Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The First Photo of a Planet Outside Our Solar System

Sometimes it's good to be distracted from politics. Especially the gombeen politics we are forced to suffer daily here in Ireland.

Consider the above picture. It isn't our Sun. This other sun is 470 light-years away from Earth. Its name is 1RXS J160929.1-210524, and the orange sphere near it has been confirmed today as an orbiting planet. The first photo of an extra-solar planet.

The photo was originally taken in 2008 by David Lafreniere and collaborators working at the Gemini Observatory. Scientists weren't sure about it being an orbiting planet until now, however. New observations have shown that the planet follows an orbit around the star 300 times larger than Earth's orbit.

The planet has eight times the mass of Jupiter, and has a much higher temperature: 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to the minus 166 degrees of the biggest planet in our solar system. Scientists believe this temperature is a product of the age of this star system, much younger than ours.

Far from throwing any light in planetary theories, this discovery challenges the current model. Lafreniere and his colleagues think the orbit is too large for the planet to form by core accretion. If that was the case, then the star system could be much older than is actual age.

Stag Hunting banned

This blog has been very critical of the Green Party in Government. However, credit where credit is due. Stag hunting is now illegal in Ireland. The Bill to ban Stag hunting was passed last night by 75 votes to 72 in an electronic vote, and then by 75 to 71 in a walk-through vote.

Well done John Gormley and the Green Party.

Monday, June 28, 2010

DAA chief defends €51,000 bonus despite €13m loss

The chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority received a bonus of €51,000 last year, even though the DAA recorded losses of €13m link. Declan Collier, who was appearing before the Oireachtas Transport Committee on 23rd June 2010, has confirmed he was paid a total of €568,000 in 2009 from the State.

The DAA's chief financial officer, Ray Gray, revealed that he too was given a bonus on top of his wages, but he is refusing to say how much he received.

Declan Collier was also unwilling to outline exactly what his €51,000 bonus was awarded to him for. “I was paid a performance-related bonus in 2009 for performance against objectives which were set by the remuneration committee and the board of the company” he said.

What were those objectives?” the Senator asked.

Well there were a range of objectives” Collier replied.

“Tell us what they are” the Senator said.

No Senator, I can’t…because that’s a matter for the remuneration committee and the board” Collier answered.

It’s a matter for the public to know – you’re a servant of the public” the Senator responded link.

So, this government are very happy to pay huge bonuses to board members of Semi-State companies and other quangos, but allow the closure of a respite house run by the Brothers of Charity in Limerick city which provided sixty three families of people with intellectual disabilities with a break for their loved ones and themselves.

And the Green Party are happy to stand watching. This government are a disgrace, and the Green Party are a disgrace for allowing this to happen.

Outrage over closure of Limerick respite home

The Bawnmore Respite House in Caherdavin, Limerick will be forced to close because of HSE cutbacks. Sixty three families of people with intellectual disabilities relied on the service for a break for their loved ones and themselves link.

Earlier today around 100 people protested outside Kings Island Community centre in Limerick during a visit by Taoiseach Brian Cowen. The group of parents and people with intellectual disabilities are protesting over cut-backs in respite services in Limerick link. The cuts mean parents caring for family members with an intellectual disability have had their respite services withdrawn because the Brothers of Charity have been forced, through HSE cutbacks, to make over €1m in savings.

This is a total disgrace and cannot be tolerated. The centre must reopen, and as soon as possible. How can any politician support this?

2001 - Green Party Councillor Eamon Ryan introduces himself to the voters of Dublin South

Flat-rate water charges proposed for next Budget

Todays Irish Independent is reporting that flat-rate water charges could be introduced in the next budget despite previous promises to bring in metering first. A water charge of €175 per home per year has previously been mooted by the Department of Finance.

The charges would be hugely controversial and fiercely opposed by the Green Party. In the absence of meters, the charge would not be considered an 'environmental tax' aimed at encouraging conservation of water. Environment Minister John Gormley has pledged that flat-rate water charges are not coming in and metering would have to come in first. Mr Gormley is due to come to Cabinet in the coming weeks with a plan to start installing water meters across the country. Pressure will mount at that point on the Green Party leader to provide a cast-iron guarantee that flat-rate charges won't come in first.

The Government is to spend €300m over the next three years replacing water mains. The Department of Finance has long argued for the introduction of a fixed water charge of about €175 a year per household -- about 50pc of the cost of providing water to the average household. Bringing in water charges for every house, after meters are installed, is government policy -- at the Greens' behest last year -- as a way to reduce the waste and fund local government. However, it will take up to a decade to put in water meters nationwide, so the Department of Finance has proposed the interim €175. Installing meters in 1.2 million households would cost between €250m and €300m over five to 10 years, according to briefing papers prepared by the Department of Finance.

"A flat rate of domestic water charges, which could be replaced by metering over time as they are installed, is an option. A scheme could be introduced on the basis of an initial flat rate until metering could commence at a rate of 50pc of the average usage (€175 per household per annum)," the department said.

What this country needs most - a debate on cycling!

Ireland is in a mess.

We have a huge budget deficit. We have a crisis in our healthcare system with more cuts being announced almost daily. Education is in turmoil. The political system is in dire need of reform. Unemployment is shockingly high. Emigration is once again on the increase. Gombeenism is still alive and flourishing under its Green/FF protagonists.

So what does Green Senator Niall O'Bhrolchain think we most need at this time? What is his big idea for fixing the economy and the country? What brilliant ideas does he think we most need to get people out of despair, debt and hopelessness? What does he think will get people back to work?

A debate on cycling.

Yes. You read that correctly. A debate on cycling!

John Drennan from the Irish Independent gives his opinion on the good Senator O'Bhrolchain's brilliant idea ... "... in a country being devoured by a sinister class of robber banks, when the Senators finally turned up for work on Tuesday afternoon only one issue was troubling the Green Senator Niall O Bhrolchain, who possesses a mind so fine it is sometimes a struggle to find it. That was certainly the case on Tuesday as Niall decided the most urgent issue the country needed to deal with was "a debate on cycling"."

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Senator O'Bhrolchain is as detached as the rest of the Greens in Govt. His party have just given support to a €4m cut to the budget of the Ard Cuan centre (a respite centre for people with Down Syndrome and intellectual disabilities) who have been told the services face massive reductions. I wonder will the parents of the children with Down Syndrome and intellectual disabilities who are directly effected by these cuts appreciate your debate on cycling Senator O'Bhrolchain?

RedC poll 27th June 2010 shows Green Party support at 2%

I never take much notice of polls. They are useful as a snapshot in time, and provide evidence of trends and the way people are currently thinking, but other than that give no more than light relief.

However this poll taken for the Sunday Business Post on 27th June 2010 by RedC Research is worth highlighting.

It shows support for the Green Party at 2% (down 3%). In other words, the Green Party are now statistically insignificant. If this were to be reflected in the next general election the Green's would get no seats.

Frank Gallagher

Many of you may never have heard of Frank Gallagher.

Frank attended the An Fís Nua meeting over the weekend. He is famous in Green circles because he got involved with the German Green Party way back in the 1980's simply because he was working as a carpenter in Germany and was asked to build a roof for a building in a protest camp against the expansion of Frankfurt runaway. Derek Wall has just blogged that Frank told him over a pint last weekend that every local bar he went into took a poster for the protest except one ... that was the run by another Irish man, a certain John Gormley.

Fury as HSE swings axe on care for disabled children

This is the kind of thing that makes my blood boil.

Hundreds of the country's most severely intellectually disabled children are to have their respite care axed within the next two weeks because of Health Service Executive (HSE) cutbacks link. Such children require constant care, in many cases intensive one-on-one supervision, and the withdrawal of services has been met with shock and anger by already hard-pressed parents.

It has emerged that the parents of over 80 children attending the Ard Cuan centre in Dublin 7 -- a respite centre for people with Down Syndrome and intellectual disabilities -- have been told the services face massive reductions because of a €4m cut imposed by the HSE.

