Monday, May 30, 2011

Euro Remains King, despite growth in non-cash payments

euroWhen the €uro became the active currency of Ireland on 1 January 2003 the total value of the currency in circulation in the country was €2,897 million. Currency represented 3% of the nation’s money supply in 2003.  Cash in circulation throughout the Eurozone has grown about 11% per annum since 2002

Currency in circulation increased to €11,956 million at 31 December 2010 and represented 6.7% of the money supply in Ireland. The total value of Euro circulating throughout the 17 member Eurozone was €850 billion so the Irish share of this is 1.3%. Ireland’s GDP is roughly similar to that of Connecticut.

The makeup of the currency in circulation in Ireland is as follows:


No. of Banknotes


























Ireland is one of the 14 jurisdictions which produce Euro banknotes. Under pooled production arrangements the Central Bank printed 127.5 million banknotes in the €10 denomination last year. This denomination was also produced in Germany, Greece, France, Italy and Austria. Total volume produced was 1,540.1 million units with a value of €15,401 million.

Ireland produced banknotes in the €20 denomination in 2009, 2008, 2007; in the €5 denomination in 2006; in the €10 denomination in 2005, 2004 and 2003. Ireland is producing some of the 1,714.8 million banknotes in the €5 denomination in 2011.

Despite the growth in non-cash payments throughout the world, cash remains the predominantly popular form of payment. It is quick and direct; freely available to users at point-of-use and cash is anonymous and non-discriminatory. Experts also say that cash is less prone to fraud than other payment methods.

The global use of payment methods, other than cash (direct debts, credit transfers, cards and cheques) has grown steadily – especially in China (+29%); Russia (+66%) and South Africa (+25%), while volumes grew more modestly in developed countries.  Non-cash payments in Ireland grew at a compound rate of 11% from 2001 to 2008.

Credit cards account for 40% in most countries and above 58% globally.

PayPal facilitated €51.3 billion in total payments in 2009 and is forecast to grow this business to €105.9 billion next year. Over 81 million people are active users of PayPal and these accounted for 6% of all global online payment transactions in 2009.

The life of a banknote is typically two years – somewhat less in the case of lower denomination notes. This year 6,017.9 million new banknotes in the Euro currency will be produced with a value of €171,274 million. Approximately 751,000 counterfeit banknotes with a value of €37,759 million were removed from circulation last year.  39,025 million banknotes were withdrawn on grounds of being unfit for use.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Barack Obama’s College Green speech

President Obama spoke to an audience of 30,000 in College Green Dublin last Monday evening.  It was a pleasant sunny evening and his remarks were greeted enthusiastically!  This is a transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Hello, Dublin! (Applause.) Hello, Ireland! (Applause.) My name is Barack Obama -- (applause -- of the Moneygall Obamas. (Applause.) And I've come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way. (Laughter and applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I've got it here!

THE PRESIDENT: Is that where it is? (Laughter.)

Some wise Irish man or woman once said that broken Irish is better than clever English. (Applause.) So here goes: Tá áthas orm bheith in Éirinn -- I am happy to be in Ireland! (Applause.) I'm happy to be with so many á cairde. (Applause.)

I want to thank my extraordinary hosts -- first of all, Taoiseach Kenny -- (applause) -- his lovely wife, Fionnuala -- (applause) -- President McAleese and her husband, Martin -- (applause) -- for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you, Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and the Gardai for allowing me to crash this celebration. (Applause.)

Let me also express my condolences on the recent passing of former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald -- (applause) -- someone who believed in the power of education, someone who believed in the potential of youth, most of all, someone who believed in the potential of peace and who lived to see that peace realized.

And most of all, thank you to the citizens of Dublin and the people of Ireland for the warm and generous hospitality you’ve shown me and Michelle. (Applause.) It certainly feels like 100,000 welcomes. (Applause.) We feel very much at home. I feel even more at home after that pint that I had. (Laughter.) Feel even warmer. (Laughter.)

