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Updated: 2017-11-22T07:59:59+00:00

 



Tánaiste fighting for her political life

2017-11-22

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is fighting for her political life as the Government’s handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe has yet again engulfed the coalition in controversy.Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is fighting for her political life as the Government’s handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe has yet again engulfed the coalition in controversy.Despite prolonged and pointed questioning from members of the opposition, both Ms Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are likely to face further interrogation today as many details around when Government were first made aware of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe remain unclear. Some of the unanswered questions that remain include: Did Ms Fitzgerald fully read a May 2015 email first sent to her private secretary and then forwarded to her? This email detailed legal argument which had arisen at the O’Higgins Commission around a “serious criminal complaint” which Sgt McCabe believed had no relation to the investigation; If she read the email, which she confirmed in the Dáil was sent to her, why did she not act on it or question it further? Why was the email sent to her in the first place if she was not required to take any actions on it? Why did it take four days from last Thursday for Ms Fitzgerald and the Department of Justice to inform the Taoiseach of the existence of the email? Why was this email only sent to the Charleton Tribunal yesterday morning and not last Thursday, when it was retrieved? A day of high drama — during which the Taoiseach was accused of misleading the Dáil — began with a meeting between Mr Varadkar, Ms Fitzgerald, and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan over the revelation that the Tánaiste received details via email of a campaign to discredit Sgt McCabe’s as far back as 2015. Just last week, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that Ms Fitzgerald had first became aware of An Garda Síochána’s legal strategy in 2016 when the controversy was revealed by the Irish Examiner. Yesterday, however, Ms Fitzgerald went on RTÉ radio to admit she received an email in May 2015 detailing a row between counsel representing An Garda Síochána and counsel for the garda whistleblower, Sgt McCabe. In the radio interview, which appeared to raise more questions than it answered, she claimed she had forgotten the details of this email, as she had been told there were no actions required from her in relation to the legal strategy taken. Her explanation was dubbed a “stretch of credibility” by members of the opposition, with Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour all demanding explanations during Leaders Questions yesterday afternoon. The email was eventually made public last night during a special Dáil session, during which Ms Fitzgerald was grilled on the matter. Crucially, the Department of Justice email confirms that former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan did authorise the use of these allegations against Sgt McCabe, or reference to them, by her lawyers during the O’Higgins Commission. In the email, officials in the Department of Justice confirmed that the “Garda Commissioner’s authorisation had been confirmed”. The Tánaiste faced further difficulty last night after she was accused of attempting to “withhold information” from the public during the hastily arranged Dáil debate on the controversy. Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said the new details are “completely at odds with what you said before”, while Labour leader Brendan Howlin told Ms Fitzgerald that, instead of holding gardaí to account, “you simply forgot”. Despite the criticism, Ms Fitzgerald responded: “What possible advantage to me would be to say I did not remember the email?” Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said he “absolutely” had confidence in the Tánaiste, as did coalition partners the In[...]



Mixed reaction to State’s €30m loan to An Post

2017-11-22

The Government’s €30m loan to An Post that it says will allow the organisation to modernise and keep rural post offices open has been met with a mixed reaction.

The Government’s €30m loan to An Post that it says will allow the organisation to modernise and keep rural post offices open has been met with a mixed reaction.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten said the loan was to safeguard a five-day delivery service to “every address in the country”.

He said the loan was conditional on specific targets being met which would be examined in monthly updates.

An Post said it had a loss of €15.6m in 2016 and at this time last year, PWC forecast a loss of €61m in 2017 if no action were taken.

Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) bosses said the loan was welcome but called for the immediate implementation of reforms to modernise the organisation. General secretary Ned O’Hara said:

“What is important is that a significant portion of this money goes to protecting and securing the post office network and does not get consumed in addressing other problems faced by An Post.”

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley criticised the loan, saying that it was a glorified job-loss announcement.

“Let’s be under no illusion, the money announced today will be spent on redundancies in the postal delivery side of the business and on retirement packages for postmasters,” he said.

“The pensioning off of postmasters will leave vast swathes of rural Ireland without a post office. This announcement is a short-term fix to An Post’s financial difficulties, and doesn’t deal with the long-term challenges the post office network is facing.”

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Nursing initiative to boost services

2017-11-22

A education programme for advanced nursing practise led by University College Cork will play a leading role in transforming the country’s health services.

A education programme for advanced nursing practise led by University College Cork will play a leading role in transforming the country’s health services.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who launched the programme at University College Dublin yesterday, said it will result in the delivery of 700 advance nurse practitioner posts by 2021.

“This initiative will provide patients with more appropriate, safe and accessible care across a range of services,” said Mr Harris.

The new education model will initially see 120 advanced nurse practitioners trained to provide care across a range of services.

The minister said there is “huge interest” in the programme — more than 400 nurses have applied to take part in it.

Advance nurse practitioners already work in emergency departments and local injury units, but Mr Harris said the development of posts is ad hoc and on a small scale.

“There are areas of advanced practice that are underdeveloped within our health services, particularly around services for older person care, chronic disease management and unscheduled care which are the focus of this initiative,” he said.

“This is about scaling up. It is about looking at countries like Australia, where they now have 2% of their nursing workforce working as advanced nurse practitioners. That is where we want to get to as well.”

The programme is being run by a consortium of colleges led by UCC and including Trinity College Dublin, the National University of Ireland Galway and UCD.

Chairwoman and head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at UCC, Eileen Savage, said advanced nurse practitioners have diagnostic referral authority so there will be much quicker access to the services for patients.

“You will see them working across GP practices and health centres, but they will also be integrated with the acute sector,” she said.

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Golden rules for online shopping safety

2017-11-22

Black Friday is the new December 8, according to An Garda Síochána, with more than 50% of people expected to shop online this Christmas.

Black Friday is the new December 8, according to An Garda Síochána, with more than 50% of people expected to shop online this Christmas.

An Garda Síochána and Europol have issued 12 golden rules for safe online shopping ahead of Black Friday on November 24.

