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By Linda McGrory
May 31, 2012
David Cameron might just be getting to know his Irish counterparts but the British prime minister may be interested to learn that the word “Tory” actually derives from Irish.
The Oxford English Dictionary has been researching the origins of common words that owe their origins to Gaelic.
Lexicographer Susie Dent recently devoted her origins of words section of the popular Channel 4 programme Countdown to the research.
She told presenter Nick Hewer, whose mother hailed from the North, that “puck” in ice hockey owes its origins to “poc” meaning a stroke or shot at the ball in hurling.
“Puck”, as used in ice hockey, first appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1886, the research found.
According to OED lexicographer Katherine Connor Martin, the oldest borrowing from Irish into English is “mind”. This is from the Irish “mionn”, “an obsolete term for a type of ornament attested in Old English”.
The most recent imports from Irish to English are “craic”, “punt” and “fleadh”.
“There was a steady trickle of Irish loanwords into English from the 15th through 18th centuries, but this increased to a flood during the 1800s,” said Ms Connor Martin.
“Oddly enough, this apex of Irish imports in English coincided with a period of steep and decisive decline for the Irish language itself.
“The 19th century was also a period of mass emigration, during which Irish immigrants streamed to the rest of the UK and to North America, taking their distinctive vocabularies with them.”
“Trousers” — or English ‘trowse’ — has its origins in the Irish and Scots Gaelic word “triubhas”.
Other words derived from Irish include “slob” from “slab” as well as “galore” which comes from “go leor”, and means “to sufficiency, enough”.
Mr Cameron and his Conservative party might be surprised to learn that their Tory nickname derives from a band of outlaws or “tóraidhe” from the 17th century.
Ms Connor Martin noted: “Soon the word was being used of outlaws as far afield as Scotland and even India.
“Then, during the exclusion crisis of 1679-1681, those who wished to disinherit the Catholic heir presumptive to the British throne [known as Exclusionists or Whigs] used Tory as a disparaging nickname for their opponents.
“When that faction eventually coalesced into a political party, it kept the Tory name. The present day Conservative Party in the UK is a descendant of that original party, though it no longer whole-heartedly embraces the Tory nickname.”
By Tom Stokes – Republic Day Ireland
30 May 2012
From British Empire to EU Empire
–There are fools who decry history as if it was irrelevant to the present or the future. Here is an extract from a piece my late father wrote in 1969 on the subject of the drive towards membership of the EEC, now the EU. Relevant? I certainly think it is, in the context of the vote we are going to cast, or not cast, or cast unwisely, on May 31st.
“In the Ireland of the sixties, things matter more than people. Christian and human values are uneconomic, and may as well be scrapped. The heroes now are the cranes, bulldozers and automated production lines. They enable labour forces to be reduced dramatically, cutting costs to the minimum. Those displaced may emigrate, or just stagnate – it’s not important. We are in with the big boys now, and they are playing for keeps.
To get into the Common Market we are willing to barter our sovereignty. We hadn’t got it long enough to get used to it anyway, but the fools who won it for us would have expected us to put a bit more value on it. They could have saved their lives if only they had a working knowledge of economics. We have put a price-tag on everything, now.
The French, who resist our entry into Europe must be mad. Our country is ripe for exploitation – our Government ready to stand down as an effective authority, so that big business can take over, or so it seems. Our mobile labour force is ready to be sent, as they’ve always been sent, wherever there’s hewing of wood, or drawing of water to be done. The common bond is dissolved to prove how European we are. If we had any pride left, we’d swallow it, and yet the French still don’t want us. What are we to do?
We must push harder. Tell them this is the Ireland of the soft sell, land of the evergreen sucker, The Misty Isle where fools are born one-a-minute ready to trade with all comers on any terms. We love glass beads, mirrors and cheap gold bricks, south-sea bubbles, bubble-car factories, aeroplane shadow-factories, Singer stamps, trading stamps, Free Trade Agreements, the lot.
This is a fair land, flowing with milk, and milk products. It’s a con-man’s paradise – we’re dying to be taken in. This land was our land, it’s going cheap.
