Digest – May 30 2010

Another day another digest…


Sunday Independent news feature on a teenage girl from Romania who Gardai believe was lured to her death by a ‘southside sex predator‘…

Marioara had been in Dublin for just three weeks when she disappeared. She was begging with her little brother on Lombard Street in the south city on a Sunday afternoon in January 2008.

A dark-haired man pulled over in a silver Ford Mondeo and Marioara approached him for money. Her brother watched as he rolled down his window to chat to his sister. When he saw her get into the car, he went over to see what was going on.

The driver gave him €10 and although he couldn’t understand exactly what was said, the boy heard the word “McDonald’s” and assumed the motorist was taking his sister for something to eat.

Marioara’s family never saw her again. She managed to make one chilling phone call the day after she disappeared. She called a brother back in Romania, because none of her family in Dublin had mobile phones.

Michael Taft takes on the Backroom column in the Sunday Business Post...

Just when you think you’ve read it all, along comes someone to present us with a statement so devoid of understanding that all you can do is be amazed that this stuff actually gets published. If the government had not taken harsh steps would our deficit have risen to nearly €35 billion? Of course not; but don’t take my word for it – here’s what the Department of Finance had to say about the matter.

The systemic banking institution… ehem… err… EBS…yeah… has been nationalised. Oh didn’t you hear? Constantin Gurgiev has the details. €875m over the next ten years… no bodger boys, give us a shout when you want another chunk’a’change!

Anyone ever watched something on BloggingHeads? Similar new website for debating Irish affairs, just launched, Stephen Kinsella and Joe Garde want your help. Minister Ciaran Cuffe is the first participant, he talks about proper planning. Check it out on Irishdebate.com.

Are the markets missing the elephant in room? asks Gekko.

[…] So to the data. The following shows the more comprehensive pciture of relative indebtedness across some European countries, including our fellow “PIGS”. Now think about whether you would rather be exposed to Greek debt or Irish debt?

I wouldn’t be so smug and probably wouldn’t swap Greek bonds for Irish bonds, despite the contrary view that market is placing on the relative credit worthiness of the two countries at the moment.

Oh dear, someone told Twenty about the SBP poll figures

We’ve been lied to, cheated, defrauded, financially violated as a nation and as individuals, and in the latest opinion polls FF are up 1% instead of being set on fire, the whole fucking cunting lot of them.

Jason O’Mahony views it differently.

FG is still basing its campaign on not being FF, and Labour are still sending such mixed signals on public spending cuts and public sector reform as to neutralise FG. As a voter, if I bother to vote at all, I’m drifting towards FF (whom I really despise) because I at least know what I get with a vote for FF.

WORLD Continue reading “Digest – May 30 2010”

Lottery grants 2008

I’ve started a process of trying to pull together Lottery grant information. It’s not easy. The distribution of grants is complex at best, but through a process of taking existing published data, and FOI requests, I will try and centralise in spreadsheets all grants made.

To start with here is the distribution of €193,981,422.00 of Lottery monies (as best I can tell) for the year 2008. The information was gleaned from the Comptroller & Auditor General’s Appropriate Accounts 2008. The county column is not complete yet, as some Departments do not give the county of the recipient.

This is not a complete representation, as best I can tell, because the Lottery Annual Report 2008 says that €267.8m was granted.

Spreadsheet download

Whelan on Transparency

Noel Whelan makes some good points about the benefits of transparency to the exchequer in his Irish Times column today.

[…] the scale of the saving made by the Embassy in 2009 illustrates how powerful publication or the fear of publication can be in transforming the decision-making process as to how public money is spent.

Unfortunately – or perhaps understandably, given he is a political columnist – he talks about it only in terms of data relating to public expenditure and politics. In doing so the larger point about the benefits of publishing public data gets missed.

Imagine for the past five years Tallaght hospital had been publishing two set of figures. One set for the number of people they employ who are qualified to examine x-rays and another for the number of x-rays examined. Would someone have noticed that at some point apparently less people begun examining more x-rays than during the previous time period? Who knows. There would have been more chance of it happening if it was public, that we can say. It would have allowed someone – an analyst, academic, expert – to ask an intelligent (see the way I didn’t include ‘journalist’ there a few words back?) question and maybe solve or avoid what, it later emerged, was a serious problem.

