Citizen Journalism Ireland: Selection of emails to Government and related. January 2014 (15 articles various social justice related topics) by Michelle Clarke

16th October 2016:  Reviewing historic files on Citizen Journalism site.

Subject: Dublin City Council also provided loans to borrowers for housing
Date: Wednesday 1st January 2014 17:21:32 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed address list
Dublin City Council also provided loans to borrowers for housing;

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

2014 is the year of enforced resolutions and closure for many people caught in the Celtic Tiger housing trap of negative equity, job losses (either or or both), emigration. The legislation is approved. The Banks have been told to engage with their clients, particularly those in mortgage arrears of greater than 90 days, on a case by case basis. The objective is to reach a suitable arrangement. There are options in place but when examined they tend to be token gestures without the motivation and effect to create viable solutions for people who are in debt that they will never be able to repay.

Private Equity firms are hovering and Ireland is a neat market especially for American companies like Blackstone, the largest landlord of properties in the US. Wall Street is in the driving seat again but this time there is a new market in town and that is companies like Blackstone taking control of the private rental market through purchase of ‘delinquent mortgage’ properties, in particular apartments blocks under the name of “multi-family units”. Media sends out the message of pay your rent to Wall Street and given the global perspective of banking, this too applies to the people in Ireland. The new landlordism is that of the corporates, the private equity groups, those who can create the entity that will apply the economies of scale that will drive up their profits. NAMA http://www.nama.ie/ is our marketing tool and it is the strategic mover that determines when its stock of ‘delinquent developer led’ borrowers will be placed on the market. The timing is the question and if we listen to Bloomberg we are told the housing markets kicked into gear in the US in 2011.

What happens now for Ireland?

100,000 people are supposedly on the housing list in need of social housing. The question is now what will Dublin City Council choose to do? Is there a supply of property available and being gathered up by these private equity firms so that Dublin City Council can divest further of its responsibilities to the new entity, companies like Blackstone, Kennedy Wilson, Comer Brothers. We have interesting times ahead.

New Year’s Eve is not the time to be reading the newspapers but Olivia Kelly has a most interesting piece in the Irish Times about Dublin City Council ‘carrying mortgage arrears of e13 million plus on home loans’.

The question is about the Council being able to continue to adhere to its capacity to provide mortgages to borrowers. It is more interesting to note that the Council has repossessed 85 houses, two thirds of which were abandoned. The criteria for a Dublin City Council loans was that two banks had refused to give the mortgage.

Dublin City Council and the provision of loans would seem to be a flawed model too. They have 2709 mortgagees on their books, small by comparison to the banks, who owe over e340 million in borrowings. In 2007 the records show that they were able to collect 92% of what was owed to them but this dropped to 60% by October of this year. What we learn from the article is that they know that it is 539 mortgage holders who are more than a year in arrears. The concerning part of this equation is that they are unsure if they will continue to be a lender and we do not know what their plans are for the provision of housing to meet the needs of so many people who are on the social housing list or destined for it this year, in the absence of their abilities to meet their loans for their existing homes.

We can all think of some family this Christmas who were caught in the Celtic Tiger ‘Trap’. Where will they be next Christmas because definitely 2014 is about the writing on the wall? We need a plan, we need to know the options for people to avoid anymore undue stress. We owe billions of euros but sometimes the only sensible way to tackle debt is to write it down. Iceland tackled their crisis in a different to Ireland, we need to ask can we learn anything from them. The write-down of e28,000 per home could be an option in Ireland, if the powers that be would only agree. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Goodbye FAS: Hello Solas/Intreo but let’s stop the cronyism; the focus must be employment activation
Date: Thursday 2nd January 2014 19:46:48 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed address list
Thursday 2nd January 2014

What a relief? A semi-state sector company who employees people (third level graduates) as part of the JobBridge scheme have had one successful outcome. The person got a job, according to my source. However, it is my belief that this represents a minority.

Today’s Irish Examiner has a most interesting article, for the readers of this site. It’s about ‘Fighting inequality with Innovation’ by Stefano Scarpetta: director of employment, labour and social affairs at the OECD. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2013 www.project-syndicate.org.

2014 and the time is upon us to gather thoughts together and make decisions as to how best to engage with realities faced by so many, in particular our young people, concerning the unemployment crisis in Ireland Inc. The question is how do we equip ourselves to become contributors to our society. How can we engage with the Captains of Industry and enlist them to provide apprenticeships and opportunities to gain access to the workforce or to avail of grants for those people who want to be entrepreneurs.

Stefano Scarpetta sums it up quite simply: ‘Putting people back to work at productive, rewarding jobs, can help stem widening income disparities, across the globe’. The reality we must face is that income inequality is increasing worldwide for decades. To compound this, we must add the impact of increasing unemployment and also under employment (reference OECD report to G20 in July 2014). The inequality crisis is damning and is being moved towards top of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda. They recognise the challenge of the need for ‘inclusive growth’. According to this Forum:

….widening income disparities will be the second most important world trend in 2014, behind only Middle East tensions. Income gaps are growing for many reasons, ranging from “skill-biased” technological progress to corruption. But, whatever its causes, putting people back to work at productive, rewarding jobs can help a great deal,, and this demands the best efforts of governments, employers, and civil-society groups on many fronts.

2014 and people looking for employment, education, up-skilling, apprenticeship training – it is time to be creative and innovative and ensure the opportunities are made available by the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Education, Solas, Intreo and that the trainers who are appointed to provide the education/apprenticeships, are professional and are guided by an acceptable code of conduct, which we know FAS often faltered on. It is time to make sure that those Corporates (Google, Microsoft, Dell etc) who avail of our infra-structure, our educated workforce, the fact that we speak English and that Ireland is a member of the EU, make opportunities to help close the unemployment/underemployment gap that presently exists.

