Monthly Archives: August 2015

17/06/15 Senator Daly puts forward a motion on Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.

Senator Daly: I move:

That Seanad Éireann, recalling the motions by Dáil Éireann adopted unanimously on 10 July 2008 and 18 May 2011 which:- noted ‘the interim and final reports of the sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan Bombings and the three related Barron reports, including the Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk, and commends the sub-Committee on its work’;

– urged ‘the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British Government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction and which were inquired into by Judge Barron, for the purposes of assessing said documents with the aim of assisting in the resolution of these crimes’; and

– directed ‘the Clerk of the Dáil to communicate the text of this Resolution, together with copies of the aforementioned reports, to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a request that the matter be considered by the House of Commons’;

– notes that the question of obtaining access to information held by the British Government on the bombings has been pursued for many years;

– requests the Government to continue to raise the matter with the British Government and to press it to comply with the request and affirms the support of Members of this House; and

– acknowledges that the co-operation being sought is taking place in the context of transformed relationships on this island and between Ireland and Britain based on mutual respect, on partnership and on friendship.

I thank the Leader for agreeing to pass the motion and we look forward to the news from Downing Street tomorrow when the Taoiseach meets Prime Minister Cameron, and hearing what response he will give—-on the release of the files on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

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17/06/15 Senator Daly expresses Sympathy to the families of the those involved in the Berkley Tragedy

Senator Daly: To the families of Ashley, Eimear, Niccolai, Olivia, Lorcán and Eoghan, we all extend our sympathies in what are the most tragic of circumstances. I refer to the phone call that no parent ever wants to receive, and others have referred to a lifetime of grief. Having to bury one’s own child is something no parent should ever have to face.

I congratulate the Minister and staff in the Department on their handling of this tragedy in a very appropriate manner. I suggest that the Chairman write to the emergency services in Berkeley to thank them for their assistance to the families and those who were injured on behalf of the committee.

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11/06/15 Senator Daly speaks tot he Seanad during Order of Business and asks for debate on the Ibrahim Halawa case.

Senator Daly: The political commentator, Gore Vidal, once said that the four most beautiful words in the English language were “I told you so”. I will not say “I told you so” to Senator Coghlan but I think I did. When it comes to the NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill, which in–I meant Senator Paul Coghlan. In 2012, my side of the House tried to pass the NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill. I think we were told at the time that it would be fine, that there was nothing to worry about and that all would be well. Now we see that all is not well. If the Government had accepted the NAMA and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Transparency Bill, we would not find ourselves in the situation we find ourselves in today. Senator Paul Coghlan said that “too many Members are willing to buy the line on transparency peddled by some, such as Senator Daly, without looking at the facts”.

We now we have an inquiry thanks to the fact that the Government would not accept the transparency Bill we proposed. We lost that vote 17 to 24. Now the Government is acting but it is after the horse has bolted.

I ask for a debate on an Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa, who is in prison in Egypt. Amnesty International has said he is entirely innocent of all the charges he is facing. He has been in prison for 666 days – one year, nine months, 28 days. No trial has been held to date. A new trial date, the sixth, has been set for August but that could also be postponed. In a note he smuggled out from prison, he said that he wakes up to the screams of people being tortured and wonders whether he will be next.

The Government needs to act. The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade has asked that these Houses send out a delegation. If Members opposite would like to visit this Irish citizen in prison in Egypt, they should join that committee delegation if it receives permission from the Government to go. The Government needs to act as well and the Taoiseach needs to get involved in the same way the Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia got involved in similar situations where their citizens were being held in prison in Egypt under President Sisi. The Government has not acted to date. If Ibrahim Halawa was a Catholic from Mayo rather than a Muslim from Dublin there might be more action. He was born in Ireland, was 17 years of age when he was arrested and has been in prison for two years.

The Government’s policy on Roscommon and its mental health services is a matter of concern. It involves the most vulnerable people in our society – those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and mental health issues.To quote Dr. Kelly: “The Government’s policy in Roscommon re … the Rosalie unit in Castlerea in tantamount to elderly abuse.” The former chairperson of the Western Health Board is accusing the Government of elderly abuse. A meeting is taking place tonight in Roscommon. Our motion is No. 16 on the Order Paper. I note that Senator John Kelly from Roscommon is not present today to support the motion.

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10/06/15 Senator Daly Speaks on the Moore Street Area Renewal and Development Bill 2015

Senator Daly: I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I pay tribute to my colleagues, Senator Darragh O’Brien and Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, as well as the families and relatives of the people of 1916 who have been pursuing this issue for a decade and more. I pay tribute to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party on Dublin City Council, including Paul McAuliffe, Seán Haughey and Daithí de Róiste, who have been pursuing this at council level.

Before we get into the meat of the issue, I thank the Minister of State for his involvement in the all-party consultation group on the decade of commemorations. A programme has been produced and, while we disagree on significant details in the case of Moore Street, the programme is comprehensive and something people have been seeking for a long time. I welcome the recent publication and announcement of the plans before Easter. I thank the chairman of the committee, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, who is doing an excellent job throughout the country. I have been at some of the meetings where she is promoting and asking communities to get involved in 1916 commemorations. I thank John Concannon who has been working tirelessly on the various projects.

