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5 Feb 2013
Memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin – Photo from Newsletter.co.uk
Survivors of the Magdalene Laundry have quickly rejected the Taoiseach’s apology, and demanded a fuller and more frank admission from government and the religious orders involved.
Maureen Sullivan, Magdalene Survivors Together, said: “That is not an apology. He is the Taoiseach of our country, he is the Taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology.”
Mary Smyth said she endured inhumane conditions in a laundry, which she said was worse than being in prison.
“I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me,” said Ms Smyth, also of the group.
The Justice for Magdalenes group (JFM), which has collected testimony from survivors who attest to severe psychological and physical suffering even in stays of less than a year, has been leading campaigns for an apology.
“It can no longer be claimed that these institutions were private and that ’the vast majority’ of the girls and women entered voluntarily as has been claimed by former minister Batt O’Keeffe and testimony before the UN Committee Against Torture given by Sean Aylward, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice,” the group said.
Survivors have been campaigning for the last 10 years for an apology from state and church and a transparent compensation scheme.
Religious orders the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity ran laundries at Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dun Laoghaire, the Religious Sisters of Charity in Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross.
The last laundry, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city, closed in 1996.
Justice for Magdalenes said it is aware of at least 988 women who are buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across Ireland and therefore must have stayed for life.
The inquiry could only certify 879.
The Taoiseach said action should have been taken before to clear the names and reputations of the women put to work in the institutions.
“That the stigma, that the branding together of the residents, all 10,000 needs to be removed and should have been removed long before this and I’m really sorry that that never happened, and I regret that never happened,” Mr Kenny said.
“I’m sorry that this release of pressure and understanding of so many of those women was not done before this, because they were branded as being the fallen women, as they were referred to in this state.”
By Fiach Kelly and Fionnan Sheahan
December 12 2012
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has challenged Gerry Adams to “tell the truth” about the death of Jean McConville and also appeared to link Sinn Fein to the Northern Bank robbery.
In a strong attack on the Sinn Fein president, Mr Kenny said it was time Mr Adams told the truth about his past, specifically mentioning the mother of 10 who was murdered by the IRA.
“I would love to hear you speak the truth about some elements of your past,” he said.
“You might some day tell the truth about the tragedy and the remorse and about the compassion that should have been shown for Jean McConville. Maybe you might do that, Deputy Adams,” he added.
Mr Adams asked Mr Kenny withdraw the remark, but the Taoiseach refused. Mr Kenny also raised the Northern Bank raid in response to Mr Adams’ claims about ministers being “millionaires”.
“Deputy Adams has made a disgraceful comment about the ministers here today. I assure him that none of these people was funded by the Northern Bank or by the assets of the Northern Bank,” he said.
The Dail was suspended after a furious row erupted between Mr Kenny and Mr Adams over the disappearance of Ms McConville.
Mr Adams was criticising Mr Kenny, Fine Gael and Labour over the harsh measures contained in the Budget.
But Mr Kenny told Mr Adams he wished he could detail the exact details of the Sinn Fein leader’s past. The spat led Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett to suspend the house for 10 minutes. Mr Adams again protested when the Dail resumed.
Mr Adams has repeatedly denied he was a member of the IRA and rejects allegations of involvement in the murder of Ms McConville.
However, earlier this year, former IRA bomber Dolours Price described how Mr Adams ordered her to ferry captives, including Ms McConville, across the border to be murdered.
Ms McConville was the most notorious of the cases of the so-called Disappeared, victims murdered by the IRA and whose bodies were then hidden south of the border.
Mr Adams has faced repeated calls to make a Dail statement on Ms McConville’s disappearance. The Sinn Fein leadership has also denied any knowledge of the Northern Bank raid in December 2004.
Leaked US Embassy diplomatic cables revealed former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was “certain” that Mr Adams and Martin McGuinness had advance knowledge of the Northern Bank raid.
A leaked dispatch reports that Mr Ahern was convinced the Sinn Fein pair had known of the £26.5m (€33.3m) robbery in 2004 because they were members of the “IRA military command”.
The cable is dated February 4, 2005 and is among a batch released by WikiLeaks.
17 June 2012
THE families of 10 Protestants murdered in an IRA attack from the Republic have been promised a meeting by the Taoiseach after a year-long campaign.
In 1976 the IRA gunned down the 10 workmen by the side of the road at Kingsmills in south Armagh. The attack was planned and executed from the Republic and the killers sought safe haven there afterwards.
Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy said that he had approached Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the matter at a north-south ministerial meeting in Dublin yesterday, having also approached him about it in November.
“He agreed that as a means of progress we would have a meeting with a senior official in preparation for a meeting with Mr Kenny himself,” the senior UUP Assembly member said.
The Newry and Armagh representative was pleased “at long last” to have got an agreement to the meeting, having pursued the Irish prime minister for over a year with no success. He praised Mr Kenny’s “positive approach” to the issue yesterday, adding that the families and Taoiseach would likely meet “before the end of the summer”.
The Taoiseach has caused intense anger among unionists over the past year by repeatedly calling for an inquiry into the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane while avoiding any commitment on the Kingsmills families.
Mr Kennedy said the aim of meeting the Taoiseach was to seek “public recognition” for the “failure” of successive Irish governments since 1976 to “deal” with countless IRA attacks made from the Republic.
Fermanagh and Tyrone DUP MLA Arlene Foster welcomed the progress, adding that IRA victims from Fermanagh are also expected to meet the Taoiseach as part of the process.
“It is important that the role of the IRA in these types of border attacks is highlighted so that we do not just have a partial history of the Troubles,” she said.
Pastor Barrie Halliday, who is supporting the Kingsmills families, said they had been asking Dublin to facilitate a victims’ parade there to highlight their cause.
“The Finucane family don’t have to parade in London for recognition there,” he said. “So it appears Dublin is playing catch-up in giving equality to the Kingsmills families.”
By JEROME REILLY and JOYCE FEGAN
27 May 2012
But Taoiseach’s constituency gets €678,000 in sports grants
World champ Katie Taylor has been training in a gym that doesn’t have a toilet or shower, while many look on in awe at government cash flowing into Mayo — the political heartland of Enda Kenny and Sports Minister Michael Ring.
The Taoiseach was left red-faced when he visited Bray boxing club where Katie and fellow boxing olympian Garda Adam Nolan have to dash off to the nearby Harbour Bar if they want to spend a penny.
