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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Jan 2022

Vol. 1016 No. 7

Ceisteanna - Questions

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the investigation being carried out by the Secretary General of his Department into the leaking of details of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation final report in advance of its publication in 2021. [61494/21]

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

2. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Taoiseach the status of the investigation being carried out by the Secretary General of his Department into the leaking of details of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation final report in January 2021. [1874/22]

Alan Kelly

Question:

3. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the status of the investigation by the Secretary General of his Department into the leaking of details of the final report of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation in advance of its publication. [3310/22]

Mick Barry

Question:

4. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the investigation being carried out by the Secretary General of his Department into the leaking of details of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation final report in advance of its publication in 2021. [3615/22]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.

In advance of consideration of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters by the Government, certain information relating to the report was disclosed in a newspaper report. In that context, I requested that an investigation be carried out. The investigation is being undertaken by a senior official in my Department and is being done in the context of a broader examination of the overall arrangements that are in place for the management of documents for Government meetings and the protection of their confidentiality. That process is ongoing.

What I can say is the Government is very clearly focused on making progress with the comprehensive action plan we have set out for the survivors and former residents. As the Deputies are aware, on 13 January 2021 last, I apologised on behalf of the Irish Government to those who spent time in a mother and baby home or a county home. The Government engaged with the groups and published an action plan for survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions on 16 November 2021. This plan recognises the failures of the past, acknowledges the hurt that continues to be felt by survivors, and seeks to rebuild a relationship of trust between the State and those who have been so gravely wronged.

The 22 actions set out in the action plan have been developed to respond to the broadest range of needs and wishes that survivors have expressed. Actions have been arranged into central themes that have emerged as fundamental in how the Government responds. These are: a survivor-centred approach, a formal State apology, access to personal information, enduring archive and database development, education and research, memorialisation, restorative recognition, and dignified burial.

Central to the development of each of these actions has been detailed and sustained engagement with survivors and their families. The establishment of the mother and baby institutions payment schemes will provide financial payments and an enhanced medical card to defined groups in acknowledgement of suffering experienced while resident in a mother and baby home and county home institution. The State will fund the scheme and it is estimated that it will cost approximately €800 million. The Government intends to seek contributions towards the cost of the scheme from the religious congregations that were involved in operating the institutions. The legislation required to establish the scheme is currently being developed as a matter of priority and it is intended that the scheme will open for applications as soon as possible in 2022.

As the Deputies know, on 12 January last, the Government published the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022. It passed Second Stage in this House last week and has been referred to the select committee for detailed examination.

Separately, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has taken possession of the archive of the commission of investigation and has established a dedicated information management unit to lead on the management of the commission's archive, including applications for access to these records. A professional archivist has been appointed to work within the unit to focus on the preservation of and public access to these records.

The draft certain institutional burials (authorised interventions) Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny in the first half of 2021 and the joint committee published its report on 15 July. It was clear from engagement with survivors and former residents that memorialisation was considered to be a very important part of the healing process for those affected. The Government also acknowledges that memorialisation plays a role in helping to remove the stigma and shame that has deeply affected so many. The commitment to a national memorial and records centre will be progressed by means of a group chaired by the Secretary General to the Government. Funding has been secured to support this process, which will develop an overarching vision and proposed approach for the creation of the national centre and which will be brought to Government for approval.

We have 11 minutes remaining and I suggest we will have one minute per question if we are to get through all of this business.

A year has now passed since the Minister, Deputy O’Gorman, wrote to the Secretary General of the Taoiseach’s Department seeking an investigation into the leaking to the media of the commission’s final report. The failure to conclude this investigation has been described by survivors and their families as another broken promise in a long litany of broken promises from the current and former Governments. The Taoiseach’s response on this delay is not acceptable. He gave a commitment to investigate this leak. Survivors, their families and those of us who represent them here were repeatedly told the process is ongoing without providing any detail of what that statement actually means. It was the decision of the Taoiseach to tag this investigation on to a broader examination of multiple Cabinet leaks. If this particular examination cannot be completed in a reasonable timeframe, then it is time to separate this out from the rest of these. This dithering and delay is in the context of the Government having to accept and acknowledge in the High Court that the commission of investigation treated witnesses unlawfully and the release of a redress scheme based on findings and recommendations that have been utterly discredited. Let me repeat that - utterly discredited.

