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Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 856 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin] People have been left in a dreadful position.

I listened to "Today with Sean O'Rourke" on which a journalist did not hold back. He named who, through his investigations, was responsible for this. All roads led to offshoots of the Provisional IRA. It was something else to hear what he had to say. It is using the money to buy properties in England, the USA and Ireland. It is estimated that a laundering operation in Monaghan has resulted in a loss of up to €10 million in taxes and excise duties to the State. We were told the conglomerate had a stake in 140 filling stations around the country, including supermarkets.

We need a massive operation to deal with the issue. We need the Army, the Customs service and the Garda because the Exchequer, as well as the ordinary person who has nowhere to turn and the legitimate trader, are losing out. Every time this fuel is sold at filling stations legitimate traders are losing out on business, not to mention their reputations, as people do not know where to turn. I have attended meetings in my county at which people asked me where they should go to buy petrol. That is shocking to say about consumer confidence in this day and age.

Given that there is a lot of information available, the issue has to be tackled and the operations shut down. I would like to think the ill-gotten gains, filling stations, tankers and profits would all be confiscated and a fund established for those who are out of pocket because of this activity. Those involved should be subject to the full rigour of the criminal justice system and put where they should be. It seems that some gangs are operating above the law, which is not good enough for ordinary law-abiding citizens who are at a loss and for whom the State can provide no solutions. The first step has to be law enforcement. Those involved should be named and shamed in order that people will know which filling stations are involved. They are filling up their tanks innocently and coming out with damaged vehicles. I understand it takes only one fill to damage a car.

I have raised the issue of NAMA, transparency, accountability, the treatment of developers and, above all, value for money for taxpayers on numerous occasions with the Minister in the House, at committee meetings and during Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meetings. Representatives of NAMA appeared before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform on 22 October. I was present and said what I had to say. After the meeting I received threatening correspondence which was anonymous, as all cowards send such correspondence. Subsequent to the meeting I tabled parliamentary questions. I am well aware that the Minister does not prepare the replies. I asked about the Michael O'Flynn loan sales, an issue which was discussed by NAMA. The response I received was one of the most pitiful I had seen and the staff have something to answer for. They could only give me information based on what NAMA had stated at the committee. It did not need to be repeated to me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I have to interrupt the Deputy. I have to remind her that a parliamentary question is addressed to the Minister. She cannot involve officials whom we do not know-----

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin Very good.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett -----in any statement in the House.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin On a point of order, I tabled the parliamentary questions and the ones I received back with an answer had been doctored. The questions were not the ones I had submitted. Nobody contacted me to ask if they could be changed or tell me there was a problem.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy cannot make charges that questions have been doctored. I am sorry.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I have both of them here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett A question is addressed to the Minister, not the Department. If the Deputy has a problem, I suggest she go and see the Minister. She should not make charges in the Chamber that involve officials who are not here to defend themselves.

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I am not telling a word of a lie.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I know. I am obliged to inform the Deputy-----

Deputy Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I have brought the matter to your attention. I referred to a case in which loans had been sold to an underbidder, rather than the highest bidder. In the interests of achieving the best value for taxpayers' money I cannot obtain confirmation of what the small difference was or that the taxpayer received value for money, other than what NAMA stated at the committee meeting. There does not seem to be any transparency or accountability. NAMA seems to be stating the highest bidder in this case, a globally trading hedge fund which I understand has at least $23 billion in assets, did not have the funds to go through with the purchase, which I cannot believe, and that a short-listing process took place. There are many questions to be answered and explanations are required. Mr. Flynn said after the court case in which NAMA had been ruled against and Mr. Justice Cregan delivered a fairly damming judgment in the matter that dealing with NAMA was like dealing with the establishment in North Korea. There are serious questions to be answered and it seems that if I table parliamentary questions, I will not get answers, about which I am disappointed.

Anything I am saying is factual and I have the information here. To tell the truth, after I raised the issue at the committee, I accumulated quite a bit of correspondence from people around the country who told me how they had been treated by NAMA and received telephone calls from people in a very distressed state. I cannot adjudicate on all of these cases, but there are questions to be answered by NAMA.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I wish to share time with Deputy Thomas P. Broughan.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I want to raise a number of issues, the most important of which is petrol stretching. I raised this issue two weeks ago in a parliamentary question to the Minister for Finance who told me in his response that the figures from the Revenue Commissioners showed that 26 cases of petrol stretching had been reported to them from counties Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Galway between July and October. They told local media that 25 cases in County Longford alone had been reported to them, but I am aware of a garage in my county which has two vehicles a day coming in in which the engines have seized. That is the reality of what is happening across the west. A welcome announcement was made today that the Garda and Revenue Commissioners would come together in County Mayo to see if they could tackle this issue. This is not an issue in County Mayo, it also affects counties Roscommon, Longford, Galway and Leitrim, all of which face significant problems. The Minister pointed out to me that the Revenue Commissioners had a dedicated section on its website on which one could report such incidents. One reason they are not being reported is that one would want to have a PhD in IT to figure out how to report the matter on the website. We need to be far more proactive in encouraging people to come forward and report such crimes.

The Minister also said motorists should take care about where they sourced their petrol. The impression is being given that people are buying yellow pack petrol and should know better. In fact, the garages of which I am aware that are selling this fuel are not selling it at the going rate and, in some case, are more expensive. I know of a couple in my constituency, both of whom are on the minimum wage and who have three small children.


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