|THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: November 23, 2009||| Print ||
|Monday, 23 November 2009|
Issue No.1,190 - the complete edition
THE IRISH EMIGRANT
November 23, 2009 Issue No.1,190
The free news service for the global Irish community
Editor: Liam Ferrie ©2009 Irish Emigrant Ltd
Four Galway students died in a road accident in which the weather conditions almost certainly played a part. That was on Tuesday night and the weather continued to deteriorate, causing widespread flooding.
Counties Cork and Galway suffered most but that was of little consolation to those whose houses and business were flooded in Clonmel, Ennis, Carlow and a number of smaller towns and villages in south Leinster and Connacht. Traffic continues to be disrupted and the floods are showing little sign of abating. More rain is forecast.
The Irish soccer team's efforts to reach the World Cup finals in South Africa came to an end on Wednesday but in the most controversial circumstances. The goal that put Ireland out should have been disallowed on four counts but wasn't and has led to all sorts of protests.
The banks, the economy and the forthcoming Budget continue to make news but didn't merit the same attention in the past week due to other distractions.
Four Galway students die in road accident
National University of Ireland, Galway is in mourning following the deaths of four young students in a road accident near the Co. Mayo border. Weather conditions were very bad on Tuesday night when a car carrying five young women was involved in a head-on collision with a pickup truck on a dangerous bend on the N17 between Ballindine and Milltown.
Those who died have been named as Marie Ní Conghaíle (19) from Baile na hAbhann, Co. Galway, Theresa Molloy (19) from Leitir Móir, Co. Galway, Sarah Byrne (20) from Headford, Co. Galway and Sorcha Rose McLoughlin (19) from Mulgannon, Co. Wexford.
Michelle O'Donnell (21), from Cill Rónáin on the Aran Islands, was admitted to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar and later transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin where she remains in a critical condition. The man who was driving the pickup was also injured but has since been discharged from hospital.
All five were BA students whose courses involved the Irish language. They had been close friends who, according to reports, made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a day out in Sligo when they couldn't find a parking space on the NUI, Galway campus.
Two funerals took place on Saturday and two on Sunday, with three of the victims being buried in their local graveyards while Sorcha Rose McLoughlin was buried in Achill Island, the home place of her parents.
The place where the accident occurred was one of two adjacent dangerous bends on the seven kilometre stretch of road between Ballindine and Milltown. The narrow road has remained untouched over the years while huge improvements have been made to much of the road between Sligo and Galway. People living in the vicinity of the crash site claimed that 20 accidents had occurred on the two bends in the past three months alone. County councillors pointed the finger at the National Roads Authority, accusing it of ignoring repeated pleas for action. The NRA didn't comment.
I travelled along the same stretch of road a few days earlier and noticed an "Accident" sign on the approach to the bend, although there was no indication that a collision had taken place that day.
Two other people died on the country's roads on Tuesday. During the afternoon Seán Ward (31), with an address in Longford town, died when the car he was driving collided with an SUV at Agharra, between Ratharney and Ballynacargy, in Co. Longford.
Earlier in the day, at about 9:20am, a 58-year-old woman lost her life when the car she was driving crashed into a house on the Glenamaddy Road in Williamstown, Co. Galway. She has since been named as Sally O'Brien, who was from the town. It is believed that Mrs O'Brien had a heart attack prior to the crash.
Ireland under water
Parts of the country are experiencing the worst floods in living memory. Heavy rain for much of the month followed by torrential downpours in recent days has created havoc for many people living in the west and south.
The terrible conditions that prevailed on Tuesday night when the four NUI Galway students died in a road accident created difficulties on Wednesday morning for those travelling to and from Galway city. Flooding was reported on most roads in and out of the city although the biggest problems were on the Tuam road, a five-mile stretch of which was closed from the city through Claregalway. By the end of the day people living in Galway were being asked not to make unnecessary journeys.
The rain continued for much of Wednesday and Thursday and conditions for people living in low lying areas in Counties Galway, Cork and Tipperary took a serious turn. Hundreds of homes and businesses had to be evacuated as the flood water rose. In the west Ballinasloe seemed be worst affected with water three or four feet deep in places. Traffic was disrupted there and in Craughwell. By that stage the railway line near Ballinasloe was also flooded and Galway was cut off from the capital except for those who could afford to fly; Aer Arann put on extra flights.
By Thursday night the National Roads Authority had temporarily opened on two stretches of the new M6. A six kilometre stretch allowed traffic to bypass Ballinasloe and a 20km stretch bypassed Craughwell. When the Ballinasloe-Galway section of the M6 opens formally within the next two months we will be able to drive all the way to Dublin by motorway.
Other towns to suffer in the West were Ennis, Athenry, Abbeyknockmoy and Athleague. Flooding on the Dublin-Sligo railway line meant that passengers had to be bussed between Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon. In the early hours of Friday a Coast Guard helicopter lifted five members of a family, including an 85-year-old woman, to safety when water flooded their farmhouse home near Kilbeacanty, Co. Galway.
If anything the situation was worse in the south of the country. Towns from Clonmel to Clonakilty were all under water. Cork city was hit very badly as the ESB said it was forced to release water from Iniscarra Dam, eight miles upstream. As a result the River Lee overflowed, blocking roads and flooding houses and business premises. Vehicles were unable to access much of the city centre and many premises were flooded. Some 18,000 homes in the city were without a water supply due to a damaged pumping station.
On Friday Cork County Hall was closed due to the flooding. UCC was also affected and all lectures postponed for a week. Patients in ground floor wards in Mercy University Hospital had to be moved upstairs, while there seemed to be a boat service in place to bring staff to and from Washington Street.