Katie’s father Peter, who also trains Gda Nolan, said: “I think the Taoiseach was very shocked and maybe a bit ashamed when he saw it. He told me to put in an application for the club under the next round of sports grants and he would make sure it would be looked after.”
The Mayo constituency was a big recipient of Lottery-funded capital sports grants getting €678,000 last year.
The allocation for Mayo was twice the allocation given to Dublin, and Mayo moved from ninth to fourth in the Lotto grants league table based on grant aid per head of population.
Mr Ring’s political power base of Westport received three Lotto grants totalling €230,000.
14 May 2012
TWO senior Ulster Unionists have renewed their criticism of Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his “continued procrastination” in meeting IRA victims.
Former UUP leader Tom Elliott and the party’s Executive minister, Danny Kennedy, challenged the Irish premier to meet Ulster victims of the Troubles.
In recent months unionists have become increasingly vocal about the Republic’s role in the Troubles and accused Dublin of double standards in calling for an inquiry into the death of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane while refusing to meet victims.
Mr Kennedy said: “It is now almost one year since I first sought a meeting on behalf of the Kingsmills and other victims with Mr Kenny. I was assured at that time that he would participate in such a meeting.
“Colleagues and I have made several further queries with the Irish Government officials, the Tánaiste and directly to the Taoiseach for such a meeting. While we are assured every time that this will happen, Mr Kenny has failed to honour his commitment.”
Mr Elliott said: “It appears that Mr Kenny is prepared to go to any lengths to support the Finucane family.
“However, when it comes to other victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland like Kingsmills, Enniskillen and Omagh all he gives is hallow commitments and promises that he doesn’t honour.”
20 April 2012
THE Taoiseach appears to be creating a “hierarchy of victims” by pressing for a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder while failing to meet relatives of the Kingsmills massacre, it was claimed last night.
Enda Kenny was giving the Chancellor’s Lecture at the University of Ulster in Belfast, in which he said British and Irish relations have never been stronger. But he said the governments still disagree on the calls for a public inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Mr Finucane was shot by loyalist paramilitaries at his north Belfast home in 1989, but the Government has apologised after security forces were exposed as having colluded in the killing.
Mr Kenny said last night: “Prime Minister David Cameron and I signed a joint statement on intensifying British-Irish relations for the next decade.
“This important initiative recognises that British-Irish relations have never been stronger. The state visit of Her Majesty The Queen last year served as a symbol of a modern, deep and friendly relationship. It was the birth of a new phase in the relationship between our islands.”
But he added: “While working closely with my British counterpart, there are matters on which we share a difference of opinion. Late last year, I had the privilege of presenting Geraldine Finucane with a Person of the Year Award in Belfast and I want to say once again how much I respect and admire the way she has campaigned for over 22 years, with great dignity and courage, and I support her in her campaign for a full public inquiry.”
However Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey said last night he was “very disappointed Mr Kenny is persisting with this”.
Despite the UUP pressing the Taoiseach to meet the Kingsmills families for 11 months, Mr Kenney has not yet confirmed a date on which he will see them.
Ten Protestant workmen were slain by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976. The PSNI Historical Enquiries Team found that key suspects benefited from safe haven across the border after the murders. Nobody has ever been charged.
“Mr Kenny has still to confirm a date when he will meet the Kingsmills families,” Lord Empey added. “The murder of Pat Finucane was outrageous and is the subject of a substantial investigation which is due to report in December.
“But what is unique about the Finucane murder when compared to the Kingsmills, Omagh, Teebane or Tullyvallen atrocities, none of which are currently due to be examined by public inquiry?”
He said it appeared the Taoiseach’s conduct was creating a “hierarchy of victims” from the Troubles.
His party colleague executive minister Danny Kennedy, who has been pressing for a meeting with Mr Kenney and the Kingsmills families for 11 months, said the Taoiseach has agreed in principle to meet them but has not given a date.
“The families are angry and frustrated,” the UUP MLA said. “They feel like they are being treated as second class citizens.”
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer, who is working closely with the Kingsmills families, said he had recently called off discussions with senior Garda at the last minute because he was assured the Taoiseach would meet the families.
“I was meeting the Garda to organise a fresh victims’ parade in Dublin,” he said. “When I heard Enda Kennedy had agreed to meet the Kingsmills families we did not go through with the meeting. But now that we hear he has failed to confirm a date we feel very angry.”
Colin Worton, whose elder brother Kenneth was murdered at Kingsmills, agreed.
“The Taoiseach should be even handed and meet victims from our side of the community too,” he said. “Only meeting one side of the community is not really on”.
By Lyndsey Telford
April 18 2012
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned that people will be cut off it they fail to pay water charges.
Amid continued speculation that households face an €800 bill for new meters, Mr Kenny refused to give details of potential costs when the new charge is introduced in 2014.
“These are all matters for discussion about how the system is actually going to work,” said Mr Kenny.
“If you don’t pay your electricity bill, if you don’t pay your water bill, it’s cut off.”
Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirmed yesterday an annual charge would come into effect in 2014, which will go towards repaying the €450m loan the Government will take from the National Pension Reserve Fund to pay for water meter installations by the new utility Irish Water.
The Taoiseach pointed out that while water is “fundamental for life”, the Government is not in a position to give people a free allowance.
“Clearly the system here is for everybody to understand that we cannot go on the way we have been going on,” Mr Kenny said.
“We cannot continue to have 40pc of water leaking through the system.”
The Taoiseach also refused to give details on potential costs – for both water charges and the planned standing charge. He said the details have yet to be ironed out by the new water regulator.
It has been widely reported that householders could face a standing charge of €39 per annum over 20 years – totalling around €800 for meters to measure water usage.
“I can’t tell you what the cost of electricity will be in five years,” the Taoiseach said.
“It’s a difficult question to say what the charge for water is when the detail has not been worked out. It will be the responsibility of the water regulator.”
Mr Kenny repeated the Environment Minister’s assurances that no upfront payment will be required of householders for the meters. He insisted nothing would be paid for before the official rollout of the charges.
Meanwhile, Mr Hogan confirmed yesterday that public utility Irish Water would be established immediately as part of Bord Gais to oversee the roll-out of the water metering programme.