Our economists are sporting types who go their way, casting our salmon to catch someone else’s sprat, not without some little success. Our chaps land a big one sometimes, providing an occasion for backslapping and bouquet-tossing. Bouquet-tossing is becoming something of a national art-form, and it takes the harm out of long trips to distant sunny seminars where economists go to lecture and recuperate.” Etc…
–Pearse Stokes 1918-1987
30 May 2012
Irish voters are preparing to head to the polls to vote on whether to ratify the European Fiscal Treaty.
Rejecting it would prevent the country accessing any more emergency EU funding when its existing bailout package expires next year.
Ireland is the only one of 25 nations which is putting the fiscal pact to a national vote.
Opinion polls suggest a majority will vote Yes – though many where expected to decide at the last minute.
The BBC’s Mark Simpson, in Dublin, says the Yes camp fears people, angry with continuing austerity measures, will vote against the treaty to punish the government.
The pact, signed by all EU members except the Czech Republic and the UK, allows EU member states to co-ordinate their budget policies and impose penalties on rule-breakers.
Signed in February, it commits all ratifying members to achieve budget deficits of less than 0.5% of economic output.
Last year, Ireland’s deficit reached 13.1% percent.
The country’s 3.1m voters have twice rejected European Union treaties – in referendums in 2001 and 2008 – though both votes were then overturned in subsequent polls.
Because of the treaty’s complexity, a high turn-out is not expected.
Those against the treaty argue that austerity is not working and suggest that the country should instead default on debts at five nationalised banks.
In a nationwide television address before campaigning ended, the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, urged people to vote in favour of the treaty.
“I ask you to make a further contribution by coming out to vote ‘yes’ on Thursday. Yes to stability. Yes to investment. Yes to recovery. Yes to a working Ireland,” he said.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who is campaigning against the treaty, told voters not to be fooled.
“Be wise. Join with the millions across Europe who are demanding an end to austerity. On Thursday, vote no.”
The party’s stance on the treaty has seen its support surge in recent weeks, making it the second-most popular party in the Republic of Ireland for the first time.
Results are not expected until late on Friday.
30 May 2012
The widow of murdered policeman Stephen Carroll has said she will meet the parents of one of his killers.
Kate Carroll said the parents of 41-year-old Brendan McConville got in contact with her through a newspaper because they were moved by her story.
“I don’t know what I’ll be saying to them but I don’t wish them any harm, and I think it’s very commendable of them to want to speak to me,” she said.
“It’s a brave thing to do and I hold no malice for them.”
Constable Carroll, 48, was shot dead in Craigavon in March 2009.
Brendan McConville was given a 25-year minimum sentence for murder, while his co-accused John Paul Wootton, 21, was jailed for a minimum of 14 years.
Mrs Carroll said she was delighted when she heard of the McConville family’s offer because she hoped it would “promote peace between communities”.
“If people can see there’s forgiveness on each side, I think it can help to heal the scars in this country,” she said.
Mrs Carroll said she hoped their meeting, which was first reported by the Banbridge Leader, would also help her with her grieving process.
She said she had not spoken to McConville’s parents during the trial, but they had “nodded at each other a few times”.
“Mrs McConville had opened the door for me one day, but I hadn’t a clue who she was,” she said.
“They just seemed to be nice, decent people.
“I realise now that bad things can happen to good people.
“I’ve had my husband taken from me by their son, and I suppose they’ve had their son taken from them for what he has done.”
By Noel McAdam
30 May 2012
The SDLP has backed away from the Girdwood barracks project in north Belfast, claiming it may be part of a wider DUP/Sinn Fein deal involving the Maze.
After disarray in its Assembly ranks, the party attempted to present a united front, insisting the Girdwood barracks site should include 220 houses — the figure first put forward by its former Social Development Ministers Alex Attwood and Margaret Ritchie.
Yet North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness signed up to last week’s breakthrough package which is thought to involve around 100 homes — 70 aimed at nationalists, and 30 at unionists, in two separate developments.
