‘We did not grow up in a palace’, says Kilkenny Minister

Political journalist Tim Ryan analyses and writes about issues at both local and national level

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Minister John Paul Phelan

Minister John Paul Phelan

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan revisited his roots during a debate on housing in the Dáil.

Responding to a comment by Deputy Gino Kenny that there was “a deep class prejudice in the government when it came to [social] housing”, Deputy Phelan said that the socio-economic gap between the two TDs was not that large.

“I grew up on a 60-acre farm in south Kilkenny with two bedrooms. Eight people lived in the house. It was my aunt’s house. I can assure Deputy Gino Kenny that from a class point of view, there is not as much between he and I as others might think.”

When Deputy Bríd Smith commented on the size of the Phelan family farm, the Minister of State replied: “We did not grow up in a palace”.

“I acknowledge the role of social housing and even significantly large chunks of social housing. There is a whole side of Kilkenny city, the western environs, which is virtually all composed of it.

“One can see by the house design in what era the houses were built. They were largely privately bought out by their tenants and some are now among the most costly houses that can be bought in Kilkenny. I refer to the old cut-stone social hoses that were built in the 1920s or 1930s near the Garda station.”

When it comes to the provision of social housing today, Deputy Phelan said that progress has been made.

“As the economy continues towards delivering the levels of housing supply needed, the Government is committed to ensuring new homes are accessible and affordable,” he said.

‘A damning indictment on the State’

The handling of the investigation into the death of Monaghan man Shane O’Farrell in 2011 is “an appalling indictment on the State”, Fianna Fáil Deputy John McGuinness told the Dáil.

Mr O’Farrell (23) died from injuries sustained when his bike was struck by a car driven by Zigimantas Gradzuiska. On the day he struck Mr O’Farrell in Carrickmacross, Gradzuiska was on bail from courts in Monaghan and Cavan. Three weeks previously he had been arrested in Newry on three counts of theft.

Mr Gradzuiska, who left the scene of the incident, received an eight month prison sentence that was suspended on condition that he leave the jurisdiction within three weeks.

For the last seven years Mr O’Farrell’s family have sought answers as to why a repeat offender such as Gradzuiska, who had broken his bail conditions on numerous occasions, was at liberty.

A recently published report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) found that although there was no evidence of criminal conduct by gardai in the investigation of Mr Farrell’s death, it did identify conduct that may lead to proceedings relating to regulatory breaches.

Mr McGuinness said that a Commission of Investigation should be established.

“As a result of the manner in which this was investigated by the Garda and the complete failure of the justice system in this case, the country deserves an investigation that will thoroughly deal with all the matters that have been raised.

“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions must be questioned about the processes and procedures relevant to Shane’s case.

There can be no question or doubt after one reads the evidence presented by Lucia O’Farrell (Shane’s mother).

“The prosecution of the case must be dealt with,” Deputy McGuinness stated.

Carers deserve greater help from the State – Murnane O’Connor

The State needs to offer more supports to family carers, Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor told the Upper House.

Noting that on Thursday, June 21, Family Carers Ireland will be selling heart shaped pins to raise awareness and funds, Senator Murnane O’Connor said that it is “appropriate that on the longest day of the year we would shine a light on the contribution of our carers”.

Senator Murnane O’Connor said that carers who apply for the €214 per week payment often face months of scrutiny before being told if they are eligible.

“They cannot take a second job over 15 hours per week yet they are on call 24-7. This is unacceptable. We need to take a look at introducing a proper salary for these carers from the health budget.’