Removefiannafail

end corruption,stroke politics, & incompetent administration

The politics of Mugabiism-buying swathes of voters.

By Kevin Myers

Thursday October 23 2008

Sinne Fianna Fold. There it is, in all its craven indignity, the sight of the greatest political party in the land, capitulating almost overnight to a wave of hysteria. So he who lives by the meaningless word, dies by the meaningless word; and he who plays to the mob will sooner or later perish at its hands. Unprincipled concessions, such as free medical cards for all over-70s, regardless of income or assets, which should never have been granted, were instantly instated as "rights" in the populist mind: and from that shrill and hysterical mental organ, they are as easily removed as tusks from an African bull elephant with toothache.

No-one except the utterly illiterate can be in any doubt about the nature of the crisis we are in, a destiny which had been foreseen many, many times over by my colleagues, David McWilliams and Brendan Keenan.

We could only have been steered here by a Fianna Fail lack of principle: identify a demographic group, and surrender to it whatever will buy its vote, regardless of whether or not the concession is affordable.

We saw that demographic group in all its self-absorbed, self-glorifying self-pity, in St Andrews Church, singing -- without a trace of irony, or historical awareness -- the anthem of the US civil rights movement from their youth, 'We Shall Overcome'. A pity that they didn't devise some new words, as in: "We demand free healthcare, We demand free healthcare, We demand it here and now. For I do believe, regardless of my wealth, that rules don't apply to me."

The choice of the church was revealing: the socially most prestigious Catholic church in the city. I daresay most of the Catholic senior denizens of Dundrum, Sandycove or Dun Laoghaire, who were able to travel into the city centre free of charge, on the extravagantly expensive public transport systems which the State has laid on for the richest communities in Ireland, would not know how to find the more appropriate ecclesiastical choice, the Pro-Cathedral, on the Balubaland on the northside.

So we got the old and the well-to-do middle class being angry in the most convenient church for all concerned, even as the Government, not far away, folded like a first communicant, her little tongue out, who had been suddenly punched in the tummy by an archbishop. And I was transported back to that period when as a matter of course, governments capitulated, governments surrendered, and governments submitted to the brainless mob. Sinne Fianna Fold.

The St Andrews crowd could probably remember -- if they chose to, which is not necessarily the case -- the Talbot deal, in which the entire workforce in a car-assembly plant which was closing down in north Dublin were put on the State payroll for life, because they were in Charles Haughey's constituency. Within the constituency of the nation, Bertie Ahern's Government did a Talbot II when it gave away free medical cards for the over-70s in 2002.

The €660-per-person-per-month deal for doctors, agreed only after the concession had been announced, was the complete triumph for the insane and unprincipled principle of Talbotery. (And to show that cute hoors were not confined to Fianna Fail, suddenly GPs who had been demanding that elderly patients appear once a month for prescriptions, at €50 a pop, with their €660 now in their bank balance regardless, were giving out six-month repeat prescriptions).

This nonsense is not sustainable. Do all these protesters not read newspapers? Do these independent TDs, who are now posturing about immoral Government policies, live in some palm-treed paradise where economic laws do not exist? We are in the middle of a global crisis, whose consequences are critically accentuated in this country by a purely indigenous, populist stupidity: the Celtic wombat. Our GNP is falling, for the first time in over a quarter of a century. World-unemployment is set to grow by at least 20 million within a year.

In the US, thousands of homes have been repossessed. In Britain, recession is now an economic fact.

Even in booming China, brand new apartments in Peking have remained unsold for months. But meanwhile, in a Catholic church in Dublin 2, economic policy was apparently being decided for the entire nation by a bunch of jeering, well-to-do pensioners, who -- to judge from their choice of song -- had apparently arrived from Missouri: a grisly gerontocratic nightmare in which the young of the nation must surrender whatever wealth and hope that they might have, to ensure the already rich and greyly querulous retain all their assets, unto the grave.

We have no choice. We have, through a despicable, populist cowardice, made our bed, and soiled it too. We must now lie in the mess we have created. The Taoiseach must see off the nay-sayers; or better still, call in the opposition, and threaten a general election -- a truly terrifying prospect for any possible victor -- unless there is cross-party agreement on the awesome austerity measures which await us all. In other words, finally, not Talbot II but Tallaght II.