The following is owed to the survivors and families: an explanation as to why this is taking so long, clarity on what date the Secretary General will conclude this work, and a firm commitment to publish the findings.

I also have the same question. The survivors were very upset over the leak of the report into mother and baby homes. I would like to know where we are today in the investigation of that leak. People want closure. I ask that we get that out to people. There is a very significant issue here with communication and I know how committed the Taoiseach is to this.

The other issue I wish to address, and I was glad he raised it, is the 22 recommendations, the redress and the medical cards. These are so important for survivors. As the Taoiseach is aware, the survivors are getting older and we need to move on this as soon as possible. I ask that he does that.

This is just extraordinary. An investigation was ordered into the leak. The Taoiseach tagged it onto a bigger investigation. We have no date as to when the report will be done. This was so damaging to the families and survivors and had a very significant impact. The contents were in the media days in advance.

Let us get to the bottom of the following. Will the Taoiseach tell the House when this investigation is over? If he cannot find out what happened, he should just say that, as bad as that would be. These people deserve closure. If he cannot find out what happened or, dare I say it, some people may not want to say what happened, that would be wrong but at least it would bring some form of closure. The idea that this can just rumble on and on is just another slap in the face to the families and the survivors. Will the Taoiseach at least tell us today the date, once and for all - he has the power, he is the Taoiseach, and it his Department - by which this will be concluded?

We are one year on now. Survivors deserve an answer as to what happened with the leaking of this information. When are they going to get it? The failure to provide answers is adding insult to injury. The redress scheme has already excluded many people from it, including people who were born and lived in the institutions for less than six months. These people were profoundly affected by what happened to them and have been cut off from the scheme. It is divisive and is an attempt on the part of the Government to play a game of divide and rule. We heard fine speeches in the Dáil last week about violence against women and what the Government was going to do.

This was State violence against women. Why does the Government force these people to go out onto the streets and outside the gates of Leinster House in all weathers to campaign for justice on this issue? They need answers now.

The mother and baby home regime was organised abuse of mothers and children by the church and State. They have been cruelly let down time and again by the State. The commission report was an absolute travesty, as I said from the start, in that it failed to take on board in a serious way, and give way to, the voices of the survivors. However, the leak was a disgrace. Government spin came before the needs of the survivors and their right to see that report before journalists and everybody else. A year later is the Taoiseach seriously not just pulling our legs when he says that he has not come to a conclusion as to how the leak happened and that somehow it has got tied up in some wider discussion about Cabinet confidentiality? That is an insult. Is there going to be a cover-up of this leak or are we going to get a conclusion? Can the Taoiseach also end the further insult of the arbitrary six-month date for acknowledging the pain, abuse and wrong that was done to everybody who went through the mother and baby home system?

I feel I am the one to point out that the emperor has no clothes here. The Taoiseach was quoted extensively in the article which carried the details of the leaked report. He was quoted as saying that he found the report shocking and difficult to read and he confirmed he would be making an apology to the survivors on behalf of the State and wider society. At the very least he had a conversation with the journalist, Jody Corcoran, on the Saturday. What did the Taoiseach do upon finding out that the Sunday Independent had a copy of this report? Did he contact his colleagues immediately and say there was a crisis situation in that this important report which should be in the hands of survivors had got into the media? What did he do about it at that stage when he knew a leak had occurred? Did he take emergency measures and say that the Government needed to get it into the hands of survivors to ensure there was no attempt to have spin at that stage? No, obviously he did not. Can there be an external investigation of the leak, as opposed to this managed process by the Department of the Taoiseach that has, unsurprisingly, failed to find the culprit?

