Government must force Insurance companies to reduce premiums

“Government must force Insurance companies to reduce premiums” – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has accused the government of failing to hold the Insurance Industry to account.  He said that insurance companies must be forced to reduce their premiums to consumers.

 

Deputy Carthy was speaking following the publication of the Central Bank’s 2020 Motor Insurance Report which shows clearly that the insurance industry pocketed savings made from Covid-19, instead of passing them on to customers.

 

The National Claims Information Database also shows that motor insurance premiums have gone up by 26 percent since 2009, despite the claims cost per policy falling by 29 percent over the same period.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“This week’s Central Bank publication of the 2019 Private Motor Insurance Report shows clearly that the insurance industry decided to pocket the vast savings it made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

“Despite traffic falling by 37 percent in 2020, the number of claims falling by 26 percent and the cost of claims per policy falling by 20 percent, premiums only fell by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the industry made profits of €163 million – a margin of 12 percent.

 

“The facts are clear – insurance companies are choosing higher profits over fair value for their customers, while a government that fails to hold them to account looks on.

 

“The insurance industry cannot be let off the hook any longer.

 

“Figures from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board show that the average award has fallen by 40 percent since the new Personal Injury Guidelines were introduced in April.

 

“These savings must be passed onto consumers, but as this report shows, we cannot trust the industry to do the right thing.

 

“Pearse Doherty introduced legislation on behalf of Sinn Féin in April that would require insurers to show if and how much of these savings are being passed onto consumers in the form of lower premiums.

 

“The government have blocked it while also frustrating my attempts to ban the loyalty penalty, the so-called practise of Dual Pricing.  They are letting consumers down and the industry off the hook.

 

“The report also makes clear the need for the role of PIAB to be strengthened.

 

“Settling claims through PIAB delivers similar compensation but is much cheaper and faster.

 

“The report shows once again that the biggest winner from court settlements is the legal industry, not the consumer.

 

“All of this simply underlines the need for reform – to hold the industry to account in reducing premiums, to reform the duty of care, strengthen PIAB and ban Dual Pricing.

 

“For far too long this government’s agenda has been to block change and delay reforms, undermining the interests of consumers.  That has to change right now.”

ENDS

 

Audiology Waiting Lists ‘spiralling out of control’ in Cavan Monaghan

Audiology Waiting Lists ‘spiralling out of control’ in Cavan Monaghan – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that ‘spiralling’ audiology waiting lists in his constituency are representative of a ‘pending localised crisis’ that demand a response from the Minster for Health.

 

Figures released to Deputy Carthy by the HSE show that while there are no waiting lists for audiology treatments in some part of the country, some regions have seen the lists grow by multiples in recent years, with Cavan Monaghan seeing by far the most dramatic level of growth.

 

Deputy Carthy said:

 

“While there are no waiting lists for audiology appointments in many parts of the country in recent years, there are a some regions that have seen significant deterioration.

 

“Of these Cavan Monaghan has the unhappy distinction of seeing Audiology waiting list climb from 146 to 524 people since 2017 –over three-and-a-half times growth, and a deterioration in service almost twice as bad as next local service area.

 

“These waiting times have a real life impact as delays in treatment can lead to irreversible hearing loss.

 

“The unacceptable audiology waiting lists is a clear example of local service failure.  Once again, under Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, we see that where a person lives can determine the level of service they receive.  It is geographical discrimination in healthcare.

 

“While the figures do point to the situation having worsened over the course of the pandemic, they also clearly point out that this situation has been developing since at least 2017.

 

“Our community deserves a response from the Minister for Health and HSE as to how they intend to address this specific backlog.

 

“I intend to raise this matter directly with the Minister for Health in the coming weeks.”

ENDS

Carrickmacross Group Home set to be opening shortly

Carrickmacross Group Home set to be opening shortly – Matt Carthy

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that the Group Home for people with physical disabilities, at the Convent Lands, in Carrickmacross, is due to become operational within weeks, according to a commitment he has received from the HSE.

 

Deputy Carthty said this week that the families of those who will be residing at the group home have been treated scandalously by the HSE and successive governments and it is imperative that this latest commitment be delivered upon.

 

The home was first committed to in 2006 but has been subject to ongoing delays from that time.  It was finally constructed in 2016 but has remained idle ever since because the funding necessary to operate it has not been released.

 

Deputy Carthy has been raising this issue on behalf of families since 2007 when he was a member of Monaghan County Council.  Throughout his time as a local councillor and even while in the European Parliament he engaged with the local authority, the HSE and government representatives.  Since his election to the Dáil in February 2020 he has consistently raised the issue with the Minister for Health and the Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities.

 

This week he received a written response from the HSE that their previous operation date of Quarter 4 2021 remains in place.

 

Ms. Edel Quinn, Head of Service Disability CHO1 for the HSE informed Deputy Carthy that:

 

“Cavan Monaghan Disability Services have confirmed that the group home will be in operation in Quarter 4, 2021. It will accommodate up to five adults with Physical and Sensory disability. The group home will be a social model of care facility with 24 hour nursing input supported by Social Care Workers. The staffing levels will be determined based on the needs of the residents and may change as care needs change”.

 

Speaking afterwards Deputy Carthy said it that the delays in this project have been disgraceful.

 

He said:

 

“It is simply not acceptable that this state-of-the-art building has lay idle for five consecutive years.

