Government failures denying Monaghan families their own homes

Government failures denying Monaghan families their own homes – Matt Carthy TD

 

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that the refusal of  Cavan Monaghan government TDs to back Sinn Féin’s plan to tackle the housing crisis means that they are complicit in the housing crisis now facing many of their constituents.

 

Deputy Carthy was speaking after government indicated that it will reject a motion, brought forward by Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD, that would dramatically increase direct capital investment in the delivery of genuinely affordable homes to buy.

 

During the debate on the motion Teachta Carthy said:

 

“Not a single affordable house will be provided over the next four years in counties Monaghan and Cavan.

 

“That is not speculation or a guess on my part.  It is the target number of affordable houses the Government has set for my constituency.

 

“Some might say that at least there finally is a housing target the Government will meet.  In fact, it is a scandalous statement of reality.

 

“The Minister’s response or justification, in essence, will be that house prices are not expensive enough in those counties to warrant being considered for inclusion under the affordable housing scheme.

 

“This is despite the fact that house prices in the Border region increased by almost 25% last year and 17% the year before.  How high do prices have to get before affordable housing will be provided?

 

“The truth is that homeownership is already beyond the reach of most young workers and families and, at the same time, rents are completely out of control.  I want the Government either to accept that it is incapable of recognising the scale of the challenge or to admit it is not serious about meeting it.  It is one or the other.

 

“We cannot say we are serious about homeownership and delivering houses, as the Minister does in this House from time to time, while a couple with four children earning €27,000 cannot get on the social housing list in my county, cannot pay the rent and will never be in a position to buy their own home while the Government provides no affordable housing option to them.

 

 

“It is time to get real.  Either we accept that Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin’s policies are there and ready to be implemented and will make a difference or we carry on as before with one false promise and one false dawn after another.

 

“The truth is now evident: this Government and the parties that make up the Government simply do not have the capacity to address the housing needs of our people.”

ENDS

Ambitious vision needed for Irish Agriculture

Ambitious vision needed for Irish Agriculture – Matt Carthy TD

 

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has told the Dáil that a new, ambitious vision for Irish Agriculture is needed.

 

Deputy Carthy was speaking during a debate on food security last Thursday.  He said that a long-term vision that would secure family farms for successive generations is required, something he said is lacking in the current Minister for Agriculture.

 

Highlighting the importance of the family farm network to rural economies, Carthy hit out at the Minister for failing to challenge embedded domestic and EU policy which leaves farmers exposed to volatility, while also failing to champion a premiumisation model and ensure fairness in the sector.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The Minister has a tough job at a very difficult time in Irish agriculture. In fairness, he gets some things right as issues arise, although he also gets some things wrong.  However, what is consistently lacking in all of his deliberations is a vision for Irish farming, Irish food and Irish agriculture.  That is concerning.

 

“We need to have an ambitious vision.  We need to recognise the challenges the sector is facing and put in place measures to address those challenges and to provide for that unique and very important aspect of Irish farming, the family farm model.  We know that it is a model worth preserving.

 

“It is good for rural communities.  In fact, many towns and villages would be nothing were it not for the network of family farms.  They are the nearest thing those towns and villages have to an industry.  They are also good for the economy. The family farm network was our saviour during the financial crash because family farmers do not operate at the whim of shareholders, stock markets or international investors.  They do not up and leave whenever supply chains get disrupted. They are here for the long haul.

 

“I also argue that our family farm network is good for food security and for the quality of our produce.  There are approximately 135,000 farms in this State.  We have to work together to protect them and to ensure they employ best practices and will be here into the future.

 

“The truth is that certain hallmarks have become embedded in agricultural policy not just domestically but at EU level that put this model under threat.  Farmers have been encouraged, incentivised and, in some cases, forced to intensify and specialise.  We see the challenges that presents.  As farmers intensify and specialise, they also become more vulnerable.

 

“Certain sectors may sometimes have good years but they are often incredibly vulnerable to international shocks, as we have seen in the current situation where input costs are out of control and prices are dictated by processors and retailers. Farmers are increasingly being asked to do more with less support.

 

“The Minister did not say much about the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, which will be a crucial aspect of how we move forward.  We welcome some parts of his strategic plan.  Some of the gross inequalities that have formed part of the fabric of successive Common Agricultural Policies have been addressed. We have seen some movement on upper payment limits, front-loading and convergence but it has been far too slow and these changes are coming at a time when the CAP budget is reducing, which is a fact the Minister has consistently refused to accept.

 

“We have had a number of discussions on the strategic plan, although they were very limited.  The Minister refused our request to bring the plan before the Houses of the Oireachtas for debate.  The European Commission saw the CAP strategic plan before any farmer or any Opposition Member or member of the Minister’s own party in this House did.

 

“That is not the way to do business.

 

“When we are talking about a CAP strategic plan that could have implications for Irish farming for generations, there should be a collective effort on the part of the Irish Parliament so that we have all bought into it.  The European Commission sent the Minister back what can only be described as a scathing communication.

 

 

“We still do not know whether the Minister is going to come back to this House to engage with us and to address some of the issues.

 

“The truth is that Irish farmers will not survive unless they get fair prices for their produce.  The Minister referenced significant and unsustainable increases in input costs and some of the supports that have been made available, supports I would describe as minimal and, all too often, too little too late.  He referenced the crisis reserve but has yet to give a commitment that his Government will co-finance that crisis reserve to the maximum permitted, 200%.

 

“We still do not know whether Irish farmers will see a benefit from the Brexit adjustment reserve fund or whether important sectors, such as the pig sector and others, will be able to survive into the future.

