24 July 2015
As I made clear to the Committee on Thursday 23 July, I am completely opposed to the Banking Inquiry hearing evidence from Mr Drumm via video link. For me this is a matter on which the Inquiry’s integrity rests and may have serious implications for the future of our work.
Mr Drumm should appear in person, as he has been directed to do. Failing that, the Inquiry cannot give special treatment to a person who is of interest to the Gardaí, who will not comply with their requests and whose extradition is sought.
In the interest of the integrity of the Committee and of Dáil Éireann we cannot give protected status or legal privilege to a person who is acting in contravention of the wishes of the Gardaí, never mind the express direction of the Banking Inquiry or the wishes of the public in general.
For me it is not a matter of whether it is legally permissible or not for the Committee to take oral evidence from Mr Drumm while he remains outside the jurisdiction, in the interests of the Inquiry and the Oireachtas it must not happen.
The issue of Jean Claude Trichet’s appearance is a separate matter. Mr Trichet is not an Irish citizen and could not be directed to attend before the Inquiry. Nevertheless, he did travel to Ireland to answer questions from the Committee. Mr Drumm is an Irish citizen who has been directed to attend but has indicated he will not return to the country to be questioned at the Banking Inquiry.
The Government has published the Working Group report on Direct Provision and the Protection Process. More information about the report can be read here.
The report provides recommendations to improve the current systems and processes. The long delays for people going through Direct Provision are completely unsatisfactory – the implementation of the group’s suggestions would make a real positive difference to the people in the system.
This is the first comprehensive examination of our protection system in 15 years. The report has been compiled over the last six months and has provided over 170 recommendations for consideration. Minister Fitzgerald will begin an immediate dialogue with the relevant departments and agencies. It will be essential that the International Protection Bill is enacted early to implement recommendations from the report.
I have spoken a number of times on this issue in the Dáil and called for an amnesty for those who had become trapped in the system for far too long. I’m very glad to see that this call has been supported in the Working Group’s report and hope that it is accepted by government.
To see my most recent contribution in the Dáil on the Direct Provision system, which was made in the context of a separate Oireachtas Committee report click here.
For an earlier contribution on Direct Provision, where I first called for an amnesty click here.
Minister Noonan has confirmed that the Local Property Tax (LPT) in Dublin will not be raised in line with the continuing increase in house prices. I have argued against the design of this tax (linking the payment to the perceived market value at a point in time) since before it was introduced and I welcome the current review of the system (read more about the review here).
The Minister also indicated that Inheritance Tax will be changed in Budget 2016.
See the Minister’s comments below.
“In the last budget I announced that I was going to do a review of the anomaly whereby property values have risen. I’m not going to allow a situation where people’s Property Tax jumps by 40%, because values in Dublin jump by 40%. That’s not going to happen.
“The next valuation date is November of 2016. I think that valuation date is probably too close. But I’m telling you now, and you can take it as an absolute fact, I am not going to peg property taxes to the inflation in property prices.
“Because we brought property tax in at the bottom of the market. And there’s a recovery now, and people’s house values are going up. But they’re not going to be penalised for that.”
“In the bad times, as part of the difficulties we were in, the thresholds were cut. And the thresholds are now too low. And I’ll examine it in the budget.
“It’s worth pointing out to people, like the people you mentioned who are concerned, that if somebody is living in a house with parents, and is acting as a Carer in the house, if there’s a transfer to somebody who is already resident in the house, to a child, they’re exempt from inheritance tax. People don’t realise that.”
On Tuesday Minister Jan O’Sullivan announced an extra 610 Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts in the country for September 2015, 191 of which are in Dublin. This is very welcome news.
55% of the posts will be supporting students in mainstream classes, 45% will be allocated to students in special classes or in special schools. You can see the detailed allocations here.
There has been an 11.7% increase in SNA posts since 2011. Although I would like to see more funds invested in the area, we are heading in the right direction. We need to focus on growing the economy so that essential resources like these can be provided.
The Schools Admissions Bill has finally been published.
To read the bill click here.
This is just a draft, it has not been discussed in the Dáil or committee yet and it does not contain any specific regulations on issues like access for children of past pupils etc.
These details will be worked out but I remain unsatisfied on a few points, including priority access for local children where the school is state-funded.
You can hear me talk about the bill on Morning Ireland recently here (42 minutes in).
I have been working on this bill since 2012, it is very much needed. It is essential that we have an open, transparent and fair admissions system.
The Education Committee report was debated in the Dáil a year ago, for my contribution and more information click here.
To read about my campaign for fair funding of schools go here.
As you can see, this is an important issue for me and of course, for the constituency.
Minister Coveney has introduced a White Paper on Defence, the first such review for the Irish Defence Forces since 2000.
This was debated in the Dail before going to Cabinet and you can watch my contribution here.
In my contribution I touched upon the need to establish our own policy, the need to invest in our defence forces to support their work around the world, ending the UN Security Council aspect of Triple-lock provision, using our expertise to help others, and dropping the pretence of neutrality in favour of a more responsible and honest position. You can read a draft of my remarks here.
There is currently a review of the Local Property Tax (LPT) being carried out by Dr. Don Thornhill.
I have been arguing for a re-design of the property tax since before its introduction (watch my Dail speech here). More recently, I was one of a small number of TDs whom argued publicly for the LPT to be reviewed and frozen ahead of the 2016 revaluation date. This was in advance of the review now being undertaken by Dr Thornhill.
Once the review is complete it will be handed over to Minister Noonan to examine the impact of property price movements; the overall yield of LPT and it’s contribution to revenue; and the effectiveness and efficiency of the system in general. To find out more about the review go here.
This report is expected to be completed in July. It is intended that the review will make recommendations for changes to ensure stability for homeowners.
The current LPT rates are in effect until 2017. I hope to see some positive changes to the system in advance.
To see questions I have asked of the Minister for Finance regarding LPT and other issues click here.
Unemployment has dropped to 9.8%, the lowest we have seen for six years. Job creation is well ahead of schedule as we look towards the aim of full employment in 2018.
The latest official employment figures from the Central Statistics Office show that 104,600 extra jobs have been created since the start of 2012. The original aim was to generate 100,000 by the end of 2016, as a result of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs we are a year ahead of this target. Unemployment was due to drop below 10% in 2017, we are 2 years ahead of this plan. Full employment was anticipated by 2020 – this is now looking likely for 2018.
This is a significant milestone which shows the progress the country has made in a relatively short period of time. We are heading in the right direction.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, and the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring TD, today (Wednesday) welcomed the announcement that Ireland has been chosen to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017.
Click here to continue reading the Minister’s statement.
This is fantastic news for Ireland and Irish Rugby. Much credit is due to the great performance of the Women’s team in recent years. This news should also help with our bid to bring the Men’s World Cup to Ireland in 2023.
I have been working to bring both events to Ireland for the last few years. To watch the video of my speech in the Dail on the issue click here.
To see my numerous parliamentary questions on the issue click here.
Today the Government introduced it’s inaugural Spring Statement.
The purpose of this reform is to improve the process by which Dáil Éireann examines and approves the budget.
Speaking todayMinister Noonan said:
“Since taking office in 2011, the Government has been determined to fulfil the mandate given to us by the Irish people. To repair the economy and public finances, to create jobs and to give hope and confidence to our citizens of a better future. The scale of the economic crisis that we have gone through has been unprecedented in Ireland’s history.
“We have essentially lost a decade in terms of economic growth and job creation. Difficult decisions have been taken and huge sacrifices have been made by the Irish people. But this has not been in vain.”
To continue reading click here.
To see the document in full click here.
To read Minister Howlin’s speech click here.
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