This is truly shocking. And totslly sickening. Another example of the poor, the disadvantaged, and the sick being hit the hardest. The people making these decisions should be ashamed of themselves, and the Green Party in Government should also be deeply ashamed that they are supporting this.

And what makes this ever worse is the hypocrisy shown by Eamon Ryan. On the one hand he supports these cuts to the country's most severely intellectually disabled children, and on the other hand he says it's "unacceptable" that a promised cystic fibrosis unit at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin has yet to be delivered link.

I'm reluctant to call this as a new low for the Green Party. Every time I do that they go lower. However, this one will be hard to beat.

The Green Party refused to fund Richard Tol of the ESRI for IPCC- Ireland without representative

There is a very heated thread over on about the Green Party's refusal to fund Richard Tol of the ESRI for IPCC, thus leaving Ireland without any representation link. Professor Tol himself contributes to the thread. The thread is worth reading just to see the contributions of the Green Party supporters. Also definitely worth reading just to make up your own mind about this.

The following is from Cyberianpan ... "Richard Tol is one of the world's foremost environmental academics, having been convening, lead and chapter author for the IPCC previously. His IDEAs ranking shows him as #162 amongst all economists in the world. Tol has lived and worked in Ireland since 2006, his wife & child reside here.

He was invited to be part of the next IPCC report, but a government needs to sponsor and pay for such. Minister John Gormley sponsored him, but refuses to pay. Prof Tol has indicated on this thread that this means he can't take part.

Minister Gormley has had run ins with Richard Tol, and prominent Green Party supporters complain that what Prof Tol publishes is not green enough for them. Thus Prof Tol is to be denied his say, and Ireland is turning the issue into a petty political football.

This is damaging to our reputation in academia - but most of all it is morally damaging. Prof Tol has criticized the workings of the IPCC before, yet they still want him back... John Gormley doesn't.

An Fís Nua

The Irish Times today has a report about An Fís Nua, the new movement/party I've previously blogged about.

From the article ... "A new political grouping concerned with green and social justice issues adopted a constitution at a meeting in Dublin at the weekend. An Fís Nua or A New Vision, is to register as a political party within weeks and will campaign for seats in the next general and local elections.

Backed largely by former members of the Green Party, the new grouping said it will be concerned with issues like transparency in politics, use of the State’s natural resources, environmental issues and care for the less well off.

The two-day meeting in Parnell Square was attended by former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna and ex-Green Party councillor Pat Kavanagh of Wicklow town as well as members of the Donegal Greens which recently disaffiliated en masse from the Green Party

Derek Wall was in attendance at this meeting. He blogs about An Fís Nua here and here. thread about this here.

I'll be blogging a lot more about this in the coming days and weeks. Watch this space ...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charlie Williams (Donegal Green Party) speaks out

From left, Seamus Noone, Carndonagh, Charlie Williams, Carndonagh, Frank Gallagher, Letterkenny and Michael Galligan, Donegal Town, who are members of the Donegal Greens Policy Council.

Below is a comment left on this blog by Charlie Williams of the Donegal Green Party. As some of you may know the Donegal Green Party, disassociated themselves from the main Green Party on 1 November 2009 with a 94% majority of their voting members.

And yes Charlie, I'd like to hear other questions you have for John Gormley. This blog is widely read by Green Party members (including some of the PP I hear!) ... I'll give anything you say it's own post.

Charlie's words follow ...
How do the government want to achieve their target of 75% household waste recycled until 2013 when there is NO national plan or strategy for recycling at all and there is NO existing recycling industry in the country? Massively faking the statistics? ....

Where is the support for the Shell To Sea campaign (=> gone? The "Rossport Five" once got standing ovations from the "Green Party" members and their whole leadership on one of their conventions. ...

Why did Eamon Ryan stop (after obviously again briefed by multinational oil companies) a nationwide canola programme which he first introduced based on a European Greens' concept? Instead of being produced decentralised by local farmers, rapeseed oil is now coming from countries where rainforest is cut down to plant the canola.=> ....

I would have more questions if required. The "Green Party" leadership just ignore them and do NOT answer a single one of them.

The Donegal Greens ( took their consequence and disassociated themselves from the "Green Party" on 1 November 2009 with a 94% majority of their voting members. John Gormley who never had shown any support for the Donegal Greens massively posted to our members that this vote would have been invalid. Colm Ó Caomhánaigh prompted us to shut down our website. Since my open letter to John Gormley ( we haven't heard from them anymore.

John Gormley and Eamon Ryan have been constantly ignoring my letters sent to them.

The members and leadership of the "Green Party" ignore any question posed to them in their private discussion forum on

Their former openness has lost against cronyism.

In my view the leadership AND the membership of the "Green Party" have betrayed their own constitution!

Thank you for this thread here.

Charlie Williams.


Well said Charlie. I admire the stances you have taken. We need more people like you. Keep up the good work.

Rezoned Meath land ends up in the twilight zone

"A public, internationally heralded policy of preserving and protecting one of the most important historical monuments in the country clashed with the interests of a local developer and the local developer won hands down." Trim Castle Hotel opened in July 2006.

These are the words of Fintan O'Toole. They typify exactly what Ireland was, and still is.

This comes from the Irish Times article "Rezoned Meath land ends up in the twilight zone". Depressing, but essential, reading.

The Green Party about to engage in yet another capitulation to Fianna Fail ...

Excellent article from Vincent Brown in the Irish Times 23rd June 2010. The article says that the Green Party are just about to engage in yet another capitulation over the terms of reference of the commission to inquire into the economic and banking crisis.

They have already given in on the inquiry being in public. They are about to give in on the extent to which the inquiry will examine Brian Cowen’s role in both the banking and the economic collapse and there will be all sorts of palaver deployed to disguise that. Stuff about there being no necessity for finger-pointing (translated this means: forget about accountability), that the two reports by Patrick Honohan and the economists Klaus Regling and Max Watson tell us almost everything we need to know (translation: all we can now bear to know and remain in government); that we need to look forward now (let Brian off the hook, for God’s sake).

But we sure as hell need to know what went on and why, principally the extent to which our prime minister was responsible for the most wanton damage done to this country since the Famine.

The full article is wort reading here.

Gormley to drop veto on one-off houses

From the Irish Independent ... John Gormley is to scrap the ban on one-off houses along the nation's secondary roads.

Minister Gormley is proposing to give councils powers to allow one-off developments on main secondary roads under new planning guidelines. The move is certain to be welcomed by Fianna Fail councillors and deputies who have vehemently opposed the ban.

The NRA routinely objects to one-off houses along main roads because of the dangers involved in cars moving on to and off the roads interacting with fast-moving trucks and cars. However, the new guidelines will give the green light to housing and other developments along secondary roads.

This is very strange. Trevor Sargent was on Pat Kenny's show on RTE radio this morning arguing that the proposed Animal Welfare Bill was primarily about road safety. And now John Gormley goes directly against the opinions of the NRA??? Why is this ban being scrapped Minister Gormley? Are the Green Party now in favour or one-off housing? Or is this just pandering to the wishes of Fianna Fail?

Election of Dublin Mayor "set for October" 2010

The Irish Independent are reporting that the John Gormley is insisting the first direct election for a Dublin mayor will go ahead in October 2010.

Legislation establishing the position will not now be passed until September 2010 at the earliest but the Environment Minister maintains an election will be held just weeks later. A spokesman for Mr Gormley said the legislation will be published before the Dail rises for the summer recess early next month. "It can be done, it will be done and that (an October election) is the intention," he said.

Does this mean the by-elections will have to be held in October 2010 as well?

Not if Fianna Fail get their way. According to Government Chief Whip John Curran is is inappropriate for the Dublin South by-election to go ahead now because the Dáil "is in the middle of an extremely busy legislative programme". Aengus Ó Snodaigh (SF, Dublin South Central) asked why Minister for Communications and Dublin South Green Party TD Eamon Ryan was not in the House for the debate. "In the past the Green Party position was to hold byelections within a very short period of time". source.

