|THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: April 27, 2009||| Print ||
|Monday, 27 April 2009|
THE IRISH EMIGRANT
April 27, 2009 Issue No.1,160
The free news service for the global Irish community
Editor: Liam Ferrie ©2009 Irish Emigrant Ltd
It was another difficult week for the Government as it tried to resuscitate the ailing economy. Taoiseach Brian Cowen responded to criticism that the country could not afford the luxury of 20 Ministers of State by reducing the total to 15 and in the process created discontent within the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.
Mr Cowen was also in trouble when he tried to explain why cuts in politicians' remuneration announced in the Budget were being delayed until after the next General Election. He didn't accept that they were being delayed; it was just that everyone in the country who listened to the Budget misinterpreted what was being said.
For a time the Bolivian President seemed to be unhappy with Irish interest in obtaining the facts about the death of Michael Dwyer, the Tipperary man who was shot dead by a special police unit in the city of Santa Cruz. By the end of the week President Morales seemed to accept the legitimacy of Micheál Martin's request for an international inquiry.
There is widespread concern at a convicted drug trafficker being granted an international haulage licence. While a number of people in senior positions must know exactly how this came to pass, the official line is that we need an inquiry to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime the drug trafficker continues to take his truck to and from continental Europe.
Taoiseach makes life difficult for himself
Demoting at least five Ministers of State was never going to be a trouble-free task but Taoiseach Brian Cowen's approach seems to have created more discontent within the Fianna Fáil party than was necessary.
The 20 outgoing Ministers of State had all complied with an instruction to resign their posts with effect from midnight on Tuesday. Speculation was rife as to who would be left out when a smaller team of 15 was named on Wednesday and this speculation extended to whether more than five would be disappointed, to allow for some promotions. When the news came there were a few surprises although some of the missing names had been anticipated.
What hadn't been anticipated was the dropping of Kilkenny TD John McGuinness who is seen as one of our more able parliamentarians. He had responsibility for Trade and Commerce within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and at times was refreshingly outspoken, saying what he believed when it wasn't politically expedient to do so. He was often critical of the public service and of the partnership process, but more about him later.
In all, seven outgoing ministers were dropped, making way for the promotion of Áine Brady and Dara Calleary. The former, a TD for Kildare North, will have links to three Departments and have special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion; the latter, representing Mayo, will be Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, with special responsibility for Labour Affairs.
The others who lost out were Noel Ahern, Dr Jimmy Devins, Máire Hoctor, Micheál Kitt, Seán Power and Mary Wallace. The departure of Mr Ahern, brother of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, was also a major surprise but one or more commentators had suggested that each of the others was at risk.
None of the seven who lost out was happy but all initially put on a brave face and accepted the decision of the Taoiseach. No matter how bad Mr Kitt felt, he could say little as Áine Brady is his sister. Dr Devins later indicated that he was none too happy. My view was that he had put himself at risk by failing to back the decision to close the breast cancer unit at Sligo General Hospital in his constituency. He also seemed to think that was the reason he was overlooked, but a spokesperson for Save Sligo Cancer Services accused him of being "hypocritical" and told him that he had failed the people of Sligo in this regard. Perhaps it was a case of trying to carve out the middle ground and making enemies in both camps.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement John McGuinness seemed willing to accept his demotion without complaint. A day later, however, he was back to his outspoken self, suggesting that the Taoiseach had to abandon his "comfort zone" and provide the country with "new dynamic leadership". Another day went by and he appeared on the Late Late Show where he was even more critical and received prolonged applause from the studio audience.
There he spoke of a disconnect between the parliamentary party and the leadership. He wasn't too hard on Mr Cowen, saying that he had the ability to do the job but "needs to shift his mindset from being the leader of Fianna Fáil to having a clear understanding that he is now the leader of the country". His former immediate boss, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan, he treated more harshly. While she had been a good Minister for Agriculture she did not, he said, have the understanding of business to be effective in her current job. He went on to say that he had told her that she wasn't up to the job and that they had more than one stand-up row. The criticism didn't stop at the Minister; the competence of the senior civil servants in the department was also questioned. Earlier on Friday Mr McGuinness claimed that Minister Coughlan had threatened to resign if he was reassigned to her department or even brought back as a Minister of State.
Following Mr McGuinness's Late Late Show comments the Taoiseach tried to defuse the situation. He expressed his full confidence in the Tánaiste, adding, "It's important that we move on. We had to make changes and I think everyone recognises that when I had to communicate these decisions everyone took them in an excellent spirit". The Tánaiste also responded by issuing a statement in which she denied that Mr McGuinness had ever told her that she was unfit for her job.
Ireland demands inquiry into Bolivian death
The body of Tipperary man Michael Dwyer (24), who was shot dead by police in Bolivia 11 days ago, arrived back in Ireland on Saturday. This was at the end of a week in which we heard conflicting stories as to how Mr Dwyer died and in which Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin called for an international inquiry into the circumstances of his death.
Derek Lambe, second secretary at the Irish Embassy in Argentina, and Peter O'Toole, honorary consul in Bolivia, met with senior officials of the Bolivian government in La Paz to discuss the circumstances surrounding the killing of Mr Dwyer.