Now, not later. Now. As defenders of the nation. Sinne Fianna Fail.

Anglo Irish funds developers, and developers fund Fianna Fαil

For this Government, the bailout follows a compelling political logic: Anglo Irish funds developers, and developers fund Fianna Fαil, writes Morgan Kelly in the Irish Times.

FOR THE current Government, a month without a catastrophic policy error has come to seem like a month wasted. After the bank liability guarantee in September and the medical card fiasco in October, the Government had a quiet November but has now come roaring back to form with the bailout of Anglo Irish Bank. Attempting to recapitalise Anglo Irish is not only expensive and economically pointless, but futile.

Some simple arithmetic shows the hopelessness of what the Government is trying to do. In the typical property bust over the last 30 years, US banks have lost on average about 20 per cent of what they lent to developers.

Let us suppose that Anglo Irish is no more incompetent or dishonest than the average bank and will also lose up to 20 per cent of what is has lent.

Then, given lending of about €80 billion to developers, it follows that Anglo Irish is facing losses on the order of €15 billion. The true figure could easily turn out to be twice as large.

With likely losses of this magnitude, the Government's proposed investment of €1.5 billion will vaporise in months, forcing it either to continue pouring good money after bad, or to repudiate Anglo Irish's liabilities. For all it will achieve, the money might as well be piled up in St Stephen's Green and incinerated.

Anglo Irish epitomised the Irish bubble economy. Its rise began a decade ago as the boom created a demand for houses and commercial property. As prices started to rise, banks made a miraculous discovery: the more they lent, the more prices rose; and the more prices rose, the more people wanted loans to get into the booming market. And the more loans that bankers made, the bigger the bonuses they could award themselves.

It was brilliant while it lasted. One of Bank of Ireland's stable of developers would buy an office block for €100 million, and sell it on a year later to one of Anglo's for €120 million, and so on: a process known to bankers as adding value.

Everyone was a genius and nobody could lose.

As a senior executive of Anglo Irish once assured me, there was no risk involved. All of the loans were guaranteed by the enormous property portfolios of the borrowers.

What concerned me at the time was not that he was spouting transparent nonsense - that, after all, was what he was paid to do - but that he clearly believed it himself.

Sadly, like any pyramid scheme, it contained the seeds of its own destruction.

Once banks stopped lending, as they were forced to do earlier this year, the market collapsed. Developers were left holding properties whose rental incomes were a ruinously small fraction of their interest payments, and banks discovered that their collateral was worthless.

All Irish banks have been injured by the collapsing property pyramid, some fatally so. Unfortunately, as international experience shows, banks that have been overwhelmed by bad property loans do not simply fade away. Their final act typically has three scenes.

First, the bank starts to admit that a certain fraction of its loans are receiving active management, it increases its bad loan provision but by an unrealistically low amount, and its share price collapses.

In the second scene, evidence of malfeasance starts to appear, as senior bankers are found to have had difficulties in distinguishing the bank's assets from their own, and to have been acting as poachers as well as gamekeepers in their dealings with developers.

It is to be hoped that any Irish bankers in this situation have heeded the cardinal rule of Irish finance and kept their more imaginative dealings within the jurisdiction. As Patrick Gallagher discovered, the British judicial system takes a less indulgent view of lapses of fiduciary responsibility than does our own, and seems to harbour a particular antipathy towards charming Irish rogues.

In the final stage, as the bank slides over the brink of collapse, senior managers loot its assets. Looting a bank involves nothing so unsubtle or easily traceable as driving away with carloads of cash.

Instead, each bank has a filing cabinet with personal guarantees written by borrowers and deeds to property pledged as collateral (large property deals involve surprisingly little paperwork); and these documents have a tendency to find their way into the briefcases of departing executives who can later negotiate their return to their original owners.

So much for the future. Right now, in the "nothing in the last six months has really happened" world of the Government, the bailout of Anglo Irish follows a compelling political logic. Anglo Irish funds developers, and developers fund Fianna Fαil.

By any other criterion, a bailout of Anglo Irish is senseless. Institutions such as AIB and Bank of Ireland fulfil an economically vital role of clearing payments and lending to households and businesses; Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide were purely conduits for property speculation.