It seems to be another day with another promise broken by the Government. There was a specific promise by the Government to investigate a specific leak of a major report on the experience of men and women who have been let down and treated badly and shockingly by the State, from the day they were born in many cases. It is so frustrating to see that damage being done again. Why did the specific investigation transition into a generalised investigation of leaks by the Government? Who made the decision to do that? How long does it take to carry out an investigation to establish who leaked a document to a journalist? How can it take a year to do that? It smacks of a Government that is trying to dissolve the focus away from this specific group and this specific wrongdoing.

The Taoiseach is left with two minutes and 39 seconds to respond.

The Deputy suggested this is part of a long list of broken promises. I want to make it very clear that we are going to follow through on every part of the action plan that we have outlined. We are doing that. People may quibble about or disagree with aspects of that, but we have committed to the more fundamental issues that survivors have wanted action on for many years and did not get, for example, in terms of unfettered access to information and tracing. Unquestionably, the legislation we have produced has been groundbreaking in that respect. It went through pre-legislative assessment for about six months, which was good, and it has now gone through Second Stage. That is fulfilling a commitment this Government made and it is something that has been sought for over a decade. The previous Oireachtas was not in a position to deliver it.

It was longer, and it needs to be amended.

With regard to the payment scheme, the Minister did not depend on the commission's reports in respect of framing and establishing that payments scheme. In other words, he went beyond it and beyond the recommendations of the report. That legislation will come through the House and Members will come forward with their amendments and proposals. The Minister will consider those on that Stage of the Bill. The institutions burials Bill is also evidence-----

What about the leak?

I will come back to that. The Deputy said the Government is not committing.

The Taoiseach is talking down the clock.

I have not interfered in the investigation. The Government took the decision to widen it out at the very beginning because in the modern era there has been a lot of leaking and so forth. In terms of the comments I made, I was asked basic questions about whether I would be offering an apology. It was not the first time I was asked that in respect of the Government's response to the publication of the report. There are wider issues. We are not responsible for the commission and how it did its work. It did extensive and comprehensive work-----

Who made the decision to change the investigation?

That commission had been established some years ago. The commission of investigation model is the one we have. It may not have been the optimal model for this type of investigation-----

When will the investigation be completed?

We did separate ones in respect of the industrial schools and others, and perhaps lessons can be learned from that.

When will this investigation be completed?

I am not in a position to say yet, but I certainly hope we can bring it to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

It is a year later.

It is a pretty poor answer now.

Foreign Policy

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

5. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025. [61496/21]

Mick Barry

Question:

6. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025. [3617/22]

Seán Haughey

Question:

7. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the implementation of Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025. [3618/22]

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, together.

The Government continues to implement Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025. Despite the constraints of the pandemic, considerable progress has continued to be made, as set out in the Global Ireland Progress Report published in May 2021. This includes: a further significant expansion in our network of missions and agency offices; new strategies for IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland; our success in securing a seat on the United Nations Security Council; and support for the cultural sector, including for the new Irish Arts Centre which I was pleased to be able to dedicate in New York. Since the publication of that report, further progress has been achieved in a number of areas and more work is planned for the year ahead.

The Government has approved the opening of embassies in Dakar, Senegal and Tehran and of consulates general in Toronto, Lyon and Miami. A new office is also being opened in San Francisco by Tourism Ireland, and IDA Ireland is appointing representatives in Israel and Argentina. A strategy to guide Ireland's relations with Latin America and the Caribbean will be launched on 15 February.

As the House will be aware, as a result of the pandemic it was not possible to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the traditional way last year, with most events moving online. We hope that it may be possible to resume some in-person events this year, depending on public health developments, which remain the most important consideration. This year will mark the 13th Tourism Ireland Global Greening, which saw a record 725 sites and landmarks in 71 countries take part in 2021.