It was suggested on Monday that Mr Maginness may have been unaware of a more comprehensive package which saw the DUP agree to the Conflict Resolution Centre at the Maze it had formerly objected to.
Mr Maginness was not available for comment, but a party statement said: “Alban entered into the process on the regeneration of Girdwood in good faith with rising tensions. In this instance the outcome was wrong and Alban fully accepts that.”
Following a party group meeting on Monday, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell insisted: “There is a growing belief — hidden from some of those involved in the Girdwood discussions — that the outcome was pre-cooked by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
“How else can Peter Robinson’s about-turn on the Maze be explained, moving from opposing ‘a shrine to the IRA’ to promoting ‘a mecca for tourists’?
“How else can Sinn Fein’s abandonment of the principle of meeting housing need be reconciled with their long-trumpeted support for 220 houses on the Girdwood site?
“The DUP and Sinn Fein have many questions to answer, questions which they are avoiding.
“Did Sinn Fein concede on Girdwood and on housing need to get the Maze?
“Did the DUP concede on the Maze to protect their electoral interests in north Belfast and damage the honest principle of meeting housing need there and everywhere?”
A DUP spokesman on Monday night denied there was any connection between the two issues.
There was no immediate comment from Sinn Fein.
Mr McDonnell said the party was now sticking to its insistence that the site should include 220 homes, although no detailed plans have yet been finalised by the Housing Executive.
The South Belfast MLA said that in May last year the DSD portfolio passed to the DUP, with design work undertaken and a housing association preparing a planning application, but new minister Nelson McCausland axed the Attwood plan.
Mr McDonnell added: “Of course, the SDLP wants to see the wider development and regeneration of the Girdwood site, but progress on regeneration must not be at the price of fair housing and housing need.”
A blueprint that seemed to end six years of stalemate
After six years of stalemate, a deal involving all four main Stormont parties on the future of the former Girdwood barracks site was unveiled last week.
The blueprint included two housing areas — the larger aimed at nationalists who make up 90% of acute housing need in north Belfast — and a ‘shared space’ with sports, education and business elements.
Though backed by the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Ulster Unionists, the plan began to unravel as it emerged the total houses involved may amount to around 100 — 120 less than announced by ex-Social Development Ministers Margaret Ritchie and Alex Attwood from the SDLP.
The former Army site off the Crumlin Road in Belfast had been gifted to the Social Development Department from the Ministry of Defence but disagreements over how it should be used prevented any progress. DUP minister Nelson McCausland, who succeeded Mr Attwood last May, put the SDLP plan in mothballs.
Instead Mr McCausland began a consultation with community interests on the development of a shared site which resulted in a so-called masterplan intending to create, according to its mission statement, “a vibrant, inclusive and diverse environment which attracts present and future generations of people to live, work and visit”.
A joint statement a week ago signed by DUP deputy leader and MP Nigel Dodds, Mr McCausland, Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral ni Chuilin, former junior minister Gerry Kelly and the SDLP’s Alban Maginness acknowledged the past — and was upbeat about the future.
“In an area of the city most affected by the conflict and continuing to deal with the legacies of division, the Girdwood site has been a powerful and disheartening symbol of the past,” they said.
“But now all around us we can see signs of confidence and optimism for the future in north Belfast.”
Announcing the project, Mr McCausland said: “We’re sending a powerful message positive change is coming to north Belfast.”
30 May 2012
FROM next week, police officers in Northern Ireland will have the power to issue fixed penalties for anyone caught drinking in public places and disorderly behaviour.
Justice Minister David Ford says the new powers which come into force on June 6, will result in 1,500 fewer people going to court each year and forms part of his agenda to speed up the justice system.
David Ford and ACC George Hamilton announced the commencement of the new powers in Belfast City Centre on Wednesday morning.
“Fixed penalty notices are about delivering speedy, effective and proportionate justice responses to a range of low level offences,” said Mr Ford.
“Currently two-thirds of all crimes prosecuted through our courts result in the offender receiving a fine of £100 or less.