Some of these include shopping from trusted sites and checking that the URL of the website carries a padlock icon or the HTTPS application protocol.

“The traditional shopping period of December 8 has come forward now to Black Friday, which we have imported from America, and Cyber Monday, which is when people in modern times are commencing their shopping,” said Detective Superintendent Michael Gubbins, head of the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau.

“Years ago, we’d be giving people advice about, if they came to Dublin or the big city centres, to mind their chequebook or mind their cash from having their pocket dipped.

“But now we have to think: Where are the people? Where is the community going now? Something like 30% of people will shop online [using their mobile phone] this Christmas.”

Det Supt Gubbins was speaking yesterday at the launch of the Safe Online Shopping campaign, which is being rolled out by An Garda Síochána in conjunction with the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland and Retail Excellence, in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday on November 27.

Niamh Davenport, the federation’s fraud manager, said the “sophistication” of online scams can trick people.

“The sophistication of scams can often confuse and distract people,” she said. “They’re quite convincing, whether it’s an advert on Facebook or a website that appears to be quite genuine.”

Ms Davenport said that, from the federation’s research, 58% of people in Ireland believe they are more vulnerable to fraud now than two years ago.

According to the Safe Online Shopping campaign, last Christmas more than 50% of Irish people shopped online, a 15.4% increase from December 2015 to December 2016.

For the whole of 2016, €41bn was spent on credit and debit cards issued in Ireland — €13.2bn of it was spent online. The trends are expected to grow, according to Retail Excellence.

Deputy chief executive Lorraine Higgins said: “With the development of the internet and internet shopping, we see double-digit growth in terms of desktop purchasing. We see an increase in the number of people who are buying on their handsets, from work, and so on.

“The fact that 84% of people will buy frequently online by 2020, according to the Department of Communications’ figures, it’s really important that we all be on the curve when it comes to combating the kind of crimes that are now popping up.”

Some of the tips issued by the campaign yesterday include regularly checking your bank statements for fraudulent transactions and to never shop through an unsecured or free wifi connection.

An Garda Síochána also outlined the top four ways that criminals obtain payment card details. These are through skimming, which usually occurs at ATMs and happens when criminals place a device into the card slot of the ATM. A second way is through phishing, where criminals send unsolicited emails to induce people to reveal card details.

Vishing — voice phishing — is similar except the unsolicited contact comes via a phone call. This is also being done through SMS text messages, known as smishing.

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‘I do not need legal advice on a simple question’

2017-11-22

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar received a slap down from Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher after trying to advise him in the Dáil.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar received a slap down from Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher after trying to advise him in the Dáil.

Leo Varadkar also claimed he had “nothing to hide” in relation to a 2015 email sent to the Tánaiste detailing the legal strategy taken by the gardaí against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

After initially resisting calls from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and Solidarity-PBP to bring Frances Fitzgerald before the Dáil to answer questions on the controversy, Mr Varadkar said: “I want to say very clearly that I have nothing at all to hide on this matter, nor does the Government have anything to hide on this matter.”

However, Mr Varadkar went on to provoke anger from Mr Gallagher when he suggested he seek legal advice before it was agreed that the Tánaiste come before the Dáil for questioning.

The Taoiseach said: “I am still not really clear exactly what allegation is being made against the Tánaiste by members of this House. If we are going to have a statement on this, followed by questions, it is important to do as I propose.

“I do not wish to tell the Leas-Cheann Comhairle how to do his job here — he should not take me up in that way — but I believe it is important that he, his office or somebody get some legal advice. The tribunal has been established by this House to look into these matters.”

Mr Gallagher quickly hit back stating: “Hold on. I do not need legal advice on a simple question. Deputies are requesting that an opportunity be given to make statements. It is a matter for the House, not a matter of legal advice for me.”

His comments were met with support by those on the opposition benches who had all called for a special debate on the matter, and Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív even began to applaud.

Mr Gallagher added: “I might not be a lawyer but I have common sense. I have been here for 36 or 37 years and I will not be dictated to by anybody in this House, not even the Taoiseach.”

Mr Varadkar eventually bowed to the mounting pressure and agreed that the Tánaiste would be willing to address the Dáil.

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Varadkar dismisses calls for Tánaiste to resign

2017-11-22

The Taoiseach has dismissed calls for the Tánaiste’s resignation amid fresh controversies over the treatment of Garda whisleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The Taoiseach has dismissed calls for the Tánaiste’s resignation amid fresh controversies over the treatment of Garda whisleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Leaders questions in the Dáil was dominated by new details which reveal that Frances Fitzgerald was sent an email in 2015 detailing the legal strategy taken by the gardaí to attack the credibility of Sgt McCabe during the O’Higgins Commission.

Just last week the Taoiseach had told the Dáil that Ms Fitzgerald had not been made aware of the campaign against Sgt McCabe until May 2016.

Under sustained questioning and accusations that he had misled the Dáil, Leo Varadkar was forced to admit that the former justice minister had sight of the email in 2015 — a fact he was not aware of when he answered questions on the same issue last week.

The Taoiseach said: “The email speaks of a dispute between the legal team of the Garda commissioner at the time and Sgt McCabe.”

Taoiseach described Sgt McCabe as one of the “bravest people” he had ever met and had been willing to “shine a light into some dark places”.

However, he maintained the Tánaiste had “no hand act or part” in the legal strategy and “did not know about it until after it had happened, did not know beforehand”.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he had seen the email for the first time at 11.30pm on Monday. Speaking on RTÉ radio, the Tánaiste said she had forgotten about the email but had been reminded of the existence of it again last Thursday.

However, this was queried by Mr Martin in the Dáil who asked “given the sensitivity of this issue it is not credible that the Tánaiste did not read the email or having read it, did not ask questions?”

Mr Martin accused the Government of being “complicit in this sordid affair” through Ms Fitzgerald’s “acquiescence and incuriosity”.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty questioned how such an email could “miraculously re-appeared after two years” adding that “many other things stretch credibility”.