Something will have to give here. It is clear that the Govt want to avoid these by-elections at all costs. But the Green Party are determined to have the Dublin Mayoral election this year. I think it would be impossible to hold one without the other. However, I wouldn't put doing exactly that past this rotten, incompetent and corrupt Government.

Gormley could have stopped Poolbeg Incinerator in 2007 ... but didn't

My thanks to Baron von Biffo over on for this one. The good Baron is challenging Green lies and SPiN on this thread that John Gormley was powerless to stop the Poolbeg incinerator. Looks like Gormley wasn't so powerless after all. Gormley was appointed as Minister for the Environment in June 2007 and the contract (for the Poolbeg incinerator) wasn't signed till September 2007. He had three months to stop it going ahead but he did nothing. Source for this.

New exploration licensing round announced

Our so-called 'Green' Minister Eamon Ryan didn't announce this himself, he had Fianna Fail Junior Minister Conor Lenihan do it. Well, he could hardly, could he, when fossil fuel exploration and extraction is contradictory to Green Party principles?

Minister of State for Natural Resources Conor Lenihan announced on 16th June 2010 details of a new licensing round for exploration opportunities in Irish waters.

The 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round is an invitation for oil and gas exploration companies to apply for new authorisations in Ireland’s Atlantic Margin, and is designed to boost the level of exploration activity off the Irish coast.

This round will be the largest licensing round to date, covering an area of just over a quarter of a million square kilometres. The area on offer extends from about 30-380 km from shore with water depths typically ranging from 200m or less to over 3,000m.

It opens up Ireland’s entire Atlantic – the Atlantic Margin - seabed for exploration (apart from existing licensed areas) rather than specific basins (or blocks) as had been the case with previous licensing rounds.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Dan Boyle - by-elections should be held by the autumn or at a minimum in spring

From John Drennan in the Sunday Independent 20th June, 2010.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's plans to see out the Government's full-term could be thwarted by his Green coalition colleagues. Close political allies of the Taoiseach have constantly stressed it is Mr Cowen's intention to "carry on until the last minute of the last hour of his mandate". This position is informed by the belief that time and the prospect of an economic revival is the only thing that can save Fianna Fail from an electoral humiliation.

However, comments by the high-profile Green Party chairman and senator, Dan Boyle, suggest the Greens will thwart this key strategic imperative. In a pointed snub to the Taoiseach, Mr Boyle told the Sunday Independent that when it comes to the next general election "there has to be an acceptance we are in a run-in period". "We have been in power for three years on Sunday, the average Irish administration lasts three and a half years and in the UK and America they have elections every four years. It is very important we have a budget this year for international confidence measures."

But after this, he said, there were no guarantees. "We will have shown our commitment to stable Government''.

Significantly, Mr Boyle also noted that the Greens believed the three pending by-elections should be held by the autumn or at a minimum in spring. Should Fianna Fail be defeated in these by-elections, political observers believe the Government's majority would, by that point, become so tenuous it would be impossible for them to carry on.

Mr Boyle's carefully worded comments are part of what appears to be a subtle Green Party-distancing act from their coalition partners. Although the party continues to be supportive of FF in public the private relationship between the parties was captured by the comment by one senior Green that "we know it's harsh but there's only so many bullets the Greens can take for FF before we move on".

The Greens' increasing independence is epitomised by the party's anxiety to ensure that Mr Cowen will be questioned by the Dail Finance Committee over his role in the banking crisis. It was initially believed the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry meant the Taoiseach would not face any public questioning over this deeply politically embarrassing affair. But top-level figures within the Green Party told the Sunday Independent it was their "expectation" that Mr Cowen would be questioned by the Dail Finance Committee which is investigating the cause of the banking crisis. The Greens' position is that the committee's investigations into the origins of the fiscal crisis "can and should bring in the main individuals". Responding to queries as to whether this should include the Taoiseach they said: "We are very anxious everybody who should be included will be included." However, the last thing the seriously embattled Taoiseach will want is further high-profile cross-examination of his role as Finance Minister during the evolution of the fiscal crisis. But Mr Boyle, in an indication of ongoing levels of mistrust between the parties, said of the Finance Committee's investigation that "if FF were on their own they'd revert to their natural inclination to kick to touch on such issues." The Green Party senator was clear that it was his expectation that Mr Cowen would be interviewed by the committee over the summer and that any attempt to evade this would not be well received.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A few quotes from the banking reports

Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan said;

"Budgetary policies contributed significantly to the economic overheating, relying to a clearly unsustainable extent on the construction sector and other transient sources for Govt revenue. This helped create a climate of public opinion which was led to believe that the party could last forever."

"The failures of the central bank may have contributed to the crisis but were not fundamental. Nor was the failure of Lehman Brothers decisive."

"It is clear that a major failure in terms of bank regulation and the maintenance of financial stability occurred."

"The major responsibility lies with the directors and senior management of the banks that got into trouble."

"Over-reliance on cheap external borrowing greatly increased banks vulnerability to changing market sentiment and ultimately triggered their downfall."

"Anglo Irish Bank and Irish nationwide were well on the road to insolvency."

"Auditors and accountants should have been more alert to weaknesses in the banks lending and financial position."

Klaus Regling and Max Watson said;

"Irelands banking crisis bears the clear imprint of global influences, yet it was in crucial ways "home made"."

"Fiscal policy heightened the vulnerability of the economy."

"Bank governance and risk management were weak."

"Official policies and bank governance failings seriously exacerbated Irelands credit and property boom, and depleted its fiscal and banking buffers when the crisis stuck."

"Tax concessions [tax breaks to developers] seem to have been granted on an ad-hoc basis in a not fully transparent way."

A significant shift in the structure tax revenue made the Budget more vulnerable."

Gormley equates no confidence motion with vote for election

From todays Irish Times ...

"Green Party leader John Gormley said that Fine Gael’s motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach was akin to asking the Dáil to vote for a general election.

“The question I must ask the Fine Gael party is: why should we want to do that?” he added.

Mr Gormley said the Opposition parties had described his progressive planning legislation as “Stalinist’’ and would like to undo it. They also wanted to repeal his animal welfare legislation.

He accused the Opposition parties of failing to be interested “in protecting 32 raised bogs or in habitats”.

They were opposed to a landscape conservation area, and he had heard mutterings about civil partnership.

“Sometimes I believe the Fine Gael party, in particular some of its newer members, is much more comfortable with the politics of Mrs Sarah Palin than those of President Barack Obama,” he added.

Mr Gormley said he wanted to continue with the Government’s reform agenda.

“We have managed to reform the expenses regime, a long overdue measure, cap the number of junior ministers and reduce the number of civil servants working in Ministers’ offices,” he added.

The Government, he said, wanted to go further by banning corporate donations and having a register of lobbyists.

It had made two very good appointments in Prof Patrick Honohan as governor of the Central Bank and Matthew Elderfield as Financial Regulator


Well done Minister Gormley ...

Taoiseach Brian Cowen last night won his fight to stay on as leader of the country by winning a vote of confidence by 82 votes to 77.

Green leader John Gormley was one of a roll call of senior ministers who pledged support for Mr Cowen.

Well done Ministrer Gormley. You are pledging rock solid support to the person who is directly responsible for driving Ireland and the Irish economy into a brick wall (as confirmed by the 2 recent banking reports). You are supporting the man and the Government who has presides over 100,000's of people ,losing their jobs and livelihoods. You are standing solidly behind the man who has cut education and health budgets for the poorest in out society, taken money from carers, widows and the blind and maintained the income of higher paid civil servants.

And finally and most damming Minister Gormley, you have pledged support for the most inept, incompetent, dishonest and hated Taoiseach and Government in the history of this State.

Well done.

People will never forget what you and your Gombeen Green Party did yesterday.

'Inhumane' conditions in psychiatric hospitals

Both RTE and the Irish Independent are reporting that the Mental Health Commission has ordered three psychiatric hospitals not to admit any new patients from next February.

Read the report

The Commission, which is responsible for the registration of approved psychiatric hospitals and in-patient facilities, has reported poor conditions in a significant number of centres in its annual report.

