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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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LEO VARADKAR headed out to Kildare yesterday to assess the damage from Storm Ophelia, but a new storm is brewing over the pensions and the anomaly that exists for some 13,000 people who are suffering inequities in their pensions.

Michael McGrath is asking the Taoiseach about the work that is going on to reconnect homes to the grid and restore power. He says there are still thousands, some elderly people, without power.

He asks what crews are coming over from abroad.

McGrath said he wants the government to clarify the insurance issues and make sure people know that acts of God do not rule out insurance cover. He says the consumer protection website has not been updated. Leo Varadkar says many remain without power – but says assistance is coming in from France and Northern Ireland.

He says after Storm Darwin it took up to eight days to restore power to some people.

The Taoiseach says those at risk of of losing water has reduced by 80%. More than half  have been restored.

McGrath says he did not address his insurance question. He said people need reassurances about their rights. He wants them to engage with the insurance industry to ensure that they are dealt with fairly.

He says the government need to make sure that the insurance industry are not going to be used as cover to increase premiums.

Varadkar says he will give that commitment that they will follow up with the industry. He encouraged people to read their policy, as he said every policy is different. He also recommends that people get in touch with their provider as soon as possible.

Gerry Adams is up now and he accuses the Taoiseach of misleading the Dáil speaking about the Sinn Féin’s Budget.

Do we believe you or do you believe Fianna Fáil? he asks.

He says yesterday, the Taoiseach says FF did not raise the issue of the pensions issue with the government.

“These are senior citizens as get up as early as you,” he tells the Taoiseach.

Martin has put down a motion that they blocked last December (SF put one down on the issue last Christmas).

Adams says the Budget negotiations didn’t fix the problem and says Martin has no done a u-turn.

You are very likely to lose the vote, he tells Varadkar, and asks him if the confidence and supply is in jeopardy.

“You are the great misleader in Irish politics,” he tells Adams. He says he has read the health Budget by Sinn Fein, and says it doesn’t add up. He asks anyone that is independent to do the same.

He says pensions are complicated and says it is not as straight forward as people make out. Varadkar says the SF Budget only looks to reverse the 2012 changes which he claims will still not give people a full pension.

He says Minister Regina Doherty will publish her review document today on pensions.

“Well Taoiseach the core of this is to reverse the 2012 cut. Do you accept the 2012 cut is unjust? Do you accept that,” asks Adams.

There is a bit of uproar when Adams says: “€30 is a bottle of wine, or some such…” The chamber erupts into laughter.

adams

Varadkar says that it is clear when Adams speaks it shows his lack of knowledge on the issue,maintaining that the reversal of the 2012 cut will not restore those to a full pension.

He says it is “not surprising he thinks a bottle costs €30″.

“I know the deputy likes to travel first class when he can find someone to pay for it. It is some bottle of wine that costs €30,” he adds.

The Taoiseach now acknowledges that the pensions issue was raised by Fianna Fáil during Budget negotiations, but says the increase across the board was prioritised.

Brendan Howlin is not speaking about the tracker mortgage scandal, which he says can only be described as “malpractice”.

He says the slow movement by the Central Bank is not good enough.

Howlin says people have been “ripped off to the tune of thousands of euro”.

He wants the Taoiseach to write to the Central Bank to ask them to publish the names of the banks that face further investigations.

He also wants a definitive timeline on when  it will all be sorted out.

The government believes the behaviour of the banks is “scandalous” and accuses the banks of “dragging their feet” which has a human cost and is impacting on people’s mental health.

He said it his view that people should have had there trackers restored and be compensated by now.

“The government has lost patience,” he tells the Dáil. As a result, the Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe is calling in the heads of the banks on Monday and Tuesday to “admonish” them on their conduct throughout this scandal.

He questioned why the Central Bank was acting so slow and says he has urged them to move more quickly. He says the Finance Minister will be contacting the Central Bank to convey that message.

If the government is not satisfied, it will take further action in the form of fines or sanctions, he says.

He urged them to fix it and fix it quickly, and said all lenders must commence redress by the end of the calendar year.

“I cant speak on behalf of Central Bank, but what they have told him is that they want to give the two lenders more time to get their act together. They are expecting a reply by the end of October, and if it is not satisfactory, their names will be published,” he said, referring to the two lenders which were criticised in the Central Bank report yesterday.

23 people lost their homes because of the tracker mortgage scandal>

He says redress should be underway by the end of the year, but he agrees that a clear timeline is needed.

You can read more of TheJournal.ie’s coverage of the tracker mortgage scandal here.

Catherine Connolly asks about a sub committee on domestic violence. He says he takes a different view on Cabinet sub committees. She said he hasn’t explained how he could spend €5 million on spin, but not on a follow up to the Savi report.

He says the government takes domestic violence very seriously and is determined to tackle it. Legislation underway to address it, he says.

In terms of comms unit in his department, he maintains it is cost neutral and says his department has actually had its budget reduced.

Good communications can save lives he says, pointing to an article in the Irish Independent which shows the benefit of his new Strategic Communications Unit.

That’s it for Leaders’ Questions, thanks for tuning in.

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