There have also been commitments that the company will not be privatised regardless of plans for a sale of State assets.
It costs around €1.2bn supply all of Ireland’s homes with clean water. About 40pc of supplies are thought to be lost through leaks
Ireland is the only country in the European Union and of the OECD states that does not charge for the resource.
By Juno McEnroe
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The cancer patient and campaigner who wrote to Enda Kenny criticising pay hikes for special advisers at a time of cutbacks in the health service has died.
Former Fás worker Yves Chavanne lost his battle with throat cancer on Thursday night.
The father of three was surrounded by family and friends when he passed away at St Francis Hospice, Raheny, Dublin.
The 61-year-old sent a letter to the Taoiseach asking why the Government was breaking its pay cap for advisers when health budgets were being cut.
He spoke to the Irish Examiner about his letter, in which he criticised the salary of ministerial adviser Ciaran Conlon being bumped up by €35,000 to €127,000.
His letter, one of nearly 100 complaints sent to Mr Kenny on the issue, said that he was a stage-IV cancer patient who could not get follow-up treatment before because he claimed “a budget for it had already been spent”.
Mr Chavanne said that crucial treatment never went ahead after surgeons tried to remove a 17cm tumour from his throat.
After this paper published details of his letter, a campaign took off which saw frustrated members of the public post messages and pictures on Facebook. (https://www.facebook.com/Imangrynotformeforeverybody)
Speaking last night, his oldest daughter Mélanie Wallace-Chavanne said: “I couldn’t be any prouder of my father. He always fought for everything, for fairness and for the underdog.
“We were holding his hand when he took his last breath. We could see that he was in pain but now that’s over.
“He kept talking about the kindness of strangers and the people who had contacted him. He wasn’t just angry for himself. It was for people who had lost jobs and those emigrating and getting on planes.”
Mr Kenny said at a public event on Feb 21 that he would personally reply to the dying man. His family last night said they not yet received any response. A spokesman for Mr Kenny did not immediately return calls last night.
7 March 2012
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has accused the Government of treason for trying to frighten the public into voting in favour of the European fiscal treaty.
The Dublin West TD said the Government was blackmailing people into a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum by warning the country will have no access to emergency funds from Europe if it rejects the treaty.
“We have ministers saying the country will not be able to get money from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) if we don’t agree,” said Mr Higgins.
“People are being frightened with a big stick held up to their faces to vote in favour.”
The Socialist Party member accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of signing the treaty last month, knowing the threat of Europe withholding emergency funds would force the public into a Yes vote.
“Taoiseach, isn’t it true that Dail Eireann must accept this section that money cannot be taken from the fund without accepting the fiscal treaty?” Mr Higgins went on.
“Doesn’t this mean that Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers must come in here and vote to give a big stick to hold over the people? Isn’t that treason for our people?”
But the Taoiseach insisted the public was not being blackmailed and said that adopting the treaty would ensure Ireland access to the ESM should it ever need it.
“We’re not talking about a big stick here. There is no big stick,” said Mr Kenny. “But in the future the economy will be much strengthened for the country and there will be jobs for the people.”
Mr Kenny signed the treaty last week but it cannot be ratified until the public has a say. No date has been set for the referendum day.
By Shane Ross
26 February 2012
OKAY Enda, but what about the jobless back home in Ireland? They are beginning to repeat an old joke around Leinster House: Taoiseach Enda Kenny will soon be paying a State visit to Ireland — he wants to reconnect with the problems of his native people.
Kenny is on a global roll. Last week, after waving goodbye to his new friend, Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, he announced that he himself would be heading over to China pronto — next month, presumably before the jet-lagged Xi forgets who he is.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Enda dropped into Dail Eireann to answer a few questions before jetting over to Berlin for dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Last Friday he flew to Rome to share his thoughts with the Italian premier, Mario Monti.
The photos were good.
The meeting with Merkel was not as exclusive as we were led to believe. Enda was lumped in with the third division European premiers of Latvia and the Czech Republic. The dinner wasn’t a one-to-one with Angela, but he still made it into division three.
The photos were good.
This week the Taoiseach is popping over to Brussels to tell all 27 European premiers how Ireland is toeing the European line.
The photos will be good.
Enda, the newly born statesman, has only just returned from the US pow-wowing with ex-president Bill Clinton, his second transatlantic visit in two weeks.
Kenny the world leader will be barging his way into the White House in three weeks on St Patrick’s Day to greet his old friend Barack. Hopefully he will manage to squeeze Barack in between his return trip to China and Easter recess. Earlier this month he was in Downing Street rubbing shoulders with David Cameron; in January he hosted a visit to Dublin for the UK’s deputy PM Nick Clegg.
Xi’s visit to Ireland was probably the highlight of Enda’s weeks of mixing with international statesmen. It has been hailed as “historic” and maybe it will be — but you can be sure that the only aspect of the Chinese VP’s stay in Ireland that will be remembered by the masses will be the photos of his gallant attempts at kicking a football and swinging a hurley.
Is Enda’s hob-nobbing with the mighty doing Ireland’s economy any good? It certainly gives Kenny a wonderful profile. It let him be pictured with Paypal’s vice president, the vivacious Louise Phelan, at a press conference announcing 1,000 jobs. It supposedly adds to his stature, to be greeted by Obama, Cameron, Xi, Merkel and Monti on equal terms. But is it reducing the jobless numbers at home?
Whether Kenny played any part in delivering the 1,000 Paypal jobs to Dundalk is unknown. The success is more likely to have been the result of solid work by the IDA over a number of years. Work that has brought Google, Facebook, Twitter and others to Dublin. But Enda is in the right place at the time of the arrival of more jobs. So he might as well cash in on it — call in the cameras and claim the credit.
God knows how the IDA’s reporting minister, Richard Bruton, feels about Enda stealing his thunder. Maybe Richard will be allowed to get in on the act soon as (according to the most successful of all State agencies) there are more in the pipeline. It is unlikely that the next jobs announcements will be on the same scale, so Richard will probably be allowed a slice of the action when it breaks.
Is there any substance behind the euphoria and the Kenny spinfest of recent events? Or is it just a ball of smoke?