What we are doing in 2016 is celebrating those ordinary yet extraordinary men and women who did an extraordinary thing on an ordinary day. They took on the biggest empire the world had ever seen and ultimately dealt it a fatal blow which eventually saw its fall. We are also celebrating the aims of the Proclamation, the equal rights, equal opportunities and civil and religious liberties that we spoke about 99 years ago. We are celebrating how far we have come and we are contemplating how far we have yet to go.

As a nation we are poor when it comes to celebrations. The leader on this side has spoken about Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol was to be demolished. That was the proposal of Dublin Corporation. It was in rack and ruin and the roof had fallen in. Only for volunteers, the predecessors of the people in the Gallery, the people who got together and decided that the situation could not continue, Kilmainham Gaol today could be a block of flats. Moore Street could have been in the same situation were it not for citizens getting involved.

I will set out my own experience on the GPO and the interpretative centre which, we are told by An Post, will be ready for Easter 2016. The initial proposal from four years ago was that there would be a foundation stone laid in Easter 2016 rather than an interpretative centre. I met representatives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. They wrote a four-page brief on what needed to be done and the timeline required to get everything ready for 2016. The response from An Post was to ask what would the Smithsonian know about museums. I am pleased the Government has decided not to go with An Post and that the project will be ready, as it should be. Some 100 years on, the GPO is still a post office, yet if a person walked in there today, he would not know that the most significant event in this country’s history took place inside that building. That is a travesty and, I suppose, a condemnation of previous Governments. In a similar fashion, the Moore Street monument was initially only going to comprise No. 16 Moore Street. I pay tribute to the then Minister, Dick Roche. He made it a national monument and added Nos. 14, 15 and 17 Moore Street. We are talking today about developing a battlefield site. As has been said, it is our Alamo in that it was the place of the last stand in 1916.

Others have spoken about redevelopments gone wrong. Certainly, there are governance issues in other development vehicles. People look at Temple Bar as if it were a disaster. There have been issues, but Temple Bar was due to be levelled and turned into Busáras. Previous generations made a decision not to do that and we are perfectly happy that it is there today and that it is a great tourist attraction. It is not perfect, but nothing ever is. The Ballymun redevelopment was an excellent redevelopment, as is Grangegorman. There are always redevelopment vehicles. This is simply a vehicle by which we can ensure future generations will enjoy what people enjoy today when they go to Kilmainham Gaol.When one walks out of the GPO interpretative centre, the ideal situation would be to progress up Moore Street and onto Parnell Square ending up at the new redevelopment there—–(interruption) —–along with visiting the Garden of Remembrance. We are disagreeing on the Bill and that is unfortunate but we must remember the history of previous developments such as Kilmainham Gaol. Citizens such as those in the Visitors Gallery took action when politicians failed. Similarly, the GPO, a hundred years on, will be developed but only because people decided to act and say that a foundation stone on the 100th anniversary is not enough. Moore Street has come a long way from a situation in which it could well have been knocked to a proposal for No. 16 to be preserved to it then being made a national monument. Now we are arguing and disagreeing and losing this battle but the leaders of 1916 would probably agree with me when I say we might lose the battle but we will win the war.

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09/05/15 Senator Daly speaks to the Seanad and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about the Marine Rescue Station

Senator Daly: I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for coming to the House to take this Commencement matter. As I am sure he is aware, the Valentia marine rescue co-ordination centre is the busiest of our three centres. He may also have received a report on why it should be closed given that every Minister coming to his Department receives a report written by some official in the permanent Government advocating its closure. The issue I raise today concerns the appointment of a resident engineer to the centre. I understand the position was advertised and located in Cork. Malin and Dublin have resident engineers but even though Valentia is busier than those centres its engineer will be located 200 km away from it. The engineer will be responsible for maintaining VHF communications with a considerable number of sites along the Cork and Kerry coastline. The Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport discussed at length an incident that occurred during the last attempt by the Coast Guard Service to close Valentia and move its operations to Dublin. Galley Head communications network was down for six months.Within five days of it being repaired, it was the only receiver station to manage to pick up a distress signal from a ship that went down near Galley Head. The reason we were given for it not having been fixed was that the engineer had been out sick for six months. Yet a piece of infrastructure as vital as that was not repaired. It is hard to understand why the engineer who will be servicing our busiest marine rescue co-ordination centre will be based 200 km away while Malin and Dublin will have theirs on site in residence. Perhaps the Minister might enlighten us as to why Valentia is being discriminated against while Dublin and Malin will have their engineers on site.

Minister Donohue: 

I apologise to the Senator for keeping him waiting and I thank him for raising the matter. The engineering branch of the Irish Coast Guard provides a national maritime safety telecommunications and responder alerting and notification service. This involves the provision of a wide range of diverse but specialised systems. All design, procurement, project management, and subsequent administration and maintenance are carried out in-house by the small number of staff servicing this area.

