Daily Archives: October 13, 2013

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 13th October 2013

E-fits of suspected abduction man in Madeleine McCann case  ‘now released’

Undated e-fit image issued by the Metropolitan Police of one of two e-fit images believed by detectives to be of the same man seen in the Portuguese town of Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine McCann's disappearance.  

Detectives hunting for missing Madeleine McCann have issued two images of a man they urgently want to trace as part of the investigation.

The e-fit pictures, showing a white male, aged between 20 and 40, with short brown hair, were compiled by separate witnesses who both spotted him in the resort of Praia da Luz on the evening the three year-old disappeared.

While the two pictures appear to show a person with slightly different features detectives are convinced it is the same person they are seeking.

The images will be broadcast tonight on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme as part of a renewed international appeal.

   Madeleine disappeared on the evening of May 3 2007 as she slept in her family’s holiday apartment on the Algarve with her younger brother and sister.

Her parents were dining a short distance away with a group of friends at a Tapas restaurant within the resort’s complex and realised she was missing when they checked on her at around 10pm.

Detectives from Scotland Yard, who have been leading a fresh investigation into Madeleine’s abduction, will use tonight’s programme to also reveal significant new thinking around the timeline of the events leading up to her disappearance.

A detailed reconstruction of the McCann family’s movements on the afternoon and evening of May 3, 2007, will be broadcast in the hope of jogging someone’s memory and unlocking a crucial clue.

More than 440 witnesses have been spoken to by officers, who have spent two years reviewing all the evidence collected by Portuguese police and private detectives.

As well as identifying 41 “persons of interest”, the Scotland Yard inquiry – dubbed Operation Grange – has thrown up a number of potential suspects who witnesses have been able to describe in detail.

A spokesman for the Operation Grange team said detectives now had a far more detailed understanding of the times when an abduction could have taken place and this had given the statements from two witnesses particular significance.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior investigating officer, said: “Today I am asking the public for their help.

“Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us.

“We have witnesses placing him in the resort area around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

“This is far from our only line of inquiry and there will be e-fits released of other sightings as well, who we are equally keen to trace. These people were seen on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance and the days leading up to it.”

The Portuguese authorities shelved their investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance in July 2008, forcing her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, to employ teams of private detectives to continue the hunt.

But in May 2011, four years after her disappearance, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, with the backing of Prime Minster David Cameron, ordered Scotland Yard to begin a review of all the evidence.

Earlier this summer the Metropolitan Police announced the review was being turned into a formal investigation with more than 30 detectives and police staff working on the case full time.

After months of careful negotiations, their counterparts in Portugal, the Policia Judiciaria, agreed to co-operate and there are now six dedicated officers based in Faro on the Algarve.

The e-fit images are seen as a significant step forward in the investigation, but it is hoped the Crimewatch reconstruction will also throw up some fresh lines of inquiry, despite the passage of time.

The appeals will also be broadcast in Germany and Holland where many of the tourists staying in Praia da Luz at the time were from.

DCI Redwood explained: “Where we have been able to make massive steps forward is by drawing together all the material gathered to date, and reviewing it as a whole.

“We continue to put Madeleine at the heart of our investigation and I would urge people to watch Crimewatch tonight and if you can help identify this man or have any information about our new appeal points please contact us.

He added: “If you were in and around the Praia da Luz resort on Thursday, 3 May 2007, but you have not yet spoken to police, and you think you may have information, please pass it on.

“I would also like to ask for the help of the local community in Praia da Luz. Portugal is a key country for us to trace any outstanding witnesses and our appeals will be repeated there.

“We still have a lot of material to investigate and much work to do. Your information could be the vital piece we need to finally answer what happened to Madeleine.”

Tonight’s broadcast will also feature an emotional appeal from Mr and Mrs McCann, who describe their continuing torment.

Mr McCann will say: “When it’s a special occasion, when you should be at your happiest and Madeleine’s not there, that’s when it really hits home. Obviously, Madeleine’s birthday goes without saying.”

