News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 18th February 2014

93% of Irish home owners have paid their property tax

 

Donegal has the lowest level of compliance with payment of the local property tax.

Just 87.1% of property owners have paid up for 2013.

South Dublin has the highest level of compliance, where 94.7% have paid up.

Figures released by the Revenue Commissioners show 1.810m homeowners have paid up for 2013 – an overall compliance rate of 93%.

But the Revenue Commissioners are giving homeowners a final six weeks to pay up their property tax and household charge – to avoid interest and penalties or prosecution the Sheriff being called

The taxman is giving homeowners a final opportunity to bring their local property tax and household charge up to date.

About 100,000 homeowners have not paid up their property tax for 2013, but 460,000 haven’t paid the household charge for 2012.

Revenue is now putting out warning to four types of homeowners who have:

  1. not paid 2012 household charge;
  2. not filed and paid their 2013 and 2014 local property tax;
  3. undervalued their property;
  4. claimed an exemption they were not entitled to.

These homeowners have until March 31 to bring the property tax up to date and avoid interest and penalties.

Failing to avail of this opportunity will result in interest being charged, mandatory deduction from wages or hold back a tax clearance certificate.

Revenue can also refer the case to the Sheriff. Prosecution in the courts is also possible.

Trauma of sexual violence is complex and layered

says CEO of Rape Crisis Centre

  

Calls for increased training in judicial system following comments in rape sentence

A spokesman for the courts service said today that judges did undergo training in relation to rape cases. He was responding to concerns raised by the CEO of the Rape Crisis Centre who said that there was a need for judges to learn more about the impact of beliefs and attitudes which blame and punish victims of sexual violence.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop was speaking after the sentencing in a rape case in which the judge said he did not believe the victim had suffered a “profound psychological effect”.

Mr Justice Barry White sentenced Thomas Egan (47) from Kilmihil, Co Clare to 7 ½ years earlier this week after he was found guilty of raping a Brazilian woman he asked to clean his home.

On reading the victim impact report, Mr Justice White said: “It strikes me that your victim is more interested in compensation rather than anything else.” He also told Egan, who paid the woman €50 at the time of the offence, that he couldn’t “buy himself out” of a custodial sentence.

Egan, a father of four, was convicted last May by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of raping the woman at a house in Tipperary on July 5th, 2010.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop believes the victim may have had difficulty in conveying the incident through English. “This was 23-year-old girl, coming from Brazil, so her first language is not English, culturally there will be differences,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

She added that in Brazil a civil case can run in conjunction with a criminal justice case and that compensation can be talked about very freely which may have caused some confusion to the victim.

“The trauma of sexual violence on a person is very complex and layered,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. “What is seen on the surface can be very misleading, it may not reflect what’s going on underneath.”

“A person might present as being rational and competent, but to the uninformed eye that might look like they’re not affected,” she said.

She added that judges need to know that victims often respond to trauma with “confusion” and “panic responses” when giving evidence or under cross-examination

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the the centre has offered to hold education programmes for the judiciary but that no judges have accepted the offer.

The centre has had input into the Garda Síochána training programme for over 15 years and said it has seen real improvement as a result. “Because of their training, it has really helped in terms of people feeling confident in reporting incidents,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

“It would be very valuable if we had the opportunity to give input into the judicial education programme.”

A spokesman for the courts service has responded to Ms O’Malley-Dunlop’s comments, saying there is ongoing training for judges by the Committee for Judicial Studies, chaired by the Chief Justice. “A wide variety of topics have been covered in judicial training which include legal and personal issues around sexual assault, rape and victims,” he said.

He added that in the past decade there have been many examples of judicial training in this area, saying judges had attended a Dublin Rape Crisis Centre conference on ‘Sexual Abuse and Violence – Responding to Change’.`

New Irish road traffic law to increase penalty points

  

Road Traffic Act introduces roadside drug tests, increased penalty points for speeding and heavy penalties for hit-and-run drivers

Motorists convicted of using a mobile phone while driving will receive three penalty points under new legislation enacted today.

Penalty points for the offence will shortly rise from two to three after the Oireachtas enacted the latest Road Traffic Bill in the Seanad.

The Road Traffic (No.2) Act 2013 introduces other measures including roadside drug tests, increased penalty points for speeding and for not wearing seatbelts. The legislation will also allow for unconscious drivers to be tested.

The Bill also creates a new road traffice offence related for so-called ‘clocking’ and introduces tougher penalties for hit and run drivers.

The penalty for tampering with a car’s odometer (turning back the mileage) will be a fine of €2,500 and/or three months in prison.

“This Act focuses predominantly on the human factors in road safety by strengthening and extending the law in key areas. This includes a new category of novice driving licences, higher penalty points in key areas, and the testing of unconscious drivers for intoxication,” Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said today.

“The law on hit-and-run incidents has been tightened, and we have brought in a new offence of tampering with an odometer, commonly known as ‘clocking’ a vehicle. Gardaí will be able to conduct roadside impairment tests for drug driving on motorists.

The new legislation will see the introduction of fines and possible prison sentences for hit-and-run drivers. A person who flees the scene of an incident and does not offer assistance, knowing injury has been caused, will face a fine of €10,000 and up to seven years imprisonment.

In the even of a death resulting from such an incident a fine of €20,000 and/or ten years imprisonment will apply.