The Government is currently preparing a new trade and investment strategy to advance Ireland's trade and investment goals, which will see us sustainably grow and diversify our export markets, including for our SME sector, and develop and expand our foreign direct investment, FDI, base. We are also continuing to invest in developing new markets for Irish food - 2021 saw Minister-led virtual trade missions to Asia, Africa, the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is hoped that in-person missions can recommence, when it is safe to do so, in 2022.

Ireland is playing an active role on the UN Security Council, leading efforts to secure humanitarian assistance in Syria and achieving an agreement on peacekeeping transitions. We have also sought to highlight the dreadful conflict in Ethiopia and its humanitarian consequences. In September, I chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue of climate and security. We will continue work on this issue. In budget 2022, the Government increased our overseas development assistance, ODA, budget by €140 million, bringing Ireland's investment in ODA to over €1 billion for the first time.

We can take a little more time on these as there are not as many questions. I call Deputy McDonald.

Repeated references to Covid-19 in the Global Ireland progress report reaffirm the reality that in our interdependent world, no one is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe. A motion calling on the Government to immediately support a trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, TRIPS, waiver on Covid-19 vaccines was passed by the Seanad last month. Throughout the pandemic, political leaders have correctly argued that we need to trust the science and listen to medical experts and clinicians. Nevertheless, the Taoiseach's Government has set its face against the arguments of the WHO and so many experts on delivering vaccine equity. Equally unjust is the European Commission blocking the introduction of a TRIPS waiver on Covid-19 vaccines and technology at the WTO's TRIPS council.

A doctor living in my constituency wrote to me last week, reflecting on how appreciative she is to live in a country where a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available but saying that the arrival of the Omicron variant highlighted both the injustice and the real and remaining public health risk of global vaccine inequity. She also noted that more than 100 companies across Africa, Asia and Latin America have the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines. The proposal for a TRIPS waiver to remove barriers to vaccine production in the global south has the support of more than 100 countries, including the United States, yet EU governments continue to oppose the waiver. On my behalf and behalf of my doctor constituent, and so many others, I ask the Taoiseach to formally back the waiver and encourage the European Union forcefully to do likewise.

Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025 was launched in 2018 and is a plan to expand and deepen Ireland's international presence and influence and generally to bring about greater engagement by Ireland in global affairs. Significant progress has been made in implementing the plan, as we have heard, and many new initiatives have been undertaken. New diplomatic missions have been opened and, as we know, Ireland won a seat on the UN Security Council and held the presidency of that council in September of last year. As a member of the UN Security Council we have highlighted our proud tradition of peacekeeping and strengthening conflict prevention.

Included in the initiative is the bid by Ireland to host the America's Cup in 2024. I understand a due diligence analysis by EY has been undertaken in this regard. Where stands this bid now and when might a Government decision on the matter be taken? I should also point out that since the initiative was launched, the international environment has changed significantly. Covid-19 is of course one of the factors in that regard. Will the Taoiseach confirm that a mid-term review of the strategy has commenced, given recent global developments?

Global Ireland: Ireland's Global Footprint to 2025 puts much emphasis on our culture, arts and heritage but most of its initiatives are essentially about punting our reputation around the world. I am not saying there is anything wrong with them but we are not doing what we should be doing, which is to nurture and support those who produce the art, literature, music, film and so on.

We have been talking about wage rates in this country. The two lowest earning sectors in our economy comprise retail workers and arts workers. They endure miserably low pay and most have no job security because they have episodic employment. In many cases they live in poverty. It is interesting that both of those groups were the worst hit during Covid-19 but we needed them most. We do not give the support to the people in arts and culture, although we are quite happy to punt our reputation around the world. We spend one sixth of the EU average on arts and culture in this country and there has been no real significant increase lately. There was a little increase during the Covid-19 pandemic but it is not anything to the level we see elsewhere.

