|THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: April 19, 2010||| Print ||
|Monday, 19 April 2010|
The week's big story could have been about developments at Quinn Insurance or it could have been about the disintegration of the public service pay deal, but in the end these were overshadowed by volcanic ash which has grounded almost every commercial flight within Europe. Travellers across the world continue to be inconvenienced with tens of thousands trying to get home and just as many trying to go on holiday, on business trips or on other personal travel. At this stage it seems the ban on flying could continue throughout the coming week.
Quinn Insurance and the Financial Regulator were due in court on Monday but after a brief hearing it looked as if the battle was postponed for a week. On Thursday, without warning, the issue was settled without any battle. The case again came before the High Court but just to hear that Seán Quinn had withdrawn his objection to the permanent appointment of the two administrators.
It would have been reasonable to expect that unions represented at the negotiations which led to the recent public service pay agreement would encourage their members to accept the deal, but this is not the case. Only two large unions are recommending acceptance so the final outcome is far from clear.
North of the border, apart from the volcano the big story was the appointment of David Ford as Minister for Justice. It is almost 40 years since Stormont was last responsible for policing and justice.
Volcanic ash creates aircraft free skies
Volcanic ash from Iceland which started to disrupt flights from Scottish airports early on Thursday quickly affected flights from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast. Aer Lingus and Ryanair had already cancelled a number of flights before Dublin Airport was closed down at noon. Shannon was closed a short time later.
Restrictions were lifted for a time at Shannon and Cork airports, and then at Dublin Airport. But this was just long enough to allow some transatlantic flights to take off. Holidaymakers heading for the Canary Islands thought they would get away also but were disappointed at the last minute. That was around lunchtime on Friday and since then there have been no passenger flights into or out of Ireland.
Many stranded passengers have been frantically trying to make alternative travel arrangements while others are sitting back to see what happens. Some succeeded in finding space on the many car ferries crossing the Irish Sea although a few of the sailings were fully booked and one was cancelled for technical reasons. RTÉ interviewed people who had run out of money and didn't know what to do next and others who welcomed the opportunity to linger a while longer in Ireland.
Our own family has been affected. One son, normally resident in Helsinki, was visiting his brother in Edinburgh and was due to fly back to Finland at 6:15am on Thursday. He was turned away at the airport so he made a quick decision to catch the train to London where the airports were still open. That had changed by the time he arrived and he then decided to catch the Eurostar train to Brussels and chance his luck from there. When he found that all seats on Eurostar had been booked for days in advance he headed back to Edinburgh in the hope of catching the first Ryanair flight to Finland but it looks as if he will be waiting for some time. One of our Dublin-based sons, along with his wife and two two-year-olds, should be relaxing in Lanzarote. Instead they are on holiday with us in Galway. Pauline and I are due to fly from Dublin to Biarritz next Sunday morning but as a precaution we are already looking at the ferry alternatives.
Making life difficult for many travellers has been the practice of announcing the situation for the next 12 or 24 hours leaving the would-be traveller to hope that better news will follow when the window has passed. Ryanair were more helpful on Saturday when they announced that there would be no flights in northern Europe for the next 48 hours. On Sunday they announced no flights until 1:00pm on Wednesday. With this approach passengers knew where they stood and could decide whether to abandon their travel or try to make alternative arrangements.
By Sunday evening it was clear that the airlines were becoming impatient with those making the decisions about closing airports and airspace. KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways had all operated test flights, some of them in Irish airspace, and all reported no problems. The European Commission has taken note and says it is looking at possible solutions to the disruption of air travel without compromising safety.
In case anyone assumes that we are looking up at a cloud of dust, what we have been enjoying for the past week or more are clear blue skies. Cars in Galway looked a bit dusty on Friday morning but if that was volcanic ash it was the only visible sign of a problem. It is this settled weather, which is expected to continue up to and including Thursday, that is allowing the ash to remain over the northern half of Europe. Our usual south westerly airflow, bringing showers in off the Atlantic, would quickly solve our problems.
Quinn changes strategy
The two provisional administrators appointed to Quinn Insurance have now been made permanent although that looked like an unlikely outcome on Monday. Seán Quinn had been opposing the move but seemed to change his strategy after he recruited a financial restructuring team to help the group work its way through its current difficulties.
The High Court on Monday adjourned the case in which the Financial Regulator was seeking to confirm the appointment of two administrators at Quinn Insurance. The Quinn legal team made a lengthy submission which prompted the Financial Regulator to seek the adjournment so that he could digest the content.
On Tuesday the Quinn Group announced that it had appointed the London-based financial and operational restructuring company Talbot Hughes McKillop to manage the group out of its current difficulties while the existing management team focuses on operational issues. One of the firm's partners, Murdoch McKillop, has also been appointed as an interim executive director. The advisors will not, however, be involved with Quinn Insurance which is now under the control of the administrators.
Addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs on Wednesday, Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield rejected a suggestion that he was heavy-handed in dealing with Quinn Insurance but indicated that if Quinn came up with sufficient funds to meet regulatory requirements he would consider withdrawing the administrators.
On Thursday, without any advance warning, Seán Quinn withdrew his objections to the appointment of permanent administrators at Quinn Insurance. His change of strategy is aimed at protecting the 2,800 jobs and restoring corporate stability. Administrators Michael McAteer and Paul McCann have indicated that they have no immediate plans to talk with prospective buyers; it is reported that up to 30 expressions of interest have been received.
