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Archive for May, 2008

Still no broadband Eamon!


In a week when Communications Minister, Eamon Ryan announced the establishment of a group of international experts to consider his Department’s draft policy paper on the Government’s role in facilitating the roll out of high speed networks, the Government has yet again indulged in a game of empty words. The Minister stated that 85 per cent of the population have access to broadband, and that there were 793,000 subscribers last year. From the slew of letter and emails I have received from dissatisfied people awaiting broadband in their urban areas, I highly doubt this.


Bankers Bonkers On Bonuses

BAD news for big bankers. Their bonuses are in the firing line. Not quite as fanciful a prospect as you may think. Imagine the consternation in the comfy coffee rooms of the City of London last week. The Financial Times, the sedate bible of city toffs, was running with the story. It carried the ominous headline: ‘Watchdog to focus on bank bonuses’. You can imagine their upper crust apoplexy: how dare the City watchdog meddle in the pay of the privileged? None of its business. This is a matter for the directors and larger shareholders. Their pals. No longer so. Bonuses are big bucks. So big that they are now as dangerous as dynamite. In extremis they could sink a bank. And if they pose a danger to UK financial giants, we can be sure that they are bigger threats to Ireland’s fragile minnows.

David Drumm, of Anglo; Eugene Sheehy, of AIB; and Brian Goggin, of B of I should bin the FT these days, ban it from the building. The paper is peddling heresy; not suitable reading for their staff.


Broadband Bill Beckons

I rose to speak on the serious matter of broadband in a special adjournment. I wanted to take the opportunity to invite Members of the Opposition to sign the Broadband Bill which I have been developing for months, No. 13 on the Order Paper in the name of the Independent Senators, which aims to introduce broadband to every household and small business in the country.

I have worked hard on this Bill and I would like it to be introduced in a non-partisan fashion. I would not necessarily expect the Government to support it, but I would like see the Minister using it as a basis for a Government Bill on broadband. I would not expect the Government, the Opposition or anybody to support it word for word or letter for letter but it might get the ball rolling. I urged the Leader to agree to a discussion on the Bill and perhaps use it as a basis for introducing speedy broadband in this country as soon as possible. There is a crisis in that regard felt by most households outside the Capital. I know that members of the Labour Party share our view that this is a crisis of infrastructure in this country. I do not think anybody disagrees about the critical nature of the issue. It is a matter of how it can be done, when and at what cost, what is not in question is the necessity of it!

The Tearing Of The Green?

I am concerned about what will happen when Metro North construction begins in St. Stephen’s Green. Many of you contacted me to ask what effect it will have on the appearance of the Green. In a special adjournment debate I called in the Minister for Transport to raise the issue of the need to ensure the metro construction works in St. Stephen’s Green cause minimal damage to the environment and the least possible inconvenience to the public. As a national monument it needs to be sensitively developed and preserved.


Where Are The Regualtors?

Financial regulation and corporate Ireland, according to today’s media, is in the dock for certain things which have been going on. It would be appropriate for us in the Senate to debate not only financial regulation but the Companies Act which this House passed more than 15 years ago and in which insider dealing was made a criminal offence.

It should be noted that a case of insider dealing has never been successfully prosecuted in this country and that it is very rare for such a case to be taken. It is regrettable that the DCC-Fyffes case was left to the Supreme Court which made an unambiguous judgment that insider dealing had taken place and that dealings had taken place on the basis of inside information held by an individual. Nothing has been done about that, except that corporate Ireland has stood behind that behaviour. It is a very serious issue for us because either the law is not tight enough or this is not going on at all, although that is not what the Supreme Court found.

It would be appropriate if the Senate was to regard itself as relevant in matters of this sort. We should not debate only this specific issue. The DCC-Fyffes case is a landmark and is a disgrace for us internationally. We should examine what is happening to the regulators and why they are nowhere to been seen in this extraordinary episode.

Government Must Rev Up Transport 21

Most people support Transport 21. The Government’s renewed commitment not to cut capital expenditure is commendable and so I recently raised the issue of transport infrastructure in the Senate. In the fragile economic period we are approaching, it is important that such expenditure is not cut, particularly on infrastructure because of its importance to the economy.The infrastructural problems that were never resolved during the Celtic tiger era. All forms of transport were inadequate because nobody foresaw the extraordinary boom in land, air and sea traffic. The Governments plans are predominantly aspirational but we should encourage the Government to proceed full steam ahead with its plans and not carp too much about them.


Flavin Faces His Waterloo

Tomorrow Jim Flavin’s DCC reports full-year figures. No one is interested in the results. Everyone is interested in Flavin. It had been widely expected that Flavin would seize the day to announce a date for his retirement. If so, it will have been wrung out of him by shareholders working behind closed doors.

Now it seems that Flavin will tough it out despite a serious verdict against him in the Supreme Court. Where else in the world could a chief executive survive after being judged by the highest court in the land as dealing in shares while in possession of inside information? Where else in the world could the same chief executive have been awarded a €150,000 bonus “in recognition of the exceptional demands arising from the successful defence of the action taken by Fyffes against DCC?”


New Measures Needed For A New Economy

There is a predictable pattern to government debates on financial markets. The Government blames international global players and markets, and the Opposition blames the Government. The Government claims the credit when things are going right and the Opposition claims it is because of international markets. New measures are needed for a new economic reality.


Breeding And Brains Of Brian

Last Thursday morning, rumours of panic among a key group of mandarins spread in Leinster House. At 8.15am all the Sir Humphreys at the Department of Finance had arrived at work early. They were sitting comfortably, waiting for the new boss to arrive. Suddenly they were afflicted by outbreaks of apoplexy.

The new minister, Brian Lenihan, had gone walkabout.


M50 Fees And Fines

Many of you continue to sit in long lines trying to crawl along the M50 with thousands of other commuters. My cage rattling has obviously had some effect as they are about to remove the toll plaza that causes such frustration but they seem to have missed the point completely. They aren’t about to ease the suffering of the motorist commuter, prices are set to rise and fines introduced! Infuriated, I raised this in a special adjournment debate.