They fulfil no role in the Irish economy and their absence would not be noticed.

By using taxpayers' money to acquire Anglo Irish's portfolio of dingy shopping centres and derelict development sites, the Government is squandering scarce resources that are needed elsewhere. Just as the State is putting too much money into Anglo Irish, it is putting in too little to recapitalise AIB and Bank of Ireland on which, whether you like it or not, large sectors of the Irish economy depend.

Governments tend to forget whose interests they are supposed to serve. Our Government was not elected to look after the managers, shareholders and bondholders of recklessly mismanaged banks.

Its sole duty is to Irish taxpayers: to ensure that banks that serve a useful economic purpose continue to operate, while those that serve none are swiftly closed down.

Morgan Kelly is professor of economics at University College Dublin

Projects costed on the back of a cigarette packet..

The Green Party presented An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with a mock cheque made out in his own name , worth almost €14bn. The Party were highlighting some of the waste that the Taoiseach and his Government have managed to carry out in the past ten years.Minister Seamus Brennan stated that the costings were done "on the back of a cigarette packet"!

 

Project

Planned Cost

Eventual Cost

Waste

1

2000-2006 NDP: development of national roads including the port tunnel and the M50 ( Dublin C-ring)

€5.6bn

€16.9bn

€11.3bn

2

Residential Institutions redress: compensation for victims of abuse

   

€906m

3

Reckoning of Pre-1953 Contributions for the Old Age Pension. Ongoing cost

€8.9m

€209.9m

€201m

4

Cork School of Music - Public Private Partnership

€12.7m

€205m

€192.3m

5

PPARS – project abandoned

€9.14m

€150m

€150m

6

Bertie bowl

   

€99m

7

Extension of medical cards to persons aged 70 and over. Ongoing cost

€19m

€82.93m

€64m

8

eVoting – ongoing costs of storage

€33m

€60m

€60m

9

Five post primary schools - Public Private Partnership

 

€283m

€36.8m

10

Medialab Europe – project abandoned

€35.5m

€35.5m

€35.5m

11

River Nore Drainage Scheme

€13.8m

€47.8m

€34m

12

Cork Courthouse - Phase II

€6.35m

€31.7m

€25.4m

13

Thorton Hall - acquisition of site

€10m

€29.9m

€19.9m

14

Accommodation for Asylum Seekers – never used

   

€19m

15

Integrated Ticketing – still not functioning

€29.6m

€42.7m

€13.1m

16

BeaumontHospital Car Park

   

€9m

17

Punchestown Equestrian Centre

€6.9m

€14.8m

€7.9m

18

Development of five Marinas – outside the NDP

 

€5.72m

€5.7m

19

CorkAirport

€60m

€160m

€100m

 

Subtotal

   

€13.28bn

20

Carbon credits –Govt has hugely underestimated our projected Kyoto credit payments

€270m

€810m

€540m

21

Bertie's "make-up services"

   

€ 167,000

 

Total

   

€13.82bn

 

Dempsey does it again.!

A schoolteacher on extended leave in the Fianna Fail government cost you 70 million wasted euros!

The same one who presided over the broadband shambles that left Ireland behind Rumania in Broadband access for the last decade.

70m flushed down the Limerick pipeline

ONE OF the more entertaining chapters in the annual report of John Purcell, theComptroller & Auditor General, relates to a monumental mess in Limerick which led to a very nice multi-million euro pay day for Goldhawk's old pal Paddy Whelan. It turns out that the Government was most concerned at events and the matter was discussed at Cabinet, while the final cost has yet to be determined.

It will be recalled (see The Phoenix, 22/9/06) that Uniform Construction Ltd (UCL) - controlled a the time by Michael and Patrick Preston - found itself in a financial bind after being ousted from a €10m pipelaying contract for Limerick City Council (LCC). As a result, its wily supplier, Whelan, moved to take a 50% stake in the company for a very handy €1/2m. To put this into context, the whole UCL debacle looks set to cost the State almost €70m!

UCL was originally awarded the contract in 2000 with a completion date of 2001, but the company encountered difficulties due to a change in the ground conditions and informed LCC that there would be substantial extra costs as a result. LCC's City Manager at the time, Brendan Keating, and his advisers opted to terminate the contract despite UCL's claims that it had done nothing wrong. At the time, the cost of contract termination was put at €6.9m and the then Minister of the Environment, Noel Dempsey, was advised of developments.