He said it had taken the investigation of Irish Examiner reporter Michael Clifford, and RTÉ journalist Katie Hannon to first uncover the story.

“The Taoiseach’s Twitter account, the Tánaiste, Deputy Fitzgerald, or the strategic information service did not put this information into the public domain.”

Mr Doherty added: “A serious number of questions need to be answered.

"If the Tánaiste cannot answer those questions credibly, there will be serious questions about whether the she can remain within her position. This is a major political crisis.”

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Too ‘busy’ with trip abroad to speak with Taoiseach

2017-11-22

It took the Department of Justice and the Tánaiste four days to tell the Taoiseach about an email which revealed efforts by gardaí to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe at an inquiry.

It took the Department of Justice and the Tánaiste four days to tell the Taoiseach about an email which revealed efforts by gardaí to discredit Sergeant Maurice McCabe at an inquiry.

The Government says Frances Fitzgerald was “busy” travelling in recent days, including in Dubai and Boston, and therefore only spoke with the Taoiseach about the email on Monday night.

The spokesman has also said it is “impossible to say” if this Department of Justice email would have been raised in the Dáil yesterday-if it had not been revealed by RTÉ late on the Monday night.

The Government is facing a series of questions about what the department and Tánaiste both knew about Garda efforts to undermine Sgt McCabe in mid 2015 during the O’Higgins Commission.

RTÉ revealed on Monday night that the justice department and Ms Fitzgerald had in fact been aware of disagreement at the O’Higgins Commission in May 2015 and the legal strategy of gardaí. She had originally said last week she had not been aware of any Garda strategy until May 2016. However, she has since changed her position.

Many questions are only now emerging as to why the Tánaiste did not tell Mr Varadkar about this crucial email last week, on the Thursday when the original email information was sent to her.

A government spokesman confirmed that Mr Varadkar was not made aware of this email until Monday night. Furthermore, it was made clear that the Taoiseach in fact sought out this email and this was four days after the Department of Justice had passed it onto the Tánaiste, on the Thursday.

The spokesman confirmed there were “incidents” when the Department of Justice gave “incorrect” information to the Taoiseach. This was “always regrettable”, he said.

However, the spokesman also said Mr Varadkar had “heard” about this email on Monday night and that was why he went looking for it.

It was “impossible to say” if the Taoiseach would have addressed the issue of the email when he spoke in the Dáil yesterday if it had not been revealed late on the Monday night by RTÉ, the spokesman added.

The spokesman reiterated that Mr Varadkar had done his best to get clarity around matters concerning Sgt McCabe and also considered him a “brave” man.

It was also confirmed that this Justice Department email, which outlined a disagreement between lawyers for gardaí and Sgt McCabe, was only sent yesterday to the Charleton Tribunal, the inquiry looking into an alleged smear campaign against the whistleblower.

A government spokesman last night said the Taoiseach had learned of the email while talking to Cabinet colleagues on the Monday night, but did not specify when.

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Tánaiste under fire: ‘I don’t remember that particular email’

2017-11-22

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has claimed she forgot about an email revealing a legal strategy to discredit Maurice McCabe because she was told she didn’t need to act on it.Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has claimed she forgot about an email revealing a legal strategy to discredit Maurice McCabe because she was told she didn’t need to act on it.Ms Fitzgerald, the then justice minister, admitted she received an email in May 2015 detailing a disagreement between counsels representing An Garda Síochána and Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe during the O’Higgins commission. This was a full year before the issue became public. In an interview which appeared to raise many more questions than it answered, Ms Fitzgerald yesterday said the email related to an argument which had arisen at the commission around a “serious criminal complaint” which Sgt McCabe strongly denied. Ms Fitzgerald said: “I do not have evidence that the State were arguing that Maurice McCabe had a grudge. The information that was shared from the attorney’s office at that point was about the disagreement of the two counsel down at the tribunal... about the fact that a serious criminal charge, which Sgt McCabe had denied, had been raised.” She said it “wasn’t for her” to seek out further details. Ms Fitzgerald explained: “There was a conversation between an official in the Department of Justice and the attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office officer told an official in the department in a telephone conversation that an issue had arisen at the tribunal in relation to the approach that the counsel for An Garda Síochána were taking and that the counsel for Sgt Maurice McCabe had objected very strongly to that because it was raising an issue about a serious criminal complaint which his counsel felt had nothing to do with the current situation,” she told RTÉ’s News at One. “This was then put in an email by the official who had taken the phone call. The department discovered that email last week and I was informed towards the end of the week in relation to this.” Ms Fitzgerald claimed that this email had only been discovered when the department was “trying to answer various questions that had come in”. “They found an email that had details of this conversation that had been sent to me at that point and it specifically said in the email that there was no function for me getting involved in a commission of investigation and anybody’s evidence before it, that it would actually be a criminal act by me if I was to get involved in that.” Just minutes after the radio interview, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil he had taken a call from Sgt McCabe, who, he said, was “adamant” that the serious criminal complaint which Ms Fitzgerald said was detailed in the email was not discussed at the O’Higgins commission. “He is taking very serious issue with the remarks of the Tánaiste on the News at One today and, it is my understanding, will be issuing a statement,” Mr Martin said in the Dáil. “The House will appreciate I have only taken the call. I am not in a position to adjudicate on this or not, but it again raises more questions than answers.” Pressed further on herreceipt of the email in 2015, Ms Fitzgerald said: “I don’t remember that particular email. “One of the reasons that I don’t remember it is because if specifically said that I had no function in relation to evidence before a tribunal given by any party. “I don’t remember that particular email but the department found it last Thursday and I spoke to the department and sought what was in it.” Ms Fitzgerald was th[...]



Nikita, 11, seeks justice for her dad

2017-11-22

The daughter of a man beaten to death with an axe has made an emotional appeal for witnesses to help find justice for her family.

The daughter of a man beaten to death with an axe has made an emotional appeal for witnesses to help find justice for her family.