 

“The truth is that, if we want the model of Irish farming to be one of premiumisation and for it to be sustainable and in line with our climate obligations and all of the stated objectives of Members of this House, a premium price must be paid for that premium product.

 

Best model of beef production in the world

 

“It is absolutely ludicrous that the best model of beef production in the world, that of the Irish suckler beef herd, continues to operate at a loss.

 

“One of the things that needs to happen in that regard is that an enforcement authority needs to be introduced that can monitor the processors and retailers that have strangled the sector for far too long and hold them to account.

 

“I have often said here and elsewhere that there is money to be made in Irish beef. That is the big secret of Irish agriculture.

 

“The problem is that the people who are making that money are not the people who are doing the work, our primary producers.  The Minister has promised an office for transparency and fairness rather than the meat regulator we would like to see.  I again appeal to him to work with us to ensure that authority becomes a corporate enforcement authority that has full access to the accounts of processors and retailers in respect of the food they sell so that our farmers can finally have a level playing field.

 

“The Minister’s targets in respect of organics are one of the areas where the needs of the environment and those of Irish farming can coincide but those targets are absolutely pathetic, even compared to those of other EU states. Rather than leading the charge in developing our organic sector, we are following at the rear in every sense of the word.

 

“We know that, quite naturally, farmers will only move to organics if they see it as a secure move to make.  The way to make it a secure move is to guarantee that they will get a premium price for their new premium product.  That means the Government must be committed to ensuring that Irish organic products are marketed in a coherent and long-standing way.  Through the procurement policies of every Government Department, we have to ensure that every cent of taxpayers’ money that is spent on the procurement of food prioritises locally-produced home-grown organic food.

 

“In respect of climate action, there are dozens of ways in which our farmers want to play their part and rather than supports, this Government is putting in place barriers in regard to low emissions slurry spreading, solar energy, anaerobic digestion and organics, as I have mentioned.

 

“In every one of those areas, the Government is always far too slow to act but always far too quick to implement the provisions that penalise farmers in much the same way as workers and families.

 

“It is time for a sea change. It is time to have a vision for a family farm network that will last not just a year, not just the lifetime of a Government, but for successive generations.”

ENDS

 

Campaign for truth on Dublin Monaghan bombings must continue

Campaign for truth on Dublin Monaghan bombings must continue – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Fein TD, Matt Carthy, attended a memorial event at Talbot Street, Dublin which marked the 48th anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

 

Carthy commended the survivors and families of victims of the bombings for their relentless pursuit of truth and justice.  He described it as ‘scandalous’ that the campaign must continue.  He also said it was a bitter coincidence that the event took place while the British government were announcing their amnesty for state forces in Westminster.

 

Speaking after the event Deputy Carthy said:

 

“As a representative of the people of Monaghan, I was proud to join the gathering at the memorial on Talbot Street to remember the families of the 33 civilians and one unborn child who died in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings in May 1974, and to pay tribute to those who have campaigned for truth and justice over the five decades since.  It is scandalous that the campaign must continue.

 

“The Dublin-Monaghan bombings were carried out by the Glennane gang based in South Armagh which included UVF, MI5, RUC, as well as UDR members.

 

“The co-ordinated, no warning bombings resulted in the highest amount of deaths and casualties in the conflict and yet, no one has ever been brought to justice.

 

“In 2008, 2011 and 2016, the Dáil unanimously passed motions on the bombings, which called on the British Government to release any relevant files that they hold and for the Irish Government to press them to comply with this reasonable request.

 

“The British government has, however, remained steadfast in its refusal to release the files.  In my view, Irish governments have not been sufficiently robust in challenging this refusal.

 

“It is important that we continue to remember those lost as we resolve to continue the campaign for truth.  It is also important that we commend the Justice for the Forgotten organisation for their work in leading that campaign.

 

“Their struggle and search for truth and justice has been a long and a difficult one and continues to be delayed by this British Government.

 

British amnesty proposals

 

“It was a bitter coincidence that, as the commemorative event for the Dublin Monaghan bombings was taking place, the British government were announcing their so-called legacy measures for state forces in Westminster.

 

“These latest proposals are effectively an amnesty through the back door for British state forces, their intelligence services and agents who murdered Irish citizens during the conflict in Ireland.

 

“These proposals have been opposed by the victims, their families and by political parties, north and south.

 

“It is yet another example of this Tory government attempting to bin an international agreement made with the Irish government and the other parties at Stormont House in 2014 which gave victims and their families access to truth, justice and reconciliation.

 

“This is also an attempt to shut citizens out of the courts, to deny families inquests on the deaths of their loved ones, to deny access to judicial reviews and to the civil courts.

 

“The British government is acting like a totalitarian state and their actions are a cruel blow to families who have waited more than five decades on truth and justice.

 

“The campaigns by the families cannot be wished away by a British government determined to pull a veil of secrecy over the actions of the state during the conflict.

 

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand with the families in their campaigns for truth and justice.

 

“There is also an onus on the Irish government to stand up for the agreement it made with the British government and oppose this latest heartless attempt to close down truth and justice.”

ENDS

Carthy hails seismic northern election results

Carthy hails seismic northern election results

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has congratulated his party colleagues north of the border on what he described as ‘seismic’ Assembly election results.

 

The return of Sinn Féin as the largest party in the north and the ability for Michelle O’Neill to be designated as First Minister is historic by any standard and clearly demonstrated that the northern state has changed forever, he said.  The refusal of the DUP to agree to the establishment of an executive was evidence that they had not yet realised the permanence of that change, he said.

 

 

Teachta Carthy said.