While the Bolivian authorities insist that Mr Dwyer and the two others who died with him were members of a terrorist group planning to assassinate Bolivian president Evo Morales, the facts did not seem to support this. Writing in the Irish Times, journalist Tom Hennigan reported on an interview he had with the manager of the Hotel Las Americas in Santa Cruz, where the shooting took place. Hernan Rossell said that all the bullet holes were inside the rooms and there was no indication any shots were fired into the corridor. Elsewhere it was noted that none of the special police contingent was injured although the shooting, which followed an explosion, continued for up to 30 minutes. The three who died were in their underwear and it is considered likely that they were asleep in bed when the raid took place at 4:00am.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin called for an international inquiry into the incident but received a chilly response from President Morales. In reply Mr Martin insisted that Ireland had the legal right to question the official account of the incident. He also rejected allegations emanating from Bolivia that Mr Dwyer had a criminal record or had served in the Irish Army. Later in the week, in an interview with the BBC at the UN in New York, President Morales seemed to accept that an international inquiry would be appropriate.
It is reported that Mr Dwyer and a number of other Irishmen travelled to Bolivia late last year to take part in a bodyguard course after they were made redundant by a security company here in Ireland. The course never materialised and while the others returned home Mr Dwyer decided to stay for a while. At some point he met up with Eduardo Rozsa Flores (49), who appeared to view himself as a revolutionary of sorts but was never quite sure whether he belonged to the extreme left or the extreme right. It was Flores that the Bolivian authorities identified as the leader of the plot to kill President Morales.
On arrival in Ireland Michael Dwyer's body was handed over to the Dublin County Coroner for a post-mortem to be carried out. This should determine whether he was standing up or lying down when he was shot. Forensic tests should also reveal whether he fired any shots during the encounter.
Politicians retain their perks
The Government has got into a right mess over Budget decisions to withdraw long-service bonus payments from TDs and Senators, and to end the practice of former ministers collecting their pensions while still members of the Oireachtas. Those who listened to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan on Budget day were convinced that these changes would be implemented with effect from May 1 but now it seems that we were all wrong.
On Monday it was officially confirmed that TDs and Senators who are already in receipt of long-service bonus payments will continue to receive them. Only their colleagues who were elected more recently will be affected by the Budget announcement that such bonuses are coming to an end.
Government chief whip Pat Carey came on RTÉ's Morning Ireland to clarify the confused situation and, although it was no longer necessary, Taoiseach Brian Cowen also made it clear, later in the day, that the bonus would not be taken back from anyone already in receipt of it. It is not clear if this apparent about turn was prompted by legal difficulties or by objections from politicians who argue that they have already taken a significant hit.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley also intervened, but to urge politicians to voluntarily forego the bonus. There was no clamour of TDs offering to make this sacrifice.
Following the apparent about turn on TDs' long service increments, Taoiseach Brian Cowen on Wednesday revealed that the Budget proposal to withdraw ministerial pensions from serving TDs and Senators will also be delayed until the next Dáil. Again it is not clear whether this is the result of a legal problem or a backlash from those affected.
What will happen in the current Dáil is that Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will talk with former Ministers with a view to having them voluntarily forego at least part of their pension.
Our politicians have seen their very generous expenses cut and are now paying the income levy and the pension levy. With these reductions in their take home pay most of them appear to be convinced that they are making sufficient contribution towards reducing the national debt. As a result both Government and Opposition TDs have bypassed the opportunity to claim the moral high ground by volunteering to forego the contentious payments. Only Mary O'Rourke appears to have relinquished her pension and she did it quietly back in January.
Unanswered questions about drug trafficker
The fact that a convicted drug trafficker was granted an International Road Haulage Operators Licence is the cause of ongoing concern and has raised many questions which have yet to be answered.
Not only did Kieran Boylan of Co. Louth have convictions here and in Britain, gardaí caught him red-handed with drugs worth €1.7m. Although he was charged with this offence the case was withdrawn in peculiar circumstances before it went to court.
Haulage licences are issued by the Department of Transport, and Minister Noel Dempsey addressed the issue in the Dáil. He gave details of exchanges between his department and An Garda Síochána and implied that key information was withheld. The Minister is unhappy with the process and has ordered a review of the case.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy responded to the controversy by contacting a member of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission who confirmed that the circumstances surrounding the issuing of the licence will form part of its public interest inquiry into related matters. That allowed the Commissioner to say that he will not be making further comment.
Unlikely as it seems, the Department of Foreign Affairs has also been drawn into the controversy. Kieran Boylan was recently facilitated in having his passport reissued under the Irish version of his name. In other European countries this will put him at one remove from the man who served seven years in Britain for a drug trafficking offence. To be doubly sure his company has also had a name change and it is the new name that appears on his truck or trucks.
It has been Fine Gael's Charlie Flanagan and Labour's Pat Rabbitte who have been asking most questions. They are of the opinion that Boylan either has friends in An Garda Síochána who are looking after him or he is a garda informant. So far they have been getting no help in establishing any facts.
Coping in a new economy
The effects of the economic downturn continue to affect people in a variety of ways.
This week on our website
Bits and Pieces
New homeless strategy to provide homes for 600
Minister of State Michael Finneran on Monday announced that the Homeless Strategy National Implementation Plan, promised last August, has now been finalised. Key features are a 5% increase in funding for homeless services in 2009 and a new mainstream accommodation initiative for homeless people which will see 300 units procured in 2009.
The new units will accommodate 600 people who are currently living in emergency accommodation. Those who require it will be able to call on support as they try to learn to live independently.
ESB to replace its HQ building
Some 40 years ago the ESB created considerable controversy by demolishing a row of ten Georgian houses on Dublin's Lower Fitzwilliam Street. It went on to build a four-storey office block with a precast concrete facade which became its new headquarters building.