Clonmel's flood defence work has yet to be completed and the town centre was again under a number of feet of water and business people who can no longer obtain insurance against flood damage face serious losses. In Fermoy the story was similar. In west Cork flooding was reported in Bandon, Inishannon, Skibbereen and Macroom. Parts of Carlow town and villages in south Kilkenny as well as Co. Waterford were also affected. Up North sandbags were out in Enniskillen and precautions were taken in other parts of Fermanagh and Tyrone.
Members of the Defence Forces, Civil Defence, An Garda Síochána and the Coast Guard have been kept active in different parts of the country, rescuing people, providing boat services and trying to prevent further damage by using sandbags. An Emergency Task Force has been meeting in the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Dublin. Among the members are representatives from the Departments of the Environment and Local Government, Justice, Health, Defence, Transport and the Taoiseach as well as members of the Coast Guard, Gardaí, Army and a representative from Met Éireann.
Keeping ahead of, or behind, the floods
We had extensive travel plans over the latter half of the week and managed to complete them without serious disruption. Originally we intended to spend Wednesday night in Kerry, Thursday night in Galway and then head for Dublin early on Friday. Fortunately we rethought that on Tuesday, without reference to the weather, and decided to spend Thursday night in the Midlands rather than Galway. Had we not made that change it is unlikely that we would have reached Galway on Thursday night as Gort was again blocked. And if we had made it to Galway we would have found the road to Dublin blocked on Friday.
On Wednesday morning Gort was virtually impassable but by the time we left home reports indicated that traffic was again getting through. Although we had to drive through heavy rain for most of the journey the drive to a friend's house in Ballymacellligot was uneventful. It was still raining the following morning as we headed for Sneem. We got as far as the entrance to Muckross House outside Killarney where we were greeted with a "road flooded" sign. The alternative suggested by the GPS took us up into the hills and after two or three miles we were confronted by a lake which covered the road. There was no way of telling how deep it was and even with a Land Rover Discovery we turned back and took the long detour via Kilgarvan and Kenmare before reaching Sneem.
Later in the day as we made our way towards Dublin we found that the road from Glenflesk to Barraduff was closed so another less onerous detour was required. Travelling along the Backwater Valley towards Mallow the course of river was obliterated as it had burst its banks to form a massive lake hundreds of metres wide which extended for mile after mile. Occasionally the road was flooded but never to any great depth. Mallow usually suffers badly in such conditions but recently completed flood defence work seemed to have achieved its objective.
After that we had no more trouble with floods. The plan was to leave the Land Rover in Dublin with one of our sons and return to Galway by train on Saturday. By that time the flooding on the line had subsided and we had no trouble getting home. We were, however, very lucky as the rail service was again suspended shortly afterwards as a result of concerns about the safety of a bridge near Ballinasloe.
On our way home to Menlo a sign said that the road was blocked due to flooding but it turned out that the blockage was just beyond the turn to our house. A day earlier it was different and at that stage the two-mile journey from town had become a four-mile journey. The water in the turlough at the bottom of the hill, about 200 yards from our house, was at its highest in living memory and a number of houses had water lapping their doorsteps.
Ireland go out in controversy
Ireland will not be playing in the World Cup finals in South Africa next summer, which should come as no surprise, but the manner of their elimination is causing enormous controversy. The goal that ended the dream will go down in history and will be discussed ad nauseam for decades to come.
Going to Paris as underdogs and trailing by a goal to nil, only the most optimistic fans thought Ireland had a good chance of reaching the finals. On Wednesday night, however, Ireland was the dominant team and deservedly took the lead through a well-worked Robbie Keane goal after 32 minutes.
Despite having the best of the chances, the second crucial goal just wouldn't come. The game went into extra time and after eight minutes disaster struck. A long free kick reached Thierry Henry close to the line, to Shay Givens' right. He passed the ball back across goal for William Gallas to head home. The referee signalled for a goal and was immediately accosted by a furious Shay Givens but to no avail. Most of us wondered what Givens was protesting about but seconds later a replay of the goal showed that Henry had kept the ball in play with his left arm and then used his left hand to guide the ball down to his foot for the perfect cross.
That goal was enough to eliminate Ireland and the fury it has caused has been remarkable. Here in Ireland there were widespread and vociferous demands that FIFA arrange a replay. Around the world soccer fans appeared to support the Irish cause and even the French public was embarrassed at the manner of their team's success.
On Thursday evening the FAI called a press conference at which chief executive John Delaney announced that Ireland was appealing to both FIFA and the French Football Federation to have the game replayed. FIFA was quick to reject this call, saying that the referee's decision is always final. That was the expected response and it had been hoped in Ireland that the French football authorities would concede that a wrong had been done and also request a replay. In recent years the English football authorities agreed to a replay when approached by both the teams involved.
On this occasion the French took the easy way out and claimed that they had to abide by FIFA's decision. Whether true or not, it is now being claimed here that the French would have asked for a replay but for the opposition of the unpopular national team manager, Raymond Dominech.
In making the case for a replay John Delaney cited the hype accorded by FIFA to its Fair Play Campaign which, ironically, was launched in response to the infamous "hand of God" goal scored by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. The Fair Play Campaign was visibly promoted in Stade de France prior to the game on Wednesday night, but FIFA has not mentioned it in any of its comments since.