 

“The people of the six counties have spoken.  Just as the General Election south of the border in February 2020 it is clear that the appetite for change is firmly rooted across Ireland.

 

“The return of Sinn Féin as the largest party in the north is seismic.  It is historic by any standards.

 

“I commend all those Sinn Féin candidates across the 18 constituencies – particularly in our neighboring constituencies of Fermanagh/ South Tyrone and Newry/ Armagh.  I thank all those Sinn Féin members in County Monaghan who participated in the campaign in those areas.

 

“The electorate delivered a message of hope and optimism for the future.

 

“The voters clearly want all parties get back down to business; to elect a Speaker and get the Assembly functioning; to appoint a First Minister and deputy First Minister and form a new Executive in order to take the urgent decisions required to invest in health services, to help ease the burden on households struggling with the cost of living crisis; to agree a Programme for Government and a three-year budget.

 

“There can be no excuses and no attempt by the DUP or anyone else to punish the public and leave workers and families high and dry now or in the time ahead.

 

“The refusal of the DUP to establish an executive as of yet suggests that they do not recognise the permanence of the changed political landscape.

 

“The truth is that the assembly election marks a defining moment for our politics and all of our people.  It presents us all with an opportunity to re-imagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, equality and social justice.

 

“I welcome the assertion of Michelle O’Neill that, as First Minister, she intends to work with those from all political perspectives, through partnership – not division.  Her commitment to provide leadership which is inclusive, which celebrates diversity and which guarantees rights and equality for those who have been excluded, discriminated against and ignored in the past; is change in action.

 

“The scale of what has been accomplished since the advent of the Good Friday Agreement 24 years ago has resulted in the transformation our society, and in particular border communities, but we have much, much more to do in order to prosper and reach our full potential.

 

“This includes advancing peace and reconciliation, and eradicating the cancer of sectarianism in our society.

 

“The DUP, but also the British Government, must accept and respect the democratic outcome of this election.  Brinkmanship will not be tolerated where the North of Ireland becomes collateral damage in a game of chicken with the European Commission.

 

“The responsibility for finding solutions to the Protocol lies with Boris Johnson and the EU, and their conversations should resume, but make no mistake this society and our businesses will not be held to ransom.

 

“This means applying the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts – An Assembly, Executive, North/South Ministerial Council and East-West structures without delay, and no further interruption.

 

“Sinn Féin remain determined to deliver all of that.  But, also we are determined to deliver the change that is required across all of Ireland, the assembly elections are further evidence that the Irish people also want that change.”

ENDS

Not a single affordable home to be delivered in either Monaghan or Cavan!

Not a single affordable home to be delivered in either Monaghan or Cavan!

 

Neither Monaghan nor Cavan will see a single affordable home delivered within the next five years, according to the government’s own targets.

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD said that the publication of the government’s affordable housing targets, which was obtained by his colleague Eoin O’Broin in response to a parliamentary question, showed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not serious about tackling the affordable housing crisis.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The government’s affordable housing targets up to 2026 are truly depressing, especially for those in rural regions.

 

“Despite the rhetoric from government representatives about believing in home ownership, between now and 2026 they are only funding a tiny amount of genuinely affordable homes to purchase.

 

“None of those homes will be delivered in either counties Monaghan or Cavan.  Even in those large urban centres where some affordable homes will be delivered, the numbers are pathetic.

 

“These targets show that the Government is not serious about tackling the affordable housing crisis.

 

“Instead, the Minister is doing what Fianna Fáil do best.  They will give massive handouts to big developers to deliver overpriced homes, with the big losers being struggling home buyers and the taxpayer.

 

“We need at least 4,000 affordable purchase homes a year. The best way to deliver these homes is through Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies.

 

“This is not a new demand, Sinn Féin have been calling on government to prioritise the delivery of new social and affordable homes via local authorities for years.  Government parties have instead ensured that the crisis in housing has worsened every single year.

 

House prices in the border region have increased by 24.7% in the past year – the highest of any region.  Yet, the stated intention of government is for those prices to get out of control before providing a single affordable home.  It is a dangerous strategy which has already been proven to fail.  It means that many young workers and families in these counties will never be able to live in their own home – until we secure a change of government and a change in direction and strategy.”

ENDS

Monaghan Minor Injuries Unit alone in not operating 7-day service

Monaghan Minor Injuries Unit alone in not operating 7-day service – Matt Carthy TD

The Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan Hospital is the only such unit that does not operate on a 7-day week basis and is alone in not opening on Bank Holidays.  It also has the shortest opening hours of any of the 10 MIUs across the state.

This week, Cavan Monaghan Dáil Deputy Matt Carthy said that there is no justification for these restricted operating hours within Monaghan’s MIU as figures released to Sinn Féin show that the unit had almost as many attendees in 2021 as another unit that operates seven days per week with substantially longer opening hours.

Deputy Carthy confirmed that he has been working closely with his party’s Health Spokesperson, David Cullinane, on this issue.  He said that there is an inarguable case for the opening hours at Monaghan Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit to be expanded and for fees associated with MIU presentations to be scrapped.

Monaghan Minor Injuries Unit operates just five days a week, excluding bank holidays, and is open from 9am to 5pm.  The other Minor Injuries Units in the state are located at Hospitals in Bantry, Ennis, Dundalk, Mallow, Cork Mercy, Nenagh, Roscommon, Loughlinstown St Columcille’s and Limerick St John’s.  All of these operate on a seven-day week basis, including bank holidays, and open from 8am until between 6pm and 8pm each day.