Nikita Lee, aged 11, said her Christmas wish is to have her dad back and for gardaí to charge the killer.

Jeffrey Hannan was killed in an unprovoked attack near his home in Southill, Limerick, on November 22, 2007. He was 19.

Gardaí said he was an innocent victim who had no links to crime.

Speaking on the eve of the 10th anniversary of her father’s murder, Nikita, who was just a month old when her father was killed, said: “I miss my daddy so much. It hurts me to know that he is in a grave, and he’s not there for special occasions like my communion, my birthday, and at Christmas.

“I wish my daddy was here to open my Christmas presents with me, so he could help me and hug me and kiss me, and wish me a merry Christmas. Instead I have to visit his grave.”

Twenty people have been arrested but no one has been charged with the killing. Two years ago, a potentially key witness contacted gardaí which led to the re-arrest of six people. However, the DPP ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.

Nikita said she attends a local counselling service and feels “angry, hurt, and very confused…knowing that people know about what happened to my daddy, and they won’t come forward and let us know what happened to get justice”.

Nikita said her letter to Santa this year will contain the same request as last year: “One thing is to have my daddy back, or to get justice for him. To get the people who killed him behind bars.”

Appealing for witnesses to contact gardaí, Nikita said: “Some people are afraid, or they might feel like they ratted. I know where they are coming from, but they also need to help my family out, and help me.

“Everyone knows what happened to my dad and everyone knows who killed him.”

Like most other children, Nikita should be looking forward to Christmas but said it made her sad instead.

“Last year I couldn’t open my presents. I sat down on my chair and started roaring crying. I wished my daddy was there to open them.

“What hurts me more is his last words were my name, and, then, I’m speechless. I just can’t handle it. I just wish my daddy was by my side.”

Anyone with information about Mr Hannan’s murder can contact gardaí at Roxboro Road Garda Station on 061 214340 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

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Boat owner agrees to pay wages owed to crew

2017-11-22

The owners of the UK-registered fishing vessel detained in West Cork almost a fortnight ago over a number of irregularities has reportedly agreed to pay €23,000 in wages owed to Indonesian crew members.

The owners of the UK-registered fishing vessel detained in West Cork almost a fortnight ago over a number of irregularities has reportedly agreed to pay €23,000 in wages owed to Indonesian crew members.

Human trafficking officers from the Garda National Protective Services Bureau have been involved in the garda investigation into the conditions onboard the 30m-long Christian M which broke down off the Cork coast and was towed into Castletownbere port two weeks ago.

The vessel was detained by the Irish Marine Survey Office on November 10 and it remained detained as of yesterday. A cockroach infestation onboard had to be tackled by pest control officials.

The 13 crew members walked off the vessel last Friday and were put on a minibus and driven to the Balseskin Refugee Centre in Dublin. It is understood that the more senior Spanish crew members remained onboard.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which has been working with the Indonesians since last week, had demanded they be paid all outstanding wages as well as the cost of their air fares and any monies paid to agents by the men for their jobs.

Ken Fleming, ITF co-ordinator for Britain and Ireland, said solicitors for the owner had contacted the men to say the owed wages would be paid.

Mr Fleming also called on the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), as the flag body, to give assurances that the contracts of employment and hours worked by the men when they were onboard were in order.

The ITF has written to the MCA to say it believes another Indonesian crew is due to travel to join the vessel.

It also told the MCA that when onboard the Christian M last Friday, it saw evidence that the cockroaches appeared to have repopulated themselves.

“Can the MCA prevent the crew from living in such conditions until the infestation has been dealt with in full?” it asked.

The MCA yesterday told Irish Examiner: “The vessel still remains detained in Ireland. The MCA is working closely with the owner to address the issues raised by the inspection carried out by the Irish Authorities and by the MCA inspection. The vessel will not be allowed to sail until the MCA is satisfied the issues are being adequately addressed.”

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Doctor accused of sexual assault on patient

2017-11-22

An American doctor with a Polish background who practised in Midleton for several months in 2012 was put on trial by judge and jury yesterday on a charge of sexually assaulting a female patient.An American doctor with a Polish background who practised in Midleton for several months in 2012 was put on trial by judge and jury yesterday on a charge of sexually assaulting a female patient.Michael Obrowski pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexually assaulting the patient, a woman in her mid-twenties. She testified that she went to the doctor at Corabbey Court, Midleton, Co Cork, complaining of stomach pain and diarrhoea and that the doctor conducted an examination of her breasts, vagina, and rectum. At the outset of the trial, the complainant was sworn in and said: “I would like to withdraw my complaint.” She said it would close a chapter and that she did not want to think about it any more. Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin asked the witness: “Are you refusing to give evidence?” She replied: “I am not refusing, no.” Barrister Siobhán Lankford then opened the case to the jury and formally called the complainant to give evidence. The woman said there was no examination table in the surgery and that the doctor told her to lie down on the floor and that he put a sheet on her. “He said he would examine my breast size,” she said. “He also did a vaginal examination and a rectal examination. He said: ‘Have you shaved for me?’ And I said: ‘No.’ “He told me to lie down on the floor. He did a vaginal examination and a rectal examination with no reason.” She said the vaginal examination took place when she was lying flat on the floor. “He examined me like the gynaecologist does, putting his fingers in my vagina,” she said. “He was wearing gloves. Rectal examination was the same. He put his fingers in my rectum.” Donal O’Sullivan, defence barrister, put it to the complainant that she was completely wrong and that it did not happen. “Not alone did he not do it, but the surgery was not open at the time,” he said. Mr O’Sullivan said the complainant claims it happened in March 2012 but that the surgery did not open until April 2 and he called on a painter to give evidence of painting the premises days before this. Mr O’Sullivan said there was a bed. The painter said there was what he described as a massage table there when he was present. Mr O’Sullivan said the complainant told gardaí that Mr Obrowski told her to strip off totally and gave her a towel. In the witness box, she said she put down what she was wearing below the waist and left her top on and was under a sheet. Mr O’Sullivan said: “If you were asked to strip totally you would remember that. You are saying something completely different now.” She replied: “It was so long ago. I do remember but not everything.” Mr Obrowski said he was a physician for 17 years and decided to open a practice in Midleton, especially for Polish patients as he spoke English and Polish. He said he did not see the complainant in his surgery and did not examine her in the manner described. He said he had severe spinal injuries from accidents in 1982 and 1987 and could only examine patients while standing and with them on a relatively high table. Commenting generally on her allegations, he said: “There is no truth to it at all.” The trial continues.[...]