What makes the elimination from the World Cup particularly bitter for most fans is the fact that Ireland was drawn against France as a result of a belated decision to seed the teams prior to the draw. Seeding had not been an issue until France, Portugal and Russia failed to top their groups and risked missing out on the World Cup Finals. It is universally accepted that the powers that be in FIFA would much rather have big name countries with big name players in South Africa than countries such as Ireland, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. For that reason seeding was introduced to ensure that France could not eliminate Portugal or vice versa.
The conspiracy theorists take this a stage further by suggesting that Wednesday's match officials had to be influenced, consciously or subconsciously, by FIFA's preferences and acted accordingly. How else, they argue, could the officials all have missed the two hand balls and the two players who were offside as the free kick was taken. The referee and his two linesmen refuse to comment, some allege on the instructions of FIFA.
I should say that there were others, most notably Roy Keane, who argued that the outcome should have been accepted as part and parcel of the game. Keane went further and said that the issue should never have arisen. Ireland, he said, had squandered enough chances to have won the game without the need for extra time and as for the goal, he argued that Shay Givens should have prevented it reaching Henry.
By Sunday the FAI had accepted that it was pursuing a lost cause but still wants a change in the rules to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. Most commentators have been arguing that there can be no further excuses to prevent the introduction of video replays to help referees in key soccer fixtures.
AIB makes more mistakes
Controversy blew up on Tuesday over AIB's plans to replace outgoing chief executive officer Eugene Sheehy, who announced in April that he was standing down. A few days earlier we had learned that the bank was having trouble finding a CEO to meet the criteria set down by Government, that someone from outside the bank be appointed on a salary that doesn't exceed €500k.
At that time it was also reported that chairman Dan O'Connor was to become executive chairman, to allow Mr Sheehy leave his post. On Tuesday it emerged that AIB's head of capital markets, Colm Doherty, would have been the board's preferred candidate for CEO but for the Government's criteria. It was also reported on Tuesday that Mr Doherty would instead be given the new title of managing director, retaining his old salary of €633k.
This news was in the public arena before Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan had a chance to react and he was not impressed. After Tuesday's cabinet meeting he made it clear that the Government's rules on salaries would be enforced. It took AIB until Monday morning to realise that its position was untenable and in the Dáil Taoiseach Brian Cowen was able to announce that Mr Doherty would take up the role of managing director on a salary of €500k.
For a time the media was accusing AIB management of trying to bounce Minister Lenihan, essentially AIB's largest shareholder, into accepting a situation which the bank knew was in conflict with his plans. By the end of the week it seemed clear that there was no conspiracy but rather a communications mix-up within the bank.
The events of the week reignited the debate on how much a senior banker should be paid. Some experts explained that the AIB never had a chance of attracting a CEO from outside of Ireland with a salary of €500k. Public opinion and the stance taken by Opposition TDs make it well nigh impossible for Mr Lenihan to have second thoughts about appropriate salary levels.
Whatever about the appropriate salary, my own view is that after last year's global banking collapse it would have been well nigh impossible to find a banker anywhere who wasn't in a similar position to that of those being forced from the top jobs in Ireland's banks.
In an interim management statement on Wednesday AIB announced that it expected to make an operating profit of €2bn in 2009 but it will be increasing its bad debt charge for the year from €4.7m to €5.7m. Analysts viewed the news as positive.
Closing in on Decision Day
Throughout the week we had to put up with a great deal of posturing on the economy and how to set it right. The Government is still looking for €4m in savings when it publishes the 2010 Budget next month but waffles sufficiently at times to give the public service unions reason to hope that pay cuts might not be as severe as proposed.
A pre-Budget debate took place in the Dáil on Tuesday, although debate did not seem the right word for the period I listened to it; strenuous efforts were being made to shout down whoever was trying to speak. Opposition parties have, for the most part, agreed that savings of €4m are required but the suggestions for achieving this did not add up.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen twice gave hints as to what will be included in the Budget. In the pre-Budget debate he said that the country cannot afford to continue to pay social welfare at current rates but added that the issue will be reviewed "with care and consideration". In the same debate Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan made it clear that "having 50% of earners out of the tax net is not viable if we want to fund the range of services we expect Government to provide". That would suggest that he will be reducing some personal tax allowances in the budget.
Addressing a pension funds awards ceremony in Dublin on Wednesday Mr Cowen intimated that State pensions will not be affected by the December 9 budget. At least that is how it was interpreted by most observers. He told the audience at the European Pension Funds awards that he had no intention of undoing the good work carried out in improving living standards over the years, and that pensioners "will not be adversely affected by the decisions we have to make". I think he could also have made that statement if he intended to reduce the State pension by the rate of deflation the country has experienced in the past year.
Unions involved in the 24-hour strike in the public service tomorrow have said there will be at least one further day of strikes unless the Government gives guarantees in relation to pay. Peter McLoone, chairman of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has said there will be one more day of action before the Budget on December 9.
Among those voting to take part in the strike were the 3,000 members of the Association of Higher and Senior Civil Servants who earn between €60k and €100k per annum. The vote in favour was 60% to 40%.
While most union members taking part in tomorrow's day of industrial action will be picketing throughout the day, the members of the Association of Secondary Schools in Ireland have decided to hold a 90-minute picket beginning at 8.30am. The union has defended the decision, saying that its members will still be losing a day's pay, while the National Parents' Council has said that if the teachers are going to strike there should be no half-measures. Christmas shopping would appear to be on the agenda.
The HSE has announced that non-emergency procedures will be cancelled tomorrow during the one-day strike, and outpatient appointments will be rescheduled. More than 40,000 nurses, other professional staff and administrative staff are expected to take part in the industrial action but doctors will continue to work as usual.
The one positive decision arising from the strike is that those involved in emergency work relating to floods have agreed to work as normal.
