|THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: November 29, 2010||| Print ||
|Monday, 29 November 2010|
Issue No.1,243 - the complete edition
THE IRISH EMIGRANT
November 29, 2010 Issue No.1,243
The free news service for the global Irish community
Editor: Liam Ferrie ©2010 Irish Emigrant Ltd
It was yet another momentous week in Irish politics. We were still digesting last Sunday's news that the Government was requesting financial support from the European Union and the Euro Area Member states, when the Green Party almost brought the whole process to a halt. Without giving his Cabinet colleagues prior warning John Gormley said the party would pull out of Government in January. He went on to say that he expected a General election late in the month. The uncertainty he created subsided when Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke to the nation via a televised press conference. He said a general election would be called next year after a funding deal had been agreed with the EU/ECB/IMF, after the publication of the four-year National Recovery Plan and after legislation had put the provisions of the forthcoming Budget into effect.
The National Recovery Plan was published on Wednesday and, while everyone agrees that it is tough, there seems to be a widespread view that it is necessary. Some of those who disagreed marched through Dublin on Saturday in an effort to persuade the Government to change its mind. It is unlikely that the trade union organisers thought this possible so they were probably more interested in being seen to actually do something.
At another time the Donegal South West by-election would have dominated the week's news but it was largely ignored until the count started on Friday. From the moment the first ballot boxes were open it became clear that Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty would be a comfortable winner.
By Sunday evening the funding deal had been agreed. Ireland will have available €85bn; €35bn for the banks and €50bn for the Exchequer. While the interest rate will be determined at the time the cash is drawn down, if all of it was taken up today the rate would be 5.8%.
No matter what catastrophes befall us we can always find time to talk about the weather and there was much to talk about it in recent days. Snow is rare enough in Galway but having to deal with it in November is practically unheard of. The entire country is in the grip of a severe cold snap that is expected last for at least another week.
Belt tightens even further
The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, launched on Wednesday by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Minister for the Environment John Gormley, was as depressing to most people as anticipated. Much of the general detail was forecast and there were no great surprises.
The €15bn adjustment over four years, the front loading by finding €6bn next year, and the split of one-third in taxes to two thirds in savings had all been well signalled in advance. It was also confirmed that corporation tax would remain fixed at 12.5%, that the minimum wage would be cut, the welfare system will be reformed, and water charges will be introduced, as will a property tax.
The following is a summary of the changes that captured most attention.
The document also tries to reassure us that recovery is very possible and that there is much in the Irish economy that is positive. Exports have been growing and are expected to be up by about 6% in real terms this year, we have a highly educated young workforce, good infrastructure, tax policies which are favourable to entrepreneurship, investment and work, and we have become much more cost competitive.
The Plan is based on a number of assumptions/projections/goals:
The reaction - much of it predictable
Most people will find themselves out of pocket one way or the other and so the media was able to talk of hardship and poverty although "austerity" was the most frequently used word. While Opposition politicians were critical, it seems clear that, should they find themselves in Government in the coming months, they will be reluctant to reverse any of the measures they are criticising.
Labour's Pat Rabbitte was quickly on air to say that he was completely opposed to the reduction in the minimum wage. Not to be outdone, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton took the same stance. Neither seemed to understand that it was such a populist approach to policy that led us to where we are today. Both professed to have other issues and Fine Gael in particular said that it will attempt to renegotiate much of the content with the EU, ECB and IMF while retaining the same overall goals. Both parties were of the view that the Plan did not provide sufficient emphasis on job creation.
Trade unionists were unanimous in their opposition to the reduction in the minimum wage and also continued to argue that taking €6bn out of the economy will only put more people out of work. When this argument was raised on RTÉ's Prime Time programme, economist Colm McCarthy pointed out that the approach being suggested by the unions required additional borrowing while our current problem is that no one is willing to lend us money; he wasn't listened to.
Prof. McCarthy was reasonably impressed with the entire package but questioned the continued inclusion in the Plan of Metro North, the underground service from the city centre to Swords via Dublin Airport. He urged city business owners, who feared the construction phase would destroy them, to relax as it will never happen. Presumably rather than argue over a project that can easily be abandoned by the next Government, Fianna Fáil decided to leave it in the plan to keep the Greens happy. Prof. McCarthy argued that the Croke Park Agreement should have been abandoned, and more should have been cut from the social welfare bill.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley seems to have insisted on participating in the launch so that he could give a party political broadcast on behalf of the Green Party. His approach was described by one market analyst as "absolutely shocking behaviour" while the world was watching.
Help from 'friends', but at a price
It became clear in recent days that the European Union/International Monetary Fund loan facility for Ireland would be agreed by Sunday evening. The announcement came on schedule and the deal is that €85bn is available as needed. €10bn is earmarked for the recapitalisation of the banks, €25bn in contingency funds for the banks and €50bn to be drawn down by the Exchequer when bond yields are considered unreasonable.
In its statement the Government explained, "The assistance of our EU partners and the IMF has been required because of the present high yields on Irish bonds, which have curtailed the State's ability to borrow. Without this external support, the State would not be able to raise the funds required to pay for key public services for our citizens and to provide a functioning banking system to support economic activity. This support is also needed to safeguard financial stability in the euro area and the EU as a whole."
During the week RTÉ reported that the loan facility would amount to €85bn. The broadcaster also predicted correctly that one of the conditions would be that some of the money will be used to increase the level of capital available to the banks to 12% or, in the jargon, 'Core Tier 1 capital ratios will be raised to at least 12%'. Some months ago the Financial Regulator informed the banks that they would be required to hold reserves of 8%, up from 4%. The share price of the two main banks dropped dramatically after the RTÉ announcement.