Of course the Paypal expansion is great news. Jobs are gold dust and multinationals come bearing gold. These are genuinely good jobs. They are not part of Enda’s fantasy ‘Jobs Plan’ initiative, with its 270 measures unveiled amid great fanfare just 10 days ago. The 270 measures are unlikely to create even 270 jobs. Nor does the hard-nosed Paypal fit into the fairyland ‘Pathways to Work’ programme launched by Enda and Minister Joan Burton last Thursday.
Multinationals are the saviours of the economy. Without them we might see another 250,000 of our sons and daughters on the dole. One in seven Irish jobs exist courtesy of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Without them, emigration would have erupted, turning a flood of Ireland’s departing youth into a tsunami. US companies are keeping thousands of our sons and daughters at home.
So Enda’s and Richard Bruton’s efforts to bring foreign investment to Ireland should not be greeted by begrudgery. Nevertheless we need not take their role too seriously. Opportunist politicians invariably pop up when the IDA delivers the jobs. The photos fool plenty of people.
The spin is working, but the economy is not.
Amid all the bubbly comment about multinational jobs last week came a reality check.
The domestic economy is as flat as a pancake. Small business is in tatters. Jobs are being lost.
The unhelpful European Commission and the ESRI pricked Enda’s balloon. Both issued gloomy reports. The latest projections for Europe are depressing. The report from the Commission asserted that Europe was now in a “mild recession”; that Irish export growth will slow in 2012; that domestic demand will fall even further because of higher taxes, increased unemployment and households paying down debts.
And what about growth?
The European Commission manages to hold out the hope that it can reach 0.5 per cent. The ESRI puts it as high as 0.9 per cent. Bad news for Enda, who still insists that it will reach 1.3 per cent.
And jobs? The European Commission expects unemployment here to rise again this year. The ESRI anticipates an almost unchanged jobless rate of 14 per cent. It expects a small fall next year, but only because there will be further mass emigration. Even the government poodles in the Department of Finance admit that unemployment will stay above 14 per cent in 2012.
Has the Government simply given up the ghost on the jobless? Small and medium-sized businesses, critically important in the employment game, are closing their doors by the day. The Government is unmoved. The revival of an earlier discarded plan for the Government to dump the cost of statutory sick leave pay on businesses will bury a few struggling outfits and ensure that others lay off staff.
The Government should remember that the problem of absenteeism and statutory sick pay was created by Irish governments, not by small and medium-sized businesses.
Enda will be adding to the jobless numbers if he goes ahead with this.
Two seemingly paradoxical words — “jobless growth” — are creeping back into the economic debate. Decoded, they mean that exports may improve, but that the backbone of employment, the small and medium-sized businesses, are being sacrificed.
Successive governments, including Kenny’s, have played the multinational game skillfully.
Maybe all those trips overseas are paying off, but when Enda next spots Ireland from the government jet, he should ask the pilot to bring him down to earth in a small business park.
Saturday February 18 2012
18 Feb 2012
It was a poignant sight. Joe Kennedy was standing behind Enda, silently watching grainy footage of his grand-uncle then US President John F Kennedy taking his leave of the Irish almost 50 years ago, and promising with a flash of that dazzling wide smile, “I’ll certainly come back in the springtime”.
Five months later, he was dead.
But although Camelot died that fateful day in Dallas, the Kennedy name remained an omnipresent and powerful force in American politics, until a year ago when the retirement of Patrick Kennedy seemed to herald an end to the famous political dynasty. But then on Thursday, 31-year old Joe Kennedy III, son of former politician Joe Kennedy and grandson of former US attorney general Robert Kennedy, announced that he was running for Congress in Massachusetts following the retirement of Democrat Barney Frank.
And with something which surely was more than passing serendipity, the tall, skinny, ginger-haired scion of America’s most famous Irish-American family, announced his candidacy for the race on the day of the Taoiseach’s arrival in Boston.
And so a posse of photographers greeted Enda as he arrived at the JFK Library and Museum, where he was greeted by Joe and also by Stephen Smith, son of Jean Kennedy Smith, former US ambassador to Ireland.
Enda was taken on a tour of the museum, and he and Joe chatted as they walked through corridors of photos and videos of the late president, his wife Jackie and Joe’s own father, Bobby.
And the latest recruit to the political dog-fight of American politics is the spit of his grand-dad, with his thick mop of wavy red hair and sharp features.
It’s a fascinating trip through an extraordinary life, and the Taoiseach was shown the sword of George Washington — a replica of which was presented by President Kennedy to Taoiseach Sean Lemass who accepted it on behalf of President Eamon de Valera.
And then the group stood in silence and watched footage from Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in the summer of 1963, and his carefree pledge to return.
The Taoiseach was clearly fascinated, and expressed his appreciation in his speech at the lunch in the museum which had been organised by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA for more than 200 business people.
“You have no idea of the privilege it is for me, both as a person and also as Taoiseach, to stand here against this magnificent backdrop in this wonderful location in this magnificent building of such historical import,” he began.
“I was 12 when I heard the news that Lancer was down,” he said, referring to the late president’s Secret Service moniker. “I was learning my Latin and I know that hundreds of millions of others will remember where they were. I think that President Kennedy embodies the success story of the Irish in America and the great links between our two countries,” he said.
‘For those of you who don’t know me, I actually learned off the inauguration address by heart many years ago — I’m not going to give it to you today, but I’ll give you a quotation from John F Kennedy when he said, ‘All of us of Irish descent are bound together by the ties that come from a common experience — an experience which may exist only in memories and in legend but which is real enough to those who possess it’.”
Although the Taoiseach’s speech was the now characteristic upbeat message about how Ireland Inc is open for business, Enda knew that a few glowing words about the local lad wouldn’t go amiss — especially as he was topping polls for the race hours after he announced that his hat was in the Congressional ring.
“I had a few words with young Joe, he’s already gone ahead in the polls, but I told him not to mind those things,” he added.
“If he needs any advice on how to do this job. I’ve been on the circuit for a very long time. If you ever step into the arena of having to take a party demoralised and crushed by their own fears and go on to lead that to victory and have belief that you can actually make it — give me a call sometime,” he said as laughter rose from the room.
And he finished by reminding the audience that next year is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland.
“I do hope that we can do something together to commemorate that fabulous visit which transformed Ireland and which gave our people a sense of spirit and hope and confidence,” he said.
As Enda finished, Joe was first to his feet to applaud him, flashing that big ol’ family smile.