 

“It is an indictment on successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments that the families of those people with disabilities who will reside in this home have had to fight every step of the way.  Their ordeal must end now – the home must become operational this year; I am hopeful that the HSE have reaffirmed that it will be so, but I will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

ENDS

Carthy slams delays with passport services

Carthy slams delays with passport services

Response of Junior Minister criticised as Coveney absent

 

The absence of Minister Simon Coveney at a debate on passport services and the stock response of a Junior Minister were described as ‘outrageous’ in the Dáil by Matt Carthy TD last Thursday.

 

Deputy Carthy had secured a Topical Issues debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs to discuss the ongoing delays with passport services.  However, the Minister responsible, Simon Coveney, was unable to attend and was instead represented by Green Party Junior Minister, Malcolm Noonan.  Minister Noonan proceeded to read from a prepared script, even following supplementary questions from Deputy Carthy, much to the frustration of the Cavan Monaghan representative.

 

During his contribution Deputy Carthy said that delays in passport services were unique to Ireland and that previous commitments to resolve the backlog had not been delivered upon.

 

The Sinn Féin representative also described some cases that had been raised with his office.

 

He told the Dáil:

 

“One of the most bizarre aspects of Irish politics is the engagement that elected representatives often have with the passport service.  It is not something that I am terribly comfortable with.

 

“I should make it clear that people should not have to contact their TD to get their passport on time.

 

“In my experience, those who do get in touch with me on passport inquiries generally do so out of desperation.  Their stories in recent days and weeks have been disappointing, to put it mildly.  They have recounted their engagement with a system that can only be described as dysfunctional over the past number of months.

 

“In April, Minister Coveney told the House that the then backlog of 89,000 applications would be cleared by the end of June.  A fortnight after that deadline had passed the backlog had grown to 95,000.  As of late September, the backlog had increased to 130,000.

 

“I am sure that the staff in the Passport Office have been working exceptionally hard through all of this but there is a serious systems failure that has led to this point.  It seems incredible that the Department claims that more than one in five applications is incomplete or requires further information.

 

“I want to put on the record the experience of one of my constituents.

 

“This gentleman and his wife were due to travel to Meugorje yesterday and were going on their own personal pilgrimage.  They submitted their passport applications on 15 September.

 

“In his wife’s case, it was a simple renewal.  She received an estimated issue date of 14 October. As his passport had expired 11 years ago, which shows how unique this trip was, his was treated as a new application and he was told his passport would not issue until 23 November.

 

“He contacted me to plead that something be done.  On 1 October, I sent an urgent passport query, attaching his flight details, but did not receive any response.  Following numerous attempts to call the Passport Office phone line, I re-sent the urgent passport query on 13 October – again, no response.  On 15 October, I contacted the Minister’s office and a very helpful official undertook to contact the Passport Office on behalf of this man.  Only then did I receive an acknowledgement by email, which just told the applicant to monitor his phone and emails.

 

“Both my constituency secretarial assistant and I again tried numerous times to contact the Passport Office in regard to this case.

 

“On 19 October, the day before the couple’s trip, we once again contacted the Minister’s office. On this occasion, we were referred back to the public phone line, which we had not been able to get through to up to that point.  My SA eventually got through to the public line, at 4.25 p.m. on the day before the scheduled flight, but the person who answered would not provide any information and, in fact, terminated the call.

 

“The man did not get his passport in time.  In fact his wife, who had been provided with an estimated issue date of 14 October, did not receive hers either.  They still have not received their passports.

 

“It is difficult to describe the upset this ordeal has caused the couple without detailing their very personal reasons for wanting to travel to Medjugorje.  I can only say their upset and hurt is very real and will be long standing.

 

“Can the Minister ensure no other family will have to go through such an ordeal in the coming days and weeks?”

 

Ministers response

 

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan sympathised with the circumstances of the referenced family and offered the following response on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.

 

“As the Deputy will be aware, the operations of the passport service were severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as were many other Government services.  Emergency passport services were maintained during the pandemic, which required staff to be on site to process and issue passports.  On that basis, and taking account of the Covid protocols in place at the time, 67,000 passport books and cards were issued between January and May of this year.  Since May, more than 400,000 passports and passport cards have been issued, meaning that in total almost 500,000 passports and cards have been issued to date in 2021.  Almost 45% of passports for simple online adult renewals issue within one business day, while more complex applications take a bit longer.

 

“As regards turnaround times, the current passport processing times, provided that all required documentation has been provided and is in order, are ten working days for simple adult renewals, 15 working days for complex renewals, 40 working days for first-time applications on Passport Online and eight weeks for An Post’s mail-in Passport Express service.  The passport service is experiencing high demand for first-time passports.  Of the 140,000 applications on hand, more than 65,000, or 45%, are first-time applications.  These first-time applications take longer to process than a renewal application.  To protect the integrity of the Irish passport, first-time applications require careful processing to validate the identity of the applicant and his or her entitlement to Irish citizenship for the first time.  Additionally, in the case of children, the consent of guardians must be validated.

 

“In line with the continued scaling-up of services, the Passport Office, in Mount Street, Dublin 2, opened its urgent appointment service for the renewal of passports on 27 September 2021.  This service is available to people who require passport renewal at short notice and opt for this fee-based service to do so.  To avail of this service, members of the public can visit the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs.  The urgent appointment service ensures that for those who unexpectedly require an urgent turnaround or a passport renewal, an option is available that is transparent, predictable and clear.  It means applicants can book their appointment, safe in the knowledge they will have their passport within a day or a few days.

