Monthly Archives: April 2012

Senator Daly asks the Minister for Social Protection to come to the House to discuss the issue of social welfare payments to assist people with mortgage interest payments

Order of Business

25th April 2012

 Senator Mark Daly:    I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Social Protection to come to the House to discuss the issue of social welfare payments to assist people with mortgage interest payments. Senator Mary Moran:    She will be here on Friday. Senator John Gilroy:    Senator Daly can ask her then. Senator Mark Daly:    I have asked through the normal channels if there is any proof that payments given to people to pay mortgage interest are being passed on to the banks. If people are given a choice between feeding their families, keeping the lights on or keeping the house warm and paying the bank, no one will blame them if they fail to pay the bank. We must find different mechanisms to assist people who find themselves in that difficulty. However, we need an assurance that people who are receiving assistance to make mortgage interest payments do pass the money on to the bank. People who use those funds for food, fuel or lighting should get the necessary assistance. I support my colleague, Senator Coghlan, on the issue of rates. In Northern Ireland out of town centres pay higher rates than businesses in the centre of towns. That is something the Deputy Leader might look at.

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Senator Mark Daly Discusses the Global Irish Economic Forum

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Thursday 19th April 2012

Senator Mark Daly:    I welcome the Minister to the committee. I am glad that when he went to Canada, they did not bring up the fact that some remnants of the Fenians invaded them back in the 1860s. They have left that grudge behind them. Comments were made in the Seanad this year by Members on all sides about media stories on where all the politicians were going and claims that this was a disgrace and a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any country would be absolutely delighted to have the opportunity that St. Patrick’s Day provides to Ireland. We always say that we punch above our weight, but when we look at it, trying to harness the 70 million strong diaspora around the world is very difficult. They have a bond to us, but it is about trying to mobilise them in a coherent way. The Global Irish Economic Forum is a great step and a positive initiative. It takes many elements from the best examples of what the Indians and the Israelis have done.
A number of people at the forum said that we have to make sure that there are tangible results this time. Many of them were wondering if we have gone anywhere since Farmleigh. There was huge political and economic turmoil in Ireland over those few years, and people were wondering if they would come the next time. That is not to denigrate it, but we have to up our game. In terms of the microfinancing example from the Israelis and so on, I suggest that on the anniversary of the forum, we come back here and find out how many loans were actually given and get feedback from the 130 people we appointed following the forum.
I had a meeting with an ambassador of a First World country this morning. If that country’s citizens want to reapply to stay here, we send them back and tell them they can apply next year. They have to stay away for a year and come back. These are not poor people who could be a burden on the State. They could contribute to the country, but our visa system does not work to facilitate some great countries that would be of great benefit to Ireland. We should outline to those people, who used their time and money to come to the forum, how many loans we gave out under our loan guarantee scheme. I am sure the Department will publish a report 12 months after the forum, and I hope it shows that this is what happened. I see that the communications unit issued press releases at Christmas and around the time of the budget and again in February. Do the people who receive those feel that they are effective? We read one in four of our e-mails, so why should they read that particular e-mail? What is in it that will make them open it and read it?
If the Department cannot include everybody in the €1.2 million mentoring scheme, I suggest that committee members and members of the forum come together and explain how it worked. We should be able to do that in 12 months.
The film and television industry was also mentioned in the forum, which is a free advertisement for Ireland. When it is on somebody’s television screen, they will see the scenery and come and visit. Is our tax scheme working against that at the moment? Somebody in the Australian tourist board came up with the idea of televising an Oprah Winfrey show next to the Sydney Opera House, and they invited an entire audience to come to Australia and visit everything. They brought Oprah Winfrey and put her next to the Sydney Opera House. They had the backdrop and they had the weather and they invited the entire audience from an Oprah Winfrey show to come to Australia and visit everything. I will not say you could not buy it – obviously one could buy it, because it cost €10 million – but what it was worth in publicity for Australia was enormous. We should be considering initiatives such as that. We need to ensure the Global Irish Economic Forum is a sustainable and ongoing project, and we need to show the people who gave of their time and effort, who would otherwise be charging thousands by the hour, that 12 months from the day they were here last year, this is what we have achieved. We need to give facts and figures. I think it will be a success, but we cannot sit back and expect it to happen by itself. I ask the Minister to address the questions on microfinance and to ensure that all the facts and figures are provided so that not only members of the committee but also those who attended the forum can see there was a visible outcome.

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Senator Daly asks for a school meals scheme to combat the growing problem of child hunger in Ireland

Order of Business

19th of April 2012

Senator Mark Daly:I ask the Leader to organise a debate with the Minister for Social Protection present, on the report from NUI Galway which stated that 21% of children in this country are going to school, or to bed, hungry. That would account for 344,000 children who are not getting enough to eat. That statistic is all the more shocking because the media gave very little coverage to it. In addition, the debate in this House is not describing the situation as an emergency, which it surely is. If 350,000 children here or elsewhere are going to bed or to school hungry we should call it an emergency.

The figure is all the more stark because at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade it was pointed out that in 2006 one in six children in Malawi were going hungry while today, due to Irish Aid, the figure is one in ten. There may be different levels of hunger but I do not think one can explain that to a child in Ireland or in Malawi.

Surely we can put in place a school meals scheme, as has been done in other countries. It has also been put in place in some schools but not enough obviously, given the scale of the problem involving 344,000 children who are going to school hungry. Food should be available in our schools for all those children who need it. One in five schoolchildren today could be going hungry, which is an appalling situation. Simple solutions include breakfast clubs and dinner clubs but at the very least we should not allow our children to go to school or to bed hungry.