This indeed could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
7 February 2012 08:32
A STORMONT minister has slammed the Irish Government for issuing eight months of “holding replies” to requests for a meeting with IRA victims – while giving “almost immediate access” to other Troubles victims.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said yesterday that he had been “continuously” asking for a meeting with the Taoiseach’s office for eight months, but to no avail. He is requesting Enda Kenny meet the families of 10 Protestant workmen murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh in 1976.
In November, the Taoiseach angered many unionists when, on his first visit to Belfast as Irish premier, he pledged to back a campaign for a full public inquiry into the UFF murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
At the time, former UUP leader Lord Empey said Mr Kenny was ignoring “thousands” of Ulster people who will have no inquiry into the murders of their loved ones.
Yesterday, Lord Empey’s party colleague Mr Kennedy lost patience and went public to complain that he had not been able to secure a meeting with the Taoiseach for border IRA victims, despite trying since June 2010.
“I am getting increasingly concerned that there has not been a definite date pencilled in or confirmed for the meeting,” Mr Kennedy told the News Letter.
“And I have obviously seen that other people can gain almost immediate access on ‘the past’ and victims’ issues.”
He first asked for a meeting in June 2011, after the publication of a HET report into the Kingsmills murders.
“I have been in continuous contact with the Taoiseach’s office and Department of Foreign Affairs ever since. And in spite of promises and holding replies they have not confirmed a date for a meeting. It is beginning to reflect badly on them.
“We need at least an acknowledgement of the failure of successive Irish Governments to deal with the terrorist problem on the south Armagh border. We need an expression that this happened and that it will not happen again.”
Last week, English MPs from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were angered by Mr Kennedy’s insistence that the IRA campaign against unionists in south Armagh had amounted to “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing”.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: The Taoiseach met with Geraldine Finucane and members of her family on one occasion, during his visit to Belfast on 17th November 2011, immediately prior to the Aisling Awards at the Europa Hotel.
“The following day, the Taoiseach met in Armagh with minister Danny Kennedy at his request to discuss victims of killings in the south Armagh area.”
Friday January 27 2012
THERE is a fairly inflexible rule in politics that your domestic reputation usually begins to wane around the same time that your international reputation takes off. It seems that voters begin to get tired of you just as foreigners start paying attention. Looking at Enda Kenny in Davos yesterday, I couldn’t help wondering whether he is starting to fall into this trap.
He was doing so well at the swanky Alpine resort until he got up on stage for a discussion on Europe. It is not the sort of environment where Irish leaders traditionally shine.
Fresh from Wednesday’s bond swap which eases the pressure on Irish borrowing and seemingly close to a deal to reduce Anglo’s bailout costs, Mr Kenny was understandably displaying signs of a little swagger.
Davos is not short of stars. At this time of year, the town is a magnet for the rich and famous and it is almost bewildering to see so many of them rubbing their expensively clad shoulders together as they hobnob and bask in mutual adoration.
But those gathered in the resort are curious about Ireland and Mr Kenny was stopped as he walked among the billionaire bankers, and asked how Ireland was managing to be the best boy in the class.
Yesterday, the Mayo man took part in one of the main events which was a discussion about the future of the continent. Despite being billed as one of the highlights of the day, the auditorium was barely half full.
Not a good start.
Things got worse when he began thinking aloud on who was to blame for the crisis. Perhaps it was the high altitude. Perhaps it was the glamourous Finnish Prime Minister Jryrki Katainen, Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski who were sitting next to him. Or perhaps it’s what he believed all along. Who knows, but when our Taoiseach was asked to explain Ireland’s speculator financial crash, he bluntly announced to the world that we all “simply went mad borrowing”.
Spawned out of greed, he said our personal wealth was created on credit that couldn’t be maintained.
No mention of failed banking regulation. No mention of the lack of governance or accountability.
His explanation of Ireland’s now infamous property crash was put down to nothing more than pure madness. Ironically, his explanation strongly echoes the late Brian Lenihan’s statement back in November 2010 when said “we all partied” during the boom.
But it is the total opposite of what Mr Kenny reassuringly told us all just seven weeks ago in his state of the nation address.
Remember his words back then when he was talking to us and compare them with his words yesterday.
“Let me say this to you all: You are not responsible for the crisis,” was how he put it in an address which almost 800,000 people watched last December.
He went on to tell us that it was now his Government’s responsibility to do what must be done to get the economy back on its feet.
It is easy to become blase about all the posturing, posing and rhetoric at Davos. Everybody talks in platitudes half the time but I doubt I was the only Irish person in the room who felt a little queasy when Mr Kenny announced the Irish people understand the “scale of the challenge” that faces them.
He added that in his experience people are very pragmatic and the political process and politicians should never underestimate the public’s capacity to want to assist government in sorting out problems.
All this from the leader of a government that is plainly terrified of a referendum on Europe. All this from a government that is doing everything it can to avoid consulting those same pragmatic people about a fiscal compact which will have far greater effects on how this country is governed than anything discussed in the Dail in recent years.
All this from a government that has to blame the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank for every reform it introduces into a parliament where it enjoys a massive parliamentary majority.
One of the questions I was asked again and again in Davos this week is why aren’t the Irish protesting more?
Almost all continentals are amazed at the lack of anger and the failure of Irish people to protest against some of the patently unjust things that have happened.
Some of those who ask these questions are genuinely curious.
Others are envious of what they perceive as our docile nature.
These leaders are looking for tips about how to subdue the national spirit.
Back home, we all know that there are a variety of complex historical reasons for the reluctance of Irish people to riot.
We undoubtedly fear violence because our history has been blotted by periods and episodes of extreme violence.
But looking round the room in Davos, listening to the voices and accents, was a reminder that most other countries have experienced the same violence (or much worse) and still take to the streets to remind their governments of who is the real boss.
Enda Kenny may be proud of our political maturity. But he didn’t show much of it yesterday.
December 4: ‘Let me say this: You are not responsible for the crisis’
January 26: ‘What happened was that people simply went mad borrowing’
By Maeve Dineen in Davos
Friday January 27 2012
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny risked provoking a furious backlash last night when he blamed Irish people’s “mad borrowing” for the economic crash — just seven weeks after telling them: “You are not responsible for the crisis”.
Mr Kenny’s forthright comments at an elite economic conference in Switzerland were in stark contrast to the conciliatory tone he struck in his address to the nation on December 4.