 

“Turning to staffing, the Department of Foreign Affairs has assigned 126 officers to the passport service to date in 2021.  In addition, 50 officers were internally reassigned to the passport service during the period of peak demand in the summer.  The requirement for social distancing in the workplace continues to have a significant impact on the capacity of the service to operate at normal levels.  The Department is currently focused on recruiting additional staffing to meet expected demand for passports in 2022 and ensuring adequate staffing levels in the passport service.  This work takes account of evolving requirements related to Covid restrictions and includes engagement with the Public Appointments Service and a number of internal HR processes.  Budget 2022 included an investment of an additional €10 million in passport services in response to the increasing demand for passports both at home and abroad.

I urge citizens to check their passport well in advance of any planned travel to ensure they can apply for a passport in plenty of time. The Passport Online service continues to be the fastest and most efficient channel for passport applications”.

 

Disappointed

 

In his supplementary question, Deputy Carthy said:

 

“I am disappointed the Minister, Deputy Coveney, is not here.

 

“While I thank the Minister of State for his response, it was not even up to date.

 

“I am dealing with a family who are due to travel on Thursday next.  They have been told their baby’s passport will not issue in time, even though it will have been in the system for eight weeks.  My office was told earlier by the special helpline that has been set up at the Department that the current timeframe is actually ten weeks.

 

“I have been listening to the excuses relating to Covid since April, when the Minister gave that commitment in respect of the then backlog.

 

“This is not happening anywhere else in the western world that I am aware of and I have checked with former colleagues in the European Parliament.  No other European state is dealing with such a backlog.  It is unfathomable to most of the colleagues I spoke to that people would have to contact their elected representative to find out when their passport will issue.

 

“In respect of the information the Minister sent us earlier about a Department helpline, that helpline will be pointless if cases such as these cannot be addressed.  If the responses to queries are simply a rehashing of information on the website, it will be a waste of resources and will only add to the frustration people are going through.  The purpose of such a line must be to assist the Department in receiving details of urgent cases and then being able to act accordingly.

The Minister of State, on behalf of the Minister, stated additional staff were assigned to the Department during the summer.  Will he tell the Minister to reassign them to the Passport Office to clear this backlog?

 

“These are tragic human stories.  It might sound mundane, given we are, in some cases, talking about holidays, but there are reasons behind all this and people should be able to expect a reasonable service, which they pay for in terms of their passport delivery.

 

“I ask that the Minister of State bring that message as forcefully as he can to Minister Coveney”.

 

“Outrageous”

 

In his final response the Junior Minister again recited from a prepared script, much to the annoyance of Deputy Carthy.  The exchange went as follows:

 

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan:  “The Passport Office continually examines how to improve processing times, including by examining the process for the verification of supporting documentation for first-time applicants and addressing delays that have been experienced by customers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the high demand seen in recent months as international travel has resumed.  There has also been an ongoing process of reform within the Passport Office since 2016. Enhancements over recent years mean that Passport Online can now be accessed by first-time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. All Irish citizens, including children, can use the online system to renew passports from anywhere in the world.

 

“The Irish passport is one of the most secure in the world and one of the most effective in granting our citizens visa-free access to most countries.  Recent reforms have improved our fraud detection capacity following the introduction of new facial recognition technology, which improves the efficiency and integrity of the passport system. In addition, the passport card has recently been upgraded with a SealCrypt barcode strip on the back. The next major element of reform in the programme is to replace the core technology underpinning the passport service. The current system was launched in 2004 and will be replaced by a more modern integrated system.  Detailed design—–

 

Deputy Matt Carthy:  “With respect to the Minister of State, he is not answering the question”.

 

Malcolm Noonan:  Detailed design and implementation will begin in the coming months—–

 

Matt Carthy:  That is a joke. It is not answering the question I asked.

 

Cathaoirleach:  The Minister of State to continue without interruption.

 

Matt Carthy:  He is talking about facial recognition. I am talking about families who are waiting for their passports.

 

Cathaoirleach:  The Deputy is out of order.

 

Matt Carthy:  No, that is outrageous.  It is not what I asked about.  A Deputy has raised genuine questions and he is getting an answer to a question he did not ask.

 

Malcolm Noonan:  “I ask the Deputy to allow me to conclude.  I know the response I am giving in my concluding remarks does not give him the answer he requires.  Certainly, I will take these matters back to the Minister and the Department.  The Deputy made his case very well on behalf of the applicants.  It is deeply upsetting for families when they are making plans and travel arrangements.  I said in my opening remarks that it is very important that people make their plans early and ensure their passports are in date.

 

“With regard to the specific case, the backlogs are there and it is vital that they are cleared. The staffing issue is one I will refer back as well. It is vital that all resources are put in place to ensure that members of the public have access to their passports in the time that has been directed and set out in the recommendations. However, I take the point the Deputy is making about this specific case”.

 

Improvements

 

Speaking this week, Deputy Carthy said that it was scandalous that people who had paid for their passport services were treated as he described in the Dáil.

 

He reported that there has been some improvements since he raised the matter in the Dáil.