The C&AG's report makes it clear that the Department of the Environment took a hands off approach to this issue, something that helped contribute to the massive tab the taxpayer had to pick up. Certainly, Dempsey was well aware of developments and even wrote to UCL shortly before the company was "expelled" from the site at the end of November 2001, but effectively the Department acted as bystanders. The matter first went through the ‘conciliation' process in which an expert examined the file and, in his first report (January, 2003), he stated the termination of the contract was "wrongful" and claimed that an arbitrator would award damages to UCL. At this stage, UCL's claims amounted to €22.8m but the company was prepared to accept an "immediate settlement" of €12.4m. This offer was duly rejected by Keating - with the backing of the Department of Environment - and, interestingly, it is noted that at the time LCC was made aware by the Prestons that their company "was suffering serious and continuing losses".

This fragile financial situation may have emboldened Keating and LCC but they hadn't reckon with Paddy Whelan, who was at the time negotiating to take a 50% stake in the struggling company for just €1/2m. Later in 2003 - at which time Whelan already had three of his men on the board of UCL - the conciliator issued his final findings claiming that "the arbitrator would be likely to award €25.4m (exclusive of VAT)". But, taking into account the costs of finishing the contract (by another contractor) and the significant legal fees (which have topped €11m), the total expenditure to date has reached €64m. And this does not include UCL's costs, which have yet to be awarded. Meanwhile, it will be some time before the up-to-date financial picture at UCL can be determined given that, as with other Paddy Whelan entities, no accounts have been filed here for many years. He is, however, still a director here having resigned off the boards of all his other Irish companies.

© The Phoenix 5.10.07

When will the victims get mad?

Sunday Independent October 14 2007

WHAT does it take to get Irish taxpayers angry about the way that their money is wasted?

If the average citizen only had time to stand back and contemplate the vast scale of the wastage and the cavalier indifference with which taxes are spent, the scale of public expenditure would fire anger and venom in the heart of any self-respecting citizen. But knowing its history, the public sector knows how well we Irish have been groomed for abuse by centuries of exploitation. As far as it's concerned the mantra of Ireland's backward past "whatever you say, say nothing" still applies.

Like the landlords of the 19th century, the public sector sees the rest of us as compliant, stupid peasants. Ours is to give the landlord his rackrent, the gombeen man his cut and the tithe-collector his tithe. After that we should shut up and not dare to question its authority. Unfortunately, it is right. When the public sector slaps us across the face and steals our hard earned money, we don't get angry. Instead we say "thank you for slapping me across the face". Back then we were too powerless to act. Now we are too busy driving on congested roads and too exhausted.

The average man, woman and child will this year pay around €11,000 in tax. And in case you think children don't pay tax, you're wrong. To fund lavish spending on public servants, the state has greatly increased its tax take from VAT, a tax which hits spending by every citizen of the state regardless of age.

What does it do with it, just where will this year's tax take of almost €50bn tax revenue end up?

Over half of it -- roughly €25bn -- will go towards public pay and pensions. Instead of cutting public service numbers by 5,000 as promised in 2002, the last government increased them by over 50,000.

Some of this was necessary: Teacher-pupil ratios are high in Ireland compared to our peers. But if a rise in teachers was needed, this should not have resulted in a rise in total public service numbers. Far from it. The rise in teachers should have been compensated for by greater efficiencies and staff reductions in others. Nurse-patient ratios are far too high. Compared to 7 nurses per thousand of the population in France -- the country with the world's best health service -- Ireland has 13 per thousand.

Let me be careful in what I am saying here: Many nurses are overworked. But a significant minority are underworked. Likewise, the number of driving instructors in the state is too small for a burgeoning population. But we have far too many health officials and many state and semi-state bodies are chronically overstaffed. Streamlining and reorganisation would allow them to get jobs in the private sector where they are needed more. In aggregate, the 50,000 rise in public service numbers in the last five years was unnecessary.

