Thursday 3rd September 2015
Taoiseach says ‘not realistic’ to set figure for refugees
Kenny says he instructed Minister Fitzgerald to attend crisis meeting with a ‘flexible mind’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it is “not realistic” to set a figure immediately on the number of refugees Ireland can take.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it is “not realistic” to set a figure immediately on the number of refugees Ireland can take.
EU justice ministers will meet to discuss the migration crisis on September 14th.
“The past experience is that countries will not measure up if they’re asked to do so purely voluntarily,” said Mr Kenny. “So it may well be that they are going to have to work out a formula here to say what numbers are appropriate for each individual country, and then get on with having a plan and a strategy that can deal with that catastrophic human situation.”
Asked whether Ireland would be happy to accept a mandatory number, Mr Kenny said: “That’s a decision that’s going to be taken by the EU Council — whether you can have a compulsory, mandatory number fixed for each country, be it based on their population as a percentage of the overall population, or in whatever way.”
Mr Kenny said he instructed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald “to go to the meeting with a flexible mind here. We’ve got to be realistic in what we can contribute. We’re not within the protocol, but we are opting in because of our personality and tradition.”
Speaking after meeting with President Francois Hollande in Paris, Mr Kenny said the photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach at Bodrun was “absolutely shocking.”
“Any parent could see that child in their own arms. Here’s a body of a young boy; a life lost, potential wasted, washed up on a beach like driftwood. That picture more than any I’ve seen of all the tragedies may well shock political processes into taking action here, in terms of the stream of migrants and the causes that underlie that.”
Regarding the numbers of asylum-seekers Ireland will accept, Mr Kenny noted that “We have opted into the protocol” (that is to say an EU Council decision in the Justice and Home Affairs area, where Ireland normally has an opt-out).
Mr Kenny said Ireland’s “investment in humanitarian issues in Syria is substantial for a country of 4.8 million,” adding that “because of our tradition, we have indicated an extension of the naval humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean.”
Asked what order of numbers of additional refugees Ireland could take Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Speaking to Minister Frances Fitzgerald, we have already undertaken to take in over 1,000 for relocation purposes. We would expect to process about 3,500 asylum applications this year. And Ireland has taken in 85,000 new citizens over the last number of years.”
The EU had talked about distributing 40,000 asylum-seekers throughout the Union. “Now we’re talking about over 100,000 people,” Mr Kenny said. “The root causes of these things in countries where there are no governments and tragic circumstances unfolding every day with no plan to deal with it has got to be sorted out.”
Minister Fitzgerald said Ireland is “of course” willing to take more refugees than already committed to, and its ability to do that “will be looked at”.
Speaking today she said she shared the “total upset the entire country feels at the images of the little boy [Aylan Kurdi], drowned on a beach”.
“It is one of the most distressing images we have ever seen.”
She said there was “a huge sense that we must do more” but said the figure of 600, which is the number of refugees the Government has committed to take under the current European refugee relocation programme, was “just one statistic in a wider context” of increased numbers of people seeking asylum here and seeking residency under other criteria.
Ireland would be “very proactive” on putting forward measures to deal with the crisis at the meeting on 14th September.
“Obviously we will need to look at numbers again. Of course we are open to taking more here, but they have to be assessed in the first instance. It is not possible to put numbers on it at this stage.”
She agreed there was an “appetite” among the Irish people for the Government to take more but said any increase in numbers had to be co-ordinated at an EU-level and a plan had to be in place here as to where and how they would be housed.
“The reality is there have to be criteria. There are three full-time staff in my Department working out the process for taking 600. If that number were to double for instance, there would have to be additional resources. Other countries are building tented cities, using schools and gymnasiums.”
Asked if Ireland could do this, she said: “Of course, but it’s not ideal. The whole point is that this all has to be worked out.”
She said there were already hundreds of people, who had been recognised as refugees but still living in direct provision centres, because they could not find housing. There was also a 50 per cent increase in the number of people arriving in Ireland and seeking asylum here, apart from those caught up in this crisis.
“There is a wide range range of significant pressures and challenges,” she said.
Her junior minister, Aodhán Ó Ríordain, said however he was “confident” the numbers to be given protection here would “increase substantially”.
“I am confident Ireland is going to take a lead. The numbers will increase. They will increase substantially. The mechanisms as to how that will happen will have to be worked out but the Irish people are demanding we do more and want their Government to take a lead on this. It’s a moment in history and we must step up to the plate.”
Minister Fitzgerald said there would be discussion at the September 14th meeting on how to best support countries with ‘hot-spots’ for migrants and refugees arriving.
She expected extra aid to be provided so temporary housing and processing centres could be built to better accommodate the needs of arriving people.
She also said the Dublin Convention, according to which asylum seekers must make their application for protection in the first EU country in which they land, was “clearly not working”.
Asked whether she thought the rule should be shelved or changed, she said: “It is going to have to be looked at. It is not being adhered to and we will have to discuss with our European colleagues where we are going with that.”