The Mental Health Commission's annual report and the reports of its Inspectorate for 2009, detail what it calls 'entirely unacceptable and inhumane conditions' in a number of locations.

The Commission has now instructed three hospitals, St Senan's Hospital in Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, St Brendan's Hospital on Rathdown Road in Dublin, and St Ita's Hospital in Portrane in Co Dublin, to stop admitting new patients after next February.

Two units at St Ita's are required to permanently close by 30 November and one unit must be refurbished in that time.

Government policy on mental health services is to move from a model of institutional care to care in the community.

However, the Commission says this is not being implemented and that services are not being developed quickly enough.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the Government will meet the deadline set by MHC to provide alternative facilities for patients at the three hospitals.

Speaking in Dublin, Minister Harney said a new facility at Blanchardstown Hospital, which will cater for acute patients from St Brendan's, has been constructed and will be staffed in the coming weeks.

She also said the new facility at Beaumont Hospital is going to be constructed and will be in place for acute patients from St Ita's in the early part of next year.

Minister Harney said more mental health patients are moving into community-based facilities and there have been some industrial relations issues surrounding that that still need to be addressed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Harney moves to close St Luke's Cancer Hospital

Reported by indymedia on June 13, 2010 - The only HSE success story and Harney determined to close it by the end of this Dail session.

Campaigners for St Luke's Cancer Hospital in Rathgar thought that the decision not to make it the southside Centre of Excellence in 2005 which meant closure and a move to St James Hospital had been indefinitely suspended due to the local and national opposition.

But no, Minister Harney who always knows best, has a Bill before the Dail at the moment with the innocent title Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 which will dissolve the board of St Luke's and transfer the valuable 18 acre site and the other assets to the dysfunctional HSE who might well sell the land at a bargain price to balance their books.

Anyone who cares about this great hospital needs to get onto TDs immediately especially John Gormley and Chris Andrews.

With the world cup, and thoughts of summer holidays, the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 currently going through the Dail isn’t attracting much attention.

But people should pay attention, according to cancer survivor Joe Guilfoyle, because the Bill will close St Luke's Cancer Hospital, Rathgar and move services to the 'centre of excellence' at St James' Hospital. And the valuable 18 acre site on which St Luke’s stands and all other assets and equipment will be transferred to the dysfunctional HSE.

St Luke’s is one of the few success stories of our public health system. It’s a hospital that patients like me are happy to travel to. It’s unacceptable that the Minister is attempting to close St Luke’s at the end of a Dail session with this innocent sounding bill”.

Guilfoyle says the decision to close St Luke’s was flawed.

There was no patient input, and since then, the projected numbers of new cancer cases by 2020 has risen by 50% from 28,000 to 42,000. A panel of six ‘experts’ advised the Minister on which hospitals should be the ‘cancer centres of excellence.

“If you chose the right experts you get the recommendation you want. I know from information received under FOI that these ‘experts’ gave St Luke’s poor marks under the category ‘existing service.’ As a St Luke’s patient this is inexplicable.

The Campaign to Save St Luke’s, of which Guilfoyle is Chair, had assumed the Minister’s decision to close St Luke’s in 2005 had been put on the long finger, and in effect dropped, following opposition both locally and nationally.

Since the decision to close St Luke’s, millions have been spent on the latest equipment and improving facilities at St Luke's - paid for by the taxpayer and fundraising by the Friends of St Lukes.

It makes no sense to close it on financial grounds alone,” says Joe. “Our Campaign is calling for people to lobby their TDs immediately to save this national asset.”

St Luke’s is in Minister John Gormley’s Dublin South East constituency. Residents are already angry about his apparent inability to prevent a large incinerator in Ringsend. He faces an awkward choice between supporting his cabinet colleague Ms Harney and the certain loss of his seat at the next election.

The Bill had its second stage debate in the Dail on June 3rd and Minister Harney intends to have it on the statute book by the end of the current Dail session, which provisionally ends on July 8th.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Emerald Forum Meeting - Saturday, June 26, 2010

I am very happy to give a plug to the next Emerald Forum Meeting which will happen on Saturday, June 26, 2010. Cllr Pat Kavanagh (Independent Green) is the driving force behind this new initative, and I greatly admire and support all she is doing. Pat is genuinely one of the good guys, and she is striving for change ... real change ... in Irish politics.

Details of the meeting are as follows;
Emerald Forum Meeting
Saturday, June 26, 2010
12:00pm - 6.00pm
Teacher's Club, Parnell Square, Dublin

Pat has said that since the last meeting, the forum have been putting together proposals for a Manifesto and a Constitution. You are invited to do the same and to either email them in advance to or to come along on the day to amend and/or vote for our collective proposals.

Emerald Green are very pleased to welcome Derek Wall, Green Left and last Primary Speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales to our meeting. Derek's support and experience will encourage the endeavours of the Forum at this most difficult time in Ireland's political history.

More than ever, our country needs people who will put the wishes of the people ahead of their own vested interests. Are you ready to be a part of this movement? If so, then you know what to do!

I encourage everyone to attend if possible. This is an exciting initative, and one that has the potential to effect real change away from the tweedledum and tweedledumber politics we have had to suffer in this country for the last generation or more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dan Boyle's email dissected ...

Brilliant analysis and dissection of Dan Boyle's earlier email over on from Capt. Con O'Sullivan.

Dan;s original email in bold, Capt Con O'Sullivans comment in italics.

Green Party came into office to achieve a number of key goals. Many of these come to fruition in the coming weeks. Now is NOT the time to quit.
None of the Green Party 'key goals' are in the Dail schedule for the next session. They were dropped from the legislative diary.

Important items include a new planning bill cracking down on re-zoning; animal welfare legislation; moves to reform local
government led by election of a new Dublin mayor; civil partnership.

These bills were dropped from the legislative schedule.

Green Party came to government in June 2007 – long after the key policy mistakes and bank regulation failures. We are not part of making this mess – but we will not shrink from being part of the

Just in time for the Anglo bailout to be whistled through. And were there when Cowen and Lenihan started trying to cover up the corruption at Anglo.

The two hard-hitting reports on banking – which led to next Tuesday’s no confidence motion – have strongly supported the Government corrective action of the past two years. The Green Party in government played its part in framing that strategy.
What 'framed strategy'? The piece about the banks strongly supporting the government correctice action is a blatant misdirection on the subject of the bank reports. Nor do they express strong support for the government. In fact the reverse is true-both reports contain damning indictments of government policy. Interesting that the words 'that strategy' should be used. What 'strategy' is this person referring to? Blatant lies strategy?

The Green Party worked hard with our government partners on these corrective measures which include gradual but radical change to bank boards and management; appointment of outsiders as Financial Regulator and Central Bank

Are they claiming Ireland is going to make a profit from the bank bailouts? Even FF knackers have given up on that line.

Green Party has come in government has taken the tough economic decisions to fix a broken economy. We have paid a price in popularity at local elections. But we will continue to do what is necessary and continue to tell the truth.
This statement alone carries blistering lies, never mind green policy.

Green Party leader, John Gormley, was first minister to call for this banking inquiry in December 2009. Opposition and critics claimed process would be ‘a whitewash.’ Nobody is saying that now.
Again in this same statement the greens have claimed the banking reports vindicated government policy. That is a blatant lie.

They are tough reports which will inform a tough and truthful inquiry process.
Considering the reports were deliberately misinterpreted by Cowen and Gormley as 'supportive' the chances of a truthful and tough process are slim

It will happen in good time and be as open as possible.
"Private, not secret"?

But upcoming inquiries cannot be totally public because that would amount to the Tribunal, decades long, horrifically expensive, and woefully inefficient.
Look forward to seeing the green party's statements on the findings of the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals.

Fine Gael and Labour are using their right to play politics here. They did nothing to warn against Celtic Tiger excesses. They fought the 2007 general elections by matching FF’s extravagant promises. Now they play the ‘I-Told-You-So’ card.
Better than being in government and doing nothing about it John. Its a bit like the little boy in the apple tree condemning orchard-robbing isn't it?