In return let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island. (Applause.) They say hello.

Now, I knew that I had some roots across the Atlantic, but until recently I could not unequivocally claim that I was one of those Irish Americans. But now if you believe the Corrigan Brothers, there’s no one more Irish than me. (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to thank the genealogists who traced my family tree.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- right here!

THE PRESIDENT: Right here? Thank you. (Applause.) It turns out that people take a lot of interest in you when you're running for President. (Laughter.) They look into your past. They check out your place of birth. (Laughter.) Things like that. (Laughter.) Now, I do wish somebody had provided me all this evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago -- (applause) -- because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest. (Applause.) A city where it was once said you could stand on 79th Street and hear the brogue of every county in Ireland. (Applause.)

So naturally a politician like me craved a slot in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The problem was not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name. I told them it was a Gaelic name. They didn’t believe me. (Laughter.)

So one year a few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers. After two hours, finally it was our turn. And while we rode the route and we smiled and we waved, the city workers were right behind us cleaning up the garbage. (Laughter.) It was a little depressing. But I’ll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad -- (applause) -- because this is a pretty good parade right here. (Applause.)


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Go Bulls -- I like that. (Laughter.) We got some Bulls fans here.

Now, of course, an American doesn’t really require Irish blood to understand that ours is a proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship; that we are bound by history and friendship and shared values. And that’s why I’ve come here today, as an American President, to reaffirm those bonds of affection. (Applause.)

Earlier today Michelle and I visited Moneygall where we saw my ancestral home and dropped by the local pub. (Applause.) And we received a very warm welcome from all the people there, including my long-lost eighth cousin, Henry. (Laughter.) Henry now is affectionately known as Henry VIII. (Laughter.) And it was remarkable to see the small town where a young shoemaker named Falmouth Kearney, my great-great-great grandfather, my grandfather’s grandfather, lived his early life. And I was the shown the records from the parish recording his birth. And we saw the home where he lived.

And he left during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the New World. He traveled by ship to New York, where he entered himself into the records as a laborer. He married an American girl from Ohio. They settled in the Midwest. They started a family.

It’s a familiar story because it’s one lived and cherished by Americans of all backgrounds. It’s integral to our national identity. It’s who we are, a nation of immigrants from all around the world.

But standing there in Moneygall, I couldn’t help but think how heartbreaking it must have been for that great-great-great grandfather of mine, and so many others, to part. To watch Donegal coasts and Dingle cliffs recede. To leave behind all they knew in hopes that something better lay over the horizon.

When people like Falmouth boarded those ships, they often did so with no family, no friends, no money, nothing to sustain their journey but faith -- faith in the Almighty; faith in the idea of America; faith that it was a place where you could be prosperous, you could be free, you could think and talk and worship as you pleased, a place where you could make it if you tried.

And as they worked and struggled and sacrificed and sometimes experienced great discrimination, to build that better life for the next generation, they passed on that faith to their children and to their children’s children -- an inheritance that their great-great-great grandchildren like me still carry with them. We call it the America Dream. (Applause.)

It’s the dream that Falmouth Kearney was attracted to when he went to America. It’s the dream that drew my own father to America from a small village in Africa. It’s a dream that we’ve carried forward -- sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost -- for more than two centuries. And for my own sake, I’m grateful they made those journeys because if they hadn’t you’d be listening to somebody else speak right now. (Laughter.)

And for America’s sake, we’re grateful so many others from this land took that chance, as well. After all, never has a nation so small inspired so much in another. (Applause.)

Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields. Irish sweat built our great cities. Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and Irish song; our public life by the humor and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Reagan, O’Neill and Moynihan. So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue. (Applause.)

When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting of your sons that caused the British official to lament, “We have lost America through the Irish.” (Applause.) And as George Washington said himself, “When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin’s generous sons?”

When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. (Applause.) His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a color but as a man. And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage.

Recently, some of their descendents met here in Dublin to commemorate and continue that friendship between Douglass and O’Connell.

When Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve our young union, more than 100,000 Irish and Irish Americans joined the cause, with units like the Irish Brigade charging into battle -- green flags with gold harp waving alongside our star-spangled banner.

When depression gripped America, Ireland sent tens of thousands of packages of shamrocks to cheer up its countrymen, saying, “May the message of Erin shamrocks bring joy to those away.”

And when an Iron Curtain fell across this continent and our way of life was challenged, it was our first Irish President -- our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, who made us believe 50 years ago this week -- (applause) -- that mankind could do something big and bold and ambitious as walk on the moon. He made us dream again.

That is the story of America and Ireland. That’s the tale of our brawn and our blood, side by side, in making and remaking a nation, pulling it westward, pulling it skyward, moving it forward again and again and again. And that is our task again today.

I think we all realize that both of our nations have faced great trials in recent years, including recessions so severe that many of our people are still trying to fight their way out. And naturally our concern turns to our families, our friends and our neighbours. And some in this enormous audience are thinking about their own prospects and their own futures. Those of us who are parents wonder what it will mean for our children and young people like so many who are here today. Will you see the same progress we’ve seen since we were your age? Will you inherit futures as big and as bright as the ones that we inherited? Will your dreams remain alive in our time?

This nation has faced those questions before: When your land couldn’t feed those who tilled it; when the boats leaving these shores held some of your brightest minds; when brother fought against brother. Yours is a history frequently marked by the greatest of trials and the deepest of sorrow. But yours is also a history of proud and defiant endurance. Of a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages; that overcame occupation and outlived fallow fields; that triumphed over its Troubles –- of a resilient people who beat all the odds. (Applause.)

And, Ireland, as trying as these times are, I know our future is still as big and as bright as our children expect it to be. (Applause.) I know that because I know it is precisely in times like these –- in times of great challenge, in times of great change -– when we remember who we truly are. We’re people, the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a brighter future, even in bitter times. We’re people who make that future happen through hard work, and through sacrifice, through investing in those things that matter most, like family and community.
We remember, in the words made famous by one of your greatest poets that “in dreams begins responsibility.”
This is a nation that met that responsibility by choosing, like your ancestors did, to keep alight the flame of knowledge and invest in a world-class education for your young people. And today, Ireland’s youth, and those who’ve come back to build a new Ireland, are now among the best-educated, most entrepreneurial in the world. And I see those young people here today. And I know that Ireland will succeed. (Applause.)

This is a nation that met its responsibilities by choosing to apply the lessons of your own past to assume a heavier burden of responsibility on the world stage. And today, a people who once knew the pain of an empty stomach now feed those who hunger abroad. Ireland is working hand in hand with the United States to make sure that hungry mouths are fed around the world -- because we remember those times. We know what crippling poverty can be like, and we want to make sure we’re helping others.

You’re a people who modernized and can now stand up for those who can’t yet stand up for themselves. And this is a nation that met its responsibilities -– and inspired the entire world -– by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge a lasting peace on this island.

When President Clinton said on this very spot 15 years ago, waging peace is risky, I think those who were involved understood the risks they were taking. But you, the Irish people, persevered. And you cast your votes and you made your voices heard for that peace. (Applause.) And you responded heroically when it was challenged. And you did it because, as President McAleese has written, “For all the apparent intractability of our problems, the irrepressible human impulse to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation.”

Whenever peace is challenged, you will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse. And America will stand by you -- always. (Applause.) America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace. (Applause.)

And, Ireland, you need to understand that you’ve already so surpassed the world’s highest hopes that what was notable about the Northern Ireland elections two weeks ago was that they came and went without much attention. It’s not because the world has forgotten. It’s because this once unlikely dream has become that most extraordinary thing of things: It has become real. A dream has turned to reality because of the work of this nation. (Applause.)