The employees of Quinn Insurance have also accepted that administration is the best route for achieving the stability of the company. Most commentators refer to Seán Quinn admitting defeat but it is more likely that he believes that the company won't be sold by the regulator and that by working amicably with the administrators he can resolve the solvency issues which concern Mr Elderfield.
Public service pay deal looking ever more shaky
Despite their leaders' involvement in negotiating the public service pay deal, the national executives of a majority of unions have decided to recommend rejection of what is increasingly being referred to as the Croke Park agreement, after the venue where the negotiations took place.
Going into the week two of the three main teacher unions had recommended rejection of the deal, as had IMPACT and UNITE. On Monday the Civil Public and Services Union and PDFORRA, the Defence Forces representative body, took a similar stance. A day later the national executive of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation also decided to recommend rejection. By then a total of seven unions had rejected the deal with just three recommending acceptance.
That afternoon SIPTU decided to advise its 70,000-strong public service membership to vote in favour of the Croke Park agreement. SIPTU sees it as important as it is the union that could lose membership if the Government initiated an outsourcing programme. SIPTU members are more likely to hold jobs that could easily be contracted out to the private sector. One of the few concessions won by the unions was a ban on outsourcing.
On a number of occasions Government spokespersons made it clear that, however unpalatable the deal might seem, the State simply did not have the funds to increase public service pay. One observer suggested that rejection could be very damaging to the country as any indication that the Government wasn't in control of public finances could lead to higher interest rates on exchequer borrowing.
Addressing the Fianna Fáil president’s dinner in Cork on Friday Taoiseach Brian Cowen once again emphasised that there will be no renegotiation of the Croke Park deal, should it be rejected by trade union members. Mr Cowen also criticised the failure of those in favour of rejecting the deal to come up with alternatives.
The results of the various union ballots are not expected to be available until the end of May.
Moriarty Tribunal may be forced into major change
A further delay in the publication of the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal into the granting of the second mobile phone licence has been caused by the new willingness of a key witness to give evidence. His evidence is expected to remove the basis for the Tribunal's provisional findings.
Michael Andersen, a Danish telecoms consultant, was brought in as an independent adviser when the bids for the mobile phone licence were being evaluated. Although central to the entire process, he refused to be cross-examined at the Tribunal unless indemnified against any claims arising from the inquiry. When he was unable to obtain the assurances he required he refused to return to Ireland to attend the hearings.
It now seems that Mr Andersen took fright when he learned, through the Tribunal chairman, that the Attorney General had concerns about the legality of the licence decision and it was these concerns which prompted the demand for an indemnity. In recent months it has become clear that the Attorney General held the opposite view and it is this knowledge, coupled with the persuasiveness of Denis O'Brien, that has prompted Mr Andersen to offer himself as a witness without the indemnity.
In his latest submission to the tribunal he makes it very clear that Esat Digifone was a clear winner of the licence competition and, in his extensive experience, had made one of the best submissions he had seen. He also insists that he would have been aware of any attempt by the then Minister, Michael Lowry, to influence the outcome. He is satisfied that the former minister made no such intervention.
The recent testimony from two members of the Attorney General's staff, followed by the forthcoming appearance of Mr Andersen, are of major significance. It is now expected that the final Moriarty Report will be radically different from the provisional findings which were supposed to remain secret but have been widely leaked.
Bomb explodes as North takes responsibility of justice
The transfer of responsibility for policing and justice from Westminster to Stormont took effect on Monday morning immediately after midnight. The occasion was greeted by dissident republicans with a bomb explosion which caused little damage, while the main item of business at the Assembly later in the day was the election of a Minister for Justice.
Both the SDLP and the UPP nominated candidates but neither could muster sufficient cross-party support. As was carefully choreographed the Alliance Party nominated its leader, David Ford, and he was elected with the support of the DUP and Sinn Féin. Already Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern has travelled from Dublin to Belfast for his first meeting with the new Minister.
The Real IRA claimed responsibility for a car bomb which exploded close to a British Army barracks in Holywood, Co. Down shortly after midnight on Monday morning. One man was slightly injured in the blast but damage was limited. The bomb was brought to Palace Barracks by a taxi driver whose cab was hi-jacked and who had been warned that his family would be harmed if he did not carry out orders.
It is believed that the explosion was timed to coincide with the transfer of responsibility for policing and justice to Stormont.
An explosives device, which was left outside Newtownhamilton PSNI Station in south Armagh early on Tuesday, was eventually made safe by British Army bomb experts. Some 60 families who had been evacuated at 2:00am were not allowed to return to their homes until 9:00pm.
In Belfast on Tuesday night a suspect device left at the Central Fire Station led to the building being evacuated for four hours, with appliances moved to other parts of the city to ensure they remained on call in case of an emergency.
This week on our website
· Around the 32 Counties: A historic march takes place in Kilkenny, a Mayo village holds a unique ceremony, and Sligo wants an iconic flag returned.
· US Visa Q&A: This week the Irish Immigration Center in Boston gives advice on renewing a two-year green card based on marriage to a US citizen.
Bits and Pieces
Interpreting the 1916 Proclamation
Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Supreme Court made some interesting comments about the wording of the Proclamation of Independence when he addressed the Parnell Spring Day Conference last weekend. He focused on the phrase "cherishing all the children of the nation equally", which, he noted, many mistakenly took to be a quote from the Constitution.
His main point, however, was that the use of the world "children" did not refer to young people but to all citizens of the State. He backed this up by referring to another occurrence of the word "children" in the sixth paragraph. This refers to "the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves...". Justice Hardiman thought it would be "most unfair" if "All the sacrifices were to be made by the little darlings".