But, according to figures released to Sinn Féin by the HSE, Monaghan MIU received 5,374 attendees last year, almost identical to the number attending Bantry MIU despite significantly lower operating times.  While the attendance rates for other MIUs are higher, Deputy Carthy claims this is entirely understandable considering their much broader opening hours.

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has repeatedly told Minister Stephen Donnelly that the Minor Injuries Unit should be utilised in order to ease pressure on both GP services and A&E departments.  He confirmed this week that he has again written to the Minister urging his direct intervention to expand Monaghan Minor Injuries Unit.

Deputy Carthy said this week:

“Monaghan Minor Injuries Unit is a service that should be widely utilised and I encourage people to attend when appropriate.

“But, the potential of the service provided is undermined by the reduced opening times.  Expanding the hours and days would be the single most impactful intervention government can take to revitalise Monaghan Hospital.

“The decision of previous Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments to remove services from Monaghan Hospital continues to have serious negative repercussions.  A&E services were withdrawn from Monaghan and resulted in drastic overcrowding at Cavan and Drogheda hospitals.

“The Minor Injuries Unit can serve to ease pressure on both GP practices and A & E departments.

“But Minister Donnelly confirmed to me that he has no intention of seeking the expansion of this service.  Likewise there has been no movement to remove the €75 fee for attendees despite the fact that the HSE cannot even outline how much funds this fee raises and the clear evidence that the fee acts as a disincentive – leading to further demands on GPs and A&E.

“For Sinn Fein, it will remain a priority for us to force the expansion of the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan Hospital and the removal of the associated fees”.

NOTE:

Hospital MIU            Operating Hours          Days                2021 Attendees

Bantry                         8am – 7.30pm                     7days                   5,443

Ennis                              8am-8pm                             7days                  11,222

Louth                             9am-8pm                              7days                 11,327

Mallow                          8am-8pm                             7days                   7,505

Cork Mercy                8am-8pm                             7days               16,406

Monaghan                  9am-5pm                           5days              5,374

Nenagh                         8am-8pm                            7days               9,971

Roscommon               8am-8pm                           7days               9,336

St. Columcilles            8am-6pm                         7days               8,747

Limerick St. Johns      8am-7pm                        7days               12,688

ENDS

Crazy that government increased Home Heating Oil costs during cost-of-living emergency

Crazy that government increased Home Heating Oil costs during cost-of-living emergency – Matt Carthy TD

 

Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has described the decision by government to proceed with another carbon tax hike on Sunday last as crazy.  He said:  “It is beyond maddening that, in the midst of a cost-of-living emergency, government have increased the cost of home heating oil and other fuels through a carbon tax hike.  This is not climate action – it’s just making peoples lives harder.  The definition of out-of-touch.”

 

Last week Sinn Féin had brought a motion to the Dáil which called for the increase to be halted.  That motion also sought for all excise on Home Heating oil to be lifted during the current price crisis.  The motion also responded to government’s attempts to ban the sale of turf, a proposal described by Sinn Féin as unfair, unworkable and counter-productive.  The Sinn Féin motion was voted down by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party TDs.

 

During the debate, Deputy Carthy criticised the fact that not a single back-bench government TD attended the discourse or spoke on the motion.

 

He told the Dáil:

 

“For the purposes of clarification, let me be clear that Sinn Féin supports measures that protect public health.  We also support measures that protect our environment and deliver climate action.

 

“Where we differ from the Government is that we insist that such measures are fair, workable and credible, concepts that are alien to this coalition.

 

“In fact, at the heart of this Government’s approach is an inherent unfairness.

 

“We now have an all too predictable cycle.  Someone in the Government, usually Eamon Ryan, decides that the way to address a problem is by making the lives of ordinary people more difficult.  Then, when the Opposition points to the fact that such a move is counter-productive, we are accused of being populist.  All the while, we have Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies, as we have seen in the past week over the turf issue, running around their constituencies crying that they themselves are opposed to the moves, as if they were detached from the fact that it is only through their consent that the Government can proceed.  When those same Deputies have an opportunity to make a stand, like tonight, they run for cover.

 

“It is like a wilderness across the floor of the Chamber.  They are nowhere to be found, avoiding the debate before they meekly return to the Chamber to cast their vote and then quickly scurry back to their constituencies in the hope their voters do not notice the duplicity.

 

“Where are the backbenchers tonight who have been telling us and their constituents that they support everything in the Sinn Féin motion?  Where are those Ministers who were conveniently leaking that they were passionate and forceful on this issue at Cabinet?  Where is Minister Eamon Ryan tonight? He told me in a radio debate on Sunday that he was looking forward to this debate.  What happened since?

 

“The motion is essentially about people being able to heat their own homes.  Some, and it is a small minority, burn turf.  All of the evidence shows that that minority is getting smaller because people move from turf when they have a credible, affordable alternative.

 

“However, as usual, rather than ensure that people have that alternative, those in the Government see fit to give them a kicking.  They demonise those who have a different life than they do and they insinuate that those who use turf are responsible for public health issues for which they are not culpable, in the same way that they blame those who have no option but to drive to work for climate change while turning a blind eye to the multinational corporations that are actually responsible for the bulk of emissions.

 

“How ironic that during the period when Government Ministers have been at sixes and sevens on whether families can heat their homes with a turf fire, approval was granted to yet another data centre that will actually use about the same amount of electricity as entire counties almost. Of course, they voted against a moratorium on data centres when they had the chance because every time a proposition comes before this House that would make a positive climate impact but would face up to corporate interests, the Government shirks away.  Yet, time and again it is willing to stick the boot into ordinary workers and families who have no alternatives and through punitive actions undermine public support for climate action and public health measures.