Why did the Government allow this to happen? The dictates of social partnership -- together with the Byzantine structures of the public service -- make efficiency and cost effectiveness impossible to achieve. Most unions won't wear it. Even if they could, most public service management cultures -- based as they are on jobs for life, regardless of incompetence -- wouldn't be able to implement it.

Of the third of a million public sector workers, about one in eight are not needed. On average, about €4bn of the public service pay bill is being wasted. Another way of looking at this is the departmental angle. One third of current spending goes on a health service that remains largely unreformed. One justified frustration of nurses is that many of them don't earn enough. But this is because -- using social partnership -- their representatives refuse to allow the number of nurses to be reduced to levels that, given our population, are closer to EU norms.

Another frustration is that restrictive practices prevent dedicated nurses from performing higher level tasks that doctors perform. Often someone on a doctor's salary -- three times higher than a nurses -- is wasted performing tasks that nurses could. This problem occurs not just in the health service: Across the public sector much money is wasted on hiring people to fill expensive posts with fancy official titles that grossly overstate their relevance.

Yet another way of looking at public sector waste is on a project-by-project, or should I say cock-up by cock-up, basis. The nursing home debacle -- a result of official incompetence -- cost the taxpayer well over €1bn. The full cost of the decentralisation debacle remains to be calculated. But there are grounds for believing that it could end up costing the taxpayer an entirely unnecessary €2bn. The biggest example of all was the way the amount budgeted for national road improvements between 2000 and 2006 rocketed. From an estimated €7bn, the cost eventually reached €15.8bn. Some of this overrun -- around 40 per cent -- was the unavoidable consequence of rising costs, a problem common to all countries. But as the ESRI noted early this year, most of it was the result of incompetence.

Has the Government learned anything from any of this? It seems not. Sadly last week Noel Dempsey -- one of the most conscientious and public service minded of Ministers -- was still refusing to reveal the full cost of the Metro North project.

Privately I'm sure he wants to. But like the 19th century system of exploiting the peasantry, the powers-that-be do not want the taxpayer to know how much of their money is being spent.

Again I ask the question but this time I'll provide an answer: What does it take to get taxpayers angry about the way their money is wasted? Answer: A slowing economy, that's what. While the economy is on the up, the public is too distracted to notice waste. But when people are being squeezed on all fronts they start to become less tolerant of people wasting their money. A lot less tolerant. With local elections coming up in 2009, the next two years are going to be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Marc Coleman is economics editor of NewsTalk. His new book 'The Best is Yet to Come' is out next month

at last someone is singing from our hymn book!

.

By Daniel McConnell(Sunday Independent)
Sunday October 21 2007

More than 5bn of taxpayers' money has been wasted every year since FF came to power 10 years ago, a Sunday Independent investigation reveals.

It's official, the good times are over and we all have to tighten our belts.

We have been saying it for months, but last Thursday Finance Minister and Tanaiste Brian Cowen finally declared at his pre-Budget Estimates that the economy has "peaked", is now slowing down and that things have become very tight.

As he shifted uncomfortably in front of the cameras, he told us that 2007 represents a "turning point for the Irish economy".

We should not be overly worried but, baby, the party for now is over.

However, as the economy has ground to a halt, and the money dries up, we are asking, what do we have to show for a decade of unprecedented wealth?

A third-class road and rail network, hospitals which are killing healthy people who enter them, and primary children who either face going to school in a prefab or miles away from home are just some of the hallmarks of this Government's waste since it took power in 1997.

This week, the Sunday Independent conducted an in-depth investigation into the endemic waste of our taxes by Fianna Fail.

We can show that since FF took office a decade ago, more than 5bn of taxpayers' money has been wasted annually.

A list of failed projects, delayed works, bloated bureaucracy and poor management have all led to more than 50bn being squandered in the last 10 years.

Taxpayers' money has been squandered by every Government department including millions on the abandoned Stadium Campus Ireland project, the huge overrun on the Luas, the  overspend on the Port Tunnel, as well as almost a thousand million (thats A BILLION) wasted on the Government's botched de-centralisation policy.

Figures obtained from the Department of Finance, opposition parties, the Central Statistics Office and the Central Bank, collated by the Sunday Independent, detail for the first time exactly how inefficient the Government has become during Bertie Ahern's tenure as Taoiseach.

The total Government spend has more than trebled from the 1997 figures.