Head shops and the "legal highs" remain in the news
Head shops and the "legal highs" that they sell remain in the news. Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency medicine, told delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation annual conference last weekend that the typical A&E unit every day has to deal with two or three patients suffering from the effects of taking head shop products. He fears the products sold in head shops more than he feared swine flu and predicts that more people will die as a result of the use of these synthetic drugs than the 24 who died from swine flu.
Ennis-based Desmond Houlihan, a retired solicitor, has succeeded at Ennis Circuit Court in closing the Laughing Buddha, a head shop operating from premises he owns on Chapel Lane. Mr Houlihan was told by the shop’s operator, Conor Doyle, that the shop would be selling items to support a children’s charity in Nepal, and only became aware of the nature of some of the goods on sale from a newspaper article. At Limerick Circuit Court last month Mr Houlihan secured a temporary injunction to direct Mr Doyle to cease trading.
On Thursday a petrol bomb was thrown into a head shop in Dundalk, causing extensive damage. A person who was on the premises managed to escape uninjured.
"Independence Auction" scheduled for tomorrow
A number of historical items, mostly dating from the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War, will be sold at auction tomorrow. The last letter written by Kevin Barry before his execution in 1920 is attracting most interest. Also on sale will be the cap badge worn by Michael Collins on the day he was assassinated, IRA army council documents, and medals awarded to 1916 volunteers. From an earlier era is Daniel O'Connell's processional chair.
The Kevin Barry letter has a guide price of €18k and the 600 lots in the "Independence Auction" are expected to achieve up to €500k.
Massive gorse fire in Kerry
Nine fire engines, water tankers and a number of other vehicles were needed to contain a massive gorse fire at the foot of Mangerton Mountain in Killarney on Monday night. Firefighters were called in from five separate towns to contain the blaze, which at one point came within six feet of a major forest. The fire, which led to the deaths of significant numbers of young deer and nesting birds, is believed to have been started deliberately and people have been asked to be watchful to prevent further outbreaks.
Audit brings funding to an end in inner city
An audit of the Dublin Inner City Partnership has resulted in funds being withdrawn from the organisation, which had the task of allocating funds to disadvantaged Dublin communities. The audit, by the State funding agency Pobal, found that senior staff members were being given “top-ups” to their salaries, of almost €10k in some cases, with the details of the full salaries paid to staff not being included in the annual budget. Pobal carried out two audits, one in March 2008 and the other in December 2009.
Permission granted for Cork docks project
An Bord Pleanala has approved plans for a major development at Cork docks which will include the construction of two swing bridges. Cork city manager Joe Gavin has said he is confident that the project will go ahead despite one of the companies involved being Howard Holdings. The company’s chief executive, Greg Coughlan, is expected to be arrested shortly for the non-payment of €28m in property loans (see business news).
New head office for OPW
The Office of Public Works on Thursday opened a new head office in Trim, Co. Meath for 300 staff. The €36m four-storey building has a civic plaza to the front and a central atrium crossed by a suspended bridge. The official opening was performed by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey who stressed the Government’s commitment to decentralisation in locating the headquarters in Trim. Mr Dempsey is a TD for the area.
· Dublin City Council plans to close three of its swimming pools in August due to a funding crisis. Although the city is currently European Capital of Sport it expects to close the pools in Coolock, Seán McDermott Street and Crumlin. Councillors have tried to distance themselves from the county manager's decision.
· Adele King, better known as the singer Twink, has reached an agreement with the Bank of Scotland and a repossession order for her home in Knocklyon, Dublin has now been removed.
· Gardaí have released a 68-year-old woman who was found to have two guns in her hand luggage, one of them loaded, when she went through security at Dublin Airport on Tuesday. The woman, from Finglas in Dublin, was detained overnight at Ballymun Garda station before being released. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
· The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs has found that, while alcohol use among Ireland’s young is lower than the European average, and falling, we have one of the highest rates of drunkenness among school students.
National Lottery Winning Numbers:
· Wed: 6, 13, 24, 33, 34, 38 (9) - there was one winner of the jackpot of €16,717,717.00; the ticket was bought in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.
· Sat: 10, 17, 26, 28, 36, 41 (14) - the jackpot of €m was not won.
The death by drowning of a 20-year-old Armagh man has led to calls for the draining of a quarry on the Navan Port road, close to Armagh city. Brendan Bell drowned last Saturday afternoon after getting into difficulties when he and a group of friends were enjoying the good weather. A number of local residents’ groups have called for the quarry to be drained, since it is claimed that Mr Bell is the fourth person to have drowned at the site in the past ten years.
Dentist and ex-lover for trial on murders
Dentist Colin Howell (51) and his former lover Hazel Stewart (47) are to appear at Antrim Crown Court on May 11 to answer charges in relation to the murders in 1991 of Mr Howell’s wife Lesley (31) and Ms Stewart’s husband Trevor Buchanan (31), a police officer. Initially it was thought that the deaths were the result of a suicide pact. The trial is unlikely to go ahead before September.
Cardinal discharged from hospital
Cardinal Seán Brady, who was admitted to hospital after being taken ill during a Confirmation ceremony in Co. Tyrone on Tuesday afternoon, was discharged overnight. Cardinal Brady (70) returned to Armagh to rest after undergoing a thorough medical examination at Craigavon Area Hospital.
Ten rescued from Newry fire
Firefighters brought to safety ten people from an apartment block in Newry, Co. Down after fire broke out early on Tuesday; five were subsequently treated for smoke inhalation. Another six residents of the block in the Corn Market had managed to escape from the building before the fire service arrived. It has been reported that the smoke alarms fitted in the four-storey building failed to activate.