Most important, she said, was the safety of the migrating people, particularly during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. She said people-smugglers’ activities had to be disrupted while those desperate to make the crossing had to be rescued.
Ministers and TDs have said Ireland must take more refugees than it has committed to so far. They have also said Ireland must take a leading role in pushing for a comprehensive EU response to the refugee crisis.
Seán Sherlock, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said there was “a case to be made for taking in more refugees.”.
He said Ireland had contributed €31 million towards the humanitarian effort on the ground in refugee camps along the Syrian borders, and pointed to the deployment of the Irish naval vessels in the Mediterranean who had saved hundreds of people from drowning while trying to cross toEurope.
“As a nation I think we have genuinely lived up to part of our end of the bargain but yes, there is case to be made that we should take in more.”
Pat Breen, chair of the joint committee on foreign affairs, said: “I think we could take more. It’s a balancing act. If we were to take an amount proportionate to the numbersGermany is taking, that would be 40,000. Obviously our economy couldn’t take that. But there is room for us to take more.
“It needs to be a co-ordinated response from the European Union. There are countries who don’t want to take any.”
He said the EU meeting of justice and home affairs ministers, scheduled for 10 days’ time in Brussels, should now be brought forward. An emergency discussion of the spiralling refugee crisis would be held when his committee reconvenes in coming weeks.
“I also think the Dáil must have a debate on this within a day or two when it’s back on September 22nd,” he said.
Jerry Buttimer, chair of the Oireachtas committee on health, when asked whether Ireland should accept more than planned number of refugees said, “Yes. Yes because it’s the right thing to do.”
Joanna Tuffy, chair of the Oireachtas committee on education, also called for a larger number of refugees to be taken by Ireland, and said Ireland needed to “take a leadership role in Europe among other countries. We should be calling for a co-ordinated response across Europe.
“The question of where more refugees would be accommodated is something that could be worked out. There are hotels. There are vacant buildings. The priority for these people is that they reach safety.”
Labour TD Joe Costello said: “We certainly should be doing a lot more. We have to be prepared to take more refugees. We have a huge diaspora of our own and we have had our people welcomed in other countries.
“It could be done at parish-level. There needs to be a buy-in at grassroots level, with people in each parish taking people in.
“We should be taking a lead in Europe. Heads need to be banged together in Europe and it needs to be done urgently. People are dying.”
I will go to Garda over disappearance of Martin Callinan’s SIM card
leader Lucinda Creighton says she is to go directly to An Garda Siochana over the disposal of personal papers and disappearance of a SIM card belonging to former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
The Dublin Bay South TD today expressed deep concern over the Fennelly report finding that potentially valuable information was not made available to the Commission.
And she said she intends to directly contact Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Mr Callinan’s success, to call for a full probe.
“I will yes, I’ll be making contact with the Garda Commissioner
I don’t know the facts or circumstances here, all I’m aware of are very very serious allegations and if they are true then I think it absolutely merits a full investigation,” Ms Creighton said.
She made the remarks ahead of the party’s think-in in Dublin this morning.
In his report, Mr Fennelly said it has been striking how little documentary evidence was available to his team.
Mr Callinan told the Commission that he had cleared out all personal papers after he announced his retirement and he did not have any written notes to support his evidence. He was, however, able to produce his diary for the year 2014.
On March 25, Mr Callinan went to a filing unit in the Conference Room, where he kept personal papers, and requested black refuse sacks as he wished to sort through his files.
He later asked a Superintendent to dispose of 8 to 10 bags of personal papers, which were shredded on April 4th, 2014.
The report also details how the SIM card in Commissioner Callinan’s phone was removed and subsequently destroyed.
The Commission again wrote to Mr Callinan and asked him to search for the phone.
He found it and furnished it to the Commission but it had no SIM card in it and no information stored on it.
An Assistant Commissioner said that the phone had been returned to the force by Mr Callinan – but that the SIM card had been removed.
The issue of the shredded papers and missing SIM are among the factors that prompted calls to recall the Dáil next week to discuss the Fennelly report.
Renua Ireland wants a new flat tax on all incomes
Declan Ganley urges party not to shy away from big ideas at first think-in in Dublin
(Right pic.) Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley at a Renua Ireland think-in in Wood Quay, Dublin.
Renua Ireland is working on a radical new policy that would see the introduction of a flat tax on all income, with bands and most allowances being scrapped.
The disclosure was made during the party’s first think-in in Dublin, during a session on the economy.
Businessman Declan Ganley, who was a guest speaker, told delegates that a flat tax regime was a “great disrupter” and would create a huge buzz that would attract international business and finance to Ireland.
“It’s going to be controversial. You can welcome the debate. It’s going to create a long-term sustainable economy,” he said.
A flat rate is a system of taxation where one tax rate is applied from the smallest incomes, including social welfare, to the largest.
There are variations on the idea, including the concept of a negative income tax, put forward by Milton Friedman in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom.
A negative income tax would allow personal deductions, or a threshold, before the flat tax was applied.