RTÉ later claimed that Ireland would be paying an interest rate of 6.7% on borrowings under the programme though the Government now suggests that the rate will be 5.8% if drawn down now, but that this rate will fluctuate as market rates fluctuate.
The official statement concluded by saying, "The Government welcomes the support shown to Ireland by our Eurozone partners and in particular by the UK, Sweden and Denmark who have expressed their willingness to offer bilateral assistance. The Government also welcomes the assistance of the IMF".
Britain's contribution of some £7bn was discussed at length. The intervention was appreciated but it was noted that supporting Ireland was in Britain's interest, given our importance as a trading partner.
The conditions for the loan facility were attached to the Government statement but these seemed to be a reiteration of the summary document released with the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014.
Although the loan facility is for €85bn, €17.5bn is supplied by Ireland. €12.5bn will come from the National Pension Reserve Fund and €5bn from cash reserves.
Another interesting development is an extension of the time limit to bring the budget deficit down to 3% of GDP. This can now be delayed until 2014 but that does not mean the cuts over the next four years will be any less severe. Instead it acknowledges that growth rates anticipated in the National Recovery Plan may not be achieved.
Marching against the cutbacks
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions had designated Saturday as a day of protest against the Government and its proposals to repair the economy. Everyone was invited to participate in a march from Winetavern Street to the GPO to hear from a number of speakers. The organisers refused to say how many they expected to participate so we don't what was their measure of success.
Prior to the march gardaí said they anticipated a crowd up to 60,000. Shortly after it got under way at noon a garda spokesman estimated that 10,000 were taking part. This was later revised upwards to 20,000 and later was estimated as "up to 50,000". It does seem that, as the head of the march was turning on to O'Connell Street, others were setting out from Winetavern Street, just over a kilometre away. Many must have decided not to await the speeches as, from television footage, it was hard to envisage that a crowd that would fill the new Aviva Stadium was assembled on O'Connell Street. The street appeared empty from the Spire northwards and there was no great pressure from the large crowd in front of the podium.
In addition to speeches from ICTU president David Begg, SIPTU's Jack O'Connor and Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole, the crowd heard songs from Christy Moore and Mary Black.
It was interesting to follow comments on Twitter. Some participants tried to give a running commentary, others who would have liked to have been there were impressed, but bemoaned the lack of live coverage on RTÉ. It was strange that we had to rely on Sky News for coverage of a Dublin story. Other tweets took exception to the presence of David Begg and Jack O'Connor on the platform. Some pointed to the huge salaries enjoyed by these and other union leaders and argued that they were in the pockets of the Government. It was claimed that a large section of the crowd booed both men as they made their speechs, but there was no mention of that in the news.
Marchers interviewed for television news were very angry with the Government, with the EU, with the IMF, with bankers and with the content of the National Recovery Plan, but then they wouldn't have come out on such a bitterly cold day if they weren't angry.
General election by March at latest
Green Party leader John Gormley created shockwaves on Monday morning by announcing that his party wanted a general election in the latter half of January. The decision was made at a party meeting on Saturday but Mr Gormley only informed the Taoiseach minutes before going public.
The Green Party announcement predictably threatened to collapse the Government before it passes the enabling legislation that will follow the crucial Budget for 2011 on December 7. It triggered all sorts of uncertainty - Independents Jackie Healy Rae and Michael Lowry made it known that they would not be voting for the Budget; a number of unhappy Fianna Fáil backbenchers called for Brian Cowen to be replaced or for an immediate election, or both; Opposition leaders were slow off the mark but eventually Labour's Éamon Gilmore and later Fine Gael's Enda Kenny demanded the dissolution of the Dáil.
Fianna Fáil ministers remained silent, creating speculation that perhaps Mr Cowen was preparing to go to the Áras to ask the President to dissolve the Dáil. It wasn't until midway through Monday's 6:01 RTE news that the Government Press Office announced that the Taoiseach would be making a statement within 30 minutes.
When Mr Cowen appeared before the assembled media he was flanked by his entire team of Fianna Fáil ministers. He opened by saying, "There are occasions when the imperative of serving the national interest transcends other concerns, including party political and personal concerns. This is one such occasion".
He went on to explain the urgency of publishing a four-year plan for a €15bn budgetary adjustment by 2014 and the adoption of a Budget to save €6bn in 2011. It was also, he said, vital to make the necessary legislative changes to give effect to the terms of the Budget and to conclude negotiations on a programme for support from the European Union, the ECB and the IMF. It became clear that the EU/ECB/IMF agreement, to provide Ireland with a multi-billion euro loan facility, is contingent on the four-year €15bn plan and a December 7 Budget which delivers savings of €6m.
Mr Cowen appealed to all TDs to help push the Budget through. He also made it clear that once all the provisions of the Budget are passed into law he will dissolve the Dáil and call an election. It is unlikely that this can happen before the end of January and according to some observers we won't have an election until March.
Afterwards Mr Cowen phoned Enda Kenny and Éamon Gilmore to stress the need to pass the Budget if Ireland is to receive the promised international support. It is believed he also offered them access to Department of Finance officials to review Government accounts.
While Mr Cowen refused to criticise the Green Party action, reporters said that privately Fianna Fáil Ministers were furious with John Gormley and Éamon Ryan; the pair sat through a long Cabinet meeting on Sunday and never even hinted at the bombshell they were about to drop the following day. It appears that very harsh words were spoken at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. According to the Irish Times some Fianna Fáil ministers had, on Monday night, advocated that the two Green ministers be dismissed and an election called immediately. Those who believed that the it was in the best interests of the country to remain in office until the Budget was passed, prevailed.