The PSNI is investigating the fire with is believed to have been a racially motivated arson attack. All the residents are understood to be from eastern Europe.
Custody for ex-boxer on multiple charges
Former world champion boxer Eamonn Magee (38) was remanded in custody when he appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday on charges of burglary, threatening to kill his ex-wife and breaching a non-molestation order in connection with another woman. He is alleged to have stolen items from his ex-wife Mary Magee, made a threat to kill her, and damaged her car. Mr Magee, who denied all the charges, will appear in court again later this month.
Adams and Ritchie disagree over election strategy
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams suggested to SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie that the SDLP should withdraw its candidate in Fermanagh/South Tyrone to leave the field clear for his colleague Michelle Gildernew to fight the unionist unity candidate. In return, he said, Sinn Féin would not contest South Belfast to give the SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell a better chance of retaining his seat.
Ms Ritchie rebuffed the approach, giving a number of reasons why she was not prepared to co-operate with Sinn Féin.
Kidnapping victim calls for leniency for attacker
Bobby Tohill, who was beaten and abducted by an IRA gang in February 2004, and released after the gang was stopped at a checkpoint, is to plead for leniency for one of his attackers. All four men, Thomas Tolan, Gerard McCrory, Harry Fitzsimmons and Liam Rainey, skipped bail and the latter is still at large. Harry Fitzsimmons was extradited from the Republic last month and Mr Tohill says he does not want to see him sent to jail. He claims to have received apologies from all four men and says Harry Fitzsimmons was only following orders.
Fraudster jailed for 122 offences
Philip Carlin (45), from south Belfast, received a three-year jail sentence when he pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday to a total of 122 charges involving fraud and criminal proceeds. Over an eight-year period while employed at the Visteon factory Carlin amassed £750k by exploiting a weakness in the company’s parts-ordering procedure.
Judge Tom Burgess commented that, while the fraud was not the only reason for the closure of the plant last year with the loss of 200 jobs, it might well have significantly contributed to the closure.
Andor takes over US company
Belfast-based high-spec digital camera specialists Andor Technologies is paying $5m in cash plus 156,627 Andor shares for the assets of US company Photonic Instruments Inc. A further $2m may be paid, subject to certain targets being met. Manufacturing for Photonic will move to Belfast while sales will be managed from the Connecticut office of Andor.
Danny Morrison refused compensation for imprisonment
Danny Morrison, former Sinn Féin publicity director, has learned that he is unlikely to be paid compensation for his time in jail despite his conviction being quashed. Mr Morrison had been jailed for the abduction of Special Branch informer Alexander Lynch but the conviction was overturned in 2008. However Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward has ruled that Morrison and his co-accused have not proved to be “demonstrably innocent” and will therefore not be entitled to compensation.
· Fr Tom Layden, who is based in Belfast, has been named as the head of the Jesuit Order in Ireland. He is due to take up his new position on July 31 and will work in Belfast and Portadown as well as on a project involving an education centre in Ballymun, Dublin.
· The new Justice Committee, formed to hold the Justice Minister to account, is to be vice-chaired by former hunger striker Raymond McCartney. Mr McCartney, who spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1980, was nominated for the position by Sinn Féin.
· A car belonging to a Catholic PSNI officer was set alight in the Cornagrade area of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in the early hours of Wednesday. It is thought that dissident republicans were responsible for the attack.
· At the trial of Darren O’Kane (22), who was charged with assaulting a police officer in Limavady in September last year, District Judge Eamonn King told the court that 80% of the cases brought before him were caused by excess alcohol. In imposing a 12-month probation order on O’Kane, Judge King warned him that a repeat offence would warrant a custodial sentence.
· A High Court bid by Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice to prevent the distribution of a leaflet by Ian Paisley Jnr failed on Wednesday. Mr Allister was protesting at claims made about him in the leaflet by his rival for the Westminster seat, and now plans to take a libel action against Mr Paisley.
· Thieves who stole an ATM machine from a shop in Greencastle, Co. Tyrone on Wednesday left empty handed. The thieves drove a digger through the window of the shop but shop owner Martin McCullough had emptied the machine, a practice he carries out each night.
· A woman died in a two-car collision on the dual carriageway between Newtownards and Dundonald late on Friday morning. The victim was driving one of the cars.
· Lead was stolen from the roof of St Anne’s Church of Ireland church in Killough, Co. Down the week before last, damaging the roof in the process. According to the rector, Rev. John Ewart, the lead was not of great value but it has left the church roof vulnerable to damage by water.
· A collision between two motorcycles on the Castlewellan Road in Banbridge, Co. Down, at around 1:30pm on Sunday, resulted in the death of one of the bikers.
In the High Court on Tuesday Justice Michael Peart reserved judgement on an application by the State to endorse a European arrest warrant issued in France for the extradition of Ian Bailey. The former journalist is wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996 although he has consistently protested his innocence. He was arrested twice by gardaí, in 1997 and 1998 but no charges were preferred against him
Dutch national in custody on bomb scare charges
Jorge Flores (44), a Dutch national who was on board a flight from Amsterdam to Aruba off the coast of Venezuela, caused the aircraft to divert to Shannon after claiming there was a bomb on board. At Ennis Circuit Court on Wednesday Mr Flores, who has been in custody in Limerick since the incident in mid-January, pleaded guilty to causing the mid-flight bomb scare. He was further remanded in custody to appear in court again on Thursday.