As Stefano Scarpetta states most countries aspire towards a “knowledge society” while making the most important point that this does not exclude the need for both technical and vocational education. Ireland can be confident about being more than half-way there to being a “knowledge Society” but we have failed dismally to maintain the levels of vocational and technical training that was provided by ANCO and the technical schools of the 1980’s/90’s. It is time for Ireland to look to our other EU cohorts for example in particular to Germany whose youth unemployment rate is below 8%, to Austria and even Switzerland. Vocational training is about export-led motivations and we need this.

To end with a final quote:

There are many innovative approaches to sharing growth more equally, and more are emerging all the time. But they all point to a fundamental truth: If young people and the disadvantaged are to find satisfying and rewarding jobs, governments, employers, educational institutions, and civil-society groups, all have an important role to play. Our economies’ long-term sustainability depends on it.

Remember knowledge is no load to carry. Open publishing is free so keep informed and share content. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Ireland Inc. remains deprived of the Phoenix Rising out of the Ashes, how long must we wait?  Re Cronyism and the semi-state sector
Date: Monday 13th January 2014 16:32:27 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed address list

Monday 13th January 2014

Where is the Phoenix? surely we were told when Fine Gael/Labour came to power, nearly three years ago, that they would ‘burn the quangos’. I recall no burning embers in this sector so the Phoenix remains trapped and the rot of cronyism continues to submerge us in indebtedness and near bankruptcy.  http://www.nationaldebtclocks.org/debtclock/ireland

Shane Ross, Sunday Independent, comes to our rescue again. He determinedly focused on FAS and we all know that this entity is closed down now and what was once deemed good business practice is now blatantly known as cronyism linking corruption with staff fired (with deluxe severance packages) but not legally charged, as most probably should have happened. The Public Accounts Committee was the only redress of reprimand their staff were forced to endure.

Quango: Ross aptly describes a phone call. 6th January 2014 Shane Ross phoned Enterprise Ireland to be told it was 7th January, there was nobody there to answer the call and the rest is to be found by reading the article in the Sunday Independent. Ross calls Enterprise Ireland the “Quango for entrepreneurs” http://www.independent.ie/…/shane-ross-angela-torpedoes-quango-jaunt-in-the-desert-2990…  He refers to Angela Kerins, Rehab Chief Executive and her solo run while on last weeks delegation (there is a suggestion that Rehab may be funded in someway by EI) when she spoke on Morning Ireland about taking part on the visit with An Taoiseach, Minister Bruton, and the 86 others to secure business contracts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE.

Cronyism borders on what is unacceptable practice. The casualty is the outcome when it steps over the legal line that says improper acts have been carried out and action must be taken by the arm of the law to determine whether illegal charges prevail. The truth is that the culture of cronyism, the sense of ‘entitlement’, this “two tierism”, that was recognised and shunned (with the “fail” of Fianna Fail) is still entrenched and without recourse that now day by day whistleblowers emerge, investigative journalists react and write, and more importantly the lifeblood of the country, the plain ordinary people of Ireland, are beginning to realise the depth of the depravity of a certain quotient of people who place the word “privileges before principles” and enrich their own needs and personal powers at the expense of others.

Great piece in the Mail on Sunday by Niamh Griffin. ‘Rhona Clinic ran up rent arrears to Holles Street’ (Maternity Hospital, Dublin 2) http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/…/rhona-clinic-ran-up-rent-arrears-holles-street. Not even the medical profession are above reproach. Too often we see people being charged for theft of say 20 euros for stealing something from Tesco, the law acts harshly on these people. The squad car arrives, they are ushered out by the Gardai and removed to the station where they are charged and brought before the criminal court. Not so for those who step over the line in the Cronyism to Corruption stakes.

Conflicts of interest seem to bother none of those who comprise the “Entitled Classes”. We are told that Dr Rhona Mahony, first woman Master of the National Maternity Hospital, is a partner in an adjacent private clinic in Lower Mount Street, and this clinic was allowed to run up rent arrears to the publicly funded hospital, by whom Dr Mahony is paid approximately 250,000 euros. Freedom of Information surprisingly reveals the details to the Mail on Sunday.

Dr Mahony is listed as one of five consultants working in ‘partnership’ according to the Clinic’s website. In the case of the second clinic, Merrion Fertility Clinic, Dr Mahony is listed as a director.

A spokesman for the HSE said this week that the HSE was reviewing arrangements in place between private companies and the hospital. Fore more than two weeks, detailed questions from the MoS to the hospital and clinics have not been answered. On Thursday, a hospital spokesman said, “The hospital spokesman has no comment to your queries.

This all begs the question if people are entitled to know why 45,000 euros was paid to Dr Mahony in ‘an externally funded payment’. Dr Mahony claims that it was the media that labelled this payment as a “top-up”. According to her, it was in respect of professional fees from private patients attending the NHS.

Surely now we know that hospitals providing for both private and public patients need serious audits for access to truth about who actually pays for the services rendered.

To refer back to Niamh Griffin’s questions that they refused to answer, this one merits an answer

Does the hospital accept that there may potentially be a conflict of interest in the its master running a private firm on its premises which went into rent arrears?

