Gerry Hannan In Europe
The Voice Of Limerick To Be Voice Of Europe
IRISH TIMES: QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
The following 5 questions were posed to Gerard Hannan by the IRISH TIMES:
1. Why do you want to be a Member of the European Parliament?
2. What are your primary objectives as an MEP?
3. What do you see as the main issue in your constituency?
4. How will you use your tenure to address this issue?
5. How do you propose to engage the electorate more fully in the workings
The following are GERARD HANNAN'S answers:
Why do you want to be a Member of the European Parliament?
For far too long now the people of Ireland have been deceived by the lies, misinformation, dishonesty and lack of information from our so-called ‘leading politicians'. The purpose of my candidacy is to highlight the frightening new trend of reallocation of decision making power to independent authorities such as the BCI, Health & Safety Commission and, as is the case with Bin Charges, the County Managers.
Elected Representatives have run for cover from issues such as these and protected themselves by blaming the unpopular decisions on these Quasi Non-Governmental Organizations; such organizations are financed by the government yet acts independently of the government .
It is time to restore the power back where it belongs in the hands of the people. Elected representatives have assigned their powers over to these quangos that are beyond the influence of the electorate.
Politicians then publicly deny any control over these quangos and leave the electorate frustrated at their inability to have any real influence over the decision making process.
Meanwhile, the politicians pay themselves exaggerated salaries for merely reassigning their power over to non-elected bureaucrats. The time has come for a change in Irish politics and for the reintroduction of truth, decency and justice. The only way to really achieve this is by permanently replacing the corrupt and arrogance which seems to have become the norm of Irish political life with new, younger and less traditional politicians with new fresh approaches and attitudes toward contemporary issues.
What are your primary objectives as an MEP?
I have five primary objectives.
1. Opening Up Of Irelands Airwaves & Advocating Greater Freedom of Expression.
Freedom of speech is the right to freely say what you please, as well as the related right to hear what others have stated. Recently, it has been commonly understood as encompassing full freedom of expression, including the freedom to create and distribute movies, pictures, songs, dances, and all other forms of expressive communication including radio broadcasting.
I believe the airwaves of Ireland belong to the people of Ireland and as such they are entitled to use them as they choose with due respect for others. The existence of the BCI (Broadcasting Commission of Ireland) has stunted the growth of the national airwaves by restricting the amount of broadcast licences issued to the people of Ireland .
The airwaves are no more than the ‘High Streets' of any major city where one is free to trade and the market dictates the survival of the fittest. Current broadcasting laws in Ireland are in direct contradiction to the European laws of open competition. New lucrative monopolies are being created and fortunes being made for a small number of people deemed to be ‘favourable' by the BCI without consultation or consideration for public demand.
This situation must end.
The Case of RLO
The RLO case started in 199 when then Head of News at the station, Ms. Eileen Brophy was demoted from News Editor for biased news coverage for Mr. Willie O'Dea (then Junior Minister for Justice.)
Within a few weeks Ms. Brophy was appointed to the BCI following representations by Mr. O'Dea, the BCI, then IRTC, were the body that regulates Radio in Ireland .
In 1996, RLO lost its License to Broadcast.
RLO failed to get its License reinstated in the Courts.
The witness it relied on to prove bias failed to testify 1 .
It turned out in 2002 that the Chief Executive failed to produce all the documents that the BCI used to come to their Decision to the High Court. In fact documents that made false accusations against RLO were withheld form the High Court . 2
Since 1996 politicians have promised to get another license for RLO.
Their excuse is that the BCI is an independent body. We have since 1996 witnessed Tipperary , Kilkenny, Kildare, Carlow, Sligo fail to renew their licenses.
Basically, stations with a large local content are being replaced with music driven stations, in spite that the locally based stations have 60-70% local audiences. The BCI claim that the market cannot support any more stations, yet these local stations are being sold for between 10 and 20 million euros to UTV.
The politicians promised to license RLO for 6 years, but the excuse always is that the BCI is an Independent body. Now the Politicians have been given evidence to show that the BCI deceived the High Court. They are running for cover.
This is yet another example of what politics has become in Ireland , politicians passing their responsibility to political appointees in “Independent” Boards and “Independent” Regulators. At the same time they are increasing their perks and salaries.