In dreams begin responsibility. And embracing that responsibility, working toward it, overcoming the cynics and the naysayers and those who say “you can’t” -- that’s what makes dreams real. That’s what Falmouth Kearney did when he got on that boat, and that’s what so many generations of Irish men and women have done here in this spectacular country. That is something we can point to and show our children, Irish and American alike. That is something we can teach them as they grow up together in a new century, side by side, as it has been since our beginnings.

This little country, that inspires the biggest things -- your best days are still ahead. (Applause.) Our greatest triumphs -- in America and Ireland alike -- are still to come. And, Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try -- think about all that we’ve done together. Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner. And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed: Is féidir linn. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Is féidir linn. (Applause.)

For all you’ve contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit of the world, thank you. And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two great nations.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, Dublin. Thank you, Ireland. (Applause.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Queen Elizabeth’s speech in Dublin Castle

A Uachtaráin agus a chairde (President and friends).

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world-famous hospitality.

Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than just neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

Madam President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.

Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all. But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us. No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.

Madam President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation. You set out to build bridges. And I have seen at first hand your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island. You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998, it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today. I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process, and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the Gardaí, and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland. Taken together, their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.

For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage. The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.

There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.

These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve. They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Have Irish bishops ‘with the stroke of a pen really made themselves answerable’?

2010 04 11_4223The title of an article by Breda O’Brien The Irish Times on Sat, May 21 that ‘With the stroke of a pen, bishops made themselves answerable’ strikes me as being disingenuous and misleading because it is simply not the case.   If readers were to accept this exclamation at face value they might reasonably construe that the much put-upon bishops’ have become accountable to something other than their own foggy shaving mirror, or someone other than the face that smiles at them from the contents of the whiskey glass held in their own hand from time to time.  But the incontrovertible evidence is that The Hierarchy have engaged for over two and a half years in yet another Machiavellian episode of cunning subversion intended to hoodwink the public with their own toxic blend of metal reservations and double entendre.

Shortly after the Safeguarding Board exposed two diabolical child sex abuse allegations in Cloyne Cardinal Brady stated that his friend of 50 years, Bishop John Magee, should not resign.   Brady also issued a statement on 2 January 2009 about the role of the Safeguarding Board in which he said that its role is to accomplish a ‘consistent child safeguarding policy throughout Ireland based on verifiable and accountable structures of best practice’.  Brady acknowledged that the handling (also referred to by Magee as a ‘lacuna’) of two child abuse allegations in Cloyne brought into question the efforts of all who implement policy on safeguarding and statutory guidelines.

“Everyone is entitled to be reassured that when commitments have been given to implement statutory guidelines and agreed policies for safeguarding children in the Church, these are reliable and trustworthy. The Board is in a unique position to provide such assurance. It must continue its work in cooperation with the statutory authorities and with the full support of everyone in the Catholic Church in Ireland”. It was also Brady who suggested in January 2009 that the Board might explore the possibility of conducting a review of current child safeguarding practices in every diocese across the island in cooperation with the relevant statutory authorities.  ‘The core principle of safeguarding policy is a Gospel value’, Brady added.

His counterparts met on 23 January 2009 and they unanimously requested the Safeguarding Board to review current practice and risk in the safeguarding of children within their dioceses.

When the Safeguarding Board issued its 2009 Annual Report two diocese, Clonfert and Ossory, had not even appointed child safeguarding representatives and according to the 2010 Annual Report it took all of 2009 to just agree the objectives of the proposed audit of child safeguarding practices in each diocese.

The 2010 Annual Report reveals that is was not until March 2011 that the ground rules for conducting these audits were agreed.  But the audits may only now proceed on the basis that the Board will not comment publicly on the findings of the review of each Church authority, nor will the Board comment on any recommendations in practice or procedure that they deems necessary.  Furthermore, the introduction of any information into the public domain is to be only possible with the consent of the implicated relevant Church authority.  Placing a muzzle on this Board is hardly a policy by bishops’ that could be remotely construed as making them answerable to anybody or to enhance their credibility.