Custodial sentence for drunk driver
Oliver Dunne (32), of Stepaside in Dublin, was given a three-year sentence with the last 18 months suspended when he was found guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday of dangerous driving, failing to stop, refusing to give a breath test and injuring Cian McGovern. The UCD student, a keen footballer, suffered a severe and permanent knee injury. Dunne was also fined €1,000 and banned from driving for two years.
Sailor fined and discharged over leaked information
At a court martial on Wednesday Able Seaman Eoin Gray (24) was given a three-month jail sentence and was discharged from the Defence Forces after pleading guilty to disclosing information about the movement of his ship, the LE Orla. Gray had obtained information from a friend in the Fisheries Monitoring Centre in order to let his girlfriend know whether he would be home on a particular weekend in December 2008.
Military judge Col. Anthony McCourt ruled that Able Seaman Gray could no longer be trusted in the eyes of his superiors and that the offence warranted a custodial sentence. Gray had faced five charges including at least one of aiding drug smugglers to evade naval patrols. When he agreed to plead guilty to one charge the others were dropped.
Open verdict in Bray stabbing case
An open verdict was recorded at the inquest on Thursday into the death of student Shane Clancy, who killed himself after killing Sebastian Creane and injuring two others in August 2009. All the dead and injured suffered stab wounds. The jury had been given two options, an open verdict or death by suicide.
Mr Clancy (22) stabbed Mr Creane, injured Mr Creane’s brother Dylan, and also injured Jennifer Hannigan, Sebastian’s girlfriend. Mr Clancy had once been in a relationship with Ms Hannigan and it appears that he was unable to come to terms with the fact that she now preferred someone else.
20-year driving ban for drunk driving
Niall Shannon (21), of Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, was disqualified from driving for 20 years when he was found guilty of drink driving in an incident in which two men died. Mr Shannon drove into the scene of an earlier road accident, hitting fireman Michael Liston and Garda Brian Kelleher who both died at the scene.
Shannon had originally been charged with dangerous driving causing death but this was withdrawn after two trials at which the juries failed to agree a verdict.
Student accepts legal aid in harassment case
At Naas Circuit Court on Friday PhD student Adeniyi Adekoya (42) was persuaded by Judge Gerard Griffin to take legal advice prior to his sentencing hearing in a case involving the harassment of a professor at NUI Maynooth. Mr Adekoya, originally from Nigeria, was found guilty of harassing Professor Gerry Boyle by sending him threatening emails. The case was adjourned for mention on June 8.
Court grants permission to cut internet access to music downloaders
The High Court on Friday granted permission to Eircom to cut the internet access of anyone illegally downloading music from the web. Following a case taken against Eircom last year by record companies EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner, Eircom has agreed to take measures to stop illegal downloads, including revealing identities of the downloaders and cutting them off if they ignore warnings.
Eircom had previously agreed to meet the demands of the record companies but the Data Protection Commissioner stepped in, claiming that releasing the IP addresses of suspected illegal downloaders was a breach of the Data Protection Act. Justice Peter Charleton ruled that IP addresses are not sensitive personal data.
· After spending a week in prison for contempt of court, SUV dealer John Kane, of Granard, Co. Longford, has now agreed to co-operate with Revenue which has been granted summary judgement orders for more than €10m. These relate to unpaid VAT and interest arising from some sort of "cross-border car racket".
· Lee Johnson (20), of Ballymun, was jailed for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill a man who was due to appear as a witness in the trial of Johnson's brother.
· David Curran (19), of Drimnagh in Dublin, is currently facing trial for the murder of Polish nationals Pawel Kalite (29) and Marius Szwajkos (27) in February 2008. Both were stabbed in the head with a screwdriver. Curran has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but this was not accepted by the prosecution.
Employment & Industrial Relations
Abtran, an Irish-owned business outsourcing company, on Monday committed to recruiting a further 300 staff at its operation in Cork. The jobs will come on stream over the next three years.
Plans to reopen Montrose hotel as budget hotel
The owners of the Montrose Hotel in Dublin, which closed in January due to poor bookings, plan to reopen it as a budget hotel offering bed and breakfast only. The hotel would have fewer employees and the directors of Lonnegan Trading Company Ltd, David Courtney and Pádraig Breen, are at present in talks with staff representatives over redundancy payments.
New directive will see 1,500 fewer HSE workers
A directive jointly agreed between the Departments of Health and Finance will see the HSE shedding 1,520 jobs over the coming year. This is the first phase of a Department of Health plan to have 4,560 fewer employees by 2012, which will reduce the numbers working in administration and management as well as implementing the redeployment of personnel in the primary, community and continuing care sectors.
Politics & Politicians
Despite undergoing what he described as “a robust programme of treatment” for his cancer over the past three months, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan says he has been able to carry out all his duties, including parliamentary debates, media discussions and Question Time in the Dáil. He was speaking to Seán O'Rourke of RTÉ radio's "News at One".
Mr Lenihan also had the stamina to be interviewed at length by Marian Finucane on Saturday morning.
Managing the Health Service in the dark
The Irish Times reports that senior managers in the Health Service Executive are unable to measure how well the system is performing from either a financial or effectiveness viewpoint. Key data is being withheld by staff who are taking industrial action in protest at public service pay cuts. There is particular concern that no one knows if a plan to save €35m is actually working.
Yoghurt bacteria a factor in future cancer treatment
Researchers at the UCC-based Cork Cancer Research Centre believe that they can treat tumours by developing a method of genetically engineering the bacteria found in probiotic yoghurt. The team, led by Dr Mark Tangney, reports that the bacteria will naturally travel through the body and grow inside tumours, thus obviating the need for chemotherapy.