1 . It is a significant fact that Denis O'Brien (98 fm) and a member of his staff indicated to RLO that Michael O'Keefe of the BCI had canvassed him for work for Ms. Brophy that had, up until then, been contracted to RLO. Mr. O'Brien refused to testify tot his fact at a later date and soon afterwards the BCI changed its policy about station cross-ownership that now allows Mr. O'Brien to have a large interest in half a dozen Irish stations.
Liam Woulfe, RLO's then Chairman claimed at a Board Meeting that Michael O'Keefe indicated to him that if RLO didn't settle a legal case with Ms. Eileen Brophy it would have license difficulties. Woulfe wouldn't testify tot his fact and ended up with 30% of the Relicenced Limerick Station which was later sold for €17M to UTV.
It seemed as if the people that got Michael O'Keefe of the BCI off-the-hook for misconduct ended up being rewarded with Radio Licenses.
2 . The commission was briefed by Michael O'Keefe not to believe anything that Gerard Madden (RLO Chief Executive) said in defense of RLO. O'Keefe claimed, “As when Madden disagreed with somebody he wrote defamatory letters to the BCI about them”.
This is a completely false and bias statement that should not have been hidden from the court. Furthermore it must be said that in many cases the Breaches that were outlined to the commission in a way that was exaggerated and misstated.
These papers were kept from the court.
2. Total Abolition of Bin Charges for Senior Citizens & Welfare Recipients .
Bin Charges for the elderly and disabled or those in receipt of welfare payments are an unnecessary form of taxation that puts undue strain on the limited resources of Irelands less fortunate.
The fact is that this tax has no democratic or moral credibility, being introduced by the political parties who never mentioned their intentions to impose it in previous election campaigns. There is huge opposition from PAYE householders to this new regime of local taxation, which is being foisted on them.
Householders are involuntary receivers of waste - not its creators.
Successive Governments have utterly refused to compel reduction at source and to invest in radical programmes of reuse and recycling. The vast majority of householders want to assist in resolving the problem of waste in a way that protects the environment.
It is big business, manufacturers and retailers who continue to force us to take home unnecessary packaging that becomes waste. The Government will not compel them to reduce at source.
Forcing companies to reduce waste at source is crucial. So is major investment in programmes providing for reuse and recycling of materials. The tax reduction given to big corporations in a recent Budget (cost to the Exchequer: €329 million per year) would have funded all the necessary programmes. But the Government parties prefer to hit the compliant PAYE taxpayers and self-employed instead.
However, it is the elderly and disabled of our community that should be of primary concern. In Limerick the County Council have built a €20m palace while the elderly are put to the ‘pins of their collar' to raise money to pay for rubbish collection.
3. A Fairer System of NCT Testing / Including Removing the Current Monopoly.
The car test requires most owners to have their vehicle assessed every two years. But an increasing number of motorists criticise what they claim is the system's lack of conformity with standards practised by qualified garage mechanics.
We are all very aware of cases where people have paid a mechanic up to €100 to service a car and repair any problems before it underwent its test. But the vehicle still failed its NCT assessment. As a result, an extra fee had to be paid to National Car Test Services Ltd (NCTS) and to a mechanic to re-check the car.
The NCT fee is €48.40 and a re-test costs €27.20 -- both fees are inclusive of Vat. Re-tests, which do not require the use of test equipment, are free.
Free re-tests cover minor items, for example, a visual inspection to check that faulty windscreen wipers have been replaced. Payable re-tests are for more serious problems involving brakes and emission levels.
If a mechanic has to spend an hour thoroughly re-checking a car, the cost may be €65 -- €100 per hour. This can result in an additional payment of €127.20, for which a motorist may not have budgeted.
As a candidate for the upcoming European election I am deeply concerned at the present unfair system of the National Car Test. I am concerned about the current rate of car failure under the present system and also the trivial nature of the reason for failure in many cases.
We are all very familiar with the many cases from All over the country of the ill treatment of cars by NCT personnel.
I fully support the activities of the NCT action groups forming all over the Mid-West region and totally back their demands.
An undertaking of the government parties that the present monopoly must be terminated forthwith is by no means an unreasonable demand. Every economy thrives on open competition and monopolies of this nature are anti-European to the extreme therefore must be quashed without delay.
Simple, clear and unreasonable test criteria based solely on safety considerations all that is really necessary for NCT purposes. I agree completely with the return of the fail advisory system, abolition of charges for a second or subsequent test, an independent and verifiable appeal procedure at which the vehicle owner or designated driver has a right to be present.