Let us match words with deeds if we want to support our fantastic and rich heritage and the creative talent that exists in the country. Let us give those people decent incomes and employment security. We should end the scandal in the film industry where nobody has a job but we spend hundreds of millions of euro there every year. Performers do not get royalties because they are forced onto buyout contracts when they work on films and television productions. Let us match the words about culture with deeds to support the artists, technicians and performers in arts and culture.

Deputy McDonald spoke about vaccine sharing, the TRIPS waiver and so forth. I argue that the European Union has been the leader across the globe in respect of vaccine donation. It is the largest donor, ahead of the United States, Russia, India and any other country or continent for that matter. It has made an extraordinary effort not to have any export bans at any stage, despite some efforts in the early stages of the pandemic. We might remember all the rows with AstraZeneca and all of that. I pushed hard for there to be no export bans because of the global supply chain that goes into making vaccines.

The EU and its constituent member states is the leading donor, having committed €3.2 billion for the equitable distribution of vaccines. Out of 2 billion doses produced since December 2020, the European Union has exported over 1.7 billion doses to 165 countries. Some of those were countries that were contracted to companies manufacturing within Europe. Ireland is committing 5 million doses to COVAX and 1.3 million vaccines have been delivered to low-income countries.

It is the production that is the game changer.

Yes. I will come to that.

It is not the charity element.

The TRIPS waiver itself does not deal with that.

I am aware of that but it is a prerequisite.

It would never have provided the magic solution that was suggested when it was advocated. There is no single or simple answer except that we must improve production capacity within Africa. The European Union is uniquely the global organisation that will do just that. Africa currently imports 99% of its vaccines and 94% of its medicines. That is unsustainable and we must work within the EU with our partners in Africa. There is a summit coming up and the European Union, through technology transfers in the short term, wants to deal with vaccine shortages. It must also deal with distribution and logistics within many of the countries. The question will no longer be about production or supply for the remainder of 2022 but rather distribution and getting vaccines into the arms of people. That is something on which the European Union is committed to engaging with African partners on, with an overall package for Africa. I am pushing strongly as Taoiseach that the European Council, along with the European Commission, should advocate a specific package for Africa in the context of Covid-19 and in the more medium term.

Irish Aid and other organisations must refocus in the short term to help with the vaccine effort in the countries we help or support more generally across food, health and so on. There is an interdependence as nobody will be safe until everybody is safe. I think the production challenges are resolved and the imperative now is to strengthen co-ordination with partners to address the question of distribution and the logistical challenges of getting vaccines.

It is interesting that in eastern Europe, where there has been access to vaccines, uptake is still at 50% or 60% in some cases. It illustrates my point that a stage will come when it will not just be a question of supply but of getting vaccinations done.

In the poor south, it is a question of production.

To be fair, Africa has suffered worst in respect of vaccine sharing and access to vaccines.

That must be dealt with. Given Ireland's history of pharmaceutical production and capacity, we should be lending any knowledge we have in order to achieve that, and to help Africa with access to vaccines and developing manufacturing capacity. Work is under way in South Africa and Senegal, and the European Commission is going to-----

We need a waiver for that.

No, we do not. The Commission will help to develop the capacity and the technology transfers to enable them to produce on home soil, but this takes time. In the interim, we must get the vaccine supplied to Africa as quickly as we possibly can.

Deputy Haughey raised a number of issues. There will be a mid-term review in respect of the strategy. On the Security Council, I commend the work of the Irish ambassador to the UN, Ms Geraldine Byrne Nason, and the team there. I was delighted to meet with them in September. I was struck by the idealism and commitment of the young civil servants working on the Irish team in the UN in New York. It would give one hope for the future of this country that we have such quality people working on that UN Security Council brief, and learning so much. They are working on some very difficult issues, from Syria to Ethiopia, and having an impact at the highest levels of international diplomacy. We must continue to resource that and work very hard in our presidency of the United Nations Security Council.