If we were to vote no confidence, and effectively quit on Tuesday, Fine Gael and Labour would move into government and implement the same hard-hitting economic policies.
Rather presumptuous of the greens to tell us the result of a general election we haven't had yet and which they continue to deny the country, along with no representation in the Dail for three constituencies and no commitment to move the writ? The greens are in no position to accuse anyone of playing politics. If thats their concern why haven't they forced FF to move the writs for the outstanding by-elections?

They would carry on with the same strategy to get the banks back on track.
'Back on track'. Pump-priming the economy, passing dodgy loans for mates and appointing cheap little FF crooks as CEOs?

They are trying to imply that a change of government offers a ‘quick fix’ for Ireland’s serious economic problems. That is not true. We are not here to play that game.
No. The greens would rather play doctors and nurses with Fianna Fail. Guess which one gets to be the nurse?

That statement from the greens is complete junk. Deliberately inaccurate and making wild claims that simply do not stack up.

Dan Boyle email (June 11th 2010) on the upcoming confidence motion on Brian Cowen

The following email was sent by Dan Boyle to a poster in reply to a query as to whether or not the Green Party would be supporting the confidence motion in Brian Cowen next Tuesday.

Dear xxx

Green Party came into office to achieve a number of key goals. Many
of these come to fruition in the coming weeks. Now is NOT the time to

Important items include a new planning bill cracking down on
re-zoning; animal welfare legislation; moves to reform local
government led by election of a new Dublin mayor; civil partnership.

Green Party came to government in June 2007 – long after the key
policy mistakes and bank regulation failures. We are not part of
making this mess – but we will not shrink from being part of the

The two hard-hitting reports on banking – which led to next Tuesday’s
no confidence motion – have strongly supported the Government
corrective action of the past two years. The Green Party in
government played its part in framing that strategy.

The Green Party worked hard with our government partners on these
corrective measures which include gradual but radical change to bank
boards and management; a social dividend in bank rescue plans;
appointment of outsiders as Financial Regulator and Central Bank

Green Party has come in government has taken the tough economic
decisions to fix a broken economy. We have paid a price in popularity
at local elections. But we will continue to do what is necessary and
continue to tell the truth.

Green Party leader, John Gormley, was first minister to call for this
banking inquiry in December 2009. Opposition and critics claimed
process would be ‘a whitewash.’ Nobody is saying that now. They are
tough reports which will inform a tough and truthful inquiry process.
It will happen in good time and be as open as possible. But upcoming
inquiries cannot be totally public because that would amount to the
Tribunal, decades long, horrifically expensive, and woefully

Fine Gael and Labour are using their right to play politics here.
They did nothing to warn against Celtic Tiger excesses. They fought
the 2007 general elections by matching FF’s extravagant promises. Now
they play the ‘I-Told-You-So’ card.

If we were to vote no confidence, and effectively quit on Tuesday,
Fine Gael and Labour would move into government and implement the
same hard-hitting economic policies. They would carry on with the
same strategy to get the banks back on track. They are trying to
imply that a change of government offers a ‘quick fix’ for Ireland’s
serious economic problems. That is not true. We are not here to play
that game.


Meabh Cody Green Party Candidate for Stillorgan - 2009 LE

From the 2009 Local Electios in Stillorgan , a leaflet for Green Party candidate Meabh Cody. She polled 655 votes and failed to win a seat.

Link to larger version.

Ann McGoldrick, Green Party candidate 1987 General Election

From the 1987 General Election, Green Party candidate Ann McGoldrick running in Dun Laoghaire. She polled 929 votes.
She stood again in 1989 as an Independent where she polled 110 votes.

Irish PM Should Own Up to His Mistakes

Stunning stuff from the Wall Street Journal yesterday. I'll reproduce the article in full for the benefit of my Green Party readers. A timely reminder perhaps of the person and the Party you are supporting.

Irish PM should own up to his mistakes By Quentin Fottrell

Who does Ireland’s befuddled Prime Minister Brian Cowen think he’s kidding? In the same day as two seminal reports into Ireland’s banking crisis emerged — a catastrophic event of historic proportions that has brought this small, open economy to its knees — Cowen does what he’s always done: He avoids any responsibility and tries to pass the buck.

“The Sources of Ireland’s Banking Crisis” by economic consultants Klaus Regling and Max Watson and “The Irish Banking Crisis: Regulatory and Financial Stability Policy 2003-2008” by Central Bank of Ireland’s Governor Patrick Honohan make grim reading.

They blame the holy coven of government, regulator and bankers for this crisis.

Honohan writes:

“The government’s pro-cyclical fiscal policy stance, budgetary measures aimed at boosting the construction sector and a relaxed approach to the growing reliance on construction related and other insecure sources of tax revenue were significant factors contributing to the unsustainable structure of spending in the Irish economy.”

You can’t get clearer than that. And what does Cowen do? He releases a statement that conveniently whitewashes the reports’ criticism of “the role of fiscal policy and the macroeconomic management of the economy overall” and claims these reports actually support the government’s actions … that is, AFTER the crisis had already began.

Cowen’s response is unimpressive. “[The reports] confirm some of the previously known failures, but also shatter a number of myths including many concerning the government’s response to the crisis,” he said, citing the government’s €440 billion industry-wide banking deposit guarantee.

“Economics 101 For Dummies” by the writer of this blog: The reason the deposits of Ireland’s once-respectable and widely admired financial institutions needed to be guaranteed by the state in September 2008 is because they were on the verge of collapse. Due to lax regulation, poor corporate governance and — this is the science bit — a government snoozing on the job.

It gets better. Cowen further said that the reports confirm that bank failure would have been disastrous for the economy, that the timing of the government’s nationalization of Anglo Irish Bank did not result in higher costs and that advice given by the Central Bank, the IMF, the OECD and others was that Ireland’s banks had adequate capital. Well, you don’t say!

Here’s a translation from “Economics 101 For Dummies”: Just because you prevent the banks from failing by pumping billions of euros of taxpayers money into them, doesn’t make you the savior of the banking system, especially if you played a central role in helping to almost destroy them by giving incentives to the construction industry in the first place. To buy into his logic, the Irish people would need to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Just because someone told Cowen and his predecessor that everything was fine, doesn’t absolve them of responsibility, especially when many economists were warning that the bubble would burst. Also, the “timing” of the nationalization of Anglo Irish Bank is not the issue. It is the fact that the bank had to be nationalized in the first place.

Billions of euros have been used to recapitalize just three of the country’s biggest banks. Anglo Irish Bank, widely regarded as the chief culprit in the near-implosion of the banking system, has been nationalized and it’s transactions are currently the subject of a police investigation. Allied Irish Banks looks like it will fall under state control.

After near-full employment during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger, unemployment has long since surpassed 13%. Unlucky, not for some, but many. Construction sites lie empty. Houses are steeped with negative equity. And the government has created a bad bank to buy real estate loans from property banks with a book value of €81 billion … but will only pay around €43 billion for them. Ouch.

The banking system and economy are in dire straits.

But Cowen now appears to be playing the fear card: if you attack the government, you attack the country.

He said:

“I think it is essential for Ireland’s international reputation that the message goes out that strong action has already been taken to deal with the failures identified.”

In other words, it’s too late. Turn your frowns upside down. Smile for the nice men from the IMF. Don’t criticize your benevolent leader or the political party that got you into this mess in the first place. Greece has taken some heat off us. Great! You now need to put your best foot forward. Be nice to the government. Keep your heads down. Say nothing.

“Hindsight is always clear and obviously we would not have taken such a course if we had known of the scale of the property collapse which was facing the country,” Cowen told a press conference in Dublin late Wednesday. “I deeply regret that.”

Yes, prime minister, so do we.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fury in the corridors of power as Greens in dark over remaining bills before Dail end

David Corcoran has just posted the following on ...