 

“For those who use turf to heat their homes, in the vast majority of cases the only available alternative is to use their home heating oil central heating.  But, the cost of home heating oil has more than doubled in the last year.  The Government, despite all of the rhetoric from the Minister, has not done a tap, not a single thing, to help ease the burden in regard to home heating oil.

 

“What does it intend to do now?  It plans to increase the cost of home heating oil next week.  If there was a semblance of fact around Government assertions that the turf ban is about public health, what it would actually be doing, rather than increasing home heating oil costs further, is supporting this motion and removing excise duty entirely during this cost of living emergency.

 

“This is a comprehensive motion before the Dáil.  In a nutshell, it calls for the Government to scrap plans to ban the sale of turf, to cancel the carbon tax increase due next week and to remove excise duty temporarily on home heating oil.

 

“I was hoping to use this opportunity to plead with the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers but they are not here. I do not know if they are in their offices rather than the Dáil bar but if they are listening, let me say this: if they want to make a genuine stand for their constituents, for those hard-pressed workers and families who have been squeezed to the absolute maximum, then they will come in here and reject the pathetic amendment the Government has put forward and support in full and with enthusiasm the Sinn Féin motion, rather than random leaks to journalists and a pretence that somehow they are on the side of the ordinary people who have borne the brunt of this Government’s mismanagement”.

ENDS

 

Carthy challenges GSOC on delays into Shane O’Farrell investigation

Carthy challenges GSOC on delays into Shane O’Farrell investigation

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has again raised in the Dáil the case of Shane O’Farrell from Carrickmacross who was killed in a hit-and run in August 2011.

 

Deputy Carthy called on the government to initiate a public enquiry into the killing and the actions of state agencies, including the Gardaí, before and after Shane’s death.

 

In the Dáil chamber during Taoiseach’s Questions Deputy Carthy reminded Micháel Martin of his remarks while in opposition on the case.  And last Thursday, at the Public Accounts Committee, Carthy challenged the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSCOC) into their role in investigating Garda failures on the case.

 

Speaking during Taoiseach’s questions last Tuesday Carthy said:

 

“The scoping exercise into the death of Shane O’Farrell was established by the previous Government more than three years ago.  By their nature, scoping exercises are expected to take weeks, possibly months but not years, and yet three years on from the initiation of that exercise we have no idea as to when that work will be finished.

 

“Members will recall that nobody bar the previous Cabinet wanted this scoping exercise.  Both Houses of the Oireachtas unanimously passed motions calling for the establishment of an inquiry.  In 2018, the Taoiseach, when on this side of the House, stated: “In all honesty and sincerity, it is time the Oireachtas responded in the only way possible to Shane’s death, which is the establishment of an inquiry.” The Taoiseach was right then and his case is even more valid now.

 

“The failures of the policing and justice system that led up to Shane’s death and the actions thereafter and to this day are significant not only to his family, but are in the wider public interest.  We acknowledge the independence of Judge Haughton who is carrying out the scoping exercise and we know that Government cannot interfere, but will the Taoiseach accept that the scoping exercise as a process has not worked and that it has become yet another protracted delay to advancing the inquiry that we have all agreed is necessary?

 

“The Taoiseach took a very firm stance on this matter when in opposition, and rightly so. I ask that he follow it through”.

 

GSOC before Public Accounts Committee

 

On Thursday last GSOC commissioners were before the Public Accounts Committee.  In his intervention, Deputy Carthy utilised the example of the Shane O’Farrell case to emphasise that GSOC often, rather than delivering answers, serves to delay and frustrate the process for grieving families.

 

The exchange went as follows:

 

Matt Carthy:  We have a remit over value for money and ensuring adequate expenditure of the public moneys allocated to our guests’ organisation. It goes beyond general checks and balances and involves a consideration of the length of time investigations take and the results that follow on from them. We cannot do that without reflecting on some of GSOC’s previous investigations.

 

The investigation I am a little familiar with is the one that occurred subsequent to the death of Shane O’Farrell.  If I understand it correctly, there were two different investigations. What was the distinction between how they operated?

 

Hugh Hume (GSOC):  I am not exactly sure, but my understanding is that a number of allegations were made at the start and they were being dealt with slightly differently.  At that point, GSOC brought them all under one umbrella and conducted a criminal investigation in respect of 56 separate allegations that had been made.  Those 56 allegations were investigated and a determination was made that there was no case of criminality.  There was then a disciplinary investigation, to which my colleague, Ms Logan, has alluded.  That is a process we currently have to go through where we have to reset and start looking at the case again with a view to potential disciplinary matters.  That disciplinary investigation examined 13 separate allegations and a recommendation was sent to the Garda Commissioner, who I believe took some action on the matter.

 

Matt Carthy:  Was the section 101 report on the criminal investigation?

 

Hugh Hume:  Such an investigation ends in what is called a section 101 report, which is a report that comes to the commission following a criminal investigation.

 

Matt Carthy:  And the disciplinary investigation is reported on under section 97.

 

Hugh Hume: Correct.

 

Matt Carthy:  What instigated those investigations?  Was it the complaints by the family or a direction by the Minister?

 

Hugh Hume:  It was a combination of all of those factors.  There was information from the Minister and the family had come to GSOC as well.  It is quite a while back and I was not in the office at the time, but my understanding is those all came from a number of different sources and GSOC brought them together into one cohesive investigation, which included the 56 allegations.

 

Matt Carthy:  Let me put it a different way.  If the family alone had provided information, would that have been sufficient for GSOC to conduct the investigation?

 

Hugh Hume:  An investigation had started on the basis of what the family had provided.