 

“The advice remains that people should apply for their passports as early as possible.  Where people do find themselves in urgent situations my office is on hand to offer assistance.  We can be contacted by email matt.carthy@oir.ie or by phone 047-82917/ 042-9674001 for those who need to get in touch.”

ENDS

National Broadband Plan failing to hit soft targets

National Broadband Plan failing to hit soft targets – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan TD and member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Matt Carthy, has said that he has huge concerns about the ability of the National Broadband Plan to deliver upon the terms of their €3Billion government contract.

 

Speaking following an engagement with the Department of Climate, Communications and Environment at the Public Accounts Committee Deputy Carthy said that there appears to be very little recourse within that contract for the state to recover costs in the event that ultimate connection targets have not been met.

 

Following the engagement, Deputy Carthy said:

 

“The National Broadband Plan has missed widely its targets for 2021 and those targets have been drastically revised downwards for both 2021 and 2022.

 

“It’s hard to see how, in this context, the NBP will be able to make up the difference over the latter years of the contract.

 

“In launching their strategy for rural Ireland, government relied heavily on people being able to work from home, which is in of itself reliant on the National Broadband Plan.

 

“At the time I described that plan as leaving rural Ireland with ‘the crumbs from the table of Dublin’ – at this point I am not certain even that meagre offering will even come to fruition.

 

“It’s very telling that Minister Ryan recently spoke of at least 130,000 connections by the end of next year on budget day, while department officials referenced at least 150,000 while before the Committee.

 

“There seems to be a lack of confidence in hitting even these softer targets.

 

“The fears that this creates is very real  – in my own county of Monaghan there are thousands of households and businesses that are in desperate need of broadband coverage.  They cannot be expected to sit back and watch deadlines being missed and public money squandered.

 

“This is the primary infrastructure deficiency in rural communities.  It must not become the latest victim of Fine Gael incompetency.  Our interaction with the department failed to convince me that it won’t”.

 

Full PAC exchange between Matt Carthy with the Department of Communications:

 

Deputy Matt Carthy: “I want to touch on the national broadband plan.  The €3 billion contract is for the delivery of high-speed broadband to 542,000 rural homes and businesses.  On what date does the Department expect the 542,000 home to be connected?”

 

Mr. Mark Griffin: “It is still a seven-year contract, Deputy. So, as we mentioned this morning, the work now is focused on achieving the revised target for 2021 settling on a target for 2022 with NBI.  They have said to us a minimum of 130,000 cumulative but aiming for more than that and they have that in the JLC.”

 

Matt Carthy: “I will discuss this year and next year but what is the final target?”

 

Mark Griffin: “It remains seven years. We have already had conversations with National Broadband Ireland with a view to developing an acceleration plan and bringing forward the premises that are in years 6 and 7, and into the first five years.”

 

Matt Carthy: “I will come to that. So the original target for this year was 115,000 connections.”

 

Mark Griffin: “Correct.”

 

Matt Carthy: “That was revised—–”

 

Mark Griffin: “Yes.”

 

Matt Carthy: “—–to 60,000?

 

Mark Griffin: “Yes.”

 

Matt Carthy: “To date, what is the number of connections that have been made this year?”

 

Mark Griffin: “There are 27,000 available for order or pre-order.”

 

Matt Carthy: “This work was deemed essential throughout Covid. I gather from earlier statements by the Secretary General that close contacts within the workforce carrying out this work were actually responsible for the Covid-related delays with the roll-out.  Is that correct?”

 

Mark Griffin: “No. I mentioned that as an example of the challenges that the company face but there were supply chain and logistic delays both nationally and internationally. One of the contractors that had intended coming over from the UK to start work on the project postponed establishing its Irish operation; recruitment and the onboarding of key staff was delayed; as was travel and availability of accommodation for contractors across islands, and access to islands in some schools for the installation of BCPs. So there was a whole swathe of problems, Deputy, that led to a situation.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Does the Secretary General know how many outbreaks there were among NBI crews?”

 

Mark Griffin: “No, I do not. In fact, in fairness, that is not the sort of information, even if I knew it, that I would share but I do not know it. That is a matter for NBI. It is a matter for NBI contractors and it is a matter for the individuals concerned.”

 

Matt Carthy: “It is also a matter for the tens of thousands of people who thought that they were going to be connected to the plan this year but who are not.”

 

Mark Griffin: “I appreciate that, Deputy, but that sort of information is not the sort of thing that I would be willing to share even if I knew it.”

 

Matt Carthy: “The Secretary General mentioned that a British company outsourced.  Do we know what percentage of the works have been outsourced to the company that was not in a position to travel over?”

 

Mark Griffin: “I do not. The intention had been to bring them in to scale up the build operations and the make-ready operations. As I understand it, Mr. Mulligan, that did not happen.”

 

Mr. Fergal Mulligan: “Yes.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Is it because the company is not now being used?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “The initial plan in 2020 was that NBI would have three main contractors on board – KN networks, Kelly from the UK and Actavo. Kelly did not come in so one-third of the work was going to go to them for the first year or two if they won certain tenders that NBI issued but that did not come to pass. For the other contractors, they currently have four big contractors on board since then. So they have ramped up the number of contractors to make up for the lost ground of Kelly not coming into Ireland.”