Quangos and conflicts of interest are creating inordinate demand for the services of the PAC (Public Accounts Committee). Waste is the culture we must tackle and as we know waste can have its own source of wealth and we sure need value added urgently.

by Michelle Clarke


Subject: Real Jobs with Real Wages/JobBridge FAS
Date: Thursday 16th January 2014 13:33:22 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke <michelleclarke@upcmail.ie>
To: Alan Shatter <Alan.Shatter@oireachtas.ie>, Alex White <Alex.White@Oireachtas.ie>;  et al; Citizen Journalism site
Thursday 16th January 2014


‘JobBridge should be phased out and replaced by a RealJobs scheme’

In an ideal world, I would agree with this statement but with unemployment so high and particularly for young people, sometimes it is better to have work with little pay, and potential to get work. However, exploitation must be identified and prevented.

Well FAS is fading away and we occasionally hear or read about its replacement. Solas or is it Intreo or some other organisation is the promise but the reality is about further ambivalence by the Department of Social Protection who has assumed responsibility for creating work for the unemployed, particularly the long term unemployed ie 300,000+ people.

What we need to know and be constantly aware of the plans the Department of Social Protection have to tackle unemployment and most importantly their time frame and who they intend to outsource the work to.

Sunday Business Post January 5th 2014 article by Gerald Flynn.

Jobpath http://www.welfare.ie/en/downloads/JobPath-Info-Session-260713.pdf allocates 300,000 jobless to third party specialists

Paid bounty for each person who gains employment

Initiative that has attracted almost a dozen British and global firms

They are to be referred to as “third-party activation firms”. The Department of Social Protection plan for 2015 to allocate 300,000 people who are deemed long-term unemployed to these “third party activation” firms and the plan is to pay these firms a bounty every three months” if they secure “sustained” employment for a person they enroll. These are the welfare-to-work programmes that exist in the UK but whose performance is questionable and worth review. Check out the Steps2Success activation initiative in Northern Ireland.  http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/steps-2-success

The Troika (EU/IMF) has departed but unemployment remains their concern. They have requested:–

More focused activation and penalties for welfare claimants who fail to participate

Tenders are sought and the plan for the Department of Social Protection is to award one contract for each of the four regions.

The initiative is designed on a “payment-by-results basis, with a 10% early payment for preparing a “personal-progression plan” for each person passed on from the Intreo employment services offices.

The aim: to secure a job within 12 months.

Each contract bidder will submit their tenders setting their own prices and fee rates. They will make a projection as to how many referrals they will place in employment. What is being created is an ’emerging Irish welfare market’. Outsourcing is the objective. Names like G4S, Serco, Maximus, Reed are among the names who have shown interest to date. Others include TGB Learning, Rehab (Angela Kerins, Chief Executive in the news recently; she will not give details of her payment package), WorkingLinks, Noonan Services…..Tenders must be submitted to the Department of Social Protection before the end of February. The contracts will be awarded by April 2014. However, it will be October 2014 before any referrals will be forthcoming from Intreo. This does not provide much consolation to those people who want to be in employment and form the dole queues at present.

Can we be convinced about this initiative or is it just another false promise and means of procratination?

Miriam Ahern, managing partner at Align Management Solutions, said that “this is a good initiative to supplement the obviously overstretched DSP/FAS staff who have been snowed under with the huge surge in long-term unemployed who now make up nearly two-thirds of the Live Register”

by Michelle Clarke


Subject: JobBridge interns aged 18 to 25 will effectively be working for 3.75 euros per hour over a 40 hour week.  The Job bridge / FAS scandal – Free labour schemes
Date: Thursday 23rd January 2014 00:28:02 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke <michelleclarke@upcmail.ie>
To: Clare Daly <Clare.Daly@Oireachtas.ie>, customercare@o2money.ie, Pádraig MacLochlainn <Padraig.MacLochlainn@Oireachtas.ie>, Shari McDaid <smcdaid@mentalhealthreform.ie> et al; Citizen Journalism site

Thursday 23rd January 2014

Source: citizen journalism site

Interesting. Who knows what lies ahead for Ireland Inc? However the visit to the Middle East and a trade mission of over 80 delegates suggests that Ireland is expecting major investments. The major question being what concessions Ireland Inc will have to make? According to the weekend newspapers, the Irish Stock Exchange has already begun to pave the way with some 7 billion euros Islamic bonds being transacted with them (greater than in London and Luxembourg).

Back however to the topic.

We know that the world leaders meet at Davos http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2016/ this week and we are told that major concern rests with the level of Inequality that exists in the world presently. This makes it an ideal time to raise the issue of JobBridge and internships.

Flip the coin: You work only if you get paid or you work in the hope that sometime in the future you will be remunerated for work. We know that there is a government internship in Ireland called JobBridge. This pays you an additional 50 euros a week plus your unemployment benefits. Is this exploitation? Is it making an opportunity available to a person to gain value added to their employment potential?

Youth unemployment in Europe is at near crisis level.
The Jobseekers allowance for young people in Ireland (Budget cuts come into effect this month) according to the article in today’s Irish Independent by Gabrielle Monaghan mean that

a JobBridge intern aged 18 to 25 will effectively be working for 3.75 euros per hour over a 40 hour week.

The alternatives are putting their master’s degree to use at a high-street shop or fast-food outlet in return for the minimum wage, going on the dole or emigrating.

Personal experience of months of unemployment says take the internship and continue to learn rather than try to put in the days without hope. The costs of being unemployed and especially for young people can be harsh and health and the long-term chances of being employed or being an employer can become harder to achieve. However, the reality merits attention also. Exploitation is the middle name of certain mindsets of employers and it is necessary for people who choose the internship route to know exactly their own priorities, their values, their code of practice. Learning is a lifelong process but part of learning is discernment and exploitation must be identified and tackled.

Stand up and be counted is the next step forward. The campaign is ‘We’re not Leaving’. Check it out.