Bid to halt use of ‘cruel’ rough sleeping deterrents

2017-11-22

Homelessness campaigners are seeking new legislation to stop the “cruel and inhuman” use of spikes and sprinklers to deter rough sleepers.

Homelessness campaigners are seeking new legislation to stop the “cruel and inhuman” use of spikes and sprinklers to deter rough sleepers.

An Anti-Homeless Devices Bill, launched by Solidarity TDS, is to be debated today.

Devices, such as spikes, raised bars, and water sprinklers are being installed outside buildings across Dublin and other cities and towns.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the number of devices being installed is increasing every month.

He said they were “cruel and inhuman”.

“They have one use and that is to prevent homeless people seeking shelter,” added Mr Barry.

The Government is expected to reject the opposition bill, which would force businesses to remove the devices.

Mr Barry said to vote down the bill would show “disdain” for the homeless.

Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said that “excluding homeless people, making them feel unwanted and rejected, is an act of violence, often perpetrated by the State”.

“For homeless people, Travellers, and other groups in our society, Ireland is not a land of opportunity, but a land of exclusion and oppression.”

Lorraine O’Connor, from the Muslim Sisters of Éire, said the devices “are a disgrace and a smear on the Irish society”.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD said that the bill “is a modest effort to prevent the further persecution of homeless people.”

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins has proposed the setting up of an enterprise agency along the lines of the IDA to help solve Ireland’s housing shortage.

In a keynote speech to the annual policy conference of Social Justice Ireland, the President said:

“This State has, in recent years, been well served by our enterprise agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, who have pursued successful interventionist policies — including the provision of sites — to promote domestic Irish enterprise and in the case of IDA Ireland so as to ensure that multinational corporations locate their facilities here.

“We might reflect, at a time of acute housing shortage, and at a time when the most efficient use of the current stock of housing and of residential land is not being made, whether an enterprise agency of similar character to those in other areas might not be warranted, released and resourced to play a role in the market, one that would show the same urgency and the same élan as IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland.”

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Family of Berkeley victim in standards battle

2017-11-22

The family of a young woman who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015 has vowed to continue to campaign for better building standards in California.

The family of a young woman who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015 has vowed to continue to campaign for better building standards in California.

The pledge came as the survivors and the families of those who died in the accident reached a settlement with the owners and management of the apartment complex.

Irish students Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh, along with Irish-American student Ashley Donohoe, died in the fourth-floor balcony collapse that occurred during a birthday party on June 16, 2015, at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley.

Seven other Irish students suffered injuries.

In a statement following the settlement, the law firm representing Ms Donohoe’s family said they were “insistent that there could be no ‘secret settlement’ designed to prevent the parties from discussing the facts of the case and what they believe to be the cause of this tragedy”.

“Nothing will stop us from continuing our fight to have changes made to the California building codes and regulations to require regular inspections by qualified people, proper design and use of proper construction materials, and a ban on ‘secret settlements’ that allow contractors to hide defective construction work from the contractors licensing board and the public,” said the Donohoe family in a statement.

Law firms representing the families of five of the six deceased and the survivors of the accident said they reached a settlement of all claims against BlackRock Realty Advisors, the owners of the complex, and Greystar RS California Inc, who managed the building, and their related affiliates.

“The terms of the settlement are confidential,” said the law firm of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger.

“Design defects and construction flaws allowed water to penetrate the enclosed interior of the cantilevered balcony for unit 405 of the complex.

“As a result, wood rot developed in the balcony’s wooden support structure, which was enclosed by an unventilated stucco soffit,” the firm said.

“Neither BlackRock nor Greystar discovered the wood rot during their inspections of the property. No-one contended that the victims were in any way responsible for what happened.

“BlackRock and Greystar have adopted policies and procedures regarding the inspections of balconies on the properties that they own or manage on a regularly scheduled basis. The parties also have agreed to work to promote greater awareness of balcony safety issues and take appropriate actions to prevent future tragedies of this nature,” said the firm.

Last May, the families reached a confidential settlement with seven companies involved in the construction and design of the apartment complex.

The companies were Segue Construction Ltd — the general contractor on the building — as well as Northstate Plastering, R Brother Waterproofing, Abacus Project Management, IRC Technologies, TCA Architects and LS Mason & Associates.

Last April, the California Contractors State License Board announced it was revoking the licence of Segue Construction, as a result of the balcony collapse, and it barred the company from applying for a licence for five years.

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‘Most teachers feel unequipped to teach online safety’

2017-11-22

More than two-thirds of primary school teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety to their students, according to research by CyberSafeIreland.

More than two-thirds of primary school teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety to their students, according to research by CyberSafeIreland.

The children’s internet safety charity also reveals one in three children have rarely, or ever, spoken to their parents about the issue although many are spending in excess of four hours a day online.

CyberSafeIreland, which surveyed more than 1,000 children, parents, and teachers who have attended its training sessions in the past 12 months, said it is concerned there is not enough guidance and support for parents, teachers, social workers, and others working in child-focused environments to address the variety of online risks facing children.

The view was echoed yesterday by the ISPCC as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone met Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to discuss the potential need for greater legislation and regulation in that area.

“The ISPCC welcomes this meeting,” said Gráinia Long, chief executive of the ISPCC. “We would also like to reiterate our call for the Government to commit to publishing a national strategy on children’s cyber safety.”

Data from CyberSafeIreland’s second annual report reveals 69% of teachers do not feel equipped to teach online safety in the classroom, up from last year’s figure of 64%.