I think Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin was the only Fianna Fáil Minister to publicly criticise the Greens. She said, "I am not sure that they have shown that they have the best interests of the country at heart, but we are just going to have to work with them over the next few months. This is bigger than the Green Party and bigger than Fianna Fáil".
The only approval for the Green Party decision, and its timing, came from Opposition TDs but even they had second thoughts. Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar thought the timing was appalling and asked why the announcement couldn't have been delayed until after crucial votes on the Budget had been concluded. The more charitable critics of John Gormley and his colleagues spoke of "political naivety".
Pearse Doherty wins Donegal by-election
Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty was the comfortable winner of the Donegal South West by-election. Senator Doherty took 39.785% of the first preference votes and was deemed elected after the fourth count without reaching the quota. Fianna Fáil expected to do badly and that is how it turned out but Labour's hopes of polling well took a severe knock as its candidate was back in fifth place.
The first count put Fianna Fáil's Brian Ó Domhnaill in second place on 21.33%, Fine Gael's Barry O'Neill was third on 18.66%, Independent Thomas Pringle was fourth with 9.98% while Labour's Frank McBrearty was on 9.78%. Independent Ann Sweeney announced a day or two before polling that she was withdrawing, but her name was on the ballot paper and 133 people voted for her.
By the time the fourth count was complete Barry O'Neil had edged past Brian Ó Domhnaill by 103 votes but the combined total of both candidates was less than that accumulated by Pearse Doherty.
The turnout of 56.03% was down on the 2007 general election and the total valid poll was 33,424. In 2007 Fianna Fáil took just over 50% of first preference votes. Losing more than half its vote was a major setback, but Fianna Fáil politicians tried to put a brave face on it by noting that Senator Doherty had the advantage of being well known across the constituency, having contested two previous elections. They also argued that things would be different in a general election, with candidates covering different parts of the constituency and people concerned about who would form the Government.
It wasn't a great result for Fine Gael either with its share of the vote down 4.34 percentage points. Labour did triple its share of the vote but with a high profile candidate and in the current political climate the party must be bitterly disappointed.
Since the result was announced Sinn Féin, now with five TDs, has been in contact with Independent TDs Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan with a view to forming a technical group; seven TDs working together have additional privileges in terms of speaking time and the ability to successfully table motions.
The Donegal result leaves the Government with a majority of two.
Two more gangland killings
Two young men were shot dead at the Tesco filling station in the Clearwater Shopping Centre in Finglas at about 11:40pm on Tuesday. News of their deaths was, however, far from being Wednesday's top story as the media had too much to say about the economy. The two who died were cousins but didn't fit the bill for the usual victims of a gangland shooting.
Glen Murphy (20) and Mark Noonan (23), both from the northwest inner city near the North Circular Road, had been watching a DVD in the home of Mark's girlfriend when they decided to go to the filling station to buy some snacks. Both got out of the car and walked over to the service hatch when the gunmen struck from the passenger side of a BMW. One was shot in the back of the head as he stood at the hatch. The other tried to get back into the car but a gunman emerged from the BMW and shot him dead before returning to his car to be driven off.
Three men were travelling in the BMW which had already circled the filling station three times before the cousins arrived. This has led to suggestions in some sections of the media that the victims had been "set up".
The motive for the double murder is unclear. While the younger of the two cousins had served a short prison sentence, neither had come to the attention of gardaí as being associated with any of the capital's drug gangs.
Other customers who were in the area escaped unhurt, as did the Tesco staff member who was working at the hatch.
This week on our website
Bits and Pieces
Christmas is going ahead as planned
Despite all the negativity that we have to put up with on a daily basis, nobody has yet talked of cancelling Christmas, at least not publicly. The message that Christmas will arrive on schedule was delivered very strongly in Dublin last Sunday with the switching-on of the lights on O'Connell Street, Grafton Street and Henry Street. Dublin's Lord Mayor Gerry Breen threw the switch for O'Connell Street and those who turned up to watch were treated to a show of circus acrobatics in front of the GPO. Athlete Derval O'Rourke helped light up Grafton Street and boxer Bernard Dunne was given the task on Henry Street.
In what might be described as giving two fingers to recession, Brown Thomas on Grafton Street have created a special gift room to house its selection of products with labels such as Cartier, Prada, Tiffany and YSL. Those with just a little spare cash can spend it on a visit to the ice rink at Arnotts. It has been set up on the roof and has been attracting a significant number of skaters who might not have otherwise visited the store.
Christmas officially came to Belfast last Saturday night when the lights were switched on by TV presenters Éamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, with mayor of Belfast Pat Convery. Also opening that day was the Christmas Continental Market at City Hall, which will run until December 19.
New Public Services Card to be launched in January
Starting in January a new public services card will become a prerequisite for all claims for State benefits. The cards, containing a microchip and the photograph of the holder, will be phased in over a number of months. Apart from becoming the key identifier for people receiving State payments such as unemployment assistance and pensions, it will also replace medical cards for those who qualify and as a travel pass for those, such as pensioners, who are entitled to free bus and rail travel.
Although the cost of implementing the scheme is put at €24m it is expected to more than pay for itself by reducing the level of fraud currently taking place. During the week Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív revealed that overpayments in the Social Welfare system in 2009 amounted to €65.5m. Roughly half of this arose from errors of one type or another and more than €20m was the result of fraud.