Dr Tangney predicts, however, it will be at least ten years before the treatment can be used on patients. He also points out that eating vast quantities of yoghurt would not provide sufficient bacteria to prevent or cure cancer.
Doctor cleared of professional misconduct
Dr Phil Boyle has been cleared of professional misconduct by the fitness to practise committee of the Medical Council after he had refused to offer fertility treatment to an unmarried couple. Dr Boyle, who runs the fertility unit at the Galway Clinic, had his hearing held in private at the request of the complainant.
The committee found that the couple seeking treatment had not become Dr Boyle’s patients and it was not therefore within his power to refer them to another doctor. The fertility treatment offered by the clinic is one that is fully compatible with the Catholic Church's teaching on reproduction.
Russian consulate in receipt of post-adoption reports
The Russian consulate in Dublin has confirmed that it has received 15 of the 70 outstanding post-adoption reports, the lack of which led to 18 of the 32 local area health offices being placed on an adoption blacklist. The consulate has urged all parents to send in the reports and has advised prospective parents to continue with the application process.
Earlier in the week Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews urged the adoptive parents of Russian children to complete the reports required by the Russian authorities. It seems that the problem isn't with the Health Service Executive, as reported last week, but with the parents.
€4.5m award for disabled teenager
Evan Doyle (14) of Sligo was awarded €4.5m in the High Court on Wednesday, arising from alleged negligence at the time of his birth in Sligo General Hospital. It was claimed that failings by medical staff resulted in Evan developing cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. The court was told that his mother, Janice Doyle, had been given twice the usual dose of a drug to induce the birth and those attending her then failed to carry out a Caesarian section which would have averted the injuries suffered by Evan. The settlement was made by the Health Service Executive without admission of liability.
Passport backlog reaches 66,000
The number of passport applications to be processed has reached 66,000, an increase of 16,000 since the end of March. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs has said the size of the backlog is due to last month’s industrial action at the Passport Office in Dublin and an increase in the number of applications received.
Staff are at present processing 3,000 applications each day while applications have increased to 4,000 per day, 24.8% up on the same time in 2009. Much of this increase is caused by applications coming in early to avoid last minute panics. Following the bad publicity brought on by industrial action in late March the Civil Public and Services Union ended its ban on overtime, as well as the restrictions on answering phone calls and the manning of public desks.
Year's first cruise liner drops in on Dublin and Cork
The first of this year's expected 86 cruise liners berthed in Dublin Port on Tuesday morning. The MV Oriana was carrying 1,900 passengers and an 800-strong crew. A day later the same vessel became the first visitor of the year to visit the dedicated cruise berth in Cobh. More than 50 cruise liners are expected to follow. The spending power of passengers and crew gives both Dublin and Cork a huge boost during the summer.
Singing group Crystal Swing from east Cork, comprising Mary Murray-Burke and her children Derek and Dervla, spent some time promoting Ireland when they appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show on US television. The group won worldwide fame after posting their version of “He drinks Tequila” on the YouTube website. Ms DeGeneres subsequently provided a link from her official Twitter page.
The family is from Lisgoold, about five miles north of Midleton and the home of Irish Distillers, and instead of tequila they presented their host with a bottle of 12-year-old Jameson Whiskey.
Conservation & The Environment
€5k grants to purchase electric cars
The Government is to provide a grant of up to €5k to the purchasers of electric cars, which will also be exempt from Vehicle Registration Tax. Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Éamon Ryan expects family saloon size electric cars to be on sale from next January and the grant, he says, will bring the price into line with similar sized petrol and diesel vehicles.
The full grant will be available for battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV) priced in excess of €20k while BEVs costing less than that amount will qualify for a grant of between €2k and €4.5k. Hybrid vehicles with a list price in excess of €18k will qualify for a €2.5k grant.
On Monday Renault-Nissan, the Government and the ESB signed a tripartite agreement which will see Nissan and Renault BEVs become available in Ireland in January 2011, while the ESB is committed to providing 3,500 charging points by the end of next year.
Turfcutters continue working on bog
Claiming that no direct order has been received from Minister for the Environment John Gormley in relation to an EU ban on turf cutting, a group of Roscommon people are continuing to work the bogs. Led by county councillor Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who has said he is willing to go to jail if necessary, the owners of some of the 32 designated raised bogs have continued to cut turf. Mr Flanagan said they had offered the Department a compromise but had received no response.
List announced for heritage site nominations
The Department of the Environment has issued a list of the latest nominations for designation as world heritage sites. They include Royal Tara, the Céide Fields, Dun Aonghusa on Inis Mór, Clonmacnoise, Georgian Dublin and the Burren in Co. Clare. At present Ireland has only three such sites, Skellig Michael, the Giant’s Causeway and Brú na Bóinne.
Brake on development in Ennis area
Concerns expressed by the Department of the Environment about overzoning in Ennis, Co. Clare has led to the council placing a development “freeze” on large areas of land. Some 4,500 acres of land around Ennis has been zoned as residential. That would provide housing for some 100,000 people. The town has a population of 28,700 and this is forecast to grow to 35,000 by 2020.
Rather than dezone any land the council plans to allow phased development, presumably over a number of decades.
Justice Peter Kelly has granted an application by concert promoter MCD for a European Enforcement Order to facilitate the execution of a €2.2m judgement against singer Prince, who cancelled a show at Croke Park less than two weeks before it was due to take place. The order means that MCD can now pursue the pop star throughout Europe, and they are also considering applying for an enforcement order for the US.