This basis for beginning these diocesan reviews also ought to be considered  in the context that the Safeguarding Board has an approved and, what it describes, as a ‘top-rate data protection policy’ to which it fully adheres in all its operations and the Board is fully confident that it fully complies with data protection legislation as it exists in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Access to relevant documentation when responding to safeguarding concerns had been specified in the listed objects of its company.

It is also pertinent to point out that the number of child abuse allegations continues to be alarmingly high, notwithstanding their longstanding history in many instances.  It is also deeply troubling that this Board has not been contemporaneously informed about allegations of child abuse when these have been reported to the civic authorities demonstrating again contempt for transparency, candour and directness.  What is this a symptom of?

The non-binding sex abuse policy issued on 17 May by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeks to reinforce bishops’ exclusive authority in dealing with abuse cases and states that lay review boards, such as the National Board for Safeguarding Children, ‘cannot substitute’ for bishops judgement and power. How can this be taken seriously in Ireland when not alone have bishops failed miserably in following their own guidelines and muzzling lay review boards to make them impotent ensuring that compliance is impossible.

The Chairman of the Safeguarding Board has highlighted the opinion that a cultural correction is required within the Irish Church in making the point that the work of the Board alone is not enough to ensure the adequate safeguarding of children and specifically cited inherent weaknesses in areas such as institutional management and governance in the Church.

A fundamental issue at this stage is whether the bishops trust, or do not trust, their own Safeguarding Board – an entity conceived by them; populated by them, overseen by them and remunerated by them.  The leadership of the Board has demonstrated tenacity, fortitude, independence and candour which is a crucial foundation to winning and maintaining public confidence.  The purpose of these reviews of safeguarding practice is to mitigate risk to children and that has to be accomplished without jeopardizing public confidence in the Board, including dealing with personal data in an appropriate manner.

The bishops’ have severely strained public confidence and credibility.  They are led by an individual who concealed the vile criminality of Brendan Smyth from the civic authorities for 19 years before it was exposed in a television documentary and who refused to regard this as a resigning issue as the pews continue to empty

How can the public trust bishops’ and the notion that they can muzzle a so-called independent review body answerable only to themselves is derisory and contemptuous.  Perhaps this facets of their attitude to accountability might be discussed in another article as the public are likely to be agitated about this issue once again when the report on allegations against 19 priests in the Diocese of Cloyne, a diocese with just 46 parishes, is published.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Garda Overtime Pared

While the State Visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the official visit of President Obama to Ireland this month will generate Garda overtime, data published in respect of the past five years show a reduction in overtime.















Monday, May 16, 2011

Child safeguarding initiatives lacking transparency

The Head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Brady stated on 2 January 2009 that the mandate of the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) had his full support and that the Board intended to obtain the support of his fellow bishops’, in writing, to implement policy agreed by the Bishops’ Conference. He also stated, unequivocally, that the welfare of children is a Gospel value. He recognised that verifiable and accountable structures, based on best practice, are critically important to safeguarding children and sustaining public confidence in the Church.

The most important initiative of the NBSC in 2009 was to undertake an audit of child safeguarding practices in all dioceses. That was to have been completed by the end of 2009 and the benefit of risk mitigation that would be reasonably expected to ensue from this should have been well rooted by early 2010.

But it took all of 2009 for the bishops’ to merely agree the objectives of these reviews and by April 2010 two dioceses, Clonfert and Ossory, did not even have a single parish safeguarding representative in place in the 66 parishes administered by these dioceses.

The 2011 annual report of the NBSC contains the appalling disclosure that the conduct of the review of dioceses has been systematically thwarted by what are described as unresolved (and unspecified) data protection issues’  which fundamentally stymies the mandate of this Board – notwithstanding that the NBSC has comprehensive data protection procedures which comply with all statutory obligations . The bishops’ response is therefore self-serving, egregious, outrageous and indefensible.