My suggestion is to read the article in today’s Irish Independent and consider the following: Open journalism is about ignoring the economic value worth of the reporting. People are adding social value and other values. If people write on a Citizen Journalism site, they are not paid but their motivations have a value added. The same principles can apply to JobBridge. The article by Gabrielle Monaghan gives the fodder that will help people make their decision and also know that they have the right to identify and highlight exploitation by employers. Tackling exploitation is the social added value that is a contribution that has merit also especially in a society where we want meritocracy to apply.

Need to know…..the debate in the US

…that the Conde Nast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condé_Nast lawsuit is still underway.

Also
Two interns who worked on the film Black Swan won a case in June against Fox Searchlight because they weren’t compensated during their internships.

NB:    A district court judge ruled Fox violated New York’s state minimum wage laws by not paying the interns, a decision that the company is appealing.

To the Phd students and any other job seekers, don’t disregard JobBridge but ensure you are not made a doormat by an employer whose objective is not to enhance your learning curve and especially employers be they corporate or otherwise who engage in open exploitative practices regarding the people who work for them. 

By Michelle Clarke



Subject: Where is the Whistleblowers Charter?
Date: Friday 24th January  16:47:49 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke <michelleclarke@upcmail.ie>
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed address list

Friday 24th January 2014

Commissioner Martin Callinan sits before the Public Accounts Committee. The Morris Tribunal and the checks and balances promised and yet not implemented, may lead to success to exclude the two ‘whistleblowers’ from within An Gardai Siochana (Mr Wilson is now retired). The order from the Force is to prevent them from appearing as witnesses at the Public Accounts Commission. ‘Disgusting’ was the word used by Commissioner Callinan as if the charge of corruption that led him to appear before the PAC was something that could not happen. The truth is and the evidence appears to be that someone is trying to sweep clean the corrupt practices of An Gardai Siochana (refer Penalty points being scrubbed on a privilege basis) based on the dictum of the Commisioner of An Gardai Siochana. We need to ask the question what about transparency and accountability? Surely, the fact that the PAC has heard representations from the Commissioner, they deserve to hear the evidence of the ‘whistleblowers’ and what they have to say. It is not necessary for them to incriminate by using names as they outline their findings.

Cronyism Cronyism Cronyism. The line is so fine between cronyism and corruption and almost three years into this coalition government we are day by day being surprised by scandal after scandal. We know now more than ever, if we learn from experience, that legislation is essential so that whistleblowers can make revelations that have for years now permitted corrupt practices to be perpetrated on the purse of our citizens and the taxpayers.

To conclude: Philanthropy conjures up Chuck Feeny Atlantic Philanthropies. It is my sincere hope that this entity of the Third Sector escaped the malpractices we are witnessing daily in our newspapers these days. Take for example the latest: Angela Kerins, Rehab (described as one of Ireland’s major businesses with many employees). The HSE funds of 130 million euros payment to Rehab for three years is unbelievable. The HSE divestiture of responsibilities for vulnerable people to over 40 organisations similar to Rehab begs the question what kind of charitable status monster have we really created in our country.

To add to the HSE as a source of funds; we now are told that as many as 19 charities are in receipt of funding from the Charitable Lotteries Schemes. To insult the people further, we are told that people in charge like Angela Kerins in Rehab are blatantly refusing, on a consistent basis, to advise the public of their pay package, their expenses, their fees from directorships on other related boards of companies. Phoenix magazine are years writing in pursuit of this request.

To conclude: How can this happen? Rehab scratchcards.

Sales amounted to 3,969,000 euros

Prizes 2,611,000 euros
We need to ask questions, we need evidence
Costs 1,348,000 euros
We need to ask questions, we need evidence

Surplus …………………….10,000 ie a 0.25 net profit

Yes Minister Shatter. You were correct to bring this to the attention of then people. Administration and costs need to be audited as quite evidently many of the auditors who are retained by this sector fail to identify the obvious.

Who sells the scratch cards?

What about the people with mental, intellectual, difficulties who work for Rehab? Transparency dictates that we know that the people who are vulnerable and placed in the workforce are identifiable.

Cronyism must stop so that corruption can be addressed and the Rule of Law prevails. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: FAS – Solas – JobBridge – Davos
Date: Saturday 25th January 2014 16:52:14 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke <michelleclarke@upcmail.ie>
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list

Saturday 25th January 2014

FAS http://www.fas.ie/ the disgraced Government entity that was tasked with training and finding employment for people is history. Cronyism was the culture that led to its eventual downfall and much is yet to be revealed about just what abuses of power existed and who will find themselves before the courts?

We know what many people think of JobBridge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JobBridge and the inherent exploitation from the many postings on this site.

We are told that Solas http://www.solas.ie/ is the new entity and it is to work in line with the Department of Social Protection to take-over, but in a reformed way, the work of FAS. However, does anyone really understand how to avail of opportunities to find work? Christine Lagarde, IMF, at Davos, being interviewed by Bloomberg TV, warns us of the inherent problems of the unemployment especially among the young and promotes third level education. However, she also equally identifies vocational training and its importance to the workforce.

Tax exiles; represented Ireland in the media in a most forceful way during the Davos annual conference where the world’s wealthiest business people (song writers) mix with the political heads of Government. The objective is to identify areas that need attention and interestingly one of the major topics was the inequality that exists – a key point being that the wealth of the top 85 people equates to that 3.5 billion people. What does this say? I think it says that Governments and politicians are remiss. They fail to influence the wealthy to invest in their home countries to the degree that there is a fair practice redistribution of wealth to tackle what inequality causes in societies.