Annual ‘Messiah’ held in Dublin
An audience of some 1,000 gathered to hear the annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” on Fishamble Street in Dublin, where the first performance was given more than 250 years ago. Our Lady’s Choral Society was conducted by Proinnsías Ó Duinn with guest soloist Ross Scanlon.
Co. Down teenager takes Texaco top prize
Seventeen-year-old Shane Finegan from Newry, Co. Down took the top prize in this year’s Texaco Children’s Art Competition with a pencil watercolour of mackerel. Shane now hopes to follow in the footsteps of a previous winner, Paul Costelloe, in becoming a fashion designer.
Seven new members of Aosdána named
At the annual general assembly of Aosdána in Armagh on Thursday seven new members were elected, bringing the total to 236; the affiliation of creative artists has a limit of 250 members. The new members include two architects, Sheila O’Donnell and Yvonne Farrell; poet Vona Groarke; playwright and director Conor McPherson; poet and playwright Francis Harvey; and two composers, Gráinne Mulvey and Kevin Volans.
Dr Michael Slazenger (69), who was piloting the light aircraft that crashed in Co. Wicklow last Saturday, died in hospital in the early hours of Monday. The accident, at a private airstrip at Powerscourt near Enniskerry, also claimed the life of his friend Noel Whitney (66) from south Dublin.
Dr Slazenger had worked as an anaesthetist at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin until his retirement in 2005. He was chairman of the company that owned the 4,000-acre Powerscourt Estate which was purchased in 1961 by his father Ralph after he sold his sports equipment business to Dunlop.
Man murdered in Cork
Gardaí in Cork launched a murder investigation following the discovery, early on Saturday, of the body of a man in a shed at the rear of a house in St Rita's Avenue in Gurranabraher. It was a number of hours before the victim was identified as Lee McCarthy (25), originally from London but who had been living in Cork for some years.
A 33-year-old man was arrested during the day and, at a special court sitting on Sunday, Timothy O'Driscoll of St Rita's Avenue was charged with murder and was remanded in custody.
Road deaths in Counties Laois, Clare, Waterford, Wicklow, Louth, Roscommon and Kilkenny
· On Tuesday morning two young Limerick men, Jeffrey Power (24) and Paul Considine (22), died in a two-car collision on the main Limerick to Dublin road on the south side of Mountrath, Co. Laois. The accident occurred on a stretch of the N7 which has yet to be replaced by motorway. The two friends were plumbers on their way to work on a construction site on Portlaoise.
· Also on Tuesday Matt McInerney lost his life when the car in which he was a passenger collided with another vehicle on the Ennistymon road on the outskirts of Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare. The victim, who was in his early 20s, was from the area.
· Two people were killed on Thursday afternoon in a collision between a motorbike and a car at Colligan, near Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. A 19-year-old motorcyclist died at the scene while a 46-year-old woman, the driver of the car, died later in hospital.
· A man in his early 70s was fatally injured at 10:15am on Saturday, when the car he was driving collided with a van on the N81 at Whitestown, Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow.
· Later the same day a two-vehicle collision at Rathgory, Ardee, Co. Louth claimed the life of a 73-year-old woman who was driving one of the cars.
· A 63-year-old male pedestrian was killed at 3:00am on Sunday when he was struck by a car at Springfield, Elphin, Co. Roscommon.
· A motorcyclist in his 40s was fatally injured on Sunday afternoon when his bike was in collision with a car at Knocktopher, Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny.
There is always someone who is worse off
Despite the dreadful state of the economy, Ireland has signed up to loan Greece €500m should that country fail to borrow sufficient on international markets. The €500m is our share of a €30bn package agreed among all EU States. The hope is that, with the promise of €30bn and another €10bn to €15bn from the IMF, Greece will now be able to borrow sufficient funds at an acceptable rate.
Initial market reaction has been favourable but Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will still present legislation to the Dáil that will enable him to release the funds if necessary.
€50m investment at risk due to bureaucracy
US telecoms company Shared Access is reported to be on the verge of pulling out of a €50m deal with the Office of Public Works. It is almost two years since it was agreed that Shared Access would invest up to €50m by placing mobile phone masts above 375 garda stations and would lease bandwidth to mobile phone operators. Obtaining clearance to install the masts has proved very troublesome and only 12 have been installed to date. The OPW blames An Garda Síochána for the delays.
In its Spring Quarterly Economic Commentary, the Economic and Social Research Institute offered a little encouragement for the optimist. For the current year it predicted that GNP will be essentially unchanged from its 2009 volume; the corresponding figure for GDP is 0.5% less than in 2009. Next year GNP should grow by 2.75% and GDP by 2.5%.
We were reminded that, while this return to growth is to be welcomed, it should be seen as a modest pace of growth as it will not be accompanied by any increase in the number of people in employment. At the same time the unemployment rate, anticipated at 13.75% this year, will decline to 13% next year as a result of emigration.
On the assumption that the Government is committed to 2011 Budget spending cuts and tax increases amounting to €3bn, the prediction is for the General Government Deficit to fall to 10.75% of GDP in 2011, down from 12% in 2010.
On the banking crisis, given that the recapitalisation needs of the Irish banks are now likely to be at least €33bn, and that the State investment in Anglo Irish Bank ultimately amounts to €22bn, in terms of net cost to the State a figure of €25bn is possible. This large addition to the national debt, we were told, is manageable and in no way threatens the solvency of the State. We were also told that the situation should never have arisen whereby Irish taxpayers are faced with such a large financial burden due to the behaviour of the private sector. It was noted, "If Anglo Irish Bank is of systemic importance, it should always have been regulated as such".