The report also found cyberbullying is a serious concern for schools, with 179 teachers dealing with 219 incidents of cyberbullying over the past year.

The report highlights the important role of parents in keeping their children safe online but found almost a third (32%) of the 621 children surveyed rarely, if ever, discussed it with them.

Alex Cooney, chief executive of CyberSafeIreland, said: “As a nation, we are failing in our duty to protect our children online.

Too often we are seeing children taking risks by sharing personal information in videos and photos, getting involved in incidences of cyberbullying, and talking to strangers online.

Parents and teachers play a fundamental role in addressing online safety. They are not being adequately supported.”

The report also found 16% of children under 13 are spending more than four hours online and 22% of children surveyed are in contact with a stranger.

Some 14% are talking to strangers every week through online gaming or accepting social media requests from strangers.

Cliona Curley, CyberSafeIreland’s programme director, said:

“The reality is that the Internet presents increasing opportunities for the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

"Access to technology can be enormously beneficial to children, but we also must recognise children are developmentally vulnerable and that they need support and guidance. ”

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School of public health launched at UCC

2017-11-22

A new school of public health that will seek to improve the health of the nation has been launched by University College Cork (UCC).

A new school of public health that will seek to improve the health of the nation has been launched by University College Cork (UCC).

The university’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health that grew considerably over the last number of years will become the School of Public Health.

Head of the School of Public Health, Ivan Perry, said the school was modelled on international schools of public health in Britain and throughout Europe and the US.

“The school will have a clear and explicit focus on research and advocacy in population health, health services and health systems research,” said Prof Perry.

The school will incorporate the National Health Services Research Institute that was established with funding from the Higher Education Authority and the Health Research Board-funded Centre for Health and Diet Research.

It will work closely with the National Cancer Registry, the National Suicide Research Foundation, the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, the HRB Clinical Research Facility at the Mercy University Hospital Cork, UCC’s Oral Health Services Research Centre and the Department of Public Health HSE-South.

UCC president Patrick O’Shea said public health was about creating and sustaining the conditions for a healthy society.

“It addresses the health and well-being of populations at the local, national and global level,” said Prof O’Shea.

Head of the College of Medicine and Health UCC, Helen Whelton, said that the establishment of a dedicated school of public health represented a significant development for health policy and practice in Ireland.

The School of Public Health is already playing a leading role in changing health policy and practice in Ireland.

The recently published Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study, led by Janas Harrington, found most children (82%) consumed sugar-sweetened drinks and influenced the decision by the Minister for Finance to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages next April.

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Concern for Garda vetting of carers

2017-11-22

Children could still be placed with foster carers who should have been deregistered, according to a report into Tusla’s fostering services in Cork, which also highlighted other risks.

Children could still be placed with foster carers who should have been deregistered, according to a report into Tusla’s fostering services in Cork, which also highlighted other risks.

The inspection report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) also raised concerns over a deficit in Garda vetting of foster carers in the area, with Hiqa escalating 10 cases that related to relative carers and/or adults living in the foster care home who had not had Garda vetting.

This latest inspection, a follow-up to a deeply critical inspection conducted last February, was conducted on August 30 and 31, when there were 442 foster care households in the area, including 320 general foster caters and 108 relative foster caters.

The service operates out of a fostering unit in the city and two outreach offices in Mallow and Skibbereen.

Since the last inspection, the foster care panel was updated but inspectors found that the status of some foster carers had not been updated where an investigation was ongoing.

“The principal social worker told inspectors that the placement officer was informed of any allegation made against a foster carer,” states the report.

“However, the placement officer was rotated on a monthly basis. As a result, the service could not be assured that this system would ensure that a child would not be placed with a foster family while an investigation was ongoing.”

Some improvements since February’s inspection were noted, including the development of a formal system for notifying the foster care committee of allegations against foster carers, with the principal social worker stating that they were in the process of notifying all previous allegations on the register due to the backlog of allegations to be submitted.

However, Hiqa said there is a lack of adequate safeguarding measures and oversight.

Since the last inspection in February, only two of the 73 carers have been assessed, and, of these, only one has been submitted to the foster care committee for approval.

There are still 42 carers on a waiting list for assessment. One child was placed with carers for 10 months without a safeguarding visit.

A tracker spreadsheet to identify foster carers who required updated Garda vetting did not include unassessed relative carers and persons over the age of 16 living in foster care households.

All four standards assessed were found to be majorly non-compliant. Hiqa again wrote to the chief operating officer of Tusla regarding the risks identified and requesting regular updates over the coming months.

Dermot Halpin, Tusla’s service director for the South, said there has been “incremental progress” since the previous inspection and additional staff have been recruited, alongside a range of other measures, although he admitted the work would take time.

He said assessments are under way for 51 of 73 unapproved relative foster carers as of this month, with the remainder having been allocated a Link Social Worker.

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Gardaí seize cars, jewellery and cash in 11 CAB raids in Co Kerry

2017-11-22

High-value vehicles, cash, and jewellery suspected to be the proceeds of crime were seized in Killarney this morning in garda raids on 11 homes.

High-value vehicles, cash, and jewellery suspected to be the proceeds of crime were seized in Killarney this morning in garda raids on 11 homes.

The pre-dawn swoop involved some 130 gardaí as part of an ongoing investigation into the activities of a number of people who gardaí believe are involved in “an organised crime gang”.

The raids, led by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), also involved members of the regional Armed Response Unit as well as local gardaí.

All of the 11 houses targeted, including a number of new builds, were entered before 7am, and belong to members of the Traveller community.

Large amounts of cash, high-value cars, as well as jewellery including expensive Rolex and Cartier watches were seized, as well as documents.

The cash seized included sterling and the total value was “in excess of €100,000”, the gardaí have confirmed. A number of bank accounts were frozen.

Search warrants had been obtained.

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The nine cars seized in today’s operation by the Criminal Asset Bureau. Pic: Gardaí

Nine high-end vehicles were seized and taken by transporter to be assessed and documented. Documents were also removed.