OK, there are business elites who we know too well in Ireland who are tax exiles yet who are heavily involved in media, businesses, own properties in Ireland etc. What these people are saying is that yes they see that Ireland has great potential but they basically do not feel that the Exchequer is managed to their level of competence so it is only natural for them to choose Holland, Switzerland, Malta as an alternative to register themselves for taxation purposes. Ireland has the infrastructure but they don’t want to pay the tax.

Then we have our Corporation Tax rate which attracts the multi-nationals to our shores. The double sandwich and other types of deals ensure that companies like Google, Starbucks, Dell, Microsoft can end up paying tax of as little as 2% on profits. Is this fair? Maybe not but look it another way.

JobBridge: we need to sort the wood from the chaff. There are the employers who will provide these internships with ethics, knowing that at the end of the 9 month period they will have granted or secured employment for the intern. This would be a fair deal. What we do know is that there are exploiters out there. Ruthless abuse of power who treat these interns as fodder to be humiliated, tasked with the jobs that no-one else will do, and remunerated with a paltry equivalent of £3.50 per hour for a 40 hour week. To make this worse: They don’t engage in further education packages ie paying for courses, or upskilling. These exploiters know that at the end of the 9 months they will discard these people and re-employ another JobBridge intern.

Solas and the Department of Social Protection, you need to kick into gear fast because too many people are unemployed and under-employed. Three years is too long. The research tells us that young people experiencing long periods of unemployment are prone to long-term health problems, in particular mental health problems. It is for this reason, one has to say to Dell, well done. You may pay reduced corporate taxes but at least you are thinking laterally and beyond the apparent capacity of the Government to create a market for education in Limerick.

To those young people unemployed; do not despair about the Googles, Solas and what lies ahead. Group together, take example from the older men’s groups like Sheds and use the libraries and target the companies like Google, Microsoft and others to provide opportunities for people to get up-skill and side step JobBridge and open avenues into entrepreneurship. This in turn will charge Solas to be competitive, committed and in earnest about creating job opportunities for people.

This article in the Times today is the inspiration: ‘Dell launches scheme to aid Irish Enterprise’.

Dell is to offer start-ups in Ireland. It is about an initiative to help entrepreneurs. The Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs (based on a programme already in existence in the US and which is being established in the UK,

‘aims to provide start-ups with access to funding, mentoring and Dell’s technical expertise…….The programme offers both online and offline resources to entrepreneurs with a new competition that will give three Irish start-ups free office space, business supports and mentoring for a year at one of its campuses in Dublin, Limerick or Cork. Look out for this competition and start encouraging other corporates like Google to match Dell’.

If the web is the equivalent to the ‘electricity’ of the 20th century, the message is react now and use the web for empowerment.

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Who protects people with Disabilities?
Date: Sunday 26th January 2014 16:36:37 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list
Sunday 26th January 2014

Matt Merrigan (HSE/SIPTU – the slush fund; McNeice http://www.businesspost.ie/legacy/doctors-dilemma-george-mcneice-profiled-188685settling for e9.7 million instead of the e24 million he neatly arranged for himself and his ‘package’ at the early age of 50. Then we have the scandal now unfurling showing that proceeds from shops in hospital locations, or for that for car-parks, have been grabbed by greedy managers in the HSE or worse groups supposedly representing the vulnerable in society.

Now we have scandals emerging about corruption in An Garda Siochana; scandals within certain charities, and yet nobody comments on the excessive pension pots that have to sustain those paid to the likes of George McNeice and so many others. It is fair to say that McNeice’s special deal for himself at age 50 has provided the model for others especially the consultants in our hospitals and now the charities often funded by the HSE. Trade union officials fall into this category and it is their own vested interests and their pension deals that are secured.

Excellent article in the Sunday Times today by Matt Cooper – a must read for all people with disabilities. Day after day we hear about Rehab and yet the silence is deafening from the people who are supposed to benefit most from such a charity. Why such silence?

Ms Kerins, Chief Executive, Rehab, relies heavily on the State for funds but it is commercial endeavours that provides the majority of the funds to Rehab and its various subsets. It is this that allows her as head of Rehab to earn in line with others in the semi-state sector and beyond – this is her excuse.

Industries are developing at the expense of the vulnerable. We have the homeless industry, the asylum industry, we have the supposed industry in Rehab that creates education and work for people with disabilities but there is no transparency. We don’t know where these people work; what the conditions are? Is the arrangement that the shops that sell the lottery tickets i.e according to the Mail 4 million contribution from the Exchequer through Charitable Lotteries fund at 0.25% return? Could these people be working for the like of Tesco, Superquinn? Do they work in shops or are they working in warehouses? What do the trade unions contribute to the protection of these people is a question we all should ask now especially before the Public Accounts Committee hearing for Ms Kerins and Rehab.

So that people with disabilities and their significant others have some comprehension of the disparity in pay scales, pensions, expenses, car provision involve, I will quote from Matt Cooper’s article and research today. Ms Kerins is in the news because consistently she refuses to reveal her salary. However, she was forced to reveal same in 2011.

‘Back in 2011, Kerr revealed only the most basic details of the Chief Executive’s salary, without giving details of all the add-ons such as bonuses, expenses, health insurance, pension contributions and car provision that bulk up executive pay in many commercial outfits. A total pay package of up to £400,000 was speculated upon, but confirmation will most likely come in an appearance at the Oireachtas committee’

Kerr and Kerins are stonewalling so that information is not made available. We need to hear about what benefits apply to those who have disabilities. The transparency is essential and the truth is it is not forthcoming other than within the auspices of PR spin.

Trade Unions stand accountable too. “Two tierism” is endemic. The “privileged stand against those with principles.”