There are other desirable improvements as demanded by the NCT action groups that I wholeheartedly agree with. These include an independent and verifiable system for the regular checking of equipment and monitoring of personnel at each center, the use of local garages/servicing facilities similar to the system used by the Department of the Environment for the testing of light commercial vehicles.
I further demand an independent and verifiable study on the benefits of independent car testing in relation to costs and road deaths. The present NCT system has failed as road deaths have not reduced since its inception. And finally I also agree that the certificate of roadworthiness should be dated from the exact date of the test and not calculated from the date of car registration.
4. Reconsideration of the Smoking Ban and the Introduction of Licensed Smoking Rooms within Hospitality Establishments Desiring To Cater To Smokers.
Czar Michael of Russia (1613) declared smoking a deadly sin and made possession of tobacco a crime. "Arrested smokers could expect to be flogged or have their lips slit. Repeat offenders might be exiled to Siberia , in which case their property would go to the czar.'' Michael's war on sin was profitable.
Turkish sultan Murad IV in 1633 forbade smoking under pain of death, and he liked to mix incognito with the populace and execute smokers on the spot.
The assets of executed smokers became the property of the state. Murad's war on tobacco was profitable.
Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996, "Anything that stops smoking is good.'' Was he thinking of Michael and Murad? "Ridiculous!'' some will say, and I respond, "Perhaps, but then what did he mean by 'Anything'? '' The leading anti-smoking activists are intellectual heirs of Murad.
Consider the four elements of the sultan's policy: hatred, power, deception and profit.
The Governments ‘smoke ban' contains all four.
One need only scan the Newspapers letters section to see the hatred.
Smoke ban activists cannot know what excesses they might commit themselves if they had the power. Power corrupts. They close businesses and put people out of jobs, while arguing that smoke bans are good for business and employees. When some businesses suffer, they argue for "fairness,'' meaning equal repression of all, everywhere. They teach intolerance, especially to our children, thus swelling the ranks of the intolerant among our electorate. To what ultimate end? What might an intolerant majority want? Concentration camps for nonconformists? Why not? Intolerance paves the road to totalitarianism. Intolerance is a slippery slope to lynching.
Smoking bans depend on the conventional wisdom that second-hand smoke is a great health hazard. Nothing less would justify harnessing the force of government against private businesses, as activist leaders understood from the very beginning. They created a new "conventional wisdom'' out of thin air.
The Environmental Protection Agency began in 1988, claiming that ETS is a "known cause of cancer,'' without scientific support. In December 1992, after four years and a huge fuss, the EPA finally completed its report, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders.'' This was the first serious scientific backing for countless smoking restrictions that had already been imposed around the country. It was an egregious fraud.
In a scathing 1998 decision, U.S. Judge William Osteen found that the EPA first made up its mind and then changed inconvenient rules and ignored inconvenient facts and finally (barely) arm-twisted the science to fit its theory. It was junk science. He vacated (trashed) the guts of the report.
The EPA findings on second-hand smoke legally do not exist. But the laws based on it continue in force, and activists still cite it when seeking new laws.
The World Health Organization ran a study on second-hand smoke for about 10 years, involving seven countries and 17 prestigious national institutions plus the European Commission. It found no significant evidence of health hazards from second-hand smoke. The World Health Organization suppressed the report when it was finished in 1998, then lied about it and now hides it. So do scientists who want money. So do the anti-smoking activists. So do the news media. A majority are deceived.
Majorities tend to have their prejudices; maybe need them as a basic human impulse. Many Duluthians are now studying prejudice and intolerance by reading the book "To Kill A Mockingbird.'' This is timely. Smokers are the new objects of prejudice, like blacks and blue jays in the book, and our precious Irish freedoms make sweet music for all, like the mockingbird.
Anti-smoking activists think they're shooting blue jays, but they're really killing the mockingbird. "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.''
I see this smoking ban as a new form of apartheid that has made Ireland a ‘ laughing stock' in certain parts of Europe . I have just returned from a trip to Paris where I spoke to a number of Parisians who told me that because of the ban they were reluctant to come to visit Ireland this summer.
“ I was shocked to learn ‘ on the ground' in Paris from the ordinary working people that the smoking ban in Ireland is a topic for discussion and if the French reaction is anything to go by then tourism is in for a serious hammering in 2004. ”
I am angry at what is best described as a new form of apartheid where smokers are being treated as something less than human and being sent out, under all weathers, like cats and dogs onto the street.