Now the energy company is ready to demolish this building. A competition for a replacement HQ has been launched, with interested architects being asked come up with a design which demonstrates "respect for the surrounding Georgian streetscape and protected structures".
Gardaí and PSNI target fuel smugglers
Customs and police on both sides of the border on Tuesday carried out a series of co-ordinated raids in an operation targeting fuel smuggling. In all, 18 premises were searched in Counties Armagh, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan. The total yield from the operation was four mobile laundering plants, some 175,000 litres of suspect fuel, at least €20k in cash and 12 vehicles. Some of the premises searched were the offices of accountants and solicitors used by suspected fuel smugglers.
I was in Derry on Wednesday and for the first time in my 18 years of driving diesel vehicles I was pulled over so that the Northern Customs could check that I hadn't been putting tax-free fuel into my tank. The garages I use were obviously obtaining their supplies from legitimate sources as I was allowed to go on my way in a matter of minutes.
Moriarty Tribunal hears from more witnesses
The Moriarty Tribunal is back in business. On Tuesday it heard evidence from an English lawyer who, I believe, was reluctant to appear when asked at an earlier date. Christopher Vaughan acted in the purchase of the Doncaster Rovers football ground, which was acquired by Denis O'Brien senior and junior. Mr Vaughan said he had no idea why he wrote in a letter to an accountant that former Minister Michael Lowry was involved in the purchase, other than that the letter was written immediately after he had met Mr Lowry in relation to another property in which the same accountant was involved.
Mr Vaughan continued to give evidence up to and including Friday and will appear again at a future date. There was a dispute on Friday as to whether €65k paid by Mr Lowry to accountant Kevin Phelan was related to an attempt to blackmail Denis O'Brien. Counsel for Mr Lowry emphatically denied this suggestion.
Cars seized for non-payment of VRT
In a crack-down by Customs officials in the South a total of 276 cars have been seized for non-payment of Vehicle Registration Tax. A total of 3,256 cars were checked at border regions and in Dublin and Cork over a short period at the end of March and beginning of April and 658 were found not to have complied with VRT regulations. New or second hand cars imported from the North, or anywhere else for that matter, are liable to VRT rates of between 14% and 36%. The tax is waived for returned emigrants or others taking up residence here provided they have owned the car for a prerequisite period.
Masked intruders damage Shell site in Mayo
Gardai in Belmullet, Co. Mayo are investigating an incident which occurred at the Shell compound at Glengad at around 11:30pm on Wednesday. Up to 15 men, wearing balaclavas and armed with iron bars and chains, entered the compound and threatened security staff. They then commandeered a mechanical digger which was used to cause extensive damage to the site. One member of the security staff received an injury to his arm and required medical attention.
A protester who had been lying under a truck on the site since earlier on Wednesday was removed by security staff some time on Thursday morning.
Dublin auction to feature War of Independence items
Among items to be auctioned in Dublin tomorrow is the football used in the match in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday, as well as a ticket for the match. The Fourth Annual Independence sale will also feature letters from Arthur Griffith and Éamon de Valera, a bullet taken from the body of Harry Boland, and an original copy of the 1916 proclamation; this latter item is expected to fetch up to €350k.
Major drug seizure in Clonmel
In a planned operation at around 11:00am on Saturday, gardaí searched a flat at Mary Street, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary where they recovered three firearms and a large quantity of cocaine and cannabis. A 41-year-old man and two women, aged 31 and 37, were arrested at the scene. In a follow-up operation a second man has been arrested and is being detained at Cahir Garda Station. In the evening further searches in Clonmel yielded an additional quantity of cocaine. The total value of drugs seized is approximately €1m.
Suspected bank robbers arrested
Gardaí yesterday issued a press release in which they said that, as part of an ongoing investigation into the armed robbery of AIB in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, in September of last year, two men in their mid-40s had been arrested. In that robbery some €300k was taken when robbers broke into the bank through the shared wall of an adjacent empty building.
For some reason the press release didn't reveal that the two men were arrested at 2:00am yesterday as they tried to break through a wall of the Bank of Ireland in Edenderry, from an adjoining vacant premises.
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Murder inquiry launched in Tyrone
The PSNI launched a murder inquiry following the death in hospital of Connor McCusker (31), from Ballinderry, Co. Derry. The brother of Derry football star Niall McCusker suffered head injuries during an incident outside a nightclub in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone in the early hours of Sunday. A 21-year-old man is in custody in relation to the incident.
Unit for supergrasses to be built in Maghaberry
With the reintroduction of the 'supergrass' system by Chief Constable Hugh Orde two years ago, a special unit is to be built at Maghaberry Prison in Co. Antrim. At present such prisoners are kept in isolation in the prison but this is, according to senior prison officers, presenting a "logistical nightmare". Among those being held in isolation at present are David and Robert Stewart, who gave evidence against 11 members of the Mount Vernon UVF.
Union fighting dismissal of traffic wardens
The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance is endeavouring to bring about the reinstatement of 26 Belfast traffic wardens who were dismissed after taking unofficial industrial action. The wardens, who were protesting over work conditions in relation to sick pay and rota changes, were fired by the NCP for failing to go through the "proper process".
Death of Oliver Kelly
Oliver Kelly, a well-known solicitor and chairman of the GAA Antrim County Board for 12 years, has died after a short illness at the age of 63. Mr Kelly was interned without trial in 1971 and completed his law studies while interned. He built up a large solicitor's practice in Belfast following his release.
