New car sales figures and other stats

[Cross posted from my own blog]

New figures were released today, and they are not pretty. I’ve tabulated all new car sales on file from the CSO, that is since 1965:


Here is the large version of that image.

New car sales are now hovering around what they were at least 15 years ago. I’ve put the data into a public spreadsheet.

Another illustrative chart is house completions since 1975. We have returned to levels last seen in 1992.


Full size pic here.

Another very illustrative chart, especially in the context of NAMA is this graph. It shows average house prices since 1975.


Where do you reckon prices are going naturally? If you draw a line from 1975 along the average until the bubble started around 1996/1997 and keep going… prices would be headed back to around 4 times average salary, circa €120,000.

Full size chart here.

The missing departmental submission

On Friday night the departmental submissions on foot of the McCarthy Report were published on

Gavin has written about the details in the House of the Oireachtas Commission report, and an apparent inaccuracy in their figures on his blog. I have summarised most of the proposals from Education here.

These are important documents that, due largely to the Government’s expert timing, have been hidden beneath other news, leaving the public largely unaware of their details. The details are crucial, they tell what is coming down the tracks, it was an underhand move on the Government’s part to publish late on a Friday…

I was cross-referencing the submissions against the McCarthy report earlier and noticed, there’s one missing. Enterprise.

The dept of finance press office says they are expecting it to be submitted later today.

… Wonder what they’ve spent all this time redacting…

Suggestions wanted for donations

A number of people have contacted us over the last few weeks wondering if they could chip in a few quid to help us fund our work… now they can. See: Paypal donate button, on your right.

Now, as those who have read our prior posts will know, we’re always harping on about transparency and the wisdom of The Crowd. However, at the minute we’re unsure as to how to set up our donations system in the most transparent, but practical, way possible.

At present the donate button is linked to Gavin’s PayPal acount (to which I also now have access), that’s a temporary measure, we plan to open a joint account specifically for TheStory donations. When we get that sorted here’s what I’m suggesting: We publish details – monetary amounts, name of donor, general location – in a post at the end of each month.

Then, we will receipt spending and publish it all here. These would essentially be our receipts, made public when the story is complete or gone stale… FOI, Land Registry, CRO and all other government documents would be included…

Gavin wonders if people will be comfortable having their names listed as donors – I said if they can provide a solid reason why their name should not be published, we’ll accept that but names should be published by default perhaps.

Any alternative suggestions?

FYI: Circa €250 has already been spent on FOIs etc in the last three weeks, would people agree that this would be covered? Opinions wanted. No profit will be made from this, all time, travel expenses and communication costs etc will be taken from our own pockets.

Donations to political parties 1997 – 2008

Part two of a series. Myself and Mark, again with the invaluable efforts and assistance of Elena, have tabulated all donations to political parties into a spreadsheet. You can view all donations in all years in you sheet, or view by year, or by party. There are multiple spreadsheets in the document.

The document is viewable only (making it publicly editable leads to vandalism it seems), but you can download and play with it if you wish. If you want to add any data to the spreadsheet, please leave a comment on this post, or request access to be editor of the document in a comment.

Under category “Description of Donor” we have amended data from SIPO with better descriptions of who gave the money. Many were blank, or were under much broader titles.

Donations to political parties 1997 – 2008 (.xls Google spreadsheet)

Donations to TDs 1997 – 2008 (.xls Google Spreadsheet)

Minister Martin Cullen goes to New York

Ken Foxe has supplied us with hard copies of Martin Cullen’s expenses, we’ll be scanning them and putting them online over the next few days.

They’re jpegs at present, I will convert them to PDFs at the earliest opportunity so they can be searched via Google.

First up: New York, June 2009. Fitzpatricks Hotels, limousines and €2500 on flights.

Cullen New York 1
Cullen New York 2
Cullen New York 3
Cullen New York 4
Cullen New York 5
Cullen New York 6
Cullen New York 7
Cullen New York 8
Cullen New York 9
Cullen New York 10
Cullen New York 11

Any goss? Let us know – tips AT thestory DOT ie or through the comment box below.

If you have an FOI you’ve finished with, or a document you feel should be made public, please send them on to the aforementioned email address. All sources will be credited or kept anonymous as per request. Alternatively we’re very happy to collect and return any documents supplied once we have scanned them (we usually get time to do about ten pages a day).

The second donations spreadsheet will be published later this week.

Aside: Wouldn’t it be far better if the Government did this themselves on an annual basis? Sure would save us some hassle…

Ken Foxe is Public Affairs Correspondent with The Sunday Tribune. His first book, REVENGE, is on sale soon.

How much do the Houses of the Oireachtas cost us?

So during the buildup to Brian Cowen appearing on the Late Late Show, the Department of Finance went and published a huge amount of information onto their website, the Special Group Background Documents, submitted by departments etc to Bord Snip, to outline how they proposed cutting back.

It is worth noting that many or all of these documents were actively being sought by journalists through FOI requests, and in the normal course of events, would have been gradually released with redactions. But the Department, on a Friday evening, dumped the entire lot:

To facilitate the work of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, the heads of the various Government Departments/Public Bodies prepared initial evaluation papers detailing their areas of expenditure. The Department of Finance also prepared separate evaluation papers on each area, as well as some papers evaluating a range of cross-cutting issues. These documents are set out below for reference; with a limited number of redactions in some cases in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 (please click here for more information in this regard).