His wife adds: “It’s when you have big family occasions really. That’s it isn’t it? ‘Family occasion’ and you haven’t got your complete family.”

She adds: “We’re not the ones that has done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”

Only the ‘bits and bobs’ of Irish budget now to be decided  “says Minister Noonan”


Taoiseach says all ministers must ‘measure up’ in effort to put country back to work

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan addressing the second day of the Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said there is little work left to do on the budget and that the State had a strong “backstop” in place for when it exits the international bailout.Speaking at the Fine Gael national conference in Limerick, the Minister said there were only a few “bit and bobs” left to decide on when the Cabinet meets tomorrow for the last time before he and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin outline the budget on Tuesday.

He joked to delegates that they would be “astounded by all the good news I am announcing”.

Asked about Mr. Noonan’s comment, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there would be some good news in the budget in the area of jobs and he indicated the Government was keen to find a way to support small and medium sized businesses.

He said a decision on where the funds to support jobs measures would be decided on at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

Mr Kenny said the final decisions that needed to be made were not about any individual department and that all ministers would be required “to measure up in the national effort to put our country back to work”.

“This is not an easy situation but we will try to be as fair and equitable as possible,” he said.

Fine Gael is seen to be stepping up pressure on Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to make better use of declining welfare expenditure to stimulate employment. Mr Kenny last night made reference to welfare traps and suggested the pace of reform in Ms Burton’s department needed to pick up so people would not be stuck on the Live Register for years.

Today, Mr Kenny said he had co-operated very strongly with Ms Burton who had “overseen a change in the way social protection services interact with the live register by reducing that for 15 consecutive months.

“The Live Register is no longer seen as a long list of disillusioned people but where there is competence and experience and they should be motivated by the opportunity to get back into the world of work and be seen to be rewarded. “

Regarding the Department of Health, Mr Kenny said spending was within €1million of where it was supposed to be by the end of September but that a final decision on how much money would be needed for next year would be decided on tomorrow.

Mr Noonan said it was his decision to attempt to lower the State’s deficit in 2014 below the 5.1 per cent of GDP target set by the troika as he wanted to ensure fiscal adjustment was “finished by 2015”.

“The longer the adjustment takes, the greater the uncertainty that will hang over the economy,” he said. “And uncertainty will cause people to defer investment and spending decisions, which is the last thing we need now that the recovery in the labour force is taking hold.”

Lowering the deficit to 4.8 per cent, which the Government is targeting through a €2.5 billion adjustment, meant the economy had “a sufficient buffer in the event of international shocks,” Mr Noonan added.

He said the cash balance of some €25 billion held by the National Treasury Management Agency meant the State already had a backstop in place for when the bailout was exited.

Looking to the future, Mr Noonan said Ireland cannot go back to “an economy built on the quicksand of a credit and property bubble”.

The national conference is continuing in Limerick today with a number of ministers taking part in the event before returning to Dublin tomorrow for a final Cabinet meeting to lock down the last details of the budget.

Hundreds of party delegates from across the country are attending the conference and the main event today will be an address from Mr Kenny at 8.30pm.

Ministers are participating in sessions on subjects such as lifelong learning, health, political reform, justice and the Gathering.

Our Priory hell is now over thanks to brave Stephanie Meehan


Stephanie Meehan (34) and her late partner Fiachra Daly (37), along with Oisin (6) and nine-month-old Cerys pictured together by the Christmas tree in 2011 before Fiachra took his life,

Priory Hall residents have thanked brave widow Stephanie Meehan for helping to end their two-year nightmare, saying: “Fiachra would be proud.”

The 100 families who were forced out of their homes gave full credit to the mum-of-two for forcing the Government to act.

It was her heart-rending letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny after the suicide of her partner Fiachra Daly that finally brought an end to their trauma.

“A little over a month ago, she made the decision to speak out about the death of her partner, Fiachra Daly. It was her strength and dignity that made this Government finally take notice of the national disgrace that is Priory Hall,” the residents said in a joint statement.