Due to the large quantity of systems, services and equipment, and the need to replace aged equipment to ensure service availability, the engineering section is undertaking continual programmes of equipment modernisation. The workload has grown considerably in recent years due in no small part to the continual evolution of services that the automatic identification system, AIS, provides and the proliferation of external users, including the Naval Service, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the North Sea regional server and the Maritime Safety and Security Information System, all of which use the system for the interconnection and exchange of data.

The role of an engineering officer covers a broad range of duties in terms of the management and operation of all technical aspects of the marine communications network. The engineering officer is required to diagnose and maintain a broad range of radio and telecommunications equipment used in maritime communications, responder alert and notification, vessel tracking technologies, and supporting infrastructure, including maintenance of all equipment employed in the national maritime communication networks; fault analysis across multiple wide-area telecommunication networks; identification and analysis of fault trends nationally and by equipment type; maintenance of radio site infrastructure, including antennae, masts, buildings, perimeter and access; maintenance of communications equipment at Coast Guard unit station houses, including equipment in boats and vehicles; co-ordination and management of multiple subcontractor and utility providers; and co-ordination and management of local spares and stock holding.

Additionally – this is an important factor in the requirement to fill the vacancy which arose in the Cork office – the engineering officer is responsible for the maintenance of communications equipment at Coast Guard unit station houses, including equipment in boats and vehicles and the co-ordination and management of multiple subcontractor and utility providers. The engineering officer reports to an electronics officer based in Dublin, who is responsible for the overall management and operation of all technical aspects of the national marine communications network.

Following recent amalgamations, there are currently approximately ten Coast Guard units throughout Cork and five in Kerry. A significant amount of travel throughout the region and out-of-hours availability is a necessary feature of the role. The Cork office continues to provide a good location for the overall fulfilment of the various engineering responsibilities and it is for this reason that the post is located in Cork.

The post became available on foot of the retirement of the previous incumbent. It has taken some time to fill the vacancy due to the need to comply with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform policy in filling public sector vacancies and also due to the requirements of the Public Appointment Service, PAS, recruitment process.The advertisement which issued from the PAS clearly indicated that the position to be filled was in the Cork office. I am happy to say that the recruitment process is now complete. The position has been offered to the successful candidate who is due to commence very shortly in the Cork office where the other Coast Guard staff are located.

Senator Daly: I thank the Minister for his reply. It goes back to the earlier point I made that the engineer is based in Dublin, servicing the marine rescue co-ordination centre there and Malin yet the busiest station is in Valentia and the engineer will be based in Cork, 200 km away. While there are ten Coast Guard units in Cork and five in Kerry the requirement for maintenance of equipment is minimal compared to the important equipment at Valentia. If that equipment or the utilities coming into it suffer a catastrophic failure as stated in one report, prior to the new equipment being installed, nothing else works. If something goes down in Ballycotton, only Ballycotton is out of action; if something goes down in Valentia, everything from Cork to the Aran Islands goes out of action, hence the reason we believe an engineer should be living on the island and working there during the day but also available at short notice. That was the issue raised in Kerry about the position being filled. As the Minister is in the House I avail of the opportunity to congratulate him on his post but also to advise him that the two previous incumbents received reports on the reason Valentia should be closed. There is an agenda within the Department and the Coast Guard to close Valentia. Unfortunately the Oireachtas joint committee had to invite in the senior civil servants from the Department and take apart their reports line by line. When the facts were uncovered it was clear that the reports presented to this and the previous Government were at variance with the truth. When I was younger I watched “Yes Minister” but never thought I would see it in action but I did. If the Minister does have a report perhaps he would ask for the two previous reports and inquire what happened to them when there was an attempt to close the Coast Guard station at Valentia.

Minister Donohue: 

I thank the Senator for his comments. I have only briefly seen “Yes Minister”. I assure the Senator that the environment in which I work does not resemble it in any way. I accept the Senator’s genuine interest in the matter raised. I had the opportunity to visit Valentia and meet the management of the overall Coast Guard service. While there, one of the issues emphasised to me was that the advances that have taken place, following Government investment, mean that if any critical system for any catastrophic reason were not to work the same system and capacity can be deployed via the other two key stations in Malin and Dublin. If for any reason a systems failure were to occur, owing to the investment that has been put in place we have the capacity for the other two key stations to play a role in sustaining safety.

In respect of any reports I have received, I have no such report in front of me. I am aware of the debate that took place in the past in respect of Valentia. I was happy to visit the Coast Guard and see the unit which has been invested in and to attend an event to commemorate the 100 years of service that took place there. I look forward to many more years of service being provided there. I understand where Senator Daly is coming from in respect of the specific point he put to me regarding the location of the engineer. The people who work in this area in my Department – whose only agenda, I assure the Senator, is to work with me to get the best value out of the money that is available to us while at the same time meeting the safety needs on our coasts and in our waters – have been clear that it is important that this person is based in Cork to service the other ten units within the county and region of Cork and to deliver the other needs that I have identified such as maintenance, fault analysis, maintenance of radio site infrastructure and other matters I detailed in my earlier contribution. The location was chosen for those reasons and it is a decision I support, given the expertise that went into making it. However, I will keep the Senator’s broader points in mind in the context of any future decisions or debate on the unit.

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