“Many of these cases involve individuals with little or no previous offending history, who have committed relatively minor offences which they admit in court.
“Fixed penalty notices will allow for these cases to be dealt with in a more efficient and proportionate way and at the same time free up vital resources within the criminal justice system.”
Under the new powers which come into force on 6 June, a first time offender could receive a £40 fixed penalty notice for being drunk in a public place or an £80 for disorderly behaviour.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “As part of our Service Excellence programme to deliver speedy, proportionate and visible justice I welcome the introduction of fixed penalty notices for minor offences.
“This is just one of a number of non court disposals that we have available to deal with minor offences.
“By issuing the fixed penalty notices, we cut down on the number of cases that are forwarded to the Public Prosecutions Service which in turn reduces bureaucracy and allows officers to spend more time out on the beat.”
In accepting a penalty notice, offenders have an opportunity to avoid a criminal record for an isolated or out-of-character offence which could affect their long term employment prospects, though a record of issue will be kept and will be available to police, prosecution and courts for consideration in the event of any further offence.
30 May 2012
The High Court in Dublin has ruled against Sinn Fein’s challenge to the Fiscal Treaty Referendum.
Donegal TD Pearse Doherty lodged a judicial review seeking a withdrawal of statements made by the Referendum Commission during the campaign.
The comments were made in relation to the EU’s permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.
Mr Doherty contended that they gave the impression Ireland could not veto the ESM.
The statements were made on 3 May and 18 May.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said there was no difference between two statements by the commission, as had been alleged.
And he said the commission had acted in a sincere, genuine and measured way to the best of what he called its “very considerable ability”.
In an affidavit, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty had alleged that some of the commission’s statements were inaccurate and were biased towards the Yes side.
The outcome of the case has no bearing on the holding of the 31 May referendum.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Foreign Affairs Minister and deputy prime minister, said the challenge was a last-ditch attempt to cause confusion among the public.
Mr Gilmore said: “I believe that this was a stunt by Sinn Fein in the final days of their campaign to maximise their own publicity and in order to create confusion just as the broadcast moratorium was about to come out.”
The Republic of Ireland is the only country in Europe holding a referendum on the treaty as it is obliged to put major EU reforms to the public test according to the constitution.
Only three states have ratified the treaty in full – Greece, Portugal and Slovenia – while six others have begun the process including Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Austria and Denmark. The ratification must be completed by the end of the year.
30 May 2012
DAVID McNarry has claimed that he has information which could “bring the Ulster Unionist Party tumbling down”.
The UUP veteran, who was expelled by the party last week for breaches of discipline, claimed last night to have sensitive information about the party in which he spent more than four decades.
In a statement, Mr McNarry repeatedly attacked UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, whom he described as a “dictator” and “full of his own importance”, for his expulsion.
Last night, the UUP declined to comment on the Strangford MLA’s latest comments.
In his statement, Mr McNarry singled out for thanks two DUP MLAs in his constituency — Simon Hamilton and Michelle McIlveen — for contacting him with “kind and gracious” messages about his situation.
When asked by the News Letter whether that signalled that he may apply to join the DUP or take that party’s whip, Mr McNarry said: “No. It was just a recognition that they had gone to the trouble of sending me a message, more or less pointing out that there hadn’t been any messages from my erstwhile Assembly group.”
Mr McNarry would not go further when asked about ever joining the DUP but said that he had “found a new niche as an independent” since resigning the UUP whip in January and that he had “no plans to join any party” but would be “preaching the gospel of unionist unity”.
One senior DUP source told the News Letter that the party was unlikely to accept Mr McNarry if he applies.
Mr McNarry has repeatedly claimed in recent months to have minutes of DUP-UUP contacts which could embarrass senior UUP figures but to date none have been produced, leading some in the party to claim that he has been exaggerating.
When asked yesterday if that information is now likely to find its way into the public domain, he said: “It is, yes.
“I would be doing that carefully on legal advice and there are some revelations which if I was to release them now would probably bring the UUP tumbling down.”