Yesterday’s operation is part of an “ongoing” investigation which began more than a year ago in Killarney but “which gained impetus in 2017”, according to a senior garda involved in the investigation.

Gardaí in Killarney have been concerned for some time about the lifestyle of some families who have no apparent income.

They have also been concerned about alleged intimidation and became aware of certain situations involving elderly residents, said the source.

“Significant builds” in term of luxury houses also attracted the concern of the gardaí, who began to dedicate a lot of resource hours and personnel to the probe.

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Some of the cash seized in today’s operation by the Criminal Asset Bureau. Pic: Gardaí

This culminated, yesterday morning, in a national operation led by the CAB.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

Padraig O’Connell, a solicitor in Killarney who represents a number of the individuals whose property is concerned, said he did not wish to comment on what exactly was seized. He had been made aware of the dawn raid.

“Certain seizures will be challenged,” said Mr O’Connell.

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Two watches seized in today’s operation by the Criminal Asset Bureau. Pic: Gardaí

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Parents happy to confide in their children’s teachers

2017-11-22

Irish parents have better communication with their children’s teachers than in other countries, but are among the least-involved in the running of schools.

Irish parents have better communication with their children’s teachers than in other countries, but are among the least-involved in the running of schools.

The findings emerge from surveys of parents and schools, administered in tandem with testing of 15-year-olds in reading, maths, and science across more than 50 countries.

As well as testing more than 5,700 Irish students at 167 schools in 2015, the Organisation for Economic and Development (OECD) conducted surveys with their parents and principals.

Asked how many school staff they would feel comfortable bringing a question about their children to, the average response of Irish parents was 4.6. Across 16 countries where the question was asked, the average was 3.3.

Parents here are also likely to know more of their children’s friends, and their parents, than those in other countries.

The average Irish parent knows six of their children’s school-friends’ names, compared to an average of just over five in other countries.

They know the parents of five school pals, compared to just three or less among parents in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

Although parents of children at disadvantaged schools in most countries are likely to have fewer social acquaintances with school staff, friends, or their parents, the gap in Ireland is one of the narrowest.

The OECD report said the relationships established by parents with students, staff and other parents are an essential element of a collaborative school.

“Building solid parent-teacher relationships is certainly important for student behaviour, but the relationships that parents build with their child’s friends and their parents can be even more important,” says the report.

“When parents know each other... they can develop consistent norms and guide the behaviour of their children more easily.”

Despite strong direct involvement in their children’s education, Irish parents are among the least-involved in the running of schools.

Second-level principals in 55 countries were asked what proportion of parents participate in local school government, and the average is less than one-in-five (18%).

However, responses from Irish principals returned an average of just 11%, although 99% of principals said their schools involve parents in decision-making, much higher than the OECD average of 77%.

While the level of involvement in running schools was nearly three times that of UK parents, and higher than the 8% in the much-vaunted Finnish education system, it compares poorly to one-third or more of parents in countries including Brazil, South Korea, and parts of China.

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Only six local areas apply for CCTV funding

2017-11-22

The Government has received just six applications for funding from communities who want to install a CCTV scheme in their local area, despite €3m being set aside to fund the cameras.

The Government has received just six applications for funding from communities who want to install a CCTV scheme in their local area, despite €3m being set aside to fund the cameras.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan admitted the number of applications received to date is “well below expectations”.

In April, his department launched the community-based CCTV grant aid scheme to help community groups establish a network of security cameras in their areas.

Under the scheme, eligible community groups could apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000.

Upon approval of the grant, the applicant would then receive an upfront payment of 50% of the grant with the balance to be paid when the system was fully operational.

There was €1m secured for it in Budget 2017 and, according to Mr Flanagan, “it is envisaged that a similar amount will be made available in 2018 and 2019”.

Applicants must have the prior support of the relevant Local Authority, which must also act as data controller, and must have authorisation from the Garda Commissioner.

The scheme is based on the previous grant-aid scheme operated by Pobal on behalf of the Department between 2005 and 2013 under which 45 Community CCTV systems were established in urban and rural areas.

“Unfortunately, the number of applications received to date is well below expectations,” said Mr Flanagan.

“Six applications have been received, in addition to a significant number of enquiries about the scheme.

“As these applications were incomplete, they were returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to provide the information necessary to qualify for grant-aid.”

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said the fact that only six applications were received for the CCTV scheme revealed that the method of crime prevention was being underutilised.

“The Government needs to recognise that the scheme needs to be part and parcel of An Garda Síochána’s fight against crime,” he said.

“The process for CCTV is too cumbersome and complex. That probably explains why so few applications have been made.”

Earlier this week, it emerged the Office of the Data Commissioner was in contact with gardaí about the community CCTV schemes, particularly in relation to the approval status of some of them as well as councils’ failure to act as data controllers for them.

Cork city councillor Kenneth O’Flynn said: “Not only does the presence of a CCTV system deter criminal activity, the CCTV can often prove valuable in providing evidence for gardaí.

The commentary days concerning data protection needs to be examined and the Data Commissioner has committed to doing so. The public should be in no doubt that all data protection laws are being upheld.”

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Shortage of builders is delaying housing

2017-11-22

A shortage of builders and construction skills in Kerry is preventing vacant properties from being done up, a county council meeting has been told.

A shortage of builders and construction skills in Kerry is preventing vacant properties from being done up, a county council meeting has been told.

Unskilled labourers are in shortage, but so are highly skilled workers.

While council targets are being met in repair of old stock, labour is an growing challenge, as is the falling number of houses for sale.

The county has 3,139 qualified applicants and a housing stock of 4,207, most of it rented. Within the figure are vacant properties that need to be repaired.

Currently, there are 67 vacant properties in need of repair.

The number of vacant council properties is half what it was in June 2016, but the turnaround would be greater if builders and skills were more widely available in Kerry, said housing director Martin O’Donoghue.