Basque separatist to fight extradition order
Basque separatist Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga (32), who has been living in Belfast for four years, is to fight an extradition order to Spain under a European arrest warrant. The order was served after Arteaga was arrested at his home in West Belfast on Wednesday night; if he returns to Spain he could face a 14-year sentence for membership of Segi, the Basque youth organisation.
Also fighting an extradition order is fellow Basque separatist and convicted ETA killer Jose Ignacio Inaki de Juana Chaos, who lives in Belfast with his wife. He was sentenced in 1987 to 3,000 years in jail for his part in the deaths of 25 people.
Abolishing security checkpoint could save ferry
The removal of the security checkpoint at the Magilligan ferry terminal could save the Lough Foyle ferry from closure and Coleraine Council has joined those backing the move. The checkpoint costs £90k a year to maintain, the cost being borne by the ferry company which has to date carried some two million passengers.
Someone on Coleraine Council had decided that the checkpoint was necessary on the basis that the ferry was linking two jurisdictions, ignoring the fact that it is now difficult to accurately identify the border at the various crossings between Donegal and Derry.
Cardinal Brady meets loyalist leaders
Cardinal Seán Brady met with members of the Ulster Political Research Group at his private residence in Armagh on Friday. This was the first such meeting. After wide-ranging discussion, which extended beyond the allotted time, both sides expressed satisfaction with what had been a useful exchange of views. The Cardinal was encouraged with the response to his fears that loyalists might retaliate in response to the violence carried out by dissident republicans in recent times.
The UPRG is linked to the Ulster Defence Association, which has been threatened with sanctions by Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward if it does not act on decommissioning soon.
McGuinness warned of death threats
Speaking in Derry on Friday after the PSNI had warned him that death threats had been made against him, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was not going to be intimidated by threats made against his life. Mr McGuinness was speaking out against breakaway republicans and admitted that some members of Sinn Féin may lose their lives through the actions of the dissidents.
Legal move to evict Visteon workers adjourned
In Belfast High Court on Friday Justice Deeney adjourned until early next month the legal move to evict the former Visteon workers from the factory in Belfast, sought by administrators KPMG. Lawyers for the workers have been given more time to advise their clients, who are claiming that former owner Ford had given guarantees on pay and conditions.
Youth charged with gangland murder
David Patchell (19), of Tallaght in Dublin, last weekend appeared at a special court sitting where he was charged with the murder of Stephen O'Halloran (20) on January 18. He was also charged with causing serious harm to two other men who were shot in the same incident which took place outside O'Halloran's home in Tallaght. It's not clear if the victim was targeted as a result of his involvement in drugs or in retaliation for his role in any of a number of violent incidents.
Two in court after shooting incident
Gardaí continued to question the two men arrested following a shooting incident in Dublin last Saturday in the belief that the two are key players in the Crumlin-Drimnagh criminal feud, and that they had shot a man in both knees earlier in the evening. The victim apparently owed them money for drugs.
On Tuesday Joseph Redmond (31), of Drimnagh, and David Roche (25), of Ballymun, appeared in court on firearms charges and were remanded in custody. More serious charges may follow.
Two plead guilty to drug trafficking
Two Englishmen, Philip Doo (52), from Devon, and Christopher Wiggins (42), with an address in Spain, on Tuesday pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal to possessing cocaine for sale or supply. The two were on board the yacht "Dances with Waves" last November, when it was boarded by the Naval Service off the south coast and found to be carrying cocaine worth an estimated €650m.
There was no mention at the court hearing of a third man who was also on board the yacht although one newspaper indicated that he was to appear in court on Wednesday.
Co. Limerick woman sells house to repay stolen money
Patricia Carroll (49), a former treasurer of Blackrock GAA club in Limerick, has sold her home at Kilfinane, Co. Limerick for €75k in an effort to repay the €98k she stole from the club between January 2003 and May 2007. After costs the sale of the house netted €65k which will be handed over to the club.
Counsel for Carroll told Limerick Circuit Court that it was unlikely that his client would be able to pay any more as she was living on social welfare. The case was adjourned for two weeks.
Two sausage rolls may help put a man in jail
Jimmy Collins (46) of Ballinacurra Weston in Limerick could find himself serving a suspended three-month sentence for engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour, after he pleaded guilty at Limerick District Court on Wednesday to the theft of two sausage rolls from Tesco. Two days earlier Mr Collins' home received a number of shots through the front door, the second time he had been the target of a shooting; in April of last year he was shot in the leg outside his home.
Two years for possessing ammunition
Don Blayney (51), who was born in England and has been living in Ireland since 1990, was jailed for two years for possessing 220 live rounds of ammunition. In the wake of the seizure of Northern Bank notes at Ted Cunningham's in Farran, Co. Cork, gardaí were informed of partially burned Northern Bank notes appearing in Passage West followed a chimney fire in Don Blayney's house.
When we read about this in 2005 we assumed that the occupant of the house had been storing cash for Ted Cunningham, and that he took fright and tried to get rid of it. On searching the house gardaí found the ammunition and no charges have ever been brought against Blayney in relation to the burned notes. In court Blayney denied all knowledge of how the ammunition came to be in his house and a number of character witnesses said that he was not the sort of man to engage in subversive activity.