I take Deputy Boyd Barrett's point. Ireland's reputation is one of the countries with the highest numbers of recipients of the Nobel prize in literature and per capita I believe we have the highest number of Booker prize winners. We support the arts and there has been an increase this year. I am aware that the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin is working to try to create more embedded structures to support artists. The first rationale for this is to try to develop creativity within our own country and within our own society, and to prioritise the arts and the flowering of the arts so that young people would aspire to be artists, writers, performers, musicians and so on. We need to create a sustainable base for that. While I would not understate the progress that has been made in this regard over the decades, more can always be done. We must also take lessons from the Covid-19 experience.

I recall organising the first Global Irish Economic Forum in 2009 when I was the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The people of the Irish diaspora who were involved in senior positions across the globe came back in and did a bit of work over that weekend. They came back with the idea that the most important calling card for Ireland is its creativity and, dare I say it, its prowess in the arts and creativity. These were people who may not ordinarily have agreed with Deputy Boyd Barrett's financial or economic positions, and it is interesting that this came from them. That has never left me.

Departmental Expenditure

Alan Kelly

Question:

8. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the advertising spend and initiatives promoted by his Department in 2021; and the project budget and plans in place for 2022. [61502/21]

My Department incurred expenditure of €11,615,375 on advertising in 2021. This figure is provisional until the 2021 accounts are finalised. The majority of that spend related to Covid-19 public information campaigns, amounting to €11,565,853. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic there have been 68 separate public information campaigns, with each campaign using a combination of national press, regional press, radio, digital display, social media, TV and online video. The campaigns played a vital role by informing citizens at all stages about encouraging key behaviours necessary to control the virus; the various supports to businesses and citizens being made available by the Government during the pandemic; the implementation of the vaccination programme; and the restrictions as they were introduced and subsequently lifted.

In 2021, the non-Covid advertising costs that were incurred were €27,638 in relation to the advertising of judicial and Director of Public Prosecutions appointments; €20,625 to facilitate a public consultation by the Future of Media Commission; and €1,617 for an information campaign regarding budget 2021. A further €4 million has been allocated in budget 2022 for expenditure on Covid-19 public communications. My Department will continue to co-ordinate communications for the whole-of-government response to the pandemic. There will continue to be expenditure on public information notices and campaigns as needed as we continue to manage the response to the Covid-19 virus.

I thank the Taoiseach. I understand that over €9 million was spent on Covid-related advertising last year. More than €500,000 of that was spent on social media advertising. By and large, this is a huge level of expenditure by the Government. While it is absolutely necessary, I posit that it also gives the State a huge power when it comes to media. The Government is a huge contributor to media advertising, which we all know with the changing media they are very dependent on.

With most restrictions lifted, the prospect of less spend will also have a major impact on the revenues of newspapers and broadcasters, etc. It is not clear to us what oversight is in place for this spending and who decides where the advertisements are run, where the spend goes and what the reasoning behind it is. Will the Taoiseach give us some information on who make those decisions and how? I am aware from many people who work in local media - radio and newspapers - that this has caused great concern with regard to how X publications and Y broadcasters were included but they were not. Local radio stations and local newspapers are deeply concerned and would like transparency on this. Will the Taoiseach tell the House who was particularly in charge of authorising the individual spend and deciding which media bodies got advertising across the country, nationally or locally and by broadcast and by newspaper? Perhaps the Taoiseach will tell us if it was outsourced or partially outsourced, and if there was oversight by the Taoiseach's officials in the Department of such outsourcing. Will the Taoiseach tell the House if his Department expects to continue the same level of spend this year, or how much he estimates it will be tailored down? There are a lot of major questions with regard to the impact of the spend, how it was decided and whether it was outsourced. One such question relates to the possibility of disproportionate spending with some broadcasters and media compared to the smaller media, broadcasters and newspapers across the State.