“ This whole ban is a complete joke and there are easier ways than prohibition of handling this problem. Public Houses and Restaurants can introduce a rigorously controlled licensed arrangement to accommodate smokers. For example, the introduction of ‘ smoking parlours ' within pubs. This popular alternative I have had many publicans suggest can be administered by the introduction of a tobacco license to pubs who decide to allow smoking on their premises.
Fianna Fail & the Progressive Democrats have proven for once and for all to the people of Ireland that they have totally lost touch with reality and are no longer in tune with the common man and woman.
Statistics are showing that 70% of Irish people are in favour of the ban and this figure is being flaunted to justify the fascist behavior of the present Government. In reality I suspect that that these figures, like all good statistics, are as flexible as the wind.
5. Restoring the Unjustly Tarnished Image of Limerick .
I am perhaps best known in the Mid-West region as a broadcaster, author and defender of my native city. The international media has described me as a vociferous, acerbic and passionate commentator on the subject of Limericks current unjustified reputation as a city of violence and bloodshed.
This negative image of Limerick is, I believe, the fruit of the exaggeration of the reality of Limerick life by the national & international media.
So what is the reality with regard to crime in Limerick ?
One of Limerick 's top Gardaí has recently confirmed that serious crime in Limerick has fallen in recent times.
Superintendent Willie Keane of Roxboro Garda Station said that guards on the beat felt "there was a general decrease in serious crime such as aggravated assault and burglary."
Limerick ‘crime problem', no different from the national picture, consists of a significant rise in theft, particularly of mobile phones. “Cars are being broken into because phones are on view, they are being stolen from pubs and a number of people have had their phones snatched on the street," said Supt Keane.
Any crime reported to the Garda Síochána in Limerick goes into the force's Pulse database. Officers input recorded crimes at Henry Street , Roxboro and Mayorstone Garda Stations, which go into a central computer.
Criminologists have commented that the dramatic increase in crime over the last two years may be a consequence of the introduction of the Pulse system.
Others have argued that the figures are not a true reflection of crime levels as they deal with reported crime only.
There is still a perception that people are not secure on the streets. There are as many thefts, break-ins and car fires as ever and the level of personal attack is on the up, although you get the same in Dublin .
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell acknowledged that the crime figures were misleading in that all indictable offences, or headline crimes, were catalogued. Murder was down by 11 percent nationally while bicycle theft rose by 40 percent. Both offences are given equal statistical value in the department figures.
Despite all the old epithets, the reality is that Limerick is not a violent or crime-ridden place. The vast majority of her citizens go about their lives without encountering violence, criminality or gangland activity.
The reality is that Limerick has long had one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the country. Over the past few years Garda statistics have demonstrated that the number of indictable (i.e.: serious) crimes in Limerick per thousand of population is well below that of Dublin or Cork . Past figures also show the level of serious crime in Limerick has been less than it is in Waterford , Meath, Carlow and Longford.
In a wider context, the rate of indictable crime in Ireland is the lowest in the EU. Compared with cities of similar size across Europe , Limerick is a generally peaceful, quiet city. There has been a noticeable increase in certain crimes in the past two years. This is in part due to better reporting procedures, but there has been a major increase in inter-gang struggles among Limerick 's small criminal underworld.
Over the past year Limerick has made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Overwhelmingly, these have arisen from an ongoing feud between less than half-a-dozen rival criminal outfits. Originally these feuds were about control of criminal activities, but recently they have been about personal enmities and vendettas.
Community, political and business leaders in Limerick have worked hard to transform the dark rain-soaked Angela's Ashes image of the city. They have been successful. As a result, Limerick is a youthful, bustling and modern European City with hi-tech industries and good quality employment. Its growth and development has been the envy of others. The Limerick region is effectively Ireland 's Silicon Valley .
Limerick today is a city of culture, learning and sport. A place of opportunity, vibrancy, and great natural beauty. It has given the country some of its finest sportspeople, writers, musicians and actors.
The image of Limerick as a hotbed of violent crime is one perpetrated by those who know nothing of the real city and its people.
They do Limerick and its people an injustice.
From recent evidence it can be seen that it is a simple statement of statically provable fact that Limerick is no more or no less violent than any other major city in Europe . The ordinary people of Limerick know and believe this to be true. There are certain tiny minorities embroiled in violent behavior who have succeeded in attracting the attention of the national media through acts of random violence and for their activities the vast overwhelming majority of honest, hardworking Limerick people are unfairly suffering.