Predictably the Irish Council for Civil Liberties is opposed to the scheme although no one will be forced to obtain the card unless seeking some kind of support from the State.
Apartments fail to sell in Ballybofey
Forty-seven partially-completed apartments which had been put up for sale by a receiver on behalf of the Ulster Bank failed to attract any bidders. The Navenny Place apartments in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal had a reserve price of €500k and although this was reduced to €300k there was no bidder. Some 100 subcontractors had attended the auction and prospective bidders were urged by builder Dessie McFeeley to "walk out the door". The protesting subcontractors claim they are owed €1m for work carried out in the complex.
It is feared that a number of small firms would go into liquidation and people will lose their homes. Mr McFeeley urged receiver Patrick McDermott to try to work with those involved to save jobs.
NNI unhappy with RTE website
The National Newspapers of Ireland have complained to an Oireachtas Committee that advertisements carried on the RTE website amount to an abuse of its role as a public service. According to NNI co-ordinating director Frank Cullen, state broadcasters overseas are not allowed to advertise on their websites and, while there are statutory limits to the advertising carried on RTE television and radio, none at present applies to the website.
Gardaí react to organised crime in north Mayo
Early on Thursday up to 70 gardaí, including members of specialist divisions, carried out a number of searches on residences in the greater Ballina area. The operation was part of an investigation into organised crime in the north Mayo area. During the course of the searches a substantial amount of cash in euro and sterling was seized. Gardaí also recovered two high value vehicles and documents. No arrests were made.
It is reported that the gang being targeted are members of the Travelling community who move between Co. Mayo and England.
Kosovo request repatriation of ‘boss of bosses'
Although there is no extradition agreement between Ireland and Kosovo, the Kosovo authorities have contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs to request help in returning Enver Sekiraqa. The 37-year-old, known as the ‘boss of bosses' of organised crime in Kosovo, is understood to have been living in the Waterford and Wexford areas. He is wanted for questioning in Kosovo in relation to involvement in the sex trade and in the murder of a police officer.
While the authorities seem to see some difficulty in returning Sekiraqa to Kosovo no one has explained why he has any right to remain in Ireland.
Speed control van destroyed in arson attack
One of the new speed control vans on contract to the gardaí was destroyed in an arson attack at around 4:45am on Friday. The attack took place on Carrick Road, Dundalk, Co. Louth while the operator was inside. He was alerted by the smell of smoke and managed to get out of the vehicle before it went up in flames. It appears that the front windscreen was smashed and material in the cab set alight.
Reacting to the incident, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said, "I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms this morning's attack on a GoSafe van and GoSafe staff. It was an outrageous and reckless act which could have had grave and tragic consequences. GoSafe van personnel are out on our roads day and night working with An Garda Síochána to reduce speed-related collisions and stop the needless loss of lives on our roads. It is important work directed at ensuring that fewer families and communities here have to endure the pain and suffering which follows collisions and deaths on our roads".
This van that was destroyed was unmarked and was being used to record the speed of all traffic for statistical purposes. It was not photographing any vehicles, irrespective of their speed.
Second protest over Dublin cable-laying
After gardaí had to be called and a number of court injunctions were served on individuals in Rush, Co. Dublin last Wednesday, a second and more peaceful demonstration took place on Friday to protest at the laying of ducting for an east-west interconnector linking Irish and British grids. Rush residents have accused Eirgrid of going ahead with the installation of ducting without waiting for a report on the possible health risks associated with the laying of cable and the danger of the installation being hit by a mechanical digger. Eirgrid maintains that the health risk has been discounted and that a delay in the project could cost €100k a day.
Permission granted for RTE campus expansion
An Bord Pleanála has granted permission for a €350m development of the northern half of the RTE campus in Donnybrook. The development, which will take place over ten years, will include television and radio studios, sound stages, broadcasting technology suites and a number of other facilities. The broadcaster will not, however, be allowed to sell the southern part of the Montrose site since one of the conditions of the planning permission is that all buildings be used by RTE staff only.
National Lottery Winning Numbers:
Dog wardens in hiding after intimidation
Two dog wardens employed by Belfast City Council have left their homes following threats and intimidation, including letters doused in petrol being put through their letterboxes. The wardens were due to give evidence on Tuesday in a case in which a dog was removed from the home of Caroline Barnes in May on suspicion of being a pit bull terrier, a breed banned in the North. Ms Barnes has been running a campaign for the return of her dog, but has condemned the tactics experienced by the two dog wardens.
Convicted murderer loses bid to prevent reporting of conviction
Former soldier Duncan McLuckie, who was not charged with the killing of Warrant Officer Bernard Adamson (30) in Co. Fermanagh in 1972, despite having fired the shot that killed him, has failed in an attempt to prevent the reporting during an inquest of a subsequent conviction. In 1987 McLuckie was convicted of another murder and is at present serving a life sentence. He had called for the conviction not to be mentioned in a new inquest into Mr Adamson's death, saying that it would influence the jury. A decision by senior coroner John Leckey not to grant the reporting restriction was upheld later in the High Court.
Another Fermanagh death from fumes
Following the deaths from carbon monoxide fumes two weeks ago of a couple from Irvinestown, a man was found dead in a shed attached to a takeaway on the Co. Fermanagh town's main street. Gardaí believe that the man, said to be a foreign national, may have been overcome by fumes from a generator.