Bail for man wanted in Romania for theft
A Romanian who is wanted in his native country for the theft of two chickens and a bicycle, the theft committed when he was 13 years old, was granted bail in the High Court on Wednesday. Valentin Stan (30) has been living here since 2000, and has served a jail sentences here for false imprisonment and robbery. The State had opposed bail on the grounds that Stan was a flight risk; the case was adjourned until next month.
Suspended sentence for man in Glanbia robbery
Patrick McInerney (28), who was one of seven men involved in a robbery at the Glanbia plant in Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny in June 2007, received a suspended three-year sentence when he appeared at Kilkenny Circuit Court on Wednesday. During the robbery a garda was run over by the get-away car. McInerney was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service for resisting arrest.
Prisoner guilty of the manslaughter of a fellow inmate
At the Central Criminal Court a jury found Stephen Egan (25), of Coolock in Dublin, not guilty of the murder of Gary Douche (20) but guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. The two men were sharing a cell in Mountjoy when Egan attacked Douche for no apparent reason. At the time Egan, who has spent a number of periods in the Central Mental Hospital, had not been given his prescribed anti-psychotic medication for two to three days.
Concern has been expressed at the way the prison authorities dealt with Egan and the Government has appointed a commission to investigate the circumstances of the killing of Mr Douche.
Sentencing for money-launderer
Cork-based financial advisor Ted Cunningham, who was found guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last month of ten counts of money-laundering, has been jailed for ten years. The investigation into the laundering of more than £3m followed the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in 2004 when £26.5m was stolen.
Cunningham's son Timothy, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge was given a three-year suspended sentence. He was seen to be acting under the influence of his father.
Earlier in the week Ted Cunningham received an €880k tax bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Sligo man charged with murder of 14-year-old
At the Central Criminal Court the trial is continuing of Ronald McManus (44), also known as Ronnie Dunbar, of Rathbraughan Park in Sligo for the murder of Melissa Mahon. The girl's body was found on the shore of Lough Gill in February 2008. During the trial social workers who had been working with the 14-year-old described as her being very vulnerable. She had been taken into care as she was constantly running away from home and had formed a relationship with Mr Dunbar.
Employment & Industrial Relations
Airmotive workers appear to opt for redundancy
After again rejecting cost-cutting proposals, the 465 workers at Lufthansa Technik Airmotive, in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin were put on protective notice. Following an earlier rejection in a union ballot the Labour Court became involved but its recommendations have also been voted down. Some reports suggest that the first 150 workers will be laid off in the near future.
In the deal being demanded by management, base pay rates will remain the same but the opportunity for overtime earnings will be greatly reduced. This will be achieved by staff working a variable number of hours each week depending on workload.
There is still some hope that the operation will survive. The National Implementation Body held talks with union leaders and management and came up with a proposal which was acceptable to both sides. This will be balloted on today.
Further 210 jobs losses at Tralee-based company
The remaining 210 workers at the Amann Industries thread manufacturing company in Tralee, Co. Kerry have been told that the plant is to close. Senior managers from the parent company in Germany flew in on Friday to break the news. The plan is for the spinning operation to close in July, with the work moving to Asia. Over the following 12 months the twisting operation will transfer to China.
In January it was announced that 120 jobs at the plant were moving to Romania and Germany. The reason given then and now is that energy and labour costs were too high in Ireland.
Unofficial strike at Dublin Bus
Up to 19 Dublin Bus routes are expected to be without buses today as they were yesterday. The new rosters accepted in a ballot of members of two unions didn't appeal to one driver at the company's Harristown depot and when he refused to take out his bus he was suspended. All the other drivers at the depot have since came out in sympathy.
Union leaders refused to talk to the media about the latest development.
Politics & Politicians
Michael Lowry celebrates 21 years as a TD
Some 1,000 friends and supporters of Independent TD Michael Lowry attended a rally in his Tipperary North constituency last weekend to celebrate his 21 years as a TD. The former Fine Gael minister told the gathering that they should not expect to see him praised when the Moriarty Tribunal publishes its report on the issuing of the country's second mobile phone licence. "The tribunal", he said, "has to justify the outlandish legal cost by publishing a critical report".
Among those who attended the event was former GAA president Seán Kelly who is a Fine Gael candidate in the European election. He came in for some criticism for associating with Mr Lowry, who was forced to leave the party in disgrace following the revelation that he had accepted what amounted to substantial undeclared gifts from businessman Ben Dunne.
MEP Seán Ó Neachtain not to seek re-election
Outgoing Fianna Fáil MEP Seán Ó Neachtain announced on Monday that he would not be seeking re-election to the European Parliament in June. This news came just weeks after he was nominated, along with Paschal Mooney, to contest the election on behalf of the party in the Northwest constituency. Mr Ó Neachtain cited health reasons for his decision. He is suffering from a chest infection and, while he expects to make a full recovery, would not be able to campaign.
Speculation is now rife as to who will be selected to replace him. Fianna Fáil is reluctant to put sitting TDs forward as this would lead to by-elections which the party would be unlikely to win. Former Galway hurling captain Joe Connolly and former Ireland and Celtic goalkeeper Packie Bonner have been spoken of but neither has any interest in running.
Four Labour candidates to contest Europe
At a news conference in the European Commission offices in Dublin on Wednesday Labour Party leader Éamon Gilmore introduced four candidates for the European elections. With him at the conference were sitting MEP for Dublin Proinsias de Rossa; Ireland East candidate Nessa Childers; Senator Alan Kelly, who will stand in Ireland South; and Ireland Northwest candidate Susan O'Keeffe.