Retail sales jump influenced by car sales
An increase in car sales in February has pushed retail sales figures up by 3% over the level recorded in the same month last year. When car sales are removed, the data indicated a drop in retail sales of 3.1% compared with February 2009. Nevertheless the monthly figures show an increase in several categories between January and February of this year; sectors linked to the housing market were up, with furniture and lighting showing a 14.9% increase, although sales of food, drink and tobacco fell over the month.
Bookshop chain hopes to reopen some shops
Derek Hughes of Hughes and Hughes bookshops, which went into receivership in February, is hoping to reopen some of the Dublin-based shops with the help of a group of investors. Meanwhile Easons, who took over seven of the bookshop’s outlets, are said to be negotiation to take over stores in other locations.
Irish companies secure Olympic contracts
Irish companies, including architects and those involved in construction, electronics and renewable energy, have secured contracts to the value of €200m for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Announcing the contracts on Friday Minister for enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe called on other Irish companies to tender for the many other contracts still to be awarded.
Later in the week University College Dublin launched a marketing campaign to attract national teams to base their pre-Olympic training on the campus.
NAMA chief unhappy with banks' behaviour
Speaking before an Oireachtas Committee on Tuesday Brendan McDonagh, the chief executive of the National Asset Management Agency, lambasted the banks for their lax lending procedures during the height of the property boom. He noted that only 33% of the loans taken over by NAMA to date are producing cash in some form, whereas the banks had indicated that 40% of the loans were still performing.
Mr McDonagh also said that he would bulldoze partially built developments if there was no hope of them providing returns in the foreseeable future.
Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield also appeared before the committee. He confirmed that the immediate winding up of Anglo Irish Bank would be "prohibitively expensive" and warned that current mortgage interest rates are unsustainably low and will inevitably increase to economic levels.
Minister of State for Planning Ciarán Cuffe later addressed the conference of the Irish Planning Institute in Tullamore, Co. Offaly on the subject of unfinished housing estates. He also confirmed that some partly-completed estates may have to be demolished on the grounds of safety. He added, however, that planners and architects may be brought in to turn such estates into sustainable communities.
Businessman loses High Court bid to retain funds
In the High Court on Wednesday Justice Peter Kelly dismissed a bid by businessman Brendan Murtagh to retain his pension fund and some shares, to the value of €1.2m, to help towards his living expenses. He was told by Justice Kelly that it would seem extremely unjust to the investors to whom Mr Murtagh owes €28m if his plea were granted. He also appointed George Maloney as receiver of the Brendan Murtagh Approved Retirement Fund, said to be valued at up to €831k.
Mr Murtagh (64) was once estimated to be worth €271m but now has liabilities of €353m. His acquisition of Smart Telecom now seems to have been a major error. He was told by Justice Kelly that he would have to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer a wealthy man.
Judge gives gardaí leave to use force in arrest of developer
In the High Court on Wednesday Justice Peter Kelly gave gardaí leave to use force if necessary in order to carry out the arrest of Greg Coughlan. The millionaire developer has failed to comply with a €28m judgement over unpaid property loans and on ten occasions has refused to admit gardaí seeking to execute the court order to his house in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Gardaí now have permission to force their way into the house.
Bank of Ireland to sell assets
As part of its recapitalisation programme Bank of Ireland announced on Friday that it plans to sell assets, including New Ireland Assurance, the ICS Building Society and Bank of Ireland Asset Management, in order to gain EU approval for a State injection of €3.5bn. RTE reports that Irish Life and Permanent has expressed an interest in the sale, which will affect up to 1,000 of the bank’s employees.
According to the Bank of Ireland’s annual report, chief executive Richie Boucher received €1.49m last year as a top-up to his pension. The payment was part of a contractual arrangement that includes the option of retiring at the age of 55 with a pension based on 59% of his current salary.
O’Brien increases INM shareholding
Denis O’Brien now has an 18.7% stake in Independent News & Media after investing a further €19.4m. The new shareholding makes him the company’s biggest shareholder, with the O’Reilly family holding just 14.65%. Both had more than 29% before bondholders were given a stake in the group when the company was unable to make repayments on the due date.
We have just enjoyed a fine sunny week although temperatures slipped as the week progressed. It was one of those rare weeks when it failed to rain on Galway.
Similar conditions are to prevail until rain crosses the country on Friday.
Latest Temperatures: Day 14C (57F).................Night 8C (46F)
NHL Division 1
Dublin 6-30 Limerick 2-11
Galway 3-17 Cork 2-13
Kilkenny 1-20 Waterford 2-12
Offaly 2-14 Tipperary 1-18
Setanta Sports Cup Semi Final
St Patrick’s Ath 4 Sligo Rovers 1
EA Sports Cup First Round
Derry City 3 Galway Utd 2
Limerick 2 Cobh Ramblers 1
Airtricity Premier Division
Bohemians 2 Galway Utd 3
Drogheda Utd 0 Shamrock Rovers 2
Sp Fingal 2 Dundalk 1
Ulster 27 Ospreys 38
Glasgow 25 Ulster 18
Leinster 20 Ospreys 16
Scarlets 16 Cardiff 39
Connacht 12 Munster 18
Dragons 49 Edinburgh 28
AIB League Division One Semi Finals
St Mary’s 24 Old Belvedere 23
Cork Con 31 Dolphin 18
At the China Open there were six Irish players who made the cut to play out the weekend. Best of these was Graeme McDowell who finished on 10-under, five shots behind winner YE Yang. Damien McGrane was three shots further back on -7 with Shane Lowry and Peter Lawrie on -5. Gareth Maybin was on one under while Paul McGinley was on one over.
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