Three charged with Wexford killing
Late night assaults, particularly at weekends, are not at all uncommon and sometimes lead to tragic consequences. Last weekend three separate incidents were reported. In one case the victim died and in the other two the victims were described as critical with serious head injuries.
James Doyle (40), of Gorey, died in hospital on Monday, two days after being assaulted in the Co. Wexford town. Mr Doyle was attacked when he went to the aid of his 26-year-old nephew outside the Mezz nightclub in the early hours of Saturday. He was transferred with serious head injuries to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, where he later died.
Three men have been charged with intentionally or recklessly causing him harm. The three accused, Mantis Kriksciunas (18), Roman Muhins (19) and Arus Janovskis (23), have all been living in Gorey for some time. They were remanded in custody to appear in court in Dublin on Friday.
At around 10:00pm last Saturday night a man in his late 30s was assaulted at a car park on Werburgh Street in Dublin south inner city and received serious head injuries. The victim was initially taken to St James' Hospital but later transferred to Beaumont Hospital. The victim, a Romanian national employed by Dublin City Council, was clamping illegally parked cars when he was struck on the head with a hammer. The latest news is that he is in a stable condition, having spent much of the week on life support.
A 23-year-old soldier based at Collins Barracks in Cork was attacked while drinking in the smoking area of a pub in Youghal, Co. Cork in the early hours of last Sunday morning and left with serious head injuries. Private Graham Gillman, who had served with the UN in Chad, was said to be in a critical but stable condition in Cork University Hospital.
This week on our website
Bits and Pieces
More success against cigarette smugglers
Customs officers and gardaí continue to have successes in tackling cigarette smugglers. Some six million Regal brand cigarettes were monitored as they arrived at Dublin Port from Barcelona in a container labelled "hair extensions". The container was collected and the driver was allowed to drive to Dundalk before Customs stopped the vehicle near the Co. Louth town on Monday.
A similar number of Souvenir brand cigarettes arrived in Dublin Airport from Vietnam last Saturday. This shipment was hidden in a consignment of furniture. A number of people were arrested. The total value of the two shipments is estimated at €4.8m.
Kenmare housing increases despite fall in population
The number of houses and apartments being built in Kenmare has increased over the past five years, despite the fact that the population of the Co. Kerry town fell by 8% between 2002 and 2006. The mix of residents in the town contrasts with other towns, in that 27% are foreign nationals and 16% are aged over 65, both figures above the national average. Over the past five years planning permission has been granted for 670 dwellings and local councillors are seeking legal advice on the possibility of dezoning lands and returning them to agricultural and rural general zonings.
Way cleared for publication of report on abuse
In the High Court on Thursday Justice Paul Gilligan gave permission for the publication of the report into the way in which the Catholic Church and State authorities dealt with allegations of abuse by clerics in the Archdiocese of Dublin. However references to a specific priest and to his brother must be removed from the report.
At an earlier hearing Justice Gilligan ruled that Chapter 19, which relates to the priest, could not be published. The report is expected to be published before the end of the week.
Arrears affect one in five households
A new report from the Central Statistics Office has revealed that one in five households in the State are in arrears over payment of mortgages, utility bills, credit cards or rent. The "Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2008" found that households on lower incomes were more likely to be in arrears for rent, mortgages and utility bills, while arrears in credit card payments and servicing of overdrafts were more likely among those on higher incomes.
PAC hears of multiplying costs of child abuse inquiry
At a hearing of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee on Thursday Brigid McManus of the Department of Education agreed that the original estimate of €2m to €2.5m for the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse could rise to as much as €136m. Up to April of this year a total of €71m in costs had been paid and the major increase in costs is in part due to the fact that what was to take two years will have been ten years in operation when it concludes next year.
Survey reveals contentment among Irish
A survey carried out by the Irish Times revealed that the majority of people in Ireland are content with their current style of living and optimistic about the future. Some 69% of those questioned had not suffered a pay cut, while the figure for those whose working hours had not been cut was 76%.
People have generally adapted their lifestyles to the economic downturn, putting off major purchases, undertaking more DIY and growing their own fruit and vegetables. The 18-25 age group appear to be the most upbeat, while 94% of those over 65 years of age said they were content with their lives. The most likely to be concerned about the future are those aged 45-54.
Sligo garda arrested over trafficking
A 52-year-old garda in Sligo, who has been suspended for the past year due to the ongoing investigation, is one of three people arrested for questioning in connecting with human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. The others arrested were a 33-year-old woman in Dublin and a 53-year-old man in Sligo.
All three were later released and files are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is possible that the Gardaí may not issue either fixed charge notices or penalty points as part of tomorrow's day of industrial action by staff in the public service. The Irish Times reported on Saturday that an internal memo from the Garda Representative Association has pointed out the non-necessity of fixed charge notices, while urging its members to continue to enforce summary legislation.
Gardaí are forbidden by law from taking industrial action.
National Lottery Winning Numbers:
Increase in Northern road deaths, despite recession
While deaths on the road tend to drop during a recession, the North is one of two places in the 'developed world' which has recorded a rise in road deaths over the past year. The decrease is usually associated in part with there being fewer cars on the road. While deaths in the Republic have fallen by 15% over the past year, the North has just registered its 100th death this year, compared with 87 this time last year.
Another fatality was reported from the North in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The victim, a man, was travelling in a car which collided with a truck on the Shore Road in Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim at around 2:00am.
Two men died at around lunchtime on Saturday when the stolen car in which they were travelling crashed in Ballyclare, Co. Antrim. Both victims were aged 23 and the car was taken from a house in Larne earlier in the day. PSNI officers had spotted the stolen vehicle in Ballyclare town centre shortly before the accident.