I was particularly interested in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It outlines spending by the House over the past six years, and gives a breakdown on how much it costs the taxpayer to pay for the Dail and Seanad. Continue reading “How much do the Houses of the Oireachtas cost us?”

Isn't it cosy in Clifden?

Mark Tighe’s blog is well worth reading. In his latest post he describes how close bankers and developers in Ireland have become during The Boom Years through Kevin Barry and Declan Maher.

Maher is the manager of AIB Clifden in Galway and Barry is an accountant, seemingly with an eye on development, together they’re BMB Partnership/Marketing.

Tighe’s story in The Sunday Times can be read here – it details a situation with a construction project in which they, two local politicians, a local hotelier and a few others, are involved. However, the blog post is more relevant in this context… Continue reading “Isn't it cosy in Clifden?”

Ned O'Keeffe spinning like a top on expenses

On the way into work yesterday I was listening to The Breakfast Show on Newstalk. They were covering political expenses, Fionnan Sheehan was being interviewed again, he mainly reiterated the same points he made previously elsewhere. He was followed by Fianna Fáil’s Ned O’Keeffe.

The presenter, Claire Byrne, grilled O’Keeffe while he ducked and dived, spun and purposefully avoided almost every question put to him.

Have a listen… or read the transcript below without the audio, I think it illustrates his flailing rather better…

Continue reading “Ned O'Keeffe spinning like a top on expenses”

TDs still hiding behind the FOI Act

Fionnan Sheehan, political editor of the Irish Independent, spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about political expenses at about 830am today. It warrants another listen…

Hear hear.

There is no reason why TDs expenses and allowances should not be made public by default. If there is personal or medical information contained in receipts, redact that… but the rest the taxpayer deserves to see. In full. At no cost.

We paid for it. It’s our money. It’s our country. They’re our employees. Accounts, public, today.

Donation to TDs, 1997 – 2008

To kick this blog off, myself, Gavin and a computer assisted reporting (CAR) expert from Britain, Elena Egawhary, have been working on something rather special. We have created a spreadsheet of all declared individual donations to TDs from 1997 to 2008. The spreadsheet contains a large amount of information, easily accessible in one document.

At present the file contains only information relating to donations made to individual TDs. We plan to add donations made to parties in the coming days. Other sheets that make tabulating the data more simple will come before the end of the week.

While the document as it stands contains all data relating to political donations published by SIPO (and its precursor) on every TD since 1997, it’s not complete. We’re looking for help in finishing it. If you open it up and scroll across to column R you’ll see it’s called ‘Background’. This column is far from finished. If you’ve got a minute, pick a donation that has no Background information and try and find some details relating to the donor. Google, newspaper archives, wherever you can get information, and please try and verify it is the same person.

Additionally, if you can help us refine the “Description of Donor” column, we’d appreciate it. Many of them are listed as “Company” or “Individual” and we haven’t had time to go through and give them a more accurate description, if you can take a minute and do a few we might get somewhere.

The aim is to have a document that we can analyse mathematically. So, we’re hoping to be able to say something like: “Of all declared donations since 1997, X% came from people working in the property sector/Trade Unionism/Hotel industry”, and then do the same by party and by year. We’ll also be able to give you information by party on the average value of donation, the largest donors, the occupations that donate the most, and more.

The document at the above link is publicly editable. We ask people viewing it that they do not re-sort the columns, this will change the sort for all people viewing. We also ask that libelous comment is avoided.

If it is slow to load or update please feel free to take a copy and edit it on your own computer in Microsoft Excel (click File – Save a Copy) then copy/paste the cells you’ve altered back in later.

We of course have copies of the file from before we made it publicly editable (so don’t bother trying to wreck the public one). If you want this, send an email to tips[AT]thestory[DOT]ie and we’ll bounce you back an attachment with just the raw, unedited file over the next week.

Journalists in particular may be interested in it as it will contain just the raw data which can be used as a reference in future, e.g you’ll be able to tell exactly how much an individual TD took in declared donations over the course of the last 10 years quickly and easily, without the fear someone may have maliciously edited the numbers.

And do make sure to check out the Missing TDs sheet, it’s the fourth one along the bottom. It’s a list all TDs serving as of 2008 who, as far as we have been able to discover, have never declared an individual donation to SIPO or the Public Office Commission since entering the Dáil.

It’s a pity that SIPO know almost nothing of how our Minister for Health, leading Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Leader of the Opposition, Minister for Justice, Minister for Education, Minister for Gaelteacht and Rural Affairs or former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern fund their respective campaigns. Presumably it has always been through party funds, or they’ve never received a monetary donation of more than €126 (the declaration limit).

One does wonder. Some transparency would put an end to such idle thoughts. Transparency keeps the system honest.

The lower declaration limit should be abolished now, we want to see where every penny comes from.

Donations to TDs from 1997 – 2008. (.xls Google Docs)

Welcome to The Story.