The Statement issued on 11 May by the Bishops’ Conference reduces the audit review, that was set in the context of a Gospel value in January 2009, to being a generic and inchoate important area of challenge that has yet to be completely resolved’. The 2011 Annual Report indicates that any information gleaned in the audit will only be disclosed to the public with the consent of the head of the relevant authority. The authoritarian muzzle to be applied to this process after a protracted delay to date will now supplement the reporting deficits of 2010 whereby the number of sexual abuse episodes disclosed far exceeded those previously communicated to the NBSC by a factor of 300%. The Chief Executive of the Board described the impact of inaccurate reporting as ‘problematic’. It actually corrupts the basic integrity of a monitoring process.

The behaviour of the bishops continues to be lamentably typical of the leadership that has reduced the Catholic Church in Ireland to a toxic cocktail based on a blend of double entendre and mental reservations. The impact of the NBSC, which has earned public trust and estimable esteem, is being reduced to that of a posse of passive plane-spotters, who monitor international best practice elsewhere, but are faced with impossible inertia and cultural impediments in introducing best practice into Ireland - based on adequate reference points and candour. Change never occurs in a leadership vacuum but decay and curmudgeonly connivance thrives in such circumstances.

The ‘full support’ of a credible leader means that the leader can be relied on to deliver an outcome within an agreed timeframe, particularly with respect to a primary objective, especially when the scale of reported sexual abuse continues to be as alarmingly high as it is.

Brady has failed to ensure that these reviews are promptly facilitated with the same blind, thoughtless, stubborn intransigence that you chose not to report the Brendan Smyth saga to the civil authorities for 19 years until it was independently exposed by a television journalist.

The Chairman of the NBSC has drawn attention to inherent weaknesses in area such as institutional management and governance. You and your pathetic colleagues have chosen to recruit a partisan lawyer rather than ensure that this Board swiftly obtains the statistics and other pertinent data to safeguard the children of Ireland. It is not good enough to publish claptrap about ‘continuing to work with the Board’ when it is abundantly clear that you will use concocted legal excuses to avoid doing so.

Thus impasse ought to be a resigning issue not just for Brady – but for each bishop whose talents, energy, outlook and disposition are incapable of leading change or inspiring public confidence.

The investigation of allegations in the Diocese of Cloyne commenced with a review of two cases in 2008 but the Report of the Commission of Investigation subsequently examined allegations against 19 priests in that relatively small diocese of 46 parishes. None of these are likely to have emerged into the public domain if such a blanket embargo existed.

Public confidence in the proposed audit of safeguarding practices by the Board will not be enhanced if the findings are to be muzzled by the Church authorities. Tardiness with respect to critical communications neither serve the interests of children, the Church or the Catholic community as a whole.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fianna Fáil clumsy angling for the winner’s enclosure at the next Irish Presidential Election

Micheál Martin has given Fianna Fáil councillors free rein to vote as they wish with respect to the selection of candidates to contest the Presidential election.

But such a disposition towards something as important as the next presidential election, the first in 14 years is pathetic and self-serving. The Presidency is an office that has performed so flawlessly and is so deeply esteemed that the least Fianna Fáil could have done is to set out the qualities, ideals, and characteristics that Martin believes are a prerequisite for a credible candidate before declaring that their councillors have a free vote.

Those characteristics ought to include, for example, personal stature, evidence of a capacity to safeguard the dignity of the Office while capably promoting our national reputation with a style, elegance, energy and impact that is commendable; skills in social leadership and an ability to relate to all facets of society in Ireland and elsewhere; a thorough understanding of the Constitutional position of the Presidency and a perspective on how the Presidency could be further developed to build on the legacy accomplished.

The choosing of candidates for this election is therefore not a similar exercise to that of a bull-run, where a cohort of the sartorially challenged and politically spontaneous presenting themselves as independent candidates for Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann with an alternative outlook on the universe that is adapted and scripted by them on the hoof.

Several individuals have indicated a desire to seek a nomination to contest the presidential election but none of them have really spelled why they are sufficiently distinguished and accomplished to prompt the electorate to vote for them.