These are the people I wish to represent and with a strong voice in Europe I believe through the allocation of proper funding for existing “ image enhancing groups ” and organizations we can succeed in returning Limerick to its rightful place on the tourist map as one of Europe 's most attractive vibrant modern cities.
I further believe negative publicity we are receiving is the fruit of envy and jealousy towards us as a city by other major cities in Ireland . I believe Limerick is a scapegoat to distract media attention from the simple reality that other major cities are equally if not more violent.
It is common knowledge on the streets of Limerick that we are rapidly becoming Irelands answer to Silicon Valley and I can understand why this would make us the envy of the rest of the country.
National politicians are clearly doing their level best to dump on Limerick and have been doing so for far too long and it is now time that the people of Limerick stand up and be counted and refuse to take any further abuse.
These politicians appear to be on a relentless crusade to destroy Limerick and all we have to do is take the case of the threatened shutting down of Shannon airport as a clear example of their ongoing contempt of our region.
The fact that we have no Minister in Dáil Éireann to give our region a voice is yet another example of this obvious disrespect, add to this the fact that we have had no new factories for far too long now, hotels, pubs and shops are closing down at an unprecedented rate all over the region and now to add insult to injury they expect the people of limerick to vote for Cork candidates to represent us in Europe.
This incredible mockery of our city has to stop and it is down to the people of Limerick to see to it that “ the joke ” ends here. That is why I believe, as the only candidate running in Limerick City that the people will come out in force to send a clear message to Dublin and Brussels that we are now fighting back with equal vigor.
What do you see as the main issue in your constituency?
Credibility of Politicians. In almost every aspect of society, people have many ways of judging one another. We gain our impressions and thoughts of those we meet by their actions, what they say and how they carry themselves. Perhaps the most crucial tool used in getting acquainted with a person is what they say.
This is critical in various circles of society; one that is most pertinent to the country, however, lies in what our politicians say to us. Their speeches are important and carry far beyond election time. This is why I find it disheartening that many politicians have persistently failed to deliver as ‘a matter of procedure' what they promise on the doorstep in the run-up to the election.
Credibility is becoming a scarce resource in Irish politics. A nation's welfare depends upon a significant level of trust and mutual credibility, so then any government would be well advised to be trustworthy in the eyes of its voters.
But mutual trust seems to be eroding continuously. Election Promises are invariably broken or swept under the carpet and the price tag for this is the loss of credibility that is now rampant amongst the Irish electorate.
Voters will ultimately refuse to endorse candidates on Election Day if this trend is allowed to continue. It is time to restore the faith of the electorate in politicians and the way to do this is to prove that the vote really does count.
How will you use your tenure to address this issue?
It is time to convince, with actions rather than words, the Electorate that there is still truth and honesty in Irish politics. I will demonstrate this, if elected, by showing other politicians by clear example how to restore faith.
I have pledged to donate my Euro-salary to pay for bin charges for the less well-off members of my constituency. I have no interest in the ‘Euro-gravy train' and by donating my salary I will continue to live my life like the people who have elected me. Big salaries will compromise any individual by elevating and distancing them from the harsh realities of life as experienced by the vast majority of people. I have no desire to fall victim to such compromisation and thus will use the financial benefits of election for the betterment of the lifestyles of those who elect me.
How do you propose to engage the electorate more fully in the workings
Of the European Parliament?
No candidate in this Election is more determined to educate his/her constituents as to the workings of the European Parliament. To this end I have already signed a five year contract with my existing employers RLO to continue to broadcast from a studio in Brussels a three-nightly live three-hour show in which I will directly communicate with my constituents.
I will consult with them on all matters put before me as an MEP and will further allow them to have their say on the open airwaves with regard to every single solitary decision I have to make. I will further be advising them on any developments which will affect their lives. I will be seeking their advice, views and opinions and will act accordingly.
I will not be consulting with ‘collar and tie' bureaucrats and will be exclusively motivated to act as I act by those who have elected me.
The entire purpose of my tenure in Europe will be to act exclusively on behalf of my constituents and the power they bestow on me will be to do their bidding and not my own. For me to do this it is absolutely necessary for me to keep them abreast of what is going on in Brussels and to interact with them as to how they feel I should act. I will act on their advice and decisions and not my own.