Outside of the pandemic spending, what specific campaigns are planned by the Taoiseach's Department for this year? I note, for example, that the volume of people going for screening is not what it should be. The Taoiseach is aware that I have spoken to him on this issue many times. Will the Taoiseach be contemplating campaigns to increase awareness and participation in screening programmes, especially as they are so important? The HPV vaccine is a real concern for me. This is another issue on which I have campaigned and fought for inside this Chamber. Will the Taoiseach include campaigns on the HPV vaccine?

Are there other campaigns that relate to the promotion of Government launches, plans or reports that the Taoiseach's Department is projecting for this year? Surely at this stage, at the end of January, the Taoiseach will have decided same. Does the Taoiseach expect any spending on advertising to take place outside of the State this year? If so, will the Taoiseach tell the House if this spending will take place in the UK, Northern Ireland, the EU or the US?

I must have asked ten different questions there. I ask all of these questions because I remember quite distinctly the Taoiseach's contributions in this Chamber - when he sat over where Deputy McDonald sits now - on the strategic communications unit, spending, the lack of oversight, the lack of foresight, small newspapers, small radio stations, political actions etc. We need full accountability and full transparency, and we also need a full audit of how spending has been done, who made the decisions, whether it was outsourced, and who made the final calls. In the Taoiseach's situation, obviously, he must practise what he preaches.

Last week, the Taoiseach told us he will play a key role in ensuring departmental delivery on the commitments to end domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and I welcome that. One of the most urgent actions required to address Ireland's failure in this area is our obligations under the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, in particular refuge places. A report published by Safe Ireland during the pandemic found that, on average, seven requests every day for refuge went unmet because of a lack of capacity. We know there are nine counties with no capacity at all in this jurisdiction.

This week, Tusla confirmed to my colleague, Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne, that the refuge and safe home capacity has increased by just four places over the past seven years. Where there is no route out of domestic violence, victims and their children are very often left with no option but to go back to an abusive and violent partner. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy Roderic O'Gorman, wrote to me on 16 December to confirm he intended to bring the completed Tusla review of accommodation for victims of domestic violence to Cabinet in early January. He said the review would be published at the same time and that all stakeholders would be briefed by Tusla.

However, yesterday I was informed by the Minister that the review will not now be published this month as promised and that the timing of its publication is now only being considered by the Minister for Justice. This is an unacceptable delay. The publication of this review, which has now been completed, should not be contingent on the publication of the third strategy. The Minister also informed me he met the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice on 18 January to discuss the response of the Government to domestic and gender-based violence and to ensure prompt advancement of his actions. Did the Taoiseach agree to the delay of the publication of the Tusla review at this meeting? If so, what was his rationale for that? I know this is a very bad decision. We need to see the review and I urge the Taoiseach to ensure it is published without any further delay.

I would like to see Government information flowing in respect of two areas with the sort of frequency and sophistication that we saw around Covid announcements. I note there is a Government of Ireland document entitled Be Winter Ready. We discussed at length the question of fuel energy price hikes. Notwithstanding the debate around all of that, there is a real danger of people on low incomes, such as pensioners and so on, freezing during the winter and excess winter deaths. Many of those people do not know where they get help.

We can debate whether the help that is available is sufficient, but many people do not know where to get that help. I am dealing with a man who has cancer. His boiler has been broken for three or four months and he has been freezing since October. He does not know where to go. He needs help and information. The Government is telling people to be winter ready. We need to get information out to the people who may need to make choices about turning off heating or who do not have their heating on about where they can get help and how they can get out of that situation. I appeal for that kind of information to be made available.

Second, there was a shambles around the PUP over the Christmas period, and that continues. There is huge confusion about the entitlement to the PUP. I discovered from our taxi driver friends, who were one of the big victims of this, that people thought PRSI contributions were being awarded to them while they were in receipt of the PUP. As far as I understand it, that should have happened. However, when people went to apply for the PUP they were told they did not have sufficient PRSI contributions or there was significant confusion. People are having difficulty getting the help they need. We need Government information to explain how people can get answers.