"Earlier on today I was asked here what bills were outstanding before the Government (sorry the Dáil!) ends the legislative year. Here they are:

Merchant Shipping Bill
Health Miscellaneous Provisions Bill
Carbon Bill
Social Welfare Bill
Udaras Na Gaeltachta Bill
Head Shops Bill
Prescriptions Bill
Roads Bill
The Health Amendment Bill

This was brought to's attention as a result of a press release by Fine Gael, who were pointing out that the three pieces of legislation that Minister for the Environment John Gormley said yesterday were most important to him would be passed before the Summer. They were:

The Wildlife Amendment Bill
The Dog Breeding Establishment Bill
The Bill providing for the Dublin Directly-Elected Mayor

Now, I can see the difference there, and I'm sure you can too. None of the bills pointed out by Gormley yesterday are on the legislative agenda for the few weeks before the Dáil takes a long holiday.

As it turns out, and a few people have told me this, the first John Gormley found out about this was when he got a copy of Phil Hogan's press release earlier. To say he's furious is probably, considering his comments yesterday, an understatement, and I've been told that he's demanding time with Cowen immediately to discuss this.

I pointed out earlier that I thought things were about to get interesting, they probably aren't, but certainly there are some people who are very unhappy today.

The Government Chief Whip has criticized the release of the list bills by Fine Gael, saying that it was a partial and internal document only for consideration by the party whips. John Curran (the Gov Chief Whip) in a statement said that Fianna Fail and the Greens were working to fulfil all of their "legislative commitments"

This is getting interesting. Gormley has every right to be furious over this. He promised the Wildlife Amendment Bill, the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill, the Bill providing for the Dublin Directly-Elected Mayor would be passed before Summer recess. He promised this yesterday. He has now been made look like a fool and a liar by Brian Cowen.

What will Gormley and the Green's do about this? Probably nothing, but lest see ...

Legislation for Mayor of Dublin now not expected to be passed before the Summer recess

According to David Corcoran over on the Government has published a list of the remaining bills that would be passed before the Summer Dail recess. The legislation providing for the Mayor of Dublin isn't being included.

As a result, there's now new doubt over whether the elections for Mayor of Dublin will actually take place this year.

Yesterday, John Gormley said that the legislation would be passed by the recess, however Fine Gael have this afternoon pointed out that just a day after those comments it looks like it's unlikely to happen.

Phil Hogan TD, Fine Gael Environment Spokesman issued the following statement ...
“Just yesterday, John Gormley said that The Wildlife Amendment Bill, the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill and the Bill providing for the Dublin Directly-Elected Mayor would all be passed before the summer. Even the least sharp-eyed Green Party supporter can see that those Bills are nowhere on the Government’s list.

“It’s clear that Fianna Fáil have stalled the Green Party Agenda in Government.

“This is clear evidence that the Revised Programme for Government negotiated just eight months ago, and agreed by the overwhelming majority of Green Party Members, is a shambles. It’s a further example that Minister John Gormley is prepared to look the other way about the policy pursued by Fianna Fáil during the term that Brian Cowen was Minister for Finance and ignore the agenda that he promised his Party Membership would be implemented before the summer 2010.

“Minister Gormley is confirming that he is high on rhetoric and low on delivery in Government.”


David Corcoran has also posted the following ...

"I've heard that Gormley is *furious* that some of his bills aren't due to be passed by summer holidays and is demanding facetime with Cowen."

I suspect this is pure optics. Gormley should be furious ... he promised this legislation just yesterday, and yet again he has been made look a fool/liar by Cowen.

Lets see what happens ...

"Startlingly Arrogant" John Gormley criticised

Green Party leader John Gormley’s performance in Government has been sharply criticised by Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan. Mr Hogan was responding to what he described as “startlingly arrogant” comments made by Mr Gormley in an interview in The Irish Times yesterday.

The Minister for the Environment said he was satisfied many of his goals had been achieved after three years in coalition.

John Gormley’s record in Government is one of appalling decisions, a destroyed economy, a generation of debt, and continued, steadfast support for Fianna Fáil, who directly caused Ireland’s economic meltdown,” Mr Hogan said.

The Fine Gael TD went on to accuse Mr Gormley of “being literally asleep” during the night on which the Government’s bank guarantee scheme was agreed.

John Gormley is an appallingly bad Minister in an appallingly bad Government, as his decisions at the Cabinet table testify . . . John Gormley must know that these are not hard decisions that he should boast about, they are bad decisions that he should be ashamed of.”

This blog is no particular fan of Fine Gael or indeed Phil Hogan, but I agree 100% with everything he says about John Gormley and the performance of the Green Party in government.

Link to Irish Times article.

Eamon Ryan - "we (the Green Party) are responsible for the actions of this Government"

Eamon Ryan again stands shoulder to shoulder with Fianna Fail despite the fact that two independent reports into the banking collapse released yesterday say Brian Cowen significantly contributed to the mess we are now in.

Minister Ryan attended yesterday's press conference on the reports alongside Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Mr Lenihan. But the body language of Eamon Ryan was less positive, and he radiated a discomfort similar to the day when he was obliged to defend Willie O'Dea, the then Defence Minister, in the Dail. Ryan said the two reports revealed a systemic failure of the political, regulatory and banking systems that had "
cost us dear". "The Green Party wasn't in Government for the long period when these failings developed but we are responsible for the actions of this Government and the response to try and get us out of these difficult circumstances we find ourselves in," Mr Ryan said.

Minister Ryan also said a
"quick, open and thorough" banking inquiry was necessary. He welcomed the fact that the terms of reference included all the "actors" who had something to contribute to banking and economic decisions.

The usually talkative Communications Minister kept his communication to a brief two minutes.

I fully accept that the Green Party are not responsible for getting us into this mess, and Minister Ryan is correct that the Greens were not in power at the time and that they were one of the only parties warning of the dangers of a property bubble and shouting "stop". However I also agree with Minister Ryan that the Greens are now "responsible for the actions of this Government" which include everything that has been done since the Summer of 2007. That includes keeping the people who are directly responsible for this mess in power, and supporting everything they have done with more passion and commitment than even some members of the Fianna Fail party.

Good to hear Minister Ryan admitting this. People will remember that the Green Party have played a big role in where this country currently finds itself. And that is exactly why the Green Party will be remembered for destroying Green politics in this country for a very long time.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Martin Hogan Flyer- Green Party -2007 Seanad Election

This flyer is for Green Party NUI Seanad candidate Martin Hogan. It comes from the excellent Irish Election Literature Blog. Despite having Green Party logos on his literature Hogan was officially an Independent. He polled 683 votes and was well down the field.

He was appointed to the board of FAS in 2010. Unfortunately, Martin is not the only failed Green election candidate to be appointed to a State job. Over one third of the Green councillors who lost their seats in last year's local elections have been appointed to state bodies and other plum positions by the government. This is despite promises from John Gormley that all state jobs would be openly advertised and that the recruitment process for such jobs would be transparent (this is included in PfG II). The Green Party continue to appoint their unqualified, failed politicians to every quango possible. Elizabeth Davidson, Caroline Burrell, Vincent P Martin and Gene Feighery are three such failed Green gombeens, but there are others ... link.

Friday, June 04, 2010

More on the Government’s risible attempt to pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes by pretending it’s business as usual in the Dáil next week

Both Miriam Lord and Marie O'Halloran from the Irish Times are reporting on the Government’s proposals to change next week’s Dáil business when the House will have no order of business, question time, adjournment debates or votes.

Amid scenes of unfettered roaring, history was made in Leinster House yesterday.

This will not impress the wider population,” trembled Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. What was the Deputy so worked up about? Deputy Ó Caoláin was in a lather over the Government’s risible attempt to pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes by pretending it’s business as usual in the Dáil next week.

A seven-day recess was planned until some of the brighter Government TDs realised how bad this looked. So a makey-up working week consisting of a day and a half of waffle – no question time, no votes, no order of business – is now going to take place.

TDs will come in and fill time by reading statements on various bits of legislation and no one will pay a blind bit of notice to them.