In the wake of the Government repaying €1.25bn to Anglo Irish Bank bondholders, the Taoiseach told the World Economic Forum in Davos that Ireland’s personal wealth during the boom was created “totally on credit”.
“It was done between people, banks and a system that spawned greed to a point where this went out of control completely with a spectacular crash,” he said.
Mr Kenny’s comments echoed the much criticised “we all partied” remarks by then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan two years ago.
He was immediately accused of an “absolute contradiction” and “praising you at home, blaming you abroad”.
His gaffe is the latest in a stream of coalition missteps following Finance Minister Michael Noonan claiming emigrants were making a “lifestyle choice” and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar’s financial “bomb” going off in Dublin if the country did not repay its banking debts.
The contradiction between the Taoiseach’s message last month and yesterday was attacked by the Opposition.
Fianna Fail’s Niall Collins said Mr Kenny was clearly taking one approach at home and another abroad.
“While he’s here, the priority is media management and preserving popularity. When he is abroad, the priority appears to be to avoid putting the blame where it belongs.
“Where was the Taoiseach’s harsh criticism of European banks which helped flood Ireland with credit for years? He should be standing up for the Irish people and challenging the role of the banks when he has the chance,” he said.
Sinn Fein’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn said it was an outrageous analysis and accused the Taoiseach of blaming Irish people for a crash caused by aggressive lenders and greedy banks.
“This analysis that people in Ireland went drunk with credit, were reckless and they have to now be cleansed by a decade of austerity is very worrying.”
Mr Kenny was speaking at one of the forum’s main panel discussions entitled ‘Rebuilding Europe’.
In a response to a question on what was happening in Ireland, the Taoiseach said: “. . .what happened in our country was that people simply went mad borrowing. The extent of personal credit, personal wealth created on credit was done between people, banks, a system that spawned greed to a point where this went out of control completely with the spectacular crash that you mentioned.
“The country borrowed over €60bn at excessive rates and the IMF eventually came in with the troika. . . so what has happened in the meantime. . . last year in a general election people gave the strongest mandate in the history of the country to my party to sort out this problem.”
In a somewhat dry debate that failed to offer any real insight, Mr Kenny said the Irish people understood the “scale of the challenge” that faced them and said Ireland had measured up to every condition set out by the IMF-EU.
“It’s got to be understood that people are very pragmatic and the political process and politicians should never underestimate the public’s capacity to want to assist government in sorting out problems,” he said.
Also in Davos, Mr Kenny said a decision on the need for a referendum on tougher EU budgetary rules would not be made until after the European leaders’ summit, which takes place in Brussels on Monday.
The Taoiseach said there would be no discussion at next week’s summit on reducing the level of debt associated with Anglo Irish Bank’s bailout.
The European Central Bank is understood to be open to proposals to replace Anglo Irish Bank’s €30bn promissory note or government IOU, for another type of debt repayment.
Mr Kenny said he spoke with the prime ministers of Austria, Italy, Spain, Holland, Finland and Denmark about the treaty and “the question of the flexibility for the promissory notes”.
“But I made it clear that it is not related to this treaty business,” he said.
Tuesday January 24 2012
The Taoiseach hit a few headlines last week. And so did the Finance Minister, not to mention the Tanaiste. The Education Minister also grabbed a bit of attention for himself, as did (and not for the first time) the Transport Minister. And then there were the yards of print generated by the Social Protection Minister last year.
Unfortunately for the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, none of these particular headlines were in praise of a new policy initiative or a fine speech or a ground-breaking piece of legislation.
They were all highlighting yet another outbreak of foot-in-mouth, another governmental gaffe, another totally unnecessary slip-up on a verbal banana-skin.
Last week alone it appeared as if a series of senior ministers opened their traps with the sole intention of inserting their feet.
Michael Noonan, an experienced and articulate politician usually adept at avoiding dropping clangers, found himself in the midst of a storm last week after making remarks at a press conference which appeared to suggest that emigration was “a lifestyle choice” for young people.
“It’s a small island. A lot of people want to get off the island,” he also said.
As a hub-bub of protest rose from opposition politicians and the public alike, the minister protested that his quotes had been taken “out of context”. But his claim is irrelevant. At a time when approximately 1,000 people a week are quitting Ireland in search of work, his comments were insensitive and provocative.
Moreover, they also took the gloss off the positive spin of the press conference — which was that the so-called troika was satisfied the Government was adhering to the terms of the bailout agreement.
Nor was Michael Noonan the first minister to provoke a furore by careless usage of the word “lifestyle” — he should’ve heeded the cautionary tale of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton who caused a furore last year when she declared that social welfare has become “a lifestyle choice” for some school-leavers.
Equally, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar did not see the wisdom of using judicious and careful language when it comes to the controversial issue of paying back or burning Anglo bondholders.
Instead, he dramatically declared on RTE’s ‘The Week in Politics’ on Sunday night that what the troika last week “said really, is that: ‘It’s on your head. We don’t want you to default on these payments. It is your decision ultimately. But a bomb will go off, and the bomb will go off in Dublin, not in Frankfurt.'”
It turned out afterwards that this somewhat incendiary statement was the minister’s own interpretation of the troika’s language rather than a direct quote.
And speaking of Anglo, the Tanaiste unwisely invoked unwelcome memories of certain inter-bank skullduggery when he revived the infamous “green jersey” phrase used by Anglo Irish Bank to explain some of their transactions.
During an exchange with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald in the Dail last week, Eamon Gilmore scolded the Sinn Fein deputy for not “putting on the green jersey” while the troika negotiations were under way.
And then there was the Taoiseach’s own gaffe on Friday. Having delivered a well-received speech at a conference in Dublin Castle on how to attract more women into politics, he concluded with a jokey reference to junior minister Kathleen Lynch’s “flaming red hair”.
Silly, rather than insulting, but why did the Taoiseach risk irritating Mna na hEireann, when the political landscape is littered with casualties who fell before him? Just ask Albert “there’s women for you” Reynolds.
Could all these gaffes be down to the fact — as Education Minister Ruairi Quinn jaw-droppingly admitted on radio earlier this month — that, like himself, the Government is “out of practice” at the business of governing after spending so long in opposition?