New leader for Republican Sinn Féin
Des Dalton from Kildare was elected president of Repubican Sinn Féin at a meeting in Wynn's Hotel in Dublin last Sunday. Mr Dalton replaces Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who recently announced his retirement after leading the party since it broke away from Provisional Sinn Féin in 1986.
Gas leak leads to Belfast evacuation
A fire which broke out under the Ormeau Bridge in south Belfast on Monday caused the rupture of a gas pipe and led to a number of families being evacuated from their homes for several hours. The leak caused two explosions which damaged footpaths before Phoenix Gas turned off the supply and made the area safe. The bridge has been reopened.
Vandals were later accused of removing the casing from the pipes carrying the gas and then lighting a fire which melted the pipes.
Third man arrested in Tohill kidnapping
Harry Fitzsimmons (40), one of a gang of four responsible for the kidnap of dissident Bobby Tohill in 2004, was arrested in Dundalk, Co. Louth early in the week and now faces extradition to the North. Two members of the gang, Gerard McCrory (37) and Thomas Tolan (37), were sentenced to seven and six and a half years respectively after being arrested two years ago while attending a family function. The fourth member of the gang, Liam Rainey (35), is still at large.
Majority agree to reverse Easter lily decision
A majority of the students' governing body at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster voted to reverse their decision to sell the Easter Lily on campus. The students' union had voted to sell the lily in order to give it equal status to the poppy, which is sold on behalf of the Royal British Legion. However they were advised by the Equality Commission that to do so could damage working relationships among staff and could leave the union open to being sued.
Grammar schools consolidating selection test plans
In direct opposition to Department of Education guidelines, Catholic grammar schools are organising meetings with their non-Catholic counterparts to draw up a common test for academic selection next year. And there appears to have been little response from school principals to a request from the Church hierarchy to set out how they propose to phase out testing. Primary school children have over the past week been sitting selection tests for 34 schools in the North.
Former priest denies rumours in media
Fr Seán McKenna, who announced to his parishioners in Ballymagroarty, Co. Derry last week that he was stepping down from the priesthood, has denied a number of rumours being circulated in the media about his relationship with nurse Elaine Curran. It has been reported that he met her while counselling her during the break-up of her marriage, that she does not have custody of her two children, and that Fr McKenna decided to leave the priesthood because Ms Curran was pregnant. Having denied all the rumours, he said he would not be speaking about the matter again.
Dissident republicans launch gun and bomb attacks
Dissident republicans drove a car containing a 400lb bomb through a barrier in Belfast on Saturday evening and abandoned the vehicle outside the Policing Board's headquarters. The device partially exploded as the area was being cleared but little damage was caused.
Also on Saturday shots were fired at PSNI officers in Garrison, Co. Fermanagh. Fire was returned but no one was injured. Later the PSNI atrested three men while gardaí arrested another man close to the border in Co. Leitrim.
A mortar bomb in Armagh on Wednesday was dealt with by bomb disposal experts after a member of the public had told police about the device. According to District Commander Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson, the bomb was clearly intended to kill police officers in the area. A number of people were evacuated from their homes on the Friary Road while the bomb was made safe.
Life sentence for Christmas Day killings
Brian Hennessy was jailed for life after he pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday to the murders of Sharon Whelan and her two daughters, Zara (7) and Nadia (2), in Roscon, Co. Kilkenny on Christmas Day last year. The 23-year-old postal worker from Windgap, Co. Kilkenny changed his original plea at the start of his trial.
Justice Barry White ordered that the Hennessy must serve concurrently the two life sentences imposed for the deaths of Ms Whelan's children, after he has served the life sentence for killing their mother. It is expected that this provision will ensure that he spends 30 years in prison.
The bodies of Sharon, Zara and Nadia were found by neighbours after fire engulfed the house; Ms Whelan had been strangled and was naked from the waist down, and the two children had died from smoke inhalation. Hennessy, who barely knew Ms Whelan, was arrested after gardaí took DNA samples from 300 men living in the area. He had been on a ten-hour drinking binge before arriving at his victims' door.
Bail for three charged with manslaughter
Three men who were arrested and charged with the manslaughter of farmer John Twomey at Rylane, Co. Cork in July 2008 have been remanded on bail and will appear at Macroom District Court on December 2. Connie O'Sullivan (57) of Rylane, his son Finbarr (24) of Dripsey, and Thomas Byrne (24) of Rylane East were also charged with assaulting Mr Twomey's brother Patrick on the same date. The alleged assaults took place as a result of a dispute over land.
Reserved judgement in tribunal claim for costs
Five judges of the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John Murray, have reserved judgement on an application by the Mahon Tribunal for legal costs in its three-year action for a court order to force Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy and Public Affairs correspondent Colm Keena to reveal sources. The tribunal had taken the action seeking the source of information contained in an article about payments to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Counsel for the journalists said there were no special circumstances to justify not awarding costs to the victors in the case, Ms Kennedy and Mr Keena.
HSE employee has damages reduced over 'exaggeration'
In the High Court on Wednesday Justice Nicholas Kearns described as 'exaggerated' a claim by Bernadette White of Moville, Co. Donegal for €750k for injuries received in a car accident. Remarking that such a sum was more appropriate to paraplegic injuries, Justice Kearns reduced the sum to €60k, €31k of which must be paid to HSE for money paid to Ms White while she was out of work due to personal injury.
