Monthly Archives: September 2012
THE abolition of town councils across the country could be announced as early as next Tuesday, it was claimed this week.
Cllr Pat O’Connell (FF) made the claim at Tuesday night’s meeting of Macroom Town Council, having attended a conference last week at which local government minister Phil Hogan gave a speech on the future of local authorities.
“From what I can gather, there is going to be reform but as to what kind he didn’t tell us. It seems to be that town councils will be abolished and replaced with municipal district councils,” Cllr O’Connell explained.
“If town councils go, Macroom will be dead. It will be a disaster for the town because it will be replaced by a municipal council with six or seven members for the entire Macroom electoral area, not the town,” he added.
Cllr Connie Foley (Ind) accused Minister Hogan of ‘ not knowing what he is doing.’
Mayor of Macroom Owen McCarthy (FF) said the issue was ‘ the single biggest challenge to come before the council.
“I am pleading with all members of the council to unite on this, we really need our TDs behind us. They have depended on our support in the past, this is our time,” he said.
CLARE County Council’s decision to ask approximately 800 third-level maintenance grant applicants if their parents had paid the €100 Household Charge provoked a storm of local and national protest this week. The Union of Students of Ireland has warned it will initiate legal proceedings against any local authority that withholds a student grant over failure to provide evidence of the Household Charge payment.
Clare County Council, in a statement, said it has not, at any stage, indicated that grant payments would be withheld from applicants that have not paid the household charge. “Applicants who have completed forms and provided the necessary information will have their payments issued as expeditiously as possible. Applicants who do not provide the requested information will be requested to submit complete applications, which may result in delay,” according to the statement.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed Clare County Council is not entitled by law to reduce or withhold a portion of the third-level grant that is due as a result of the non-payment of the Household Charge.
He confirmed no money has been withheld by the council in respect of higher-education grants and noted it is entitled to secure as much information about the numbers who have paid the household charge as is required in law.
The council reiterated on Wednesday it was never its intention to delay or withhold the payment of third-level grants to second, third and fourth-year students, regardless of whether their parents had paid the Household Charge and merely initiated this measure as part of its “public awareness campaign” about the public services that are funded by the collection of money from the charge.
Speaking on the matter today to Joan Burton at Leaders’ Questions, the Independent TD for Donegal South West stated: “To lose one Junior Minister could be seen as unfortunate but to lose two is certainly careless.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Deputy Shortall for taking a courageous decision and standing by her and her party’s policy.”
“She said last night the public has a right to expect that decisions on health infrastructure and staffing will be made in the public interest based on health need and not driven by other concerns. The question that now needs to be asked is where does the Labour Party now stand in this Government?
It is clear that health policy is being led by clientelism and driven into privatisation by this Government, where primary healthcare centres like Ballaghaderreen are prioritised that were not even in the top 200 on the priority list have been approved- delivered through Public Private Partnerships which are licenses to print money.”
“Labour’s manifesto claimed they would reform the unfair two-tier health system to reduce the cost of delivering care, and use those savings to extend universal access to essential medical care, but it seems this promise is dead.
How can another junior Labour Minister ever hope to deliver on reform when they will not even be able to rely on the support of their party leader nor have any powers delegated to them? Our ‘noble’ Minister for Health has certainly shown his level of respect for the former Minister and healthcare reform itself by stating that ‘pressure’s only for tyres’.”
“Deputy Shortall has shown that the emperor has no clothes and we now know that this is yet another area that Labour won’t deliver on, another broken promise,” stated Pringle.
SEAN Quinn Junior is to be allowed out of jail to attend his Supreme Court appeal against imprisonment for contempt of court orders.
Barrister Brian O’Moore, SC, counsel for Quinn Junior, told the three-judge Supreme Court this morning the IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, had no objection to Mr Quinn’s attendance at the hearing next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr O’Moore said he was making an application for the production by the Mountjoy Prison authorities of Mr Quinn junior at the appeal against the contempt of court finding and imprisonment by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne on July 20.