 

Mark Griffin: “The important thing to say, Deputy, here is that we do not accept what NBI says at face value.  There is a very comprehensive governance arrangement in place overseeing the project.  So when they look for a relief under the contract there is a process that is undertaken with great rigour by staff in the Department and by the external advisers to see, well, first of all, does this qualify for relief under the contract and does it qualify for relief to the extent that NBI have set out.  We would scrutinise and contest every line of argument or every proposition that NBI have put forward which they deem to be an event which, under the contract, allows them to seek relief.”

 

Matt Carthy: “The Secretary General will appreciate that we, in turn, will scrutinise the Department’s scrutiny of them.”

 

Mark Griffin: “Of course. Yes, I accept that.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Next year’s target is quite concerning considering that we are way beyond the original target for 2021. Next year’s target has been revised down from 90,000 to 84,000 connections.  It appears to me that Government statements are relying heavily on the figure of 130,000 homes and businesses across this year and next year as the overall target. What is the actual target for connections for next year?  Is it 84,000 connections?”

 

Mark Griffin: “The cumulative is 130,000 and that would be based on a 70,000 figure for 2022 but NBI is saying that they are looking at a figure of 70,000 to 84,000 in 2022 so hitting a rate of 7,000 homes passed and connectible per month during the course of 2022. Again, that is something that is being scrutinised by the governance team in the Department.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Am I correct to say that the company has established 84,000 connections and the Department is establishing 70,000 connections as the target for next year?”

 

Mark Griffin: “No. What they have said is a range of 70,000 to 84,000. The due diligence is being done by the team of the Department in relation to the figures that they have mooted. Mr. Mulligan, are we still waiting for a final proposition from NBI in terms of the 2022 output?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “No.”

 

Matt Carthy: “The original target for next year was 90,000.”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “Sorry, Deputy, the original cumulative target, in terms of how the contract works, was just north of 200,000 for 2022 under the original contract. Now they are saying they are hoping to get to at least 150,000 but aiming for a lot more. Obviously that is the ambition. There is a six-month delay, essentially, just maintained in their current plan. They have not made up lost ground so there is no change to that plan from the NBI.”

 

Mark Griffin: “And that 200,000 is a cumulative figure form the start of the contract.”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “Yes, exactly.”

 

Matt Carthy: “There has been a change. The new revised targets are about half of the original targets in terms of the homes and businesses that will be connected this time next year.”

 

Mark Griffin: “If one is looking at a cumulative 200,000, we are looking at minimum 130,000 in excess of that so it is not half.  It reflects the requirement of the company to make good what it lost in the period so far in Covid, to build a momentum and then put us back in a trajectory in 2023 where we have certainty on the delivery of the project within the timeline specified and where real conversations can be had on the ability to accelerate to a shorter period of time.”

 

Matt Carthy: “What happens if the company does not deliver 130,000 by the end of next year? What is the penalty?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “From 1 February next year, there will be penalties for every day a milestone is missed.  What we are engaged in right now is nailing down the plan for 2022 with the company to make sure it can achieve the 130,000 and that there is a confidence factor in this regard. With the current situation with Covid we need to assess this. There will be a penalty next year for any milestone it missed going into next year.”

 

Matt Carthy: “I want to clarify this in my own head. The Department sits down with the company, it says what it can achieve and the Department sets this as a milestone?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “No. The existing milestone is already in the contract that we signed in 2019. What the company needs to do is come to us and explain why it cannot achieve it. As Mr. Griffin said, we kick this up and down to make sure we understand whether something is down to Covid or caused by National Broadband Ireland itself or a subcontractor. We do all of this work to establish what it was supposed to achieve, which was the 200,000, versus what it can achieve. The contract is re-baselined based on this. This does not mean it gets a free pass because we change the numbers. It will still get hit with delayed payments based on the original contract.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Has it been hit with any delayed payment so far?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “Sorry?”

 

Matt Carthy: “Has there been any penalty applied so far?”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “Not with regard to build because it does not start until 1 February next year. There are other key performance indicators with penalties that the company could be hit with this year if misses those performance indicators. This is something it could be hit with this year. Certain penalties could apply this year. We have not concluded on this yet.”

 

Matt Carthy: “Has there been any application for contingency funds to be drawn down?  On what basis can contingency funds be drawn down?  This is on the basis the original contract, as well as including the €3 billion of the contract itself, also included a €545 million contingency fund.”

 

Fergal Mulligan: “As the CEO of National Broadband Ireland said at a recent meeting, as far as the company is concerned it is coming in on budget and it expects to come in on time overall. This is a key statement from the CEO of the company. The Department has not received contingency funding requests for works completed to date. This is not to say it might not arise over the coming years. So far the company has not received extra funding from the contingency fund.”

ENDS

Action needed now to reduce insurance costs

Action needed now to reduce insurance costs – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that government action is required to force the insurance industry to immediately slash premiums for consumers in line with the reduction in personal injury awards since personal injuries guidelines came into effect.

 

He echoed the demand from his party’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, that government to remove the delay it has placed on Sinn Féin’s Judicial Council Bill, which would hold the insurance industry to account and ensure that they reduce premiums in line with the reduced cost of claims.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The confirmation from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board that personal injury awards have fallen by 40 per cent since personal injury guidelines came into effect is welcome.

 

“We now see a significant reduction in the cost of claims for insurance companies.

 

“But, this must now be met with an immediate reduction in insurance premiums reflecting the reduction in awards.

 

“While there have been some reductions in respect of motor insurance, it is not being matched with the fall in awards.