There are two minutes remaining in this in the slot. I am anxious to allow Deputy Murnane O'Connor to come in and for the Taoiseach to respond.

I have had several meetings with the Taoiseach about women's refuges. Carlow is one of the nine counties in Ireland without a women's refuge. I know how committed the Taoiseach is to this. I have tried to get through to different agencies about this and I have spoken to Tusla. I ask that the review is reported as soon as possible so that we know what is happening and which areas will and will not have a refuge. Carlow urgently needs a women's refuge. I thank the Taoiseach for speaking to me about this issue a number of times.

I thank all of the Deputies for the questions raised. On Deputy Alan Kelly's question-----

It was the only question I asked.

Yes, but it provoked questions from others which the Deputy must be happy with. In any event, I will deal with the core point he made. I did not involve myself with the specifics. I take the Deputy's point about power and such a large volume of expenditure being allocated to advertising. It happened in the context of a once in 100-year event. The pandemic is still with us, and I remember right throughout the pandemic Members in the House calling for different types of communication. The breakdown of the money spent might be of interest to the Deputy because we hear different things and people will complain.

A breakdown of the advertising spent on public information campaigns shows an even split of spend across national and regional media outlets. I am told that in 2020 the national radio advertising spend was €4 million and the regional spend was €4.8 million. The 2020 national press advertising spend was €3.4 million, with the regional spend being €3.5 million. In 2021, the national radio advertising spend was €2.1 million and the spend on regional radio advertising was €2.4 million. The 2021 national and regional press spend were both €1.3 million, an even split.

I will have to come back to the Deputies on some of their questions on whether external advisers in the media world were brought in. At one stage, we were concerned about social media, in particular campaigns targeted at young people. We improved on that in terms of the campaigns developed following a significant increase in case numbers among 18 to 24 year olds in autumn 2020. The Government Information Service, GIS, Department of Health and HSE engaged with representative groups to understand the needs of this demographic. They worked with young people.

The insights generated from the research these groups conducted confirmed that young people had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and were concerned about it and its impact on them and their loved ones. It also revealed that they wanted this to be recognised and for information to be given to them in the appropriate way by their peers. Taking on board this insight, we worked with an agency with a track record of communicating with this demographic and developed the anti-viral campaign that encouraged this group to assume a leadership role in dealing with the pandemic, generating a movement they could relate to that was delivered by their peers. The campaign was very successful, and utilised platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. It evolved based on feedback from young people and the final strand featured the stories of young people who had been directly affected by the virus. It has been particularly effective and has performed extremely well, with overall impressions and reach of 18.8 million and 1.48 million, respectively. I can send the Deputies information on the engagement metrics.

That is an illustration of the approach that was adopted. It was all about getting the message about Covid restrictions and behaviour across. The most recent campaign, RSVP, was particularly effective, and involved information on moving from a restrictive environment to what people should and should not do and what steps they should take.

I will follow up on Deputy McDonald's discussion with the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, in terms of the audit. We need to move very quickly on the gaps in the provision of refuge places and centres. Our meeting was focused on the lead Department, which is the Department of Justice, and how to deal with wraparound services. The outcome of the meeting was that the Minister for Justice's Department would be the lead Department in respect of domestic violence.

Deputy Murnane O'Connor has, in fairness, consistently raised the issue of the absence of a centre in Carlow.

We will continue to work with the Deputy and other public representatives in the area to proceed with that.

Deputy Boyd Barrett's point was well made in respect of winter-ready campaigns. Once we emerge from the pandemic, we should be able to do more specific campaigns. That should also fall to other Departments. The Department of Social Protection and other Departments have campaigns within their policy remit.

Is féidir teacht ar Cheisteanna Scríofa ar www.oireachtas.ie.
Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.
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