Mr McNarry claimed that he had “always, in the past, accepted team decisions and the internal party discipline process which was part of that. However, I now realise that I could never be comfortable being expected to bow down to a dictator in charge of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“That is not what our party has ever been about. When a leader, full of his own importance, goes public clearly indicating that my face does not fit and I would not be welcome in his team under any circumstances, there is no point in prolonging the agony.”
Mr McNarry said that he would therefore not be appealing “this pernicious and deeply unfair judgment” which expelled him for telling the News Letter that up to five UUP MLAs may follow him out of the party.
20 May 2012
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will deliver the Beal na mBlath oration to mark the 90th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins.
The oration will take place on August 19 at the spot where the Free State general and former IRA commander was shot and killed as he returned to Cork city following a Civil War inspection tour of his native west Cork in 1922.
Mr Kenny delivered the oration six years ago — but will return given the high-profile nature of the 90th anniversary ceremonies.
As part of a co-ordinated operation An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland yesterday carried out a large number of searches across both jurisdictions.
Yesterday’s operation is part of Operation Quest which focuses on securing convictions against individuals involved in organising prostitution, brothel keeping and associated offences including money laundering.
The operation which commenced at mid-day yesterday has so far resulted in the search of over 100 premises (mainly apartments, flats and houses) in the Republic of Ireland.
Three people have been arrested.
A man in his 40s and a female in her 20s are currently detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 at Dundrum Garda Station. Another female in her 20s is currently detained at Store Street Garda Station also under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
A large amount of documentation, cash, mobile phones and computers have also been seized.
The Garda operation, which involves over 200 Gardaí, was led by members of the Organised Crime Unit based at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation supported by officers from all Garda Regions.
A third phase is ongoing.
During the investigation to date it has been established that prostitution is organised on a cross-border basis and this joint operation was specifically aimed at individuals and groups intent on making profits from vulnerable members of society across the island of Ireland.
May 29 2012
The MAC in Belfast has surpassed visitor number expectations
The £18 million MAC arts venue in Belfast has welcomed 40,000 people through its doors in its first few weeks of business, staff have revealed.
The state-of-the-art venue was hailed at its opening as a premier attraction of international standard.
Now it has been revealed its early visitor numbers have exceeded expectations, with more than 40,000 attending the city centre venue in just over a month.
In the first three days alone, almost 5,000 people visited the MAC which has three art galleries, two theatres, plus additional facilities including a cafe.
Roisin McDonough, chief executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “As principal funder of the MAC, the Arts Council is thrilled with visitor numbers to the new state-of-the-art venue in the first month of opening.
“The £5.25 million that the Arts Council has invested in the MAC will continue to stimulate the economy through a more attractive cultural tourism offering, while people here will benefit from the fabulous opportunities available to participate in and enjoy the arts.
“With a very exciting season programme planned for the year ahead, the impressive visitor figures look set to continue.”
The MAC’s chief executive, Anne McReynolds, said: “We are delighted and overwhelmed with our visitor numbers to date and indeed people’s response to the building.
“The MAC has been 10 years in the making and the team have been working so hard on what is a new concept for Northern Ireland.
“To see such high visitor numbers in the first month makes it all worthwhile.”
29 May 2012
ULSTER Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt says that if he was a Troubles victim he could “very easily feel like he was an inconvenience” to the recently revealed reconciliation talks led by Sinn Fein.
At the republican party’s annual conference at the weekend, Sinn Fein’s national chairman Declan Kearney gave a “Reconciliation Speech” in which he said the party was “committed to developing an authentic reconciliation process”.
He added: “We are republicans in the tradition of Tone and McCracken, dedicated to a united Ireland, and unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.”
Sinn Fein revealed at the weekend that it has been in such discussions with leading Protestants.
UUP leader Mr Nesbitt responded yesterday that it would be “churlish to criticise anyone engaged in genuine talks about dealing with the past”.
But he added that it would be “equally naive not to have some scepticism about the motives of any political party in its initiatives”.
