Rugby World Cup coming to Ireland? Latest update
As you may know, the momentum behind a potential bid by Ireland to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 has been gathering pace in recent months. I raised this matter in the Dáil in April – click here to watch.
This week I raised this issue again with Minister Varadkar and he gave the following response:
“I am fully supportive of the bid to host the Rugby World Cup in Ireland. It is a matter for the IRFU to prepare and submit a bid. A feasibility study commissioned by the IRFU on the potential for hosting the tournament was recently presented to me by them and the findings of the report are being considered.
I am pleased to note that the GAA has given its support for the bid by allowing the inclusion of Croke Park and other GAA grounds in the list of venues that would be used for matches if Ireland was selected as the host country for the tournament.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. As well as bringing spectators to our shores, the hosting of sports events can provide a great showcase for Ireland. Fáilte Ireland continues to support the holding of sports and other events that can boost tourism and, where appropriate, will provide advice and assistance to the sporting body which is seeking to secure an international event. I understand that Fáilte Ireland has engaged with the IRFU in this regard.
The bid has also been discussed with the Northern Ireland Minister for Tourism, Arlene Foster MLA, and Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA. They have met with the IRFU and have also indicated their support for a bid.”
These are welcome developments. We should now move to establish a steering committee of relevant stakeholders to act on the feasibility report and bring the bid to the next stage of implementation. While the matter of the bid is chiefly for the IRFU, it will require the efforts of many local authorities, sports clubs, transport providers, and others to make this bid possible and the IRFU will need this input in a coordinated manner. Hosting the Rugby World Cup would be a fantastic opportunity for the country.
Transport – The Harmonisation of the Penalty Points Regime on an All-Island basis: Click here.
Social Protection – Job Activation Measures and Pathways to Work; Click here.
New Visa Schemes bring in €10.5m of additional investment
This week we learned that in the past year new visa schemes have brought in €10.5m of investment with the expected creation or retention of 270 jobs, covering the ICT, recycling and financial services area (see details here). I think we could be doing better.
In June 2011, I proposed the introduction of a new Enterprise and Investment Visa scheme along the lines of a scheme adopted in the UK. Work on such an idea was already underway and in January 2012 the Government announced the introduction of two major new immigration initiatives: The Immigrant Investor Programme and The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. Both aim at facilitating (non EEA) migrant entrepreneurs and investors who want to invest either their time or money here in Ireland for the purpose of saving or creating jobs. The schemes were opened up for applications in April 2012.
Following on from this I raised the possibility of introducing a technology visa scheme: a specific visa for people working in the tech sector given the skills shortage in the country and the potential for spin off jobs from this growing industry. (You can watch my contribution on tech visas here and read Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation here, and the Minister for Justice, here).
A specific technology visa has yet to be introduced but in the Action Plan for Jobs for 2013, steps were made by the government towards making it easier for people with relevant technology skills to come and work in Ireland (see here).
Since April 2012, 27 applications for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme and 10 Applications for the Immigrant Investor Programme have been received. 14 applications have been approved under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme, 7 applications have been refused, 1 applicant gained an alternative status and the remainder are still under consideration. 3 applications have been approved under the Immigrant Investor Programme and the remainder are still under consideration.
To date the total investment committed under both Programmes is of the order of €10.5 million and is projected that 270 jobs will be retained or created on foot of these investments in the ICT, recycling and financial services area. In addition two organisations, one educational and the other a charity, are receiving substantial endowments to support and develop their activities.
These numbers are positive and demonstrate the benefits of a more targeted and competitive visa regime. That said, the numbers could be a lot better if we dedicated more resources to the schemes and made them more competitive. This would involve quicker processing times, lower financial thresholds for participants and more rigorous approach to potential investors and start-up companies abroad.
Ireland is one of the most stable European economies to invest in at present. It also has the best ecosystem in Europe for starting a high tech company. We need to be more ambitious with our visa strategies if we are to take advantage of this. While €10.5m and the approval of 14 start-up visas is welcome and good, we could be doing a lot better.
Bulgaria’s elections competitive and well run, but trust in process is lacking, international observers sayPosted May 13th, 2013
SOFIA, 13 May 2013 – Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections on 12 May were held in a competitive environment, fundamental freedoms were respected, and the administration of elections was well managed, although the campaign was overshadowed by a number of incidents that diminished trust in state institutions and the process was negatively affected by pervasive allegations of vote-buying, international observers said in a statement today.
The campaign was competitive and generally free of violence, and the caretaker government undertook several measures to hold genuine elections. Cases of pre-election wiretapping and concerns over last-minute incidents related to ballot security, however, weakened public confidence in the process. The campaign was at times negative, with some parties using inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric. Allegations of vote-buying continued, negatively affecting the campaign environment, the international observers noted.
“Voters had a genuine choice in a competitive campaign, and the authorities made real steps to uphold the integrity of the election, but scandals and the recent discovery of additional ballot papers without proper explanation undermined people’s faith in the political system and, more worryingly, made them question the process itself,” said Eoghan Murphy, the Special Co-ordinator who led the short-term OSCE observer mission. “When you look at the mistrust that exists between political parties, and at the current economic difficulties, this is a negative development.”