Finally, the Office of President has become something of a family enterprise with the President’s family, especially the spouse, playing a crucial role in the success of a presidential term. None of the prospective candidates have indicated if they have any back-up of this nature to support what has become a very complex and personally demanding role requiring an incumbent of exceptional talent and ability.

Fianna Fáil would need to extend their commitment to the process of qualifying candidates beyond a desire to be in the winners enclosure next November, whether the winner is, or is not, a Fianna Fáil devotee.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tom Elliott’s outburst does him no credit

Shortly after Tom Elliott became leader of the Ulster Unionist Party last September he declared that he would not attend GAA matches. I felt that this simplistic, ham-fisted declaration was short-sighted and naïve on his part and it certainly didn’t deliver extra votes last week. Attendance at the odd match and engagement with the GAA would have allowed him to demonstrate that there would be an expansive and innovative dimension to the character of his leadership; that the future he sought to foster would not be impaled by inertia, or diminished by the closed mind-set of a political hermit.

Despite the painstaking pace of vote counting last week, both the outcome of the Assembly election and the conduct of leading politicians, especially in the course of the past year, indicates that they are capable of making gestures and statements that move the political narrative forward in a manner that reflects the sentiment and disposition of the electorate.

Mr Elliott’s outburst in Omagh about the Irish flag being ‘foreign’ betrays a fundamental ignorance of the symbolism of the flag – which is to recognise the different traditions on the island of Ireland and, by implication, the Constitutional safeguards afforded to those traditions. The Irish flag is therefore not a foreign symbol in the Anglo-Irish context because it recognises the cardinal principle of personal choice with respect to the definition of the nation.

I share his agitation when any national flag is displayed disrespectfully or where protocol is disregarded. A national flag is not a piece of carnival bunting intended to propagate narrow vested interests.

However, the interests of society are also not well served when a political leader uses condescending shibboleths, such as the descriptor ‘scum’, because these simply pander to vacuous subversive vanity that is not connected to elected politics. The political mainstream should function at a higher level of sophistication and that means that Mr Elliott will need to have one footprint in the promising future, aligned with those who have something positive to contribute to society, if the Ulster Unionists are to be an integral and effective part of that process.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Grounds for a review of Irish judicial salaries are overwhelming

4 Courts and Rowers

The Journal of Legal Analysis, a Harvard publication, in its Winter 2009 issue, published a transnational comparison of the salaries of High Court judges in 28 OECD jurisdictions - Mexico and Switzerland being the omissions. Chile, Estonia, Israel, Slovenia are not included as they joined the OECD last year.



Salary US$

Salary €

    2004-05 2004-05


United Kingdom












New Zealand




United States
















































































Czech Republic












Slovak Republic



The data relates to 2004/2005 and showed Ireland’s judges to be the second highest paid, next to their British counterparts.

Between 2004/2005 and 2011 the salary of a British High Court judge increased by 11.1% from £155,404 to £172,753 (€196,310)

The salary of an Irish High Court judge increased during this six-year period by 36.6% from €184,889 to €252,720 – the probability now being that Irish judges are the highest paid in the world.

This development a surge in interest by those wishing to become judges.  During the 2004-09 period the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board advertised for a total of 51 vacancies in the Supreme, High, Circuit and District Courts,  There were 1,916 applicants.

Apart from the High Court, there are other features of the Irish judicial reward system which gives Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, plenty of grounds to conduct a Constitutional Referendum to reform judges pay and not to capitulate on their reported request that the tax burden on pension funds in excess of €2.3 million.

The Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, exists to define our nation, defend its institutions and not to provide privileged refuges for the well-connected to escape their civic obligations and contribution to social solidarity, especially at a time of unprecedented crisis and widespread severe hardship.

Public Sector Pension Levy

It was reported by the Revenue Commissioners at the end of 2010 that 22 of the nation’s 147 judges failed to make a voluntary contribution to the Revenue Commissioners last year in lieu of this levy and that the cumulative payments of those judges who did make a voluntary contribution amounted to €1,246,787. If all of them had met the statutory obligations that public sector workers are obliged to honour the Exchequer could have received €2,374,180 from the judiciary last year.