 

Matt Carthy:   In terms of the criminal and disciplinary strands, who conducted the investigations?

 

Hugh Hume:  A senior investigating officer in Longford conducted the investigations.

 

Matt Carthy:  Was that a Garda officer or a GSOC officer?

 

Hugh Hume:  I beg the Deputy’s pardon. It was a GSOC officer.

 

Matt Carthy:  Was that the case for both investigations?

 

Hugh Hume:  Yes. After they were completed—–

 

Matt Carthy:  Was it the same individual who carried out both investigations?

 

Hugh Hume:  It was the same team.

 

Matt Carthy:  It was an internal GSOC team. The first report, the section 101 report, came six years after the original investigation started.  Does Mr. Hume consider that to be an acceptable timeframe?

 

Hugh Hume:  It is certainly a very long timeframe.  There is no doubt about that.  I was not there at the time, to understand all the nuances.  While I have read the background material in anticipation of the Deputy’s question and examined the file, there were 56 separate allegations.  It all had to be dealt with criminally across a broad spectrum of activity that preceded the unfortunate terrible accident, and succeeded the incident as well, as the Deputy will be perhaps aware.  It was a broad nature.

 

Matt Carthy:  In terms of going forward, does Mr. Hume consider six years for an investigation of that type to be an acceptable length of time?

 

Hugh Hume:  I could not comment on all the nuances and the stymies or the opportunities that occurred during that time.

 

Emily Logan (GSOC):  I want to say, in terms of being fair and giving the Deputy an answer on the standard, but separate to the individual case that the Deputy is speaking about, the answer to the question as to whether six years is acceptable is “No”.  Mr. Hume is talking specifically.  I am not talking about that case.  I am just talking about a general standard for this commission.  We would not consider that acceptable.

 

Matt Carthy:  In terms of the disciplinary aspect of the case, that was even longer again because it was subsequent to the completion of the criminal aspect of the commission’s investigation.

 

Hugh Hume:  It followed on in a relatively short period of time. I have not got the exact time. Within a few months, it followed on from GSOC, I believe, to the Garda Commissioner.

 

Matt Carthy:  As Mr. Hume mentioned, GSOC recommended disciplinary action in respect of three gardaí following that investigation.

 

Hugh Hume:  That is correct.

 

Matt Carthy:  Is Mr. Hume aware that in respect of two of those the disciplinary procedures or penalties that were applied were subsequently withdrawn by the Garda Commissioner?

 

Hugh Hume:  I am aware there was some sort of court action and the outworkings of that was the setting aside of those proceedings.

 

Matt Carthy:  After all of that time in terms of the amount of work that GSOC has put in, is Mr. Hume satisfied that there was an appropriate outcome at the end of all GSOC’s efforts and the expenditure that was invested in this case?

 

Hugh Hume:  It is not what GSOC feels about the thing.  There are far more important people’s concerns in this investigation than GSOC’s concerns, in terms of the family themselves and their feeling of hurt.  Clearly, we work to try to deliver the best and fairest result for everyone.

 

Matt Carthy:  Mr. Hume is correct, in terms of the family being an important aspect.  Given that they instigated essentially the investigation, why has the family not received the full copies of the reports that were published in this case?

 

Mr. Justice Rory MacCabe (GSOC Chair):  As the Deputy will be aware, there is a subsequent inquiry going on that is in the hands of retired Judge Haughton.  That is effectively a further hurdle that has appeared on this particular long road.  The Deputy would have to address his query to Judge Haughton and his inquiry in that regard.

 

Matt Carthy:  I have to say I do not buy that.  GSOC carried out the investigations.  GSOC concluded two reports.  In respect of the section 101 report, the family have received summaries, not the full report.  My understanding is that the same is the case for the section 97 report.  These are reports in GSOC’s possession.

 

Whatever Judge Haughton is doing in relation to his scoping inquiry, he needs to be let do that but that does not prevent GSOC from providing those reports to the family.  In fact, the Garda Commissioner is on the record as saying that these reports have been compiled by GSOC and that publication relates to Mr. Justice MacCabe’s organisation alone.  My question is, will GSOC provide those reports to the family considering they are the instigators?

 

As Mr. Hume correctly said, they are the most important part of this procedure.

 

Following this case, I am aware of some of the details and most of the revelations about the fact that the person who killed Shane should have been imprisoned at the time, had been in breach of multiple bail conditions, and had received a custodial sentence that was never pursued and that he never served.  While he was supposed to be signing on at a Garda station on a daily basis for a period of that time, he was in custody north of the Border.

 

It is a litany of failures.  The real answers and the causation of all of those failures have never been revealed.  GSOC, the organisation that one would have hoped would have been part of finding those answers, instead was subjugated to a significant delay during which time every other actor in this process refused to answer questions.  The then Minister for Justice, the Department of Justice, the Garda, the DPP and the Courts Service – everybody who was responsible for failures in this case – stated for almost eight years that they could not answer questions because GSOC was carrying out an investigation.

 

Now GSOC is coming in here and stating that it cannot provide information because there is a scoping inquiry taking place.  My question is, when the scoping inquiry is concluded what will be the excuse for refusing to provide this family with answers as to why their son was killed by a man who should have been imprisoned at the time?

 

Justice Rory MacCabe:  All I can tell the Deputy is that Judge Haughton made 114 requests for information from GSOC. GSOC, in October last, responded to these. Our legal unit is liaising with Judge Haughton at present.  I would like to be able to give the Deputy a more positive response than that.

 

Matt Carthy:  Is there a preclusion on GSOC providing information to any other third party that has been provided to Judge Haughton?  Is it the case that the scoping inquiry has said that once GSOC provides it with that information, it cannot then provide it to another person?

