Bursting the bubble that surrounds Leinster House
Green Party cabinet minister calls on Phil Hogan to address golf dinner controversy
Green Party Cabinet Minister Roderic O'Gorman has called on EU Commissioner Phil Hogan to make a full statement on his attendance at an Oireachtas Golf Society event.
Mr O'Gorman, the Children's Minister, said Mr Hogan will have to address his decision to attend the event which has led to resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary.
Speaking on Independent.ie's Floating Voter podcast, the minister said: "I think everyone who was at that event will have questions put to them be they a commissioner, be they a TD, be they a senator and it is for each one of them to address those questions and I think they will have to address those questions."
Mr O'Gorman said there is "very real anger among the public" about that dinner and said it "would be appropriate for Commissioner Hogan to address that".
The minister said it was "appropriate" for Mr Calleary to resign because Cabinet ministers have a responsibility to follow the rules they implement.
"In the Cabinet we are making decisions and asking the public to make very significant sacrifices in how they live their daily lives. We know the decisions we are asking people to make and we can't argue that we don't understand the full impact of those decisions," he said.
"It was appropriate for Dara to resign. He made a mistake and I don't think cabinet ministers can make mistakes of that extent and expect there not to be consequences," he added.
Michael Healy Rae won’t make customers wear mask in his shop
Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae will not force customers to wear masks or facing coverings in his shop as they become mandatory today.
Mr Healy Rae said he will encourage people to wear them but said he will not become an “enforcer” and neither will his staff.
Speaking on Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast, he said: “We are not going to be saying to a person 'you've no mask on, you can't be in the shop.’”
“It won’t happen in my shop and the vast majority of shops in Ireland. People working in the shops have enough to be doing just to do their own roles,” he added.
Mr Healy Rae runs a Mace supermarket and filling station in his hometown of Killorglin.
In a wide-ranging interview Mr Healy Rae also said:
- He would accept a local lockdown in Kerry because the “rules are the rule”.
- But public health experts don’t have a “monopoly on being right” when it comes to pubs.
- The new government has been an “unmitigated disaster”.
- The sacking of Barry Cowen as Agriculture Minister was “wrong”.
- Education Minister Norma Foley is a “formidable operator”.
- And landlords are being “demonised” by certain TDs.
Mr Healy Rae siad it is “remarkable” that pubs are still closed when around 100,000 people flew into Ireland from abroad last week. “That in itself was an anomaly and is something of great consternation to a lot of people,” he said.
The long serving deputy said the Government should introduce testing and quarantine for all travellers arriving here as they have in New Zealand where there has been no new coronavirus case in over 100 days.
Mr Healy-Rae said it is “counterproductive” to public health to keep pubs closed because people are not congregating in a smaller number of licenced premises. He also said the ban had led to emergence of sheebens in rural communities along with house parties and increased off-licence sales.
He said his brother Danny’s pub has remained closed throughout the pandemic as he does not serve food.
Mr Healy-Rae says “common sense” outweighs advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Npeht) guidance on the reopening of pubs. “No one has a monopoly on being right about everything at all times and I think they're wrong on this occasion,” he added.
He said the new coalition government has been an “unmitigated disaster” that has “lunged from crisis to crisis”. He said Taoiseach Micheal Martin is a very experienced TD and expected him to be “more sure footed” when he took office.
“The way I would describe the Government is that they are waking up everyone morning and what they are doing is they are literally wetting their finger and they are seeing which way the wind is blowing,” he added.
He said the sacking of Barry Cowen over his drink driving case was handled “badly and poorly” by the Taoiseach.
“I don't think it warranted him being forced out of the position that he had. I know an awful lot of people around the country certainly didn't agree with it,” he added.
Mr Healy Rae said he was glad Kerry had a minister at the Cabinet table in Norma Foley and criticised those who describe he has an inexperienced TD.
He also warned TDs against criticising landlords because they will leave the market and there will be less tenancies for renters. He said there is no money in the rental business if you are starting now.
Richard Bruton hits out at 'attack dog' Dail debates
Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Richard Bruton has hit out at the “hysterical” and “attack dog” Dáil debates which he says are being instigated by Opposition TDs.
The former minister insisted the Government was correct to give more Dáil speaking time to coalition TDs who struggled to secure debating slots during the last administration.“There is a relentless attack on people in government over a long period and the currency has got more and more hysterical,”
Mr Bruton told Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast.“It's more attack dog than teasing out and asking should we be doing things in a different way.“That relentless diatribe in the Dáil isn't good for the sort of politics I believe in which is evidence based policy making and exchanging genuine views,” he added.
Mr Bruton’s comments followed a fiery Dáil debate over speaking time during which Tánaiste Leo Varadkar accused the Opposition of bullying and said he was embarrassed to be a member of the parliament.