Well, tough. It’s almost a year since the election and unless the Taoiseach wants FG to stand for Frequent Gaffes, his government needs to shape up fast and stop behaving as if it is still in opposition, where playing fast and loose with language has few consequences.
Furthermore, the lamentations from the Social Protection Minister on Radio One on Sunday regarding the lack of information coming from NAMA simply invoked the spirit of Bertie Ahern who was wont as Taoiseach to bemoan some shortcoming in Irish life and declare that “someone should do something about that”.
Eh yes, he, as Taoiseach, was in a position to do precisely that. Just as Joan Burton as a government minister is in a position to suggest changes in legislation if a system is found wanting.
And perhaps Labour and Fine Gael should remember they’re on the same side of the Dail chamber now; it’s unlikely anybody in Fine Gael thanked Labour senator John Kelly, who remarked of an appearance by junior minister John Perry in the Seanad that: “We would nearly have been better having an empty seat there than John Perry. It would not have made any difference.”
In fact this remark could apply to John Perry, full stop. The Sligo-North Leitrim TD has maintained a remarkably low-key profile as Minister for Small Business, despite this Government’s repeated insistence that SME’s are the country’s best hope of escaping recession.
But it was helpful of Mr Kelly to draw everyone’s attention to this fact.
Under no circumstances does anyone wish to see a return to the attitude of the former administration in which non-communication was brought to a fine art and where an attitude of “whatever you say, say nothing” prevailed when it came to almost every interaction between the Taoiseach and the media.
However, this Government needs to steer a more considered verbal course through the current turbulent waters.
Loose lips can sink ships of state too.
Saturday January 14 2012
Dear oh dear. There was no way that yesterday’s British-Irish Council pow-wow in Dublin Castle would be snidely dismissed as an irrelevant talking-shop of geezers from Guernsey, Joe Soaps from Jersey and whatdyecallim from Wales.
No siree. Not after Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond came over all Braveheart on ‘Morning Ireland’ just hours before the meeting, when he fired off a fusillade of arrows across the bow of Blighty.
Hot on the heels of his declaration this week that Scotland would hold a referendum in 2014 on splitting from the UK, Alex let fly on the Irish airwaves.
“What we have seen over the last week is a most extraordinary attempt to bully and intimidate Scotland by Westminster politicians,” he thundered, before placing Nick Clegg firmly in this deplorable category.
And so the stage was promptly set for a showdown between Scotland’s first minister and Britain’s deputy prime minister, who were both in Dublin for the summit which was being hosted/refereed by the Taoiseach.
And sitting in the big chair at the British Irish Council press conference, poor Enda was clearly torn.
One half of him was determined not to get dragged into the first public skirmish in what promises to be a long and possibly bitter turf war — after all, in historical chronology it’s only about five minutes since peace broke out over our border.
But the other half of Enda was secretly chuffed that this scrap would occupy the larger and more attentive-than-usual posse of press gathered in the room, and he wouldn’t be plagued with pesky questions about bailouts and job losses.
Instead, the Taoiseach was doing his utmost to jolly everyone along; as the delegation gathered outside the room, Enda moved to dispel any awkward silences by chattily pointing to the large portrait hanging on the wall beside them.
Interestingly, or ominously, the imposing figure glowering over them was that of King George III — the last British monarch to bear the separate title of King of Ireland before the 1801 Act of Union which renamed his domain as the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’.
And now a sabre-rattling Scot is causing trouble for the kingdom. But instead of striding into Dublin sporting blue paint on his ample visage, a la William Wallace, Alex Salmond contented himself with pointedly wearing a red-and-green tartan tie. And surely it was pure coincidence that sitting on the other side of Enda were Nick Clegg in a red tie and Peter Robinson in one of white and blue?
Inevitably the first question from the media was about whether the jig was up for Scotland. “Why did I assume the first question was going to be about the council?” half-joked Enda.
Alex wouldn’t be pacified.
“We have a mandate to hold a referendum on the constitution and it is important that we can take forward these plans so that the people of Scotland can determine their future,” he reiterated, although he extended a small olive-branch in the form of an invitation to Nick and David Cameron to attend talks in Edinburgh or London.
But Nick Clegg felt a bit feisty himself. “I wasn’t aware that Alex had said that the British government is somehow bullying, but, look, I don’t think Alex should be so jumpy,” he retorted, before questioning just why the Scottish minister was up in arms in the first place.
“That’s why we have actually — far from intimidating or bullying anybody — we have actually said we will give to the Scottish government, to clarify any legal ambiguities, the power to hold a referendum,” he said, flashing a smile in the direction of the Scot.
But then Nick fired the first shot for the Sassenachs, adding: “People want to know answers to some basic questions — what does independence for Scotland mean for themselves, their children, their families, their communities, their jobs? What does it mean for their currency?
“What does it mean for debt? What does it mean for banks which are in distress? What does it mean for defence bases?” he said, none-too subtly.
The others wisely stayed out of the fray.
“I think if what we’ve seen over the last few days is a trailer of things to come, unless we like seeing the sight of our own blood, we might want to stand back somewhat,” observed the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson, while the Taoiseach was even more blunt.
“Believe you me, I’ve no intention of getting involved in what are the responsibilities and the rights of other parliaments and other people,” he dodged. Phew.
The North’s deputy first minister saw an opening for a bit of devilment. “Peter Robinson and I have a castle in Belfast and I’m sure we would be able to make it available for peace talks between Britain and Scotland,” he grinned.
Good grief. The world is upside down for sure when Martin McGuinness is offering the Brits and the Scots the loan of the hall in Stormont for peace-talks. Outside the room, there was a faint whirring sound. It was King George III, revolving in his grave.
12 Jan 2012
The British government’s refusal to hold an inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane has been raised by the taoiseach.
Enda Kenny held talks with Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.
Pat Finucane was shot dead by loyalists in front of his family in 1989
Last November, Mr Kenny called for a full, independent inquiry into the 1989 murder. The British Government has ruled that out, but the Finucane family is challenging that decision.
Mr Kenny said: “Clearly we have a difference of opinion here.”
Mr Finucane was shot dead in his north Belfast home by the loyalist UFF in 1989.
The family wants a full independent inquiry into the murder, which, they believe, was promised by the British government.
However, last October the prime minister told them a review would be conducted by leading QC Desmond de Silva.
His review is expected to be completed by December 2012 at a cost of £1.5m.