 


 

Subject: Do you know who Blackstone are?  Burlington hotel is now Double Tree.  Watch this space.
Date: Monday 27th January 2014 16:56:21 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list

Monday 27th January 2014

Fred: to follow on. You are absolutely right.

NAMA one of the biggest (“Omerta” governed) entities has the power to shift trends in how the plain ordinary people of Ireland relate to home ownership now and in the future.

5 years and the banks, the legislation (ISI), the Central Bank, the Troika, have strategically positioned themselves so that they determine when the properties (soon to be for sale) enter the marketplace. The time appears to be now. NAMA we are told has handled its commercial portfolios in a most satisfactory way so now it is time for homes, buy-to-lets, and investment properties to find their level in the market place.

We are told prices are rising in Dublin and this maybe so. However, we need to take account of repossessions that are now taking place and will be taking place more frequently from now on. We need to ask the question will our banks follow the path of the US bankers who rather than rent out properties, instead the hold stock. If this is happening in Ireland, then this could be a part ripple that is leading to manipulation of the Dublin market supply and demand.

Home ownership and Ireland is a changing trend. It would be interesting to find out if some of the worst affected ie ‘delinquent borrowers’ by the slump in the market and negative equity were divorcees or in second relationships? In England there is an interesting trend which finds that a combination of high rents (already occurring in Ireland) and over-40’s having to return to the flat sharing market. If the divorcee trend impacted on the swell of house purchases in the noughties, then we can assume that these same people, if their financial circumstances altered, are in negative equity and if they were unfortunate enough to lose their jobs also, will be the people most likely to be evicted, as the banks are forced by Central Bank and the Troika (now exited) to meet targets to be achieved in 2014. If this is the case, there is a new market for the people to be evicted, those on the social housing list, those looking for a place to live and this ‘Flat sharing websites‘. Ireland has one advantage over this market in that there is a tax advantage of £10,000 approximately if you provide a room in your home to a third party.

“Urban abandonments and dereliction” https://canisgallicus.wordpress.com/…/urban-abandonments-and-dereliction-ireland-n… deserves resonance here. They talk about smart cities, sustainable cities. Dublin has the vacant properties dotted throughout which are in need of renovation. This site identifies areas like Ranelagh, Rathmines, Rathgar, North Circular Road, Mountjoy Square …. our inner hub of potential. Who owns the vacant houses? Who owns the many houses where people live in bedsits with as many as 10 or more people sharing the house? These are the potential slums. The architects who are unemployed need the challenge now to come forward with re-design options which take account of making the properties ‘smart’ utilising the sunlight for energy and basically making these properties sustainable. Many of these properties can be redesigned into apartments. For this to happen, there needs to be policy and legislation. Sometimes a recession bites so deep that the people lose sight of the market and miss the opportunities. Now is the time to become aware as the private equity groups especially from America hover over our distressed marketplace.

Great piece by Peter Flanagan (Commercial Property) Sunday Independent 26th January 2014. Look out for the name Blackstone and Stephen Schwarzman (a Bill Gates/Warren Buffet visionary).

Blackstone Group – the New York based firm led by Stephen Schwarzman – has raised a fund worth some $5.5 bn (E4.1 bn) to buy European commercial real estate and it is expected that much of that fund will be used to buy property here.


……….Blackstone is the biggest real estate investor in the world and it specialises in distressed assets, whether they have been over leveraged or over financed.

Blackstone have arrived and it is watch this space time. In the US they are changing investment strategies and are buying up houses, apartments, in fact they have the new additional to what was Wall Street’s sub-prime gamble and are becoming landlords backed by Wall Street bonds.

The changing face of Ireland is happening now. Blackstone have made their mark in the purchase of the Burlington Hotel (established by PV Doyle), Dublin 4 and changing its name to Double Tree. The purchase price in 2012 was 67 m euros, a snip. Already they have made their mark, there is a resounding presence of being a market changer virtually overnight.

The Platinum portfolio is the recent purchase from NAMA.

2014 looks like they will see a lot more of Blackstone and other private equity groups. Let’s hope some Irish developers return to the market. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Charities and the lack of regulation in Ireland.  Who will sit on the interim board>
Date: Tuesday 28th January 2014 16:42:22 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list

Tuesday 28th January 2014

Seoirse (contributor to citizen journalism site)

I agree with what you have said. However, in the light of the recent scandals relating to charities, one would not want to abuse the writer of this poem to the exploitation of those who avail of Charities as a source of their own ego aggrandisement at the expense of the vulnerable in particular those who are homeless. We must consider in this category the many people forced to live in hostels where many will tell you the feel safer out in the open air.

Homelessness, and the abusive industry that has been created needs urgent attention. Day in day out we meet young people on our streets begging for money to pay the hostel for the night. When does this stop? These people need a pathway to work. FAS failed them dismally and now we are told it is the much reduced staff quota of Solas will be dealing with the unemployed. Many of the homeless have other problems like addictions, herein rest more industries that are without regulation. The objective is methadone and clean needles but where is the public health system we have been promised that will provide people with the necessary opportunities to explore their life options. The monstrosity created called the HSE has tentacles into every known charity but with no accountability as we have witnessed by the Rehab and CRC shambles.

Rehab is in the news. The Chief Executive, Angela Kerins, who represents so many more of those privileged elites within the Charities, NGO, Third sector is out there for the ‘flogging’. Phoenix magazine has been the outlier with suggestions that this woman earned in excess of 400,000 euros for her all in package for working for Rehab, a charity. The HSE funds and the Charitable Lotteries provide vast amounts of money to Rehab and others, which is their means of delegating their responsibilities to others at the cost of those most vulnerable in society.