Environment Minister announces scrapping of e-voting scheme
Minister for the Environment John Gormley on Thursday announced the scrapping of the electronic voting system which has cost the State €51m to date, exclusive of storage costs. A task force is to be set up to oversee the disposal of the equipment and to recoup as much as possible of the cost.
The Minister pointed to the "significant additional costs" which would arise were the electronic voting system to be continued, as contained in the Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting. Éamon Gilmore, Labour Party leader, has called for the dismissal of Martin Cullen and Noel Dempsey, who were instrumental in the introduction of the system ten years ago.
I must be the only person left in the country who believes that the electronic voting machines should have been introduced following the trial runs in the 2002 general election and the Nice referendum. The question of the security of the system was only raised later and ultimately reached such a crescendo that the equipment lost all credibility. None of the studies compared the potential for fraud using the computerised system with opportunities for fraud in the manual system.
Ennis hospital still in the spotlight
Dan McDonnell (59), of Kilkee, Co. Clare, died in an ambulance while being taken to the Midwest Regional Hospital in Limerick in the early hours of last Sunday. He was a short distance from the hospital when he suffered a heart attack and his wife Marie believes he might have survived had he been taken to Ennis General Hospital, which is 22 miles closer to his home. After hours A&E services were withdrawn from the Ennis hospital earlier in the month. A spokesperson for the HSE insisted that the treatment being given to Mr McDonnell in the ambulance was the same as he would have received had he been admitted to the Ennis Hospital.
Separately it was claimed at the Irish Medical Organisation's conference last weekend that people in the Ennis catchment area are reluctant to use the hospital following a critical report from the Health Information and Quality Authority. The report was compiled after two woman died from cancer which went undetected at the hospital. One doctor described the report as "a hatchet job".
HSE attempts to rationalise staffing levels
Trade unionists representing health staff were apoplectic when they learned of the latest Health Service Executive plans to rationalise staffing levels.
I think there is an acceptance by the unions that some 1,000 staff should be transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and that a further 2,000 employees currently working in head office roles should be redeployed to community health services. They will, of course, want to argue on the detail.
What has incensed union leaders is a suggestion that temporary staff should not have their contracts renewed when they expire and staff resigning or retiring should not be replaced. An HSE spokesman said that this isn't the case. Each vacancy arising in these circumstances will, however, be looked at to examine how best to maintain frontline services.
Tensions eased a little when the HSE said it would postpone the implementation of the proposals pending talks with the unions in the coming week.
Advance payment by VHI to fund HSE
To allow the Health Service Executive to continue to provide existing services, the VHI is to pay €50m in advance payment for patients treated in public hospitals. It is possible that a further €10m will be transferred to the HSE from the National Treatment Purchase Fund to make up a shortfall in health service funding.
Parents of autistic boy appeal to court for funding
The parents of an 11-year-old boy who is being cared for in a house operated by the Solis Trust in south Dublin have applied to the High Court for immediate State funding to continue the boy's treatment. The parents have applied for an injunction requiring funding of €50,000 per month to be provided by the HSE, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Education and the National Council for Special Education.
The case was adjourned until tomorrow.
Report finds cancer death rate in North is lower
While overall cancer survival rates continue to improve, a report has found that death rates from the disease in the North are 4% lower than in the Republic. The figures were contained in "Cancer incidence, mortality, treatment and survival in the North and South of Ireland: 1994-2004", a joint report of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland. The report shows that the fall in the death rate is due primarily to better survival rates for those with breast, bowel and prostate cancer.
HSE report shows unacceptable wait for colonoscopies
A report from the Health Service Executive has shown that the average wait for a colonoscopy in the country is at present two years or more, despite a target of four weeks being set by Minister for Health Mary Harney last December. A total of 59 patients have been waiting between one and two years for the procedure, which shows up any abnormal growths, while five patients have been waiting two years or more. A validation of colonoscopy waiting lists is under way and hospitals have been asked to refer any patients waiting more than three months to the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
This was a huge scare story when broadcast on RTÉ but later it emerged that the situation has improved dramatically since Ms Harney issued her edict. Now all urgent cases are being seen expeditiously and the Minister is convinced that her targets will be met for everyone by year end.
Mumps vaccine another victim of recession
The fact that it is only now that young people are being vaccinated against mumps, even though the recommendation was made last September, has been put down to budgetary restrictions. A growing epidemic among 18-21 year olds has prompted a nationwide MMR vaccine programme; there have been 2,000 cases this year to date, compared with just 110 in the same period last year.
Minister defends assessment on centres of excellence
Following a leaked assessment of Waterford Regional Hospital, one of the designated specialist cancer centres, which found that it failed to meet 36 of the 48 required standards, Minister for Health Mary Harney has defended the policy of developing eight centres of excellence. She said that the assessment, carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority in October, was carried out at a time when none of the centres would have met the standards. Since then, the Minister said, some of the issues have been addressed and others are in the process of being addressed.
Ms Harney also explained that the standards in question were in advance of minimum standards and patient safety standards. They were devised by Professor Tom Keane to ensure that by the end of the year breast cancer care in Ireland would rank in the top three in the world.
Surgeons call for funding for 'deep brain' surgery
Surgeons at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin have called for further funding to support "deep brain" surgery, which was performed on three patients in collaboration with the Dublin Neurological Institute. The procedure involves placing a medical device in the brain which controls the tremors associated with Parkinson's Disease. Each operation costs in the region of €40k.