Then normal work will resume the week after next. There was pandemonium about the proposal.

How can the Greens support this? This is shameful and unprecedented.

Nine popular beaches fail minimum quality test

The Irish Times is today reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said nine popular beaches around the country are continuing to fail minimum EU water quality standards because of inadequate sewage infrastructure.

Nine of the State’s 131 beaches and lake shores which are designated by local authorities for bathing failed to meet minimum clean-water standards last year, showing no improvement in numbers since the previous year. 2008 had been the worst year for bathing water quality since records began in 1991. The same number of beaches failed the minimum test in 2009. Although the bathing areas found to be unclean last year are not all the same ones that failed the test the previous year, some are persistent failures.

Fingal in north Dublin had the worst-quality bathing water of any county in the State with three of the nine failing beaches located at Balbriggan front strand, Skerries south beach and Burrow Beach in Sutton. While Sutton and Skerries are new to this year’s list, Balbriggan appeared last year. In Galway, Clifden has again made the failure list and in Westmeath Lilliput at Lough Ennel failed to meet the minimum standards again this year.

The remaining beaches which were deemed clean in 2008, but were last year found to have excessive amounts of faecal coliforms in their waters leading to their failing the minimum test, were Dunmore strand, Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Duncannon, Co Wexford, Killalla Ross beach, Co Mayo, and Youghal main beach, Co Cork.

Dunmore East had for several years been one of the poorest performers. It improved in 2008 to meet EU requirements but slipped again last year below the minimum standards.

Eamon Ryan and the NBS

Below is the full text of a question asked by Deputy Ciarán Lynch about the National Broadband scheme, and the answer given by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan. Minister Ryan says that he "can confirm that 3’s I-HSPA network which is used to deliver the NBS is designed and dimensioned to ensure that the network delivers the minimum contracted service, or better to all NBS users. Performance monitoring reports, including customer experience data, confirms this to be the case.
Based on the most recent monitoring reports for I-HSPA and satellite, I can confirm that the average user has been able to receive download speeds in excess of the minimum requirements and the network is virtually un-contended. This level of service delivery is supported by the sampling of customer experience and the speed sampling.
On the basis of the information provided to my Department, I am satisfied that the specified service levels required under the NBS contract are being met

This does not correspond with my own experiences of the NBS. I have a family member who has no other option for broadband but to get the NBS with 3. They had it installed approximately 4 months ago and have had nothing but problems ever since. They have speeds averaging 0.2 mbps (the guaranteed minimum is 120 mbps) and pings of about 500ms (the guaranteed maximum ping is 120ms). It is impossible to connect most of the time, and connections rarely last more than 20 minutes maximum.They have been keeping a comprehensive record of upload/download speeds and pings since they signed up for the NBS.

They have contacted 3 tech support (based in Mumbai ... it is not posible to call an Irish number for 3) at lease 4 or 5 times weekly to complain about the service they are geting under the NBS, but nothing seems to improve. The Mumbai tech support teams promise that the complaints have been escalated to an Irish network support team and that they will be in contact within 48 hours but no contact ever comes. They have emailed customer complaints at 3 but have recieved no reply as yet.

They emailed Eamon Ryan directly about this at the beginning of April, including detailed technical information about their connection speeds etc. There was a brief reply saying that Minister Ryan will provide an answer. There has been no answer 2 months later. They have also emailed Analysis Mason, and the Comptroller and Auditor General, but have had no reply. They lodged a formal complaint with COMREG, but this came to nothing as COMREG have no real power.

So, to be honest I am baffled by Minister Ryans reply to Deputy Ciarán Lynch about the NBS. What he is saying is clearly untrue. I am not saying that Minister Ryan is deliberately lying, but he is clearly not aware of how dire the NBS can be for some people and how utterly inadequate 3's custormer support procedures are.

Yet another example of Minister Ryan not being fully on top of his brief.


Deputy Ciarán Lynch*** asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources*** the steps he will take to ensure that minimum contractual speeds within the national broadband scheme are achieved; if he is satisfied that minimum contractual speeds are being achieved at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23036/10]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Eamon Ryan):****I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 42 and 71 together.
My Department entered into a contract with “3”, a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) in late December 2008. Since then, 3 has progressed its network rollout and NBS broadband services are now available in more than 65% of the 1,028 designated Electoral Divisions (ED) to be covered under the Scheme. Under the NBS contract, all EDs in the NBS Coverage Area are required to have broadband connectivity by the end of September 2010. The total current and capital cost of the full rollout of the NBS has been estimated by “3” at some €223m, of which a maximum of €79.8m will be contributed by the Government and the EU.
The Government and the EU contribution to date, under the Scheme, amounts to some €48m.
Currently the mobile wireless broadband service (I-HSPA) specifications include a minimum download speed of 1.2Mbps and a maximum download speed of 5Mbps, a minimum upload speed of 200kpbs and a maximum upload speed of 1.8Mbps. A maximum contention ratio of 36:1 also applies, with a data cap of 15GB.
The satellite product, deployed in a very limited number of cases, has contracted minimum speeds of 1Mbps download and 128kbps upload, with a maximum contention ratio of 48:1, with a data cap of 11GB.
Under the NBS contract, the mobile wireless broadband products will be upgraded to higher specifications (speeds, contention and data caps) in July 2010 and again in October 2012 without any increase in the monthly recurring charge.
Following the 2010 upgrade, NBS subscribers will experience minimum download speeds of 1.6Mbps and maximum download speed of 6.8Mbps, minimum upload speeds of 1.2Mbps and maximum upload speed of 4Mbps, with a maximum contention ratio of 22:1. The data cap will increase to 25GB.
Following the 2012 upgrade, NBS subscribers will experience minimum download speeds of 2.3Mbps and maximum download speed of 10.4Mbps, minimum upload speeds of 1.4Mbps and maximum upload speed of 4.8Mbps, with a maximum contention ratio of 18:1. The data cap will increase to 40GB.
Similarly, following contracted upgrades to the satellite product in July 2012 and again in February 2014, minimum download speeds of 1.6Mbps and 2Mbps respectively, together with a minimum upload speed of 256Kbps and a maximum contention ratio of 48:1, will apply, with the data cap remaining at 11GB.
My Department has put in place robust monitoring of the NBS to ensure that the network delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. Performance delivery data, which is submitted to my Department on a monthly basis or as required, is critically analysed by independent technical consultants Analysys Mason Ltd.
The monitoring arrangements provide information on a wide range of key indicators including the broadband excess availability in each cell of the network, the number of customers resident in that cell and actual contention and latency values. Utilisation thresholds are set for each element of the network and upgrades of the network and its capacity are automatically triggered at contractually agreed levels of traffic to ensure that the quality of the broadband service is maintained.
In addition, a sample selection of customers is monitored for quality on a monthly basis. Download and upload speeds are sampled at a number of locations monthly to ensure that minimum speeds are met or exceeded.
The NBS contract also provides for independent monitoring and audit at any stage during the contract with a view to verifying that the services are being provided in accordance with the contract.
I can confirm that 3’s I-HSPA network which is used to deliver the NBS is designed and dimensioned to ensure that the network delivers the minimum contracted service, or better to all NBS users. Performance monitoring reports, including customer experience data, confirms this to be the case.
Based on the most recent monitoring reports for I-HSPA and satellite, I can confirm that the average user has been able to receive download speeds in excess of the minimum requirements and the network is virtually un-contended. This level of service delivery is supported by the sampling of customer experience and the speed sampling.
On the basis of the information provided to my Department, I am satisfied that the specified service levels required under the NBS contract are being met.

Is Mary White "confused" about bed closures in Crumlin Childrens hospital?

This is what Mary White said in June 2009 about bed closures in Crumlin Childrens Hospital "In recent months I have highlighted the issue of scoliosis patients, and in particular the plight of Jamie Murphy from Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. I was moved to speak out against cuts at Crumlin Hospital, and in particular the problem concerning scoliosis patients. I want to make sure that no child will suffer a delay in treatment for scoliosis or any other ailment because of cutbacks in the system. I could not stand over delays in treatment because of further closures, delays in life-enhancing surgery or cutbacks that would extend the waiting time for scoliosis patients to be seen. As result of working closely with the Department of Health I am delighted that significant advances were made to support children at Crumlin.