“Is this project by Sinn Fein for the benefit of Sinn Fein? Is it because individuals in Sinn Fein now have consciences about what they have done in the past?” he asked.
“The only really credible talks about reconciliation at present are those at Stormont. We have seen the breakdown of talks regarding the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy. This is going round in circles because people are dug into positions and are not willing to make the compromises Declan Kearney is taking about.
“If Sinn Fein is looking for a genuine commitment from unionists it is not going to come from secret talks with ‘leading unionist representatives’. It is going to come when Sinn Fein demonstrates with CSI that it is willing to make the compromises that Mr Kearney is talking about.
“If I was an ordinary victim I could very easily believe that I am not welcome in this conversation; I am not allowed to put my name forward for the Victims Forum; I am not included in Sinn Fein’s talks about reconciliation and I am not involved in the CSI talks.
“If I was a victim I could very easily believe that I was an inconvenience to the political process.”
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson called on Sinn Fein to acknowledge the wrongs it committed in the Troubles.
“The starting point for discussions should be in saying ‘sorry’ for the campaign of terror that was waged against the security forces and civilians [by the IRA],” he said
“Everyone acknowledges the hurt of the Troubles. The victims are visible in every constituency. In many of these cases the victims have never seen justice. Therefore a starting point for the healing would be acknowledgment of their suffering. Recognition of those wrongs would heal some of the hurt.”
He asked victims to submit their views on Sinn Fein’s proposals to the DUP, for presentation to government.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the “media hype” over the Sinn Fein talks largely avoided an obvious question: “What is the ultimate goal of what they dress up as ‘reconciliation? To IRA/Sinn Fein ‘reconciliation’ is but a euphemism for Irish unification – the same goal as they pursued with the armalite,” he said,
“They do not seek ‘reconciliation’ within Northern Ireland, but only on an all-Ireland basis.”
29 May 2012
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness says the Executive will consider a proposal from First Minister Peter Robinson to make a gift to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
He told the Assembly he recognised that hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland hold the Queen in “very high esteem.”
Mr McGuinness has already hinted he is considering meeting the Queen when she visits Northern Ireland as part of a tour to mark the Diamond Jubilee.
He said during Assembly Question Time that he and the First Minister had made a very determined effort over the past few months to recognise the importance of commemorating events
“I have passed I hope many tests over the course of the last 20-odd years in relation to the peace process and intend to continue to work forward in a very sensible and reasoned way with political colleagues in the Executive, ” said Mr McGuinness.
“If issues come up that we need to deal with…then the Executive will consider all of those issues very responsibly.”
“Over the course of the last number of months there has been a very determined effort by the First Minister and myself and by both the Irish and British governments to recognise the importance of commemorating events many of which are facing us over the course of the next ten years.
“Thus far I think we have successfully managed to ensure that we sent a very powerful message out there to the community that we have to move forward respecting each other’s diversity.”
The DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the present Sinn Fein position “was better than murdering the Queen’s uncle” a reference to the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten in County Sligo in 1979.
29 May 2012
Veteran republican Marian Price is to be examined in prison by two doctors appointed by the UN, a court has heard.
She had been due to appear before Belfast Crown Court, but the judge was told she was too ill to attend.
She faces a charge of providing a mobile phone to the gang behind the murder of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in March 2009.
The judge agreed to adjourn the matter until 19 June to allow the UN doctors to see her and to make their report.
A defence lawyer said arrangements had been made for the doctors to visit the jail next week, after which “hopefully by then there will be a fuller picture” on her condition.
Price was jailed for the IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973, and last year the secretary of state revoked her release from prison on licence.
29 May 2012
MORE THAN 20 per cent of the raised bogs that Ireland are obliged to protect under European legislation are being cut illegally by turf-cutters, according to environmental groups.
Following reports that a bog near Athenry, Co Galway, was cut over the weekend, peat is now being extracted at 11 of the 53 raised bogs that are meant to be conserved for their habitat value under Irish and European law.