Despite the leadership endeavours of the Chief Justice and the President of the High Court, there is effectively a deficit in Exchequer receipts of €1,358,915 that someone else must compensate – the scale of which would require the pension levy of over 5,400 public sector workers earning €20,000 per annum.

The defence based on Article 35.5 of The Constitution that the remuneration of a judge shall not be reduced during his continuance in office’ has never been tested so the underlying decision is therefore based on political and administrative considerations. This levy is a deduction from gross earnings of public sector workers. It is not a reduction in gross earnings.
Has the levy been applied to judges appointed after the Financial Emergency measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 became law on the 20th December that year?


Our 147 judges were paid €27,759,194 in 2009. That included a State pension of €72,983 paid to the Chief Justice in respect of service in another Constitutional Office – that of Attorney General from March 1987 to September 1991.

Their counterparts in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are paid 24% less. This difference costs that Irish Exchequer €5,343,770 - which equates to 67% of the total receipts from pension-related deductions on public service remuneration last year in your own Department. Why is Ireland borrowing from the IMF/EU/HM Treasury to pay this premium so that our judges continue to be the highest paid in the world?

It is perfectly reasonable to compare pay rates in Ireland with those in the neighbouring Common Law jurisdiction because, unlike France and Germany, judges in the UK are recruited from the ranks of experienced lawyers, some of who earn more than £500,000 per year at the Bar but populate the ranks of the 140-strong High Court bench at a salary of £172,753, 27% less than the 36-member Irish High Court. The British rates are also broadly comparable to those prevailing in Australia and Canada. Furthermore, the same arguments with respect to work-load and complexity, impact and sensitivity of decisions, court craft and out-of-court administration, management and leadership responsibilities apply in all of these jurisdictions.

Public Sector Pay Reductions / 2010

The Irish Exchequer is losing €2,485,924 as a consequence of the judiciary being exempted from the reductions imposed on the public service from 1 January 2010. I have read that judges are also exempted from PRSI. If this is the case, the loss to the insolvent Social Insurance Fund is €1,107,488. The combined impact of this loss would pay the annual wages at minimum tariff of over 200 workers.

Has the reduction and pension levy been imposed on all judges appointed since 1 January 2010?

Pay Parity

The salary of the Chief Justice exceeded that of the Taoiseach from the foundation of the State until 1968 when pay parity was established on the grounds that the Head of the Judiciary and the Head of the Executive would enjoy similar remuneration. The differential between the pay of Enda Kenny and the Chief Justice is now 54%. If the arguments for pay parity were solid when rates were rising by 110%, which was the case between 2000 and 2009, how do you intend to choreograph the restoration of this long-standing relationship when the Constitutional impediment has not been tested and judges have responded to the national financial crisis with blinding self-interest?

Flat-Rate Expenses

At present, judges receive unvouched, non-pensionable and non-taxable expense allowances the cumulative annual value of which is €508,856. It seems to me that these are also not ‘remuneration’ within the definition of Article 35.5 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Did you Department impose the 8% reduction (amounting to €40,708) that applied to all qualifying public service workers since 1 January 2010?

Government car and Garda Driver(s)

The State is to continue to provide the Chief Justice with a Garda driven car at an average annual cost of €280,000 to commute to the outer suburbs.

The total cost of the four official cars used by the British Ministry of Justice in the year ended 31 March 2010 was £320,429 (€368,309), or €92,077 per vehicle and €47,600 is attributable to the use of the British Government’s Green Car Service by all judges.

The total cost of operating two official cars at the Northern Ireland Office in the year ended 31 march 2010 was under €90,000.

Official car usage in Britain is restricted to official business and from home to office journeys within a reasonable distance, on the understanding that users would normally be bearing classified documents on which they would be working, - as well as security and other relevant considerations.