Opposition parties, hospital patient groups and leading economists have said that institutional waste during a time of plenty and the failure to deliver a first world infrastructure is endangering Ireland's competitiveness internationally.

One of the key areas is the health service. Its funding has increased relentlessly. Despite this massive injection since 1997, the Health Service Executive, which employs 70,000 people and 36,000 indirectly, is now closing wards and has introduced a freeze on new employees.

The closure of a 10-bed ward in Nenagh hospital is just one of a number of high-profile ward shutdowns in recent weeks. The Irish Patients Association has said cuts and ward closures currently being enforced by the HSE are unforgivable.

Steve McMahon of the Irish Patients Association said: "It is an organisation rife with institutionalised bureaucracy. When they formed the HSE in 2005 they should have introduced a redundancy package and cleared their ranks.

"At least 60 per cent of the cost of the HSE is staff, and there are too many managers in the system."

McMahon also said that with the slowdown in the economy, budgets will be cut and the ward closures that have occurred in recent weeks will become more common.

Another example of waste and bad management was the PPARS payroll system fiasco in 2005 which is currently "suspended until further notice". The cost for the failed system was at least ?m.

Added to this was the huge pay-out to nursing home patients and their families, who were wrongfully and unlawfully charged.

In the wake of this, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton was heavily critical of Mary Harney for effectively abdicating all control of the health service to the HSE, which is not politically accountable.

Transport is another area that has seen endemic waste, over spending and bad management since 1997. Spending on transport has risen sharply.

Apart from the overspends and underestimation in the cost of the Port Tunnel and the two Luas lines that don't link up, and the chaos that is the M50, Ireland's road building projects since 1997 have collectively cost 2 billion more than what was originally forecast, according to our figures.

Jimmy Quinn of the Irish Road Haulage Association said that the ambitious capital building projects have begun 10 years too late and up until recently were blighted by poor management lacking vision, which ultimately has led to the public paying over the odds.

He added: "The M50 has been a disaster and the lack of vision and forward planning by not building three lanes to begin with is and has been costing us dearly."

Quinn also highly objects to the use of tolling, particularly on the M50, describing them as a treble tax on his members who use the roads most often.

Dublin Airport is another example of poor management by the Government.

Successive Fianna Fail transport ministers have failed to anticipate the growth in numbers leading to years of suffering for passengers. Even the Pier D and the Terminal 2 developments, which are costing the exchequer ��bn, are likely to be operating a full capacity when they open.

Friends First chief economist Jim Power says Ireland also needs a second airport -- and he believes the refusal of Mr Ahern and the Cabinet to look beyond the slow development of Dublin Airport has cost the country dearly.

"Away from the politics of north Dublin, Ireland should have a second international hub airport close to the midlands where there is plenty of room for future development.

"The airport should be properly integrated with adequate rail and bus links. If it was me I wouldn't build one out in Dublin," he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education, which has seen its annual budget rise massively, has failed to drastically alter class sizes or ensure adequate facilities for children around the country.

Cases like Laytown national school in 2006 and the more recent example of pupils in Maryboro national school, Portlaoise, being educated in prefabs shows clearly how the system is failing.

The Government has also failed to meet the demand in Dublin satellite towns where parents have little or no option regarding schooling.

One example of this is Gorey, Co Wexford which has a population of 30,000 and one school with 1,700 pupils.

Officially, the average class size at primary level is 24 but numbers vary greatly between rural and urban areas.

In some areas class sizes are regularly over 30.

The National Parents Council described the Government's record on education and the provision of adequate buildings and resources as highly questionable.

 

Much of the spending splurge from public coffers has gone on increased staff numbers and wages.

Since 2002, the number of public sector employees has risen dramatically by 69,000 to 308,000. 

The problem will get worse as a second round of benchmarking is due to get under way next year, further adding to the cost to the taxpayer for running the country.

Benchmarking was introduced as an incentive to improve performance, but Fine Gael yesterday described its implantation as disastrous.

Mr Cowen admitted to the Sunday Independent that benchmarking had not been completely successful and the taxpayer had not gotten decent value for money.

It is a damning indictment of FF and the PDs that such a poor return for our investment has been made and we are still playing catch-up.