The Sunday Business Post and Tom McGurk makes some interesting points about Charities that people, at every level, need to take account of:-

To briefly summarise: setting up a charity is a relatively simple operation requiring little of no official input. One can set up a charity for a multitude of causes, which explain why there are more than 7,000 of them in the country; there are more than 600 Irish charities dealing with Africa alone.

There is virtually no regulation, other than the requirement to make annual tax returns. Astonishingly, there is still no requirement for any percentage of the income raised to be paid to the charity; so legally one could set up a charity and pay 99 per cent of the income to those running it – including oneself – and leave only 1 per cent to the charity purpose. That would be perfectly legal….

This is a shocking indictment. To me it highlights why the mental health/addiction/neurological outcomes industry in Ireland is so not fit for purpose if you are not one of the lucky people to have private health insurance. It is my belief that something as fundamental as mental health/addiction/neurological should be about basic public health provision. It should be similar to the provision in Canada.

What we know from the Rehab scenario where the HSE paid over 100 million euros in 3 years to Rehab is that they are outsourcing what it is their job to provide and the outcome is the impact on people in homeless situations, asylum seeker hostels and even in prisons.

Transparency and accountability is what we need. The HSE and its tentacles need to be clipped so that people are not exploited. To those who are the collectors of cash at the cold face, they too need to question those elites who run the charities because in the absence of this common sense the abuse is allowed to continue. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Joan Burton, Department of Social Protection.  Implementation of EU-wide Youth Guarantee scheme.
Date: Wednesday 29th January 2014 16:17:14 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list

Wednesday 29th January 2014

Debate so far on this site comes down to whether JobBridge is about exploitation or if it is payment sufficient to facilitate an apprenticeship/learning curve option for the potential of a full-time position in the employment market.

Socialist MEP Paul Murphy is reported to have named JobBridge “scambridge”. The reality is that more than ever, young people particularly those under the age of 25, are without jobs across Europe. The question to be answered is whether the unemployed person is exploited if they decide to take the JobBridge option. The morality of the employer comes into question here and given the scandals emerging in every sector including charities, semi-state, academia, research, we must be ever more vigilant to ensure exploitation does not happen.

‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. The JobBridge option (or other options outlined below) is an economic choice, the more the penalties are applied. Failing to comply could cost the person on Jobseekers allowance 33 euros a week. This is only the beginning of the Department of Social Protection operating a system of penalties when people are unemployed so that unemployed people with particular emphasis on young people are directed to paid employment. The objective is clear, we do not want a ‘lost generation’ who become dependent on social welfare without ever having the opportunity to join the jobs market. Will JobBridge and this new system of penalties work? The loss of 33 euros from the Jobseekers allowance and the loss of the additional 50 euros for engaging with the JobBridge (9 months max) is a significant incentive, I would think, to comply. Previously there was a similar cut: People who failed to accept offers on department-led initiatives (eg Pathways to Work scheme) were subject to a deduction from their welfare payments.

The penalties to be applied by the Department of Social Protection include the following (see Irish Independent 29th January 2014:-)

****the non-attendance at meetings with welfare officials
****failure to accept a legitimate or training or employment offer
****failure to attend an accepted training or education course
****failure to apply for or accept an opportunity via JobBridge (new requirement)
****failure to register CV details on recommended job websites

The big question we must all ask is what is there to replace FAS? Solas are the policy makers and the enterprise boards or some such body are tasked with the action plan.

Exploitation of a person on JobBridge means there must be regulation and in the absence of effective regulation, this calls for citizen journalism, social media and awareness. Opportunity comes to pass not to pause so maybe joining the learning curve, provided it is available, is the best way forward. 

By Michelle Clarke


Subject: Paddy Healy raised questions but did he receive answers from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny?
Date: Thursday 30th January 2014 16:26:31 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list

Thursday 30th January 2014

Paddy Healy http://paddyhealy.wordpress.com/ raised questions but did he receive any answers from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The Central Bank is reported to be putting pressure on the banks to meet targets ie do deals with homeowners who are in arrears with their mortgages and buy-to-let loans. According to today’s media sources, ISI (Insolvency Service of Ireland) it appears miscalculated and the judges tasked to deal with the insolvency/bankruptcy crisis are basically pushing paper because people are not taking up the option for the Insolvency route, yet. Please note salaries of these chosen Judges for their special abilities to resolve what can only be described as potential homelessness catastrophe.

Meantime, we all know the conundrum. A person who in the Celtic Tiger bonanza who either bought their first home or traded up only to see their dream home become a noose around their necks and that of their families. The social, health, employability costs as we head for year six are yet to be researched. However common sense tells us that unrelenting financial pressure is a high cost for people to sustain especially if they know that their home is to be repossessed. Life events happen to us all but when they happen altogether there is real misfortune.

Can we please have figures? The Central Bank, the ESRI, the Department of Finance, the Department of Environment all have access to the data mining engagement via Abtran (who compiled the data for the 90% subscribed local property tax) so it is not unrealistic that there are policies, plans, and facts that will state just how many people are now targeted by the banks for eviction and within a time frame of 2014?

Evicted. What then? Is it the social housing list? The news here is that there are nearly 100,000 people awaiting housing. This will not be an option for those evicted due to the banking crisis fiasco. This list is about being first there first served. Add to this the policy of respective governments to avoid building social housing for over a decade now while introducing incentives for buy-to-lets, then we must be doubly on guard to protect the new contingent of people who become vulnerable due to eviction.