If the person’s income did not reach that threshold, they would be paid a negative tax calculated on the amount of the shortfall. This would replace some welfare payments.
Renua chairman Eddie Hobbs disclosed that Mr Ganley’s idea had already been taken up by the party and work on a policy was at an advanced stage.
It is thought that Renua does not favour a true flat tax, but one that would include deductions and balancing measures to protect vulnerable families and individuals.
Mr Ganley urged the party not to shy away from big ideas.
“Do the stuff that vested interests will resist and they will hit you hard, but you can take them head on,” he said.
Mr Ganley also attacked what he described as crony corporatism in Ireland.
He said there was a perception that there was a very small circle of individuals who have unique access to the halls of power and have the ability to capture part of this economy and make it available for self-enrichment.
In a thinly-veiled reference to businessman Denis O’Brien, he told the meeting there should be no room for those who ignore the findings of a tribunal, or allow Dáil Éireann to be browbeaten because it does not suit their political or business agenda.
‘Honesty on tax’
Lucinda Creighton told the think-in that people needed to be honest about tax.
“If you’re in favour of tax reductions, you are a bad, evil right-winger,” she said. “If you want to increase tax you are a caring, kind-hearted, loving person.”
She pointed to the 1,200 per cent increase that occurred in the capital gains tax take in the five years after 1997, when the rate was reduced from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.
Ms Creighton also said she will ask Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to assess whether an investigation is needed into the destruction of documents by former commissioner Martin Callinan.
The interim report of the Fennelly Commission, which investigated Mr Callinan’s resignation, found that the former commissioner had documents destroyed as he left his post.
The commission also found that a SIM card belonging to Mr Callinan could not be recovered.
Ms Creighton said she will be making contact with Ms O’Sullivan on the issue.
She also said Renua will cut the number of people working in Irish Water as part of an overhaul of the utility company if the party is in government after the next election.
She said that her party will restructure and overhaul Irish Water – which she described as “an absolute disaster” – while keeping water charges in place.
HSE to fund on limited basis cost of multiple sclerosis drug
Extended campaign by patients proves success for medicine that helps sufferers to walk
Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources.
The Health Service Executive has agreed to fund on a limited basis the cost of a drug that helps people with multiple sclerosis to walk.
The announcement that Fampridine (known commercially as Fampyra) is to be reimbursed under the State-funded drugs schemes follows a lengthy campaign by patients who says the drug has greatly aided their mobility.
The HSE says it is in the final stages of putting in place the arrangement around a “responder-based” reimbursement programme for Fampridine.
The cost of the drug will be covered where a demonstration of clinical response, based on objective criteria agreed with clinical experts, is recorded, it says. This clinical response must be shown to persist based on objective measurement at six-monthly intervals.
In 2013, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, which rules on the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, found Fampridine would cost nearly €7,000 per patient each year. It said the €20 million annual cost to the State over five years would take money from other areas.
The HSE then decided that it could not approve the reimbursement of Fampridine and claimed the manufacturer, Biogen Idec, had failed to demonstrate or provide any formal justification for the prices proposed. Biogen maintained it had offered significant price reductions in the talks.
Agreement has now been reached on a reimbursement arrangement.
Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources after Biogen started charging for the drug last year following a free trial period.
Multiple Sclerosis Ireland expressed delight with the progress on reimbursing Fampridine, which it said had a significant impact on patients’ ability to remain independent.
Animals and not catastrophe, caused first mass extinction
The rise of early animals, not meteorite impacts or volcanic eruptions, led to the world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, suggests new research.
While mass extinctions are generally associated with catastrophic events, like giant meteorite impacts and super volcanoes, the new study puts the blame on the emergence of complex animals that can change their environment.
“People have been slow to recognise that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction,” said Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US.
“But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world’s first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as ‘ecosystem engineers,’ that resulted in the Ediacaran’s disappearance,” Darroch said.
Researchers believe that earliest life on Earth consisted of microbes – various types of single-celled micro-organisms. They ruled the Earth for more than three billion years.
Then multi-cellular organisms like Edicarans emerged and in their heyday,they spread throughout the planet. They were a largely immobile form of marine life shaped like discs and tubes, fronds and quilted mattresses.
After 60 million years, evolution gave birth to another major innovation: animals.
Animals burst onto the scene in a frenzy of diversification that palaeontologists have labelled the Cambrian explosion, a 25-million-year period when most of the modern animal families – vertebrates, molluscs, arthropods, annelids, sponges and jellyfish – came into being.
“These new species were ‘ecological engineers’ who changed the environment in ways that made it more and more difficult for the Ediacarans to survive,” Darroch said.
The researchers performed an extensive palaeoecological and geochemical analysis of the youngest known Ediacaran community exposed in hillside strata in southern Namibia.
The site, called Farm Swartpunt, is believed to be 545 million years old.
Having ruled out any extraneous factors, Darroch and his collaborators concluded that “this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life.”
The researchers believe that as humans are the most powerful ‘ecosystem engineers’ ever known”, an analogy between the Earth’s first mass extinction and what is happening today can be drawn.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. IANS