 

“Public liability insurance premiums are not falling despite the significant reduction in awards. That is not acceptable.

 

“These guidelines were not adopted to prop up the profit margins of insurance companies but to reduce insurance costs for hard pressed customers.

 

“In April, Pearse Doherty introduced the Judicial Council Bill, which would require the industry to report how it has, or has not, passed these savings onto consumers to the Central Bank for the next four years.

 

“The government decided to let the industry off the hook by delaying the enacting of this Bill for narrow party political reasons.  This simply served the interests of the industry and undermined the interests of consumers.

 

“The government must reverse course, remove the delay on Pearse Doherty’s Bill, and provide the Dáil with a tool to hold the insurance industry to account.

 

“While the data from PIAB confirms that the guidelines are working, they will only serve their purpose if personal injury award reductions are passed on to customers.

 

“That is what we must now see.  It is time for government to stand up to the insurance industry by adopting Sinn Féin’s proposals.”

ENDS

Carthy accuses Department of ‘missing the point’ on Interconnector review

Carthy accuses Department of ‘missing the point’ on Interconnector review

 

At the Dáil’s Public Accounts last Thursday Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, accused the Department of Environment of ‘missing the point’ in their so-called review of the North South Interconnector.

 

In an exchange with the Secretary General of the department, Mark Griffin, Deputy Carthy said that the review will examine matters that were not queried by landowners or local communities rather than conduct a full independent analysis into the undergrounding of the project which had been committed by Fianna Fáil during the last General Election.

 

In responses to questions from the Cavan Monaghan TD, Mr. Griffin would not provide the cost of the review or who will conduct it.  Deputy Carthy’s assertion that ‘it was full steam ahead’ for the project regardless of the findings of the review was not dismissed by the department.

 

Speaking following the hearing Deputy Carthy said:

 

“For all the rhetoric of Fianna Fáil representatives following the announcement of the review it is now crystal clear that this will be a wasteful box-ticking exercise.

 

“It will see government spend money to let it appear that they are doing something in response to the long-standing community concerns with the pylon-supported overhead powerline option.  But, nothing will change.

 

“The review will simply state that the previous reviews were valid.  Despite the fact that they stated that undergrounding was ‘a credible option’ EirGrid will then enter into direct confrontation with local communities and landowners who will be demonised in the public domain.

 

“It is important to remind government that there has never been an independent analysis conducted into the undergrounding of the North-South Interconnector.  Without that, nobody can have confidence that EirGrid are proceeding for anything other than pig-headedness.

 

“Once again, I am calling on government representatives to stand up for their communities.  To end the farce and to do the right thing.  Examine the costs, feasibilities and provide a full analysis of a defined underground route and then allow decisions to be made with all of the necessary information.  Anything less will be unforgivable”.

 

Full Exchange between Matt Carthy TD and Mr. Mark Griffin, Department of Environment, Climate and Communications:

 

Deputy Matt CarthyThe Department has announced a review in the North-South interconnector.  How much is it expected that review will cost?

 

Mr. Mark Griffin:  I do not have a figure because we are just completing the procurement process. Given the nature of the review that is planned, I do not expect the cost to be significant.

 

Matt CarthyWill it cost thousands or tens of thousands of euro?

 

Mark Griffin:  It will cost in the thousands or the small tens of thousands.

 

Matt CarthyWhat is the purpose of the review?

 

Mark Griffin:  We have set out terms of reference for the project.  The Deputy is very familiar with this project and it has been reviewed on a number of occasions.  We have asked for a review of the findings and key recommendations of the 2018 international expert committee study and to determine whether those findings still stand. That is the nature of the review.

 

Matt CarthyThe review is to see if the 2018 report remains valid?

 

Mark Griffin: That is exactly right.

 

Matt CarthyHas there been a question over the validity of the 2018 report?

 

Mark Griffin:  No, but the Minister felt that given the concerns that remain around the project, it would be worthwhile to do this short, clearly-defined block of work to determine whether the findings still stand and to provide reassurance to people who have an interest in the project. If the outcome is that the findings still stand, it will provide reassurance.

 

Matt CarthyThe difficulty is that the Department is missing the point.  I am one of the people with concerns and my concerns were never around the validity of the 2018 report.  In fact, the 2018 report acknowledges the credibility of the underground option, which is, as Mr. Griffin knows, favoured by local communities.  The difficulty does not relate to that report, per se.

 

The committee will be interested as to why the Department is investing any money at all into a project for which nobody asked.  What was sought was an independent analysis into an underground option so we could determine, once and for all, the full implications in terms of cost, feasibility and technical aspects of the project.  Will the Department consider that type of assessment?

 

Mark Griffin:  That particular issue has been reviewed on a number of occasions, most recently in the 2018 project.

 

Matt CarthyThe 2018 project included in its conclusions that an underground interconnector would be a credible option.  The difficulty is that nobody has properly analysed what an underground option would cost or whether unforeseen technical issues would emerge.  We are, therefore, continuing along a vein whereby EirGrid, with the support of the Department, is proceeding to a direct confrontation with landowners and local communities.  On top of that, the Department is now spending money on a review for which nobody asked.

 

Mark Griffin:  In terms of how our system is set up and in accordance with the 2012 policy statement on this issue, EirGrid was determined to have the most technically appropriate solutions to the delivery of grid infrastructure.  That is its role.  That is not our role.