Travel & Tourism
Dublin car ban to be limited to peak periods
Dublin City Council modified a decision which would have resulted in a total ban on cars in the College Green-Dame Street area of the city. The plan was to turn the area into a bus corridor but, following representations from the city's business community and car park owners, it has been decided that the restrictions should only apply between 7:00am and 10:00am and from 4:00pm to 7:00pm, Monday to Friday.
No one ever responded to the AA's claim that the real problem is poor route management by Dublin Bus. An AA spokesman had reasonably suggested that the vast majority of the 65% of all Dublin Bus passengers who pass through the area have no desire to be in that particular part of the city.
National Cycle Policy Framework launched
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey plans to make cycling a more popular mode of transport and to this end on Monday he launched the National Cycle Policy Framework. By implementing a total of 109 separate actions he hopes to increase the number of people who cycle each day from 35,000 to 160,000 by 2020. A variety of safety issues are seen as key to the success of the programme but other initiatives include allowing bikes to be carried on buses and trains, secure bicycle parking on appropriate sites, two-way cycle lanes on one-way streets and shared bicycle schemes in large cities.
The Irish Abroad
Irishman dies in Australian road accident
A 23-year-old Irishman, believed to be from Co. Offaly, died in a road accident in Perth, Australia on Friday night. The victim was a back-seat passenger in a car which left the road and crashed into a power pole in the Doubleview area of the city. The 32-year-old driver and a 19-year-old passenger, both males and also understood to be Irish, suffered serious injuries.
Farmers' leader elected to European position
Pádraig Walshe, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, has been elected leader of Copa, the European farmers' union. Mr Walsh is the first Irishman to be elected to the position at the head of 60 farm bodies and 36 partner organisations.
Foundation launched in memory of murdered Swiss girl
In Basel on Friday the parents of student Manuela Riedo, who was murdered in Galway in October 2007, attended the launch of a foundation to raise awareness among teenagers of the dangers of rape and assault, and to assist victims of the crimes. The Manuela Riedo Foundation (http://www.Manuela-riedo-foundation.ch) was established by Basel-based publican Brendan McGuinness, and also attending the launch was Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. A concert in support of the foundation, to be held in Basel in July, will feature The Chieftains, The Dubliners, The Wolf Tones and the Kilfenora Céilí Band.
Conservation & The Environment
......nor any drop to drink
According to a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency some 33% of public water supplies in Ireland present a possible risk to consumers. It was also claimed that 16 local authorities submitted 736 tests which were considered unacceptable due to a lack of accuracy.
The EPA reported that E coli was found in 5% of local authority operated water schemes and in 33% of group water schemes.
Entertainment & The Arts
Digital terrestrial television on the long finger?
Boxer, the consortium which won the right to introduce digital terrestrial television to Ireland, has decided it is no longer interested in the project. Denis O'Brien's Communicorp Group was a member of the consortium.
The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland now hopes to enter discussions with the under bidder, One Vision, but as this consortium includes Eircom, TV3 and Setanta, all of which have cash problems, we may wait some time for the new service.
Eagles Galway concert cancelled
The US group, The Eagles, were scheduled to perform in an open-air concert at Galway's Pearse Stadium on June 28 but this has now been cancelled. Aiken Promotions blames "unforeseen circumstances" but the Irish Times was more specific and referred to "poor ticket sales". Those who paid for tickets, €86.25 to stand and €131.25 to sit, will receive a full refund or can instead attend the band's concert at the RDS on July 2.
A concert at the Odyssey in Belfast will go ahead as planned on June 30.
TV loses female presenters
The media showed a good deal of interest in the decision of RTÉ not to commission a new series of Seoige, the afternoon television show presented by Co. Galway sisters Gráinne and Síle Seoige. The current series finished on Friday and it might have been expected to return again in the autumn, but the broadcaster was at pains to point out that the only reason for dropping the show was a revenue shortfall.
RTÉ says it will be working with Gráinne on a number of peak time projects in the autumn and also expects to be working with Síle in the near future.
There was similar interest in the decision of Lorraine Keane to hand in her resignation as presenter of the TV3 programme Xpose. She insists that she is just taking a career break so that she can spend more time with her two small daughters.
October date for Elton John
Tickets go on sale on Thursday for Elton John's appearance at the O2 in Dublin on October 30.
Death of Senator Tony Kett
Senator Tony Kett (57) died last weekend after a long battle with cancer. The Fianna Fáil senator was a native of Ballinasloe, Co. Galway and a close friend of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He met Mr Ahern when both worked in the accounts department in the Mater Hospital and was a key figure in each of Mr Ahern's election campaigns. Senator Kett served on Dublin County Council for 16 years.
Two fishermen drown off west coast
Two fishermen drowned off the Co. Galway coast on Tuesday in circumstances which will probably never be known. Tony Coohill (36) and Féichín Mulkerrin (49), both from the village of Claddaghduff to the north of Clifden, set out at about 8:30am to check lobster pots and their upturned currach was found some hours later. An extensive air and sea search was launched immediately and both bodies were found close to Omey Island during the afternoon.
Conditions were good and the theory is that the currach was caught by a sudden swell. The two fishermen, both of whom were married with families, had previously lost brothers at sea.
Man charged with murder of wife
Early on Monday garda officers visited a house in the East Wall area of Dublin at the behest of two men who walked into Raheny Garda Station. At the house on Shelmalier Road they found Joan Vickers (43) with serious knife wounds to the throat. She was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.