Man in extradition case remanded in custody
James O'Gara (32), a New Jersey native living in Galway, was arrested on Tuesday on foot of a High Court warrant last July and has been remanded in custody for a week. He is the subject of an application for extradition in connection with a robbery in New York in 2007, where he is alleged to have left behind him both the $12,600 in cash, stolen in the robbery, and a gun.
Jail sentences for cannabis distribution
Two men found guilty last month of possessing cannabis resin and conspiring with others to provide it for sale and supply were given 12- and 14-year sentences when they appeared at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday. William Hynes (43) of Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath and John Mangan (41) of Blanchardstown received 12 and 14 years respectively, with Mangan's term beginning on completion of a current sentence some nine years from now.
Equality Authority faces massive legal bill
The Equality Authority, in other words the taxpayer, has been made responsible by the Supreme Court for the legal costs arising from its failed case against Portmarnock Golf Club. The club only accepts men as full members. The costs are expected to amount to €500k.
Before the case went to the Supreme Court the golf club offered to waive its High Court costs if the authority accepted the outcome.
Life-time driving ban and jail sentence for dangerous driving
At Tullamore Circuit Court on Thursday Andrew Palmisano of Portarlington received a five-year jail sentence and was banned from driving for life after being found guilty of dangerous driving causing death. In May of last year Palmisano crashed into a taxi driven by Jim Le Blanc from Mountmellick, causing the death of Mr Le Blanc and of his own passenger, Adam Zygadlo of Mountmellick. A second passenger was seriously injured in the accident.
The court heard that the defendant had been warned about the defective brakes on his car but had failed to take action.
Two found guilty of rape remanded in custody
Romanians Julian Hiobanel (23), of Finglas in Dublin, and Radu Grierosu (21), of Island Street in the city, were remanded in custody after being found guilty at the Central Criminal Court of rape and intentionally or recklessly detaining a woman three years ago. A day earlier the jury had found the pair guilty of holding the woman without her consent and of taking her handbag. In remanding the two men in custody pending sentencing, Justice Peter Charlton ordered that they undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Employment & Industrial Relations
Damien Smullen of Wicklow lost his appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal for unfair dismissal from Iarnród Éireann after he had been given a second chance following an earlier incident of wrongdoing. In 2007 Mr Smullen was found to be involved in the illegal disposal of rails and sleepers but was reinstated after recompensing the rail company to the value of €100,000, being given a final warning, and having his work monitored for two years.
It subsequently emerged that Smullen had also been involved in falsifying payments to a contractor by signing off on invoices for 600 truck-loads of spoil being removed from the site of the new Dublin Docklands station, when only 23 truck-loads had been removed.
US software company to create 150 jobs
US software company Bentley Systems Inc. has established an International Shared Services, Sales and Marketing Centre in Dublin, with plans to create up to 150 high-quality jobs. Bentley is a global supplier of software to the architecture, engineering, construction and geospatial sector and has been involved in the Aviva Stadium project on the site of the Lansdowne Road rugby ground.
Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley and Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan were present for the formal announcement of Wednesday. The offices will be located at Dublin's Harcourt Street.
Bentley has already started recruiting multilingual finance and administrative personnel, sales and marketing professionals, technical support engineers, and product release engineers with software industry experience.
Politics & Politicians
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn to become EU commissioner
Former Fianna Fáil minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will be Ireland's next European Commissioner. Her nomination, which was widely predicted, was announced on Tuesday by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn had a long career in Irish politics starting in 1975 when, at the age of 24, she succeeded her father as TD for Galway West. By the time she retired from the Dáil in 1997 she had served as both Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications and Minister for Justice.
In 1999 the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, nominated her as Ireland's member of the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg, a position she still holds.
Adverse reaction to proposed prescription charges
The announcement by Minister for Health Mary Harney that a prescription charge for medical card holders is 'on the table' has provoked opposition from a number of groups, including Age Action. Spokesman Éamon Timmins said it would hit those on low income or those with long-term illnesses, while the Irish Medical Organisation described the proposal as a 'blunt instrument'. It has presented the Department with a plan which, it claims, could save €300m.
Opposition politicians also presented alternative ways of reducing the cost of the national drug bill. They didn't seem to understand that it isn't a case of either/or and that all opportunities to reduce the bill should be adopted.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that the 50 cent per item charge would raise €30m per year. The primary aim is, of course, to prompt people to stop and think if medication is always the correct answer.
Prof. Drumm to give bonus to charity
On last Saturday's Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Health Service Executive CEO Professor Brendan Drumm confirmed that his controversial €70k bonus will be given to charity. The bonus, which has not yet been drawn down, is in respect of 2007 and it has emerged that Prof. Drumm's 2006 bonus, of €80k, was also given away.
Dublin mother has new heart device fitted
Elaine O'Hara, a mother of four from Ballinteer in Dublin, has been fitted with a left ventricular assist device, a procedure normally given to patients awaiting heart transplants. With a life expectancy of four to five weeks due to her unsuitability for a transplant, the 37-year-old was fitted with the LVAD device during an eight-hour operation in August and is now ready to be discharged from hospital after an eight-month stay. The LVAD is a battery-operated pump which artificially maintains the action of the heart.
Unregistered hostels criticised in new report
A report from the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, "Separated Children living in Ireland", has found that 124 people under the age of 18 were living in unregistered hostels in Dublin which were left unattended by care staff overnight. The report looked into the care provided for child asylum-seekers who had been separated from their parents and found that the centres at which they were staying failed to meet the standards set out in the Child Care Act, 1991. It was also stated that the centres had not been subject to inspection by the Health Information and Equality Authority.