 

Justice Rory MacCabe:  I cannot answer that for certain.  We are respecting the work that is being carried out by Judge Haughton.  That is the only thing I can say to the Deputy at this stage.

 

Matt Carthy:  Can Justice MacCabe not assure us today that GSOC will provide those reports to the family of the late Shane O’Farrell?

 

Justice Rory MacCabe:  I cannot give the Deputy that assurance as of now.

 

PAC Cathoirleach, Brian Stanley:  Mr. Justice MacCabe may be on the spot a bit in this regard.  Perhaps he would come back to the committee with a piece of correspondence around whether that can or cannot be, and if it cannot be, why it cannot be at this stage.

 

Justice Rory MacCabe:  Certainly.

ENDS

Carthy accuses Minister Ryan of failing to engage on North South Interconnector

Carthy accuses Minister Ryan of failing to engage on North South Interconnector

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has accused the Environment Minister, Eamon Ryan, of refusing to engage with communities regarding the North South Interconnector.

 

Deputy Carthy raised the issue of the Interconnector in oral questions to the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications in the Dáil last week.  He asked Minister Ryan when the so-called review into the Interconnector would be finalised, noting that he had no confidence that the terms of reference would allow for the “type of assessment that is required”.

 

The Sinn Féin representative said that the refusal of EirGrid and government representatives to listen to local communities has resulted in a delay in the delivery of the project.  Had the project been undergrounded, he said, it is likely that the Interconnector would be completed by now.

 

Deputy Carthy’s Sinn Féin colleague and spokesperson on the Environment, Darren O’Rourke, intervened to accuse EirGrid’s approach as ‘pig-headedness’ and saying that ‘we should never ended up here’.  Interestingly, a government representative, Fine Gael’s Alan Dillion relayed a similar experience in his own constituency whereby experts contended that an overhead powerline should be developed.  Eventually, he said, “It went underground and not a peep out of the community has occurred since, which is probably the most important message I have for this debate.”

 

The discussion went as follows:

 

Deputy Matt CarthyMy question relates to the review into the north-south interconnector.

 

When will the review be completed and when will the report be provided and published?  That is not to say that I have any confidence that the review is going to deliver the type of assessment that is required, because the terms of reference have been so narrow. However, I would like an update from the Minister in respect of the interconnector project more broadly.

 

Minister Eamon Ryan:  The North-South interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the all-island integrated single electricity market and increasing security of electricity supply in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It will also facilitate the achievement of the goal of generating up to 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. A resilient and well-connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic well-being and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers.

 

The option of undergrounding the North-South interconnector has been comprehensively assessed on several occasions. Most recently, the key finding from the international expert commission’s report of October 2018 was that an overhead line remains the most appropriate option for this critical electricity infrastructure. Notwithstanding this, I decided to commission a further short review to assess if the overall finding from the 2018 report remains valid. Formal procurement of international experts in electricity grid infrastructure was completed last September. The international experts are continuing their work on the report, which has taken longer than expected, but I hope to receive it shortly.

I am interested to have a discussion. I said earlier that we always look at all options and discuss all energy matters. I would be very interested to hear what Sinn Féin sees, both North and South, as the timelines, the urgency and the preferred models. I have a real fear, across a whole variety of different areas, that we might lose what was seen as one of the significant developments of the last two decades, which was an all-island energy approach and a single electricity market. I fear that if we do not quickly build the scale of interconnection that we need, we will not see industrial development in the North and we will not see economic opportunities, particularly in those Border counties that are most in need and would most benefit from an integrated, synchronised transmission system which can deliver power locally to the people and to the industries that employ people in those areas. This is a critical economic issue, north and south of the Border.

 

Matt CarthyFor the avoidance of any doubt, I want to see the development of the North-South interconnector but I want it to happen in a way that has public acceptance.

 

Here is the irony of the situation: had the Minister listened to the communities and to the expert advice the last time he was in government, I believe the North-South interconnector would be completed by now.  Instead, we have had a decade of wasted opportunity because that principle of public acceptance that is so crucial was not heeded.  In Belgium, for example, the ALEGrO project is happening underground precisely because of that principle of public acceptance being heeded.

 

The Minister mentioned in response to an earlier question that EirGrid has learned from previous mistakes.  I believe it has learned from its experiences regarding the North-South interconnector but it has learned everywhere except on the route of the North-South interconnector.

 

EirGrid has decided to bull-headedly pursue a strategy that is leading it directly into conflict with local communities.  What I am asking the Minister is whether he is prioritising the completion of this project or prioritising adherence to the stated objectives of EirGird.  If he prioritises the former, what he will actually do is commission a real analysis of how we deliver this project in a way in which communities, society, businesses and this House can be unanimous in seeing the project delivered.

 

Eamon Ryan:  It is almost 18 years since we started looking at this.  I was a member of the relevant joint committee at the time, and we met with EirGrid and started looking at all of these options. If, as the Deputy says, his preferred option is underground DC cable connectivity, it seems to me that one of the aspects, one of the key truths around that, is that it would see no development in Armagh, Tyrone, Cavan, Monaghan and other Border areas.  It would not actually be part of an electricity grid system which could then be used for industrial development and for getting a balanced, strong network. There is always the underlying question of what this connection is for. To my mind, it is a core spine of our key electricity system. I understand the issue of listening to the public, getting environmental planning consent and trying to bring everyone with us, but, in the end, politics sometimes comes down to hard decisions. Do we want to see economic development of the Border region or would it be fair to see it just as a transfer zone between Dublin and Belfast, where all the economic activity takes place?