An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment have called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to “stand over his pledge that the law would be upheld”, saying the Government’s peatland protection programme “risks being shredded unless the Taoiseach acts quickly and firmly”. The turf contractors “are being emboldened” by the failure, so far, to enforce the law.
Unlawful cutting on one or two protected bogs in April had quickly risen to 11 and, “without a commitment to uphold the law, the situation could spiral out of control”, they said.
Last month, Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said the EU Commission could impose fines of up to €25,000 a day on Ireland if turf-cutting occurred on bogs designated as special areas of conservation under the European habitats directive.
A spokesman for the Minister said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was working in co-operation with the Garda in “responding to a number of incidents of turf-cutting which were detected, through aerial and ground surveillance”.
Contractors suspected of involvement had been identified, files were being prepared and “prosecutions will be pursued”. The Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating breaches with a view to recovering remediation costs.
“Landowners involved are being identified and will be cross-reported to the Department of Agriculture,” the spokesman said, adding that this would allow for payments under the Single Farm Payment scheme to be withheld where recipients contravene EU directives.
He said that landowners and contractors “have been written to, where environmentally damaging activity is suspected, advising them of the penalties which may be applicable”, including “prosecution, the impounding of machinery, and the cost of restoring protected bogs”.
But environmental organisations claim to have reports of gardaí “laughing and joking as they apparently stand by watching”. No names were being taken with a view to prosecutions and no turf-cutting machines were being seized, they said. “Those breaking the law face no sanctions apparently,” they claimed. The 11 bogs being cut have been identified in Co Galway and Co Roscommon.
Members of the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association claim they are being “intimidated” by low-flying Air Corps aircraft monitoring activities. Independent Roscommon TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan has colourfully likened the turf-cutters’ activities to the resistance movement of the US black civil rights heroine Rosa Parks. “There are occasions that, during the tyranny of the state, the law needs to be broken,” he said.
29 May 2012
A GOVERNMENT study examining how €1.5 billion in taxpayers’ money is spent by disability service providers is expected to show that up to 85 per cent of funding is going on staff costs.
The details of the value-for-money report come as pressure is mounting on health authorities and the Government to find places for up to 700 young people with intellectual disabilities who require essential services when they finish school next month.
Several voluntary service providers say they are “cut to the bone” and have started to turn down requests from parents for vital services for their children.
However, the Government has insisted there is no spare money and has called on service providers to find more efficient and flexible ways of providing services.
The report, due to be published over the summer, is expected to show significant variations in the cost of delivering similar services in different parts of the State.
It is understood to show that staffing costs for providing disability services in Ireland are significantly higher than in other jurisdictions.
Informed sources say it will conclude there needs to be a better mix of skills within the service, with less emphasis on nursing staff and a greater focus on staff who can help people live independently.
This finding could have significant implications for staffing and potentially lead to reallocation of nurses to other parts of the health service that are badly in need of nurses.
These issues, however, will not feature in the report.
The report is understood to propose major changes to the way the sector is funded, with greater emphasis on individualised payments for people with disabilities.
It is also likely to suggest a move towards tendering for services on the part of service providers rather than providing block grants.
Many of these findings reflect those in an earlier report commissioned by the Health Service Executive into outdated institutions, or so-called congregated settings.
It found the numbers of nurses employed meant that Irish staff in disability services were much better paid than their British counterparts, earning an average of €54,000 in Ireland compared with £18,000 (€22,000) in Britain.
It also found major variations in the cost of care, ranging between €46,000 and €385,500 for each resident.
In a separate development, the Government, health authorities and the Brothers of Charity in Galway are believed to be close to an agreement on finding services for school-leavers with intellectual disabilities.
Families of people with disabilities had been told in recent days that there was still no guarantee that children leaving school next month would have a service.
As a result, many parents in Galway – and in other parts of the State – fear they will have nowhere to send their children, many of whom require ongoing support.
However, the Minister of State responsible for disability said yesterday that money had been found within the organisation’s own budget to source a service for school-leavers.
Kathleen Lynch insisted that no additional money was available for voluntary service providers this year, unlike last year, when €10 million in emergency funding was sourced for school-leavers.