Could it be an application to social services for rental allowance, now less than market rental to be paid to landlords? Well here we have the banks changed attitudes to enforce repossession kicking into effect. This means landlords are becoming scarce, rent is moving higher, supply and demand creates a critical scenario of hardship for people and their families. Does the Government have a plan? We need to know.

Moral hazard is understandable. Human nature creates competitiveness in some and hence division. The postponement of the crisis on a year by year basis now leaves too many people uncertain awaiting intervention. The problem of eviction was postponed but not for much longer. Timing dictates that NAMA is now a major player. It is focused on its best assets and sold prime location properties in the commercial sector and successfully too. Now its focus is the housing market. This blends together with the foregoing comments. Peoples’ properties will be flushed out to a newly constructed ‘Wall Street rental driven market’ with private equity groups like Blackstone becoming Ireland’s new significant landlords. It may be irrelevant who owns the property but it is worth understanding especially if the Central Banks are pressuring the banks to meet targets.

1980/90’s recession in the UK. Word on the street was that you were basically one pay packet away from homelessness. A judgment by Justice Dunne placed breakers on this for many people in financial crisis over the past 5 years, but we know that this is no longer in place. The timing is now and the calm is before the storm.

House prices are rising in Dublin. Questions are often more important than answers. Keep asking the questions. Could it be that certain banks have already repossessed properties and are holding them as stock until prices rise? This is not unheard have. Check out America? 

By Michelle Clarke



 

Date: Friday 31st January 2014 17:00:05 +0000
From: Michelle Clarke
To: Citizen Journalism site; undisclosed email address list
Iceland: Grimsson uses the words “Financial Terrorism”

by Michelle Clarke (Blake – Housing Crisis)

Yes Fred. We are sleep walking ourselves into a further crises. We need to stop the denial and tackle head on the elephant in the room. The banks who to date have remain unchallenged to meet targets to restructure mortgage deals are now facilitated, or so we are told, by the ISI legislation. Now is the time to ask questions before the courts determine outcomes i.e effective eviction at the hands of the Banks or companies who have bought tranches of debt from NAMA or banks.

Iceland: Sean Healy TD’s question, December 3rd 2013.
Leaders Questions in the Dail – (View the debate live wp.me/p1Uvd5-uP)

Do we know if the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Labour Leader, Eamonn Gilmore, have yet answered the questions raised by Mr Healy TD in the Dail. We need to know what is ‘their solution’? We need answers now and we need to keep asking questions, raising solutions, and most of all we need to be informed. The valid statement by Sean Healy TD places down the gauntlet and today February 1st 2014, we need to ask for some recognition of the comparison made with Iceland and how they tackled their mortgage crisis. To quote Mr Healy’s question in the Dail:-

(2) The Icelandic Government announced today that it will defy the banks by writing off up to €24,000 of household mortgages. Iceland obviously has real sovereignty. Will the Government exercise sovereignty by preventing reckless bailed-out banks, some owned by international vulture capitalists, from evicting 30,000 families in this country?

==============Mr Gilmore did not answer either question but continued to assert that these families do not face repossession despite the evidenceHow long do we have to wait in denial? People, their families, are living in fear and dread of the eviction notices. The onslaught of debt repayments to be repaid forthwith approaches six years and all we hear about is that faint argument of Moral Hazard ie those who escaped the hendonistic Celtic Tiger rage, and who feel that is unjust that they should have to bear the burden of those who basically took the risks and recklessly were coerced by the banks to buy properties at vastly inflated prices.

Iceland is quite an interesting country and to advance the reasoning behind their option to instruct the banks to write off 24,000 euros of household mortgages, I would recommend reading an article in the publication ‘Foreign Affairs, editor Stuart Reid’ entitled ‘Iceland’s Saga, a conversation with Olafur Ragnar Grimsson http://www.cfr.org › Iceland when he attended Davos Switzerland in 2011. Ireland remains in limbo without a Banking Inquiry but it is not beyond reason for those in positions of power and responsibility to ascend somewhat on the backs of another. Iceland makes an interesting model for Ireland Inc.

Some quotes worth engaging with:-

After its banks were fully privatized in 2003, foreign money poured into the financial sector, which grew to almost ten times the size of the national GDP before bursting in a matter of days in October 2008.

There’s a culture of cooperation, an awareness that you cannot survive in a tough environment unless you rely on others and others rely on you. Recall the Cold War – the Arctic Russians v the US the arsenals NATO. Mr Grimsson refers to the ‘Arctic Model’ and the global interest expressed to same.

“If nations that confronted each other for over half a century in the most dramatic military buildup the world has ever seen were able within a few years to move to constructive, legally based cooperation, why can’t we?” They have a product they can market much as the Peace Process and its success is for Ireland to capitalise on now.

Being small open economy without membership of the EU. The vulnerability is expressed in a few simple words. Financial terrorism is what befell Iceland.
The British government put us together with al-Qaeda and the Taliban {when it used anti-terrorism legislation to freeze the assets of an Icelandic bank}. I mean, a founding member of NATO, a strong ally of Britain, a country without any armed forces whatsoever-we would be the last country to be put on such a list. But this meant that all business connections for Icelandic companies were closed down all over the world. Gordon Brown would never have dared wage financial war against France or Germany or any other bigger country……

………When we tried to engage America, our long-standing ally, they said “Sorry”…to preoccupied with other matters…..Every western door closed its door on Iceland.
Cinderella Ireland, stand up, stand tall. We were faced with two paths and we took the other. Now it is time to reflect. This article for anyone interested is a must read. We can learn. We urgently need to explore a write-down on the capital amount as carried out in Iceland before too many families are subjected to hardship that can ultimately be avoided.
15 articles written in January 2014
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