Chief Justice Susan Denham, who sat with Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman and Mr Justice Frank Clake, said that since there was no objection to the court granting the application, the court felt it appropriate that Mr Quinn junior be allowed to attend.
Quinn, son of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn senior, was jailed for what was described as “outrageous” contempt of orders by the High Court restraining a multi-million euro asset stripping scheme.
He was jailed for three months on July 20 and would not have completed his sentence until October 20 at which time Judge Dunne would have to be satisfied he had or was prepared to purge his contempt in order to avoid further imprisonment.
Eversheds Solicitors had come off record in all proceedings involving the Quinn family but continued to represent Sean Quinn junior solely for the Supreme Court appeal.
Last night Dr Reilly said both Swords, and Balbriggan were recognized as high-priority areas by the HSE five years ago. However, both “lost out” after Minister of State Shortall increased the weighting and they were swept from high priority to low priority. Under the original priority system, Reilly stated they both would have been in the top 35. Conversely, under the new system with an altered weighting system, they ended down the list.”
However, we now know this is a blatant lie as Balbriggan was ranked in forty fourth position and Swords in one hundred and twenty seventh place before Ms. Shortall ordered officials to change the weighting related to deprivation.
And the inquiry found that even one year after the cuts kicked in those who were overpaid had not yet been alerted.
“One year after implementation of the pay rate changes, the Department has not yet contacted the individuals overpaid in the first part of 2011 or put in place repayment arrangements,” the C&AG found.
Its inquiry found that 1,600 secondary teachers were overpaid €560,000, about €350 each on average, 1,400 primary teachers about the same and 1,700 non-teaching staff working in schools a total of €148,000.
“The policy of the Department is to recover all overpayments,” the C&AG’s report stated.
The error was caused after it took the Department of Education seven months from budget day in December 2010 to prepare and issue a circular on revised pay scales and nine months to implement the payroll changes.
The overpayment figures could only measure how much was paid to teachers directly under the control of the Department of Education. No figure is known for the teachers in Vocational Education Committees.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform told the C&AG: “It is the responsibility of the management in each of the public service sectors concerned to ensure the implementation of the Government decision in respect of the pay reductions in question.
“The Department does not have a direct role in overseeing such implementation arrangements in the public service, other than in the civil service, and is not in a position to say whether there were similar instances in the wider public service.”
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore announced his pick this afternoon, and said Mr White’s appointment will be formally ratified by Cabinet next Tuesday.
The appointment will also boost Mr White’s chances of survival in the ‘group of death’ Dublin South constituency, which drops from a five seater to a three seater at the next general election.
Mr White is a senior counsel specialising in employment and Labour law, and worked as an RTE radio producer for ten years before qualifying as a barrister in 1994. His time with RTE included a four year stint on the ‘Gay Byrne Show’.
ATHY town councillor Aoife Breslin has been called on to resign her position on the board of management of a local school by an Athy resident who represents a right wing Catholic group called Catholics United for the Faith.
Mr Anthony Murphy, who along with this wife Kim, publish The Catholic Voicenewspaper, said Cllr Breslin, who is a member of the Board of Management at Scoil Phadraig Naofa, should “consider her position and conclude that the only honourable thing to do is to step down from her position”.
He claimed her expressed views that gay people should be allowed to marry were “in conflict with the ethos of the school”.
The issue was raised by Mr Murphy in the wake of the meeting of Athy Town Council last Wednesday night when a motion calling for the council to support marriage equality was on the agenda. The motion was not actually discussed at the meeting as the council opted instead to pass a motion in support of the consitutional review. In fact it was Cllr Breslin’s abstaining on a vote that resulted in the original motion not being discussed.
In Carrick, some 150 protestors lined the bridge across the Shannon where a flotilla of boats met with marching anti frackers carrying home made banners.
In Manorhamilton there were around 200 people out for the ‘Family Day’ which had emphasis on the fun, but had a very serious message – “No fracking here.”
Both events featured open-air traditional music sessions and children’s face-painting in the afternoon sunshine, while a number of business premises in both towns also displayed anti-fracking posters.