“I think we have a fairly good solution for the school-leavers in Galway, but I’m equally saying that we need to have longer-term plans to deal with school-leavers,” she said.
“We have found money within the Galway service, and feel it will resolve the problem, but this is not a new problem. We know in advance how many school-leavers there will be and what services they require.
“We have to look at new ways of delivering services,” Ms Lynch added, “and that could mean putting services out to tender.”
28 May 2012
The Justice for Magdalenes group said today that survivors of abuse are still waiting for an apology, one year on from a UN recommendation.
Women who were affected by abuse at the Magdalene laundries are also yet to receive any redress or reparation.
The support group is today submitting its NGO follow-up to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva.
As part of this process, the Irish State is required to report back on measures taken to put last June’s recommendations in place.
JFM’s report welcomes the establishment of an inter-departmental committee to clarify state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries, but says it has so far failed to deliver the “prompt, thorough and independent” investigation called for by UNCAT.
JFM says it looks forward to the publication of the Committee’s report, due by mid-2012.
Maeve O’Rourke, JFM Advisory Committee member, who represented JFM at UNCAT in Geneva and is speaking at today’s event said: “Our report states clearly that the government has failed to implement the UNCAT Recommendation, which called on the state to ensure that Magdalene survivors obtain redress and to establish an independent investigation into the full extent of the abuse. We acknowledge the important work of Senator McAleese’s Committee, however, it should not impede the women’s access to an apology and redress, and we also reserve the right to call for a fully independent inquiry with statutory powers to compel evidence.”
A person who gave information which may have led to police shooting dead an unarmed IRA man in Northern Ireland almost 20 years ago was later murdered.
The death was revealed by Belfast coroner, Brian Sherrard, ahead of the opening of an inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan.
Pearse Jordan shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1992
The 23-year-old was shot in west Belfast in 1992.
His death is one of a number of so-called shoot-to-kill incidents which are being investigated.
While discussing legal matters ahead of next month’s inquest into Mr Jordan’s death, Mr Sherrard said: “There was also some post event information concerning the murder of a person who was thought perhaps to have given information that led to the death or to the operation that culminated sadly in the death of Mr Jordan.
“It was not my view that that, in and of itself, added anything to the inquest and the task that we will face.”
The coroner has been considering 21 files of largely irrelevant material from the Lord Stevens Inquiry into security force collusion.
Mr Sherrard said two documents had emerged which he had considered relevant and which will be distributed to Mr Jordan’s family’s legal representatives.
“There was one officer who was scrutinised to some extent in the course of Lord Stevens’ inquiry but eventually nothing arose with regard to that,” he said.
He said the two documents were picked out by him as he had cause to scrutinise them further.
“Ultimately I felt that there was no relevance to them,” he added.
Barrister for the Jordan family, Karen Quinlivan QC, said she wanted to see them to consider whether further representations should be made.
His case has been delayed because of a string of legal challenges which led to a hearing in the European Court of Human Rights in 2001.
Mr Jordan was shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1992.
It was part of a series of events known as security force alleged shoot-to-kill incidents.
The inquest into Mr Jordan’s death is due to start on 6 June.
There is still a series of other matters outstanding including anonymity applications for 11 witnesses at the inquest and the granting of state Public Interest Immunity Certificates, which can prevent the disclosure of information if it would damage the public interest.
An inquiry into security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries by former Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens revealed the material, which was passed to Mr Sherrard recently.
28 May 2012
NI Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed a decision by the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) to sign up to an agreement on new working practices.
Mr Ford said the move marked a new era of industrial relations in prisons.
The agreement includes the recruitment of hundreds of staff for new roles on lower salaries.
They will replace prison officers leaving as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme.
The new arrangements were agreed in principle between prison management and union leaders in March and the POA then asked its members to vote on the proposed package.
It was announced on Monday that two-thirds of prison officers voted in favour of accepting the proposals.
Welcoming the decision, the justice minister said the agreement would help quicken the pace of reform across the prison service.