“The price she has paid is more than anyone should have to bear, and every resident owes her a debt of gratitude we can never repay.

“We have no doubt that Fiachra is proud of her.”

Smile: A small group, including Ms Meehan, met the Taoiseach last night to tease out the finer details of the resolution.

Afterwards, the 35-year-old managed to smile as she said: “We can now move on.”

The government plan will allow the families to transfer their Priory Hall loans to Dublin City Council and start afresh.

Their rent will be paid for 12 months while they search for a new home, and they will have the option of a 100pc mortgage.

It will be two years next Thursday since the residents were evacuated from the apartments in Donaghmede.

Outside Government Buildings last night, Ms Meehan said: “He [Taoiseach Enda Kenny] has just assured me that myself and my two children will now have a safe home to live in, which is what myself, Fiachra and all of the residents have wanted from the very beginning. I think from today we can start to move forward.

“What I would wish for is that Fiachra was here to celebrate this moving forward with me and that’s the downside,” she added.

Father-of-two Fiachra Daly (37) was found dead at his rented home in Balgriffin in July, leaving behind two children, Oisin (8) and Cerys (2).

Weeks later, Stephanie went public with the demand letters the family received from a bank in the days before her partner took his life.

The banks have agreed to contribute to the legal fees incurred by homeowners since they were put out of their homes due to the serious fire defects.

Martin McAleese, the husband of former president Mary McAleese, will now oversee the implementation of the plan.

While the deal will see banks engage with residents on a case-by-case basis, it is expected that every homeowner will be granted a pre-approved mortgage on their homes.

Buy-to-let investors will be given a two-year moratorium on mortgages while €10m refurbishment works take place.

Talking about mental health the only way of breaking the cycle of suicide’s in Ireland


There is no one simple solution in attempting to tackle the devastating issue of suicide, but a repositioning of the status of mental health in society would see huge strides forward taken.

This is the central thesis of an argument put forward by Cycle Against Suicide, a national charity seeking to confront the stigma attached to seeking help for mental health and create awareness of the support available to those who seek it.

Limerick man Maghnus Collins recently took up a position at the head of the organisation, whose cycle this year around Ireland had 2,500 participants and who used the funds raised to speak to 15,000 people – school children primarily – about suicide.

Next year on the two week cycle, which will overnight in Newcastle West and host an large scale event in the city, they hope to double those numbers.

Given the tragic circumstances that have gripped Limerick in recent days, facilitating a frank debate about these issues can be only considered as positive.

“What we are trying to do is to promote help-seeking behaviour,” explained Maghnus.

“We have very simple messages in that it is okay not to feel okay and more than okay to ask for help as well as highlighting where the help is in communities and fostering interaction between communities and their local mental health organisations.”

The idea is to direct people toward the resources in their own communities and make them aware of what services are available.

“Help is going to look very different for every person, there is no silver bullet,” he explained. “For some people it will be an organisation like Pieta House or Console or Reachout.ie – for other people it might be going to the local GP or talking at their GAA club, whatever it is.

“It is about highlighting what support is available, and because we aren’t involved in the front line service provision, we have an advantage in that we can make a lot of noise and point people in the right direction.”

While the cycle is the charity’s flagship event, they work all year round through a range of initiatives, primarily working with schools. Talking is the key, Maghnus explained. “We certainly believe that talking about suicide and saying the word is a positive thing; whilst we are very reticent to normalise anything as devastating as suicide, it is worse again if we pretend it isn’t happening,” he said.

“It is a discussion we have to have as a society, and it is something that we can’t just address when there is a devastating story in the news, it is something that we have to address over a sustained and ongoing period of time.

“We need to start a conversation where it becomes absolutely normal to say that you are not feeling yourself, and just make it as normal as it would be to say I feel sick or have a physical ailment.”

Eating disorders can effect a Women’s reproductive health


Women with eating disorders are less likely to have children than women of the same age who do not have these disorders, a new study has found.