“The lack of public confidence in the electoral process and the alienation of too many Bulgarians from their public institutions remains a matter of concern,” said Andreas Gross, the Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “All those who have been elected have to address this in order to overcome the social and political crisis with which the Bulgarian people are confronted.”
The process was well-administered by the Central Election Commission (CEC), which generally worked in an open manner, although providing more information on the times of all of its sessions and the basis for its decisions would have improved transparency, the statement said. There were some concerns expressed about the independence of lower election commissions, but the posting of CEC sessions on the Internet was a welcome transparency measure.
“It is only through democratic institutions that social, economic and political changes can be addressed effectively. In many countries we see systematic attacks on the credibility of the democratic institution of elections. It is not acceptable that, in order to win elections – the basis of democracy – elections are damaged,” said Roberto Battelli, the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “Genuine efforts at holding democratic elections that we have seen here are not enough, and addressing this must be a top priority for both national and international actors.”
The legal framework for the elections generally provides a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections when implemented properly. While some recommendations made by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe were adopted in recent amendments to the Electoral Code, others remained unaddressed. Legal provisions on campaign financing could ensure a more transparent system, the statement said.
Although the media landscape during the campaign was pluralistic, media ownership lacks transparency. Public broadcasters and some private media granted contestants free airtime on popular election-related programmes, but a significant share of the campaign information had to be paid for, creating an unlevel playing field for candidates and limiting public media’s role in providing voters with a broad range of information. Paid campaign information was not always clearly labeled as such, potentially misleading voters about the sources of election-related messages.
Election day took place in a calm and orderly manner, with polling station openings and voting mostly assessed positively, although the counting of ballots was more problematic in a number of cases. Tabulation, overall, was positive. The large number of proxies and observers present enhanced transparency.
“There were serious violations during this campaign. These have to be thoroughly investigated and those responsible prosecuted,” said Miklós Haraszti, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission. “In order to restore the trust of Bulgarian citizens in their democratic process, the cycle of impunity must be broken.”
Click here to view the Press Conference.
For the full post-election statement, click here
Eoghan meeting with the Minister for the Interior this morning at government buildings. Eoghan will later meet with the Bulgarian Head of State, President Rosen Plevneliev.
Bulgarian Election – Eoghan Murphy TD leads International team
Recently I was appointed by the Chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to lead the short term observation mission to Bulgaria for their parliamentary elections this Sunday. This is an important moment in Bulgaria’s political history and I am honoured to be invited to Bulgaria to lead this mission.
It is a very different political environment to the one at home with 29 political parties, 7 coalitions, and 2 independent candidates contesting the elections; in all 8200 candidates will contest 240 seats. The logistics of the operation are impressive to say the least.
It is interesting to note that Bulgaria has never returned the same government to power since it chose democracy as its political system. As a committed member of the European Union, Bulgaria faces the same challenges and opportunities that every EU member faces at present, together with its own internal dynamics and political history.
Below is an opinion piece that was published in the Bulgarian media today explaining the reasons for the OSCE’s presence and outlining what the international team is here to do.
Eoghan Murphy, Special Co-ordinator, Short Term OSCE Observer Mission, Bulgarian Parliamentary Elections
OSCE Observers Looking Forward to Bulgaria’s Election
When more than 200 international observers descend on Bulgaria to witness the parliamentary elections this week, it will be the first time since 1997 that the country has hosted such a full-fledged observation from the OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly.
So, after 16 years, why are we returning?
Let me begin by pointing out that, as the political figure appointed to head this mission on behalf of the OSCE, our presence here is independent from some of the topical items that may appear in the news.
Bulgaria has moved a great distance in political, social and economic terms in two decades, since those times when the path to Brussels was considered as something unconceivable. It is 16 years since the last electoral observation mission here and the OSCE is returning to a very different political landscape.
From our own pre-election visits, observations and briefings, we have seen election officials functioning with a new level of openness during this campaign, and I hope those same officials are proud to welcome the international observers this month. At our best, observation missions help keep trust and integrity in a system in which we are all invested.
No one in Sofia should view the presence of observers this year as any sort of a step back. On the contrary, Sofia’s decision to welcome OSCE observers – as enshrined in national law and Bulgaria’s international commitments – is recognition of Bulgaria’s stature within Europe and dedication to multilateral cooperation on our shared democratic goals. While we cannot be in every OSCE country to observe every election, we always strive for a geographic balance – observing electoral contests throughout our diverse region from Vancouver to Vladivostok, including EU countries, like Bulgaria.
With every election, no matter the present day political challenges, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to reaffirm our democratic principles. People’s dissatisfaction with the political class (a notion hardly unique to Bulgaria during the current global recession), the polarised political debate (not uncommon either), and intense competition between the parties are just some of the ingredients that make the 12 May elections a defining moment in Bulgaria’s history.
As an elected parliamentarian myself, with many elected colleagues and friends in the OSCE region, I have been in a position to witness first-hand, significant changes that have been brought about by people of different nationalities in different countries exercising their democratic rights. And whatever the outcome on election day, it is fundamentally important that people have trust in the election itself for these rights to maintain and to thrive. This is particularly true in challenging times.