In Manorhamilton, sessions were performed by The Unwanted (Cathy Jordan, Seamie O’Dowd & Rick Epping), as well as Rossa O’Snodaigh, members of Kila and Dervish on the Market Square.
Speaking in Carrick, Sinn Féin spokesman on natural resources Michael Colreavy TD said the extraction process had the potential to turn the area into “an industrial wasteland” and called explicitly for Hydraulic Fracturing to be banned.
Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan said voters could send a powerful signal in the 2014 local elections.
Aghacashel organic farmer Mary Rose Geoghegan warned other farmers of the danger that Fracking posed to their livelihoods. Visiting campaigners from the Woodland League and Shell to Sea also made contributions.
The two Leitrim events were also linked when Rossa O’Snodaigh played a few tunes over the phone through the public address system in Carrick from his base at the Love Leitrim organised event in Manorhamilton.
No Fracking Ireland attached a series of banners listing twelve county names – to the bridge across the Shannon. This part of the protest was meant to convey forcefully that Fracking is not an issue that is local to Leitrim.
The event held in Dublin was instigated by Young Friends of the Earth who recently travelled to Leitrim to hear from locals in Leitrim on the issue. The key banner in their event read ‘Frack Leitrim – Poison Dublin’.
After speeches those present marched through Carrick on Shannon to the post office. The crowd cheered the posting of letters conveying a new demand of No Fracking Ireland to twelve County Councils. That demand is that these councils, including Leitrim and Roscommon County Councils, insert a blunt ban on fracking into their county development plans.
Those who came out for the event in the county town were greeted by a large Garda presence.
THE ongoing problem of dereliction on the city and county’s housing estates is now at crisis point, and adding his voice to those of Limerick’s elected representatives is Sean Griffin, Sinn Fein spokesperson for Limerick City South. Calling on Limerick’s city and county managers to take immediate action on the issue, he says that dereliction in the city’s Hyde Road and Prospect areas is now reaching epidemic proportions. “It poses a major health risk to the people living adjacent to these eyesores and the derelict houses are also giving a run-down look to areas where most residents strive to keep their houses in good condition,” says Mr Griffin who points out that many of the houses involved are in good condition internally.
“If they were upgraded they could be let out to rent to some of the 3,000 plus people we have on the House Waiting List – the managers could authorise action to rectify what is a deplorable situation”.
Pointing out that there are a number of what s usually termed “privately owned” properties that are derelict with overgrown vegetation, rat infestation and a “galaxy of bugs, bees, flies and other species of insects, Mr Griffin adds”
“These houses were bought by the ‘for profit’ property speculators during the so called boom and are now abandoned because they have been vandalised or burned out, but now there is no money to be accrued from them in their present condition.
“The result is that they are allowed to deteriorate until they become a health hazard and there is also the reluctance of Limerick City Council to use the Derelict Sites Act or the Dangerous Buildings legislation to solve at least some of the problem”.
As has frequently been stated in City Hall, Mr Griffin said that when contacted, the council officials usually reply that they are unable to discover who the owners are or that the owners have undertaken to have the matter attended to.
Lawyers for both parties will plea at a key hearing in The Hague on 11 October at 9:30am.  The verdict is expected early in 2013.
“This court case will have groundbreaking legal repercussions for multinational corporations globally, and especially for European corporations,” says Geert Ritsema, globalisation campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie.
“Due to the poor maintenance of pipelines and factories, Shell let tens of millions of barrels of oil leak in the Niger Delta, with disastrous consequences for local people and the environment. The Anglo Dutch oil giant must now stop its pollution, compensate the damage and prevent more oil spills from happening,” he adds.
Geert Ritsema and Hans Berkhuizen, the director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, will conduct a fact-finding mission in Nigeria from September 27 – October 2.
“Nigerians have to sue Shell in The Netherlands to obtain justice. Meanwhile Shell uses the threat of legal action to attempt to silence legitimate protests, for instance the recent Greenpeace protests against Shell in Europe. They pollute with impunity, destroy livelihoods and block dissent. This is deplorable,” says Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International.