HSE reports decline in swine flu infections
The Health Service Executive has reported a drop in the numbers becoming infected with swine flu, from 174 per 100,000 two weeks ago to 134 per 100,000 last week. It has also been reported that more than 100,000 have received the swine flu vaccine at HSE clinics, with a further 65,000 reported by GPs, though this figure is likely to be considerably higher when all GP returns are received. According to Dr Darina O'Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the more people who are vaccinated the less likely it is that a second wave of infection will take place.
An Bord Altranais reports on professional misconduct cases
At a board meeting of An Bord Altranais during the week it was reported that a total of 25 nurses had been found guilty of professional misconduct over the past year, in relation to clinical practice, competence, behaviour, and drug and alcohol abuse. Of the total, nine nurses were struck off the register, three were suspended, ten were censured or their registration was subject to conditions, and three were reprimanded. The number of complaints made against nurses last year totalled 75, compared with 29 ten years ago.
Travel & Tourism
Significant number of restaurant jobs at risk
At a press conference on Monday, the Restaurants Association of Ireland claimed that up to 80% of the members are losing money, and one in three could close in the next six months. To prevent the estimated loss of €700m to the economy, the association called on the Government to take measures to secure the sector, including a reduction in the minimum wage and a lowering of the VAT rate on alcohol consumed in restaurants.
Derailed train closes line
A section of the railway line between New Ross and Dublin will be closed for at least a fortnight following the derailing on Monday of an out-of-service train just south of Wicklow station. The incident was caused by a landslide and the driver of the train was uninjured.
Two days earlier another section of the the busy commuter line had to be closed when an embankment was found to be unstable. That had already forced the bussing of passengers between Gorey and Arklow, now the bussing is required between Gorey and Wicklow.
The derailment came on the day that the Dublin-Belfast line reopened after a three-month closure caused by the collapse of the Broadwater Estuary Viaduct. Those who used the service were disappointed that their train arrived in Dublin 20 minutes behind schedule. Many others had come to like the bus services that had been put on after the viaduct collapsed in August. The two replacement bus services are to continue to run for the next two weeks after commuters said it was faster and less crowded than the train service. However Bus Éireann is to scale the service back at the end of that period.
Both Translink and Iarnród Éireann plan major marketing campaigns with reduced prices in an effort to entice passengers back on to Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service.
New ruling by European court on airline delays
The European Court of Justice has ruled that airline passengers will be entitled to compensation if they are delayed for three hours, and airlines can only claim exception if the delay is caused by 'exceptional circumstances'. These do not, the court ruled, include technical problems unless caused by some event such as sabotage.
Contract signed for speed cameras
A five-year €65m contract was signed on Friday by Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern with the GoSafe consortium which will see 45 speed cameras in operation by next summer. It was in 1998 that the Fianna Fáil government first pledged to provide the cameras, which will be deployed in some 700 accident black spots around the country.
The Irish Abroad
Applications for DV Lottery 2011
The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco is taking appointments for the processing of applications for DV Lottery 2011. To make an appointment contact the center at 415-752-6006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for the submission of applications is 12 noon (EST) on Monday November 30 and only electronic registration is accepted. The designated internet website for registration is http://www.dvlottery.state.gov
American book prize for Irish author
Colum McCann has become the first Irish person to win the National Book Award for Fiction in America, for his novel "Let the Great World Spin". McCann, who has lived in the US since 1994, dedicated his prize to the late Frank McCourt.
US-based priest released on bail
Fr Francis Markey (81), who is due to face charges in Ireland for allegedly twice raping a boy in Ireland in 1968, has been released from jail in Indiana after his extradition hearing was adjourned. The US judge adjourned the hearing to enable Fr Markey's lawyer time to research Irish law.
Conservation & The Environment
Report recommends reduction in incinerator capacity
A report commissioned by the Irish Waste Management Association has recommended that the capacity at the planned incinerator at Poolbeg in Dublin should be halved. The report by environmental consultants SLR Consulting states that the proposed size of the facility would put some 1,000 jobs at risk and would cause a reduction in recycling. Private companies have already confirmed that they do not want to use Poolbeg and there has been a decrease of a fifth in the amount of commercial and industrial waste over the past two years.
From the information available it is not clear why an incinerator should affect the amount of waste being recycled nor is it clear if the intention of the IWMA is to continue using landfill.
Another eagle killed
A white-tailed sea eagle killed in the North by shotgun is the ninth killed by human intervention since they were re-introduced into Kerry two years ago, according to Dr Allan Mee. A total of 55 eagles have been brought from Norway under the project and a number have spent some time at Lough Neagh before returning to Kerry. The PSNI is investigating the shooting of the bird, whose carcase was found floating on the lake in October.
Taoiseach launches €150m plan for ‘smart schools'
On Monday Taoiseach Brian Cowen launched a report entitled, "Smart Schools = Smart Economy", and committed to a new action plan costing €150m over the next three years. The most talked about aspect of the plan is the decision to provide every classroom in the country with a teaching laptop, software and digital projector.
The advisory group which produced the plan was chaired by Paul Rellis, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland, and comprised members of ICT Ireland, the Telecommunications and Internet Federation, the Irish Software Association, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and the National Centre for Technology in Education.
It also emerged that high-tech multinationals operating here are to provide the country's schoolteachers with ICT training at no cost to the State.
TCD registration fee not totally used for students, committee told
Appearing before the Oireachteas Education Committee on Thursday, TCD students' union president Cónán Ó Broin reported that a significant amount of the annual student registration fee is being channelled into replacing cuts in the HEA grant. The fee, which rose this year from €900 to €1,500, is meant to be used for student services, examinations and registration. The committee is to seek a response to the question from Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe before next month's Budget.