Mr Bruton said the change in the speaking schedule will mean backbench government TDs will have more opportunities to speak on legislation which was not afforded to them in the last Dáil.“It still leaves the opposition with the vast majority of the time, it doesn't restrict the amount of time the different parties get but it gives a chance for 69 of us (government backbenchers), and I am one them, to speak about the controversial issues of the day,” he said.
Separately, Mr Bruton, who just completed a review of the Fine Gael’s 2020 General Election campaign, said the party’s “core weakness” is their failure to connect with sections of the public while in government.
He said he will be holding minister’s “feet to the fire” to ensure they introduce genuine changes which will show how effective Fine Gael can be in government.“As a party I don't think we have been effective at either promoting what we've done or in connecting with people to show them what we are doing is solving problems that people experience,” he said.“I will be expecting metrics from our ministers and from the organisation so we can genuinely look and see if we are changing or are we still remaining the same.“Unless there is that prodding, someone holding people's feet to the fire as they say….that has to be a part of the change and I will be determined that toes will be held to the fire,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Burton said the reaction to his topless appearance in a Fine Gael promotional video for North Dublin tourism was “mortifying”.“I didn't dream that it would go viral. Some very funny follow up tweets were put up which are mortifying. I was delighted with the recess last night and delighted to wear a mask so I could slink around the corridors of the convention centre and not be noticed,” he said. The former education minister said he did not feel objectified by the commentary about his toned physique.“It's not something I'm used to that sort of attention. It was all a bit of fun. I wouldn't take it seriously and it doesn’t upset me in anyway. The family think it's fantastic,” he said.
Micheal Martin ‘defined by his hatred’ of Sinn Féin, a TD claims.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has become defined by his “hatred” of Sinn Féin, a senior member of the party has claimed.
Cavan/Monaghan TD Matt Carthy said Mr Martin has a “fixation” with Sinn Féin and voters do not know what else he stands for.
Speaking to Independent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast, Mr Carthy said: “His own personal views of our party have become him in many respects.” “If you were to ask ordinary people on the street what does Micheál Martin stand for my guess is that, apart from his hatred of Sinn Féin, people would find it very hard to come up with a second thing,” he added.
Mr Carthy said he and other Sinn Féin TDs have had conversations with Fianna Fáil members about government formation but not on a formal basis.“I have conversations with people I'm sure other Sinn Féin representatives with people but not on the basis of proper discussion around government because the Fianna Fáil party collectively have made a decision that they won't engage with Sinn Féin in relation to government,” he said.“You are right to say that lots of members of that party disagree with that strategy and particularly at a grassroots level I know that it has created a lot of disconcern among their own membership but at the end of the day that's a call their own leadership need to take,” he added.
Green TD says Scouting Ireland can recover from child sex abuse controversy.
Green Party TD Patrick Costello joined the Floating Voter to discuss the Government’s shambolic attempt to provide childcare services for frontline workers.
Mr Costello, who is a scout leader, also discussed the damning report into child sex abuse allegations in Scouting Ireland.
The Dublin Central TD said he believes the scouting organisation will bounce back from the controversy.
He also insisted the Department of Children and Youth Affairs should be retained by the next government.
Minister says nursing homes should allow families visit residents
Minister for Older People Jim Daly has called on nursing homes to find ways to allow family members visit relatives during the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Daly, who is still the acting minister despite retiring from politics, said nursing homes should introduce perspex screens to allow people visit loved ones who are in their care.
Speaking on Indpendent.ie’s Floating Voter podcast, the former Cork West TD said: “I think on a human level it is very, very, very difficult for the residents of nursing homes not to have met with loved ones and not to have had visits from loved ones.”
“It is something I would like to see improved is the access of people from the outside into nursing homes to see their loved ones again, you know with a perspex screen. There are ways and means of doing everything,” he added.
Mr Daly said he agreed with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan’s initial decision not to ban visits to residential care settings despite private nursing homes restricting visitors.
“You have to get the balance right and I would have been on the side of Tony Holohan I have to be honest,” he said.
The minister said the “next frontier” in the Covid-19 crisis may be the plight of the 20,000 vulnerable people who are being cared for in the community.
He said there have been 56 confirmed coronavirus cases among this group and 40 of those have been admitted to hospital. “It is important we are watching that and continuing to protect vulnerable people who are still in the communities,” he said.
Mr Daly said he has purposely avoided doing media during the pandemic following an agreement with Health Minister Simon Harris.
“Minister Harris and I have discussed this at length and it has been suggested that the media be maintained to himself on communications in relation to the Covid specific issues and for what it's worth I agree with him,” he said.
“You cannot have a situation where you have parallel communications happening and maybe disjointed communications. The fact I haven't been on media doesn't mean I haven't been involved in the day to day operations of the department,” he added.