WHO speaks with forked tongue? Last Wednesday I watched the action in the Dail. Brian Cowen, the guardian of the nation, was in China. Batt O’Keeffe, the minister for the besieged Department of Education, was with the boss in Beijing. Brian Lenihan, the Minister for Finance, was absent, perhaps still chatting with his chums after a far too friendly speech to the Government’s new masters, the Irish Bankers Federation. Three key players in the current financial crisis were engaged elsewhere. Detached. Any TD who wanted a Dail question answered about Ireland’s crumbling finances had to rely on the wobbly words of Tanaiste Mary Coughlan. Mary was in charge of Ireland in Brian’s absence. A scary spectacle which evoked words once attributed to former Labour Party leader, Frank Cluskey. The socialist cynic of the Eighties would habitually survey the latest brazen folly of Fianna Fail and mutter, “That’s confidence for you!” Leaving poor Mary in charge of Ireland comes into the Cluskey ‘confidence’ category.
Archive for October, 2008
Yesterday, I stood in the Senate to speak on my Broadband Bill. I have been working on this Bill for quite some time and have been urging Minister Ryan to set a minimum target for broadband roll out in this country. We are moving in a digital age and I do not want enterprising Ireland or rural areas to be left behind. The current broadband service, where it exists, is often unreliable. We need every house and business that wishes to access it to be able to and we need to increase the speeds at which people can work online.
In the Senate today I supported the calls that have been made for a debate on education, the issue that will erupt in the next week, but we cannot get the Minister for Education and Science in here because the Minister is in China, and it is the wrong place for him to be. It is extraordinary that when an issue as important as this one has broken and should have been anticipated, the Minister for Education and Science is at the other side of the world with the Taoiseach. We cannot have him here today, tomorrow or any other time because for some reason he is in China on some mission which he has no right to be on. That mission is organised by Enterprise Ireland, which is one of the great oxymorons of the public service, but why is the Tánaiste not out there? That is the Tánaiste’s Department. Apparently, the Tánaiste is in charge here, which does not fill me with a great deal of confidence, but the Minister for Education and Science is in China. In the meantime, this morning the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food came out as the kind of all-purpose spokesman for the Government on issues that have nothing to do with agriculture. This Government appears to be at sea. It has lost its nerve, and that is one of the reasons the people have lost a certain amount of confidence in it. The wrong people are talking about the wrong issues while the Taoiseach and the Minister who should be here are on the other side of the world. The Government has taken a view that education funding can be cut in the same way as public finances in other areas, in other words, taxation. We urgently need a national debate on education, which does not address just the issue of how much can be saved but the long-term vision.
Today in the Senate, I raised the issue of the need for the Minister for Health and Children to address the lack of specialist registrar training in maxillofacial surgery. This specialist area includes treatment of afflictions relating to facial trauma and cancer of the head, neck and tongue. It is a surgical specialty in which the lack of training is acute and disturbing. To qualify for this specialist medical field candidates need two primary degrees, one in medicine and one in dentistry. They also need a further five years’ training before practising. That is an extraordinarily demanding apprenticeship, which results in candidates being particularly suited for this specialist field. Unfortunately, training facilities in Ireland are non-existent.
Yesterday Patrick Neary, the Financial Regulator, came into answer questions before the Economic Regulatory Affairs Committee about his role in the current banking crisis. I have written here already about my views on his job performance and my views are well known. I wasn’t going to tread on eggshells when I got to put questions to him in person.
I PICKED up the message on the answering machine. The voice was Eamon Dunphy’s. There was a tremor in his voice. “You not there, senator?” he demanded. “I have just seen Paddy Neary, the Financial Regulator, on RTE’s Prime Time.”
The normally fearless Dunphy paused: “I am terrified. I am going to emigrate.”
Dunphy was on the button. The poor Regulator had just been mangled by Mark Little. With a great deal of help from himself.
This year Trinity broke into the Top 50 of the World University Rankings. Five years ago Trinity was ranked 87th in the World, now, the University’s concerted effort has paid off with them being ranked 13th in Europe and 49th in the World. This is a great achievement and we should be immensley proud of the global recognition Trinity has as a leading centre of academic excellence. Click here to see the rankings list.
The issue of banking is on the Order of Business to be discussed in the Senate, what is striking is that this crisis is not over, it’s worrying and should be at the forefront of the debate. I am struck by the fact that everybody is beginning to be critical of the regulator.
ONCE upon a time there was a little company called Lloyds of London.
Lloyds gave guarantees to big companies .
Lloyds collected members. Starry-eyed middle-class mugs queued up to join Lloyds because it offered easy pickings. Every year members were sent a cheque in return for providing security for insurance against mega disasters.