By the end of 2017, 100 new houses will have been started by the council and 200 are planned for 2018, said Mr O’Donoghue.

The council’s housing targets are also challenged by a decreasing availability of houses for sale.

“The council set a target of 50 house purchases in 2017, under the acquisition programme, and at the end of October, 2017 we have ‘sale agreed’ on 49 houses,” , said Mr O’Donoghue. “With availability decreasing, 50 is a great achievement this year.”

Meanwhile, 289 council tenants wanted to purchase their properties, the meeting in Tralee was told.

Amid calls to use up idle land banks in Kenmare and Killorglin, the council is reviewing its housing lands with a view to finalising proposals and will put forward a plan before the year’s end.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Culloty, who is involved in construction, said there is a “huge shortage of building skills in Kerry”.

“It’s very hard to get school-leavers interested in physical work,” he said.

Many builders have left Kerry and more travel daily to Cork and Limerick.

Mr Culloty said a programme needs to be put in place by Solas, the training agency, to attract people into the building industry.

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Nurse who killed dog is ‘psychopathic’

2017-11-22

A former mental health nurse who strangled and butchered a dog and fed it to a pet is psychopathic, a doctor has said.

A former mental health nurse who strangled and butchered a dog and fed it to a pet is psychopathic, a doctor has said.

Dominic O’Connor, aged 28, faces up to five years in prison. He used a lead to kill the animal in the North in December 2016.

He cooked its body and used it as pet food for his other dog, Shadow.

His barrister, Chris Holmes, said: “Clearly, this is an unusual and extremely disturbing case.”

The father of two has no memory of the incident, which occurred at his Roden St home in the Co Down village of Kircubbin, his lawyer told Downpatrick Crown Court. O’Connor was convicted by a jury last month.

He bought the dog on Gumtree from a couple in Lisburn, Co Down, who have not been traced, the court was told.

The judge said O’Connor strangled it with a lead, stripped it of its skin, “butchered” it, cooked it, and fed it to his other dog.

The other animal has been rehomed and the judge said that social services should be informed of O’Connor’s conviction. Mr Holmes, referring to a medical report, said O’Connor “exhibited quite disturbing personal symptoms, leading to a psychopathic disorder”. He said his client lacked empathy.

Consultant psychiatrist Ian Bownes examined the defendant.

Mr Holmes added: “This is bizarre and the motivation behind it is, basically, inexplicable.”

Judge Piers Grant challenged the lawyer’s authority to make those observations, but said much of the evidence came from O’Connor’s own lips and was clear.

The defence said O’Connor was adopted at the age of four, attended third-level education, and was employed as a mental health nurse, “which is deeply ironic, in this case”, Mr Holmes added.

O’Connor has previous convictions, for possession of an offensive weapon and for common assault.

His position “deteriorated comprehensively” in 2015, following the death of his mother and his marriage break-up, his lawyer said.

His lawyer said there was a “complex and disturbing” mental health background in this case.

Dr Bownes’ report suggested he had a disordered personality of the psychopathic type, Mr Holmes disclosed, and a troubled background.

The court was told it was an extremely serious and distressing case.

Prosecution lawyer, Laura Ivers, said the sentence imposed should be the highest possible of the five-year imprisonment maximum.

The judge observed that, in some cases, there could be no explanation for wrongdoing.

He adjourned the case for sentencing on November 29.

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Gardaí arrest 15 suspected of organised begging in Cork

2017-11-22

Fifteen people were arrested in Cork City centre over the weekend as part of an ongoing garda operation targeting suspected organised begging activity.Fifteen people were arrested in Cork City centre over the weekend as part of an ongoing garda operation targeting suspected organised begging activity.All were arrested in the central shopping district around St Patrick’s St and on its various side streets. Most of those who were detained are originally from Eastern Europe. A handful are Irish nationals. Supt John Quilter said they were all arrested for obstruction. In one case, a woman who was arrested in Cork had been arrested in Dublin just days earlier for similar reasons. She had been released pending a court appearance and had travelled to Cork to continue begging. The news emerged yesterday as the city’s business leaders raised concerns about a marked increase in apparent organised begging operations across the city centre. Cork Business Association (CBA) president Pat O’Connell said that, as well as damaging the city’s image, CBA members have concerns that the practice could hit charity collections in the run-up to Christmas. “I would worry from a Cork point of view that this activity will hit genuine charities like Share, Simon, or Penny Dinners,” said Mr O’Connell. He said he spotted up to 15 individuals bedding down in the doorways of prominent shops on St Patrick’s St from about 6pm on Monday. Up to six people slept overnight in the doorway of Penneys, three outside the Lifestyle outlet, and another person slept in the doorway of the Moderne. Mr O’Connell said they seemed well equipped to spend a night sleeping rough. Some had sleeping bags, all had several blankets, and they had placed sheets of cardboard and plastic on the ground. He said he has also seen a man rousing the various rough sleepers at dawn and gather the group on side streets to the rear of Penneys, before they dispersed through the city to beg. He said English Market traders have also reported younger people, with links to those begging on the streets, arriving into the market, and other local shops later in the day, seeking to convert coins into larger denominations. He stressed that there are people on the streets who are in genuine need but he said: “I would warn people to think twice before giving money to these people who are involved in what appears to be organised begging. “It is really unfair at a time when people are generous and thinking of others, that they would give to these guys and they may not be doing good at all. God only knows where the money is going. Is there a Mr Big somewhere who’s getting the cash? And that’s the problem — nobody knows where it’s going.” Photographer Billy MacGill, who has an office on Oliver Plunkett St, said he has observed several incidents of organised begging, where various individuals move from location to location. He said he has spotted one woman with an apparent limp, begging in the area, but has spotted her later in the day in another location — without a limp. Supt Quilter said gardaí are aware of traders’ concerns and are devoting resources, when possible, and using the city’s network of CCTV cameras to identify and target potential suspects. “It is a problem and we are taking a proactive approach to tackle it,” he said. “There are genuine cases, and we try to take a balanced approach. We have[...]