One of the men who called to the garda station was Brian Vickers (42) who believed that his wife was already dead. He was accompanied by a relative whom he had called on for support earlier in the day. On Tuesday Vickers appeared in court charged with the murder of his wife.
At the time of Ms Vickers' death the couple's four children were spending the night with relatives. Residents of Shelmalier Road don't understand what is happening in their normally peaceful community. It is less than five months since another of their neighbours, Aidan O'Kane (50), was shot dead close to his home.
Last weekend's road victims named
Liam Sheridan (66), of Millbrook Road, Oldcastle, Co. Meath, was the motorcyclist who was killed last Saturday evening when he was involved in a collision with a car near Oldcastle, Co. Meath.
The man who died when the car in which he was travelling left the Muff to Moville road in the townland of Clar in Co. Donegal last Sunday, was named as Hugh Donegan (32), from the Shantallow area of Derry.
Road deaths in Counties Laois, Dublin, Mayo and Cork
NTR takes stake in US wind farm
NTR, which specialises in renewable energy and waste management, is investing in a $300m wind farm at Lost Creek, Missouri. Its partner in the venture, which will have a 150 mega watt capacity or enough to supply 50,000 homes, is the US-owned Wind Capital Group. The decision to proceed with the project came about as a result of the Obama administration's stimulus package.
AIB to raise €1.5bn
Following what were described as "extreme" stress tests carried out on AIB's loan book, on behalf of the Department of Finance, the bank has agreed that the €3.5bn in Government restructuring funds is insufficient. AIB now plans to raise a further €1.5bn by the end of the year, probably through the sale of assets. The most likely candidate to be offered for sale is the 70% stake AIB has in the Polish bank, Bank Zachodni WBK.
The news lifted the bank's stock price by more than 10% but that didn't last long and the stock was down on the week.
IN&M delays publication of 2008 results
For the second time in two months Independent News & Media has postponed publishing its annual results for 2008. On Tuesday the latest publication date of April 24 was pushed out to April 30. No reason was given.
The newspaper group has had its difficulties, not least of which is a €200m bond which is due to be repaid next month. The sale of the group's Australian interests was supposed to provide the necessary finds but that option has been abandoned. Efforts are currently being made to refinance the bond. The IN&M stock price fell by 87% in the past year.
It was a strange week which brought rain most days, but between Monday and Friday we enjoyed the sun for the greater part of the day. It was a different story at the weekend with long periods of rain, little sunshine and cooler temperatures.
Rainfall for the coming week will be above average. Monday will bring sunny spells and scattered showers. Tuesday could be the best day of the week and conditions might improve over the weekend.
Latest Temperatures: Day 10C (50F).................Night 5C (41F)
S P O R T
Allianz NFL Division 1 FinalKerry 1-15 Derry 0-15
Allianz NFL Division 2 FinalCork 1-14 Monaghan 0-12
Allianz NFL Division 3 FinalDown 1-14 Tipperary 0-18 AET
Allianz NFL Division 4 FinalAntrim 1-10 Sligo 1-12
League of Ireland Premier DivisionBohemians 2 Bray Wanderers 0
Cork City 1 Galway Utd 0
Derry City 0 Dundalk 1
Drogheda Utd 0 Sligo Rovers 0
Shamrock Rovers 2 St Patrick’s Ath 0
Roy Keane back in soccer managementIt came as a considerable surprise to most pundits on Thursday when it was announced that Roy Keane had been appointed manager of the English Championship club, Ipswich Town.
A day earlier his fellow Irishman, Jim Magilton, was sacked as manager of the club when he failed to reach the play-offs for promotion to the Premiership. Keane has signed a two-year contract. He was in charge when his new side travelled to Cardiff on Saturday and came away with a 3-0 victory.
Magners LeagueUlster 9 Cardiff 11
Munster 29 Scarlets 10
Ospreys 30 Edinburgh 32
Leinster 36 Glasgow 13
Dragons 27 Connacht 14
AIB League Division One Semi FinalsCork Con 6 Clontarf 25
Shannon 16 Garryowen 12
O'Connell will lead LionsMunster's Paul O'Connell will captain the British and Irish Lions in their forthcoming tour of South Africa. A record 14 Irish players were selected in the 37-man squad. Unfortunately Tomás O'Leary broke his ankle while playing for Munster against Llanelli Scarlets on Friday and has had to withdraw. He will also miss the Heineken European Cup against Leinster.
Ericsson 4 was first into Boston on Sunday, followed closely by Ericsson 3 and Telefonica Blue. There was just 18 minutes between the first three yachts. Puma Ocean racing has also arrived in Boston while Delta Lloyd, Telefonica Black and Green Dragon were still at sea at midnight UTC. Respectively they had 70, 71 and 110 nautical miles to go to the finish line. http://volvooceanrace.geovoile.com/
General information about the race and the competitors is at http://www.volvooceanrace.org/
While you can follow the progress of Galway-based Green Dragon at http://www.greendragonracing.com/en/
Or follow the plans for the Galway Stopover at http://www.letsdoitgalway.com.
At the Ballantine Championship in Korea at the weekend the best of the Irish was Peter Lawrie who finished on one-under for a share of eighth place. He was three shots behind Thongchai Jaidee who won at the first play-off hole. The rest of the Irish were Gary Maybin on four-over and Paul McGinley on eight-over. Last year's winner, Graeme McDowell, failed to make the cut.__________________________________________________________
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