We are not coming to Sofia to question Bulgarians’ ability to hold free and democratic elections, but rather to send a signal that the OSCE stands ready to actively support this country just like any other participating State. We come to proclaim our shared commitments to fundamental freedoms so necessary to our collective security community.
Throughout the country on Sunday we will be present with open eyes, and come Monday, we will share our observations with the public. And should actions on election day impact the level of trust in this country’s democratic institutions, we will report them accurately and without bias to the international community.
For elections, as thrilling as they can be, in the end, are always about more than the personalities on the ballot. Every election is a test, not so much about the strength of parties but the strength of processes, a nation’s chance to affirm its own commitment to democratic governance. It is up to all those who participate in this process to ensure the will of the people is not only expressed but accepted and respected as well.
Today the Department of Environment were before the PAC. We were examining in particular the special report carried out by the Controller and Auditor General on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Authority.
The central theme of this week’s meeting was the Department of Environment’s oversight function before, during and after the Irish Glass Bottle site acquisition and in particular the sanction given by the Department to increase the Authority’s borrowing limit and permission to enter a joint venture.
I focused my time on issues regarding the potential conflict of interest that may have arisen at the time of the acquisition of the Glass Bottle site.
To view my contribution please click here.
Today in the Dáil I asked Minister Hogan if it is still his intention to hold a vote next June on whether or not the people of Dublin will move to a system of voting in a directly elected Mayor, similar to the system in London and New York.
Specifically I asked him:
- If this vote would happen on the same day as the local elections in June 2014
- If the vote would be held in every Dublin local authority (i.e. Dublin as a whole and not just Dublin City Council)
- If the vote would be similar to a referendum, with a simple yes/no option
- If a yes vote would then mean a further set of local government reforms for Dublin.
Minister Hogan confirmed that this month elected Councillors would begin to deliberate on the possibility of putting such a decision to the people next year, what the implications of such a decision might mean, and that the decision would be one for the Dublin region as a whole to make.
I’m a big supporter of having a directly elected Mayor for Dublin. There’s a big democratic deficit at the moment in that the person who runs the city, the City Manager, is unelected and yet has all of the power and responsibility for the capital, whereas the Lord Mayor (elected by the Councillors) is largely a ceremonial role.
The proposed incinerator for Dublin is one example of where the system fails us. The City Manager has the power to pursue a policy that almost all of the elected Councillors are against. That’s not democracy.
If we want to see our city become a great city, with ever-improving transport systems, protected green spaces, efficient waste collection, new tech industry hubs, a suitable water system and a vibrant living capital that all of the people of Ireland can be proud of, we need a political leader with a mandate from the people and the power to make the right decisions.
Living in a democracy means electing our leaders – we need to make Dublin a better democracy so we can all benefit and work together to make Dublin great.
Scroll down to view my contribution.
Squarespace, the leading all-in-one website publishing platform, has announced its plans to establish its EMEA Headquarters in Dublin along with the creation of 100 new jobs. The initiative is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation through IDA Ireland, the government agency responsible for the attraction and development of foreign investment in Ireland.
Squarespace is a website publishing platform that allows anyone to easily create professional blogs, web pages, stores, and galleries without touching a line of code. The service provides hosting, content management, domain names, social integrations, e-commerce, and 24-hour customer support. The Squarespace operation in central Dublin will serve Squarespace customers around the globe and will include a variety of customer care roles.
The decision by Squarespace to base its headquarters in Dublin is a signal of Ireland’s growing reputation as the high tech capital of Europe. This means great opportunities for our bright, highly-skilled workforce, and the Government is working to attract further investment through its Action Plan for Jobs. The Government is determined to foster a supportive and flexible enterprise environment so that Ireland’s digital economy can continue to grow. Research from Sean O’Sullivan and OpenIreland shows an additional four spin-off jobs will be created for each of those tech jobs, here in Dublin. And if that happens, that will be a major additional boost.
ICT is a key sector targeted as part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, and in the two years since this Government came into office over 11,000 additional people work in this sector.
For more information about Squarespace click here.
Details of recruitment can be found here.
“We need a fair, transparent and modern enrolment process for primary schools.”
Many parents are facing difficulties in enrolling their children into primary schools due to numerous problems with the current system. The primary schools recognise this and are proposing a better way of managing demand in the country. The current system is certainly in need of urgent reform.
Due to the number of representations I receive on this issue I decided to raise it as a special issue in the Dáil.
To view my contribution please click here.
For a transcript of the debate please click here.
On Wednesday I spoke in the Dáil on the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Amendment Bill.
This Bill extends Science Foundation Ireland’s remit to fund applied research, to support awareness of science and to enable it to fund collaborations in Northern Ireland and internationally.
We have a strong reputation and a proud history in science. You need only to visit the annual Young Scientists exhibition to know that this will continue. But the government also needs to prioritise its funding and direct it better. This Bill is central to that strategy.
To watch my full contribution here.
You can read my draft remarks here.