 18 deals with the health and safety statement. When I finished at the end of page 2, I stated total expenditure by my Department to date in 2012 on consultancy is €21,074.
Let me read the next three paragraphs, which state:
This includes a payment of €19,803 to Ms Caroline Erskine, media and public affairs consultant who was engaged to provide an EU communications advisory service to my Department following a competitive tendering process. This is a particularly intense period of EU-related activity for Ireland. Preparation for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers has intensified since the start of the year. A major Government information campaign was also launched to inform the public ahead of the referendum on the stability treaty, which had not been foreseen at the start of the year.
The Government is committed to building public understanding and knowledge about Ireland’s EU membership.
A payment of €1,271 was made to QTS who carried out a risk assessment and updated the Department’s 2012 health and safety statement.
I apologise again to the Members. Page 3 got stuck to page 2 and, inadvertently, I did not read it out.
Deputy Micheál Martin: I accept the Taoiseach’s apology. I will now ask the supplementary question I was to ask before the misunderstanding. With regard to my question on the utilisation of consultancies to avoid paying tax, which avoidance is illegal in this country, I suggest that the matter be a broad Government policy issue. The bottom line is that it appears that in the Ministry for Health and Department of Health, consultancies are now being used as a basis for hiring senior advisers to the Department, with companies located in the United Kingdom avoiding the payment of any income tax. That is unacceptable. Does the Taoiseach agree it is unacceptable? Will he, as Taoiseach, take up this issue with his Ministers?
The Taoiseach:I will take it up with the members of the Government. I do not believe it is acceptable to have consultants involved in work if it has the effect described. Obviously, in the financial world, people often prepare reports on how to lessen the impact of tax payment. When the Deputy talks about tax evasion or avoidance, he should note these are other matters. I will certainly raise the issue with the Minister for Finance. There may be technical reasons requiring a response and I will revert to the Deputy.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald:The Taoiseach stated that EU consultancy work did pertain to preparation and advice in respect of the referendum. He did not say that at the outset. I am working on the broad supposition, probably incorrectly, that the use of public moneys for that was fully in accordance with the letter and spirit of the McKenna judgment. The Taoiseach did not give a full answer although I acknowledge his pages stuck together. His figures still do not add up, however, because his revised figures give him a total of more than €32,000, rather than €21,074, as first articulated. I am more concerned about the fact that it is only in response to further questioning that the Taoiseach clarified the EU consultancy work was not simply about the Presidency, as he indicated at first, but also related to the referendum campaign. The work was concluded on 28 May and the people went to the polls on 31 May. The Taoiseach needs to clarify for the Dáil that the use of public moneys was in accordance with the McKenna judgment.
The Taoiseach:I said that, at the end of the page that got stuck, it is stated the total expenditure by my Department to date in 2012 on consultancy is €21,074. The next sentence stated this includes a payment of €19,803 to the media and public affairs consultant.