All the while, we have paid over the odds. Some have died as a result in our hospitals; thousands of hours have been wasted sitting in traffic and children have been denied their right to a decent education.

So well done Bertie, well done Brian, and well done Mary -- thanks for nothing.

- Daniel McConnell

where more of your money was squandered on foreign junkets.

Full list of minister's and Goverment official's trips

Person travelling

Destination

Rounded cost

Bertie Ahern & delegation

US including Washington DC

€18,000
(Travelled on Government jet)

Brian Cowen, Minister for Finance

Savannah and Chicago

€36,000

Mary Coughlan, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

New York

€30,000

Martin Cullen, Minister for Transport

San Francisco

€27,000

Noel Dempsey, Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources

Dallas and Houston

€75,000

Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education & Science

Boston

€19,000

Ιamon Σ Cuνv, Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

Phoenix

€30,500

Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, Minister of State

Atlanta and Philadelphia

€33,000

Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Canada

€25,000

John O'Donoghue, Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism

UK

€14,600

Brendan Smith, Minister of State

Manchester

€8,500

Seαn Power, Minister of State

Birmingham

€2,300

Conor Lenihan, Minister of State

Edinburgh

€3,400

Mary Wallace, Minister of State

Austria

€7,400

Brian Lenihan, Minister of State

Paris

€4800

Seamus Brennan, Minister for Social & Family Affairs

Italy and the Vatican

€8,400

Mary Harney, Minister for Health

Norway Sweden and Denmark

€16,800

 

Tom Kitt, Government Chief Whip

Poland

€2,700

Noel Ahern, Minister of State

Romania

€5,000

Seαn Haughey, Minister of State

Russia

€5,000

John Browne, Minister of State

China

€2,600

(Fight cost omitted)

Tim O'Malley, Minister of State

Japan

€19,500

Frank Fahey, Minister of State

India

Information not supplied by Department of Justice

Michael Ahern, Minister of State

Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

€52,000 (Paid for Enterprise Ireland)

Batt O'Keeffe, Minister of State

Vietnam

€18,000

Tom Parlon, Minister of State

South Africa

€35,000

Michael McDowell, Tαnaiste & Minister for Justice

US

€30,000

Dermot Ahern, Minister for Foreign Affairs

US

€30,500

Note: Ministers and goverment officials are listed with the positions they held at the time the trips were taken in March 2007

The X factor -public waste and nepotism.

By JOHN DRENNAN

Sunday November 30 2008

TEN politically appointed censors were each paid an average of €30,000 a year for watching films.

The "Assistant Classifiers" earned a total of €1.2m in pay and expenses over the last four years for travelling to Dublin to watch movies and deciding whether or not they should be banned, or for what age group they are suitable. No individual breakdown of the earnings of the part-time classifiers was provided.

The film censor's office confirmed that the hard working classifiers assess over 9,000 videos in every category from Parental Guidance (PG) to X-rated films, which include sexually explicit material.

Assistant film classifiers earn €182 a day plus travel and subsistence for their work of classifying videos, said the Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan. Among the Assistant Classifiers is former senator Tom Fitzgerald, who must make the arduous journey from Kerry to Harcourt Terrace in Dublin to watch movies on behalf of the State.

Of the 10, many of whom have no apparent qualifications in the area of film, a number have been Assistant Classifiers for 15 years.

Among them is former Fianna Fail Dail candidate Olga Bennett, the Fianna Fail Meath activist Tony Stapleton, former Kildare Fianna Fail county councillor PJ Sheridan and the former Fianna Fail TD Marian McGennis, who was Bertie Ahern's running mate in Dublin Central in 1997 and 2002.

Former Fianna Fail senator Tom Fitzgerald, who was a close associate of Charles Haughey, has been in the job for the last six years.

A more recently appointee is Green activist Elizabeth Davidson, who ran for the party in the Dublin South West constituency. Ms Davidson is also a candidate for the forthcoming local elections and a member of the Green Party's national executive.

"In this new age of quango busting, where departments were supposed to look forensically through their books, it was amazing this convenient retirement home, where ex Fianna Fail politicians and one Green activist get paid to spend the day watching films, had escaped unscathed,'' said Mr Flanagan.

"The minister should give this particular perk an X-rating and abolish it."

- JOHN DRENNAN