The Finucanes have now instructed their solicitors to take a judicial review challenging Mr Cameron’s decision. That hearing will take place on Friday.
In 2004, the then Northern Ireland secretary of state Paul Murphy announced his intention to hold an inquiry under the new Inquiries Act.
The Finucane family are opposed to the inquiry being held under this legislation, which they say makes the inquiry accountable to the minister responsible, rather than to parliament.
The family believe there was collusion in the murder.
Commenting on Thursday’s talks, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “They discussed bilateral relations between Ireland and Britain, noting the success of the state visit to Ireland last year by Her Majesty the Queen.
“They agreed to build on this success by work in 2012 to deepen economic partnership.
“They discussed Northern Ireland, and reiterated their commitment to working closely together to ensure safety and prosperity there, including through close cross-border cooperation.”
9 Jan 2012
Dublin City Councillors have passed a resolution calling on the Taoiseach and the and Environment Minister to meet residents of Priory Hall.
Dublin City Councillors have unanimously passed a resolution calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to meet residents of Priory Hall.
Fine Gael councillors backed the resolution, which also called for a Dáil committee to make recommendations on how to deal with the problem.
Over 250 residents, including apartment owners and private tenants, are in temporary accommodation after they were forced to leave because of fire safety risks.
The Environment Minister has said he cannot meet residents because there is a case before the courts, but Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said he could not see a sub judice issue about a meeting.
The Supreme Court is due to fix a date on 19 January for a hearing on whether Dublin City Council is liable for the residents’ accommodation costs and for developer Tom McFeely’s appeal against a jail sentence for failing to carry out remedial works.
Meanwhile, two different councillors have contradicted council officials’ denials they offered apartment owners €50,000 each for their properties.
This evening’s monthly council meeting heard that this would have totalled €10m and still left residents with hundreds of thousands of euro in mortgage liabilities.
City Manager John Tierney said the question of the council buying out the apartments was raised by the residents and the figure of €50,000 referred to their current valuation.
But councillors Brian McDowall and Mícheál Mac Donnacha both claimed the buyout figure was among a range of options raised during confidential discussions.
4 Jan 2012
**Don’t you just love it? — Mr Kenny’s return email to one displaced resident said he “has noted the points you raised” and “extends his very best wishes to you”. –How heartwarming.
DISPLACED RESIDENTS of the Priory Hall apartment complex have expressed dissatisfaction at an email from Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office in response to a plea for help.
Chairwoman of the Priory Hall Residents’ Committee wrote to Mr Kenny after one resident received an email from his office yesterday.
Mr Kenny’s office wrote that her correspondence would be copied to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan. The email said Mr Kenny “has noted the points you raised” and “extends his very best wishes to you”.
Some 240 residents of the complex were forced to leave their Dublin homes 80 days ago due to serious fire safety risks. Residents were not satisfied with the reply because Mr Hogan has not met them.
“Although it is a very nice email, the problem is Minister Hogan has made it perfectly clear that he will not meet with the residents of Priory Hall,” committee chairwoman Sinead Power wrote in an email to Mr Kenny yesterday. She urged him to help. The plight of residents was being “ignored” by Government and was a “monument to everything that was wrong in this country for the last 10 years”, she wrote.
Mr Hogan could not meet with residents due to ongoing court proceedings a Department of the Environment spokesman said.
Later this month Dublin City Council will seek to overturn a court order to pay the accommodation expenses of the residents. “This month we have to fight to stay in our emergency accommodation,” Ms Power said.
15 Dec 2011
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny and Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins clashed in the Dáil over the introduction of the €100 household charge.
The charge comes into effect for up to 1.6 million households on January 1st, after the Local Government (Household Charge) Bill passed all stages last night.
Mr Kenny claimed the campaign against bin charges led by Mr Higgins in 2003 “led directly to the privatisation of bin services”. He made the allegation after Mr Higgins claimed the Taoiseach would become “the Captain Boycott of austerity in this country, imposing the will of the IMF-EU and bleeding our people”, referring to the 1880 controversy about the British land agent Charles Boycott in Co Mayo.
He also claimed the Taoiseach was involved in a “disgraceful campaign of intimidation of threatening householders with fines of €2,500 for non-registration”, which he said would be resisted.
Socialist Party TD Clare Daly and Independent TD Thomas Pringle have both said they would not pay the charge, nor register for it and encouraged others not to pay. Dublin South Central Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh announced in the Dáil yesterday he would not pay the charge, but he would not encourage others to do so without them knowing the full consequences of their action.
He criticised the commitment to “spend €1 billion installing water meters” while failing to invest in preventing water leaks of up to 40 per cent of total supply.
Mr Kenny staunchly defended the €100 charge, insisting the money was necessary to fund public services. “This is a €2 charge a week for vital services,” and the funds would go toward “fire services and libraries and street cleaning”.
These “are all funded by the exchequer up until now and it’s necessary that citizens understand that they can make a contribution of €2 for these services”.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, who introduced the legislation, had warned that those who did not pay would be pursued, and face a possible penalty of up to €2,500 with debts levied on their estate in the case of death.
Mr Kenny said the €160 million expected income was based on the number of properties in the State.
There were waivers including for those on mortgage interest supplement, on housing supports or rent supplement, and those in certain unfinished housing estates.
However, Mr Higgins criticised the charge, claiming it was common knowledge it will “grow quickly to €1,000” under pressure from the EU and IMF.
“This will be met with a massive campaign of opposition from Donegal to Wexford, from Kerry right back to Dublin,” Mr Higgins said, adding that most local authorities had privatised their bin services before the Dublin protest.
Mr Kenny said: “I always thought that Kerry people understood that there’s nothing free in this world, that when you turn on the tap, somebody’s got to pay to put the water in there in the first place.”
Mr Higgins said “people in Kerry, Mayo and Dublin understand that nothing is free because they pay for it already”.
The Dublin West TD said the Taoiseach was due in March next year to pay €1.2 billion to a single unsecured bondholder in the former Anglo Irish Bank. “You could keep €200 million, give it to the local authorities and give people a break.”
Mr Kenny said the range of people excluded from the charge is “extensive”. He added that budget decisions meant there was no change in income tax rates for workers and 330,000 workers had been taken out of the universal social charge.
But People Before Profit TD Joan Collins said “the Government is giving them back €4 a week and then taking €2 a week off them”.