Order of Business

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 228 No. 9

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Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The Order of Business is No. 1, Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 11.45 a.m. and to conclude no later than 1.30 p.m.; No. 2, Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2 p.m.; No. 3, Water Services (No. 2) Bill 2013 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stages, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude no later than 4 p.m.; No. 4, Local Government Reform Bill 2013 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 4 p.m. and to adjourn no later than 5 p.m.; and No. 5, Protection of the Public Interest from Tobacco Lobbying Bill 2013 - Second Stage, to be taken at 6 p.m. and to conclude no later than 8 p.m.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien On Monday in this House I raised very serious allegations in regard to the culture, procedures and operation of the National Asset Management Agency. Later that day the agency issued a statement to the effect that it was aware of only one ongoing investigation into such practices. It has since transpired that there are two such investigations taking place. I put it to colleagues that this information would not have emerged if we had not raised it in the Seanad.

Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien As I said on Monday, I have been made aware of very serious allegations concerning the deliberate undervaluing of loans at pre-sale, with a view to turning over a profit for public relations and political reasons and conferring advantage to certain bidders. It is a very serious situation if taxpayers are to be on the hook for the sale of performing loans at a discounted rate to preferred bidders. In fact, it is so serious that it requires an independent investigation and a statement from the Minister for Justice and Equality or the Minister for Finance. I understand the Garda Commissioner has had this information since early December. If even part of these allegations is true, it will undermine the entire operation of NAMA.
  I have come into possession of documentation which I will lodge with the Garda Síochána this afternoon so that it can be dealt with by the proper authorities. The following will give colleagues a flavour of this documentation, without mentioning any names:

These people from NAMA have lost the plot. They forgot about the legislation and when Fine Gael came into power they forgot about transparency and freedom of information, which they spouted before the election. Senior people in NAMA got it into their heads that they had to make a profit and they nearly drove me to suicide on valuations. They were hell bent on destroying the banks on valuations so that they could be shown in a good light later. There were perfectly good loans written down on the banks to keep the NAMA dream alive. I was the one they relied on to get massive low valuations. I destroyed people with those valuations.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I do. That is just a flavour of the allegations which, if true, go to the very top of NAMA. There are questions to be answered regarding the interaction between the Department of Finance, senior NAMA officials and international vulture funds and investors.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Will the Senator put his question?

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Finance come into the House today to make a statement on oversight of NAMA, with reference to the questions that have been raised through the freedom of information process regarding senior officials in his Department leaking private commercial information to preferred bidders who were selected by NAMA and the Department. I do not raise these matters in the House lightly. I have read the documentation and, as I said, intend to lodge it this afternoon with the Garda. I am asking that the Minister for Finance come into the House today and make a clear statement about oversight of NAMA and its interaction with the Department at senior levels.

Senator Deirdre Clune: Information on Deirdre Clune Zoom on Deirdre Clune Will the Leader arrange a debate with the Minister for Finance in the new year on the mid-term economic review that was published yesterday? The report has been criticised by some for not being ambitious enough and by others for not being sufficiently cautious. The projections contained therein seem to me to be very realistic. The House should avail of an opportunity to discuss that document, together with the ESRI data that were published this morning. The ESRI is positive in its outlook, predicting that increased domestic demand and reducing unemployment will contribute to greater than expected growth. There is much food for thought in these reports.

  A "Prime Time" report last night outlined how a charity that provides residential places for drug addicts subjected some of those individuals to serious abuses. It is completely unacceptable that the operations of such organisations should be entirely unregulated. That situation must be rectified.

Senator Sean D. Barrett: Information on Sean D. Barrett Zoom on Sean D. Barrett I welcome the confirmation by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, of the appointment of Mr. John O'Connor as chairman of EirGrid. I attended the Oireachtas committee meeting at which Mr. O'Connor remarked that he himself would not like to live close to a pylon. I hope he brings that approach to the affairs of EirGrid. My correspondence in recent weeks certainly suggests that his is the majority view on this issue.

  I second Senator Clune's proposal that the Minister for Finance come into the House in the new year to discuss the medium-term outlook. The Federal Reserve in the United States is holding a meeting today on tapering or the reduction of quantitative easing, which is essentially the banker and stockbroker dole. A potential consequence of that will be the end of five years of virtually zero interest rates. The Department of Finance must re-evaluate its forecasts and investment appraisals to take account of these changed circumstances.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy Zoom on Tony Mulcahy I begin by suggesting to Senator O'Brien that he call to mind who set up NAMA.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien My concerns relate to its operations.

Senator Tony Mulcahy: Information on Tony Mulcahy Zoom on Tony Mulcahy Nevertheless, I echo his concerns. A Member of the other House, Deputy Mick Wallace, has stated publicly that the people he was dealing with before the crisis are the same people he has dealt with since the crisis. I was very worried to hear that comment. I do not condone whatever the Deputy might have done, but it is disturbing to discover that the same people are sitting on the other side of the table. It seems to be a case of gamekeeper turned poacher. I have exactly the same concerns as Senator O'Brien in that regard.

  I seek an update on the implementation plan the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has put in place for the individualisation of funds in the disability sector. I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate on that issue early in the new year, with a full statement by the Minister of State as to how she proposes to roll out this project in the coming years. The idea here is that the money follows the client, with funding assigned to clients to select services according to their requirements. If we are ever to break up the current model of service provision in the intellectual disability sector, this is exactly the way to do it. The cost of the current system is simply too high, as I have outlined on several occasions.

Senator Denis O'Donovan: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by my colleague Senator O'Brien in respect of the startling revelations he has brought forward.


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