Two pensions for double-jobbing lecturer
It has emerged that Fergal O'Malley, who held lecturing jobs simultaneously in NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology for a period of eight years until 2007, is to receive pensions from both institutions. The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Bernard Allen, has asked that NUI, Galway president Dr James Browne should appear before the committee in relation to the situation.
Entertainment & The Arts
Comeback concert ends in controversy
The pop star of the ‘60s and ‘70s who was known as Cat Stevens, and who became Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam, was booed by a large section of the audience at the O2 in Dublin last Sunday. The audience enjoyed the opening half of the come-back concert, which consisted of old Cat Stevens' hits and a few new numbers.
After the interval stage actors and singers appeared on stage to perform a 40-minute preview of the singer/songwriter's new West End musical, "Moonshadow". That was not what the audience paid to hear and many were quick to make their feelings known by booing, slow handclapping and walking out. By the time Yusuf realised he had to abandon the musical and resume his solo performance the damage was done.
Some of those in the audience thought the reaction was way over the top and said they were ashamed of the way the artist was treated.
Belfast college wins national choir contest
The choir from Methodist College Belfast, under the direction of Ruth McCartney, won the RTÉ All Island School Choir Competition held in Belfast last week. They beat the three other finalists, King's Hospital, Dublin; Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny; and St Mary's College in Derry.
Inquiry into death at railway station
An inquiry is to be carried out by the Health and Safety Authority into the death at Barnhill railway station in Lucan on Friday of a foreign national. The man was working with a colleague in a trench at the new station when they were both struck by the bucket of a digger. The second man received only minor injuries.
Rents at ten-year low
House rental prices, which averaged €1,000 per month a year ago, are now at €771, amounting to a fall of almost 18.5%. The figures, extracted from a website specialising in property sales and rentals, show that Dublin rents have fallen by almost 21% over the past year while in Galway rents have actually increased over the last three months by almost half of one per cent. The decrease in rents appears to be ongoing, with sharper than average declines in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
First commercial tidal energy generator installed
Irish renewable energy company Openhydro has installed what it claims to be the world's first commercial-scale tidal power electricity generator in the Bay of Fundy, for Nova Scotia Power. The unit consists of a giant turbine which is attached to the sea bed and is driven by the coming and going of the tide.
The Co. Louth based company is currently in the process of raising €30m from investors, having already raised €52m in a previous round.
Anglo Irish Bank allowed to sell borrower's assets
In the High Court on Tuesday, Anglo Irish Bank was given permission to sell properties and assets worth €11m belonging to Breifne O'Brien, once thought to be a highly successful investment advisor. It is now known that O'Brien accepted large sums from investors, often his friends, but used the cash to fund his lifestyle and businesses, and to repay other investors. In court last year he estimated his liabilities to be between €16m and €19m.
Replacement named for NTMA chief
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has, as expected, appointed John Corrigan as chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency. Mr Corrigan, at present director of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, will take over from Michael Somers who is to step down on December 3.
Investigation into property dealings of two managers by AIB
The Irish Times reports that two AIB managers who are involved in property dealings are being investigated by the bank. Tommy Hopkins, general manager with AIB commercial banking in Ballsbridge, Dublin, and John Hughes, head of business banking in the Eyre Square, Galway branch, are both involved in a number of property companies and other companies. Mr Hughes told the newspaper that all his business dealings are in compliance with the bank's code of ethics.
High Court warning to lenders
In the High Court on Friday the Master, Edmund Honohan, issued a warning to lenders that they must comply with the Financial Regulator's code of practice when dealing with those who fall behind with their mortgage repayments. Mr Honohan struck out three cases on the grounds that the lenders had given no evidence that they had complied with the code. He also cited a recent case in Britain in which a subprime lender was fined £5m for the mistreatment of clients who fell into arrears.
I have said nearly all there is to say about the weather. It rained for much of the week although we had some respite for a time on Monday. At least that was the case in Galway but there were reports of flooding in parts of Cork city and county.
Friday was also a sunny day in many parts and provided welcome relief. Flood water had the chance to subside a little before more heavy rain fell over the weekend. Sunday also brought gale force winds.
The winds will die down today but rain will be a feature of the coming week although it will not be quite as intense.
Latest Temperatures: Day 10C (50F).................Night 8C (46F)
S P O R T
Connacht Club SFC Final
Charlestown P Corofin P
Leinster Club SFC Semi Finals
Portlaoise 0-7 Clara 1-5 - match abandoned
Munster Club SFC Semi Finals
K O'Rahilly 1-8 Moyle Rovers 0-9
World Cup Play-off
France 1 Ireland 1 Agg 2-1
FAI Cup Final
Sp Fingal 2 Sligo Rovers 1
League of Ireland Premier Division Promotion/Relegation Play-off
Bray Wanderers 2 Sp Fingal 2 AGG 2-4
Ireland 41 Fiji 6
AIB Cup Quarter Finals
Ballymena 20 Old Belvedere 19
Golf: McIlroy second in Order of Merit
Rory McIlroy went to Dubai this week knowing that all he had to do to claim the European Order of Merit and win an extra million euro was to finish ahead of Lee Westwood. However Westwood was in superb form, shooting a final round course record 64 to finish on 23-under. McIlroy had to be content with second place in the Order of Merit and third place in the tournament with a score of 15-under. Pádraig Harrington was a shot further back, sharing fourth place.
The rest of the Irish were further back the field with Gareth Maybin in 27th on -4. Graeme McDowell was on 3-under in 30th place and Peter Lawrie in 42nd on one-under.
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