The assurances I received were:
• The planned closures of a ward and theatre will not now happen;
• Nor will the postponement of out-patient appointments by 15% (approximately 8,843
patients in total) or 1,100 fewer admissions now happen;
• I am also heartened that after discussions between the HSE and the three Dublin Paediatric hospitals, it was agreed that Crumlin Children’s Hospital would revert as a matter of urgency to the HSE with its proposals to address the needs of scoliosis patients between now and the end of the year. I have also been informed that the waiting list for scoliosis has fallen, and will fall further, and that there are now dedicated theatre sessions put in place for the paediatric consultant performing this surgery at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital."

I have news for you Mary. Almost exactly 1 year after you said this the planned closures to a ward and a theatre did happen. The beds in Crumlin Childrens Hospital remain closed. The cuts are still in place. Nothing has been reversed. Nothing has changed.

The assurances you recieved meant nothing. And that is exactly what you did about this.


More bed closures at the Mater Hospital

Around 80 beds are to be closed at Dublin's Mater Hospital this year. About 60 beds are to be closed at the hospital this month and a further 20 may be closed later this year, it has been confirmed. Link.

This follows the recent announcement of the closure of 52 beds at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital. The HSE said funding for hospitals in the region had been reduced by approximately €65.2 million this year, according to a report in the Irish Times.

The health executive said hospitals have included bed closures as part of their breakeven plans for this year. The HSE is planning to close 1,100 beds around the country this year and is planning to implement a major cutback in hospital admissions.

Funding the university sector in Ireland

Excellent opinion piece in the Irish Times (June 3rd 2010) on the funding of the University sector in Ireland.

The extent of the financial and operational crisis facing the university sector has been outlined in a stark letter sent to the seven presidents by Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief executive Tom Boland. He tells the colleges to brace themselves for an unprecedented range of cuts over the next year as the Government seeks to achieve €3 billion in overall exchequer savings. Colleges are advised to take “whatever action is needed’’ in advance of reductions in core funding.

Cutbacks in staff numbers and in the range of programmes on offer appear inevitable. The colleges have been told also they can expect no increase in student charges for the next academic year.

It is a bleak scenario. The colleges are being asked to manage record numbers of students with greatly reduced resources. On his blog yesterday, Dublin City University president Ferdinand von Prondzynski summed up what one might call an appalling vista for the sector. He wrote: we will “be under further pressure to add to the student numbers while losing yet more money and having fewer staff to teach them’’.

Universities are already struggling to cope with a 6 per cent cut in resources imposed under the HEA employment control framework. Many are attempting also to reduce substantial accumulated debt. All have seen a significant rise in their staff/student ratio, which already compares unfavourably with competitor colleges in Britain, Scandinavia and elsewhere. A cursory look around any of our universities shows the practical impact of the cuts in poorly maintained buildings and rationalisation of student services. The HEA says about €4 billion will be required over the next decade to allow universities cope with a projected dramatic increase in students. It also concedes such funding is highly unlikely in current circumstances.

For its part, the Government appears to be in denial about the true extent of the crisis. It has identified the universities as a key player in economic revival. There is giddy talk about initiatives which will see thousands of foreign students clamouring for places in our universities; all this when many lecture halls are overcrowded and laboratory facilities are often meagre.

The Government needs to go back to basics. In the first instance, it must provide a a sustainable, long-term funding mechanism for the sector. But the omens are not propitious. Although the forthcoming national strategy on higher education is expected to back the return of tuition charges, the Green Party has vetoed any such move. The hope must be that Mr Boland’s stark message will alert policymakers and the Greens to the extent of the problems facing the sector. At the very least, Fianna Fáil ministers need to put pressure on their Green colleagues to look again at the tuition charge issue. The student loans proposal prepared by Batt O’Keeffe (and welcomed by Fine Gael) has much to recommend it. It was widely seen as fair and equitable . The Green Party cannot be allowed to retain a veto on student tuition charges when their introduction is vital to the national interest.

30 disadvantaged schools to lose librarians

More evidence of the Green Party's committment to education today emerged.

It has been announced that up to 30 of the country's most disadvantaged schools are to lose librarian services that were granted in an attempt to boost literacy levels. Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan has confirmed that the contracts of many of the librarians working on the scheme will not be renewed over the summer. €9m has been invested to open the libraries. Link.

I wonder if these cuts still make Paul Gogarty (formerly Green Party education spokesperson, and chairman of the Dail's education committee, a job which adds an extra €20,000 to his €96,000 TD's salary) "vomit continuously"? Or if these cuts "turn the stomach" of poor old Trevor Sargent?

Doubtful I'd say. Anything to stay in power right lads? The Green Party in Government are getting used to supporting cuts to education. And especially supporting cuts to education where the poorest and most disadvanteage children are hit the hardest.

Another great day for John Gormley and co. But hey, all that free-to-air rugby will make up for it, right?

The Greens and FF ensure that next week in the Dáil will be a complete sham ... this is unprecedented and frankly disgraceful

The original schedule for Dáil business next week had proposed a week's recess following Bank Holiday Monday, but the new Chief Whip, John Curran, announced that the House would sit on Wednesday and Thursday. However, today it emerged that there will be none of the usual opportunities for the Opposition to hold the Government to account, such as the Order of Business and Leaders' Questions, nor will there be any votes.

The Green Ministers and TD's supported this.

This led to genuine anger from the opposition and ordinary people.

It is unprecedented for a government in Irish history to use its parliamentary majority to ensure that for a parliamentary week all the means the opposition has to raise issued, challenge issues, put motions or discuss things are prohibited. No Irish government has ever done that in ninety years of Dáil Éireann. The government used its vote to effectively ban any Order of Business, Leaders Questions, questions to ministers, parliamentary business, private members business, or to use any or the procedural devices under standing orders that enable TD's to raise "issues of national concern". The government did it to ensure that the opposition couldn't challenge the government when two important reports on banking come out next week.

This is unprecedented and totally and utterly unheard of. No Irish government has ever done anything like this before. Occasionally one day may be structured without the normal procedures available, but to decide that all sittings in one week should be without any means for the opposition to raise issues is frankly disgraceful.

The anger that was in the Dáil today was very very real. The opposition were stunned that the government would use its majority to effectively strip the opposition of their parliamentary rights by making parts of the Standing Orders non-applicable next week. Next week in the Dáil will be a complete sham. The government is already abusing guillotine motions to force things through without proper scrutiny. But this behaviour takes the biscuit.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

EU to ask about cuts to the Equality Authority

The Irish Times are reporting that the European Parliament’s petitions committee is to write to the Government to ask about cutbacks at the Equality Authority following claims that Ireland is not in compliance with European law because of funding and staff cuts.

The Equality and Rights Alliance made an oral submission to the committee yesterday based on a written submission it made last September. The submission claims the authority’s effectiveness has been “significantly impaired and its independence undermined” due to cuts.

The alliance is a coalition of 140 civil society groups and activists concerned about the erosion of equality, poverty and human rights issues. It includes groups such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the European Anti-Poverty Network.

The Green Party support these cuts. The Green Party also support other cuts to the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society which are highlighted elsewhere in this blog. I'm not sure how the Greens in Government can sleep at night to be honest. But then I suppose it's easy to sleep when you have a huge ministerial salary, expenses and pension package. And when you have sold so many of your principles that there is nothing left to sacriface ...

M3 to open tomorrow

The M3 motorway through Co Meath will be opened tomorrow by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey. Mr Dempsey said the M3 was one of the biggest road projects to open in Europe this year. He said "It marks another major achievement in the Government's delivery of the most ambitious road programme in our history,". Link.

The Green Party must be very proud of themselves. They are part of a Government who are proud of their delivery of "the most ambitious road programme" in the history of our state.