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Senator Mark Daly Speaks on the White Paper Review of Irish Aid

Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Wednesday 18th April 2012

Senator Mark Daly:

I welcome the Minister of State to the committee. Some of my colleagues raised the question of how to define poverty. One of the interesting parts of the contribution of the Minister of State is how the number of households with insufficient food in Malawi was reduced from one in four in 2006 to one in ten today. I am a supporter of Irish Aid but when we read in The Irish Times that one in five children go to bed hungry, it puts into stark contrast the battle to make Irish Aid more effective. The chances of a child receiving a valid education when the child cannot concentrate because he or she is going to bed, waking up or going to school hungry is of serious concern. What is more startling is that it only accounted for a relatively small number of column inches on page 6 of The Irish Times and I have not heard much about it since. According to this benchmark, the children in Malawi are doing better than the children in Ireland. There are major differences in measurement but I am concerned that it is hard for us to say we should spend €600 million.

Ireland is allocating €250 million to the European external action programme for six years, which was approved by this committee in March. This is a problem in that much of our overseas aid budget goes en bloc to the EU. We must provide 1.17% of what the EU will spend on external action or other programmes such as IMF programmes. There are plenty of other examples. Since we started at the beginning of this year, the committee has committed €1 billion to various EU groups and organisations because we must give 1.17% of whatever the EU institution decides the overall budget should be. That is my concern. We are giving more and more of a limited budget because we must give it to these various organisations and less of the budget is available to go to direct partnership aid, over which we have control, and to NGOs, where we see more bang for our buck.

Who reviews how the EU external action spends the €250 million we give it? Does Irish Aid do so? I take it this is part of the overall Irish Aid budget. Will Irish Aid come back to this committee and say it is terribly disappointed with the way €250 million of Irish taxpayers’ money was spent? How will we have oversight on these monoliths to see how we will get any value from it? When the Minister of State takes into account our overseas aid budget, we are borrowing money to give it away. Are the borrowing costs of the €600 million we are taking as part of the overseas aid budget included in our aid budget? If we are to borrow money from our EU partners and then give it back to another EU institution, does the latter decide that we do not have to give 1.17% because we are borrowing it in the first place? Should it be counted as part of our overseas aid budget?

I do not have a grasp on the audit and oversight aspects. External reviews are carried out. I understand auditing is done by British universities. Is a British institution paid by Irish Aid to carry out the audits? The banks appoint auditors who, because they would like to be reappointed the following year, give a clean bill of health. That is the auditing process. Perhaps the witnesses could clarify how auditors are appointed. Rather than Irish Aid spending money on the appointment of auditors should the Comptroller and Auditor General not do the work?

My colleague, Senator Walsh, referred to the Charities Act which despite being passed has not yet been implemented. The NGOs are urging it to be implemented because they do not want rogue players who have not been properly scrutinised using the good name of Irish NGOs and people’s good will towards them. I believe the statutory instruments to be put in place under the Charities Act would address this issue.

We previously discussed the millennium development goals with representatives from Irish Aid. I have previously asked if when it comes to partner country reviews it would be possible to use our work in Zambia with the Dutch and Swedes in the prevention of HIV and AIDS as a benchmark. For example, could we during that process use as a benchmark the level of the problem in regard to HIV and AIDS prior to our going into Zambia as a partner country 20 years ago and could we also in this regard use the effectiveness of our programme there? Ireland is the lead country in HIV and AIDS prevention, which is one of the millennium development goals. The same applies in respect of Lesotho where previously primary education completion was only 20% to 30% and is now 74%. These are the type of benchmarks that could be used in future reports in regard to achievement of the millennium development goals. We are not involved in all of the millennium development goals in Lesotho. We are involved in particular issues. Perhaps the witnesses would take my views on board.

It is ironic that we are borrowing money from EU institutions to give back to EU institutions. I wonder if the interest payments on those borrowings could be counted as part of our overseas aid budget.

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Independent: Senator Mark Daly helps to unveil Valentia Slate 1916 Proclamations

Proclamation is set in stone for schools

By Majella O’Sullivan
Tuesday April 10 2012

A SLATE quarry, sought out by European builders almost two centuries ago, is now hoping to supply samples of the unique material to every primary school in Ireland.

Valentia Slate has just unveiled a prototype of the Irish Proclamation and the company hopes that one might hang in every national school in the country in time for the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising in four years’ time.

Yesterday, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who heads the cross-party commemorative committee, unveiled a prototype at the quarry on Valentia Island in south Kerry.

It is an exact copy of the original proclamation, including all its typographical errors and quirks, engraved on a slab of natural slate.

The quarry on Valentia Island opened in 1816 but closed again in 1911.

For almost a century it supplied Irish natural slate for some of the best-known buildings in Europe including St Paul’s Cathedral in London,

Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Even the floor tiles on the British Houses of Parliament are made of the slate.

After it closed, the quarry remained unused for 90 years until it was reopened by local men Michael Lyne and Pat O’Driscoll who began to cut the slate again and manufacture roof tiles, floor tiles, counter tops and even gravestones.

“A piece of slate will last for hundreds of years. It’s probably one of the most durable materials and the lettering on it also lasts,” Mr Lyne told the Irish Independent.

“There are gravestones in Valentia dating back to 1829 and you can read them clearly today, the lettering is as good as it always was.”

The company any has already won a contract to replace broken tiles on the Houses of Parliament in London that are over 150 years old.

Valentia Slate Ltd has plans to invest in a laser engraver at a cost of €100,000 and if the idea catches on they say it will translate to more new jobs at the company.

Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly, who’s also a member of the 1916 commemorative committee, said the replica proclamations on Valentia Slate was just one of the ideas that had come up at committee level.

“Schools could also get the names of all the children attending the school in 2016 engraved on the tablet,” he said.

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