 

Matt CarthyAm I correct that regardless of what this review concludes, and nobody expects it will do anything other than reaffirm the current position, the type of infrastructure used to develop this project will be determined by EirGrid and the Department will not interfere, regardless of what any independent review states?

 

Mark Griffin:  We will wait and see what the independent review states. I am not going to comment on an outcome I have not seen yet.

 

Matt CarthyHave consultants been appointed to that review?

 

Mark Griffin:  Consultants are on the verge of being appointed but the procurement has not fully concluded yet.  A party has been identified and the procedural work to finalise that is being concluded.

 

Matt CarthyI take it from the language Mr. Griffin is using that he is not going to divulge who that party is?

 

Mark Griffin:  I am not even sure I have that information in my brief.

 

Matt CarthyHow did the procurement process operate? Was it advertised? Were there a number of expressions of interest?

 

Mark Griffin:  It was advertised.  We looked at the Office of Government Procurement panels that were in place at the time.  That did not deliver any expressions of interest from external parties to do the work, so a broader tender was issued.

 

Matt CarthyWere there a number of expressions of interest or engagements with the procurement process?

 

Mark Griffin:  At the second stage, a limited number of parties put their names forward to do this work.

 

Matt CarthyAll they are being asked to do is read somebody else’s homework and determine whether they can find any mistakes in it?

 

Mark Griffin:  That is the Deputy’s characterisation of the terms of reference.

 

Matt CarthyNotwithstanding anything they might find, it is full steam ahead, as far as the Department is concerned, for the North-South interconnector under EirGrid’s current proposals?

 

Mark Griffin:  Again, I would say that is the Deputy’s characterisation of the assessment. What I said to the Deputy was we would look at whatever comes out of this process and form a view then.  The bottom line is that we have looked at this issue.  When I say “we”, I mean the system has looked at this issue on a number of occasions, going back probably a decade, on the options of overgrounding or undergrounding.  We have commissioned a number of international expert opinions on this.  The outcome, up to and including the 2018 review, is that the most cost-effective and appropriate way of delivering this infrastructure is by an overhead solution.

 

Matt CarthyIt is my belief that there has never been an analysis of an underground option for this project.  Mr. Griffin and I will agree to disagree.

ENDS

Farmers & rural communities will be worse off as a result of government’s budget

Farmers & rural communities will be worse off as a result of government’s budget – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has told the Dáil that the government’s budget, detrimental to all workers and families, will particularly fail farming families.

 

Teachta Carthy, in his response as his parties Agriculture Spokesperson, said that the decision to increase the carbon tax again will be a huge blow to those who live in rural communities.

 

He said:

 

“This budget is the product of a Government that is out of touch, out of ideas and, increasingly, running out of road.

 

“It is bizarre that any government in the current climate would introduce a budget that delivers precisely nothing for renters. The Government did not even pretend to provide renters a break.

 

“It is also mind-boggling that, in a week when 483 people at one stage were lying on hospital trolleys, the budget failed to provide for a single new acute hospital bed or community bed beyond what had already been committed. There is only €24 million in additional spending for mental health at a time when we face a mental health crisis.

 

“As for childcare, the Government’s big idea is to cap fees. Seriously?  The flagship proposal is to cap the highest childcare costs in Europe, not to reduce them.

 

“Families and workers are being pushed to the brink.

 

“Childcare costs represent a second mortgage.  There will be no cost reduction for most parents.

 

“Nothing for renters.

 

Carbon Taxes

 

“Energy and fuel costs are going through the roof.

 

“The Government’s response – you could not make it up – is to increase those costs further by hiking the carbon tax, so the reality is that most workers and families will be actually worse off as a result of this budget.  It is some achievement.

 

“As well as the increases in heating costs, and it should be remembered that energy companies have increased their costs 30 times this year, the price of goods will be increased as fuel costs will be added to those prices.

 

“This will be a particular blow for our family farmers.  They will see the cost of almost all inputs increase as a result of this budget.  Farm contractors, who are not exempt from the carbon tax, despite promises from Government parties that they would be, will have no choice but to pass on the increases to hard-pressed farmers.

 

Nothing for family farmers

 

“In fact, budget 2022 offers virtually nothing for our family farmers: no support for suckler beef farmers, no additional funding for sheep farmers, no emergency wool package, no additional funding for farmers in areas of natural constraint, a pittance for organics and forestry schemes, and nothing for farm assist.

 

“Of course, as always, there is an extra €7 million for beef and dairy processors, just nothing at all for the people actually producing the food.

 

“This Government is completely tone deaf to the needs of our ordinary family farming community.  Those farmers will be expected to continue to produce the highest quality food almost anywhere in the world to the highest environmental standards anywhere in the world but they will face increased costs and receive reduced prices in real terms.

 

“It is an horrendous legacy.

 

“Despite a lazy narrative, our family farmers are not the enemy of the green agenda, but the Green Party is the enemy of our family farmers. In this budget Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have picked a side and it is not the side of our farming communities.

 

“Sinn Féin’s budget 2022 proposals would have resulted in an increased spend of almost €220 million within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, a 12% increase.  The Government provided a measly 1%.

 

“Crucially, Sinn Féin’s proposals would have benefited our family farmers, who need support most.  It would have benefited the rural communities that depend on those farmers and benefited the environment.  The Government’s proposals do none of those things.