Four in court charged with 2008 murder
Four men appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday charged with the murder of Éamonn Hughes (49) in Dungannon in September 2008. Martin Murray (23), Liam Murray (24) and Kevin Toye (24), from Dungannon, and William McDonagh (25) from Ballymena all denied the charge, in addition to denying attempting to murder Martina Donaghy and her daughter Emma, who were run over by a stolen taxi while tending to Mr Hughes.
Kevin Murray (41), an uncle of the two younger Murrays, denied attempting to murder Mr Hughes' son Kevin, whom he shot with a crossbow. The murder and attempted murders are said to have arisen from a row between the Hughes and Murray factions at the 18th birthday party of Mr Hughes' daughter Siobhan.
Figures release of earnings of top barristers
The NI Office has released figures showing the earnings of the North's top barristers. For the period 2008/2009, top of the list was Gregory Berry QC who earned more than £2m, while leading the field in the past year, with £1,461,399, was Brian McCartney, the barrister who represented the families of Bloody Sunday victims. The figures were released by the Courts and Tribunals Service on Thursday and have led to questions about the amount paid to barristers in legal aid.
Parades Commission rules against Ardoyne parade
The Parades Commission has ruled that a loyalist band, the Shankill Star band, may not take part in an Apprentice Boys' march in honour of UVF man Brian Robinson, who shot a Catholic in 1989 before being shot himself by undercover soldiers. The march is due to pass the spot in the Ardoyne where Paddy McKenna was killed and loyalists are to meet to discuss a protest against the ban.
Significant increase in days lost to absenteeism
An audit of sick days taken in the North's 26 councils has found that taxpayers are footing the bill of £16.4m for last year. Some 122,000 days were lost last year, an increase of 700 on the previous year, with Craigavon proving the highest figure of 17.99 days per worker. This compares with Magherafelt District Council where workers took just 7.91 days each per annum.
PSNI officer fires shot through window of Craigavon house
A member of the PSNI involved in a standoff with two suspects fired a shot which went through the window of a house in Craigavon, Co. Armagh. The owner, 79-year-old Eugene Hamill, was inside but unhurt. No one was injured in the incident but an investigation is to be carried out as to how the shot, said to have been fired into the air as a warning, went through the window.
1972 manslaughter verdict overturned
What was a very high profile murder case in 1971 was back in the news on Monday with the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal to quash the conviction of a Meath man for the manslaughter of Una Lynskey (19), of Ratoath, Co. Meath. Martin Conmey (59), from Ratoath, served a three-year prison sentence after he was convicted of the manslaughter of Ms Lynskey.
It emerged that the initial statements made by three witnesses were not made available to the defence at the 1972 trial. Instead gardaí produced alternative and radically different statements from the witnesses, taken at a second interview session.
Una Lynskey had been a civil servant in Dublin and was last seen walking from her usual bus stop to her home on the evening of October 12, 1971. Her body was found in the Dublin Mountains two months later. Garda attention turned to three young men, including Mr Conmey, because one of them owned a car similar to one seen in the area at the time of Ms Lysnkey's disappearance.
One of the three, Marty Kerrigan, was brutally killed by members of Ms Lynskey's family who received relatively short jail sentences for manslaughter. Mr Conmey and Dick Donnelly were convicted of manslaughter and given three-year sentences; Mr Donnelly's conviction was overturned on appeal but Mr Conmey lost his appeal.
European court now only option for Catherine Nevin
Catherine Nevin's latest challenge to her conviction for the murder of her husband Tom was rejected on Monday in the Court of Criminal Appeal. She had sought to have her conviction declared a miscarriage of justice. She has exhausted the legal process in Ireland but her lawyer says the case will now be taken to Europe.
Nevin was convicted of the 1996 murder of her husband in the pub owned by the couple, Jack White's Inn, at Brittas Bay, Co. Wicklow. She was also convicted of soliciting three men to carry out the murder.
Man who killed thief sentenced to five years
David Wilson (22), from Darndale in Dublin, was jailed for five years following his recent conviction for the manslaughter of Paul Howe (22), of Tallaght. He had been on trial for murder. The jury was told that in October 2008 Wilson witnessed a supermarket robbery in which a knife was used to threaten staff.
As the thieves fled the scene, with a relatively small amount of cash, they were pursued by a security guard and Wilson also gave chase. The security guard caught up with Howe as he tried to escape over a wall and in the ensuing struggle Howe dropped his knife. The weapon was picked up by Wilson who used it to stab Howe seven times.
Armed gardaí on duty at Waterford courthouse
Gardaí armed with machineguns were on duty at Waterford courthouse on Tuesday when the trial of Simon Quilligan came to an abrupt end. Some 60 members of the Travelling community were prevented from entering the court on the third day of the trial of Quilligan, who was accused of assaulting Michael Delaney with a slash hook. The judge instructed the jury to bring in a not guilty verdict after Quilligan's solicitor complained of inconsistencies in the evidence of some witnesses.
Two men were arrested outside the courthouse in relation to a public order offence.
Trial of six after fatal car chase
Six people appeared at the Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday on charges relating to the deaths of two teenagers during a car chase in the city in May of last year. CJ Dolan (16) and Derry O'Callaghan (19) were back seat passengers in the car which hit a gable wall; they died later in hospital.
Philip Murphy (40) of Knockaheeney and James Simms from Cork city have denied charges of dangerous driving causing death. Along with Philip Murphy's brother Thomas (42) of Gurranebraher and James Quilligan (23) from Tralee, they deny having falsely imprisoned Darren Linehan on the same date, while John Heaphy (24) of Ballincollig has denied a charge of threatening to cause criminal damage.
Representing the State, Tom O'Connell claimed that the deaths were the result of a feud between the Murphy and Heaphy families. The case continues.
Conviction for father who raped daughter
DNA tests have shown that the 49-year-old man who was found guilty of the rape, buggery and indecent assault of his daughter over a 15-year period was almost certainly the father of her two children. In court on Wednesday he was found guilty of eight counts of buggery, eight counts of indecent assault over a two-year period in the 1980s, and five counts of rape in 1999 and 2000.
A day later the jury convicted him on a further 62 charges of rape. He will be sentenced on December 13.
Suspended sentence for Derry O'Rourke
Diarmuid ‘Derry' O'Rourke, who has spent considerable periods in prison over the last 12 years for indecent assault, received a three-year sentence suspended for six years when he appeared at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday. The former swimming coach was found guilty of the indecent assault of a 14-year-old girl in the early 1970s, but Judge Katherine Delahunt decided on the suspended sentence since O'Rourke is living under intense supervision and has not reoffended since 1992.
18-month sentence for manslaughter of father
James McInerney (23), of Templemore, Co. Tipperary, was given an 18-month prison sentence after he was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of his father, also James (56), in June of last year. The jury delivered a unanimous verdict in the case at the Central Criminal Court, which heard that McInerney killed his father with a spade after experiencing a lifetime of violence against himself, his mother and his siblings. James McInerney Snr had threatened to hit his son with the spade before James Jnr took it from him and beat him three times over the head.
Some of the dead man's siblings have reportedly threatened to kill their nephew.
Woman claims doctors deprived her of inheritance
Grace Davoren from Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare is suing consultant gastroenterologist John Lee and consultant surgeon Oliver McAnena, both attached to University Hospital Galway, for compensation for the loss of a €1.5m inheritance. Both doctors have admitted liability in their treatment of Michael Davoren, who died aged 47 from colitis. He was to have inherited the family farm which he had worked all his life and his widow expected to inherit it when her mother-in-law, Maura, died three years later. However the farm was left to Michael's sister Mary. Ms Davoren is seeking €1.8m damages.
Man given three-year sentence for assaulting boy met on internet
Colm Twomey (39), with addresses at Togher in Cork and Ballincollig, Co. Cork, was given a three-year sentence with 18 months suspended after being found guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy. The court heard that Twomey had contacted the boy through the Bebo website and subsequently went to his house where the offence occurred. Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin also ordered that Twomey be entered into the sex offenders' register for ten years.
Damages award to Tipperary farmer
John Hanrahan, who farms near Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, has been awarded €300k in damages against the Department of Agriculture after they failed to return a number of cattle to his farm four years ago. In the High Court on Friday Justice Bryan McMahon found that the Minister for Agriculture had breached a 2006 agreement to return cattle to Mr Hanrahan, after a number were seized from his farm over welfare issues which were deemed justified by the High Court at the time. However the Department subsequently failed to return the agreed number of cattle, and sold them instead. This is a second court victory for Mr Hanrahan, who once won a case against a neighbouring pharmaceutical company for pollution of his land.
Court case begins over body found in Kerry
The case has begun in the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork in which John Walsh (45) and Gillian Purcell (34) have been charged with the murder of John McManus, whose body was found on waste ground in Co. Kerry in November 2008. The court heard that John Walsh and John McManus had had a drink and drug fuelled fight and that Walsh "never intended to kill him". The murder took place in Cork city and it had been Walsh's intention to take the body to Banna Strand in Co. Kerry so that it would be found. The case is continuing.
Employment & Industrial Relations
3,775 apply to leave HSE
It has emerged that a total of 3,775 people have applied to leave the HSE under the voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes. They still have until the end of the month to change their minds so the final figure may be somewhat lower. Those who do leave must be out by December 30.
Included in the total are 310 of the 850 senior managers currently employed by the HSE. Some observers wondered if losing such a large number of senior managers would have a detrimental effect on service. The real question wasn't asked; why are 118 staff members carrying the job title, Assistant National Director? This number should fall to 68, which still seems rather a lot.
Aer Lingus pilots in dispute over rostering
On Saturday Aer Lingus pilots, members of the Irish Airline Pilots Association, started a work-to-rule in a dispute over rosters. The pilots have been in talks with Aer Lingus management but say they had not received the planned summer schedule they had requested in view of their concern over future rosters.
Some months ago the pilots had voted to accept management's cost-saving plan which included revised rosters. While management was highly critical of the pilots' decision, it did not expect flight disruption.
Salary cuts for school caretakers and secretaries
Schools and VECs have received a circular from the Department of Education ordering a 5% pay cut for school secretaries and caretakers and other staff not employed directly by the Department, to take effect from January. The cuts will affect the lowest paid workers in the education system and the pay cut is expected to be challenged by the IMPACT trade union.
Politics & Politicians
Violent confrontation on steps of Leinster
Gardaí had to use force to remove a group of Sinn Féin activists from the grounds of Leinster House on Monday. About 50 people, including Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, were protesting outside the gates when one of them noticed that, although closed, the gates were not locked. The protesters surged through and one gardaí was said to have kicked out at Mr Ó Snodaigh as the crowd continued to push forward.
No change in Budget date
On Tuesday and Wednesday Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny urged the Taoiseach to bring forward the date of the Budget from December 7. Mr Cowen rejected the suggestion, primarily on the grounds that the November Exchequer returns, in part, form the basis for some of the Budget detail.
On Monday Mr Kenny claimed that the failure to bring forward the date was costing the country money. In the days immediately prior to that his colleagues argued that there would be no problem in postponing the Budget until the days before Christmas so that we could get the general election out of the way first.
Challenge to Taoiseach put on hold
Noel O'Flynn, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central, has long been a thorn in the side of Brian Cowen but on Tuesday he was even more vocal in expressing his disapproval of the Taoiseach. He told journalists that he would be a signatory to a motion of no confidence in Mr Cowen to be presented at that night's meeting of the parliamentary party. It had been rumoured that another Fianna Fáil dissident, Tom Kitt, was collecting the signatures but he denied this prior to the meeting.
According to Mr O'Flynn the parliamentary party would be a "bare knuckle" affair but on the night it appears there was little appetite for a challenge to Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Noel O'Flynn had his say but other dissidents seemed more intent on getting the Budget passed and then taking a look at the leadership issue.
Earlier in the day, in response to questions from journalists, Mary Hanafin said she would be prepared to become a candidate for the leadership of Fianna Fáil in the event that the position became vacant and if her colleagues thought she should go forward.
On Wednesday Seán Power, TD for Kildare South, said that he had been told by a number of Ministers that Mr Cowen would stand down after the Budget, but in the Dáil this morning Mr Cowen dismissed this.
Cairde Fáil dinner postponed
One of the year's big social events, Fianna Fáil's annual Cairde Fáil dinner, has been postponed until some unspecified date in 2011. The €95 a plate fundraising event, often referred to as "the Taoiseach's dinner", should have been held in the Burlington Hotel on Saturday night and although no official reason was given for the postponement, it was said off the record that such an event would have drawn adverse publicity at a time when the word 'austerity' is on everyone's lips.
Four politicians announce retirement plans
Independent Senator Joe O'Toole, a former president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has announced that he will not contest the next Seanad election. A senator since 1987, Mr O'Toole has said he would have run again if the Seanad had been reformed but at present he feels it is not doing what it was intended to do, and has become "a creature of the political parties".
Seymour Crawford, Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan, has announced that he is to retire at the next general election. The 66-year-old Mr Crawford, who has held the seat since 1992, believes it is time to hand over to a younger man.
Also planning to retire are the two Fine Gael TDs representing the Galway East constituency, Paul Connaughton (66) and Ulick Burke (67). Mr Connaughton has served the constituency since 1981 while Mr Burke was elected twice, in 1997 and again in 2007.
25th anniversary of first Irish heart transplant
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the first heart transplant in Ireland Professor Jim Egan called on the Health Service Executive to establish a national transplant office. Apparently the number of organ donations has been declining as a result of fewer road fatalities. Prof. Egan believes that a new body is needed "to co-ordinate an effective transplantation policy".
The event was attended by many recipients of heart transplants and by members of the cardiac team at the Mater Hospital. Tributes were paid to the late Maurice Neligan, who died last month. Along with Prof. Freddie Woods he carried out the first Irish heart transplant operation in September 1985. Prof. Woods echoed Prof. Egan's plea for "a national office to improve donor donation".
Travel & Tourism
Free rail travel for visiting seniors deemed a success
The Golden Trekker scheme which is available to overseas visitors aged 66 and over has been deemed a success but it is not clear if what was a pilot project will be extended in to 2011. Some 12,000 free four-day rail tickets were issued, allowing unlimited travel on rail and DART systems. Four days of unlimited rail travel normally costs €100.
The current scheme continues until the end of the year so if you are planning to be here for Christmas you can still avail of it.
Tayto theme park opens in Co. Meath
Ireland has its own theme park with the opening of Tayto Park on a 55-acre site near Ashbourne in Co. Meath. The park offers 100 attractions including a variety of well-equipped elaborate play areas and animal enclosures housing a variety of "unusual and interesting" animals. Visitors are expected to remain on the site for four or five hours to experience all that is on offer.
As the name suggests, the park is the brainchild of Ray Coyle of Tayto Crisps. It constitutes an investment of €8.5m and took three years to create. It will create jobs for 40 people on a year-round basis while an additional 45 will be hired for the summer months.
Government willing to drop €10 airport tax if...
Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin has indicated that the controversial €10 air travel tax could be dropped in the Budget if Ryanair and Aer Lingus quantify what they will deliver in return. The tax was expected to deliver €125m per year but has only yielded €80m. The Minister is not, however, ready to abandon that €80m unless there is a payback.
Ryanair has not been helpful, saying that it also requires a reduction in the fees being charged at Dublin, Cork and Shannon as well as the reversal of the 40% increase that Dublin Airport Authority says it requires to pay for Terminal 2.
Entertainment & The Arts
John Huston's papers and recordings donated to NUI Galway
The family of the late John Huston presented NUI Galway with a valuable collection of their father's papers and recordings. The Huston Archive was launched on Monday in the presence of the film director's son, Tony (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay of The Dead) and daughter Allegra.
His other daughter Anjelica had earlier contacted the college to say, "I regret that due to my current filming schedule I will miss the launch of the Huston Archive at NUI Galway. It gives me great satisfaction to see that these extensive archives, including remarkable materials relating to The Dead, have found a permanent place in their rightful home in Galway and will be made widely available to scholars, including those who enter the Huston School's doors for generations to come".
The Archive has been added to by significant items donated by Teresa Grimes, Paul Balbirnie and Joe Dillon.
Recession? What recession?
While austerity measures were preoccupying the minds of most people on Wednesday, more than 500 art lovers thronged Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel for an art auction. Others "attended" via the Internet. Bank of Ireland was selling a selection of its art collection and found ready buyers for more than 99% of the items on offer, raising more than €1.5m.
The highest figure paid was for a Paul Henry painting, which achieved €66k; a Louis le Brocquy portrait of James Joyce made €50k, the same price as a Gerard Dillon painting, 'Out with the Nets'. A Seán Keating self-portrait sold for €32k.
The proceeds of the sale will go towards community art projects.
Literary award for Binchy
Novelist Maeve Binchy was honoured at the Irish Book Awards on Thursday with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Irish literature. At the same awards Emma Donoghue's "Room" was awarded the title of Novel of the Year.
Death of former Sunday Press editor
Vincent Jennings, former editor of the Sunday Press and chief executive of the Irish Press Group, died in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on Wednesday at the age of 73. When he became editor of the Sunday Press in 1968 at the age of 31, Mr Jennings was the youngest editor of a national newspaper in the country.
Body of second fisherman found
The body of Robert McLaughlin (41), of Malin, Co. Donegal, who died at sea with his uncle Edward Doherty (65) at the beginning of the month, was found close to Malin Head on Wednesday morning.
Elderly woman dies in Dundalk house fire
A house fire close to the centre of Dundalk last Saturday morning claimed the life of Mary McKeown (84). A passerby raised the alarm shortly before 9:00am but Ms McKeown, who lived alone, was already dead when firemen located her inside her home on Faughart Terrace.
Toddler dies in choking accident at crèche
Eighteen-month-old Cian Heneghan died in University Hospital Galway on Wednesday after choking on food while attending a crèche in the village of Ballinderreen in south Galway.
Road deaths in Counties Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Limerick
Banks to be cut down to size
In my report last week on the Government decision to seek help from the EU/IMF I should have noted that Irish banks face a radical overhaul which will see them reduced in size so that they can focus on serving the Irish economy. There will be a further sell-off of non-core businesses, mergers and the possible sale of one or more banks. The State will end up with a majority stake in Bank of Ireland and own more than 99% of AIB.
Retail sales volume showed annual increase of 2% in October
The volume of retail sales increased by 2% in October when compared with October 2009 although the increase was just 0.1% when the motor trade is excluded. There was a monthly increase of 0.5% but again, if the motor trade is excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 0.5% between September and October. A Government-funded car scrappage scheme has helped car sales recover dramatically from last year's record lows.
Anglo bond holders having to settle for 20%
Anglo Irish Bank is gradually paying off subordinated bondholders by offering them 20% of the face value of their investment. Some 92% of investors holding bonds worth a total of €750m, due to mature in 2017, have agreed to accept the bank's offer. The bank will now make a similar offer to the holders of bonds worth €500m, due to mature in 2016, and €325m due in 2014. The bond holders are naturally upset with what they see as a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
Cork-based Firecomms sold to Chinese group
Cork-based semi-conductor company Firecomms has been sold to Chinese company ZJF for an undisclosed sum. ZJF Group has been one of Firecomms' biggest customers, buying its specialised semi-conductor product which is used with plastic optical fibre, the preferred broadband system in China.
The Firecomms name will be retained and a €5m R&D investment will increase the workforce from 18 to 30 over the next year. Firecomms was established as a result of research carried out at the Tyndall National Institute.
Moratorium to run out for thousands of homeowners
Up to 10,000 homeowners are facing a bleak future when the 12-month moratorium on mortgage arrears runs out shortly. Once the moratorium protection goes, lenders are free to take legal action against those in arrears, leaving thousands at risk of repossession. The figures were announced on Friday by Ciarán Phelan, chief executive of the Irish Brokers Association, based on figures released by the Financial Regulator and the ratings agency Moody's.
We have just experienced a cold week which became considerably colder in the past few days. The Met office warned motorists to expect snow showers in north Connacht, Donegal and coastal counties of Leinster. Since those warnings were announced driving conditions have become extremely hazardous in many parts of the country. Last night a temperature of -9.7C was recorded, a record low for November.
The cold conditions will continue throughout the week with more snow showers, and temperatures expected to reach -10C or -11C.
After the experience of the January cold snap the National Roads Authority has been given responsibility for the sourcing of road salt. The NRA will distribute the salt to local authorities who had mixed success in keeping the roads clear in January. On RTÉ's Morning Ireland a spokesman said that sufficient stocks had been pre-ordered to meet any eventuality.
Latest Temperatures: Day 0C (32F).................Night -2C (28F)
S P O R T
Ireland 29 Argentina 9
The Magners League
Edinburgh 24 Connacht 19
Dragons 20 Munster 6
B Treviso 9 Ulster 19
Ospreys 19 Leinster 15
AIB League Division 1A
Shannon 18 Young Munster 17
Blackrock C 18 St Mary's C 21
Dolphin 15 Old Belvedere 18
Garryowen 11 Cork Con 11
AIB League Division 1B
Bruff 21 Dungannon 10
Buccaneers 16 Galwegians 12
Clontarf 25 Lansdowne 18
UCC 32 UL Bohemians 23
Golf - McDowell finishes second in Race to Dubai
At the Dubai World Championship Rory McIlroy was the best of the Irish, finishing in fifth position on 12-under, two shots behind winner Robert Karlsson. The Swedish golfer beat Ian Poulter in a play-off after both finished on 14-under.
Going into the final tournament of the year Graeme McDowell was looking to overhaul Martin Kaymer to be crowned European number one. He failed in his mission, however, as both finished on 6-under, giving Kaymer the title and leaving McDowell as Europe's number two.
Peter Lawrie also finished on six-under with Darren Clarke on 2-under. Pádraig Harrington ended the weekend on one over.
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