 

Matt CarthyI would suggest, in the first instance, that the Minister does not have the audacity to talk about economic development in the Border region considering his actions in regard to the N2 in an area where we have no public transport.

 

This is not just about what Sinn Féin says. The independent review that the Minister has cited described undergrounding the North-South interconnector as a credible option.  It made other determinations on other evaluations as to whether or not the process should be put overhead or underground.

 

Here is the problem: we are now entering into a situation where EirGrid is going to be in direct confrontation with landowners and local communities and, in my view, that is going to lead to significant further delays.  The Minister recalled that it is 18 years, almost two decades, since this project was first mooted.

 

EirGrid has taken a particularly pig-headed approach, as I said, but Deputy Ryan is the Minister. He is the person who can actually carry out a full appraisal as to whether or not an underground option is feasible.  In my view, it absolutely is.  If the Minister had in a previous position undertaken that work, as I said, we would be in a much better position today and would perhaps even have seen delivery of this integral piece of infrastructure.

 

Deputy Darren O’Rourke (SF):  I want to come in on that point. We should never have ended up here, and that is my firm opinion. A central tenet of EirGrid’s current plan is community engagement and the Minister points towards learning the lessons of the past. We can see it in Grid West, on which there was huge confrontation and resistance, and that is going underground for the Connacht project.  This is a matter of procedural justice and EirGrid is just being belligerently pigheaded in this regard. The most recent review is the latest example of it.

 

Deputy Alan Farrell (FG):  My contribution has nothing to do with the constituency politics or even the party politics of this. I can only talk about my own experience with the connection that came through Rush back in 2010. I can tell the House that political careers were created on it and then, on the back of the decision, political careers ended at the next local elections because people got it wrong. What troubles me about this discussion, and I remember reading up on it a number of years ago, is that the sector will determine what is the most appropriate means of getting the energy from A to B but we have constant bickering at a local level, with people telling others “This is the way it should be”. In Rush in north County Dublin, everybody wanted it overground and, as I said, careers were created on the back of it. It went underground and not a peep out of the community has occurred since, which is probably the most important message I have for this debate.

 

Eamon Ryan:  We need to get this right.  We need to get it right in energy terms and we need to get it right in economic terms.  I want to flag my real concern that, because we have not been able to get agreement, there is real potential for a fissure and it will be the North of Ireland which will suffer and the Border counties. That is not what we want to see. In response to Deputy Carthy, I have every interest in seeing balanced regional development and seeing counties Monaghan and Cavan and every county in the North survive. I was very proud and pleased in my previous existence as energy Minister to be able to help to set up the all-island electricity market. I believe we will not effectively meet our climate targets except if we work on an all-island basis. We are at real risk of losing that. We are at real risk of not seeing economic development in that region because—–

 

Matt CarthyBecause of the Minister’s actions.

 

Eamon Ryan:  As I said, the Deputy may be in a position some day where those Government decisions have to be taken. I do not think that in those circumstances he would see the civil servants or the public officials as pig-headed. I think they are looking to deliver the best projects for the public good.

 

Matt CarthyIt has been held up for 20 years.

 

Eamon Ryan:  My fear is that that may not be possible because we cannot get political agreement on doing anything. That is the real issue that we have to be concerned with. It is the politics of this that we have to get right, as well as the energy analysis.

 

Matt CarthyThe Minister will not engage.

ENDS

“Agri-diesel excise reduction to be undone after just 7 weeks”

“Agri-diesel excise reduction to be undone after just 7 weeks” – Matt Carthy TD

 

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said that the limited action taken by government on agri-diesel costs ‘will be undone just 7 weeks after it was introduced.’

 

In a move widely derided as insufficient, the government reduced excise on agri-diesel from €138.17 to €120.55 per 1,000 litres, or 2c per litre, from March 10th.

 

However, the carbon tax element of excise duty on the fuel is set to increase on the 1st May – bringing the charge back to €138.17!

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The 2cent per litre excise cut to Agri-diesel was minimal and insufficient.  But farmers and contractors will be astounded to learn that the reduction will be undone after just seven weeks if the Carbon Tax hike goes ahead on the 1st May.

 

“This was confirmed by Minister Pascal Donohoe at the Oireachtas Finance Committed who acknowledged that the excise take on Agri-diesel will return to its March 9th level in May and that it will then increase further to €158.50 in September when the temporary measure expires.

 

“These figures are not impacted by the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine, by international factors, or by any other global influences – this is the money that government is charging on agricultural-diesel that they could and should reduce”.

 

“Essentially, farmers and farm contractors have got seven weeks of a minimal fuel reduction at a time when input costs are pushing them to the brink.

 

Rebate for Farm Contractors

 

“At the Oireachtas Finance Committee I also sought clarification from Minister Donohoe that the review into the status of farm contractors regarding carbon tax rebates is finally underway.

 

“Currently, farmers can avail of a rebate on the carbon tax if their income is sufficient.  However, the same provision is not in place for Farm Contractors despite the fact that they are carting out agriculture work.

 

“Contractors have no choice but to pass on the charge to their customers – effectively making it an additional cost to farmers.

 

“The Department of Finance promised a review in 2019, which the Minister has repeatedly deferred.

 

“The Minister has now confirmed that it is underway, and he intends to complete the exercise prior to the budget, though when pressed would not commit to bringing forward measures in the budget arising from that review.

 

“There can be no further delays.  During a period of escalating input costs, farmers need support.  One such support must be through a rebate of the carbon tax for those doing essential agriculture work for which there is no fuel alternative yet.”

ENDS

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