 

“Our commitments to a suckler farmer of up to €300 per cow and to a €20 per ewe sheep welfare scheme, a €5 million support package for wool producers, a €25 million increase for areas of natural constraint, and increased disregards for farm assist would all help smaller and poorer farmers in a meaningful way.

 

“Rather than lecture farmers in rural communities about climate action and then penalise them through carbon taxes and counterproductive measures, Sinn Féin proposed measures that would actually help farmers to play a positive role in reducing emissions and making necessary changes.  This would involve substantial investment beyond what the Government has provided in organics and facilitating farmers in agri-environmental programmes.

 

“Instead Ireland, through the Government, has capitulated to an agenda that will see this country import peat from Latvia and wood from Scotland and see Europe import beef from Brazil and milk from New Zealand.

 

“Farmers will lose out, the rural communities that depend on them will lose out and the environment will suffer. It is an agenda based on tokenism and hypocrisy and it is indefensible.

 

“Minister McConalogue, is not even here to defend it.  He is, I am told, participating in a consultation process that should have taken place a year ago and which he will undoubtedly use to prevent redistributive measures in the next CAP.

 

“His Ministers of State tried valiantly to put a positive spin on things but, in reality, they both know, as we all know, that this budget will leave family farmers worse off.

 

“Shame on any Deputy who supports it.”

ENDS

Government offer nothing for renters as Monaghan rents rise 6%

Government offer nothing for renters as Monaghan rents rise 6%- Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan TD, Matt Carthy, has described as ‘astounding’ that the government offered nothing for renters in last week’s budget.  He said that the latest figures from the Residential Tenancies Board showed that rents in County Monaghan have risen by almost 6% in the past year – this is adding to the burden of many workers and families while also making it more difficult for renters to save for a deposit to purchase a home, particularly as house prices are also increasing at an alarming rate.

 

Speaking on Monday, Teachta Carthy said:

 

“Despite government spin and bluster, last week’s budget offered absolutely nothing for those living in the private rented sector.  It is astounding that this is the case considering the difficulties that so many workers and families are facing due to rising rent costs.

 

“Over the ten years that Fine Gael have been in power rents have risen 100%.  Affordable housing supply has dwindled to such an extent that only 8 affordable homes will be available, across the entire state, for purchase this year.

 

“Over the past year alone, rents in Co. Monaghan have increased by 5.9%.  Coupled with the wider cost-of-living crisis workers and families in this county are seeing their circumstances worsen under the current government.

 

“Most people living in the private rented sector want to buy their own home.  But how can people on ordinary incomes afford the extortionate rents and save for a home at the same time?

 

“People are putting off having families, students are forced to choose between sky high rents and crippling commutes, and modest income workers approaching retirement are looking nervously to the future.

 

“The government’s response has been so-called ‘Help to Buy’ schemes that actually drive up property prices and tax breaks for vultures and speculators.  But nothing for renters.

 

“We need to take action to reduce rental costs and ban any further increases.

 

“This government’s disastrous attempt to link rents to inflation is meaningless as figures today show that the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices is now at 3.8%.  This is coupled with property price rises of almost 11% annually.

 

“People renting, including those in County Monaghan, cannot tolerate any more spin and inaction from this government.

 

“Sinn Féin in government would ban rent increases, introduce tax relief for those renting in the private rented sector and deliver 8,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy annually.

 

“Those are the type of initiatives that would deliver for the workers and families that have been ignored by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

ENDS

School Transport chaos continues for some Monaghan families

School Transport chaos continues for some Monaghan families – Matt Carthy TD

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has warned that some Monaghan families continue to deal with school transport chaos as their children have yet to secure a seat on their school bus.  He criticised the Department of Education for overseeing ‘the same repeated problems’ as last year which has resulted in children, who are eligible, for school transport being denied because of bureaucratic and technical issues.

Deputy Carthy raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister for Education, Norma Foley.

He said:

“Last year, the biggest issue that my own office dealt with was the issue of school transport.

“I am aware of families where one parent had to give up their work because they went through the whole academic year with their child being unable to secure school transport for which they were eligible.

“There are often difficulties arising from the deadlines in place.  We know that deadlines are in place to make the management of the system a little more controllable but there are often valid reasons people cannot meet a deadline including, in some instances that I am aware of, where parents simply do not have the money at a particular point in time to pay for that school transport”.

Following a response from the Minister that 98% of ‘all valid and paid-on-time applicants’ had been issued with a ticket, Carthy stated:

“That means that 2% have not.  In percentage terms this may be a small number, but it is a substantial number in real terms and the impact is very real for those families.  I urge the Minister to ensure that this figure reach 100% as quickly as possible.”

Deputy Carthy also called on the Minister to ensure that when capacity increased from 50% to 100% ‘that the additional spaces that this will allow for is actually used to ensure that more students receive concessionary bus tickets and that those for whom other anomalies have emerged are catered for, rather than simply dividing in half the number of buses available?

“We should use the opportunity that this will present to ensure that more students can avail of their local school bus.”

This week the Sinn Féin TD said that he would continue to press the Minister in this regard.  “At a time when we are talking about climate action and the cost-of-living crisis it is crazy that, in County Monaghan, some parents have to get in their car to drive their children to school after watching the school bus drive past their front door – it is a chaotic situation that must be resolved” he concluded.

ENDS

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