Not to mention the fact releases a load of public data would result in a daycent number of high-skilled jobs and a serious amount of start-ups.

In Ireland public data is published arbitrarily and in file formats which do not encourage further analysis. Most government departments release only the datasets which they are required to by law, nothing more. Even when datasets are sought under the Freedom of Information Act they’re, bizarrely, often supplied as paper copies of electronic spreadsheets, not the electronic files themselves. This makes it far more difficult to analyse numerically and extrapolate publicly valuable statistics. That’s got to change.

We need a Data.gov.ie. We already pay for all public data to be collected, stored, examined and maintained, why can’t we use some of it?

In today’s world the value is not in keeping the information and selling it, it’s in making it available and using the resultant information to do what you do better. The US has recognised this, after a campaign by the Guardian the UK Government did too, check out the information you can get on those sites and consider the uses. Even the World Bank has started throwing massive datasets online and saying to the people “have it at it, lads”. Not to compare this little website to any of those entities but the expenses information and datasets Gav throws up, and analyses we do, comes from thinking along the same lines.

A better informed public is a more engaged electorate. Information is power. In a republic power should be in the hands of the citizens. So give us our data.

Footnote: What’s eTransparency, Noel Whelan? Surely putting it online is the default way to make information available nowadays. The E is completely superfluous. Putting Es before stuff to make them interwebzish… like totally soooo 1998, dude. Seriously though, solid column, worth reading.

Four One Nine

Forgive the scraggy style, I’ve something on my chest. Typing off the top of the head.

Amnesty International Ireland have criticised the human rights record of the Irish State for for failing to protect children. Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has also weighed in against the HSE for refusing to supply files on children who died in care. A report on Irishtimes.com has more.

An earlier article, since updated, had this amazing set of quotes and pars about HSE chief, Brendan Drumm… Continue reading “Four One Nine”

Taoiseach briefing papers 1998

As part of our look at Cabinet papers now available under Section 19 (3) (b) of the FOI Act, I sought some briefing papers for the Taoiseach for Cabinet meetings in April and May 1998. Some of the redactions refer directly to the Constitutional protection of Cabinet “discussion”. I will publish the schedule of redactions shortly. My favourite bits:

In the briefing papers for April 28, 1998, in reference to the plans for LUAS:

We are anxious to avoid discussion by Government of the proposal in the presence of the consultants lest it lead to a public perception that the consultants are driving the decision process.

Or discussion of the Copyright Amendment Bill:

The matter is urgent because it is an essential part of an arrangement between the Department of Enterprise Trade & Employment and the U.S. Trade Authorities, the object of which was to persuade the U.S. Authorities not to proceed with an infringement action against Ireland in the World Trade Organisation.

In briefing papers for May 12, 1998, in reference to proposed ESB price increases:

Despite the good performance, the ESB still wish to implement the third phase of a price increase which was part of the CCR agreement accepted by the previous Government. The Department are of the view that this is not warranted as it was based on projected profits of £31 m in 1998. Profits will be at least £160m this year without a price increase.

The set of released documents is here:

Head of Transparency Ireland on whistleblowing proposals

John Devitt of TI lays it out on Dermot Ahern’s whistleblowers’ charter-type proposals…

The legislation will not protect a single employee in our banks reporting dodgy loans to directors. It will not protect anyone reporting insider dealing or any other of the multitude of offences under the Companies Acts. It will not protect any public servant reporting the cover up or misuse of power by other officials or ministers.

In fact, the Government’s sector-by-sector approach to whistleblower protection will not protect many whistleblowers at all. The DPP’s call for meaningful legislation is likely to remain unanswered.

Read all on The Irish Times opinion pages.

DDDA report

“Published” this afternoon, but still not up on the Department of Environment website. It doesn’t look much different to the leaked version of the report we published back in March.

I asked the Department to email me a copy. 13 attachments, some in Word format, some in PDF. So I stuck them altogether into one PDF, for your convenience: