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Updated: 2017-03-29T14:27:58+01:00

 



Man attacked two female Gardaí in row over bag of chips

2017-03-29

A late night row over a bag of chips culminated in a Tipperary builder beating up two female gardaí.

A late night row over a bag of chips culminated in a Tipperary builder beating up two female gardaí.

At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, married father of three, James Ryan, aged 57, of Grange Rd, Ballina, received a suspended 18-month jail term for the assault causing harm of Garda Áine Troy and Garda Tracy Corcoran on September 19, 2015.

In the case, Garda Troy and Garda Corcorcan were called to a late-night incident at New York Pizza in Ballina where Mr Ryan was in a dispute with the owner over a bag of chips claiming that he had paid for the chips.

However, on arrival. Mr Ryan assaulted both gardaí and in their victim impact statements heard in court yesterday, both told of the trauma suffered as a result of the attack.

In her statement, Garda Troy said that Mr Ryan “was irate and would not co-operate”.

She said: “He became violent and lashed out, assaulting me and Garda Corcoran.

“From this assault, I received neck and shoulder injuries which have caused me pain especially when pregnant.”

Garda Troy added: “This injury has caused interference with my day-to-day life and managing my young children and restricted my ability to perform certain tasks.”

She said: “This incident was frightening and upsetting.”

In her victim impact statement, Garda Corcoran — who has served as a garda for 16 years — said: “I will never forget that night.

“Mr Ryan was extremely aggressive and slammed me against the door of the restaurant and this was the start of the violent assault against Garda Troy and I.”

Garda Corcoran said that Mr Ryan “caught me and threw me around the yard when I attempted to arrest him”.

She said that she sustained “a painful shoulder injury and I see no immediate relief in the near future”.

“My quality of life has been affected as I can no longer fully engage in activities I once enjoyed,” she added.

Counsel for Mr Ryan, Michael Collins BL, said that the behaviour by Mr Ryan on the night “was completely out of character” and “completely irrational”.

Mr Collins said that he could not, or his client could not, explain how Mr Ryan went out by himself for a few drinks and ended up assaulting the two gardaí before being brought to the local Garda station.

Mr Collins said that Mr Ryan had only four to five pints of alcohol on the night.

Mr Collins said that his client has never come to the attention of gardaí, has no previous convictions and said that the case could have been dealt with in the district court.

Mr Collins said his client is ashamed of his actions and wishes to apologise to the gardaí.

Judge Gerald Keys said he was disappointed that Mr Ryan had not written a letter of apology to his two victims since he entered his plea of guilty on February 21 and his apology through his counsel has come late in the day.

Judge Keys said that he would impose an 18-month prison term but because of Mr Ryan’s good character and submissions made on his behalf, he would suspend the prison term.

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Timeline of the Garda breath-test scandal events

2017-03-29

As the controversy over the recording of breath tests rumbles on, the gardaí, Department of Justice, and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), each outlined the timeline of events:

As the controversy over the recording of breath tests rumbles on, the gardaí, Department of Justice, and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), each outlined the timeline of events:

April 11, 2014

Then-transport minister Leo Varadkar wrote to the Garda commissioner after anonymous correspondence is received by then-chairman of the Road Safety Authority, Gay Byrne, containing allegations about mandatory alcohol test checkpoints in the west of Ireland.

April 24, 2014

The Western Region’s assistant commissioner submits a report in respect of road traffic enforcement.

May 12, 2014

Report regarding the issues raised is submitted to Department of Justice.

August 22, 2014

Correspondence received by Garda National Traffic Bureau from MBRS in relation to the purchasing of mouthpieces for the Drager (breath-testing) devices. Yesterday, MBRS director Denis Cusack said: “We wrote to [gardaí] in July 2014 but we did not know what we were dealing with at the time.”

January 8, 2015

Another report issued to the department, advising it was not possible to identify author of the initial correspondence and “in the absence of further information becoming available, it was not possible to progress matter”.

March 7, 2015

Assistant commissioner (traffic) issued instructions to all divisional and district officers to ensure mechanisms were put in place to monitor the operation of mandatory alcohol test checkpoints.

June 10, 2015

Department told an audit was underway.

July 20, 2015

Assistant commissioner (traffic) directed Garda National Traffic Bureau to chair a working group to examine the recording of equipment and data on PULSE.

August 2015

According to Prof Cusack, staff at MBRS carried out a survey of 200 of the 1,200 devices and found that instead of the approximately 400,000 tests recorded as having been performed, it was actually closer to 200,000. Gardaí were informed.

November 11, 2015

Report on audit of breath tests 2009-14 in southern region finds a discrepancy of 17% between the number recorded on PULSE and that recorded on devices.

June 2016

Gardaí indicate solutions had been put in place regarding issues detected.

March 10, 2017

MBRS provides information from its database to gardaí following an earlier request.

March 24

Gardaí reveal the extent of the over-recording of breath tests.

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Enda Kenny defends Shane Ross’ Bus Éireann strike stance

2017-03-29

The Taoiseach has again defended Shane Ross who has refused to get involved in the ongoing Bus Éireann strike.

The Taoiseach has again defended Shane Ross who has refused to get involved in the ongoing Bus Éireann strike.

The all-out strike, which has brought bus services to a halt across the country for the past six days, shows no sign of being solved with members of Irish Rail and Dublin Bus due to be balloted for “sympathy” industrial action next week.

Addressing the mounting crisis at Bus Éireann in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is “still available” for talks to help resolve the dispute.

“It will not be resolved on the streets; it will only be resolved around the table, where all strikes are resolved,” Mr Kenny told the Dáil.

Mr Kenny added: “Where the minister, Deputy Ross, can act and where it is appropriate to do so, he has done so.

“It is important to note that the trade unions and the management of Bus Éireann — both sides — have publicly acknowledged that there are efficiency issues in Bus Éireann.”

Responding to questioning from Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, Mr Kenny said the ongoing dispute is “causing much stress” for people who have been left without any any public transport at all in many areas of the country.

“Both sides should have the courage to go back to the table again and attempt to resolve any differences in the consideration of these efficiencies. That is where the solution lies,” he said.

Highlighting the cases of a number of bus drivers and Bus Éireann workers, Ms Smith asked the Taoiseach if he could justify taking 30% of the wages of those three people.

“I have given the Taoiseach as an example because that is what is being proposed by Bus Éireann in its attack on the pay and conditions of workers throughout the country,” she told the Dáil.

Mr Kenny said the Government “is very interested” to see that the strike should end.

Mr Ross is due before the transport committee today where he is expected to defend his role by saying he is playing his part in supporting Bus Éireann.

The minister is also expected to say management and unions need to agree a deal that is fair and acceptable to both sides.

Mr Ross will say that he cannot agree that deal and it is up to the management and unions to resolve the crisis.

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Below-strength Air Corps relies on coastguard for cover flights

2017-03-29

The Air Corps is almost 25% below its recommend strength with more than 200 vacancies across all ranks.

The Air Corps is almost 25% below its recommend strength with more than 200 vacancies across all ranks.

New figures published by the Department of Defence show that the Air Corps only had 676 fully qualified personnel at the end of February, despite having an “establishment” strength figure of 887.

Approximately half of the 211 current vacancies are at private rank.

Official figures show that the Air Corps has a particular shortage of lieutenants with just 22 officers at that rank — 26 below the recommended level of 48.

Staffing levels in the Air Corps have come under scrutiny since it emerged an Irish Coast Guard helicopter which crashed off the Co Mayo coast during a rescue mission earlier this month had only been tasked to provide cover to another helicopter after the Defence Forces were unable to respond to an original request for assistance.

The Defence Forces claimed it did not have the capacity to provide its Casa fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft outside of normal hours due to the loss of experienced air crew and air traffic controllers.

Figures provided by the Department of Defence to Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh show the Air Corps has been unable to provide “top cover” support to search and rescue missions on 10 occasions since 2015.

Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe said the reasons for the requests being declined included that the aircraft was undergoing maintenance; no crews were available; crews would have exceeded permitted flying hours; weather conditions; the aircraft was on another mission or no air traffic control services were available.

Mr Kehoe said the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue services can draw on the support of the Air Corps on an “as available” basis under a 2013 service level agreement between the Department of Defence and Department of Transport.

He confirmed that the Air Corps had responded positively to 12 requests for “top cover” since 2015 including three missions so far in 2017.

Because of a significant turnover of staff in the Defence Forces, the minister said targeted recruitment has been and is taking place in order to maintain agreed strength levels.

Mr Kehoe added: “Given the improvement in the domestic economy and demand for experienced pilots, the retention of experienced pilot officers in the Air Corps has been a significant challenge for the defence organisation in recent years.”

He admitted there had been an “outflow” of experienced helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft pilots from the Air Corps in recent years.

Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said the figures highlighted “ a persistent lack of resources for the Defence Forces over the last number of years”.

“Defence is not a priority for the Government as it has allowed this level of vacancies build up over a long time,” said Ms Chambers.

She observed that the recent crash of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter had shone a light on how under-resourced the Air Corps was.

“It’s totally unacceptable they cannot provide top cover outside a 9-5 basis,” said Ms Chambers. “It’s a service citizens expect to be provided.”

News: 4

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Voxpro pulled US deal over bathroom gender law

2017-03-29

The co-founder of one of Ireland’s most successful outsourcing companies has confirmed they pulled a multimillion-dollar, 500-job investment from a US state because of its controversial “bathroom bill”.

The co-founder of one of Ireland’s most successful outsourcing companies has confirmed they pulled a multimillion-dollar, 500-job investment from a US state because of its controversial “bathroom bill”.

The law, introduced in North Carolina last year, mandates that transgender people use the bathrooms matching the biological sex on their birth certificates.

Its introduction last April sparked a wave of controversy and prompted Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr to cancel concerts.

It emerged yesterday that the law could cost the state over $3.7bn in lost business over the next 12 years, with PayPal, CoStar, Deutsche Bank, Addidas and Irish outsourcing giant Voxpro among the major companies to axe investment plans because of the law.

Speaking from New York last night, Voxpro’s Dan Kiely said North Carolina was one of three states earmarked for a new Voxpro office last year.

“But when it became clear that this law was being introduced, we just scratched North Carolina off our list. We didn’t even visit the site.

“The law runs completely contrary to our core values. I am proud to work alongside trans and gay people. The diversity of our workforce is what makes us who we are.

“Our investment instead went to Athens, Georgia, where we hope to reach 500 jobs within the next 12 months.”

Mr Kiely, who founded the company with his wife Linda in Cork city in the early 1990s, is en route to South America, scouting for new office locations. 

Voxpro employs 2,200 people at its Cork headquarters and at offices in Dublin, San Francisco, Georgia and Bucharest.

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New online passport renewal service to be unveiled tomorrow

2017-03-29

The Government will tomorrow unveil a new online passport renewal service which, it hopes, will ease the pressure it is currently under in the face of unprecedented levels of applications.

The Government will tomorrow unveil a new online passport renewal service which, it hopes, will ease the pressure it is currently under in the face of unprecedented levels of applications.

Between January 1 and March 16 this year, a total of 191,428 applications were received compared to 155,163 for the same period last year. That is an increase of more than 23%.

As of last week, there were 60,000 applications in the system.

The passport service has taken on 230 temporary clerical officers to help with processing the applications and responding to customer queries. It has also asked the Public Appointments Service to assign additional clerical and executive officers to fill recent vacancies.

The Online Passport Application Service, to be unveiled by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan tomorrow, will allow adult Irish citizens renew their passport books and cards online from wherever they are in the world using their PCs, tablets, or mobile phones via the department’s website.

“The service will be convenient, secure, and it will offer faster and more predictable turnaround times,” said the department.

“This new service is for adult (over-18) renewal applications only. First-time applicants and children will not be able to apply online and the current system will still be in place for them.”

Brexit and an ability to travel abroad thanks to a resurgence in people’s finances have contributed to the increase in passport applications. The 733,060 passports issued in 2016 marks a 9% increase on the previous year.

As recently as the middle of last year, there was a target turnaround of 10 days for those applications submitted in person at the passport offices in Dublin and Cork, and through the An Post Passport Express service.

However, according to Mr Flanagan: “The average processing time for renewal applications submitted through Passport Express is currently 16 working days (our aim is a 15-day turnaround).

“First-time applicants or those with lost/stolen passports take longer because of additional anti-fraud measures and these applications are being processed in an average of 23 working days (our aim is a 20 working day turnaround).”

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Irish teenagers reveal all about their own mental health

2017-03-29

We've heard a lot from experts about rising levels of anxiety, depression and self harm amongst young people - that this generation of young people just can't cope.

We've heard a lot from experts about rising levels of anxiety, depression and self harm amongst young people - that this generation of young people just can't cope.

But what do the teenagers themselves think?

Because little has been heard of the voice of Irish teenagers in relation to their own mental health and wellbeing the Irish Examiner partnered with ReachOut Ireland to survey 2,500 teenage boys and girls from all around the country on this very topic and found out what's wrecking teenagers' heads.

Read the results tomorrow, Friday and Saturday exclusively in the Irish Examiner and on irishexaminer.com

Follow the action on twitter via #TeenMentalHealth

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Frances Fitzgerald caught up in breath-test scandal; Tánaiste and Garda boss called to resign

2017-03-29

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has become embroiled in the Garda breath test “cover-up” as she and Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan faced calls to resign their positions in the Dáil.Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has become embroiled in the Garda breath test “cover-up” as she and Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan faced calls to resign their positions in the Dáil.As it emerged that thousands of drivers wrongly convicted could be in line for compensation, Ms Fitzgerald was accused of “doing nothing” about the scandal despite knowing about it for nine months. Breaking her silence on the matter, in an astonishing admission, the Tánaiste said that she only learned of the scale of the breath test scandal when she saw a Garda press conference last week, despite concerns being raised as far back as 2014. Commissioner O’Sullivan has until tomorrow to salvage her credibility or risk the stability of the minority government as Fianna Fáil warned they will “consider their options” based on how she performs at an emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Justice Committee. Last night, the independent Police Authority heaped further pressure on the commissioner saying it “has not yet been provided with the full internal reports or indeed a clear sense of how these matters have been handled to date within the Garda Síochána”. The authority has given Ms O’Sullivan until Friday to submit the information. It turned down her request for the Garda Inspectorate to examine the breath test scandal. Government has agreed an external review of the gardaí in the wake of the fake alcohol tests and penalty points scandal but it “will not be fault finding”, it was agreed. During a lengthy four-hour meeting of Cabinet yesterday — mostly consumed with the latest Garda fiasco — it was agreed that a “root and branch” review would be conducted. This external review will be on top of two others of the force, including an internal one by gardaí themselves and a separate review by the Policing Authority of the points and alcohol testing scandal.  From 2006 to 2016, a total of 146,865 district court summonses were issued in error. 14,700 citizens were brought before the courts and wrongly convicted. The minister came under fire in a Dáil debate last night, with calls for her to go and more questions about what she had done since details of the convictions and breath tests scandal reached her desk. Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said since first learning of wrongful convictions against motorists nine months ago, she had “done nothing” about them. But the Tánaiste said she only became aware of the full scale of the scandal last week.  She said people wrongfully convicted would start receiving letters from next week.  “All fines will be reimbursed and penalties removed,” she said. She also conceded that there may be “compensation”, a scenario which could cost the State tens of millions of euro. The minister said the scandal was “completely unacceptable” and “all of the facts will emerge”.  She confirmed the first reports of the phantom alcohol breath tests were raised by a whistle-blower in 2014 with Government. But she said it would be wrong if the Dáil was responsible for removing a Garda commissioner and this was the power of the Policing Authority. Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness described the scandal as a clear example of “corruption and mismanagement” within the gardaí. He said the failure of the gardaí to inform the Tánaiste of the scandal amounted to a “cover-up”. Wexford TD Mick Wallace also said the[...]



Brexit countdown: UK formally pitches itself into the unknown

2017-03-29

British prime minister Theresa May will file formal Brexit divorce papers today, pitching the UK into the unknown and triggering years of uncertain negotiations that will test the endurance of Ireland and the EU.

British prime minister Theresa May will file formal Brexit divorce papers today, pitching the UK into the unknown and triggering years of uncertain negotiations that will test the endurance of Ireland and the EU.

Nine months after Britons voted to leave, Ms May will notify EU Council president Donald Tusk in a letter that the UK really is quitting the club it joined in 1973.

Ms May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the political turmoil after the referendum vote, will then have two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in late March 2019.

“We stand on the threshold of a significant moment for Britain as we begin the negotiations that will lead us toward a new partnership with Europe,” she said. 

“We are going to take this opportunity to forge a more global Britain.”

As divorce talks begin, Ms May faces one of the toughest jobs of any recent British prime minister: holding the UK together in the face of Scottish independence demands, while conducting arduous talks with 27 EU states on finance, trade, security and other complex issues.

The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s economy, the world’s fifth biggest, and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centres.

For the EU, reeling from successive crises over debt and refugees, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow to 60 years of efforts to forge European unity in the wake of two devastating world wars.

Its leaders say they do not want to punish Britain. But with nationalist anti-EU parties on the rise across the bloc, they cannot afford to give London generous terms that might encourage other member states to follow its example and break away.

EU officials expect Ms May’s notice of intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to be hand-delivered by British diplomats this morning.

Within 48 hours of reading the letter, Mr Tusk will send the 27 other states draft negotiating guidelines. 

He will outline his views in Malta, where he will be attending a congress of centre-right leaders. Ambassadors of the 27 will then meet in Brussels to discuss Mr Tusk’s draft.

The course of the Brexit talks is uncertain. Ms May said she wants to negotiate Britain’s divorce and the future trading relationship with the EU within the two-year period, though EU officials say that will be hard.

Meanwhile, the Scottish parliament has backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for the powers to hold a second independence referendum.

However, Ms May has said she will block another referendum while the Brexit process takes place, stating “now is not the time”.

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Merger of Cork and Clonmel credit unions shelved

2017-03-29

The proposed merger between Charleville and Clonmel credit unions has been shelved.

The proposed merger between Charleville and Clonmel credit unions has been shelved.

Last month, it emerged the two credit unions were in talks with regard to a “transfer of engagements” whereby Charleville Credit Union (CU), with 12,100 members, would be subsumed into Clonmel CU, which has more than 26,000 members.

However, in a joint statement by Paul Davey, chief executive of Clonmel CU, and Annette Kiely, chief executive of Charleville CU, it was announced that a decision had been made to halt proceedings.

“Clonmel CU and Charleville CU entered into exploratory talks in late 2016,” read the statement.

“These discussions were subject to a confidentiality agreement. Both boards were confident that a combined entity would have been in the best interest of all our members.

“At this stage, a comprehensive due diligence review has now been completed.

“However, the two CUs did not reach agreement on the finer details of a post merged entity and have now made the decision not to proceed with the proposed transfer of engagement.”

A transfer of engagement is a voluntary process whereby all assets, liabilities, and undertakings of one or more credit unions are transferred to another.

A transfer does not necessarily mean the credit union that is taken over ceases operating.

Mr Davey told the Irish Examiner that, in spite of a “good working relationship” between Clonmel and Charleville an agreement could not be reached.

He said previous talks with other credit unions about possible transfers of engagement also failed to materialised.

“Despite the good working relationship that had built up during the period of discussion a final agreement suitable to both credit unions could not be arrived at.

“Clonmel CU had previously entered into discussion with other credit unions always with a confidentiality agreement in place. Of all these discussions, only two reached the point where a transfer was completed,” said Mr Davey.

He also stated that media reports about the confidential and preliminary discussions did not influence the outcome of the negotiations.

“The position arrived at would have been the same with or without the media focus,” said Mr Davey.

“At all times, the best interest of both sets of members was the focus of each of the board of directors.”

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Under 10% of shipping companies use Eircode

2017-03-29

Fewer than one in 10 logistics and shipping companies have adapted their businesses to use Eircode, according to a survey by KPMG.

Fewer than one in 10 logistics and shipping companies have adapted their businesses to use Eircode, according to a survey by KPMG.

KPMG along with Services advisor CBRE and the Freight Transport Association of Ireland have published the second annual Ireland Logistics & Supply Chain Confidence Index which found 92% of companies that replied to their survey say “they have not adapted their business processes in order to exploit Eircode”.

The same survey last year found 96% of companies did not adapt their business to use Eircode.

“Many respondents said there is now a greater adoption of Eircode but, for the most part, it is not having a huge impact on their business to date,” the survey’s report states.

A total of 52 companies responded to the survey, including businesses such as Aer Lingus Cargo, DHL, and the Musgrave group. Logistics firms accounted for 27 of respondents, while shipping companies made up the rest of those surveyed.

Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) of logistics companies said they have not taken any action in relation to their business processes with the introduction of Eircode, with 96% of shipping respondents highlighting no changes since its introduction.

Almost three quarters of those asked (72%) said there had been no change in their attitude to Eircode compared to this time last year, while almost 20% of respondents said they were “more positively disposed towards the Eircode system than they were 12 months ago”.

The survey showed 8% of respondents said they felt more negative about Eircode than they were 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, 18% of respondents said “Brexit uncertainty” was the greatest challenge facing the sector in the next year, while four in 10 companies say conditions will be “somewhat more difficult” in the next 12 months.

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MMA fighter ‘lucky to be alive’ after gang attack

2017-03-29

Gardaí are investigating a brutal street assault by a gang armed with iron bars, bottles, and knives which left an amateur MMA fighter fighting for his life.

Gardaí are investigating a brutal street assault by a gang armed with iron bars, bottles, and knives which left an amateur MMA fighter fighting for his life.

Paul Healy spoke from his bed in Cork University Hospital (CUH) and said he is lucky to be alive after the vicious assault on the northside of Cork City which left him with a fractured skull and requiring more than 40 stitches to his head and face.

“I’m a nice fella. I help the homeless in Cork, and people like me and respect me. I don’t know who attacked me or why. But they tried to kill me,” he said.

While detectives have spoken to him twice since the assault in the early hours of Sunday, he said he has little memory of the incident following the initial attack.

Mr Healy said he hopes his condition will improve over the coming days to allow him make a formal statement.

“I just want anyone that knows anything to come forward to the guards or locals so that they can be arrested and charged,” he said.

“I am a good young fella and these people who done this need to be stopped. I am lucky to be alive.”

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Mr Healy, from Donoughmore, said he spent part of Saturday in Fitzgerald Park, and was with two friends as he walked to the city and on to Blackpool that night to catch a taxi home.

He said he was attacked from behind, and struck on his head as he walked near Orchard Court by a gang of up to five men armed with bottles, iron bars and knives. His two friends fled.

He said he has no recollection of exchanging words with the gang, or of an altercation before the incident.

Mr Healy described it as a random attack and said he can think of no reason why he would be targeted in this way. 

“They came up behind me. I tried to defend myself but they kept smashing my head with bottles. I nearly died,” he told Neil Prendeville on RedFM.

“There was no reason for me to get a beating. It was so serious they almost killed me. It wasn’t just a normal beating. You don’t do that to a human. The back of my head is like a map — I have over 30 staples holding my head together.”

Onlookers came to the aid of the unconscious man and he was rushed by ambulance to CUH where he is being treated for a fractured skull, a fractured jaw, two broken eye sockets, and internal bleeding on the brain. 

He received 30 staples to his head and 11 stitches to his face.

He is undergoing treatment for the bleeds in his brain, and doctors are waiting for the swelling in his jaw and eye sockets to go down before they can determine if he requires surgery.

Gardaí at Mayfield say they are investigating an assault near Orchard Court between 11.45pm on Saturday and 12.15am on Sunday, and are examining CCTV footage as part of their investigation. 

Anyone with information should contact Mayfield Garda Station on 021 4558510.

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Irish Examiner journalists among top tweeters

2017-03-29

Four Irish Examiner journalists are among Ireland’s top 100 influential journalists on Twitter.

Four Irish Examiner journalists are among Ireland’s top 100 influential journalists on Twitter.

These include political editor Daniel McConnell (37th), Gaelic Games correspondent John Fogarty (44th), senior news reporter Eoin English (53rd), and deputy editor and sports editor Tony Leen (54th).

Mr McConnell also came in as the “biggest gainer” on the Murray Tweet Index, which is compiled by communications firm, Murray Consultants.

Crime Correspondent Cormac O’Keeffe was listed as the fifth most influential Irish crime journalist on Twitter.

The most influential Irish journalist on the social media platform went to Today FM’s Last Word presenter, Matt Cooper.

He took the number one spot from RTÉ sports broadcaster Des Cahill, who fell to 11th place this year.

Journalists were also listed as being the most influential in specific categories.

RTÉ Washington correspondent Caitriona Perry is ranked as the most influential news journalist on Twitter.

Today FM political correspondent Gavan Reilly is most influential in the political sphere, and David McWilliams is the most influential columnist.

Journalists’ Twitter performance was measured by popularity, quality of engagement, and activity level.

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Cars being ‘clocked’ twice before sale in new scam

2017-03-29

Motorists are being warned about a new scam in which sellers, often in Britain, are “clocking” or reducing the mileage on cars twice before they sell them on here.

Motorists are being warned about a new scam in which sellers, often in Britain, are “clocking” or reducing the mileage on cars twice before they sell them on here.

The AA says that, on the back of a 47% year-on-year increase in the number of vehicles being brought here from Britain, there has been an increase in “mileage discrepancies” among those vehicles.

“In 2015, research from Cartell.ie indicated that 14.5% of UK cars imported into Ireland had had their mileage altered in some way,” an AA spokesman said.

“However, recent reviews of smaller sample groups than the 2015 report indicate this figure has increased to 16.5% in respect to UK cars currently on Irish roads.”

Because of the advent of background check services such as Cartell.ie, unscrupulous sellers have found another way to mask clocking.

They drastically reduce the mileage on the car before taking it in for an NCT here (or MOT in Britain). Then they increase it again back up to a more believable, but still drastically reduced level.

“During one recent inspection, where a customer was interested in buying a three-year-old car with 30,000 miles previously registered in the UK, a background check found that the car’s mileage had been recorded as 18,000 miles during its first MOT 90 days earlier,” Joe Langan of AA Car Inspections said.

“So we were expected to believe that this car had taken nearly three years to do 18,000 miles — and then driven over 130 miles per day for the last three months. This just does not add up — we suspect someone had decided to turn back the mileage on this car — perhaps dropping it from 60,000 miles – but decided to ‘lowball’ it first, down to 18,000 miles, ensure a low base mileage was recorded during the first MOT, from which they could then adjust the mileage to something more realistic when selling it on.”

AA said that, since only a higher mileage in the past produces a mileage alert, traders are then free to do this and give themselves a bit of leeway if they decide to bring it back up to something more realistic.

Conor Faughnan, AA’s director of consumer affairs, said they have found that the level of clocking in Britain of cars which were destined for the Irish market, is greater than the number that are being sold on within Britain.

“While it can be easy to think that you may have snagged a bargain, sometimes a good deal is simply too good to be true,” he said, adding that before buying any car it is important to have it checked out thoroughly by a professional.

“It’s only during this step that doctored mileage or hidden damage to the car is likely to be detected,” he said.

Mr Faughnan said there are a number of tell-tale signs that a mechanic could detect such as the rubber on the clutch pedal being too worn for the amount of mileage supposedly done.

A new pedal could also arouse suspicions as it could mean it had to be replaced when the mileage would indicate that should not have been necessary.

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Existing water laws can be used to meet EU rules, committee told

2017-03-29

Existing laws can be beefed up to ensure homeowners can be fined and penalised in order to comply with EU environmental laws.

Existing laws can be beefed up to ensure homeowners can be fined and penalised in order to comply with EU environmental laws.

That is the legal advice that has been given to TDs and senators over disagreement on how a process can be agreed on funding water services going forward.

However, they have also been told any agreed water funding system must comply with the EU “polluter pays” principle, advice which may mean Ireland must enforce a charging system.

The Oireachtas committee on water met yesterday in private and assessed advice from a senior counsel over whether existing laws can be used to apply penalties on water usage.

Committee chairman Pádraig Ó Céidigh wants to also ensure that any measures agreed on funding water services or by the Oireachtas will comply with EU’s rules.

“The advice said that the Water Services Act of 2007 can be amended to meet the overall obligations arising from the [EU] water framework directive [WFD] and to address and comply with the polluter pays principle.”

A draft working paper for the committee also stressed the need to find and agree funding certainty for the future of water services.

The draft paper also says: “The committee recommends that there must be funding certainty and long term stability for the water utility so that it can plan and deliver the requisite level of operational and infrastructure projects, in line with the commitments made in its business plan up to 2021, which in turn is based upon the WFD.”

This is in line with a previous review which suggested normal use of water is subsidised by the State while there could be a charge for wasting water. However, this latter issue is a sticking point between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the committee.

A drinking water inspectorate should also be set up, the paper suggests. But a number of other issues, such as the role of district metering as opposed to domestic meters, have yet to be discussed by TDs and senators.

Furthermore, a system of refunds have not been finalised. The working paper suggests: “In respect of those who have paid some or all of the domestic water charges, the Committee recommends that, following consideration of and taking into account the fiscal implications and the most effective refund methods, such households should be compensated in an equitable manner.”

The committee has until the middle of next month to produce a final report, which will then help inform a Dáil vote on the future of funding for water services and water charging in general.

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Mounting pressure as opposition calls for Nóirín O’Sullivan to resign

2017-03-29

Nóirín O’Sullivan is under mounting pressure to go after Government faced a unified chorus to declare no confidence in the Garda Commissioner in the Dáil.Nóirín O’Sullivan is under mounting pressure to go after Government faced a unified chorus to declare no confidence in the Garda Commissioner in the Dáil.The Taoiseach and Tánaiste came under sharp criticism in the Dáil as Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party all accused Government of failing to address the latest controversy within the force. Enda Kenny announced that yet another “root and branch” review of An Garda Síochána had been signed off on by Cabinet, which was immediately attacked and dismissed by opposition parties yesterday. Mr Kenny said Ms O’Sullivan was entitled to the confidence of the Government and rebuffed calls for her to resign. “This is not about an individual but the structure of An Garda Síochána,” he said. The Taoiseach said it is “gravely important” that the public have “faith and trust” in the gardaí to carry out their duties “fairly and impartially and in accordance with the laws of the land”. Mr Kenny said: “It is crucial that the public can believe the statistics and other information provided by An Garda Síochána. The Government believes that the level of public concern is now so profound that it is time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root and branch review of An Garda Síochána.” But Labour leader Brendan Howlin pointed out that a similar independent review had been announced only a matter of weeks ago when revelations around whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe surfaced. Mr Howlin said: “That was the response of the Independent Alliance to the last crisis a few weeks ago. That was its bolt into that. Of course, we have heard nothing since.” There were rowdy scenes as members of the opposition accused Ms Fitzgerald of “running for cover” and demanded she come before the Dáil to answer questions on how the gardaí were able to grossly exaggerate the number of breath tests carried out and why 14,700 people wrongly received sanctions and convictions for driving offences. Solidarity-PBP TD Mick Barry said the Taoiseach was “treating the house in a similar fashion” to the last Dáil when his party had a significant majority, but this was no longer the case and he said the Tánaiste was answerable to the chamber. The business committee was forced to convene an emergency meeting and agreed that Ms Fitzgerald come back before the house for questioning at 6pm. Calling for Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to go, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said a review would not overhaul the culture of the gardaí as “a fish rots from the head down”. “Only in Ireland would politicians be standing here today, debating whether the person who is ultimately responsible for all of this mess should remain in her job. The biggest mistake that the Taoiseach and the Minister [for Justice] could make is to leave Commissioner O’Sullivan in position,” she said. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the public “are genuinely shocked” by the revelations “in particular the fact that 146,000 people were summoned to court wrongly for road traffic infringements and, of those, 14,700 received sanctions and convictions”.[...]



No details on how breath-test data was inputted into the Pulse IT system

2017-03-29

Gardaí say they cannot give details as to how breath test data was inputted into the Pulse IT system, with a legal firm also stating it is unknown what level of oversight was in place higher up the chain.

Gardaí say they cannot give details as to how breath test data was inputted into the Pulse IT system, with a legal firm also stating it is unknown what level of oversight was in place higher up the chain.

A representative of the high-profile law firm, who did not wish to be named, said its understanding is that individual gardaí were responsible for the inputting of data from the devices into Pulse, but that solicitors were not privy to what happened to the data afterwards.

Speaking yesterday on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Professor Denis Cusack, director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, said the breath testing devices were specific to stations and that there were 1,200 in operation across 108 stations.

The devices can be used “limitless” times, but each test requires a different mouthpiece to be attached — and it was the build-up of unused mouthpieces which first signalled a potential problem to the bureau back in 2014.

The bureau checks every device every six months and the figures as to the number of tests conducted since the last check.

The devices recorded the number of tests conducted but the data did not automatically upload into the Garda Pulse system. Regarding other aspects of the procedure for the uploading of that data, Prof Cusack said: “It’s a Garda operational matter.”

That was a similar refrain from An Garda Síochána, with no information as to how the process operated in recent years regarding the uploading of data from the devices into the Garda computer system, whether that information needed to be signed-off by superior officers, and whether or not a record of that process was made.

A Garda spokesperson said: “Assistant Commissioner [Michael] O’Sullivan has been appointed to investigate all elements surrounding these issues. As this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to discuss any matters pertaining to this investigation at this time.”

However, gardaí have already outlined ways in which the system has changed over the past year to faithfully record data on breath tests. This culminated in a revised HQ directive being issued on November 2 last in relation to procedures to be followed regarding the recording of MAT checkpoint data on Pulse, and the IT upgrade to the Pulse System on December 4 which created a number of new data fields and enhanced data collection.

Prof Cusack also said that in future, the process should be made easier due to the acquiring of newer devices that will allow for the recording of location and extra features such as direct downloading and documenting of data.

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Policing Authority turns down Commissioner's request for Garda Inspectorate inquiry

2017-03-29

The Policing Authority delivered a blow to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan yesterday by turning down her request for the Garda Inspectorate to examine the breath test scandal.

The Policing Authority delivered a blow to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan yesterday by turning down her request for the Garda Inspectorate to examine the breath test scandal.

The authority said it took this decision because it had not received “data requested” by it from the Garda Síochána and that an inspectorate investigation was “premature”.

The authority sought the information it wanted — including all audit reports — “by the end of this week”.

In a statement, it expressed its “disappointment” at not being advised in a “timely manner” that an audit into the breath test issues was underway.

Gardaí finished an initial audit of breath tests in the Southern Region by November 2015 and ordered a national audit on 2 June 2016.

Six days later, a report was submitted to the Department of Justice on the two audits. The Road Safety Authority was also informed.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said on Monday that the failure to notify the Policing Authority was an “administrative” oversight on his part.

The full national audit was completed in March 2017, when the gardaí informed and briefed the Policing Authority.

Following a meeting yesterday, the Policing Authority said: “Despite questioning over several months, the Authority has not yet been provided with the full internal reports or indeed a clear sense of how these matters have been handled to date with the Garda Síochána or the status and content of the audits which have been undertaken.”

It said it had considered correspondence received from the Garda Commissioner last Friday in which she requested that the authority refer a number of matters to the Garda Inspectorate.

The statement said the authority conveyed the result of its deliberations to the commissioner yesterday.

“It [the Policing Authority] concluded that, in the absence of the data requested, it is premature to decide at this time whether there is value in asking the Garda Inspectorate to conduct the type of inspection requested,” the statement said.

“It requested that, by the end of this week, further information be provided by the Garda Síochána on a range of matters to facilitate the Authority’s further consideration of this matter.

“This includes a copy of all existing reports, including audits or examinations on both matters.”

In order to assist in identifying gaps and “because they were not entirely clear” the authority also asked for details from the Commissioner of the internal examination and internal audit and the timeliness of their completion.

The Policing Authority stressed that that supply of this information in a timely manner was “emphasised” to the commissioner.

In addition, the authority said that, as a first step, it had decided to “engage expertise” to assist it in conducting “a quality assurance review” of the remedial actions taken by gardaí in 2016 to help restore confidence in Garda data.

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Audit of An Garda Siochána ‘will not be fault finding’

2017-03-29

The Government has agreed an external review of An Garda Siochána in the wake of the fake alcohol tests and penalty points scandal but it will not be fault finding, it was agreed.

The Government has agreed an external review of An Garda Siochána in the wake of the fake alcohol tests and penalty points scandal but it will not be fault finding, it was agreed.

During a four-hour meeting of Cabinet yesterday — mostly consumed with the latest Garda fiasco — it was agreed that a “root and branch” review will be conducted.

The timeframe, powers and people to head this though have yet to be agreed. This external review will be on top of two others of the force, including an internal one by gardaí themselves and a separate review by the policing authority of the penalty points and breathaliser test scandal.

Government partners, Independent Alliance, said they are reserving a “wait-and-see” approach on the issue, until Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan answers questions at an Oireachtas committee tomorrow.

But a spokeswoman for the Alliance said they feel “vindicated” after more recent demands for an external review of the force.

Alliance de-facto leader Shane Ross and Environment Minister Denis Naughten emphasised the need for the external review at yesterday’s weekly meeting.

However, the Government has not agreed yet how long this external review will take; who might lead it; or what powers it will have.

Crucially, a Government spokesman said it will include an examination of garda management but the review, in general, is “not fault finding”.

Government sources expect that a Patten-type commission could be contemplated when Cabinet resume deliberations on this in the coming days — a model on a previous review of policing in the North which led to an overhaul of the force there.

A memo on the exact nature of the external review will go to Cabinet next week, a spokesman said.

The process will also include examining if existing legislation can be used or not.

A Government statement added: “The Government believes the level of public concern is now so profound that it may now be time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. That is clearly a proposal that will require further detailed consideration by the Government.”

The opposition will also be consulted about the nature of the review.

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Brexit countdown: Scotland seeks another vote on independence

2017-03-29

Scottish parliament votes 69-59 in favour of seeking permission for ballot in 18 months as May declares no deal until Brexit negotiated.Scottish parliament votes 69-59 in favour of seeking permission for ballot in 18 months as May declares no deal until Brexit negotiated.The Scottish parliament backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for the powers to hold a second independence referendum, which British prime minister Theresa May has already said she will not allow until Brexit has been negotiated. MSPs voted 69-59 to mandate the first minister to seek permission from the UK government for a ballot to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. Ms Sturgeon’s minority government won the vote following an extended debate thanks to support from the Scottish Greens. Ms May has already said she will block another referendum while the Brexit process takes place, stating “now is not the time”. The two-day debate started last week but was suspended on Wednesday as news of the terror attack at Westminster emerged. The vote came ahead of the process of Britain leaving the EU being formally triggered by Ms May today. Ms Sturgeon has insisted her referendum timetable would allow Scottish voters to make a choice when terms of the Brexit deal become clear and before it is “too late to choose our own course”. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon leaves after the vote on a second referendum on independence was carried at the Scottish parliament. Picture: Andy Buchanan Speaking before the leaders’ meeting on Monday, Ms May said her position will not change, arguing that a vote within Ms Sturgeon’s proposed time frame would be unfair to voters and come at a time when the focus should be on securing the best Brexit deal for the whole of the UK. Ms Sturgeon said: “It is now the will of Scotland’s democratically elected national parliament that discussions should begin with the UK government to enable an independence referendum to be held. “Today’s vote must now be respected. The mandate for a referendum is beyond question, and it would be democratically indefensible — and utterly unsustainable — to attempt to stand in the way of it. “We will now act on the mandate given to us by parliament by making a formal approach to the UK government within the next few days, after Article 50 has been triggered. “This is, first and foremost, about giving the people of Scotland a choice on this country’s future. “The prime minister says that now is not the time for a referendum. I agree with that, which is why I have indicated a time scale no earlier than 18 months from now, when the terms of Brexit are clear — something the PM has now indicated she agrees with. “It is up to the UK government to now make clear when they consider a referendum would be appropriate.” UK Scottish secretary David Mundell told BBC Scotland: “We won’t be entering into any negotiations at all until the Brexit process is complete.  "Now’s the time for the Scottish government to come together with the UK government, work together to get the best possible deal for the UK, and that will mean for Scotland as we leave the EU.” A British government spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has been clear that now is not the time for an independence referendum, and we will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish government’s proposal. “At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the Europ[...]



Brexit countdown: Half of SMEs expect profits to fall

2017-03-29

Almost half of small and medium-sized firms expect their profits to fall as a result of Brexit, according to a survey of employers in the sector.

Almost half of small and medium-sized firms expect their profits to fall as a result of Brexit, according to a survey of employers in the sector.

The research, conducted by Isme, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, finds that one in six such companies expect some reduction in staff numbers as a result of Britain leaving the EU.

Isme got replies from 1,416 of its members to the survey, carried out in the second week of March. 

It said 68% of the replies came from the services sector; 9% from distribution; 4% from retail; 16% from manufacturing; and 3% from construction.

The survey posed six questions focusing on staffing, turnover, profitability, imports, exports, and relocation post-Brexit.

While many companies appear to feel that Brexit will have little impact on their operations, it is clear that a number are facing a difficult trading environment when Britain leaves the EU.

Just under half (42%) admitted they expect a fall in their turnover, while only 11% said Brexit could lead to an increase.

In turn, 48% of the respondents said they expect their profitability to fall by anywhere up to 20%.

Furthermore, 17% of the companies said Brexit will lead to some reduction in staffing numbers, with 7% saying that the fall could be more than 10%.

A quarter of the companies who replied said more than 20% of their imports or purchases were sterling denominated or from Britain, and 11% said they are considering relocating a part of their business to Britain as a result of Brexit.

Isme said that while the survey indicates Brexit will not impact most of its members, the results come with a health warning.

It said: “They may not represent the broader sectoral impact of Brexit on the SME sector. Isme membership is over-represented in the services sector, by comparison with the CSO breakdown of the 238,000 enterprises in the Irish economy. “

Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell said: “We believe that the services, financial, and insurance sectors on aggregate will have a lower level of direct exposure to Brexit-related impacts than will the industrial, construction, and distribution sectors.

“This does not negate the Brexit-related uncertainties and challenges SMEs face across the country, particularly those in border counties. Services businesses in border counties may be more badly affected by Brexit than other businesses.”

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€226m fund to facilitate building of 23,000 new homes

2017-03-29

Local authorities will get over €226m to facilitate the building of 23,000 homes over the next four years, as part of a plan to provide infrastructure for the construction of properties.Local authorities will get over €226m to facilitate the building of 23,000 homes over the next four years, as part of a plan to provide infrastructure for the construction of properties.Housing Minister Simon Coveney announced details of the Rebuilding Ireland plan, which will see 15 local authorities receive monies under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, with the option of extending more to other councils down the line. Mr Coveney said councils which do not stick to agreed targets would have monies removed.  “There will be consequences if they are not delivering,” he said at a press conference yesterday. Cabinet colleague and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said more funds might be considered but only after the scheme is evaluated after the first year. Up to €800m had been applied for by local authorities, the ministers revealed. The funds will be made available to build infrastructure such as bridges, roads, roundabouts, and overhead electricity lines, as well as water services and sewerage works.  Project costs will be shared on a three to one basis between the exchequer and local authorities. A breakdown of the figures shows Dublin City will receive funding of €18.7m; Dun Laoghaire will get €40m; Fingal €26m; Cork City €25.4m; Cork County €20.4m; Kildare €21.5m; Kilkenny €7.3m; and Limerick €15m. In Dublin City, the building of certain infrastructure would help the construction of some 2,880 homes, while in Dun Laoghaire, 5,000 would be built over four years. In Cork City, €15.5m has been allocated for road upgrades in the south docks to deliver 700 houses by 2021, with 600 units planned for a site on the old Whitechurch Rd. In Co Cork, over €20m has been allocated to deliver more than 1,700 housing units in Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Glanmire, and Midleton by the same date. Most of the construction of the homes will be done by private developers, who have complained about infrastructure delays. A number of the home-build commitments, though, also relate to public sites or local authority housing, said the Department of the Environment. Responding to the plan and writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Sinn Féin housing spokesman and Dublin Mid West TD Eoin Ó Broin said there is “no guarantee of affordability” for homeowners with the scheme. More details on specific sites and areas around the country which will get millions of euro to build bridges, roads, and works can be found on www.housing.gov.ie  However, a number of local authorities and councils will be disappointed after not getting funds. These include Galway, Sligo, Donegal, and Wicklow, among other areas. A total of 74 proposals from 21 local authorities were received, valued at a total of around €800m, it was announced. A total of €113m will be provided to the four Dublin local authorities and a further €45.8m is going to Cork City Council and Cork County Council. The promised infrastructure, which is detailed for each area, must be built between 2017 and 2019. Local authorities that fail to meet targets will have their funding pulled and given to other councils who may have missed out on the infrastructure fund.[...]



Expert: Reform healthcare or face ‘apocalyptic scenario’

2017-03-29

Healthcare in Ireland faces an “apocalyptic scenario” if radical steps are not taken to change it, says cancer expert Dr Tom Keane.

Healthcare in Ireland faces an “apocalyptic scenario” if radical steps are not taken to change it, says cancer expert Dr Tom Keane.

The former head of the National Cancer Control Programme is lead author of a report from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland on the direction healthcare must take in the years ahead.

Prof Keane said healthcare has to change to avoid a complete systems breakdown, but there must be a plan and a body, accountable to the Oireachtas, to oversee its implementation.

“Our existing system has pockets of excellence, but until we address the many systemic problems caused by a lack of process and transparency, we will remain anchored in the past,” he said.

The report, Towards 2026, focuses on hospitals and how they can become more aligned with changes in the broader system, such as increased care in the community and greater emphasis on prevention.

“Fixing the health service to meet the needs of those who require care is an enormous task, but it is not impossible,” said Prof Keane.

“In my conversations with patients, carers, and health professionals over the past year, I have been impressed by their inherent goodwill and lack of recrimination at the failings of the system. But I also sensed that tipping point of total system failure cannot be far off. 

"The way healthcare is delivered to patients must change before that point is reached to prevent the inevitable consequences — a profoundly negative impact on the health and wellbeing of those dependent on publicly funded healthcare.”

Prof Keane said the report is the combined wisdom of more than 100 senior people involved in all aspects of healthcare in Ireland.

“Putting the patient at the centre of how services are designed, organised, and delivered is what the Irish public want and deserve. 

"This is the resounding message from the patients and carers, health professionals, policy specialists, and hospital managers who have shaped this vision for the delivery of future healthcare,” he said.

Prof Keane, who works for the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Canada, said he finds it astonishing that people are out marching about water charges. 

“There should be just as many people out marching about healthcare and demanding that things change,” he said during an interview on RTÉ radio yesterday.

People have to decide what type of healthcare system they want, how it should serve them and how it should be funded, he said, claiming people would pay more taxes if it would result in better healthcare. 

“I spent most of my career working in Canada where there is no private care. Everything is in the public system. It is not perfect, but I believe, ultimately, it is the way to go.”

The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland wants the report to be part of the new 10-year plan for the health services being developed by the Oireachtas committee on the future of healthcare.

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Church ‘must reply to victims’, says Vatican's child protection commission

2017-03-29

The Vatican’s child protection commission, from which an Irish abuse survivor resigned in protest in recent weeks, has told the Pope that the Church needs to start responding “directly and compassionately” to the victims of clerical abuse.

The Vatican’s child protection commission, from which an Irish abuse survivor resigned in protest in recent weeks, has told the Pope that the Church needs to start responding “directly and compassionately” to the victims of clerical abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, of which Marie Collins was a founding member, met for its eighth Plenary Assembly over the past weekend.

Ms Collins stepped down from the commission at the start of March blaming “the resistance by some members of the Vatican Curia to the work of the commission”.

At the time, she said the lack of cooperation, “particularly by the dicastery most involved in dealing with cases of abuse, has been shameful.”

Following its assembly, the commission issued a statement in which it said members have unanimously agreed “to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors”.

“The commission discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See,” the statement read.

“Members agreed that acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.

“They acknowledged that this is a significant task due to the volume and nature of the correspondence and requires clear and specific resources and procedures. They have agreed to send further recommendations to Pope Francis for consideration.”

The commission also said a “central topic” of its assembly has been Marie Collins’s resignation.

“The commission members expressed strong support for her and her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” it said.

“They also expressed their particular gratitude that Marie Collins has agreed to continue working with the commission’s educational programs for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia.”

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Judge ‘unfairly disparaged’ key witness, Ian Bailey says in appeal

2017-03-29

A High Court judge “unfairly disparaged” Marie Farrell, a key witness for Ian Bailey, during Mr Bailey’s civil case for damages against the Garda commissioner and State, the Court of Appeal has been told.A High Court judge “unfairly disparaged” Marie Farrell, a key witness for Ian Bailey, during Mr Bailey’s civil case for damages against the Garda commissioner and State, the Court of Appeal has been told.Mr Justice John Hedigan’s refusal to discharge the jury after warning Ms Farrell about perjury in front of them irreparably damaged Mr Bailey’s case, his lawyers submitted. Mr Bailey claims the judge’s handling of the case meant the jury never got to address a range of matters he alleges demonstrated a conspiracy to frame him for the 1996 murder in West Cork of French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Those alleged acts included leaking his name to the media the night before his first arrest; paying British former soldier Martin Graham cash and drugs to implicate him; arresting his partner Jules Thomas and her daughter Fenella with a view to pressuring him; and persisting in advancing Ms Farrell as a witness against him despite “clear warnings and misgivings” from the DPP’s office on her evidence. Mr Bailey also contends evidence from former DPPs Eamonn Barnes and James Hamilton, along with evidence of Robert Sheehan, a solicitor in the DPP’s office who was critical of the Garda file relating to Mr Bailey, was wrongly curtailed by the trial judge.  Mr Sheehan was not permitted to refer to his own contemporaneous notes, the court was told. These are among 17 grounds advanced in Mr Bailey’s appeal over the jury’s dismissal in March 2015 of his claim gardaí conspired to frame him for the murder of Ms du Plantier, whose body was found close to her holiday home near Schull in late December 1996. Mr Bailey, who has always denied any involvement in the murder, was in court with his partner Jules Thomas yesterday for the opening of the appeal before a three-judge Court of Appeal. Several grounds of appeal concern Mr Justice Hedigan’s decision not to allow most of Mr Bailey’s case, including his claims of wrongful arrest, be decided by the jury on grounds those were statute barred, brought outside the relevant six-year time limit for such claims. The defendants, relying on the statute of limitations, had applied, towards the end of the 64-day case, to remove it from the jury. Tom Creed SC and Ronan Munro SC, for Mr Bailey, said the judge’s ruling on day 62 meant the jury got no opportunity to consider the conspiracy claims in full or to decide important issues relating to the alleged conspiracy. Mr Creed said the State’s application was made too late and involved an abuse of process for reasons including that substantial costs had been incurred by then. The claim of an “over- arching” Garda conspiracy against Mr Bailey was not statute barred but the ruling removed important issues from the jury relating to the alleged conspiracy, he argued. Mr Bailey’s claim for damages for breach of constitutional rights, including to his reputation and to privacy, also did not go to the jury, which had no opportunity to consider whether they accepted aspects of the Garda evidence, he said. Separately, a decision is pending by the High Court on a European Ar[...]