Penalty points will be increased for several offences under the Bill.

Speeding will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Mobile phone use will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Non-wearing of seatbelts will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Other offences such as non-display of an NCT certificate, which at present involve a court appearance, will attract 2 points on payment of fixed charge.

Joe Brolly appeals for more organ donations at funeral of Gary Dillon in Sligo

  

Former footballer pays tribute to Gary Dillon RIP, who was a keen supporter of Joe Brolly’s organ donation campaign. 

Joe Brolly: “The system in Ireland in the past year has improved to a great extent. We are now number three in Europe in lung transplantation, when not so long ago we were at the bottom of the list.”

Campaigner Joe Brolly appealed yesterday for more organ donations while he was at the funeral of a young man who featured in his television documentary Perfect Match last year.

Gary Dillon, (28), died at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin last Friday and was buried in Sligo yesterday. A popular member of Calry/St Joseph’s GAA club in Sligo, he was a keen supporter of the organ donation campaign by Mr Brolly, the GAA commentator and former Derry footballer.

Sadly, Mr Dillon never had the chance to benefit from the double lung-transplant he so badly needed.

Cystic fibrosis

Mr Brolly, who attended the funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church, Ballytivnan, Sligo paid tribute to Mr Dillon, who had helped raise the profile of cystic fibrosis sufferers throughout Ireland.

“If we had a proper organ donation system in place in time Gary would have had a very good chance of getting the lungs he needed,” said Mr Brolly.

“The system in Ireland in the past year has improved to a great extent. We are now number three in Europe in lung transplantation, when not so long ago we were at the bottom of the list.

“Sadly, Gary became too ill lately to be admitted on to the transplant list. When he did have opportunities to get on the list it was at a time when the rate of organ donation was much lower, particularly for double lung transplants.”

Hope

Mr Brolly added that the message should go out for people to think about organ donation after death to give others hope of living.

“Thanks to Gary’s input and support for the campaign, the situation for people currently awaiting surgery is improving all the time.

“There is great hope for the future, but sadly it was too late for Gary. He was a real fighter, a charismatic young man who never allowed himself to get down about his situation.

“He was indefatigable and would accompany me to promotional events with a cylinder of oxygen on his back without one word of complaint.

Early life on Earth did not need lots of oxygen to survive

  

  • Sea sponges thrive in water with only 0.5% of present day oxygen levels
  • Scientists argue that early primitive life may also have needed little oxygen
  • The findings suggest that the rise of animals could have created oxygen-rich oceans, rather than oxygen-rich oceans creating animals

The origin of complex creatures is one of science’s greatest mysteries.

The widely-accepted theory is that complex life evolved because oxygen levels began to rise around 630 million years ago.

But a new study claims that most primitive animals may have flourished in water that contained almost no oxygen.

The findings suggest that the rise of animals could have created oxygen-rich oceans, rather than oxygen-rich oceans creating animals.

Researchers studied the common sea sponge from Kerteminde Fjord in Denmark which they believe are similar to the world’s first animals.

They kept the sponges in an aquarium and slowly removed the oxygen.

Even with 200 times less oxygen than is currently found in the atmosphere, the sponges survived until the end of the study.

‘Our studies suggest that the origin of animals was not prevented by low oxygen levels,’ says Daniel Mills, PhD at the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the University of Southern Denmark.

A little over half a billion years ago, the first complex life forms evolved on Earth.

Billions of years before that, life had only consisted of simple single-celled organisms.

The emergence of animals coincided with a significant rise in atmospheric oxygen, and therefore it seemed obvious to link the two events and conclude that the increased oxygen levels had led to the evolution of animals.

‘But nobody has ever tested how much oxygen animals need – at least not to my knowledge.  Therefore we decided to find out’, said Dr Mills.

The living animals that most closely resemble the first animals on Earth are sea sponges.

The species Halichondria panicea lives only a few metres from the University of Southern Denmark’s Marine Biological Research Centre in Kerteminde, and it was here that Dr Mills fished out individuals for his research.

‘When we placed the sponges in our lab, they continued to breathe and grow even when the oxygen levels reached 0.5 per cent of present day atmospheric levels’, Dr Mills said.

Sea sponge Halichondria panicea was used in the experiment at University of Southern Denmark. They kept the sponges in an aquarium and gradually removed the oxygen         +2

Sea sponge Halichondria panicea was used in the experiment at University of Southern Denmark. They kept the sponges in an aquarium and gradually removed the oxygen

This is lower than the oxygen levels we thought were necessary for animal life.

The big question now is: If low oxygen levels did not prevent animals from evolving – then what did?

‘There must have been other ecological and evolutionary mechanisms at play,’ said Dr Mills.

‘Maybe life remained microbial for so long because it took a while to develop the biological machinery required to construct an animal.

‘Perhaps the ancient Earth lacked animals because complex, many-celled bodies are simply hard to evolve.’

The Nordic Center for Earth Evolution has previously shown that oxygen levels have actually risen dramatically at least one time before complex life evolved.

One reason the early oceans were poor in oxygen may have been because they were full of dead microbial matter, which consumes oxygen.

Some geologists now believe early animals like sponges fed on this dead matter, helping to clear the water of it and triggering a rise in oxygen levels.

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