According to Finnish scientists, an estimated 5-10% of young women in Western countries suffer from an eating disorders at some stage. They decided to look into the link between these disorders and possible reproductive health problems.

They looked at around 11,000 women over a 15-year period. More than 2,200 of these were attending an eating disorder clinic.

The study found that the biggest discrepancy was among women with anorexia. The number of pregnancies in this group was less than half of that of the women without eating disorders.

The study also found that women with bulimia were more than twice as likely to seek an abortion if they did become pregnant, compared to women without eating disorders.

Meanwhile, among women with binge-eating disorder who did become pregnant, almost half of these pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

“This study does not provide an explanation for the reproductive health problems observed in women with eating disorders. Based on previous research, however, it seems likely that the problems can at least partially be attributed to the eating disorder. Both being underweight and obese are known to be associated with the increased risk of infertility and miscarriage,” explained the scientists from the University of Helsinki.

However, they noted that eating disorders can also cause irregular periods, or the total absence of periods. This can lead to ‘neglecting contraception and ultimately to unwanted pregnancies’.

“Early recognition, effective care and sufficiently long follow-up periods for eating disorders are crucial in the prevention of reproductive health problems,” the team added.

Scientist Peter Higgs did not know he had won Nobel Prize


Nobel Prize-winning scientist Prof Peter Higgs has revealed he did not know he had won the award until a woman congratulated him in the street.

Prof Higgs, who does not own a mobile phone, said a former neighbour had pulled up in her car as he was returning from lunch in Edinburgh.

He added: “She congratulated me on the news and I said ‘oh, what news?'”

The woman had been alerted by her daughter in London that Prof Higgs had won the award, he revealed.

He added: “I heard more about it obviously when I got home and started reading the messages.”

The 84-year-old emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh was recognised by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his work on the theory of the particle which shares his name, the Higgs boson.

He shares this year’s physics prize with Francois Englert of Belgium, and joins the ranks of past Nobel winners including Marie Curie and Albert Einstein.

‘God particle’

The existence of the so-called “God particle”, said to give matter its substance, or mass, was proved almost 50 years later by a team from the European nuclear research facility (Cern) and its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Speaking for the first time about the award at a media conference at the University of Edinburgh, he said: “How do I feel? Well, obviously I’m delighted and rather relieved in a sense that it’s all over. It has been a long time coming.”

An old friend told him he had been nominated as far back as 1980, he said.

Prof Higgs added: “In terms of later events, it seemed to me for many years that the experimental verification might not come in my lifetime.

“But since the start up of the LHC it has been pretty clear that they would get there, and despite some mishaps they did get there”.

Stressing the involvement of other theorists and Cern, he added: “I think clearly they should, but it is going to be even more difficult for the Nobel Committee to allocate the credit when it comes to an organisation like Cern.

“I should remind you that although only two of us have shared this prize, Francois Englert of Brussels and myself, that the work in 1964 involved three groups of people, (including) two in Brussels.

“Unfortunately Robert Brout died a few years ago so is no longer able to be awarded the prize, but he would certainly have been one of thewinners if he had still been alive.

“But there were three others who also contributed and it is already difficult to allocate the credit amongst the theorists.

“Although a lot of people seem to think I did all this single-handed, it was actually part of a theoretical programme which had been started in 1960.”

Landmark research

Prof Higgs was born in Newcastle, but developed his theory while working at the University of Edinburgh.

The landmark research that defined what was to become known as the Higgs boson was published in 1964.

Discovering the particle became one of the most sought-after goals in science, and the team of scientists behind the $10bn LHC at Cern made proving its existence a key priority.

In July of last year, physicists at Cern confirmed the discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

Prof Higgs, who had often been uncomfortable with the attention his theory brought, was in Geneva to hear the news, and wiped a tear from his eye as the announcement was made.

Reacting to the discovery at the time, he told reporters: “It’s very nice to be right sometimes.”